Friday, May 31, 2013

Holiday Weekend Recap

Before it gets to be June, which is coming up mighty quickly, I wanted to recap bits of our holiday weekend.
This weekend has been long in coming -- no holidays for us since New Year's! As you saw, we spent lovely time doing our Paris Brest dessert, but what I didn't show in that post some of our other fun at Barb and Mike's.
It was a gorgeous day and we walked Barb's labyrinth, where we saw a butterfly with a hurt wing and much more.
Then wine on the porch, enjoying the birds at the feeder, and the onto the events in my last post.
Sunday was flawless weather-wise, too -- a perfect day to see Rick's aunt and cousins at their cottage not far from home.
And we got to meet the newest addition to the family, too.
We even saw one of Harry Heron's cousins!
Sunday was the start of our rain. But before it came down we went to the cemetery to plant flowers for my parents, aunts and uncles. This is a tradition in my families as it is in many.
We walked around the cemetery for a bit, stopping at the graves of a friend and her mom who died a year ago, fairly close together. They were near my college roommate and high school friend. Then, after a picnic (interrupted by weather!), we went off to the cemetery where my great grandfather was buried.
That cemetery is the oldest in Lansing and holds great local history in its earth. But that's for another time.
Home again, to roasted chicken and veggies, Rick's bread and watching "Rosemary and Thyme" videos -- a favorite of mine, new to Rick. As the rain came down, we were just happy and relaxed -- and isn't that what counts?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Paris Brest

I love a cooking challenge. So when my friend Barb asked me if I knew about the Paris-Brest recipe honoring the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle event, I was intrigued.
Here's a little background. The race is one of the oldest ongoing cycling events but it started in 1891 when bicycles were heavy and roads not paved (or well). The event started as a race (that stopped in 1951).
Riders go 1,200 km or a something over 700 miles from Paris to Brest, which is on the east coast, then back. And they do it all at once. No stops. No cushy sleepovers with a fine meal at the end of the day. 
This is a grueling event, with a goal of making it in 90 hours. 
A little story about the above image -- this is from google, but I have an original of the Le Petit Journal which I bought for Rick in Paris at the Vanves brocante in 2009 with Tara Bradford, who was such a help! In the photos near the end of the post, you'll see my newspaper of this image framed. Rick loved it! I do, too!
The event is held every four years -- and this isn't the year. But it was the year we decided to make the Paris Best dessert, which was also created in 1891 to honor the event. Because of its energy-building high calories, riders loved it. It is now found in patisseries all over the country!
We thought it should be in Michigan, too!
So, the plan was Rick would ride out to Perry, where Barb lived -- about 20 miles away. We'd have a wonderful dinner and our Paris Brest Dessert (or maybe we should call it Perry Brest!)
Barb got a head start, making the praline creme filling the day before. (Recipe: Cook's Illustrated.) When I arrived we were making the dessert pastry. (Recipe: Sunset Cookbook -- and really, any pate' choux will work.) The pastry is piped in the shape of a bicycle tire -- three layers of pastry with a top, bottom and middle "inner tube."
First, you make a template on parchment paper, tracing the outline of an 8" plate on the paper, spraying a pan and putting the paper upside down on the pan. (8" seems very small -- but it gets much bigger!)
We started making a pate' choux (basically the cream puff recipe), boiling butter and water and then adding flour/sugar/salt. When it was ready for the next step, it looked like this. We had a discussion about who this looked like.
Next we added four eggs, one at a time. (The photo above looks like more than two. That's because we beat them up with a fork and on the first addition, added a little more than we should -- didn't matter!
With every addition, the eggs looked all slimy. You just beat it till it was smooth, added another and did it again! And again.
Eventually it is smooth and able to go in the pastry bag.
The inner tube is once around. The top and bottom of the wheels is twice around. 
When done, brush with egg wash, the cover with almonds or hazelnuts (which we couldn't find.)
And bake!
When done, it looks like this:
After baking, slice the two wheels in half. (Why you don't just make one I don't know -- might have to do with the rise.)
Pipe in the filling on the bottom layer; place the inner tube on top.
Then pipe again, placing the almond-top up. (Beware of overzealous piping! Keep a towel or sink handy!)
Dust with powdered sugar and voila!
Of course, we had to display it and oooh and ahhh! 
Cut with a serrated knife -- it really did look spectacular. 
The curious rider loved it!
And the cooks were very, happy!
I'll be glad to share the recipe -- just email me or leave it in the comments. I have to get the filling from Barby but glad to forward it on. It takes a long while, rather labor intensive. But not hard. And oh, so worth it! And if you decide to do it, tell me and I'll send you a link that goes step by step and makes it much easier to contemplate!

NOTES: The archival photos are from Google Images (thank you!). And by the way, just because you put in a google query for images, like "Paris Brest" doesn't mean the pix that come up are from there -- I've removed it now but a friend pointed out that one of the maps I featured was from WALES!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Not Much, You?

So, it's time for a post and I'm on the fence, because the ones I want to write I don't have time to do the way I want and frankly, I haven't had a real exciting life lately!
So, what's up? Not much! I am working and exhausted at the end of the day. But I did get out to my first outing a couple of weeks ago, with Rick, my friends Mike, Kate and Richard. The event supported our Summer Circle Free theatre and Richard had to pose with the 50/50 ticket sellers!
It was a great event -- held in the scene shop as a country picnic. There were plenty of actors, some scenes from upcoming plays and string band dancing, along with a great silent auction.
I didn't last as long as I wanted and just couldn't dance, between the shingles head and just being exhausted. As you can see, I'm not at my best.
But it was good to get out! Since then I've been able to enjoy some time with friends. Wears me out but is good for the soul. When I need a break and the Purr Therapist isn't otherwise occupied, I'm allowed a cuddle or two!
One such event was getting garden plants at the nursery with Kate. 
I bought a lot of these, which I love.
In fact, I liked them so much, I couldn't stop photographing them!
And quite the cart full. I hope I have it in me to get these planted!
Meanwhile, Baker Rick continues honing his craft. His latest was a loaf bigger than his head.
(He's also fighting the grub war, but that's another post!)

Another post in the works visits my "moodling" workshop with Kari McKnight Holbrook. Since I didn't finish my projects in class (and haven't yet) I'm waiting for that to post on that one!
So on that note, I'll end this dull little update and promise something new very soon!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cork Poppers Cook with Wine!

I'm trying to catch up with things past in my life. This time it's Cork Poppers take on cooking with wine.
Our challenge was to bring wine to the party along with our dish to pass. The wine had to connect with the dish, which is most cases meant cooking with it.
It was a good challenge and the results didn't disappoint, starting with the cheeses from Dick, Cheryl and Pat and the bread from Baker Rick. Dick said the cheese had claret or port in it, so he brought a bottle of claret to share.
The Seltzner Napa Valley Claret 2010 was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. It was tart, spicy and very dry. We all agreed it had a remarkable fragrance. I'd wear it as cologne -- at $17, it costs less than most cologne!

Barb's dish was a Caesar Salad and the wine she used in her dressing ended up being my favorite of the tasting -- and I'm not by nature a white-drinker.
It was a Clean Slate Riesling 2011, a German wine. Dry and light it was very refreshing. It smelled lovely and a little fruity but not sweet. Of particular interest is that it had a surprisingly low alcohol content -- 10.5 percent -- which may mean one could drink a little more! And at a $10 price (Barb got it on sale for $8) it is an excellent bargain. And mighty good in salad dressing!
Can you buy a wine by it's label? Sometimes! And sometimes it doesn't matter, because the label is so good.
In the case of La Capra Viognier 2009 from Fairview (South Africa) you can enjoy both. The label describes this white as "bold and expressive, like a vaudeville show." While I didn't like it as well as the Clean Slate, it was still very good at $9, a good buy.

Our menu would include Welsh Rarebit served over asparagus. Meredith and Roger used a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc called Marlborough Zeal Estate Wines.
We all agreed that the aroma had a lot of grapefruit in it -- I can't usually tell too specifically and this one was no contest. Or, "Grapefruit juice with a kick," someone said. At $9.79 it was well-priced.
For mine, to go with dessert of marinated strawberries over puffed pastry galettes with a Lemoncello cookie, I chose Chateau du Pin, a red from the Loire Valley of France.
It was $9.79 and a good buy, delicious with the berries. (I've written about that at this tasting; it was the first and only (to date) wine that we tasted and immediately ordered a case to split among us.

There are three other wines to mention from this tasting, two of which were sipped and savored and one of which was used in the cooking but neither sipped nor savored.
I wrote that the Tres Picos Borsao 2010 Garnacha was "really yum, very berry." A nice red, it had a fabulous aroma. The 2010 had aging potential through 2015 and was $14.

The Nisia Rueda Old Vines Verdejo 2011 was a Spanish white. It had the second-best label of the day and was very tasty.
The merchant who sold the wine recommended it go with goat cheese, which was one of the cheeses on our tasting platter. It worked very well with it. It has a one-year aging potential.

Clayton used a grocery store favorite on the sauce for the garlic mushroom brown sauce for the chicken rollatini.
It was Barefoot Chardonnay, which he chose because it wasn't oakey and worked well in the sauce. It was $5 (on sale 2 for $10, so it might be a whopping $6 or $7 regular price).
The wine is from California and was perfectly fine for the sauce and didn't even taste so bad on its own! In fact, for an inexpensive drinking and cooking wine, it was fine!
Our Cork Poppers are nothing if cheery, so after tasting some wine, we engaged in bean bag toss with nearly everyone taking a turn to the cheers of the spectators! Given the wine tasting was before, our aim in general was remarkably good!
Then it was on to the dinner, where we had to admit that everyone exceeded their challenge of cooking with wine!
What a wonderful way to welcome spring! Cheers! (I love this photo of Rick -- he looks like he's in France, not Michigan!)

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