Sunday, December 16, 2012

Poke the Penguin

Ok this post actually has nothing to do with food, for once. But as it is the holiday season, sometimes you get a bit stressed out or exhausted or overwhelmed or generally just want to tear your hair out. And if you do, have no fear! Poke the penguin! I've been doing this since college.

It sounds dirty but it's not. Just click away on him madly with your speakers turned up as loud as you can ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012 - Bouchon Bakery’s ‘Nutter Butters’ #fbcookieswap

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

After participating in the #FBCookieSwap last year, there was no way that I was going to pass up the opportunity to participate again in it this year. Hosted by Lindsay at Love & Olive Oil and Julie at The Little Kitchen, dozens of bloggers in different countries participate to send cookies to each other for the holiday season. After receiving my matches, I send out a dozen cookies to each blogger. In return, I receive three one-dozen sets of cookies in the mail from other bloggers.

In order to participate in the exchange this year, we had to donate $4 to charity, which was a great idea. Signing up and paying via Paypal was easy, and in exchange, this adorable cookie spatula was sent to your house along with a thank you not for your donation.

It's been really fun getting boxes in the mail though I got them all practically on the same day. No spacing out this year! I wish it was a bit more staggered so I could have had a steady stream of cookies to eat but no fear ... you can never have too many cookies! And I received the following lovely cookies from the following lovely bloggers:

linzer thumbprint cookies with apple butter from Hannah

rosemary lemon cookies from Stacy

orange walnut waffle cookies / holiday popcorn w/ dark chocolate, white chocolate, pistachios and dried cranberries / peppermint bark from Liz

This year, I decided to do a recipe from Thomas Keller (who I also met earlier this week at a book signing ... EEP!! *clapping*). His fancy nutter butters had ... well, a ton of butter. But they were so good. At the book signing, they had these cookies to pass out so I was able to try his actual version (I hadn't tried it prior to the recipe) and ... well though I thought mine were delicious, they were nothing compared to his.

creaming of the butter and sugar. lots and lots of butter.

cream till fluffy

batter up!

cookies ready to be filled and sandwiched

tins of cookies ready to be sent out

Some of the cookies might not have had as much filling, so I'm very very sorry. Next time, I will have to double up on the filling so each one gets a good healthy dose. Ha, I said healthy. There is absolutely nothing healthy about these cookies. Hope you liked them Victoria, Beth and Diana!!

Bouchon Bakery’s ‘Nutter Butters’
makes about 3 dozen sandwiches

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ttsp baking powder
4 tsp baking soda
1 lb (4 sticks) butter, room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cups coarsely chopped peanuts
2½ cups quick-cooking oats

Cookie Filling:
¼ lb (1 stick) butter, room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350degreesF. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and peanut butter. Add sugars and beat at medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping down bowl twice.

At low speed, add eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until well mixed, frequently scraping down bowl. Add peanuts and oats, and mix well. Using an ice cream scoop 1 1/4 inches in diameter, place balls of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets at least three inches apart.

Bake until cookies have spread and turned very light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool and firm up, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before filling.

To make the filling, with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until very smooth. Spread a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) on underside of a cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat until all cookies are sandwiches and start eating!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E7 - Grilled Tuna with Potato-Tomato Gratin

I'm so behind in blogging that I'm ashamed of myself. The Walking Dead has been over for weeks! Well, two weeks ... but still. And this is still for the episode before the midseason finale. And what a midseason finale it was. Hopefully they get rid of unreasonably angry women in the second half of the season.

Dinner was from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. It took a bit of preparation ahead of time but for the most part, everything came together pretty quickly. The gratin had to bake for almost three hours so definitely prepare for that if you want to make this dish!

Maybe I did something wrong but the gratin was a bit more watery than I would have liked. Anyone know what I did wrong? I think the tomatoes just have a lot of juice. Maybe I need to bake everything longer or seed the tomatoes first or just use less tomatoes.

The hunt for ahi tuna to sear was also an adventure. I first went to Whole Foods and ahi tuna was on sale for ...wait for it ... drum roll please ... $39.99 a pound. I almost fainted. Then I went to Trader Joe's and they were being sold for $16.99 a pound, which was a lot more reasonable. But the tuna wasn't too tender after being seared. I guess the more expensive quality does make a difference!

gratin onions being caramelized

onions caramelized

tomato, potato, onion and basil layering in progress

layered and ready for baking

Potato-Tomato Gratin
serves 6

5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions
1 Tbsp thyme leaves
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/4 lbs ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced opal basil (I used regular)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large sautee pan or Dutch oven over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 3 Tbsp olive oil, and add the onions, 1 Tbsp thyme, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper. Cook 6 minutes, stirring often, and then turn the heat down to medium, Add the butter, and cook 15 minutes, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon, until the onions start to caramelize. Turn the heat down to low, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are a deep golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350degreesF.

Use a mandoline to slice the potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Toss them with the cream, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp salt, and some freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, arrange them on a plate, and season them with 1 tsp salt and some pepper.

Place half the caramelized onions in an even layer in a 9x9 inch gratin or baking dish. Arrange one layer of alternating potatoes and tomatoes on top of the onion layer. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the cream from the potatoes and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Season with 1/4 tsp salt, a healthy pinch of pepper, 1/2 tsp thyme and half the basil.

Scatter the rest of the caramelized onions over the potatoes and tomatoes.

Arrange another layer of potatoes and tomatoes on topl make this layer pretty, because it will be the top of your gratin. Pour the remaining cream (from the potatoes) and remaining Tbsp olive oil over the potatoes and tomatoes. Season with 1/4 tsp salt, a pinch of pepper, the remaining 1/2 tsp thyme, and the remaining basil. Press the vegetables down with your fingers. The cream and oil will come u p through the layers and coat the vegetables evenly.

Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake about 2 hours, until the potatoes are tender when pierced. Remove the gratin from the oven and uncover it, being careful of the steam.

Turn the oven up to 450degreesF and return the gratin, uncovered, to the oven. Cook another 25-30 minutes, until the juices have thickened and the top is nice and golden brown (as in "gratinéed").

grilled tuna over arugula

perfectly seared on the inside

Grilled Tuna
serves 6

6 tuna steaks, 5 to 6 oz each, about 1 inch thick
1 lemon, zested
1 chile de √°rbol, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 Tbsp thyme leaves
1 Tbsp sliced flat lead parsley
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fleur de sel
1 Tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 oz arugula, cleaned
2 Tbsp super good extra-virgin olive oil

Season the fish with the lemon zest, chile, thyme and parsley. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Light the grill 30 to 40 mintues before cooking, and remove the fish from the refrigerator to come to room temperature. Alternately, use an indoor grill pan over high heat.

When the coals are broken down, red, and glowing, brush the fish with olive oil, and season on both sides with fleur de sel and cracked black epper. Grill the fish 2-3 minutes per side, rotating it once or twice. The tuna should be well seared but still rare.

Scatter the arugula onto a large platter and arrange the tuna on top. Squeeze some lemon juice over the fish, and then drizzle the fish with the super good olive oil. Dollop each piece of fish with rouille (I didn't make the rouille but the recipe is available in the book).