Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nothing Says "I Love You" Like Hollandaise Sauce

...With profound apologies to all the vegans out there.
Hollandaise sauce has always been one of those recipes that I've been dying to make. Having grown up eating mostly Indian food, I've always had a fascination with continental foods. At Christmas time, we always made Eggs Benedict, and after trying to make a hollandaise at home, I now realize that the endeavor is a labour of love.
Hollandaise is a emulsification of the yolk of eggs, butter, and vinegar, with pepper and lemon sometimes adding spice and tang. It is a French sauce, and was made as early as 1651 by Francois Pierre La Varenne in his groundbreaking book Le Cuisinier Francois. However, the sauce mimics a Dutch sauce, hence the "holland" in hollandaise. It is considered one of the 5 mother sauces in French cooking.
Last Saturday, I made hollandaise sauce with artichokes, and stuffed pasta shells for an early holiday dinner for The Mixmaster. I altered an Epi recipe, and came up with what you see below. A few notes: Feel free to add a squirt or two of extra lemon for tartness; I found with the vinegar that my recipe was tart enough. Also, I used black pepper. All the recipes I found beg you to use white. But what's wrong with a little colour? I liked the flecks throughout the sauce. And finally, when rewarming the sauce, be sure to do so on low heat. Separated hollandaise can really be a downer at one's otherwise festive holiday brunch...

Recipe (for 1 1/2 cups):

2 tablespoons pure white vinegar
3 tablespoons cold water
1/4 teaspoons salt
black pepper to taste
3 large egg yolks (preferably free run)
2 sticks butter (1 cup), unsalted, cut into 1 tablespoons pieces and softened
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional, if you like it very tart)

  • Boil vinegar, 2 T water, salt, and black pepper in medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, until reduced to about 2 tablespoons (this happens quickly).
  • Remove from heat and add additional tablespoon of water.
  • Whisk in yolks and cook over very low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened (be careful not to scramble yolks). I had the heat at about 2-3 on my stove.
  • Whisk in butter one piece at a time, you may lift pan occasionally to cool sauce.
  • If adding lemon juice, do so after the pan is removed from heat. Also add salt, to taste.
* The egg yolks will not be fully cooked in this recipe, just so you know.

I hope you all have a lovely holidays!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Croissants and Alphonsoes goes Vegetarian (!?)

Well, I'd been putting off writing this post for a while. But I'd figured that when you write a food blog, it might be a good idea to let people know that you're no longer gonna be taste-testing steaks at Tati Bistro on Harbord Street. It's been about 6 weeks since I've eaten meat like beef and chicken and pork, and I'm phasing fish out of my diet (which is a bit harder, I'll tell ya).
What would make a grrl who loved cutting into the occasional steak give up all meats? Well, about six weeks back, I saw a small animal get killed by a car on my street. I know it seems trivial, but in that moment, I was reminded of life, death, and animal suffering in a way that I'd forgotten for years. I'd been a vegetarian through most of high school and my undergrad. Remembering my reasons for abstaining from meat, or at least cutting back was quite easy.
This last weekend I went home to visit my folks in Montreal. And as my dad is vegetarian, I ate much amazing, Gujarati meatless meals. My parents are going to California to visit my aunt for the holidays, so we had our holiday gathering two weeks early. And while my family has had a healthy sense of skepticism when it comes to my new eating habits, My younger sister and her boyfriend both bought me two lovely books that I'm very excited to read. The Moosewood empire has expanded to prepared food and cookbooks, from a restaurant in Ithaca, NY. Their website can be found here. My sister bought me one of their new books, and said that she'd give me one of their others that she doesn't really use. And the present that I'm really excited about is this book, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. It has been the hot new book in animal rights and criticism. I can't wait to crack into it.
Last week, The Mixmaster gave me yet another birthday surprise, an evening at the Bata Shoe Museum and a dinner at Vegetarian Haven. We shared the Tofu Drumsticks, which were served with a sweet and sour sauce, and I had the seitan cutlets, which was a sizzling plate. We shared a small blueberry tartlet that is easily the best vegan dessert I've ever had, and tofu ice cream. It was a sinful dinner.
So, no trying out foods with meat in it. But I might get friends to try them, and I'll still report on food culture that has to do with meat dishes. It's not like I'm just gonna be reviewing Fresh over and over now...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Sexiest Cake Ever

Yesterday was my birthday, and The Mixmaster threw me a martini and tapas party. She did most of the cooking, making deviled eggs, feta-stuffed cherry tomatoes, and baguette pieces topped with melted brie and fig. We had home made hummus and roasted red pepper and eggplant dips, and I spiced my own olives. Family and friends brought fresh figs, cupcakes, and a variety of cheeses. It was downright decadent.
The piece de resistance of the entire evening was a "Persian Love Cake;" a gorgeous, lemon and cardamom-spiced chiffon cake with rosewater whipped cream on it that was showered with sugared rose petals and pistachios. Basically orientalism on a plate, and hopefully something that will kick start my interest in the new dissertation chapter I'm writing.
I'd made the cake the day before, and after cooling it, put it on plates and wrapped it with plastic and left it at room temperature. You can find the recipe for the cake here. I'd made a few adjustments to the Epi recipe. I increased the batter by 50%, to make a 3 layer cake. On the website, other patrons had said that the recipe made a small cake, and I had to make sure all my guests were fed. I also powdered the cardamom in my mortar and pestle, because I didn't like the idea of people biting into whole cardamom seeds. And I used slightly less rosewater, so the taste wasn't overpowering (as few of my guests don't like rosewater). You should note that even with the third layer there was too much whipped cream left over, so I'd say that whipping 2 1/4 cups double cream would be fine.
One of my sisters said that the cake "looked like a cloud," and the sugared rose petals were divine. Now that I know how to do it, I might sugar other flowers. Oh, and for those of you who are looking for organic roses for this recipe, they can be found in Toronto at Wholefoods (just don't expect the rest of the bunch to last longer than a day...). I only ended up needing one rose for the recipe.
Would I make my own birthday cake every year? Well what with all the cleaning, cooking, and then spending an hour turning into my diva self, maybe next year Betty Crocker is in order? Kidding, kidding!