Monday, March 30, 2009

Chocolate Berry Pavlova

There is a dessert called Pavlova that I have wanted to make. It is named after a Russian ballerina named Anna Pavlova. It is made of a meringue base that is crispy on the outside, but light and fluffy on the inside.

Whenever I've seen Pavlovas, they've been crazy tall, and now I understand why. The meringue kind of settles, and the flavor is so light, it will get lost in the cream or whatever you decide to fill it with. My Pavlova base was too short. Next time I will double the recipe and make it nice and tall.

If you decide to try making this, I recommend putting the meringue on a Silpat so that you can easily remove it and put it on a serving plate. For the Pavlova I used the egg whites that I had leftover from making the Hollandaise sauce for the Eggs Benedict. I whipped the egg whites together with some sugar and about 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar. I whipped it to high peaks, and then I spread it in a circle, lifting the edges higher than the center. I put it in the oven at 250 deg F for an hour and then I turned the over off and opened the oven door to let the meringue "dry out".

I filled it with whipped cream (heavy whipping cream whipped tight with powdered sugar and vanilla extract), and then I topped it with raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. With just that, it was pretty as a picture, but I wanted to go over the top a bit. I made a syrup with Amarena cherry juice, marashino cherry juice, and a little bit of strawberry syrup. I dusted on a little bit of grated dark chocolate before I took some pictures. I had a lot of chocolate shavings left, so I dumped it all on and took more pictures. The extra chocolate made a difference in taste, and it was very good. Puddleglum and the boys all liked it a lot, but what's not to like- fresh berries, whipped cream, good chocolate, cherry sauce, and creamy meringue? It's an instant winner. I think it would have been better if I had made more meringue. Visually, I think the presentation would be even better if I made the filling and the meringue different colors so that you can see both layers. So next time I am going to double the meringue recipe and put some color in either the meringue or the cream.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Salmon Eggs Benedict

I love eggs. They are so versatile, and I consider them comfort food. I like them every which way, but my favorite is probably poached; although I've taken a liking to three minute egg cups. When we visited my sister in Austin, she took us to the Original Pancake House where I had their version of Egg's Benedict which is made with a sausage patty instead of ham, and has a mushroom sauce that is so yummy. When I worked at Vargo's, we served traditional Eggs Benedict on their Sunday brunch menu. I wanted to make Eggs Benedict, but I wanted to make something special, so I decided to make Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon.

Everyone makes poaching eggs sound so difficult. It's not. If you have a very fresh egg, it's easier, but even if you don't have fresh eggs, it can still be done. Just add some vinegar to the water- maybe a couple of tablespoons. Bring the water up to a good boil, and then keep it at a gentle, simmering boil. I break my eggs into individual small ramekins, and then a gently drop them in. After I put them in, I set my timer to two minutes. At two minutes I lift them out with a skimmer, and put them on a couple of layers of paper towels.

Hollandaise sauce is also not really that difficult. There are several good recipes online. It's basically three things; egg yolks, lemon juice (or white wine vinegar), and melted butter. Yah. Artery clogging. But you don't put much hollandaise on the eggs, and hopefully some of those omega-3s in the salmon will counteract some of that. Anyway, what I did was I whisked the egg yolks in a bowl set over the pan with boiling water for the eggs (do not let the bowl touch the boiling water or you could scramble the yolks). I did not have lemons, but I put a couple of tablespoons of white wine vinegar in with the yolks. You whisk for quite a while until the yolks look thick and have grown in volume. Then you add an entire stick of melted butter (yowza!). I had already melted it, and I had it sitting next to the stove. You need to have everything ready when you make this sauce. Add your butter and whisk, whisk, whisk. If the sauce gets too thick, then whisk in a tablespoon or two of the boiling water. Season with salt and cayenne. You can taste when it is ready. It tastes really yucky if it isn't ready yet.

I have found that the best way to make asparagus is to microwave them. They stay greener this way, and it is harder to overcook them. Just nuke them with some water. We usually sit them in some water in a glass loaf pan. It varies on how long. If you have large asparagus, and you are making an entire "bunch", it can take several minutes. Today I only made seven, and then were very thin. It took like a minute. I just put some butter on them when I plated everything. If I had the money, I would have wrapped them in Jamón ibérico.

On two halves of some english muffins that I bought at MarketStreet I spread a thick layer of cream cheese (why the heck not?). Then I layered the smoked salmon on top of that. I had that ready and waiting for when the eggs were done. I placed the eggs on top of the salmon, and then spooned on the hollandaise sauce. Over that I sprinkled some basil and paprika. I thought the chives looked nice just layed on top. I wanted to put salmon roe on the very top, but it was freakin' sixteen dollars! I had intended to plate this with some red onion, but just forgot to use it until after I had taken all the pictures. I did sprinkle some on before I started eating, and it was yummy that way. All in all, pretty pleased with this one.