Click here for step by step instructions and pictures of our eggs from last year. This year we cranked out six dozen eggs in just a few hours. We were so disappointed the Tweety Bird tie didn't come through but we've learned over the years that light colors don't transfer and the darker the color, the better the egg turns out. The detail that comes through though is amazing. I think the Easter Bunny would be proud :) Try it and let us know how yours turns out!
La Traviata Truffles ~ grand marnier & orange zest
For the past week I've been up to my elbows in chocolate and chocolate powder making 400 truffles for the SF Opera's Bravo! Club Kick-off Party at the Kim Vo Salon in SF.
I'm not a pastry chef at all, actually quite pastrily-imparied especially if you ask the chefs at Pierre Herme in Paris, but that's another story. For some reason I've been able to conquer my truffle fear if for no other reason than a potted plant could make them, and if I can make them, anyone can... I polled a couple of different resources and combined a few recipes including Alton Brown's and Jacques Torres's and came up with this basic recipe. I changed it up a bit for the different flavors and named each truffle after an Opera.
La Boheme Truffles ~ simply bittersweet
* 10 oz 70% Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate (I use their 9.7 oz box for this recipe, just rounding up for ease)
* 2 tbsp unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1 tbsp light corn syrup
* 1/4 cup brandy (or other liquour)
* 1/4 cup chocolate powder for rolling the truffles
1. Chop up the chocolate and butter into small pieces so it will melt quickly and evenly, and place in a glass bowl.
2. In a pot, heat the cream, corn syrup and liquid just to a low boil, and set aside for a few minutes to cool.
3. Pour the hot liquid into the bowl with the chocolate and butter and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk gently to mix the chocolate and liquid. Once it's combined don't let any liquid get in the chocolate or it will break. If it gets too hot it will break as well. If that happens, add a small amount of chilled heavy cream and whisk until the chocolate comes back together. You can also use an immersion blender for this. (Breaking is when the fat separates from the chocolate and becomes grainy and oily.)
4. Pour the chocolate ganache into a pan, cover and chill for at least a few hours, ideally overnight.
5. Take a low flat soup bowl and put a 1/4 cup of chocolate powder in it. Tap the bowl so the powder is level.
6. Take out the chocolate and, using a melon baller or small ice cream scoop, scoop the chocolate into small balls, roll them in your hands to even them out and drop them in the chocolate powder. Roll them around to coat and place on a tray with parchment paper. Chill until an hour before you are ready to serve, allowing them to come to room temperature.
And that's it! For the flavored truffles, I added/substituted the following:
* La Traviata ~ 1/4 cup grand marnier + the zest of 4 oranges
* Don Carlos ~ 1/4 Patron tequila + the zest of 4 limes + a sprinkling of fleur de sel on the top of each truffle (my favorite!)
* Semiramide ~ steep the cream in 1/4 cup earl grey tea + 1/4 cup brandy
* Fra Diavolo ~ 1 cup toasted coconut + a few shakes of cayenne. add a few shakes of cinnamon to the chocolate powder for rolling
* Orphee aux Enfers ~ bacon! 1 pkg of thick cut pepper bacon baked with a little maple syrup spread on top. break off as much fat as you can, crumble the remaining bacon and stir into melted chocolate
I was a little skeptical about the bacon ones, not sure how they'd go over but of all the flavors, I think that one was the biggest hit! I did of course have to taste each one...multiple times...all in the name of quality control :) hence the chocolate coma... Bon appetit!
A very kind note appeared in my inbox the next morning. It made my day:
"Hi Laura! Where to begin??.....I'll start with YUM YUM YUM!!!!!......beyond a treat to have your participation and donation to last night's Gala Kick-off party! I am sorry we didn't get to connect, but every 5-words I heard throughout the night included 'bacon' 'cayenne' or 'i've consumed 10'!.....simply out of this world! .....thank you, thank you..." ~ Marie T. Carr, President BRAVO! 2010
Thank YOU Marie for the opportunity to do what I love to do and all for a wonderful organization!
Policemen on Rollerblades in front of l'Opera, Paris ~ February 2007
Can't outmaneuver these guys! And given the traffic jams and transportation strikes in Paris, this is probably faster than the metro. Maybe it's time to dust off my big purple pair that I used for all of a week back in 1994 when I was determined to make those Friday Night Rides across San Francisco that were so hugely popular back then. Determined that is, until I fell directly on my tailbone (less padding than now) right in front of the Chestnut Street morning express bus headed downtown filled with handsome men in double-breasted suits and wingtips. The searing pain was outmatched only by the sheer embarassment made doubly so because I fell trying to do a fancy little jump turn onto the sidewalk in front of above mentioned bus. That'll teach me to try to show off!
If you didn't get your fill of what the French consider a very "bizarre bird" and have a hankering to roast up another turkey over the holidays, here's what not to do...
My Paris flatmates, John and Pierre, announced a few months ago that this year Thanksgiving was going to be in San Francisco and some of their closest French friends were flying in for the week to experience this crazy American tradition up close and personal. Naturally I couldn't pass up this opportunity so I hopped on United, San Francisco or bust. Actually it was "bust" coming back to Paris but that's another story that requires copious amounts of cocktails, but I digress. Hop on over to KQED's Bay Area Bites to read more about this bizarre burned bird... or just read it below.
We didn't get started cooking until about 3pm (so much for our 4pm start time) because we first had to do a few things... such as scour the oven. At some point in the wee hours of the previous morning, someone decided it would be a good idea to go crazy with the oven cleaner. Not such a good idea in the light of day. Then Pierre popped and poured some champagne and announced that we could now begin cooking.
So a frantic scramble ensued to make the cornbread muffins for the stuffing, prepare the glaze for the turkey, get the cranberries going, prep the sweet potatoes and green beans, and make appetizers that would last 6 hours until dinner! I made my standard go-to app that I learned at Farallon: toasted brioche (round Hawaiian rolls in a pinch), topped with smoked salmon and a dollop of lemon creme fraiche to calm the hungry crowd.
The stuffing was finally ready so we filled up the turkey, rubbed olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika on the turkey, and - drumroll...here is what NOT to do - glazed the turkey. I should have waited until there was about an hour left of cooking. I wasn't thinking. I was tired, frazzled, exhausted from waking up at 4am from jetlag, a bit tipsy from the bubbly and distracted by all the hilarity going on around me that I just slathered that bird with abandon and sent him on his way.
An hour later, I checked on the turkey and it was charred, completely burned black. I wanted to cry. I was distraught. All that work and I ruined the turkey. ARGH! Pierre kept telling me it was OK and filling my champagne glass. John, who'd just emerged from a nap, had a clear head and the smart idea to baste it, cover it with foil and turn down the oven. So we did and continued to cook it for another few hours. I was still inconsolable.
Flora made the cranberry sauce with sugar, orange juice, orange zest and fresh grated ginger. There are no cranberries in France so this dish was most intriguing. So much so that Pierre decided they would be exponentially better mixed with vodka. They hijacked half my bowl of cranberries, pureed them and made cranberry martinis! Amen and pass the ice. When life hands you cranberries, make cocktails I say! As long as it diverts attention from the charcoal lump of a turkey...
Pierre snipped the ends off mounds of green beans while I cut up the sweet potatoes and chiffonade'd the sage. A quick toss in some duck fat and it was good to go in the oven. The green beans I blanched, then sauteed and tossed with toasted sliced almonds and crumbled Roquefort. I was praying everyone would be so enamoured of the rest of the meal they wouldn't notice the cardboard dry turkey meat. When it was time to take it out, I cringed, dreading the inevitable.
John kindly helped me pick off the charred skin and, to my absolute disbelief and joy, underneath the skin was the most moist, juicy, delicious turkey I'd ever made! I've only made two but you know what I mean. The charred skin must have formed an impenetrable seal that kept the turkey from drying out. It was delicious and I was estatic! I didn't ruin the turkey after all so more champagne was poured and toasted. I brushed a little more glaze over the now-naked turkey and around 9:00pm, we finally served to our French friends a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. Ok, I brought French wine from Burgundy....all in the name of fostering Franco-American relations :)
We were so hungry that we dispensed with prayers and sharing things we were grateful for and dove right into the meal. Dessert was a berry crumble that I learned at one of my first cooking classes at HomeChef. It's the best crumble recipe I've ever had anywhere, ever. We lumbered to the couches in the living room where I promptly fell asleep. Happy Thanksgiving! And if you still want to make a turkey for Christmas, now you know what not to do!
Le Menu de Thanksgiving
Champagne Veuve Cliquot
Saumon Fumee sur Brioche Grillee avec Creme Fraiche Citron
1999 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "La Garennes"
Haricots-Verts avec Amandes et Roquefort
Patates-Douces avec Sauge et Grasse de Canard
Dinde Roti Farci
Dessert de Crumble de Fruits Frais (I was too tired to take pictures at this point...) ----------------------------------
Les Recettes - The Recipes The turkey, glaze, cranberry and stuffing recipes I adapted from Shiela Lukins' "Celebrate!". That, along with her "New Basics", are my first go-to books when I need inspiration.
1 package Jiffy Corn Muffin mix. Yes, a box mix, spare me the flame mail. When you have 3 hours to pull together an entire Thanksgiving dinner, you do what you have to do. Cook the muffins according to the instructions then crumble them into a bowl. 1 head celery, small dice 1 large onion, small dice 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped 1 cup dried apricots, chopped 1 cup dried cherries 2 tablespoons butter 1 package of mild Italian sauages, casings removed, sauteed, broken into bits 1 cup Swansons chicken broth
1. Saute the celery, onions, parlsey until opaque
2. Add cherries, apricots and butter and combine
3. In a large bowl combine sausage and cornbread and add in the celery-dry fruit mix.
4. Add the broth slowly mixing as you go. Don't let it get soggy, add just enough to moisten it.
The Deadly Maple Ginger Glaze
Olive oil 1/2 large onion, finely diced 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice 1/4 cup molasses 2 tablespoons maple syrup 2 tablespoons honey grated zest of 1 orange
1. Heat a sauce pan with olive oil and add onion, ginger and garlic
2. Cook, stirring, until onions are opaque
3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil
4. Simmer and reduce for 10-15 minutes until thick and syrupy
5. Let cool.
Orange Ginger Cranberries
2 pounds of fresh cranberries (2 pounds was about 2-1/2 bags so rather than have a half bag of cranberries that I would never cook again until next Thanksgiving, I just threw in 3 bags, turned out fine) 4 cups sugar 2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice zest from 2 oranges 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1. Comine all the ingredients in a large heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat until the berries start to pop open, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Skim the foam off as they are cooking.
3. Let cool and serve as a side dish
note: you can also puree some of this, strain it, combine in a cocktail shaker with vodka and ice and have your self a fabulous martini!
Charred, Burned, Torched Turkey a la Laura
1 turkey stuffing glaze oranges cut in 1/8s 1/2 bottle white wine
1. Wash and dry the turkey
2. Coat outside and inside cavity with olive oil, salt and pepper (and paprika on the outside)
3. Fill the cavity with stuffing
4. Place the oranges around the turkey in the pan
5. Add white wine to the pan
6. DO NOT glaze the turkey yet like I did below in the picture or it will burn (trust me on this one!)
7. Baste every 20 minutes with the wine and juices in the pan
8. Wait until there is about 1 hour left, brush the glaze on the turkey, cover with foil and finish cooking.
Jordan Champagne and a 2004 Ridge Buchignani Ranch Carignane
One of my favorite things to do when I am back in San Francisco is to spend time with my Paris flatmates John and Pierre who now spend much of their time in the City by the Bay. And for once we were all in the same city for John's birthday so that alone was cause for celebration. When at the store I couldn't decide on what champagne to by. We always have Veuve Cliquot so I wanted something different but still special. I was about to give up and reach for the orange label when the beautiful Jordan bottle caught my eye. Of course! J for John!
fromage d'affinoise, fourme d'ambert and chevre cheese, roasted cashews, baby organic tomatoes, olives stuffed with citrus, rosemary flat breads and gorgeous strawberries.
I was inspired by Patty's Boeuf Bourgignon, so I decided to make a moroccan lamb tagine. To speed up the cooking time and add a depth of flavor, I first roasted the carrots, potatoes, and butternut squash (400F for about 30-40 minutes).
I tossed the lamb lightly in flour then browned the lamb cubes and set aside.
I added the garlic (pick out the green ones!) and onions to the same pan and continued to brown them. I added quartered mushrooms then deglazed with an inexpensive Syrah.
I combined the lamb, onions, and mushrooms and added half way up with (fat free, low sodium) chicken broth and covered the rest of the way with the red wine. I brought it to a boil then lowered it to a simmer. Add a handful each of halved dried apricots and prunes. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Add the roast vegetables and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
Serve in a bowl over a bed of spiced cous cous and top with chopped parsley.
Pierre's favorite dessert is a simple piece of chocolate so I decided to serve chocolate from both homes: Pascal Pinaud, our Paris neighborhood patisserie and Joseph Schmidt, a San Francisco chocolate legend.
The Ferry Building and Farmers Market are the closest thing to crack while still being legal that I can imagine. I start shaking as soon as I swing open the huge glass doors and stare ahead at the culinary nirvana I've just entered. Whenever I come to town, the Ferry Building is at the top of the list, as it is when I have to cook a special dinner and last week was just such an occasion. Our friend Patty reached that fabulous milestone of cinquante (fifty - sounds much prettier in French) celebrating with a sixty mile bike ride and her youngest daughter was heading off to college the next day so celebrate we did with a Ferry Building dinner from appetizer to dessert. Click here for the dizzying array of farmers market delights.
The Ferry Building has been written about ad nauseum but I feel obliged throw a few more words into the vat of accolades. After too many 30-second conversations over Fourme d'Ambert or Redhawk at Cowgirl Creamery, Stephanie and I finally were able to sit down for a real conversation uninterrupted by ringing registers and clammoring customers. The location of choice was Hog Island Oyster Company dining "al fresco" with a view of the bay. Their three cheese (Cowgirl of course) grilled cheese sandwich and clam chowder with *real* clams was psychotically better than I could have possibly imagined. The clam chowder was creamy, crunchy with veggies and actually tasted like clams. The unctulous, oozy grilled cheese sent my eyes rolling to the back of my head. Amen and pass the rosé.
What does an award-winning Italian chef make for family and friends at Easter? We know what he makes for Christmas, but Easter? Why lamb chops stuffed with prosciutto, fontina and wild mushrooms in a red wine sauce of course! Not to mention 3 types of pasta and one enormous chocolate easter egg!
I spent Easter with M & B who for the past 3 years (well 13 really) have opened their home to me, fed me, and helped me pack at 1am when I was in a complete melt-down. M, comme d'habitude (as usual), created the menus, delightful and dazzling wrapped in an Easter bow. The night before we filled plastic eggs with a few coins, some chocolate eggs and reese's peanut butter cups and hid them throughout the house for the kid's (not mine!) easter egg hunt.... Click here for more easter feast...