Saturday, September 10, 2011

oh julia

It was recently the birthday of the lovely Julia Child. Megan came up with the brilliant idea to remember our favorite feisty lady in the kitchen by throwing her a birthday party! Complete with delicious food and proper invitations of course.
So what did we eat? So, soo much goodness.  Ashley made baked brie complete with a Fleur de lis on top! We also had petit fours, apple tart, chocolate mousse, potatoes in so many ways, chicken, shrimp, and...pulled pork crepes? (ted did a little fusion on this one but they were delicious, I promise).
I made three dishes: asparagus with a lemon cream dipping sauce, ricotta filled cheese puffs, and lavender caramel chocolate cupcakes (more on these soon).

The Asparagus
1. So easy. Take a bunch of asparagus (literally) and break off the ends.  I actually like to break them each but that's just me.  If you are in a rush go ahead and break one then cut the rest in the same place.
2. Grab a french skillet.  You know the saute pan with tall straight sides, like this one, or one a whole lot cheaper... Fill it with about an inch of water and bring to a boil; add some salt.
3. While waiting for the boil, prep your ice bath *don't skip this step* Get a big bowl and fill it half fill with cold cold water, then toss in some ice packs.  You can use ice but I feel like these are more efficient and less wasteful.
3. Back to the action. Once you have a rolling boil (lots of bubbles) drop in the asparagus. You will need to do this in a couple of rounds.  Cook for 1, maybe 2 minutes, you are looking to just see the water begin to turn green.  As soon as you do pull out the stalks and submerge in the ice bath.
4. Once its chilled you are ready for action! Or to make a dipping sauce...

The Sauce
1. So this is a good one that I just kind of made up but it worked out well. What you need: a lemon, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, mayo, cream cheese, sour cream.
2. Grab a tall measuring cup and add in the zest and juice of the lemon, some of each of the seasonings, like a 1/4 teaspoon of each, then 1/3 cup of each of the creamy contenders.
3. Pull out that immersion blender and take care of business.  It should take less than a minute to mix that team up into a smooth yet decently think lemony sauce.  Adjust seasoning as you see fit.

The Cheese Puffs 

1. This recipe was adapted from a NYT one for savory tomato eclairs. So good. What you need: 1 large tomato, 6 Tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 cup flour, 4 large eggs, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 1 clove of garlic, minced
2. Preheat oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. Use a food processor and puree the tomato until smooth, measure that you have 1 cup, if you don't add some water.
4. In a saucepan, combine tomato puree, garlic, butter, salt, and pepper and stir until butter melts. Add the flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon for 3-5 minutes, a film should form as the dough becomes a ball.
5. Transfer dough to a stand-mixer and beat for 1 minute to cool down.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, it will look weird at first but trust me, it will work. Add in the cheese.
6. Take the dough to your sheet pans and use a spoon to dollop down balls that are about 1 1/2 inches wide.  
7. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes until puffed and golden.  When done, poke several holes in the bottom of each ├ęclair to let steam escape. Use a fork to open them up, and add the filling (see below), about a Tablespoon per puff. 

The Filling
1. Gather another 1 clove of garlic, minced, 1 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup of basil, then julienne the basil
2. Mix it all together and add some salt and pepper.

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