Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Apple Butter plus Cheddar Gougere = Pie in a Bite!

The September 2010 Daring Cooks' challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun.  John chose to challenge the Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing.  He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it.  John's source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

This challenge was more about learning a process than producing a specific product.  There was an extensive tutorial on preserving - both canning and freezing.  Coming from a long line of food preservers, you would think I would be really comfortable with all this, but I have never been a jelly/jam maker and it has never even occurred to me to "put up" fruits and vegetables.  I've seen it done but I've never done it on my own.  My daughter, Elisabeth, probably knows more about this than I do!

Nonetheless, I followed John's suggestion and made apple butter and chose freezing as the preservation method since it requires substantially less equipment and time.  The butter came together really quickly and easily and I was ready for the preserving piece of the challenge in no time.

We are not big users of jellies or jams or spreads in this house.  I use them as ingredients in recipes sometimes, but never on toast.  Nick loves his Grandma's Oregon grape jelly, but he's the only one who uses jelly as a spread.  However - I had a thought about how to use the apple butter.

I eat apples raw and in salads and in ... pie!  Could I find a way to make a pie-like product with the apple butter?  My thought was to make gougeres with cheddar cheese in them, bake them and then fill them with the apple butter.  An experiment in an alternate pie universe, perhaps.

And with little effort - pie in a bite!  The gougeres have grated cheddar added before cooking.  After they puffed up, I filled them with the apple butter by just inserting a very small spoon into the center of the gougere and adding the apple butter.  Topped with some whipped cream and a little mint sprig, we have a bite-sized dessert which, if not exactly a pie, comes close. 

I found it best to use a somewhat milder cheddar since a very sharp cheese takes over the flavor of the gougere and doesn't complement the apple butter as much.  These are best hot, right out of the oven, but the pastry can be cooled and refrigerated or frozen and then heated up at a later point.  I think I would add the apple butter before reheating to be sure everything was piping hot when served.

Fun little experiment. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Big 6-0 and a Special Birthday Treat

Ron turns 60 today, but we celebrated yesterday with a dinner.  I thought a recap of the meal would be fun, especially since there were some special treats involved.

I forgot to take a picture of the pre-dinner nibbles and they disappeared before I remembered, but they were, for the most part, purchased treats.  There were Organic Blue Star Farms Stone Ground Wheat Crackers (made in Kent), Boat Street Pickled Figs (from the Boat Street restaurant in Seattle - really good!), and Dinah's Cheese.

This cheese was wonderful!  Soft, buttery, and golden - and made on our very own Vashon Island, so local as well.  A totally locavore appetizer without even trying.

The special treat was something I made.  Let's see if you can figure it out.

Know what these are?  How about a bigger picture?

Does that help?  How about this?

Yep!  Gummy bears.  Now, what happens to gummy bears when they "marinate" in vodka for a few days?

They get bigger!

Inflated with vodka!

But not only that.  They become lethal - a child's candy transformed into a portable adult cocktail.  They are also very easy to eat.  We didn't indulge enough to know if one can become tipsy from these little nibbles, but we laughed a lot!

The real dinner followed:  A green salad (very local lettuce, from Bob's garden) with peaches and candied almonds in a peach viniagrette, tomatoes stuffed with robiola and gorgonzola cheese, risotto, and Alaskan king salmon.  Thanks to Emma, I managed to deal with the salad and salmon while she was tending the risotto.  It is wonderful having a God-daughter who is bright, entertaining, cute and an extremely capable sous chef.

Peaches and candied almonds in Bob's homegrown lettuce.

Robiola and gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Emma's risotto

Roasted Alaska King Salmon

When dinner was done, it was time for the official birthday dessert.  Cake is not a big dessert favorite for some of the guests, so we had an alternative:  A chocolate-mint Bailey's cream pie, based on a 1975 New York Times recipe.  The chocolate-mint Bailey's was combined with cognac and mixed with a mousse-y filling in a chocolate cookie crust.  What was I thinking?  Start with vodka-infused gummy bears and end with Bailey's and cognac cream pie?  Did we have a designated driver?????

Boozy cream pie with 6 candles (because 60 candles would have been a fire hazard).

The birthday boy and his birthday pie!
While I love cooking these birthday dinners because I get to try new things with a receptive audience, the best part is an evening with some of my very favorite people.  And Sarah, if you are reading this, I had a great meal planned for your birthday so we will have to do it next year!

Ooops!  Almost forgot - no picture but the pie was accompanied by a freshly- made strawberry-tequila (or was it rum?) sorbet, kindly whipped by Bob to add to the overall alcohol level of the day.  (NOTE:  Dr. Bob is in charge of ice cream/sorbet production (and he has extraordinary talents in that category) and coffee roasting/grinding/making (scientifically approached, as you would expect)  and hashbrown cooking (his skills far excel mine).  All other food production on his part is incidental and not necessarily enthusiastic.)