Sunday, May 13, 2012

Olive Fougasse

Last week was finals week so grocery shopping was kinda low on my priorities list until after I had handed in my papers and completed my Infectious Disease Epidemiology exam on Wednesday. Then it took me a day to recover my wits so I didn't even look at the recipe until 10pm on Thursday. As a result, I started this on Friday, but didn't bake it til Saturday. That still counts as a French Friday, non? Well, it's done, and here are the results.

My mise en-place, taken before I went out back and clipped some rosemary from the garden.

Yes, this is just a mix of oil and water. I was using Fermipan Instant Yeast, so that had already been added to the dry ingredients.

Dough after ~5 minutes of mixing.
 Dorie was not kidding. This was a really, really, really soft and sticky dough. I kneaded that thing for 10 minutes and it still looked pretty much like the photo. As she had said that it should pull away from the bowl but still be soft enough to pool at the bottom of the mixing bowl, I ended up adding about another 1/2 cup of flour. It might have had something to do with my flour, which was made from hard spring wheat and therefore had less gluten.
A photo of the mixings going in here. By this point both my husband and I were tired of hearing the mixer screaming, so I just mixed it in by hand. It was still tough work though - I wouldn't have wanted to "knead" this dough without a mixer. The consistency is such that the cook basically has to beat the dough like a batter, not actually knead it.
Post-mix ins, ready for its rest.

 I made the full recipe here, so these photos only show one of the two fougasses. As you can see, once spread out they are quite large. These are half sheet pans here. I thought it looked pretty much like the photo in the book - like a leaf, albeit a stubby one - but the hubs took one look and said it reminded him of Predator's face. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

The hubs doesn't like savory things in his bread, so it's up to me to eat this whole thing (the other one went to our neighbors). Verdict? Not my favorite bread, although its perfectly good and the recipe works - I think I just can't help but compare it to focaccia, and then I decide that I like the richness of focaccia better. It's focaccia-like, but with so much less oil in the bread, it's less tender and fragrant than actual focaccia, which is cooked in a sheet pan full of olive oil. The crust is a little crunchy from the olive oil-water mix that is brushed on, and the inside chewy-tender. I had a bite of it today after it had sat out all night and it was still chewy and soft, which is nice. Good for a casual nibble and definitely pairs well with red wine, but if I were to make this again I think I'd just make little rolls so I can freeze them and reheat for a bread basket.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Almond Flounder (ahem, Tilapia) Meuniere

 This week's French Friday recipe was Almond Flounder Meuniere, which Dorie described as an adaptation she made from the classic sole meuniere because flounder is easier for her to find at the market. I didn't feel too bad then with the decision I made when faced with a choice of sad-looking, pre-frozen, and badly thawed flounder versus plump, fresh tilapia at the fish counter today. Above is a photo of the finished product, served with a side of Spanish rice and green beans.
See what I mean by plump and fresh? 
The almond-flour coating was a breeze to make. I threw all the ingredients into my immersion blender mini food processor attachment and was good to go with a few whirs. Brushing on the egg with a brush instead of dragging the fish through a container filled with egg saved both extra eggs and cleanup.
We chose a deep-sided saute pan, which was helpful in reducing grease spatter
The butter-browning process is like toasting nuts. It can go from not quite ready to BURNED in the blink of an eye, so make sure to keep that eye on that butter! I got distracted and forgot, but thank goodness the hubs was there to remind me, because it looked like this when I looked again:
You can see the browned milk solids well in the top of the photo
Fish is cooked nut-side-down first, then flipped. Had to add another tablespoon of butter on Side 2 to keep the pan from drying out.
Et voila! Below is an action shot of the hubs dropping some green beans inelegantly onto the plate. The beans were parboiled and then finished in the same butter that the fish cooked in. It worked out perfectly, creating a nice brown sear on the beans and did not require getting yet another pot dirty. We had begun the evening debating whether we were too tired to cook, or too tired to walk to a restaurant. The humid weather finally decided us in favor of staying home, and boy, are we glad we did. In the time it would have taken us to walk the ten blocks to a restaurant, we had a restaurant-quality meal at our own table.

French Fridays

Well, hello there. It's been a while. All the Bees have been busy. Kea and I are both back in school, while Lana has started a new job. It doesn't mean we haven't been cooking, knitting, sewing, and so on...we just haven't had time to blog it, which is a shame. I made some mean batches of sour cherry jam and blood orange marmalade this year for example...maybe I'll post about it later. After my finals. Yeah. If I do, Lana should post about her kiwi-lemon marmalade too.

Anyways, I'm back now, and for a reason - I joined the scores of other cooks who dish it up every Friday on French Fridays with Dorie!! I had purchased the book back in December to enjoy during our one-week staycation, after eying it longingly since before it was published (didn't think there was much point in buying another cookbook when I was working crazy hours and going to school). Since then I've been cooking my way sporadically through it and - remarkably for a cookbook these days - met with delicious success every time (except once, with the clafouti. That was such a spectacular failure there must have been a typo somewhere). So I made it official and joined the group. After all, no matter what else is going on in your life, a girl's gotta eat.

First up then, is the Navarin Printanier, aka lamb stew. This is not the first recipe I cooked from the book, but the first recipe I cooked from the book for the French Fridays group. Here's the mise en place:

As you can see, pretty basic ingredients. Just like the majority of the recipes in Around My French Table. But looks can be deceiving.
Veggies getting their color in my Greenpan/wok.
After a quick browning, the veggies go in the pot with some flour, tomato paste, herbs, and beef stock. Bring to a simmer, then stick in the oven and let the dutch oven do its magic.

Apologies for the two pot photos. The second, post-oven shot was the last picture I took before we dug in, and I completely forgot to take a "plated" photo. Besides, stews are not particularly photogenic, and my photography skills are basic, to say the least, but trust me, the navarin was outstanding. Some friends stopped by while this was in the oven and remarked at how wonderful the house smelled. We would have invited them to stay for dinner as there was plenty, but they were vegetarian. Hehe. More for us.