Tag gnocchi

Parties That Cook’s August Cookbook Club: Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

Yesterday was the cookbook club meeting for the month of August. Oh man. SUCCESS. With hopes of redeeming herself from some supposedly unfortunate choices in the past, Beth opted for another French feast. She selected Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table,” but warned that many of the recipes stemmed from cuisines around the world and, “as Dorie likes to say, have been adapted by the French and made their own”. Beth even threw some French into the evite! Fancy.

Beth was excited about this book from ‘a culinary guru’ (The New York Times), having made almost 30 of its 300 and never encountering a dud! The rest of us became excited as soon as we opened this book full of beautiful photos, inspiring recipe titles and encouraging tips and shortcuts. Now, on to the menu:

Cheez-it-ish Crackers: Rebecca made these delightful little bites of flavor at the suggestion of Beth. Everyone loved the strong Gruyere flavor (though the book suggests great alternatives), and Rebecca loved that they looked just like the photo! She went the route of using a cookie cutter (or shot glass), but here’s an example of rolling the dough into an easily sliced log.

Celery Root Puree: Erin branched out from her usual dessert selection and brought in this delicious dish. She stuck to the recipe on this one, and found the preparation incredibly simple! The great results have sparked her desire to try all sorts of substitutions for celery in the future.

Swiss Chard Pancakes: Christina jumped right in with these delicious green pancakes (reminiscent of our very own Herbed Zucchini Pancakes). She went above and beyond in topping them off with an addictive crème fraiche concoction with lemon zest and herbs. YUM.

Gnocchi a la Parisienne: Melissa decided to give gnocchi another chance with this recipe, hoping that she would be able to create the perfect texture. Everyone thought the flavor was a home run and we reassured Melissa that the texture was just right.

Hachis Parmentier: Michelene chose this “well seasoned meat and potato pie” as her dish. It’s as fun to try to say as it is difficult to know if you’re saying it right. She thought the flavor of the sausage overwhelmed the ground beef, but knew she would attempt this recipe again. She LOVED the short cut provided for meat preparation, and we love that it keeps well overnight. Hello, left-overs!

Mozzarella, Tomato and Strawberry Salad: Wow. Beth stole the show in both presentation and taste. She opted to use Burrata (a mozzarella, cream cheese hybrid) instead of just mozzarella. Excellent choice! The liquid of the burrata did a great job uniting the flavors of the cherry tomatoes, strawberries and a bit of balsamic. Check out the original recipe (and the results) here!

Vanilla Éclairs: Rosie selected this delicious recipe pretty much as soon as we knew what the cookbook was. But it’s OK. The end result – complete with an off-roaded chocolate topping – was so worth the wait! Rosie was disappointed that they didn’t look too much like the photo in the book, but that didn’t stop everyone from devouring them! Folks were even claiming what few remaining éclairs we had for breakfast the next day. I’d say Mission Accomplished.

Kudos to Beth on a great choice for August’s Cookbook Club! Even with such big names as Bibby the “Home Run Queen”, Crissy “The Bat” and Carolyn “Cy Young” out of the office, this meal was both tasty and satisfying. Most of the group even said they are considering buying the book for their own culinary adventures and dinner parties!

Cookbook Club: Prodding the Naked Chef

Jamie Oliver aka the Naked Chef is a longtime TV favorite of mine. His charming cooking style – a sort of renegade British hippie meets the farmers market, propels him to shabby chic culinary feats like smoking fish in old cigar tins and pickling peppers for post-pub late night grub. Pepper in Brit-isms (nosh, knob, sodding, bloke, flat, bangers), cheeky Jamie sliding down the staircase banister to greet guests, and voila! I call that quality TV.

At this month’s meeting of the Cookbook Club, we decided on a romp through Jamie Oliver’s newish cookbook, Cook With Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook. An ode to the Fifteen Foundation, all proceeds from the book go toward this charity by which Jamie trains disadvantaged youngsters to become chefs and run their own branch of Fifteen Restaurant. The book itself claims to be Jamie’s Fifteen program training manual for “modern-day cooking.”

On the menu, 9 dishes and 9 hungry people, including our newest Parties That Cook team member, LeRoid David. We welcome LeRoid as a fellow foodie and new Office and Event Logistics Manager.

  • Mad Moroccan Lamb – The favorite dish, hands-down. A hearty casserole dish of roasted lamb shoulder buried in a bed of seasoned couscous, chickpeas, fruits and lemons. Tanya, a trained chef, had no problem with Jamie’s loose “glug of” this-and-that recipe, but thought beginner chefs might get lost in the non-succinct directions that read like an essay. Lucky for us, Tanya knows how to read like a chef.
  • Herby Gnocchi with Arugula and Butter Sauce – Wonderful flavor, but not great texture. Crissy realized at the last minute that she owns neither a ricer or a food mill, so she grated the potatoes by hand. After all of her hard work, her gnocchi was a bit too wet – we wonder if it was the grating or the recipe, which included a bunch of chopped arugula, contributing to the wet factor.
  • Spicy Pangrattato Risotto – If you’re looking for a giant mixing bowl risotto, this is your recipe. Rosie whipped up just one batch of this recipe and churned out enough to feed an army! The simple breadcrumb topped risotto had a nice cheesy, garlic-y flavor and pleasing contrast of textures. Rosie found that you need quite a bit of olive oil (not just a “splash” as the recipe states) to crisp up the volume of breadcrumb mixture.
  • Zucchini Fritters – Christina laughed at the irony of Jamie’s commentary on this recipe, where he states “I wasn’t sure if it would work but it did.” In her own kitchen, Christina match-sticked her zucchini, mixed and fried – only to find her fritters oozing across her non-stick pan (yes, the recipe said to use a non-stick pan!). After increasing the binding ingredients and switching pans, Christina finally remedied the issue. But, the flavor probably isn’t worth the hassle.
  • Indian Style Broccoli with Spiced Yogurt – A fine and solid vegetable side dish, Shanti opted to steam and char rather than boil the broccoli to preserve crunch. We all agreed roasting the broccoli would also be a great option.
  • Southern Indian Crab Curry – Bibby opted for this spicy treat. We loved the flavors, but overall it was on the salty side – possibly due to the type of crab meat used. Dungeness crab would probably work best to bring out the sweet and spicy contrasts of the dish. Instead of rice, Bibby served the crab mixed with thin rice noodles – a great combo. Egg noodles would also be another starch option.
  • The Best Onion Gratin – Bibby also baked up this creamy and cheesy gratin dish – another favorite at the table. Not for the health conscientious, Bibby pumped up the volume of cheese and cream in the recipe – a decision none of us argued with!
  • Pear Tarte Tatin – Lauren tackled a simple skillet-cooked tatin. Not a trained chef herself, Lauren struggled with Jamie’s non-existent instructions for making the caramel sauce. Luckily she did not burn the sauce and calculated correctly that the pears would need to be cooked far longer than the 5 minutes prescribed. All in all everyone loved the tatin, which came out perfectly golden and delicious.
  • “Proper Custard” Ice Cream – Michelene whipped up a batch of Jamie’s Proper Custard, which then gets whisked into ice cream. The creamy, rich and delicious scoop was further punctuated by a hint of cinnamon. Michelene followed the custard recipe to a T, but had a little trouble with ice crystals forming in the freezing process. The recipe also doesn’t explain when to stir in spices/flavorings. Still, a perfect accompaniment to the pear tatin.