Stu and Debbie and Rudy and Ana, here at the hacienda, for dinner tonight. You know what that means! LOTS of fun and food and wine, woo hoo! I have officially, for my first time, set the table with two wine glasses at each place, with more ready for action in the kitchen. I feel compelled to serve the Barbera that I unknowingly stole out from under Stu a couple of months ago by buying up the last of it, mere hours before he also showed up, at I Nonni (I only knew about the wine because of Stu!). And we’ll see what else pops onto the table… Can’t wait!
I’ve kept the menu pretty simple so I can actually see and talk with everyone – if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to spend some time outside, and I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen by myself. In the winter, last-minute prep is fine, because everyone is in there with me, talking, drinking wine, eating things as I prepare them. But in the almost-summer, the strategy shifts, and meals have to be more do-ahead. Here’s the menu (a couple of recipes are previously posted; those that aren’t I’ll get around to tomorrow, after I wash all that glassware, ha…):
blanched asparagus with saffron aioli
chicken with crispy prosciutto and sage with pan sauce
rice with vegetables
lemon tart with almond crust
Well, seeing that written there, I had best 1) fit in a quick kettlebells workout, and 2) get my ass cooking! Yeah, baby!
(Update: recipes for lemon tart and gougere are now posted in comments, below.)
Serves 8 as an appetizer
Basically, cheese cream puffs (choux pastry) – mmm… Easy and impressive. Can be baked as small individual puffs, or into a large wreath.
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 c. water
8 oz. (1 stick) butter (I use Hope Creamery, salted, although most recipes called for unsalted butter, which is excellent as well)
½ tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1 c. finely grated Gruyere or Cheddar cheese
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If making as individual puffs: line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and place oven racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven. Put flour and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a small saucepan, combine water, butter, and salt and bring to a boil. Immediately (and carefully) pour the boiling water over the flour in the mixer bowl and turn the mixer to medium speed. When the flour and water are combined, with the mixer continuously running, break the first egg into a small bowl (to make sure there are no shell pieces in it), then slip the egg into the mixer bowl. The dough will look curdled and slippery for a minute, but then the egg will become incorporated. At that point, crack the next egg into the small bowl, slip it into the mixture, and continue as before until all four eggs are incorporated. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides, and mix for a few seconds longer. Scrape dough from beater and remove the bowl from the stand. With a rubber spatula mix in the cheeses. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until gougere are puffed and nicely browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.
If making as one large wreath, line a round baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop dough evenly, by heaping tablespoons full, in a large wreath shape. Smooth the top of the wreath with a knife. Bake as directed above, perhaps 5 minutes longer, until ring is puffed and nicely browned. Slice to serve, hot or at room temperature.
Lemon Buttermilk Tart with Almond Crust
I borrowed this crust from the Suzanne Goin Cherry Tart with Almond Crust recipe. It’s simple and absolutely delicious.
Heaping ½ c. whole raw almonds
¼ c. granulated sugar
1 ¼ c. plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ tsp. pure almond extract
¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract
Lemon Buttermilk Filling (below)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet about 10 minutes, until they darken slightly and smell nutty. When the nuts have cooled, place them in a food processor with the sugar and pulse to a coarse meal. Add the flour and salt and pulse again to combine. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and pour in the melted butter, almond and vanilla extracts, and 1 Tbsp. ice-cold water. Using a wooden spoon, mix until just combined, adding more ice-cold water if necessary to help bring the dough together. Use your fingers to press the dough into a buttered 9-inch fluted tart pan, pressing the sides first and then the bottom, to form an even crust. (Make sure the sides are as high as the edge of the pan, so the lemon filling doesn’t overflow.) Chill at least an hour, or cover and chill overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork, and line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill the lined tart shell with beans or pie weights, and bake 20 minutes, until it begins to brown lightly around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Once cool, lift the paper and beans out of the tart. Sprinkle the crust lightly with cinnamon. Fill the shell with lemon filling and bake until set, at 350 degrees, for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely on a rack, then chill until cold.
3 Tbsp. flour
8 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. buttermilk
¾ c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
Put flour in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in lemon juice until smooth, then whisk in buttermilk, sugar, eggs, and lemon peel.
Hey yourself! Oh good! Glad y'all liked it (not just Viv)! So Cory had a good birthday, despite the golden ticket? Hee, hee.
Hey girlie! I made your Walnut Ricotta pesto last night, it was KILL! Having some leftover for lunch!