Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sweet potato gratin with chipotle cream

This is the first in what I hope will be a long list of tried-and-true comfort food recipes. It's chilly out there and Spring still seems far away, so let's cozy up in the kitchen warm up the oven and why not while we're at it add a few new favorites to our ever-growing comfort food repertoire.

This recipe is adapted from Bobby Flay and is one which for once doesn't call for 25 different ingredients, and I means this literally. Fast and easy to whip up, not much shopping, hard to source ingredients or prepping time. Doesn't sound too much like Bobby right? Well wait until you taste it, the final dish screams Bobby and in a good way.

Sweet potatoes are peeled and finely sliced using a mandoline. I used chipotle chilies in adobo sauce that I minced and pureed down pressing with the blade of my knife then added them to heavy cream and added salt and pepper. I stirred the mixture being careful not to overwhip or even introduce too much air into it as the purpose is solely to get the ingredients combined, not to wind up with whipped cream. The sweet potatoes are then layered in a gratin dish and seasoned before adding some of the chipotle cream. After 4 layers, my gratin was ready to be baked in the oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

I know it does sound like a long time, but besides cooking the potatoes, you want them to absorb as much of the liquid as possible. I let the gratin rest in the dish for a good 1/2 hour. When ready to eat I added just a drizzle of maple syrup on top to bring out the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes. It was an amazing dish, sweet and creamy with just a hint of heat. The sweet potatoes had this wonderful melt-in your-mouth texture making this dish an instant success for a top-of-the-list comfort food favorite.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sweet treats for Valentine's

My Chrismas cookies for my daughter's school had not gone unnoticed, and I had been asked again to provide for this year's Valentine's party. I was excited and more than happy to oblige but I had to come up with a plan and it better be good, at least as good as the Christmas cookies.

After some internet research of my own, I started to feel inspired and my plan of attack was taking shape. I would not go with one particular type of cookie but rather make three of my favorite sweet treats to choose from and the Valentine's theme had to clearly predominate. I decided I would go for a medley of classic chocolate chip cookies for the finicky eaters, heart-shaped bite size brownies and mini cheesecake hearts.

The cheesecakes are made with a classic graham cracker crust* pressed on the bottom of the pans. The filling is a combination of cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, sour cream and flour. Not all cheesecake recipes call for flour, but personally I like the the way it affects the texture of the cake, giving it a less silky more chewy bite. I bake them in a bath of boiling water, just as you would with any entremet, to ensure even cooking.

For the chocolate chip cookies I use a very classic but infallible recipe. I am so familiar with this recipe that I have perfect control over how they're going to turn out : 8 minutes in the oven will yield a soft cookie with a gooey center, 14 minutes will make crispy cookies. My favorite batch will come out after 11 minutes.

The brownies follow a recipe from Ina Garten from the Food Network. They are the best brownies I have ever made. Just the way a brownie should be : a perfect compromise between a cakey and fudgy brownie and a strong chocolate flavor .

The morning of the party, I delivered everything to the school and the teacher greeted me with a "You make the best cookies, no really, you should go into baking". I thanked her for the compliment and left with an invitation to come back in the afternoon for the party.

Everything went really well, other adults were attending, the kids were really happy, and the teacher grateful to have such dedicated parents.

*I recently discovered that graham crackers contain hydrogenated fats which I avoid consistently, so I will be looking for a more healthful alternative and welcome any suggestions you might have for substitution.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Food Calendar

As you can see I have added a new feature to my blog. The Food Calendar is where all food related events happening around the world will be posted.

I decided to create this calendar because I wanted to be able to find all in one place where and when food events were being held.

I hope this food calendar can help food enthusiasts like me become more aware of what's going on in the food world and hopefully attend a lot more events in the future.

So if you are organizing, sponsoring or taking part in such an event contact me and your event will be added on the calendar.