Friday, January 28, 2011

French Fridays With Dorie - chicken b'stilla

Do you ever have those times where every gosh darned thing just seems to go wrong.  Like someone is trying to tell you, get off this path...avalanche is coming?  Well, my experience with this recipe is kind of like that...but with a happier ending than being buried alive in a mountain of snow.

Let me explain my FFwD process, so you get an idea of how organized I think I am (but turns out, not quite so much in reality).  Laurie over at the FFwD site usually posts the month's line up of recipes at the beginning of the month (or maybe a week earlier).  I take a look at what we'll be making and I put cute, little thin bright pink stickies on each of the recipes in my around my french table book.  This way, I know what we're making and it's easy to flip to the recipes without constantly consulting the internet.  I also read all the recipes at the beginning of the month to decide when I'm going to cook them (in case I'm going to do them in a different order...but also to have the ingredients in my mind so if I see a great sale or the farmers' market has a fabulous item one week...I know to pick it up).  I'm so clever...I'm sure many of you use this system too.  But your stickies might not be bright pink.

For January I used this process and marked paris mushroom soup, gnocchi a la parisienne, michel rostang's double chocolate mousse cake and chicken basquaise.  The first three recipes went off without a hitch!  On Sunday, I planned on making the chicken basquaise.  I made a shopping list and bought onions and peppers and chilies and tomatoes and chicken and some fresh basil and thyme.  This recipe calls for a lot of peppers and tomatoes (which are of course out of season...I hate buying tomatoes out of season and never do...but for Dorie I did it!)

I get home from the store and sit down at the computer for a short break.  I see in my Google Reader that there's a new post over at FFwD...the P&Q's for this week's recipe.  I think, we'll I'll just pop over and see if any one's posted any suggestions or tips (that's one of the great things about this adventure...I'm doing it with lots of other really experienced cooks who always have great tips to make things easier). 

When I hit the link for the P&Q's, I think, how odd...that picture doesn't look anything like the picture of the chicken basquaise in Dorie's book.  I then thought, hmmm...Laurie must have made some interesting modifications to the omit all the peppers and chilies and add filo dough.  (Aren't you glad that you get to see how my brain works...or doesn't work in this case.)  Seriously, it took me reading a couple of the comments left in the P&Q's before I realized I had the completely wrong recipe.  We weren't making chicken basquaise...we were making chicken b'stilla!  As the immortal Homer says "Doh!"

Now I need to do a new list and add things like filo dough, coriander, saffron, lemon and honey.  Then, I turn to St. James and ask him if he'll run to store for me (I hate going to the store twice in one day)!  He agreed and off he goes.  The only thing I told him is if the saffron is $10 or less, buy it...if it's more...don't get it.  St. James comes home with the goodies and tells me it's my lucky day...the $20 saffron was on sale for $10!  Yippee!!  Then, as I'm looking at things he bought I see that he's bought ground cardamon instead of coriander.  And, I laugh!  Because when I was buying cardamon for the carrots recipe in December, I accidentally bought caraway seeds (which I HATE) and didn't discover it until I got home and then had to go to two more stores to find the cardamon seeds.  So, when St. James brought the wrong spice home, I just laughed and said we could live without the coriander and started cooking.  I figured, we like the cardamon seeds, so we'd like the ground cardamon and I'd just keep it...maybe I'd put it in this recipe instead of the coriander.  As I was throwing away the grocery receipt, I saw that the total was $30.  I thought, why would it be $30 for saffron, filo dough, lemons and cardamon, even with the $10 saffron?  Would you believe it, the cardamon was $12!!!  St. James never looked at the price...only at the price on the saffron.  Too funny! 

I took the cardamon back Monday morning...I sure didn't want it for $12 when I still have a jar of seeds in my pantry.  Vons didn't have any coriander...jeez!  St. James felt bad and decided he needed to find me coriander, so off he a different store and found it for me.  Are you starting to see why I'm thinking maybe I should just get off the chicken b'stilla path?  No you say, not really!

Well, after marinating the chicken over night (which smelled heavenly) and then cooking the chicken on Monday morning, I was ready to put the chicken together for dinner that night.  This is where the final straw comes in for me.  I call it the battle of the filo!  I've discovered, filo and me...we are not friends!  Not at all!  Did you know that you need to thaw your filo for 4-6 hours (or overnight) before you use it?  Did you know you should read the instructions on your filo the day before you want to use it, not 5 minutes before you want to use it? 

At this point, the chicken and sauce are done and they smell so good, Ethan is coming in every 5 minutes to ask when dinner will be ready.  I'd made the mistake of letting him sample the sauce and he loved it, so there was no way I was going to be able to say...for another night...sorry...we're having this tomorrow because your mom can't get her act together and read the box to thaw the filo in time.

Nope, he was definitely not letting this dinner go past one more day.  So, I did what all resourceful women do...I stuck the damned frozen filo in the microwave!  Unfortunately, the filo had the last laugh.  Let's just don't want to nuke filo to defrost it.  It makes what is already a very temperamental dough just have complete conniption fits!  Once again, many bad words were uttered in my kitchen as I attempted to mold the filo to my will.  In the end...I think I won.  The dish tasted amazing!  Really amazing...both St. James and Ethan had seconds...and ate it the leftovers the next night when I was working (without me telling them to).  St. James and I both agreed that a few raisins in the dish would have been perfect. 

The chicken has a wonderful middle eastern spicy flavor with the cinnamon giving it a sweet undertone.  You also sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on top of the filo crust...yum!  Dorie's right, this dish doesn't hold over well, just because the baked filo gets soggy...but the flavors are still great the next day.  In the end, it was a great dinner...I'm just not sure what all the drama was about leading up to it!  However, as you probably noticed, I was too frazzled to take any process pictures, so we just have the end result.  I actually risked it and unmolded the pie...I know I was living dangerously...but it came out of the pan with no issues.

I had extra filling, so I made two miniature b'stilla's also.  They were quite cute...and just as yummy! 

Sorry for the long post...I'm amazed if you made it this far!  Also, sorry for the sucky pictures...that's a whole story in and of itself...which I will spare you!

Wonder how my other FFwD friends fared?  See their adventures here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Drum Roll Please!

Well, it's time to share my big news.  I have to say...I've loved all the guesses (especially Andrew's guesses of the development of the 3 livered goose, pink cheese...bleu's passive cousin...or the best yet the renaming of our town to Ireydena).  They've all been great for a good laugh!  With the wild thoughts in every one's mind, my announcement might be a little disappointing (especially to all you foie gras lovers who thought you might have a new California hook up)...but it's quite exciting for me.

Have I tortured you enough yet???  The big news is that we've bought another Dream Dinners store and we get the keys on Sunday (yes, this Sunday).  The store is located in Whittier (about 20 miles from our Pasadena store) in the Whittwood Town Center.  It's a big step to take on another store, but it's time. 

My Pasadena staff is so fabulous that they really leave me little to do anymore, so it was time to tackle a new venture.  And what better new venture than an old venture that I actually know how to do!  I have to say, I still have pretty big butterflies (well, some days they are actually bats)!  But, I am really looking forward to this challenge.  To start off, Susanna will be manning the fort in Pasadena and I'll be out in Whittier; however there will be times when we will switch, so we can spread the Susanna love around!

So, a shameless plug.  If you have friends who live in or around Whittier...tell them you know the owner and they should come check us out at  And, of course, if you have friends in or near Pasadena who still haven't found out about us...tell them to check us out at  We will be having a big party in February and if you are in the area and want to come say hi, we'd love it.  I'll post details later next month.  Thanks for all your support and I'm looking forward to sharing crazy cooking blog posts that have crazy new store adventures weaved in.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sharing the Love!

The nicest thing happened to me the other day...and then it happened again today.  I received a Stylish Blogger Award, from three different fellow bloggers!  I am tickled beyond belief, because it makes me realize that people who have never actually met me, are still enjoying my blog.  I have to say that I have been totally crazy this week and last week (big announcement is coming tomorrow to let everyone know what's going on in my life) and haven't been able to respond to the first award, but now with three, I must respond!

The rules are simple:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award:

A big thank you to each of you! 

Ana at Sweet Almond Tree for my first award (which was actually a triple award).  Ana's recipes are inspiring and her photos are so lovely! 

My second award comes from YC at Yummy Chunklet.  I love YC's blog brings to mind all sorts of wonderful images.  YC is a sister attorney with a love of food and cooking and I enjoy reading her blog with her wonderful creations! 

My third award comes from the lovely Cher at Crazy World of Cher.  Cher's blog is stylish and beautiful and her writing makes me laugh out loud.  She's not afraid to share: the good, the bad & the ugly.  You should take a peak at each of their blogs, they will make your day a little brighter!

2. Share 7 things about yourself - LOL...just read my blog!  Well, that's kind of rude, so here you go:

i.  I wanted to be a vet when I was young, but my mom told me it was too hard for a woman to be a vet, so I should be a lawyer...and I believed her.
ii.  I fell in love with my husband after the first 10 minutes of talking to him and knew he was the one for me (I was all of 20 years old) and we've now been together for 25 years.
iii.  I was deathly afraid of the dark until I was 34 years old...the turning point was having a baby and having to walk down the hallway in the dark...over and over again...beat the scared right out of me!  (The reason I was afraid of the dark is a long, sad story...which I may share some day.)
iv.  When I was 9'ish, I shared a bed with one of my sisters.  I was convinced she was a vampire and made her sleep with her back touching mine so if she tried to kill me in the middle of the night, I'd be warned by her movement.  I wonder if she remembers that!  I wonder if I ever told her I thought she was a vampire?  I wonder which sister will think this is about them!
v.  I have definitely taken the whole "comfort food" idea to a serious extreme!
vi.  I read 52 books last summer when I was in France...20 of them were total trash novels and I loved every word!  I can no longer afford my reading habit!!
vii.  I wished that I had been able to play tennis professionally.  Of course, that would have required me to have the necessary talent, which I also wish that I had had.
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers - I have discovered so many amazing blogs over the last few months, picking just 15 will be difficult, but here goes in completely random order:

Cheesy Pennies - Sharon's writing is witty, so insightful, so poignant.
Seattle Pastry Girl - one word...YUM!
17 and Baking - if you haven't read Elissa's are in for an amazing treat...she's 18 now...but her views of the world show that she has a very old soul...and her cooking makes me wish she'd adopt me
Cakelaw - another fellow lawyer and foodie, Cakelaw's blog is funny and delicious...such a great combo
Life in a Loaf Pan - Monica delivers great recipes and makes me laugh
A Spoonful of Thyme - Kate shares beautiful, thoughtful posts and pictures and I really enjoy reading her blog
The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet - can you say MEAT!  Kim and Cathy from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen have inspired me for a year of participating in Charcutepalooza!
Lost in Cheeseland - helps keep me thinking of Paris and all things France!
Eat Live Travel Write -  I want to be Mardi when I grow up.  So talented...amazing cook, amazing photographer, amazing writer!
Dulceshome - I really enjoy reading Candy's FFwD posts...she's always got a great story to tell.
FrenchTwistDC - Love reading this blog with all FT's lovely thoughts on France and the US and her great food!
Spoonables - TT's blog is so beautiful...I am in awe of her photos and her talent (and she's so sweet to give advice too!)
stetted - absolutely gorgeous photos and wonderful writing
My Ruby Shoes - I read this blog for the'll see what I mean!

4.  Contact these bloggers and tell them about their awards.

These awards are a fun way to get to know other bloggers a little better and to discover bloggers you might not have seen yet.  Check out everyone above and hopefully they'll inspire you like they have me!  Thanks for the's so nice to be recognized and I really appreciate the blogging love!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - michel rostang's double chocolate mousse cake

I think we might as well start with the best part...the picture of this oh so yummy chocolate mousse cake.  This is a very interesting recipe that we made for French Fridays with Dorie this week.  You make the cake batter and then you cook 1/3rd of it.  You then have multiple options, as this cake can be served cold, warm or baked and chilled.  And, there are different cooking directions for each way to serve it.  Dorie said her favorite way was baked and chilled, so that's the way I went.  I'm going to have to try cold too (since you don't cook the second layer of batter in that version and I would guess it has a totally different taste.)  With the baked and chilled version, after you bake the first 1/3rd of the batter and let it cool, you then add the rest of the batter and bake it again and then refrigerate it.

The cake turned out great, even though I still only have a 9" springform pan and the recipe called for an 8" (I just haven't been able to find an 8").  I decided to increase the recipe by 25% to make up for the bigger pan.  The other little issue I had was my springform pan, without the bottom, is a slight bit warped.  Since you cook this cake in the springform, without the bottom, some of the batter seeped out of the pan.  It wasn't too much and didn't affect the taste of the cake.  The cake had a deep, chocolate flavor, almost like a sophisticated brownie.  The batter has espresso in it, so there is an undertone of coffee in the cake (which sometimes made me wonder if the cake was a tad bit burned on the bottom...until I finally realized it was the coffee flavor coming through).  Served with vanilla whipped cream, it is definitely too good to pass up.

I must confess, that with all the options on how to make this cake...I read and reread the recipe about 20 times, trying to decide which version I would make.  I finally went with what Dorie said was her favorite, but am looking forward to making the other versions too.  When I have the right size, unwarped springform pan!  Wondering what versions of the recipe my other fellow FFWD participants made?  See them here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - gnocchi a la parisienne

This week we made a delicious, comfort food dish from Dorie's Around my French Table for our French Fridays with Dorie cooking club.  This is not a weekday evening, quick dinner.  I made this on Sunday and was glad I had given myself plenty of time to cook.

You start by making the gnocchi.  These are not traditional gnocchi, as they do not contain potato.  Rather, you make a pate a choux dough, which is a dough that you cook.  You then form the gnocchi and cook them.  I chose to form the gnocchi and then freeze them, rather than just drop teaspoons of the dough into boiling water.  I was hopeful this would ensure that my gnocchi were beautiful.  Little did I know that with the thick bechamel sauce, it didn't really matter what my gnocchi looked like.  I definitely want to make this gnocchi recipe again and serve it with a lovely, light marinara sauce.  I used two teaspoons and "shaped" the dough much like you would a quenelle (if you were so inclined).  It took about 20 seconds per gnocchi and I ended up with two full trays (about 60), so it took a bit of time.

After I froze my gnocchi, I boiled them and made my bechamel sauce (a white sauce made with flour, butter and milk).  The recipe called for a lot of flour (much more than I ever use when I make my regular bechamel sauce).  Sure enough, the sauce was very thick...much too thick to enjoy, so I added an additional cup of milk (and could have added a little pasta water too).  You put a little parmesan cheese on the bottom of a deep pie plate, add a little sauce and then add the gnocchi.  You add the rest of the sauce over the top of the gnocchi and then cover with emmenthal cheese, dotted with butter.  I think the butter was overkill and I'll leave it off the next time I make this.

The gnocchi puff up when you boil them and mine continued to puff when I baked them with the sauce.  I ended up with an incredibly rich dinner that the boys and I really enjoyed.  We had quite a bit left over and even though Dorie says you have to eat all of this at once because it doesn't hold well, I've been eating a bowl of it a day since Sunday and it's been delicious (but, I love leftover macaroni and cheese and this reminds a bit of that).

Straight from the oven, golden delicious!

To see how everyone else's dish turned out this week, take a look here.  If you'd like to cook along with us, it's easy to join!

Friday, January 7, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - paris mushroom soup

Such a lovely simple many interesting observations and mishaps!  First, I realize why there is a beautiful, artistic picture of some of the ingredients of Dorie's paris mushroom soup in her book and no picture of the actual soup (did you notice her photograph has fresh thyme in it, but there's no thyme in the recipe?)  This soup doesn't photograph very well.  Although, I did try!  I took about 75 pictures and think I might have gotten one or two good ones.  But they are currently "stuck" on my flash card.  They won't download to my mac and they won't download to my pc.  And, this is all my fault!  At Christmas, I accidentally pulled the flash card out of my sister's computer while it was still active.  It hasn't been the same since.  However, each time I've used it since then, I've been able to coax the pictures off of it.  But I keep forgetting to put a different flash card in my camera.  I shot all my soup pictures yesterday and even had my son get in on the action for the "pouring" pictures.  Then, when I went to download the luck!

So, unless I can get the pictures off later today...this is a picture-less post (addendum...see the end...I got some pics!).  Perhaps it's not too tragic.  After all, it's just mushroom soup.  But, oh what a wonderful mushroom soup it is.  It's hard to believe there's no cream in this recipe.  The pureed mushrooms make it very "creamy."  Here's where mishap number two comes in (although it occurred before the flash card revolt) blender doesn't like me.  Really, don't laugh.  I have a brand new blender and it works like a charm.  But when Dorie says...puree in small batches...she means it!  I thought I was doing a small batch until my blender EXPLODED!!!  Thank goodness I had my hand on the lid or I'd be writing from the ER room with 2nd degree burns on my face.  As it is, only my floor, counter and clothing got traumatized.  So, heed my warning...only put about 2 cups in your blender at a time.  It will take about 4 times to get it all blended.  But it's worth it in the end.

The soup was a total hit with my son, although he left his "salad" at the bottom of his bowl.  I found the fresh mushrooms slices and green onions a great treat and a perfect complement to the soup.  I made the soup with no alterations and thought it was great.  It would also be great with a dash of cream, which I might add to the bit I've got left.  That's right, my son and I ate almost the entire pot.  But, I didn't feel bad, this soup really doesn't have that many calories...except for the butter!

I also made roast beef paninis to go with the soup and they were super yummy.  If you don't have a panini press, you don't know what you're missing.  If you do have one, you know what I'm talking about!  Paninis are so easy to make.  Butter your bread, put fixings on, put on panini grill.  Watch the magic happen.  I have some nice photos of the paninis too.  On the faulty flash card.  Boo hoo! (addendum...see below)

My third mishap, which is the worst of all, is my hot water heater decided to develop a leak in the connecting the wall.  And while I was merrily cooking, leaked inside the wall and under the hardwood floor.  There are no pictures of this because it is too awful!  We are currently without water and hopefully the plumber can come first thing this morning.  The damage is pretty bad and I have a feel it's going to be expensive to repair...two walls and a couple square feet of hard wood floor.  Bummer!

Even though many things went wrong around this soup...none of them were the soup's fault and I'd recommend making it.  You can see how my fellow French Friday participant's fared with the soup here.

And...while I was writing this post...I once again convinced the flash card to give up the here's a couple of pictures of the soup and panini.  Yeah!  Maybe the leaking pipe will be easy too.

The "salad"

Pouring the soup

The panini...I didn't notice the cheese drop when I took the picture...but I kind of like it.

This was so good!

Soup and Panini...perfect, simple winter dinner

Thanks for sharing my soup making adventure!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Day After New Year's

You know why I love having Corned Beef & Cabbage on New Year's Day?  So we can have homemade corned beef hash the next morning!!!  Every year of my life (as far as I know), I have eaten Corned Beef & Cabbage on New Year's Day.  Must be the Irish in us.  All I know is that the New Year cannot officially start unless we have eaten this meal.  Much like the southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas on the first, we have to have cabbage for good luck, wealth & health!  My  hubby HATES cooked cabbage, but I am proud to say that for the last 25 years, he has eaten a bite of cabbage on New Year's.

At our New Year's Day dinner yesterday, we had several friends and shared our traditions with them.  I'm pretty sure everyone ate at least one bite of cabbage.  Ethan told the group he was going to eat his cabbage first, to get it over with and then he could eat all the good stuff.  After a bite of cabbage, he looked at me and said, "Mom, I think I like this!"  Yeah, another convert!

The full menu yesterday was Corned Beef, Cabbage, Roasted Potatoes, Dorie's Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots, Rolls, and Salad (plus sour cream and horseradish for those who like it).  For dessert, I made Split Level Pudding (Vanilla Pudding & Chocolate Ganache), from Dorie's Baking from my home to yours.  The pudding got big thumbs up!  As you can see, I didn't take any pictures.  It's hard to take good pictures when there's a crowd...hell, it's hard for me to take good food pictures period.  I'm still struggling with getting the exposure right.  It's driving me up a wall.

I do have a nice picture of the hash I made this morning.  It was yum, yum, good and was gobbled up by Ethan, his buddy Lukas, me and James when he got home from playing tennis.  I'd say, 2011 is off to a good hang overs, no food comas, just lots of friends and family!