What’s for dinner? Quick and healthy Thai Basil Wontons

Thai Basil wonton

I’ll admit, I’ve been in a cooking lull. As much as I love the art of cooking in and of itself, I haven’t felt very inspired for awhile. Maybe the rainy Portland winter got to me; maybe it’s because most of the friends I share food with are dieting… who knows.

This recipe is ideal to make as a group or a couple or even with kids because it doesn’t require a lot of concentration  – it’s just simple and fun. Paired with a tender white fish in a crispy wonton, it’s an appetizer or a meal in itself.

Thai Pesto:

  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped cashews
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (and extra for dipping)
  • 1/4 tsp dried lemongrass
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

 

DSC_0057_3497 copyPut all the ingredients (except the olive oil) in a food processor and blitz.

DSC_0058_3504 copyAdd the olive oil as you’re blending to emulsify.

 

Bake or pan sear your whitefish (we used halibut) until tender and flakey. Set aside to cool.

Brush store-bought wontons lightly on one side with olive oil and shape to fit the cups of a small muffin pan. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until they are just golden and crispy.

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DSC_0067_3507 copyFill the wontons with fish and pesto. 

 

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Serve with soy sauce. Enjoy!

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Posted in Dips, Spreads & Tapenades, Seafood | 4 Comments

Seafood Stew otherwise known as Nuit Française: Marmite Dieppoise. Oh, and for dessert? Touraine cremets with raspberry coulis

Marmite Dieppoise

Marmite Dieppoise

Marmite Dieppoise:

A marmite is an earthenware pot traditionally used for making soups and stews. This recipe comes from Dieppe on the Normandy coast, well known for its excellent fishing.

Basically, this is a simple seafood stew. I say “simple” because the instructions are not complicated. Everything is cooked separately, however, so there are a number of steps. It helps to have a set of extra hands. 🙂 The beauty of this stew is that every delicate bite retains its true flavor: scallops taste like scallops, mussels taste like mussels. You get the idea. It’s clean and fresh.

  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb fresh mussels, cleaned
  • 12 large shrimp (we used langoustines instead)
  • 12 scallops, patted dry
  • 8 oz salmon, cubed
  • 8 oz button mushrooms
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 chopped flat-leaf parsley
Thanks to Krugers Market and Flying Fish!

Thanks to Krugers Market and Flying Fish!

Pour the white wine into a large stockpot with lid. Add the shallot, thyme, bay leaf and mussels and bring to a boil.   Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove the mussels and discard any that didn’t open. Set aside to cool.

Bring the liquid to a boil again and add the shrimp (or langoustines) and scallops. Cover and cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

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Meanwhile remove the mussels from their shells and set aside with the other ingredients. Chop the salmon into cubes, and slice the mushrooms.

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Add the salmon cubes to the liquid and poach, covered, for about 5 minutes or less. Remove salmon and set aside.

Strain the liquid to remove any sand from the mussels and pour back into the pot. Add the mushrooms and cook until all liquid is absorbed or evaporated.  Add the cream and stir on high heat to thicken.

DSC_0021_3443 copyGently add the chopped parsley, mussels, shrimp/langoustines, scallops and fish into the cream. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.

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Serve with crusty bread and white wine followed by a great dessert… Yum!

Marmite Dieppoise

Dessert: Touraine cremets with raspberry coulis

I made these the night before because they have to set over night. The recipe says they should set for an hour, but I’ve found that to be overly optimistic.

Cremet:

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 10 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • fresh mint sprigs
  • raspberries to garnish

Coulis:

Put the berries, sugar and lemon juice into a blender or food processor and blend briefly (if you blend too long, they lose their vibrant color).  Strain coulis to remove the seeds.  That’s it.

  • 12 oz fresh raspberries
  • 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • a squeeze of lemon

Line 4 3.5″ ramekins with enough cheesecloth so that it overlaps the tops.

Whip the cream in a cold bowl until it trails, just shy of peaking. Add the softened cream cheese and whip until creamy.

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Stir in the confectioner’s sugar and spoon into lined ramekins. Fold the excess cheesecloth over to cover and refrigerate.

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Later (the next day, or many, many hours later), unmold the dessert onto a plate, peel away the cheesecloth and surround with coulis and berries.

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Salmon en Croute with Parsnip and Apple Risotto

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This particular Salmon en Croute is my own creation, and a variation on Michel Roux’s Salmon Coulibiac. Instead of using mushrooms and white rice, I’ve made risotto with roasted parsnips and apples.

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First, the brioche dough.

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  • 70 ml tepid milk
  • 15 g fresh yeast
  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 15 g fine salt
  • 350 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 30 g caster sugar
  • 6 medium eggs

Put the milk and yeast in a bowl and mix to dissolve.  Blend flour, salt and eggs in a separate bowl. Add in the yeast mix and knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.

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Mix the butter and sugar separately, then add to the dough a little at a time. Mix on low until the butter is incorporated, then mix on medium until the dough is smooth and shiny and comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Cover the bowl with cling film and proof for two hours or until the dough has doubled in size. After two hours, punch the dough down by turning it over twice. Refrigerate for several hours (but not more than 24 hours). I find that 2 or 3 hours can be enough if you’re pressed for time.

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While the dough is chilling, start the risotto.

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups uncooked arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp Mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup oven dried tomatoes (I used sun-dried)
  • 1 cup chopped spinach leaves
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 chopped and roasted parsnip
  • 1 chopped and roasted gala or red delicious apple

Heat a skillet and saute the onion until transparent. Add the rice and stir until just browned and coated with oil.

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Add the wine and cook down. Add the stock about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Let the stock be absorbed each time before adding more.

This process can take about an hour. Once all the stock is absorbed and the risotto is creamy, add the butter and cheese. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Let cool.

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Now the salmon

I used a 2 lb filet, cut in half. In a pan, melt about 1 tsp butter for each half.  Score the skin side of each filet about 1/2 deep and place skin-side down in the pan for about 4 minutes on medium high. Watch the thick edge of the fish change color.   When the pink is about 3/4 of the way up the edge, flip and cook the other side for  2 minutes. Set the salmon aside and let it cool.

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Roll the brioche out into a large rectangle about 12″ x 16″, depending on the size of your fish. Some recipes call for crepes to line brioche, but I prefer to use spinach or phyllo dough. Layer risotto on a layer of spinach, and top with a filet.

DSC_0325_3398 copyNow add another layer of risotto and salmon. Top with spinach.

DSC_0326_3397 copyFold the brioche over the salmon and risotto and overlap the edges. Seal the overlap with egg wash. Do the same for the ends and flip the piece seam down. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Brush with egg wash and decorate with some flourishes or fish scales.

DSC_0330_3405 copyBake the brioche at 350 for 35-45 minutes, depending on how golden you like it. My dough came out nice and gold, but my “fish” ended up looking more like a baby seal. I’ll have to work on that next time.

Happy baking!

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Posted in Breads, Dough, Pastries, Seafood | Leave a comment

Choux Farci au Saumon (cabbage stuffed with salmon)

164268_10151332659241456_753347348_nI wish the photo above was mine, but it isn’t. It’s from Haute Cuisine, the movie that inspired me to try and wing this dish. Mine didn’t turn out as pretty as this movie shot, but it did taste wonderful. I’ll have to keep experimenting with this one.

Here’s my first try.

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Find a beautiful cabbage and make cuts at the base to remove the outer leaves. Remove several layers, depending on how thick your final cabbage will be. I only used 4 layers of leaves.

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Lightly boil the leaves in 1/2 water, 1/2 chicken stock.

DSC_0200_3330 copyWhen slightly soft, remove to a bowl of cold water. Cut out the hearts so the leaves will lie flat.

DSC_0204_3334 copyLine a large, shallow bowl with cheesecloth or muslin and lay the first layer of leaves. Slice the salmon very thin and layer on the leaves.

DSC_0201_3331 copyDSC_0203_3333 copySince I’m winging it, I added an additional layer of asiago mashed potatoes I had in the fridge. Then a second layer of the same (salmon, salt/pepper, potatoes) followed by a third and, finally, the last. In the center, I also added a shallot and some dill.

DSC_0206_3336 copyWrap it all up in the cheesecloth and tie into a tight bundle.

DSC_0208_3338 copyDrop it back in the stock for about 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of your cabbage.

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Remove, set aside to cool and drain.

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I’m not sure what kind of sauce is in the movie shot (hollandaise?), but I think next time I would serve with a sauce. Until then, Choux Farci au Saumon sans sauce. Enjoy!

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Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemongrass Sauce

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The recipe for this dish comes from Carlos’ French Restaurant in Highland Park, Chicago (now closed). The recipe is longer than it needs to be, IMO, so I’m just going to talk about how to make the lemongrass sauce. It’s fabulous.

Aside from the sauce, just make sure you dry your scallops before searing them in about 1 tsp olive oil. That’s the trick to golden scallops.

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After removing the scallops from the pan, cook the spinach until just wilted. Remove and follow with asparagus, chanterelles (if you like), and sliced cherry tomatoes.

But first, the lemongrass sauce…

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 5 stalks of fresh lemongrass
  • Juice of two small limes
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup (that’s half water, half sugar, cooked down)

Pour the cream into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer. Add the crushed and sliced lemongrass.

DSC_0186_3316 copyCooked down until reduced by about half. Strain. Add the lime juice and simple syrup.

DSC_0187_3317 copyToss the cooked vegetables together with 1 tbsp chopped shallot, 2 tbsp unsalted butter and 1 tbsp minced chives.

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Pour a base of lemongrass sauce and plate vegetables and scallops on top.

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This sauce can be frozen for later to serve with shrimp, whitefish or more scallops. Enjoy!

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Saint-Honoré

I watched a wonderful, French foodie movie for the second time recently, Haute Cuisine. It’s about President François Mitterrand’s personal chef, Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch, whom he hand-picked to create meals for himself and those closest to him. What a dream job.

In this movie several dishes feature prominently, including a choux farci au saumon (cabbage stuffed with salmon)….

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This shot is from the movie.

…and, of course, the Saint-Honoré.

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Élysée Palace, where the movie is set, is on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Saint Honoré is also the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs.

I’ve seen recipes that incorporate pastry creme or chocolate ganache, but I’m using a traditional recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Tarts and Pastries, by Le Cordon Bleu. This version has four main components: sweet pastry, cream-puff pastry, Chantilly cream and caramel.

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Sweet Pastry base: (you’ll need only half of this quantity; you can refrigerate the other half and save for making a tart later)

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2-3 drops vanilla extract

Sift together flour and salt in a large bowl.

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Cut the butter into 1/2″ cubes and rub into the flour until a course texture forms. Stir in the sugar and make a well for the combined egg and vanilla.

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Work dough together with a fork. Sprinkle with water to help with cohesion. Transfer the dough onto a work surface and knead gently until smooth.

DSC_0131_3261 copyDSC_0132_3262 copyWrap the ball of dough in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

Cream-Puff Pastry (or pâte à choux):

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 eggs

Sift the flour onto a sheet of waxed paper.  Put 1/2 cup of water, the butter, salt and sugar into a small, heavy sauce pan. Heat until boiling. Remove from the heat and add all the flour at once. Stir well with a wooden spoon until the pastry comes away from the sides.

DSC_0133_3263 copyPut the dough in a bowl or mixer and add the beaten eggs a little at a time. Continue to mix until the pastry is thick and glossy. Set aside.

DSC_0135_3271 copyDSC_0138_3268 copyPreheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush two baking sheets with melted butter and chill.

Roll the sweet pastry dough out to an 8″ circle about 1/8″ thick to form the base. Transfer to a baking sheet. Prick with a fork and brush with the beaten egg.

DSC_0141_3265 copyPipe a ring of cream puff pastry around the edge of the base with a 1/2″ nozzle.

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Pipe a second ring inside the first.

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Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden.

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On the second baking sheet, pipe the puff-pastry into walnut-sized balls. Brush with beaten egg and smooth so they are uniform.

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Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

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While these are cooling, put 1 cup of sugar in a heavy saucepan with 1/4 cup water and heat until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to boiling and reduce the sugar mix, stirring constantly. Simmer until the sugar is a golden caramel color. Remove from heat.

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Working very quickly, dip half each ball in the caramel and set aside to cool. You may need to reheat the caramel during this process. Dip a second time to cover the other half of each ball and place directly on the base rings. Try not to burn your fingers.

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Chantilly cream:

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip the cream in a chilled metal bowl until soft peaks form. Begin incorporating sugar and continue to whip, adding vanilla. Do not over whip.

Pipe the cream onto the base with a star nozzle. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

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This dessert should serve six very happy people. Serve with a strong coffee. Enjoy!

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Posted in Cakes, Dough, Pastries | Leave a comment

Halibut with Crispy Potatoes, Risotto and Tarragon Sauce

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I welcomed 2014 in an unceremonious fashion: on the couch in my jammies, sipping camomile tea, watching the 1978 classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Just me and my Tylenol.

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The movie was fitting because two days earlier I had indeed been taken over – absolutely tackled – by something diabolical. Finally, feeling better on New Year’s Day (and having had nothing but grits and crackers for two days), I’m celebrating by making some real food.

This flakey fish is made crisp with a light coating of fried potatoes. The risotto is creamy and full; the aroma of the tarragon sauce is enticing.  The mix of textures (crispy potato against the smooth risotto) makes each bite fabulous.

This French recipe comes from Carlos’s Restaurant in Highland Park, Chicago. It calls for John Dory but any firm white fish will do. I found a nice halibut today along with a beautiful cabbage that you’ll be seeing more of in a couple days…

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Start the risotto first.

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp Mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup oven dried tomatoes (I used sun-dried)
  • 4 arugula leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 shallot, chopped

Heat a skillet and saute the onion until transparent. Add the rice and stir until just browned and coated with oil. Add the wine and cook down. Add the stock about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Let the stock be absorbed each time before adding more.

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“Stirring constantly”, in this case, means keep a good eye on it but you can do other things, too. Like prep fish…

Brush the fish with beaten egg. The recipe says to cut a potato into 1/2″, very thin squares but I kind of wanted a “fish scale look” so I did things differently. This isn’t baking, after all, so we can play a bit more. Lay the thin potato slices on the fish and brush again with beaten egg. You’ll want them to stick.

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Stir the risotto! Stir the risotto! 

Once all the stock is absorbed and the risotto is creamy, add the butter and cheese. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover to keep warm.

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Heat about 1-2 tbsp of oil in a large non-stick pan on med-high. I used 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 canola oil. Once the oil is hot, gently and ever so carefully place the fish (potato-side down) in the pan. Cook until crispy, but don’t flip it until it’s really ready. You can check the thick end of the fish to watch the color change as it cooks. When the color is white (or “done”) about 3/4 of the way up the fish, flip it. It usually takes about 3 minutes for an 8 oz piece, then 1-2 min on the other side, depending on thickness.

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While the fish is cooking, quickly gather your sauce ingredients.

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Tarragon Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp snipped tarragon
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp chopped chives
  • 1/2 small shallot, finely chopped

Remove the fish from the pan and drain the excess oil. In the same pan, melt and lightly brown the butter. Once browned, toss in the other ingredients and stir to combine.

To serve, use a ring mold to form the risotto and place the fish on top. Drizzle with  tarragon sauce. Chopped carrots make a nice compliment, as do olives and a clean Chablis.

Wishing you health, great food and the good sense to appreciate both. Happy New Year!

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Pains au Chocolat

Croissant dough takes, as my son would say, “a minute”. For those of us older than 40, “a minute” means serious time.  It’s not your everyday dough. Christmas breakfast calls for something special, though, so 3AM did not seem an unreasonable hour for kneading.

With no one but Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd keeping me company in the wee hours (can you guess the movie?), unto us this day a batch of pains au chocolat was born.

DSC_0040_3187 copyCroissant dough:

  • 250 ml whole milk
  • 500 all-purpose flour
  • 12 g fine salt
  • 50 super fine sugar
  • 275 g butter, cold but not hard
  • eggwash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp milk)

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Dissolve the yeast in the milk.

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Put the flour, salt and sugar in an electric mixer with a dough hook and mix on low gradually adding the yeast and milk mixture… Previously, this is the point in the recipe  where I would just curse and begin mixing feverishly by hand but (if you didn’t already notice in the previous pictures)…. this year I have a fancy new mixer!

Yes! Santa came early and brought me my Christmas wish. Thank you, Santa! Much love to you who shall remain nameless… xxx

DSC_0005_3152 copyDSC_0006_3153 copyStop mixing when the dough comes away from the sides. BTW, I had to add a little more milk to the recipe to get the right texture in the mixer.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (45 – 60 minutes). Knock back the dough by flipping it over to let the carbon gas escape. Cover the bowl again and chill for 4 hours. Now do you see why I got up at 3AM?

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Shape the dough into a ball and cut a cross in the center about 1 1/4″ deep. Roll out the 4 sides into flaps.

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Bash the holy heck out of your butter until it’s a flat rectangle. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Place it in the center of the dough and fold the flaps over to envelop the butter completely.

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DSC_0013_3160 copyFirst turn: On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough into a rectangle about 24″ x 12″. Fold in three.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Second turn: Turn your dough a quarter turn, roll it out and fold into thirds again. Chill for another 30 minutes.

Third turn: Yes, do it all again.  Chill for 30 minutes (but no more than an hour).

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Now roll the chilled dough into a rectangle about 20″ x 18″ and 1/4″ thick.

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Cut the rectangle into 4 long bands about 4 1/2″ wide. Cut the bands into 2 3/4″ – 3″ rectangles. I did one band at a time.

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Lay a stick of semi-sweet chocolate about 1 1/4″ from the top of the rectangle. Fold the top over and lay another chocolate strip at the cut edge. Fold again to envelop the chocolate.

DSC_0023_3170 copyDSC_0024_3171 copyDSC_0025_3172 copyTransfer these beauties to a baking sheet and brush lightly with egg wash. Put them in a proofer and let rise for 2 hours.

Don’t have a proofer? Sure you do. Heat a small bowl of water to boiling in your microwave (about 3 minutes). Now you have a well insulated little steam box, which is all a proofer is, really. Scoot the bowl aside and put your baking sheet(s) in. For a 2 hour proof, I take my sheets out and “resteam” the box about every 30 minutes.

As an aside, this is also a great way to clean your microwave. Just steam and wipe. But I digress…

DSC_0028_3175 copyWhen the pastries are about double in size, preheat your oven to 340 degrees. Brush them again lightly with egg wash and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden.

Transfer to a wire rack and serve warm. Merry Christmas, ya’ll.

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This recipe is from the always fabulous Michel Roux’s, “Pastry”.

Posted in Breads, Chocolate, Dough, Pastries | Tagged | 2 Comments

Avocado Chévre Spread

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Spreads, tapenades and sauces can turn a good dish into something extraordinary, and many take only a few minutes to make. This avocado-chévre spread is wonderful on salmon or serve it on crostini with some fresh black pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium avocados, scooped out
  • 5 oz of soft goat cheese (chévre)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 or 5 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Toss it all in the food processor and blend until smooth. Season with black or white pepper to taste.

Some tips on cooking salmon:

  • Look for a filet that is of a consistent thickness throughout.
  • Heat your pan to med – med-high with just a touch of olive oil.
  • Turn your filet skin-side up and cut 1/2 ” slits in the skin spaced at about 1″ apart so heat can permeate evenly. Rub salt and pepper into the cuts; insert lemon wedges into some of the slits as well.
  • Place the filet in the pan skin-side down for exactly 4 minutes. You can read the color of the meat from the edge. When the color has lightened about 3/4 of the way through the filet, flip it. Cook on the second side for 2 minutes. Don’t keep flipping back and forth. Be brave and patient.

Serve your perfect fish with this fantastic avocado-chévre spread and have a delicious  and healthy dinner in about 15 minutes. Enjoy!

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Posted in Dips, Spreads & Tapenades, Seafood | Leave a comment