cooking through an april nor'easter (HHDD and WTSIM...#4)

this past weekend was all kinds of wacky--all last-minute and busy and sort of strange, but in that way that ultimately works out for the best. friday night i did dinner at kinkead's, over in georgetown. i almost never eat out, firstly, because i prefer to cook; secondly, i don't like to eat things that swim (except for duck), and kinkead's is famous for its fish menu.

you know what else kinkead's is famous for? (at least to me)

creme brulee. the chef at kinkead's does this trio of creme brulee, from a perfect vanilla bean pastry cream to some kind of seasonal fruit and if i am a particularly lucky puu, a chocolate one to complete the trilogy. this particular evening, i was in luck. don't get me wrong, i scored big time with a tender, flavorful, un-freaking-believable porcini ravioli appetizer, with a light and perfect parmesan sauce. second course wasn't quite as special, but my pork loin with citrus BBQ sauce definitely had a fantastic sort of zing to it.

but it was the creme brulee that claimed my love from the first instant i spotted it on the menu.

that was friday.

saturday was just out of control. up early on the 7.30am train to NYC to spend the day apartment shopping, only to turn around and come back on the 5.05 in order to beat the storm that was hard upon my heels. also, originally, to meet a friend for dinner, but as she turned out to be ill i ended up with a fire in the fireplace and a late-night dinner of dunkin donuts bowtie and a bowl of that new chocolate special K. i half-awoke with a start from the middle of maltese falcon when i remembered that i wanted to start a loaf of brioche so that i could have french toast for breakfast, but i decided to keep it simple, have cereal for breakfast, and turn sunday over entirely to cooking.

which i did. as i pulled my box of cereal down from the shelf, i started gathering ingredients for a chocolate chip brioche (my entry for WTSIM...Bread). i've been reading a lot about brioche lately. seems that, in addition to my own personal deprivation of bread over the past few weeks, a lot of bloggers i enjoy have been playing with brioches. (allow me to direct you, in case you've missed it, to bea's brioche adventures). my other inspiration came from one of the most beautiful coffee table books i've ever seen, the seven sins of chocolate, and which i have yet to cook from; also, my new-found need to use up as much of my kitchen as i can manage before i move back to the big apple for my new job (yeast, bread flower, and chocolate chips: check, check, check).

i've been dreaming about brioche, mostly for things like strawberry-mascarpone french toast (forthcoming), bread puddings (also forthcoming, because i've been craving it for weeks, and it's so unseasonably cold around here), and a great afternoon snack with my usual hot cocoa.

since i got off to a late sort of start with the brioche, i adapted my seven sins recipe to fit with beth hensperger's bread machine guidelines. call it cheating if you must, but i promise i used good ingredients: organic bread flour, good-quality chocolate chips (ghiradelli's, if you must know) and home-made butter straight from the farmers market.

while the brioche was rising and filing the entire apartment with that delicious bread smell, i made lunch. two lunches, actually: sunday's and monday's. i marinated a chicken breast in a quick hoisin-mirin-fish sauce combo and while it sat in the fridge, i made a pancetta and sweet potato soup that i've been saving since passover. i figured it would be good for monday lunch with a baguette or a sandwich. because of the nor'easter, i also made soup for today: chargrilled chicken, soba and miso soup with a few browned shiitake thrown in just for fun.

i was so pleased with this soup! it was warm, but light. it had flavor but wasn't sticky or gross. (wagamama hits another home run!)

before i knew it, i was cleaning up the kitchen for the third time today in anticipation of dinner and dessert: roasted duck breast with cherry confit and my HHDD entry (hosted by my fellow daring baker, Helene): a chocolate mousse duo.

again, my chocolate mousse was inspired by my seven sins lust, although lacking any milk chocolate i had to reduce the recipe's triolgy of mousses (mice?) into a duo of white and bittersweet chocolate only. i messed around with the recipe proportions in order to get a respectable serving for one, and voila.

dried cherry confit
(as published on washingtonpost.com)

  • • 1 teaspoon rendered duck fat (rendered from the pan-fried duch breast preparation)
  • • 1 medium medium shallot, finely minced
  • • 8 ounces dried cherries
  • • 2 cups Marsala or Madeira wine
  • • 1/4 finely chopped thyme leaves
  • • freshly ground black pepper
  • • salt (optional)
  • • lemon juice (optional)

Heat the duck fat in a skillet over medium heat. When the duck breasts have finished cooking and have been transferred to a plate to rest, drain all but 1 teaspoon of fat in the pan and add the shallot, cook for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring until translucent. Add the dried cherries and Marsala or Madeira and increase the heat to medium to bring to a low boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the cherries are soft and glazed and the liquid has almost evaporated. Add the thyme, and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat; add salt to taste and a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

chocolate mousse duo
(adapted from the seven sins of chocolate "chocolate mousse trilogy")

2/3 cup heavy cream
1 oz white chocolate, chopped, melted and tempered
1 oz dark (bittersweet) chocolate, chopped, melted and tempered.

whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks, then divide in half. fold the white chocolate into one half and the dark chocolate into the other.

now, the recipe as written does this delightful bit of food presentation by serving each mousse of the trilogy in a shot glass, with a fruit coulis. here's the trickk--the author has put a bit of gelatin into each coulis, and layered that into the bottom of each shot glass. in the book, he pairs white chocolate with raspberry; milk chocolate with passion fruit; and dark chocolate with orange. i didn't do that. firstly, i didn't have shot glasses. secondly, i didn't have any milk chocolate, nor did i have any passion fruit. i did have gelatin, but a recipe designed for six people was overwhelming for this little puu. so i cheated. i did use raspberry and orange, but i got a little more silly with my presentation...


Elle said...

How pretty the mousses (mice?) look with the jewel toned decorations! Yum! And the bread recipe sounds great, so does the cherry confit. Brilliant.

Andrew said...

sounds absolutly delicious! Thanks for taking part...

Barbara said...

Beautiful mousse. Thanks for joining HHDD.

Culinarily Curious said...

I love the simplicity of the mousse -- embellished beautifully by the bright colored gelatins.