Tag Archives: tasty tuesday

Just Messing Around

This week, we decided to put one of our favorite year round dishes on the menu, Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce. However, considering that it is summer, we decided to deviate from the tried and true recipe and cook both the chicken and brussels sprouts on the grill. I thought we shouldn’t stop there, so I decided to play around with the mustard sauce as well. I browsed around a bit and then I remembered a time when we made a mustard and shallot sauce to put over poached eggs that was divine. Since we are trying to eat a little healthier I decided not to go with that recipe, which contains a cup of heavy cream, but I was inspired. And that was all I needed!

I thought about the shallots a bit and knew that using them raw or even cooking them on the stove top wasn’t the way I wanted to go for this sauce. As such, I decided that roasting the shallots might be the best preparation this time. I also did some looking around at some different mustard sauce recipes and was most intrigued by recipes that mixed varieties of mustard. We always have both dijon and whole grain on hand, so I decided I would use equal parts of each. Finally, I thought about what would complement the mustard and shallot and settled on white wine, lemon juice, and butter as my final ingredients.

Here is what I ended up using, but note that my quantities are estimates because, after all, I was making this up as I went along.

  • 2 large (really large) shallots
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp butter
  • salt & pepper

I began by roasting the shallots in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes. Trim the ends of the shallots and stand them on end. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. After 15 minutes or so, I turned the shallots so they stood on the other end. I used my small cast iron skillet so I would have the goodness left in the pan to add more depth to my sauce.

I let the shallots cool until they could be handled, then I chopped them roughly.

Next, I heated the cast iron skillet on a burner at medium to medium-high heat. When it was good and hot again, I added the wine and deglazed the pan. Then, I added the shallots to the liquid and brought that all to a boil.

Once the shallot and wine had boiled for a couple of minutes, I added the mustards and stirred until they were well incorporated. Then, I let the mixture heat until it began to thicken just slightly.

Just before I was ready to serve the sauce, I turned the heat off and added the lemon juice and butter. Then, I added just a touch more salt and pepper to suit my taste.

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All in all, I was really happy with the way the flavors worked in this experiment. It accompanied both the chicken and the brussels sprouts well. The only thing  I wasn’t particularly happy with was the final consistency. It definitely came out more like a topping than a sauce.

I’m definitely going to be trying this again with the ingredients in the same proportions. However, the next time, I think I will combine about half of the shallot with about half of the wine and use my immersion blender to puree it all and add the puree to the sauce with the rest of the wine after I have deglazed my pan. Then, I will more finely chop the rest of the shallot to add back into everything. That should definitely leave me with more of a liquid consistency.

What have you been trying out in your kitchen lately?

Cake Challenge

I read a great article published by Food & Wine back in January about cake baking. The theory behind the article is that if you want to get really good at baking cake, you need to bake cakes on a regular basis. That way, you learn how cake baking really works and learn important lessons to help you improve your cake baking craft over time.

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Now, I don’t know about you, but when there is cake in the house, the cake goes into my mouth. So, while this is great in theory, it does pose some challenges for someone trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, I’ve been baking cakes when I have an occasion to attend, as most of our friend gatherings tend to be of the “bring something to share” variety.

For Superbowl Sunday, which was actually in February, I made the January cake, Citrusy Angel Food Cake. While I have baked cakes before, I had never attempted Angel Food. This one came out just a little more dense than I would have liked, but the important lesson I learned was to be careful about how long you beat your egg whites. I believe mine were just slightly overbeaten and that is what caused the cake to be slightly more dense. The other issue that may have given me some challenges is that I chose to use orange zest instead of lemon zest for this recipe. As I looked at the zest, it occurred to me that the orange zest was more wet than I typically see with lemon zest. Perhaps I should have modified my wet ingredients just slightly. Nonetheless, everyone raved about it, so it wasn’t a tragedy.

In February, I ended up skipping the cake of the month. My husband and I bought a blow torch and we tackled creme brûlée instead. He has made it again since our Valentine’s Day attempt, and we still feel like the consistency isn’t quite right. It tends to come out more like a pudding than a firm custard. So, it is still a work in progress. I, however, still want to come back to the February cake recipe, because who wouldn’t love a Molten Chocolate Cake as the conclusion to an intimate dinner party?

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I made my March cake for a gathering of the same group of friends who were together for the Superbowl party. There was a beer tasting party, so it seemed the perfect time to make a Porter Bundt Cake with Whiskey-Caramel Sauce. OMG, this cake was amazing, but definitely not kid-friendly! The Whiskey-Caramel Sauce packs a real punch. If I hadn’t been pregnant at the time you might have found me eating the sauce with a spoon instead of just drizzling it over the slice I ate. I had never baked a bundt cake before this attempt, and I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out. I will make this cake again around the holidays!

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April was a crazy month, I was miserably pregnant, so even though I had plans to make April’s Carrot Cake for a birthday party, I ended up skipping the party and sleeping instead. So, no cake. However, after the baby came, my sister decided to bring my nieces down to visit over Memorial Day weekend. My youngest niece adores carrot cake, so I decided it was time to break out the recipe. However, my older niece and my husband are not huge carrot cake fans so I needed a backup plan. Since the older niece loves chocolate, I settled on the chocolate cake recipe I grew up on. Now, in my family, we call this Grandma’s Chocolate Cake; truth be told, it is really the chocolate cake recipe from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa can. And, it is amazing. So, with a nearly 3 week old baby, I decided to tackle making two cakes in one day.

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I was kind of surprised that I managed to pull it off with only a little bit of support from my mom. She ended up having to take the chocolate cake layers out of the oven for me while I fed the baby. But, other than that, I did it! Important lesson learned from this cake baking day, however. My frosting for both cakes was so soft that I had trouble icing the cakes. It was a very warm day, and I had left the butter out for quite some time. While room temperature butter ensures a smooth icing, I may have let it get a little too soft. In the future, when I have an icing that feels soft after mixing, I will be sure to throw it in the refrigerator for a short rest before I put it on a cake!

Another important lesson I learned from this cake baking adventure is that the quality of your ingredients really matters! I grew up eating this chocolate cake made with Hershey’s cocoa. However, I had a good supply of Dutch process cocoa already in my kitchen cabinet so I decided to use that instead. Holy cow! It made the cake the regularly decadent cake truly unbelievable. I’ll never go back to using regular Hershey’s cocoa for baking again!

The cake on the calendar for May was Tres Leches. This is my mom’s favorite, so I’m looking forward to making it for her next visit. June is a white cake with chocolate ganache icing. I’m looking forward to finding an event for making that one.

I do feel like I am learning a lot from participating in a cake baking process on a more regular basis. And, now that I have a little one, I think it is safe to say that making cakes might become a regular thing even after these 12 months! As for the rest of this year, I’m looking forward to sharing my monthly cake adventures with all of you!

Have you ever set out to practice a skill that you wanted to improve by engaging in it on a regular basis? What do you think I should take on next?