British food rocks! Really.

I went to my second cooking class this week. I had purchased a silent auction item at the Sunset at the Ritz benefitting the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the ALS Association at The Kitchen Table. I had eyed the cooking classes for several months, trying to figure out which one to take. My summer has been busy, but I saw a break in my schedule this week and leapt at a recently added class celebrating the Olympics and British Food.

Chef Tom, surveyed the class on who had been to England and if they had a memorable meal. Most said the food was horrible, citing fish, chips and beer as the highlights.  Chef Tom taught us that the Brits were big on:

pickling, smoking

beer, ciders, tea

custard,  pies, savory puddings

beef

Sunday was the day to serve a grand meal as Monday was wash day and gave the cooks a break to clean up and eat the leftovers. Our menu was crab and asparagus salad, roast beef, savory Yorkshire pudding, horseradish cream, mint peas, gravy and a bread pudding.

The Kitchen Table pre-made creme fraiche (fresh cream) that we used for the salad dressing and the horseradish cream for the beef. Also pre-made for us was a veal stock for the gravy.

The first item we made was the bread and butter pudding with Bailey’s (oh yeah). We made a creme anglaise (English cream), a custard mixture similar to one for an ice cream. We layered apricot jam, circles of brioche, rum-soaked raisins, all soaked with the creme anglaise to ramekins. They were popped in the oven while we constructed the rest of our meal.

Next was to build our Yorkshire and pour into ramekins with lard in the bottom (oh yeah), make the horseradish sauce, and truss our beef. After those tasks we constructed our salad with a creme fraiche, lime and grainy mustard dressing.

After we munched on our fresh, lovely salad, with Paco y Lola, 2010 white wine we returned to the kitchen to braise our beef, make our gravy, and heat our buttered, mint peas.

Chef Tom’s Tips:

1) Creme fraiche is easy to make at home and tastes better than store-bought. Heat 1 C cream to 105 degrees in saucepan, remove from heat and stir in 1TBS buttermilk. Place in shallow container, cover with plastic wrap and leave on the countertop, warm area and stir every 8 hours for 2 days until thick. Refrigerate once set.

2) When removing bread and butter puddings from ramekins place the sharp knife along the edge and turn the ramekins, do not move the knife up and down. The pudding edge will come out smooth not jagged.

3) Don’t play with the beef, leave it in the pan to braise on all sides; let is rest after oven baked by tenting it with foil all before slicing it.

4) Good lump crab can be purchased canned. When added to the salad don’t break apart the crab, be gentle with it.

Patty’s Points:

1) I loved the horseradish. Now I want to buy one. It’ll go great in my sauerkraut (see https://thefearlesscookingclub.com/2011/09/). My husband loves horseradish cream with beef. It was so fresh.

2) I loved the Yorkshire pudding. I know crazy huh? all those carbs and lard? They puffed up so beautifully. Chef Tom said it was the cold egg batter poured into the hot ramekins with hot lard, popped into the oven that made them puff up.

One student in the class said this class was then next best thing to going to the Olympics (which was on her bucket list). It was fun. I learned great techniques and a little bit more about England.

The class found it fascinating and maybe scared (?) that I had a food blog. I assured them that I only make fun of myself in this blog. I made a few mistakes in the kitchen, using the wrong pan a couple of times. Chef Patricia set me straight and was a great resource in the kitchen. I bonded with another macaron fan and I have already lost her e-mail to send her my most recent macaron recipe. Send me a message okay?

A Mother’s love: Alfajores.

I tasted my first Alfajore cookie a few years ago when my husband brought home a box from a business trip in Argentina. It was love at first bite, melt in your mouth deliciousness.

I saw a recipe for Alfajores last year from Relish May 2011. The article mentioned that these cookies are a traditional Mother’s Day cookie. Any mother who loves to bake will have no trouble making these cookies for their children because it is all about love. I’m an empty-nester so I shared these cookies with my husband who had no complaints.

Patty’s Points:

1) The half flour, half cornstarch combination was a first for me. It made the cookie melt in your mouth.

2) The dough was very tender, but rolling the dough in the cornstarch was easier to accomplish than I thought. I used a biscuit cutter to cut out the cookie. I used a metal spatula to lift the cookie disc off the cutting board so as to not damage it.

3) The boiling of the can of sweetened condensed milk was an interesting method to caramelize the sugars for the filling. If I use this method again I would place the can on some type on metal sieve or plate in the bottom of the pan. My pan had a film on the lining of my pan from the can and stained the bottom of my pan.

The cookie was melt in your mouth delicious, great with a cup of tea or coffee.

Now that I have accomplished the basic Alfajore recipe I am ready to move on to different flavors like from 6 Bittersweets website for Chocolate Nutella Alfajores. I absolutely love Nutella so looks like a great recipe to try next.

I also sent a Mother’s Day wish out to my children at my other blog site May 8,2012 posting at the patty beat . Check it out! Happy Mother’s Day.

Whoa Nelly! Derby City Chocolate Pecan Pie

The Kentucky Derby is this coming Saturday, May 5th, a rite of passage of spring. Many people have parties celebrating all things Kentucky and horse racing. My sister and her husband went to the pre-Kentucky Derby race activities last year and actually sat in a box next to Bobby Flay!

If you are throwing your own party you should check out the Kentucky Derby website where you can find authentic Derby recipes, including the famous mint julep.

I saw this recipe in the Denver Post May 2011 and was intrigued as I have never made a pecan pie before. As you can read in the article, the Derby Pie was created in 1954 by Walter and Leaudra Kern as the specialty pastry of the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky. Apparently the recipe is top secret, so this recipe was created from the basic ingredients.

Patty’s Points:

1) EASY.

2) Placing aluminum foil atop the pie while baking for the first 30 minutes will help prevent the crust from burning. Remove the foil the final 15 minutes and the pie becomes the finished product you see above.

Place your bets! This pie is a winner!

Baklava: No Fear

In Alton Brown’s  Good Eats: Baklava episode he shows a food gallery of most feared foods to make:  Baked Alaska, Tarte Tatin and Baklava. I laughed when I saw this episode since Baklava was the recipe to tackle this month.

When I talk about the Fearless Cooking Club and the premise of tackling our cooking fears, I will hear someone say, “Oh that’s easy to make, why would you say that is hard?” It’s all about perspective, that’s why we have our cooking club. It’s easier to accomplish difficult tasks in a group, fear loves company. We have members of our club who call me the gourmet cook and I laugh. I am just stubborn and determined. All of our members have varying skills and we get along because we are all learn from each other.

Cindy was our hostess for April’s cooking and dining meeting and the theme was Greek cuisine. Cindy has made Pastitio which is a wonderful Greek comfort dish. So when I arrived I assumed that she had experience in making baklava. She announced that she was going to learn right along with us.

Phyllo dough, butter, sugar and nuts are the basis of baklava. The phyllo is the trickiest part of baklava. It is thin and tears easily, taking patience and technique and it dries out quickly.

1) Butter a 9×13 inch pan. Pull up the phyllo sheets and place two sheets into the pan like making a bed.

2) With a pastry brush “paint” the top sheet with melted butter.

3) Sprinkle 2-3 TBSP of chopped walnuts across the sheet. Then repeat the steps: 2 sheets of phyllo, melted butter and chopped nuts.

4) As you near the end of the layers keep 6 sheets to put on the very top of the pan. Cut the sheets in the serving sizes prior to baking.

5) Bake at 350 degree F oven for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. After you pull it out of the oven have a pre-mixed combination of 1C granulated sugar, 1C water, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 C honey that was heated over a stove-top until it becomes a golden syrup.

Patty’s Points

1) Phyllo dough is found in the freezer section of the store. Put it in the refrigerator overnight for it to thaw. Alton Brown suggests you pick the box in the back of the freezer section as it is the freshest.

2) Phyllo dough can dry out quickly so when you are ready to use it, focus on the task of completing the assembly of the baklava. A damp towel or a water spray bottle can be use to keep is moist if necessary. We tried a towel but it was too damp and the first phyllo dough adhered to the towel so we skipped that and just worked quickly.

3) Have all the ingredients ready before assembly. Have a really sharp knife for cutting the phyllo dough shapes. We actually pulled out a ruler to measure the size of our cuts and triangles.

4) The phyllo sheets sucked up every bit of that syrup mixture and made the baklava very moist. Cindy bought some baklava from a local Greek restaurant and we thought ours was better 🙂 Just think, two triangles of baklava cost $4.00 so our entire pan was worth $72.00!

The rest of our Greek menu was Pastitio, Moussaka, Spanakopita, Sliced lamb, Pita bread, Greek salad, Loukoumathes (honey puffs) and of course Baklava. We received copies of the recipes to all the dishes which were delicious and delectable.

After some ouzo and wine we learned of Cindy’s first trip to Greece and traveling adventures as a young new college graduate. She decided to go to Europe because she got several driving ticket violations and couldn’t drive for three months. She was a free spirit and much bolder than I at that age.

OPA! Greek for party down which we did!

Eggs-cellent

The Fearless Cooking Club celebrated spring with all things eggs. As mentioned in my blog a couple of weeks ago, eggs are a hot ingredient everywhere in comfort food recipes. Cholesterol aside, eggs are making a comeback as a excellent protein.

All club members brought a dish that used eggs and we had quite a variety of choices:

  • Deviled eggs – two versions
  • Aioli with vegetable chips
  • Brioche
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Cheese Soufflé
  • Holiday egg casserole
  • Mediterranean Spinach bake

We had cooking lessons with the soufflé, hollandaise sauce, and the aioli. One member broke out the 1943 original Joy of Cooking to make soufflé the old school way. Irma Romabauer’s tip was to not butter the soufflé dish although another source said to butter the soufflé dish. I am going to withhold any opinion because I’ve never made a soufflé before. Further research for perfection to come later.

The eggs benedict, Anne Burrell, from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef on the Food Network version was accessed. It was a fabulous recipe that was very similar to the Joy of Cooking recipe I’ve used in the past. The hard part is putting all the ingredients together and getting it served onto the table warm.

Poached eggs can be made in advance and kept in cold water bath while the hollandaise is made.

Hollandaise is a hand whipped egg yolk, lemon juice and butter mixture. We followed the Anne Burrell recipe to a “T” and it turned out fabulously. I was just watching The Pioneer Woman on Food Network and she made hollandaise in the blender. That was a new and inventive technique I hope to try in the future!

We invited friends and family members in sharing all the creations. As you can see there was a lot of food to eat! Happy Spring!

Next month we will be celebrating Greek Easter which is celebrated after the Traditional Christian Easter. I’ve never made Baklava before so we will be getting a lesson in that.  I will also be checking out a Cookie Cutter Club bi-annual meeting. Stay tuned in April.

Soup Swap Party

The Fearless Cooking Club gathered yesterday today to celebrate January as National Soup Month and January 21, 2012 as National Soup Swap Day. If you want details on how to organize your own soup swap, check out my fellow blogger Soup Chick‘s website.

The Fearless Cooking Club members are more about socializing than having rules to follow, so it was a long afternoon soiree of enjoying each other’s company and partaking in different types of stews and soups. The spouses and a few additional couples were invited making a houseful of 14 people celebrating all things soup. Char and her husband  Dwayne were spectacular hosts and their home was the perfect setting for this occasion.

Our rules were that each club member made two batches of soup: one was pre-made and packed in 1-pint containers ready for freezing and sharing; the other batch was brought in a crock and ready to serve. Each member went home with four pints of soup.

I absolutely love soup, but in preparing for this cooking club adventure I realized I never had a favorite one to share. I surveyed Soup Chick’s blog and tested three recipes before deciding on which one to bring. I am known in the group for alway trying something new, hence the name as Fearless Cook. It took some research and cooking trials for me to find a recipe to share with a group of people. I tried a Spicy Ground Beef and Bean Soup with Cabbage and Spinach from Kalyn’s Kitchen that was awesome and a Apple Pie Soup from Soup Chick. I eventually chose to make African Chicken Peanut Stew. It was fabulous so I think I have found a signature soup recipe for me. It was kind of a cross between a traditional stew and a Thai type dish. I served it with rice and cilantro. It was a pretty hearty stew at that, one serving was pretty filling.

The soup choices were:

Italian Wedding Soup with sausage and kale

Walkabout Split Pea and Ham

Bruce’s Beef Stew

African Chicken Peanut Stew

Black Forest Potato Soup

As you can see it was quite a variety of soups and stews.

A soiree it was. Wine, bread, crackers, and lots of water to cleanse our palates. After all the tasting, we had coffee and light desserts to cap off the afternoon. My freezer has four kinds of soups to get my husband I and through the busy week of work. Bon appetite!