Friday, October 15, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup - Uncensored

Before I explain my uncensored part, I need to say a very big thank you to those that supported me in the Project Food Blog 2010 Challenge. Your support meant the world to me and still does, it means that what I'm doing here is not going on deaf ears. So thank you once again :)

So, back to uncensored part ? Well  as I've mentioned several times during this blog, I'm not a professional photographer, I do not edit my photos though I do try to make an effort to take great photos it just does not alway work out. I'm a mom that works and well most my meals are made at night so hence the use of flash. The dishes on the weekends tend to fare a bit better.

So the photo of my soup is the real photo that was taken Wednesday night just before we sat down to eat.

French Fridays with Dorie is a coming together of foodies like ourselves who happen to be fans of Dorie Greenspan, in all there are about 900 of us who will be cooking through her book "Around my French Table". This week's recipe was Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. This is my first recipe for the group but the third from her book and I have to say that I've been thrilled with all of them. Hubby was hesitant when he saw the book, his first phrase was, 'Oh another American writing about French food" , given his reaction after the 4 dishes I think he has retracted his statement. Though I have to say it was a bit strange to be making French dishes where the listing of ingredients had been Americanized, I found myself having to say no its this sort of potato or apple etc.

I made the soup for dinner this past Wednesday, it looked easy enough to be put together quite quickly after a work day or in my case my day off with my kids. The recipe which can be found on page 98-100 on first impression looks daunting due to the list of ingredients. However ,to be very honest it took me all of 5 minutes to put together before the chicken went in for 15 minutes. In the interim I solved two fights about toys, changed a diaper, took out a load of laundry and put another in. Then  the hubby called and said that he was stuck at work, no problem I took out the chicken, covered the soup and turned off the stove. Took this time to pick up toys, solve another fight and read a story to them. Hubby finally showed up ( don't worry I had already fed the kids), he put the kids to bed while I made the noodles and finished dressing the soup.

By this time, I'm starving, I yell at hubby to bring the camera so I can take a picture. I start taking a few photos only to realize that my lens are twisted ??? How did this happen ? Hubby looks at the soup and the different herbs on the table and says OK :) The OK is then followed by "Excellent" at least 3 times (when this word is used repeatedly in French you know you have a winner). He was right the soup was delicious, the fresh herbs really added a fresh flavor and most importantly it more or less put itself together.

When I started this blog , the aim was to show that YOU CAN make delicious meals while doing a multitude of different tasks and dishes like this help keep me on the straight path!

I can't wait to make the next week's dish.

Bon Appétit

Sunday, October 3, 2010

PFB Challenge # 3 - A Fall Inspired Tasting Menu

PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner -  Table Setting 2

First of all, a very warm thank you to all that voted for me in the previous challenge. Words can't express how thankful I am for your support. 
Challenge #3 – Luxury Dinner Party
… the challenge is to hold a party for your friends and family (at least four guests, you can include yourself in the 4 person count). Whether you’re an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative and host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors.

Luxury ? When I first read about the challenge and saw the word Luxury, several thoughts came into my mind on what the definition of luxury is. For many it can mean something very refined, elegant, rich, over the top, for others it can mean the ultimate in comfort food , THE opportunity to splurge on what we normally avoid. For me I side with both definitions and thus realized that I needed to think some more. It was while I was researching possible dishes that my definition of Luxury vis a vis this challenge hit me. Today, thanks to hot houses and transportation we can pretty much find all fruit and vegetable products year round. We complain that the strawberries that we buy in November have no taste when its normal that it has no taste, its not the season. How often do we content ourselves with what the season  has to offer us? Its true that when we are "confined" to seasonal products our choice of recipes are narrowed down. Its funny really, because "seasonal products" are bursting with flavor, their nutrients are at its prime and they tend to be cheaper than out of season products.

With that principle in mind I decided to showcase some of the products currently available in our market  Chestnuts, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Apples and Monkfish to name a few. The menu for the dinner would be a tasting menu or a menu de dégustation. I chose to make two entrées (first course) , two main dishes and two desserts. The menu is very much a reflection of French gastronomy.

Part of this challenge required us to have a dinner party with a minimum of 4 guests, naturally I invited one of my dearest friends however the day  before the dinner she called to say that her nearly 2year old daughter was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease- highly contagious ! Did I also mention that another part of the challenge was to give advice on planning and hosting a dinner party ? Murphy's Law, things can go wrong to even the most perfectly planned event. My son happened to be sitting in front of me when she told me this and only then did it dawn on me. I had forgotten to invite someone! My son. 

Yes, yes I complain that he's a picky eater and can't bear to eat fruit or cheese but compared to other 4year olds that I know, he is quite the gourmet. He's been exposed to a multitude of dishes and flavors and surprisingly enough likes most of it. To be able to offer our son his first tasting menu is a luxury in itself which made the party even more special. My daughter Claire made her appearance at the cheese plate.

Tips on preparing a tasting menu.
A tasting menu by itself can be a very overwhelming task, the key is to choose the dishes carefully and if possible dishes that can be made in advanced and assembled the day of the party. For this menu, the chocolate mousse, soup, risotto, apple sauce were all made the day before. The morning of the party, I made the batter for the madeleines and put it to chill as it needs to rest before it bakes. I also did the chestnut cream , polenta and assembled the risotto and turnovers. The only dishes that needed cooking were the beef, foie gras and the fish which went straight into the oven. While we were having the cheese course I popped the turnovers into the oven. The madeleines which are better served warm went into the oven right after.

Choosing Wines
No tasting menu is complete without wine. Try as much as possible to stick to the same country as the dishes that you are preparing. This will  not only complement your dishes but it will serve to complete the meal.  In general, red meats go better with heavy reds such as a Bordeaux, Pomerol, Saint Estèphe etc. Reds from Bourgogne which tend to be lighter  and compliment poultry dishes. Both whites and red complement cheeses this really is a question of personal taste.

Most importantly, relax and enjoy the party. If your guests see that you are relaxed they will follow your lead.

Pre Dinner
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner Champagne
No party is complete without it...

PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - My Gourmet
My little gourmet
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - Carrot Soup with Chestnut Cream
Veloute of carrot with Chestnut Cream
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - Entree 2
Garlic, Thym Chanterelle Mushrooms with polenta

PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - Fish course
Roasted monkfish and potatoes served with caramelized shallots
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - Plat 2
Beef fillet and warm foie gras with a black fig reduction (served with risotto)
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - Cheese Course - Epoisse
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - Stealing grapes
Little hands
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - Dessert 2
Chocolate Mousee / Apple Turnovers
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner - Coffee
Café / Madeleines
PFB Challenge # 3 Luxury Dinner

Voting for Challenge #3 begins on Monday 4th October on Foodbuzz