Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Return of Do: Fighting the Recipe Backlog

Disclaimer: we forgot to break out the camera while Bar-B-Qing last Friday, so the beautiful hamburger photo that you see comes from and the brisket photo comes from

Which dish(es) would you like to hear more about? Vote at right!

From the upper right to the bottom left:
- Beef Brisket (Food&Wine June 2007 meets Cook's Illustrated American Classics 2008)
- Hamburger stuffed with Blue Cheese (Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook)
- Pasta Puttanesca (Silver Palate)
- Breakfast of Egg, Grilled Chorizo and Jalapeño Peppers, and Toast
- Himalayan Mushrooms (Hiltl Virtuoso Vegetarian)
- Grilled Chicken burrito wrap
- Malakoff -- Deep-Fried Cheese Fritters (from this blog)
- Spinach Pasta with Salmon and Cream Sauce (Silver Palate)
- Halibut with Spicy Asian Vinaigrette and Wasabi Cream (The Gourmet Cookbook).
- Fresh Fruit and Yogurt for Breakfast
- Scallop and Corn Chowder (Real Simple's Meals Made Easy)

It's been a long time since I posted, and I didn't want you all to think that I'm anti-social by choice. Since moving to California, my life has been dominated by The Graduate Student Schedule. This entails working from 10am-6pm, taking a break for dinner, and then going to bat again from 8pm-1 or 2 am. As you can imagine, Neen is tearing her hair out. We're trying to get our schedules to overlap, which leaves me trying to cram work into every waking moment that I'm not with Neen. Meanwhile, my head is becoming more and more crowded with recipes that I want to blog about.

Many of these recipes go back to my Birthday Dinner Bash last month, which I never got around to telling you about. When Neen asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I knew immediately: I wanted to cook a ridiculous plethora of interesting dishes. With the final dish count reaching
5 large dishes and 1 loaf of (homemade) bread, you might figure on other people being invited. Nope. My birthday fell on our last weekend together before I moved out to CA - no one else was invited. Instead, Neen and I both took that Friday off and embarked on a three day long birthday. This, of course, involved multiple renditions of happy birthday, multiple pieces of cake from CakeLove, and plenty of opportunities to use the "We are doing X, because it's my birthday" argument.

My Birthday Menu included:
Scallop and Corn Chowder
2. Halibut with Spicy Asian Vinaigrette and Wasabi Cream
3. Spinach Pasta with Salmon and Cream Sauce
4. Cheese Fritters
5. Chicken and Bok Choy Salad with Asian Vinaigrette

You will notice that Number 5 does not have a photo associated with it above - that is because it was a flop. The vinaigrette was nice, but the salad itself was rather bland and monotonous. The remainder of the dishes, however, were fantastic. I was amazed at how consistently we hit great recipes.

- The Scallop and Corn chowder came out smooth and rich, with large chucks of vegetables and whole scallops to give many
variations on texture and flavor.

- The Halibut was succulent, the flavors of the vinaigrette and wasabi cream sauce mixed perfectly to give a contrast of sour/sweet and spicy/rich. (Neen inserts: Weird, but intellectually interesting).

- The Spinach Pasta with Salmon and Cream Sauce was the Home-Run derby winner of the Birthday Celebration. The original recipe called for spinach pasta; we used regular pasta and then just added spinach. I think this was the right call. The salmon and spinach flavors work so well together that I was happy to have a lot of fresh spinach flavor mixed in. The Salmon had to be poached, which was a little intimidating at first glance but turned out to be very simple (especially since we just happened to have a dead bottle of white wine in the fridge).

- The Cheese Fritters were exactly what I had wanted - and if I am brave, I will even show you pictures of the fiasco I created in the kitchen during the cooking process. (It was another opportunity for me to try to kill myself using oil and fire). The outside was very delicate and crispy, while the inside was pure melted cheese. I used a Gruyère cheese that was th
en marinated in white wine. Simply delectable. (Oh, and did I mention that involved a lot of oil and a hot fire?)

The next set of recipes is also related to my birthday. When Neen's parents were in town helping us get our apartment in order, they gave me a large Weber grill for my birthday (Go Them!). And to go with the grill, I was also given a lesson on how to cook Bone-in Pork Butt. Well, needless to say, I love the idea of grilling - as anyone who has read about a certain addition I am proposing to the Olympic Sports Committee will understand. So, when Neen's little brother was in town last week, we broke out the grill and I made Silver Palate's version of inside out blue-cheese burgers, some sausages from our local grocery, and a Beef Brisket. All of which turned out really well.

The Beef Brisket was a combination of recipes from Food & Wine (for the rub, the prep, and the BBQ sauce) and from Cook's Illustrated (for the method of cooking a Brisket in 5 hours instead of 11). The combination worked wonderfully. The F&W recipe gave the meat a wonderful full flavor, while the cooking method delivered a fork tender meat (really it was hard to cut because it would fall apart). We took the brisket to a picnic organized by my lab, and it got rave reviews even from the Texans!

The burgers were good, with the flavors of the herbs accenting the combination of meat and blue-cheese. I was not astounded, perhaps because I have made something similar before (a recipe from the NYT minimalist inspired me to use blue-cheese and stuff it inside a burger - I should mention I also added Trader Joe's Truffle Mouse to the top of that burger... mmm, decadent).

Okay, I really must sign off. One last thing to think about - I would love to post some expanded recipes and comments for a few of these dishes, but you guys need to let me know what you're interested in. Neen was kind enough to set up a poll on the blog - if you have any preferences for which recipes I should post on more thoroughly, please let me know.

Though I do reserve the right to veto if you don't vote for the best ones! :)


cmoore said...

What a lovely idea for a post! Everything sounds delicious, although of course I'm partial to the pescatarian-friendly dishes. And more on how you balance cooking with The Graduate Student Schedule...I'm trying to figure that one out myself...

Michael said...

Having served as the Help Desk for the brisket, I'm eager to hear more about it!

Adam said...

Wow, talk about an awesome birthday. You got tons of good food, AND a WEBER GRILL. That's crazy. Congrats on owning the best grill in the world. You're a lucky dude.

My vote goes to scallop chowder. How student-like is throwing stuff in a pot and cooking it :)

Kevin said...

That's some tasty looking food! Nice shot of the hamburgers on the bbq with the flames.

noble pig said...

Okay I voted for the Halibut which is not doing well...C'MON people!

noble pig said...

Oh yeah, and your schedule? Yeah that sucks.

Krysta said...

Hey Do! no indoor grill! hahahahaha

Grace said...

seems like you've been doing some good eating lately. color me jealous. i'm not jealous of your schedule, however. been there, done that, never want to return. :)

Dee said...

It's a tough choice, but the Himalayan Mushrooms sound intriguing. Then again, the Halibut pushes all the right buttons too. Can I be greedy?

That's a tough schedule, and I'm not making it any easier :(

kittie said...

Ooooo - halibut for me please!!! :D


kat said...

oh my the choices....

Dawn said...

awesome choices...but deep fried cheese has to have some priority? And those burgers rock.

kitchenbelle said...

Please describe the salmon pasta! It looks so savory and delicious!

melissa said...

I think I'll go with the Spinach Pasta with Salmon and Cream Sauce.

Sounds like you had a great birthday. Hubby and I both did a 3-day for my birthday this year and for the most part it was just us. Best way to go. ;)