May 30, 2011

Moules Frites a Washington, DC - Oui Oui!

Last night I ate at Brasserie Beck in DC. I love their Classic White Wine Moules Frites, but I wanted to try something new, so I ordered the Fennel and Chorizo Moules instead (top left). Apparently this is a very popular choice. Well, just fyi, if you like chorizo, you should order this. It's a little spicy, which I liked. But there was SO MUCH sausage - like, probably twice as many pieces of sausage as mussels. It was a little overwhelming. Also, for me it wasn't the chorizo that was calling me to order this dish, it was the fennel. And that's where I was disappointed. I did not get even one taste of fennel in the entire pan of mussels. In fact, I'm not really sure there was any fennel. The tiny pieces of pale veggie I found resembled celery, which tells me either it was celery, or it was the stalk of the fennel and not the bulb, which... really, what is the point? I will stick to the classic white wine next time.
My dining partner ordered the Moules a la Irwin Mushroom with bacon and truffle (to left). He had tried them before and decided to stick with a favorite.
The frites as usual were awesome, although salted a little heavy handedly, and the mayo trio featured their delicious curry mayo. The middle mayo, the tomato brandy one - I'm not sure who eats that one, because at least at our table it's always the one that's still almost full when we're done eating.
For a starter we ordered a half dozen raw oysters, a mix of East and West coast, and they were very delicious. I'm a cocktail sauce on oyster girl myself. We also shared the Slow-Roasted Beet salad which is served with a delectably creamy whipped goat cheese and caramelized walnuts. We had this salad last time and were just as happy with it last night.
For dessert we followed the waiter's suggestion of trying their special dessert, "strawberry shortcake." I'm putting that in quotes because it wasn't strawberry shortcake. It was some sort of panna cotta served with biscuits with duck fat. The biscuits were good, a little heavy, but this dessert just wasn't strawberry shortcake. When I think of SS, I think of a light and refreshing dessert, (even with cream or ice cream.) This just left me feeling heavy and regret for not ordering the Pear Tarte Tatin, the Bread Pudding, the Waffle with Strawberry Compote, or pretty much any other dessert that was on the menu.
Bottom line - go there and eat their awesome mussels and fries, and try their beers (we had the Antigoon Double Blond Ale with the mussels last night - good choice).

May 29, 2011

Mustard Bâtons

I made another catch-up recipe in the ffwd game this morning - mustard bâtons. I practically burned my brain the other day when I put my trader joe's dijon mustard on both sides of a sandwich, so I was scared to use as much mustard as Dorie suggested. This was a mistake because after baking, I couldn't really taste any mustard at all. A let down. I also twisted half the batch just for a little visual diversity. There's one twisted baton on the bottom left of the photo. I would definitely make these again, but next time will not skimp on the moutarde!
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May 27, 2011

Cardamom Rice Pilaf

This was a delicious, healthy, light and refreshing dish for a hot day. I absolutely love the flavor of cardamom, so I was excited about this dish. I'm trying to eat light these days, so for lunch today I had one serving of the rice, one serving of asparagus (boiled as in the Bacon, Egg, Asparagus salad), and then I ate two Vanilla Eclairs that I had leftover from yesterday. Haha!

May 26, 2011

Fancy French Dinner that Knocks Out 3 FFWD Recipes!

I'm on a mission, and that mission is to catch up on all the FFWD recipes that I've missed. I made great strides today with a fancy French dinner I made pour moi et mon amour. The menu:
Bacon, Egg and Asparagus Salad
Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak
Broth-Braised Potatoes
Vanilla Eclairs

My first soft-boiled egg and it was pretty perfect if I do say so myself. I peeled the bottoms of the asparagus and there was no toughness.

I chose beef tenderloin for the steaks, and forgot to salt them (oops!) But I thought it was actually delicious and didn't need any. I wanted to add a healthy side dish so I chose Dorie's Broth-Braised Potatoes. They haven't been chosen for a FFWD recipe yet, but if they ever are, I'll be one step ahead! Btw, these potatoes are absolutely delicious and I would make them again in a heartbeat. I flavored them with sage.

The Vanilla Eclairs are delicious. It's all I can do to not go into my fridge and eat the rest of them. I halved the recipe since I didn't need to make 20 eclairs. The dough didn't puff up that much, and my mom (profiterole expert) said they could have probably used one more egg, or they could have stayed at 425 (instead of lowering the temp), or both. But the flavor was great. I used Dorie's bonne idee and added Grand Marnier to the pastry cream and the glaze. Honestly, I couldn't taste it at all. I dusted the plates with unsweetened cocoa to create a pretty decoration, but it turns out the cocoa is a tasty little dip for the eclairs too.

May 24, 2011

Back to cooking after a long semester!

I gave my penultimate doctoral recital May 5th - a lecture recital on the piano works of Jennifer Margaret Barker - and I'm finally getting back into the swing of cooking. That is, until the middle of June, when I start preparing my final recital, scheduled for Sept 15th. So between now and then, I'm trying to catch up on FFWD - a neat online club where people are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table - and also working to cook healthy and eat healthy and moderate portions. So far so good.

Today I made a Dorie recipe, "Marie-Helene's Apple Cake" and it was pretty delicious. It called for 3T of rum, and I think that was a bit much, so I'd probably drop it down to 2T if I made it again. But other than that, it was great, easy, and it gave me an excuse to use my new (and first) springform pan. As mentioned in the book, the cake pulled away from the sides right out of the oven (see above). With the help of a flat spatula, the cake separated easily from the bottom of the pan, and was a big hit at the dessert potluck I attended.

I figured I'd post a couple other pictures of dishes I'd made recently, including a gorgeous salad with fennel and fresh strawberries, and a vegetarian entree of marinated portobello mushroom, asian slaw and snap pea and orange salad. (That's the health kick showing itself)