Friday, October 29, 2010

FFWD: Marie Helene's Apple Cake

Apple Cake

Marie Helene's Apple cake had a few simple ingredients: flour, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, baking powder and rum. I ended up subbing bourbon for the rum. Not sure this was an entirely good idea, although I think it still tasted pretty good.

Mixing up the apples.

Side view.

Lots of apples.

Another issue I had is that I didn't have a springform pan (I know I should just buy one!) I decided to use a regular cake pan instead. I lined it with wax paper as some other FFWDers suggested. My cake doesn't look as pretty as the one in the book, and I'm not sure if it could have used another 5 minutes in the oven. I also kept opening the oven (another no-no). I might try making this one again, as I loved the way the apples tasted, but was a little less enthused about the cake.

Warm slice.

Friday, October 22, 2010

FFWD: Hachis Parmentier

Hachis Parmentier - For One.

So I missed last week's French Friday's with Dorie (FFWD). Long story short, it was hot, I didn't feel like making soup. I apologize. But now that the temperatures are below 90 degrees, I'm feeling a little more in the comfort food mode. This week's dish is Hachis Parmentier - the French equivalent of Shepherd's Pie. Leave it to the French to make something simple like Shepherd's pie sound like something gourmet. "Hachis" refers to a dish in which the ingredients are chopped or minced (my French language friends can correct me if I'm wrong). And indeed this meal consists of chopped meat and veggies. I should note that traditional hachis parmentier does not have vegetables, but I enjoyed the added flavors from the mirepoix. Look at me using fancy french terms (mirepoix means carrots, celery, and onion)!

Filling ingredients - ground (grass-fed) beef, chicken sausage, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, tomato paste.

This dish is rather simple and comes together fairly quickly. I ended up making this dish for one. Don't look at me with those sad eyes, it was actually rather fun enjoying this meal by myself with a glass of merlot. That's right I had a glass of wine - by myself. No, I don't think that makes me an alcoholic. I think it makes me rather French! But back to the Hachis Parmentier! It essentially entails sauteeing ground beef, vegetables, and some tomato paste and topping it with mashed potatoes and cheese. Does that sound delicious? That's because it is delicious.

Sauteeing the mirepoix and tomato paste with the ground beef.

Now, I'm not usually a huge beef person. I think this is actually the first time I've made red meat at home since I moved to California. Don't get me wrong, I love a good hamburger. I had a burger a couple of weeks ago. But in an attempt to decrease my carbon footprint (ya da ya da ya da) I don't usually cook meat at home. I found this dish easy to make, especially because I went for the ground beef instead of the cube steak. The cube steak may be super amazing, but I didn't use it.

The filling goes into a casserole dish.

Once, the filling is done you start on the mashed potatoes. I boiled one potato (as this dish was for one person). You make the mashed potato and add it on top of the filling. Then you add some grated gruyere on top and bake. The flavors were rather wonderful, I think the herb and garlic sausage I used was a great addition. The mashed potatoes are nice and creamy and work well with the ground beef filling. I recommend eating this with a glass of merlot. As Julia Child would say, a little sherry for the soup, a little sherry for me! Replace with merlot and repeat.

"A little sherry for the soup, a little sherry for me!" - Julia Child

Mashed potatoes.

Top with gruyere.

Golden out of the oven.


Friday, October 8, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie (FFWD) - Gerard's Mustard Tart

Mustard Tart with carrots and leeks.

Happy Friday everyone! I recently joined a cooking blog called "French Fridays with Dorie." Every Friday I will be posting about a different recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book "Around My French Table." I am excited about this new venture as it will expand my recipe book and give me a better hand on french cuisine. AJ says he doesn't like French food, but I am convinced that I will prove him wrong!

This week's recipe is called "Gerard's Mustard Tart." If you have ever made a quiche before, then you will be familiar with the steps. The crust was the first step, which was a pate brisee - made with flour, butter, a little sugar, salt, egg, and water. My typical pie crust leaves out an egg, so I was interested to see how different this would taste. I made the crust a day in advance and I would recommend you do the same. It needs to chill for several hours.

Food processor makes this easy.

Turn out onto a clean surface and then...

Form into a nice disc and chill.

Then you end up with something like this - ready to bake!

Whisking together the filling.

The filling came together in a cinch! And once you have the dough baked this comes together in just over 30 minutes. The mustard adds a tanginess that compliments the custard very nicely. The sweetness of the carrots and leeks really brings this together! I wasn't sure if the mustard would be too overpowering, but I really enjoyed this. I have lots of tart to eat for brunch on Saturday - yum.

Layering the steamed carrots and leeks on top of the filling.

Fresh out of the oven!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Blue Fig

The Blue Fig - Blue cornmeal waffle with bananas, whipped cream, fig reduction.

One of the joys of moving to San Francisco has been the plethora of restaurants to choose from. Last weekend we went to Yelp in search of a breakfast/coffee place and landed upon The Blue Fig. The Blue Fig opened up in the Mission district a couple of weeks ago. This quaint cafe has some steep competition what with being right next door to Ritual Coffee. But the Blue Fig's emphasis is more on the food than the coffee - serving up waffles, pastries, and sandwiches.

Chai Latte and Soy Latte.

The Blue Fig was hopping when we arrived around 10am on Saturday - with every table taken but one. Not that there are a ton of tables - approximately 12-15 seats in the place, with an extra 4-5 outside. They were a little shortstaffed, with one woman serving as cashier, barista, and waitress all in one. The chef was right behind the counter, making waffles and eggs. He helped out, delivering our food to our table himself.

We ended up choosing the signature "Blue Fig" waffle, bacon waffle, and a soy and chai latte. The lattes were rather standard, reminding me somewhat of Starbucks. Our food took a little longer than usual, but came off hot from the griddle. The Blue Fig is a blue cornmeal waffle served with bananas, whipped cream, banana syrup, and fig reduction. I was expecting more of a bright blue, than the lavendar waffle that appeared. The sundae that was served on top also took me by surprise - there was enough whipped cream for an episode of Double Dare! But I digress, the waffle was rather interesting, with a spongy texture. The fig reduction was incredibly tangy and complex, which worked well with the sweet bananas and whipped cream. I'm not sure I would order it again, as I prefer my figs whole, but it certainly was a different experience.

The bacon waffle was more traditional, but just still unique in its own right. A buttermilk cornmeal waffle is made with bacon inside of it, which is then topped with bacon and scrambled eggs. The salty bacon worked really nicely with the waffle and eggs. Drizzled with maple syrup - this really hit the spot.

I like the vibe of Blue Fig - a neighborhood joint with some decent eats, and friendly staff. On our way out we asked the chef to recommend some good bakeries. He pointed us to Arizmendi's bakery a couple blocks away, which was serving up free goodies that day! Waffles plus baked goods = an excellent start to the weekend.

The Blue Fig
990 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA