Monday, February 23, 2009

Fine Cooking Cook the Issue Challenge - Create Your Own Creamy Vegetable Soups

This was our Grand Finale: Asparagus Soup, garnished with fried leeks, a seared scallop, blanched asparagus tips, and a drizzle of white truffle oil. We followed the Create Your Own Creamy Vegetable Soup formula, with a few minor changes.

We have participated in a few of Chef Martin Woesle’s Sunday cooking classes at Mille Fleurs and recently prepared his recipe for Green Asparagus Soup with Trout Mousse Timbale. Before I made this soup tonight, I pulled out his recipe.

In order to retain the bright green color of green vegetable soups (asparagus, broccoli, spinach, watercress, etc.), he advises to cook the soup for a very short time. If preparing the soup in advance, he advises to chill it in ice water right after it’s made, rather than keeping it warm on the stove for extended periods. For this asparagus soup, I followed Chef Martin’s method of blanching the asparagus tips in salt water for about a minute, chilling them in ice water, and then reserving for garnish.

After sautéing onions and leeks in butter, I added the asparagus stalks and a little flour. I then added about half the chicken broth, brought that to a quick boil, and added the remaining chicken broth, and brought that to a boil. I used a touch of white wine and a pinch of saffron.

I blended the soup in the blender, strained it through a fine sieve, returned it to the pan, and added the heavy cream and squeeze of lemon juice.

For garnish, I used fried leeks, a seared scallop, asparagus tips, and a few drops of white truffle oil.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fine Cooking Cook the Issue Challenge - Pulled-Pork Sandwiches with Cabbage, Caper, and Herb Slaw

I ran out of my Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder leftovers on the first round, after making the Pork Ragout and the Pork and Potato Hash, so I roasted another small piece of pork shoulder when I made Thomas Keller's Cassoulet for our Valentine's Day Aphrodisiac Party.

Our timing was interesting in making this recipe. Last night, we watched Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown: Hometown Favorites. The winner made Tongue Tantalizing Pork Sandwiches and I paid special attention when she made her slaw, knowing I would be making the Fine Cooking version tonight.

I stayed with Fine Cooking's version, but John liked her addition of applewood smoked bacon, so we tried that on his sandwich - it did add a nice smokiness, crunch and flavor. I also added a little jalapeno pepper, in addition to the cherry peppers. We also used Kaiser Rolls, after reading Kaity's post today; like Steve, I also prefer a softer roll for sandwiches.

The pork was nice and tender, after reheating, and the slaw was crunchy and full of different textures and flavors. We loved this sandwich and will definitely make it again next time we have leftover pork.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day Progressive Aphrodisiac Party

Photos from our First Annual Valentine's Progressive Aprodisiac Party

Thomas Keller's Cassoulet

Tyler Florence's Grape and Blue Cheese Truffles

Oysters Rockefeller, prepared by Kai

Our first progressive party, Valentine's Day Aphrodisiacs, commenced at our house with Grape and Blue Cheese Truffles Oysters Rockefeller, served with Champagne. For our second course, we enjoyed Thomas Keller's Cassoulet, paired with Italian Red Wine.

After several other stops around the neighborhood for additional aphrodisiacs and wine, we concluded the evening back at our house to enjoy John's Candied Fig, Hazelnut and Orange Cheesecake with Port Sauce, and a choice of Frangelico or Port.


My Valentine's Day Aphrodisiac Party contribution was inspired by Thomas Keller's Slow-Cooker Cassoulet for Williams Sonoma. It contains garlic and wine, both aphrodisiacs, and would make a perfect romantic dinner for two by the fire...

After a beautiful day skiing fresh powder, come home to the seductive aroma of rustic, hearty Cassoulet…succulent slow-roasted pork, Spanish chorizo, tender Great Northern beans, garlic, white wine, plum tomatoes, smoked bacon…French country comfort cooking at its finest. Pour a nice glass of Bordeaux and relax by the crackling fire.