There are many weird, and annoying, things about me. Here are two:
1. I will make things I've never made before when we have company for dinner. Even if it's dinner for say, eight.
2. The possibility that it won't turn out doesn't bother me at all.
I do have one rule about this, however. I don't make anything that you need to strike a match to. Like a flambé, or cherries jubilee. Although, as I type this, I think I might be missing the boat. I could say things like:
"It's supposed to be on fire."
"Don't cry. Eyebrows grow back really fast."
I'll have to mull this over.
Anyway, the other night, my good friend Marybeth came to dinner. You might remember her. We stiffed her out of her portion of the champagne she so thoughtfully gave us. I really owed her. So, I wanted to make her a very nice dinner.
I have several fantastic recipes that I know for sure turn out. But, I didn't pick those, at least not exclusively.
Living on the edge is what I do.
We had sea bass, salad and roasted veg. Nothing that I really felt like writing about, though.
Marybeth is a vegetarian, and we are carnivores, so I wanted to impress her with my versatility. Instead, I bought sea bass, which is pretty hard to screw up. Which is a good thing, since I flew blind on that. No one made gagging sounds though, so I had that going for me.
I made an appetizer and dessert that I'd never made before, too. They turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.
I thought I'd hoist them onto you.
For an appetizer, I whipped up (although "whipped" makes it seem quicker than it was) ricotta Madeleines with tomato jam.
Disclosure: I have an unnatural attraction to Madeleines. I love the pan. I love the precious seashell shape (why aren't they called seashells? Those crazy French), I love the way they look weird on the top when they're baking but the underside always turns out perfectly ridged and fanned. I love their size, the way you can eat four or five because they're small and unobtrusive. I...I better stop.
As I expected, they were light, creamy, puffs of heaven. Worth the fiddling they required. The fiddling was made worse by yet one more weird and annoying habit I have...I don't read directions...sometimes at all. Most of the time, if at all, too late. These have very little flour, and a whole lotta ricotta. Hey...I'm clever too! But, it's the pepper that makes them. That sexy, hint of heat.
The tomato jam was another story. It was easy, just some chopping, throwing in of spices and a 20 minute simmer. I liked it at first, then not so much. Sometimes food wears out its welcome with me. I'm not including the recipe here for the jam because it has already fallen out of favor. If you want it, just ask me and I will give it to you.
This recipe came from a cookbook devoted entirely to Madeleines called We Love Madeleines by Miss Madeleine.
Don't judge me.
Ricotta Madeleines: This makes 12 regular sized Madeleines.
Preheat oven to 400
1st fiddly step:
3 Tblsp. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 pinches salt
1 large egg
1 tblsp. packed light brown sugar
zest of one lemon
3 tblsp. unsalted butter, melted
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl, set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, brown sugar, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine. I used dark brown sugar because it's what I grabbed first and I was too lazy to get the light sugar instead. They were no worse for the wear because of it.
Add the flour mixture and whisk till combined. Add the melted butter and whisk till combined...again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours. I have no freaking idea why. I did it though, for an hour.
30 minutes before you are ready to bake, remove batter from fridge and let it sit till it's room temp. Again, no clue why you have to do this. But, I take my Madeleines seriously, so I let it sit out for 3o minutes.
Next less fiddly step:
3/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/2 tlbsp. EVOO
It's best to have a non-stick Madeleine pan. If you do, still spray with cooking spray.
Mix these three ingredients into the batter you've let come to room temp. Fill the Madeleine molds about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 4 minutes then lower the oven temp to 350,bake an additional 4-8 minutes, till they're golden brown around the edges. Let cool about 5 minutes. Take out carefully. They are light and a little fragile.
If you make a tomato jam, you just scoop some on these little bites of goodness. You could use a fig jam too. Or, even a marinara. I like the savory with the sweet though.
My high altitude adjustments: I used an extra large egg and a bit less than 1/2 teas. baking powder. I fill the 1/2 teas. with baking powder then press my finger into it. Some falls out, and that's about right.
Don't judge me.
For dessert, I threw caution to the wind and made biscotti. They were shockingly simple. No matter that they have to bake twice. After all, that's what biscotti means...baked twice...now I'm just showing off. Had I known how simple these were and how superbly they'd turn out, I'd have been making them well before now. Considering they get dunked in Vin Santo, or Moscato, or Port...I'm in mourning for all the years I've spent biscotti-less.
Someone, or even a few someones, will get these for Christmas.
Hubby and I ate the leftovers for breakfast. It is already well established that we have poor judgment at breakfast.
Anyhoo, you chop dried apricots (or any dried fruit that blows your skirt up), pistachios, egg, flour and sugar. That's pretty much it. You shape the dough into a log.
Wait, okay, this part did make me nervous. If you recall my piecrust post you will remember that anything that involves having to flour the counter or board and shaping dough into anything resembling something edible, is NOT my forte.
Despite my post traumatic stress, it went swimmingly.
You plop the sticky dough out onto a floured surface, with floured hands, shape into a log and bake it. You take it out, let it cool, then slice into 1/2 inch cookies. Then bake again. Done.
Biscotti: This makes 15 cookies, excluding the ends. You have to eat the ends to make sure it all turns out, don't you?
Preheat oven to 350
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
2/3 cup plus 2 tblsp. all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teas. baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1/3 cup chopped dried fruit - although if you use a small fruit you don't need to chop.
Whisk the egg and sugar till pale. Beat in the orange zest, then slowly fold in the flour, baking powder and a good grating of fresh nutmeg. I'm one of those annoying people who buy whole nutmeg. If you only have regular nutmeg, I'd say about 1/8 tsp. Fold in the fruit and pistachios.
Flour work surface and your hands. Form the dough into a flattish, squarish, loaf about 10x2 inches. It might stick a little to the surface. You can rough it up some to get it off. It's a pretty sturdy dough. Lay the loaf onto a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. You might want to rotate the baking sheet half way through cooking. I don't remember if I did that. Knowing me, probably not.
Transfer to a wire rack. I just lifted it off still on the paper. Let cool five minutes and then slice into 1/2 in pieces. I found that you need to use a really sharp knife and slice it cleanly and quickly through. You don't want to have to saw it. It is still a little underdone, so it'll smash.
Put the cut slices back onto the cookie sheet, with or without the paper. I skipped it. Cook again for 10 minutes, turn them over and cook for another 5 minutes. Let them cool and then store them in an air tight container.
High altitude adjustments: I did the finger in the baking powder trick, so it's a bit less than called for. I baked it for less time too. 25 minutes the first round, and 5 minutes on one side, and 5 on the other. So, a total of 10 less minutes.
These are sublime dipped in Vin Santo, Moscato, Viognet, or a Tawny Port. If you use a red fruit, like cherries or cranberries, you'll want to dunk them in a Frambroise or a Ruby Port.
They're good with coffee too. I've heard.
Marybeth brought these two bottles of bubbly and the chocolate almonds with her to dinner.
In case you need reminding why Marybeth is my very good friend.
I can be bought.