Monday, May 19, 2014

Making Madeleines

On our first Christmas together, B. got me two trays of madeleine molds.  I didn't use them right away because I had never made madeleines before, but after about 6 months of disuse, he told me he would make me a batch.  I'm normally the baker in the house, so it was nice to be spoiled by him.  We used the recipe that had come with the trays, but it wasn't quite what we were looking for.
This week, my husband decided it was time to make madeleines again, so I looked up a recipe online.  One of the first recipes I stumbled upon was Dorie Greenspan.  Her recipes are quite popular among food bloggers and her pictures showed a very big "hump" -- which is very desirable in madeleines.  We had not had humps in our last homemade batch, so I was interested in trying her recipe and her method.

We were quite pleased with our results, and when B. brought some to his office to share with co-workers, he said they enjoyed them as well.  This recipe is not at all intimidating, and I'm glad we decided to try it.  I have no idea why it took me so long to get around to making them, but homemade madeleines are a lovely treat.

I did, of course, alter a few things.  First, the original recipe calls for lemon zest.  I never buy lemons because they're more expensive than limes.  These past few months, however, we've been eating a lot of oranges, and whenever I buy particularly beautiful citrus from a good source, I will wash them, zest them, and freeze the zest for uses in baking, cocktails (mocktails for me; cocktails for B.), cooking, and so on.  So I had orange zest on hand.  I eyeballed out what I thought was the appropriate amount for one orange (though really, this depends on how well you zest your fruit... on cooking shows when I watch them zest, I am appalled by how much they waste).  I thought the orange flavor was beautiful and I will be repeating the recipe this way from now on.

Second, I used a hand blender (also called an immersion or stick blender) to really chop up the zest and mix it with the sugar and egg.  I thought this helped infuse the flavor, but it's probably not a necessary step.

Third, I highly recommend browning the butter.  This will add a complexity to the flavor, and since you have to melt the butter anyhow, you might as well do it on the stove and make the house smell like magic.

Fourth, I would also highly recommend sifting your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients to prevent lumps.  I did not do this the first time and I think the texture is far better when you sift.  This will also help you in that you won't have to stir as much.

Fifth, this is a nit picky thing, but I always mix salt with sugar in my wet ingredients, as I think this makes the distribution of flavor better than having salt be with the dry ingredients.  I never know why recipe writers always insist on coupling salt with baking soda/baking powder and flour.  Also, I always used salted butter.  Yes it adds more salt, but I think it also adds more flavor.  I almost never use unsalted butter and if I do, it's normally because I ran out of the salted kind.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Love and Lobster Risotto

B. and I moved into our apartment together in July.  It was my first time living with someone (and I mean someone whose relationship with me was not "female roommate"), and it was our first time being truly together on the same side of the ocean.
I remember two meals from then.  The first was the meal we had the day we moved into our apartment.  We had signed the final papers at 10:30am, spent all day moving things out of my storage unit and into our new apartment in the pouring rain, and then we'd gone to Ikea to buy a bed.  At this point it was past 7pm and we hadn't eaten all day.  We went to the food court and I had the famous Ikea meatballs for the first time.  I was sweaty, ravenous, and exhausted.  The food tasted amazing.
The second meal was a few weeks later.  The furniture we'd bought had just been delivered so we finally had a dining room table.  We'd been so caught up in all the business of settling into our new place, I wanted us to have a date night at home.  At luck would have it, lobster was on sale at the local market.  We bought two, broiled them, and ate them with steamed broccoli, corn, and rice.  It was lovely.  But this wasn't the meal I want to tell you about.  It was the remnants from that meal that made a second meal.
I'm one of those strange people who likes the "torso" of the lobster more than the tail, and so we had tail meat leftover, plus all the lobster shells and little tiny leg pieces.  There is so much meat you can't get out of shellfish and it occurred to me that this might be an excellent stock base.  I combined some shallot, a little bit of onion, and all the lobster shell pieces into our new pressure cooker and 20 minutes later, out came an incredible seafood stock.  And while flipping through our pressure cooker manual, I saw a recipe for pressure-cooker risotto.  It was too perfect of an idea to let pass.

The seafood stock (with a little help from some butter and rice) became lobster risotto, studded with the pieces of tail meat.  It was heavenly.  That meal we didn't talked much, but we scraped our bowls clean, and afterwards we leaned back in our chairs and smiled at each other in the comfortable quiet of our home.
B. and I have eaten many, many meals together since then - some great, some ordinary; some memorable, some forgettable - but this meal and this memory I hold dear.

I will note that the picture I have doesn't look like the typically texture of risotto - not quiet creamy enough - but this is actually because we had a little problem with our pressure cooking allowing steam to "leak" out, which meant that we lost quite a bit of the cooking liquid.  The first batch of "risotto" was therefore more akin to stove-top cooked rice, but the second batch I made (which, of course, there is no picture of) was perfect, and the risotto had the creamy, dreamy, perfect texture.