Wednesday, October 31, 2012

French Pastry my favorite...

First off, I am sorry to my friends at the Daring Kitchen as I am posting this very late. But posting none the less.

Blog-checking lines:Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

I have said it before and I shall say it again, pastry, primarily French Pastry are my favorite. And this months challenge was for just that Mille Feuille, or to those of us here in America often referred to as Napoleon. I am not entirely certain how they obtained that alternate name; and frankly if I were not already late I might take the time to look it up, for now my short and sweet post will have to do. What I can tell you about my efforts are the following...

My husband loved them, and has asked when might I make them again.
I took them to work and got many ooohs' and awes' from the folks who got to sample them there. Then the last final appearance was at a friends birthday dinner, where I made paella and served these along side birthday cup cakes. I got a second marriage proposal. Aw to be happily married and to have others almost begging. I don't have many photos of the process as my phone and camera were acting up, but I was able to get a few almost completed photos. I will have you know I did make my own puff pastry, and it is just a touch easier then the croissants I have made before. I know I will be doing these again in the very near future, I have family coming to visit soon and I would like to have these for when they get here. Anyway here is a photo to show the success. I had every intention of cooking a second batch before I realized the end of the month was here.

I know there should be more, but I just did not get them. They were delicious.
I will be excited to see what the next daring bakers challenge has in store for us. I may try and add an additional blog up regarding these when it comes time to make them again. Thanks for looking, if you want to try your hand at these please follow the link to the Daring Kitchen. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brazil is where its at!

Blog-checking lines: Rachel Dana was our October 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge hostess! Rachel brought Brazil into our lives by challenging us to make Feijoada and Farofa along with some other yummy side dishes traditionally served with Feijoada, which is a delicious black bean and pork stew.

So this months (September 17- October 15) challenge was a complete Brazilian meal of Feijoada and Farofa, along with sides that were, I will just tell you now, out of this world! The Feijoada is a rich and hearty bean stew with many pork ingredients added to it, the Farofa is a grain dish that just really adds a wonderful texture to everything that we had with the dinner. A little more on that later.

So those who know Ashley know that he was raised all over, having been born in New Orleans and then growing up in Venezuela, England, and Norway it goes without saying that his appetite is pretty adventurous. The one thing that was a given for them, I was told in our dating early on, was that when they would return to New Orleans for holidays red beans a rice was a common dish served. One would naturally assume then that Ashley is fond of bean and rice combinations, alas he is not, so I was worried when this challenge came up. I fretted a bit and wondered would my sweet husband who is willing to try just about anything I make need to call upon our McDonald's pact when it came to dinner.. What is a McDonald's pact you ask, well when we have a meal that is not really edible by choice or kitchen catastrophe you can call upon the McDonald's pact for rescue dinner. I will wait at this point to tell you if he had to do that or not...

Now about the dishes, we were to make the Feijoada, the Farofa, some collard greens, a Vinagrete, and some rice. Sounds like a lot and frankly I was thinking I would be in the kitchen most of the day. Our hostess Rachel though she had a wonderfully planned write up to help along, which you can find here. So I started with the Feijoada, soaking the beans in a quick soak method. I put them in a pot brought the water to a boil and let them sit on the stove for a little over an hour. I looked several places that recommended not pouring out the water that they had soaked in, so I did not. Then it was on to the meats, I used, bacon, sausage, pork for carnitas, and some Smithfield smoked pork chops. The recipe called for many meats that I could not find that were salted or smoked, so I had to do some improv. I have several other meats in the photo that I thought I might use, some salt pork, and additional spicy sausage, but frankly after I had cut up all that I listed I felt like for the two of us, that was PLENTY of meat. Once the meat was cut on to the browning chore we went, which I did while the beans were completing their first simmer. I browned and browned until really I could brown no more, but this assisted in sealing the meats just as Rachel had suggested so they maintained their wonderful colors inside.

After the beans I started on the Vinagrete which I initially thought would be a dressing type accompaniment that would go with the greens. It was roughly chopped tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers along with fresh herbs and vinegar and oil. I think this was by far my most favorite easy addition and I plan on using this over and over again when I have a rich meal to assist in balance of flavor.

I made the collard greens and the Farofa last. Now the collards are pretty self explanatory for anyone who has prepared greens. You must rinse them well, and I do the rinse in cold water in the sink to let the dirt and grit sink to the bottom, I could have cheated and used pre cut, pre washed collards but I wanted to stick with the plan of fresh and prepared in my kitchen! The Farofa though OMG was that a wonderful addition. All crumbly and toasty with the flavors of onion, butter, bacon, and egg. I did not have the yucca flour that the dish is regularly made from so I used some of the corn flour/Masa that I had, this is also a suggested substitute from Rachel. It was PERFECT! There is nothing much more I can say about that other then really really perfect. I would make the entire dinner again just to have the Farofa and the Vinagrete!

On a side note, the original recipe calls for this wonderful garlic onion paste that you make and use in the beans, the greens, and you can add it to your rice. Now Rachel I think may be become a little overzealous in the writing up of her recipes and she informed us daring cooks that we would be adding 4 BULBS of garlic to the onion paste. While reading the recipe I thought okay, we love garlic in this house but that is a lot of garlic; thinking Brazilians were going to give Italians a run for their money in the use of the most garlic in one dish. While at the store I picked up what I felt were three huge bulbs, and ended up deciding on using only 2.5 bulbs of garlic in my paste. On later discovery through the closed forums of Daring Bakers, Rachel shared that this was an error on her part, and that the intent was to use only 4 CLOVES of garlic. On a personal note, we loved the amount of garlicky goodness that was present in the dishes and I really don't think I would change it the next time I made this dish. Just be aware if you plan to attempt this menu that if you go my route you will have a lot of garlic, if you go the way it is intended just 4 cloves..

No on to the photos.

The meats pre chop.

My garlic and onions, see how big those garlic bulbs are.

Some of my meats after the chop.

Here are my greens all ready to go.

This is my garlic past, which I had so much left over it is in the fridge where I have used it in other dishes.
You can see the browning on the (from left to right) bacon, smoked chops, and sausage.

This is the pork for carnitas which is browning nicely.

Closer browning photo.
This is the Vinagrete, don't the vegies look so yummy in there!
This is a photo of the complete meal, it looks so yummy! 

On the left is the farofa, on the right the greens, in the back the vinagrete.

so the beans in the bowl are about half of what was in the pot.

here is a close up of the plate, sorry for the blur. Yes mom my foods are touching, now go show daddy!
For those wondering I am kinda a freak about my foods touching, but it was the way it's suppose to be with this meal.
This final photo is to just show how pretty the meat remained on the inside thanks to the browning.
Now to the final thoughts. The meal was fantastic and I can not wait to do it again! Did Ashley go to McDonald's, NO he loved it. I think it was such an assortment of things that it was near impossible to not love it. Also I learned that the left overs are pretty good to take to work the next night! Anyway this was a fun challenge and I am eager to see what the next one will have us do. I could have looked this morning since I am posting late, but I wanted to get this post up before taking a look. I hope you all will give some or all of this a try. Thanks for reading!