Today I decided to takeover not only my mother’s blog but her kitchen as well. I’m on vacation from seminary (follow my blog
!) and decided to make a delicious dinner for my parents. I live in a dorm and eat in a cafeteria, so I don’t get a chance to do real cooking very often. I’m not a great cook, but I can follow directions pretty well. Today I wanted to stretch my culinary skills. We invited over some friends, and we watched the snow continue to fly. For some reason I gravitated to French foods or at least foods that sound kind of French. I had no idea if everything would go well together, but I didn’t know when the next chance for me to cook would be. It helps that I’m at home in safe place. In case something went wrong I could pull out the big guns (crying) and Mom would jump in and fix it. That didn’t happen although I had lots of questions.
Hummus and Fresh Vegetables
Tuna Croquettes with Sauce Remoulade
French Onion Soup
Alyce’ Sweet Balsamic Salad
Starters: I bought hummus (garlic) at the store and arranged on a cute plate these things:
celery, asparagus, English cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots–Dish #1
: Tuna Croquettes
–I’m not sure what I expected here, but they were a little like incredibly good crab cakes. Except! I didn’t have to pay for crab. I used tuna in pouches.
Recipe by Alton Brown
I had seen this recipe on Alton Brown’s show Good Eats
. It sounded good. It turned out good. Because the panko is lighter than normal breadcrums, each little ball of tuna-ie delight was crispy but not heavy. I can’t see these croquettes as a full meal, but it was a satisfying appetizer. Even though the recepe online shows the croquettes with some sort of thick sauce, there was no recipe! Mom whipped up a sauce made of mayonaise, shallots, dill pickles and dijon mustard. She called it a Revved Up Tartar Sauce which then we realized was close to a sauce remoulade.
Dish # 2
: French Onion Soup
—This one doesn’t bake, nor does it have a ton of heavy cheese- just parmesan when you serve it. Oooo la la ! The house smells like heaven.
Carmelizing the onions above. Ina says 20 min; it took 45.
The soup cooking.. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH———-
Here (above) are the parmesan croutons for the soup. Good all by themselves, too.
Recipe by the Barefoot Contessa (also found in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook from 1999)
I have never made soup before except by heating up the insides of a can. So when the idea went off in my head to make French onion soup, I was confused. “Don’t you know I don’t cook?” I told myself, but I just wouldn’t listen to me. So I found what looked like one of the easier French onion soups in the world. The hardest part was slicing the onions. I had no idea how to slice an onion properly, but I found out that once you cook them it doesn’t really matter if you sliced them ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It’s important to get all the onions about the same size if you can. It did take twice as long for the onions to brown than the Barefoot Contessa told me, but I assume that’s because I’m in Colorado and the altitude makes cooking weird sometimes. I used a sweet sherry that made a big difference in the final product. The house still smells wonderful from the onions and butter that were the base of the soup. I finished the soup about an hour and a half early and just left it on the stove until our friends showed up and we were eating the first course. It warmed up very quickly and was delicious.
Mom made a quick salad to go with the soup so that we would have something green. It was kind of like this:
Dish 3a. Alyce’s Sweet Balsamic Salad
10 cups mixed greens (she used baby arugula and baby spinach
1/3 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c cherry tomatoes
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch ea: kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2T Balsamic Vinegar
4-5 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
I think she made the dressing in the bottom of the bowl first. She whisked together the vinegar, honey and salt and pepper. Then she drizzled in the oil until it was all mixed pretty well.
Greens, walnuts and tomatoes went on top in a large bowl, which was refrigerated until we needed to eat it. Then Dad tossed it and served it on salad plates.
Dish #4: Creme Brulee See top and bottom photos, too!
Recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl (2004)
Here-above- I am doing something Mom says is “tempering the eggs.” Otherwise, the hot cream will scramble the eggs and we don’t exactly want breakfast tonight.
SO GOOD! One neighbor raved, “This is the best creme brulee I’ve ever had!” I usually bake a type of cake for a dessert, but I really wanted to try something different. I think Creme Brulee is super fancy and grown up. Turns out it’s not that hard to make if you’ve got a torch handy. Mom said the key to a good creme brulee is good heavy cream and high quality vanilla. As a Masters student I understand that it makes sense to buy the cheap vanilla, but after eating this creme brulee I will NEVER buy cheap vanilla again. The creme was creamy and smooth. The brulee (expertly burned by my father) was crackling and crisp. If you want people to think you can make incredible desserts but you don’t know if you really can, this recipe is for you! It does take some specialized equipment (ramikins, torch), but invest in that equipment and it will pay off.
(Mom says you can use plain old Pyrex custard cups and put the creme brulee under the broiler; you can do without the special stuff but it’s so fun to torch something, says Dad.
The best part about cooking for people is that you get to spend time them and show them you care. I hope you enjoy these recipes and take over YOUR mother’s kitchen some time.
Check out the rest of the creme brulee pictures below…………………..
Emily power tools
Mom’s note: Wow! I love having anyone cook like that for me. AND the creme brulee was, there’s no other word: silky. Thanks, Emi. Come home anytime.