Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers September - Pâte Feuilletée

It is time consuming, but certainly not difficult, to make puff pastry from scratch. This flaky, buttery dough lends itself to sweet and savory applications, and can elevate an everyday dish to something elegant.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. A vol-au-vent is a puff pastry bowl or shell, made by cutting disks and rings from rolled pastry, and stacking them together. The whole thing puffs up into hundreds of light, crisp golden brown layers.

My favorite thing to ladle into vols-au-vent is boeuf bourgignon, a hearty and heady French beef stew made with red wine. It's one of the more decadent stews around, which makes it a natural pair with buttery puff pastry. I followed Julia Child's recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, except that I used an additional carrot, and wish that I would have upped that even further, as I love the color that they add to an otherwise "brown" dish.

I have lots of extra puff dough, and am looking forward to turning it into palmiers and cheese straws later this week. Some dough will get stashed in the freezer, to be thawed at a future date for a yet unnamed project. It's a good thing to have on hand.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Here I am, in all of my nasal glory, in my first segment for Wilton. This is one of ten Halloween-focused segments we filmed in one day. It may not look like it, but these short snippets take a lot of time and effort to pull together.

The segments are being rolled out one at a time on the Wilton Blog. Kindly leave your cheeky remarks here, and not on the corporate page, because I love my job and would have to seriously hurt anyone who jeopardized that love. Ninja style.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kitchen Sink Frittata

Frugal home cooks often come up with inventive ways to finish up the odds and ends from their refrigerators and larders. In an effort to cut back on our monthly grocery spending, I've made a conscious decision to become one of those frugal cooks. I need to pare down on the at-home meals so that we can splurge on out-on-the-town meals. That means getting the most out of everything that we buy, and using it in a way that is tasty and enjoyable.

Eggs are my "kitchen sink" fallback dish. Whenever there are vegetables that are past their prime, odd ends of cheese, or just a couple of slices of leftover ham, I think of frittatas, an inexpensive dish can hold any number of veggies and be doctored up a million different ways. I love quiche, but it's laden with heavy cream and butter. Frittatas are the poor man's version of quiche. They're much faster, easier, and lighter since there is no pastry crust, and the addition of milk or cream to the egg base is strictly optional. Frittatas cook up quickly and look gorgeous on a large serving tray. I often make one one the weekend for breakfast, and Dave and I end up eating it for lunch or a light dinner the next day.

This recipe is loose, and is based on what I mixed into my frittata this morning: a tomato that was getting a little wrinkled, a red pepper, half a Spanish onion that was left over from something I don't even remember cooking, the last two slices of Canadian bacon, dried thyme, and about an ounce of creamy Camembert that was sent from the lovely folks at Isle de France. Next week, my frittata will look totally different, depending on what's in the fridge.

Kitchen Sink Frittata

1 garlic clove, quartered
1/2 cup diced onion
1 red pepper, diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
2 slices Canadian bacon, diced
8-10 eggs (depends on how many I have available)
1 ounce Camembert

Preheat broiler.

In an oven safe skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over low heat. Add the quartered garlic clove, and allow the oil to continue heating for 5 minutes. Skim the garlic pieces out of the oil and discard. Add diced onion to the pan. Saute until onions are translucent. Add diced red pepper; saute another 3 minutes. Add diced tomato and Canadian bacon and saute until juice from the tomato is almost completely evaporated.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a generous amount of kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme. Add eggs to the vegetable mixture in the skillet. Dot the eggs with small chunks of Camembert. Use a heat resistant spatula to move the eggs around, scraping them from the bottom and sides of the pan so that heat is distributed evenly throughout. When eggs are partially cooked but still very runny, stop stirring and allow the eggs to set on the bottom of the pan.

When the eggs are set on the sides and bottom of the pan, carefully move the skillet to the broiler to finish cooking through. The frittata will only need a minute or two in the broiler, so be attentive. Remove the frittata after it begins to brown slightly on the top. Allow to cool for 5 minutes (eggs will finish cooking in the center) before loosening the sides and bottom and flipping onto a serving platter.

Garnish with chopped chives, green onions, or parsley.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Reyka Vodka is good stuff, my friends, and it's good for a lot of reasons. On its own, it is smooth, clean, and rounded with an easy finish. Paired with tonic and a spritz of lime, my preferred cocktail is crisp and refreshing. Reyka distills its vodka in copper pots and filters it through lava rocks. This stuff is definitely drinkable, and it proves that Iceland produces more than Bjork and days of continuous sunshine.

The Reyka website is very entertaining, particularly the stories behind the eight different bottle caps. Are you enticed yet?