Thursday, March 11, 2010

Down and Up-sides of kitchen experiments

The up-side of our Tuesday night cooking experiments this week were the sides: a scalloped potato dish that had sophisticated hints of white wine and goat cheese with all of the kid-friendly creamy goodness of classic potato-dairy blends, and a stir-fried broccoli with a sauce whose slight spicy-saltiness perfectly complemented the crisp green-ness of the vegetable.  Oh, and the dessert was gorgeous, full of the warmth of summer peaches and just perfectly gently sweet enough.  The down-side was the main dish.  We meant to make a stuffed chicken breast creation where the chicken would make the kiddoes happy and the stuffing would delight the adults.  Flavor-wise, that worked.  But a series of chopping and cutting missteps led to our dubbing it "poop chicken" as we set it out on the table (the stuffing oozed in a particularly soft formed brown manner) and not actually including the recipe here today.

Scalloped Potatoes with Goat Cheese and White Wine
Serves 6 as a side

Preheat oven to 375.  Butter a 9x13 pan.  Peel and slice very thinly 8-10 small potatoes (about 2 lbs) and 1/2 medium-large onion.  In a deep pan, melt 3 T butter.  Add 3 T flour and stir for 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups milk and stir until thickening slightly, about 3 minutes.  Add 4 oz. goat cheese, cut into 4 or 5 chunks.  Remove from heat. Stir until cheese melts.  Add 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper.  Lay 1/3 of the potatoes even along the bottom of the pan.  Add 1/2 the onions.  Pour 1/3 of the sauce over, distributing evenly.  Add the next third of the potatoes in a layer, followed by remaining onions and next third of sauce.  Put last layer of potatoes and cover with rest of sauce.  Pour 1 cup white wine over the layers.  Bake for about 90 minutes.

Broccoli stir-fry
Serves 3 as a side

Roughly chop 1 bunch (three heads) broccoli.

Finely chop 3 cloves garlic.

In a small bowl, mix well:
3/8 cup soy sauce
3 tsp. corn starch
11/2 tsp. chinese chili paste
3 tsp. sesame oil
3 T mirin

In a wok, heat 1T vegetable oil until it just begins to smoke.  Toss in sauce, garlic, and broccoli.  Cook on medium-high, tossing often, for 3-5 minutes.  Cover and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes more, until the broccoli turns a bright dark green.  Serve immediately.

Rustic Peach Tart

Make 1 pate brise:
Put 1 cup white flour in a large mixing bowl.  Slice 1 stick cold butter and drop into the flour.  With two butter knives, cut the butter into the flour (hold one knife in each hand and slide them along side one another, catching some of the butter and flour each time) until the butter pieces are about the size if pine-nuts.  Using flat dry and if possible slightly cold hands, quickly rub the butter flour mixture between your palms.  Do this for no more than 2 minutes.  The goal is to give the butter-flour mixture a sandlike quality but without working about perfect uniformity.  Pour 1/8 cup very cold water over the mixture and very quickly, lightly, and rough blend in with your fingertips.  Flour a pastry cloth and drop the mixture into the middle.  Gather the cloth around the dough and form into a firm ball.  Lay on the counter and press into a thick pancake with the palm of your hand.  Open the pastry cloth and with a floured rolling pin, roll to about 1/8 in thickness (still on the pastry cloth).  Set a cookie tray alongside the pastry cloth and lift and flip the cloth to lay the dough flat on the tray.  At this point, you can proceed or you can wrap the tray tightly in sara wrap and freeze for up to 3 days.

Pour 1 lb sliced fresh or frozen peaches into the center of the dough, leaving 2" clear on all sides.  Sprinkle the peaches with 1/8 cup sugar, preferable demerara.  Fold the two inches up and over the edge of the peaches.  You will have a nice rough circle of peaches left showing in the center.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  While cooling, melt a handful of dark chocolate chips or a square of dark chocolate.  Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate all over the top of the tarte.  Serve warm or cooled to room temperature.