Friday, September 12, 2008

Shrimp on the barbie

Bon Appetite-O! For last weekend's Sunday meal we had Shrimp on the barbie, gnocchi and a plum tart tartin.

But first, I didn't know where to put these pictures. Mid week we also had shrimp on the barbie. The photos turned out nice, so I decided to show them to you as well. Our mid-week meal was a light affair. Fresh shrimp, cleaned then skewered on a rosemary stick with peppers and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper.
Served with a side of sliced heirloom tomatoes layered between a buffalo mozzarella (made with water buffalo milk not cow's milk - there's a difference) then topped with a chiffonade of basil and chopped black olives, salt and pepper.

Without further ado, on to the weekend.

Lyle's menu called for homemade gnocchi which he kept trying to get out of making and I kept telling him he had to make just to see if he could. We had already purchased some frozen gnocchi from Trader Joe's in case they failed.

In keeping with my policy of not re-printing a recipe that isn't offered on-line already, this is where I found the adaptation of today's recipe and here it is (Lyle enjoys listening to Melinda Lee on the radio on weekends):


2 extra-large eggs
2 cups, all-purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out the dough)
1 pound, whole milk ricotta – drained if wet
3 tablespoons, extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Beat the eggs together in a small bowl. Place 2 cups flour, 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and the ricotta in a large mixing bowl. With a dinner knife in each hand, cut the ricotta into the flour. When the flour and ricotta are combined, make a well in the center and pour in the eggs.

Use a fork and, starting in the middle of the mixture, incorporate the eggs into the flour and ricotta. Knead the dough with your hands briefly, just to bring it together while being careful not to overwork it.

Shape the dough into a ball, and place it on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut the ball into four pieces, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.

One by one, take each piece of dough out from underneath the towel, cut it in half, and roll it into a 3/4-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured cutting board. COOK’S NOTE: The amount of flour on the board is very important: if you have too much the dough is difficult to roll, and if you don’t use enough, the dough will stick to the board.

Cut the ropes into 1-inch-long pieces, and sprinkle a little flour over them. Using your thumb, roll each piece of dough over the back of the tines of a fork, leaving an indentation from your thumb on one side and the markings from the fork on the other.

Plunge the gnocchi into the boiling water in batches. Once they rise to the surface, cook them for 1 minute more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a baking sheet or platter. Drizzle the cooked gnocchi with the olive oil, and toss to coat them well.

Gnocchi completed and set aside to add to...

Chanterelles, Sweet Corn and Sage Brown Butter

1 1/2 cups, fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup, extra-virgin olive oil
7 tablespoons, unsalted butter
3/4 pound, chanterelle mushrooms - cleaned
1 tablespoon, thyme leaves
1 tablespoon, sliced fresh sage leaves
3 cups, fresh corn kernels (from about 4 ears)
2/3 cup, diced shallots
1 recipe ricotta gnocchi* – blanched (*recipe follows)
1/2 cup, chopped flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spread them on a baking sheet, and toast 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. [Set the toasted breadcrumbs aside.] If the mushrooms are big, tear them into bite-size pieces.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and heat another minute. Swirl in 1 tablespoon butter, and when it foams, add the mushrooms, half the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a healthy pinch of pepper.

Sauté the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re tender and a little crispy. Don’t be tempted to move them around in the pan too much in the beginning: let them sear a little before stirring. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to a platter.

Return the pan to the stove, and heat it on high for 1 minute. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons butter to the pan, and cook for a minute or two, until the butter starts to brown. Add the sage, let it sizzle, and then add the corn, shallots, the remaining 1/2 tablespoon thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Sauté quickly, tossing the corn in the hot butter for about 2 minutes, until the corn is just tender.

Add the blanched gnocchi and toss well to coat with the corn and brown butter. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt, and add the mushrooms. Toss to combine, and heat the mushrooms through. Add the parsley. Arrange the gnocchi on a large platter, and shower the toasted breadcrumbs over the top.

This is probably where I should mention that the recipe says it serves 6, and there were just three of us for dinner. Lyle and I had left overs twice later in the week so technically that would 7 servings.
For tonight's purposes Lyle divided the skewers by item to get more uniformity per item. You know, sometimes you want your peppers cooked more but the shrimp is already done and so you compromise and get over cooked shrimp and under cooked peppers. Not this way.
The gnocchi was harder and easier than Lyle had thought it would be. He complained while dong it and then when finished said, "That wasn't so bad." But oh my, the taste. The taste was worth it. The gnocchi alone was delicious. Light olive oil with some salt and pepper. Consider that good and done. But then we added the chantarelles, corn and sage brown butter. We decided it could have used either more mushrooms or less corn. And I could have had more of the delicious sage in brown butter. Well just the term brown butter made you know I would like it.

And now for dessert... Plum Tarte Tatin. Lyle started cooking dessert and when his caramelized butter and sugar mixture went awry he announced that he was throwing it all out and there would be no dessert. That's when I took over.


I hate to fail. Why do I keep subjecting myself to these experiments in the kitchen? Why, when Lyle - who is taking a professional cooking class - gives up, do I think "Oh well, I could still do that better..." Why do I share the rest of the tale with you even though I think we all know going in to this, that it is not going to end well?

Plum tarte tatin with creme fraiche

3 pounds plums, halved and pitted
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 sheet frozen all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 cup creme fraiche

1. Toss the plums with 1/4 cup sugar and let sit at least 30 minutes. Drain, and discard juice or use for another purpose.
2. In a 10-inch cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet, heat the butter until foaming, then add 3/4 cup sugar. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, swirling the pan often, until caramel is a deep brown. Remove from the heat.
3. Arrange the plums, cut side down, in tight concentric circles, in the pan, overlapping them slightly if necessary.
4. Return the pan to a medium-low burner. Cook the plums without stirring for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool completely. (For best results refrigerate for at least 2 hours.)
5. When ready to bake the tart, set the oven at 375 degrees. Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and leave to thaw just until you can handle it. Cut an 11-inch circle from the pastry, pierce it in a few places with a fork, and place it on top of the plums, tucking in the edges. Brush it with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
6. Bake the tart for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the pastry is deep golden and cooked throughout. Cool it on a rack for 30 minutes.
7. When ready to serve, invert the tart onto a serving plate, readjust plums if they have fallen out of place, and serve with creme fraiche.

Adapted from "Sunday Suppers at Lucques"
Recipe from an article at "what I cooked on my summer vacation"

I swear I followed the recipe.

The caramelizing of the sugar also went poorly for me. I kept going. The plums felt very ripe. I kept going. The puff pastry didnt' go all the way to the edge. I kept going. I followed each and every step of the recipe. At the appropriate hour I pulled out my tarte et, Voila! The picture looks amazing!!!
We looked at it and breathed in the aroma of baked fruit, sugar and filo dough... and we all agree, "I'd eat that." Lyle dips a spoon in on the side and says, "I think the sugar stuff got burnt. It's not horrible, but it's definitely burnt."

Well shit.

We go back to finishing our meal and I let the tarte sit in the pan to cool and set up.

Dinner done, the half an hour "setting time" completed I decide it is time to flip the tarte and see what will happen. I make everyone at the table promise to stay out of the kitchen and let me live or die on my own with this flipping tarte. I take a large platter, place it over the saucepan and manage to get the whole thing turned over intact. (By the way, the recipe called for using a heavy cast iron pan and if I added that to the weight of the dessert how on Earth would I have managed to flip it over? The saucepan I used was probably a fourth of that weight and I could barely hold all that together and flip it.)

Luckily I did all of this next to the sink. Even before I removed the inverted saucepan the liquid was seeping out and began to run all over. Once I removed the pan all hell broke loose, a gusher of stickiness flooded my platter, my hands and my counter space, my everywhere. I broke into giggles. It looked like shit!
I tried to pour off excessive liquid, but the tarte slid fast and hard for the edge. I righted my platter, gathered about 6 tea towels to sog up the on going onslaught of goo and made my way outside to the dining table. Along the way I left a trail of sticky tears that later looked as if I had sliced open my hand and bled my way to the table.

I served it with ice cream because I am not a fan of creme fraiche.

It wasn't as bad as I thought. We all finished our servings. We all agreed it wasn't the best dessert we've had, but then again, we all finished our servings.

At Lyle's cooking class on Wednesday they were doing desserts. Lyle got to choose which recipe he wanted to do and he made.... wait... you know where I'm going don't you?

Apple Tarte Tartin.


He said he wanted to figure out how to make that damn dessert and that no dessert was going to beat him. See, someone else likes to win.

And how did his turn out? Not very good.

Do not expect a Tarte Tartin at my house anytime soon.


Rachel said...

Just make a cobbler using the puff pastry, and don't worry about all that flippin'. Just spoon it out to serve with ice cream. I vote for blackberry.

The T-Dude said...

You know, I'm not the cook you are, but when I was single, I wasn't bad. But I could never do desserts. I just quit trying. You get an A+ in my book just for trying.

Gnocchi is one of my favorite Italian dishes of all time! That looked awesome.

"Just David!" said...

Next time I'm in LA, I'll show you how to make one.

"Just David!" said...

you win, i'll mail you one!! ha!

Carolyn said...

I made ricotta Gnocci once with my Italian friend. We rolled them out on a 150 year old gnocci board that her grandmother brought over from the old country. It spoiled me for store bought gnocci forever. (And potato gnocci too. I'll never eat it again.)We made a shit-load of gnocci that day. I think we used 10 pounds of ricotta. It wasn't that bad though because we drank red wine the whole time...
If we ever make it out to Disney-fucking-land (which is what YOU called it...sounds like the attractions will be a lot different than they were at Disneyworld.) you must invite us to dinner.

Michael Guy said...

Okay. I just read this post while gnawing through a terribly dry roast turkey with munster on marble rye from the loving SEVEN-ELEVEN deli. Le sigh. Now I want grilled shrimp on a skewer; I'm afraid you've ruined me for the day.

PS - I've always known you could do tart. Just saying...

dit said...

That all sounds amazing! You inspire me Jim. So . . . . who is the Tart? lol.

I love plums, so I want to try the Plum Tarte Tartin. Really not that great? Hmmm . . . what would make it better?

You said...

I feel like I need to go on a diet just from reading this... ;)