Monday, February 19, 2007

cheese biscuits

I think Jasmine and I became friends because of these cheese biscuits. In fact, I ate them so much last fall, I do believe they were reasons for my ability to perservere through a difficult teaching assignments as well as my digestive downfall. I arrived at the doctor's office last winter and she asked if I ate many bread products and in my mind flashed the biscuits, 3-4 at a time, days a time. I admit this publicly only because they are that delicious, that soft on the inside and crumbly on the outside, streaks of cheddar running through them and fresh out of the oven, with a pat of butter melting lusciously on the inside, there's not much else you can ask for.

Essentially, I've been using this recipe
- it's in the Gourmet cookbook, but I think I was using a similar one, but different, previously. Fickle about onion family as I am, I always leave out the scallions. This week, because I had Montgomery's Cheddar left over from The Dairy Queens, I used this. It made the biscuits so earthy and complex, each bite barely needed the pat of butter.

My excuse last week was that we were having Black Bean Chili (also from Gourmet, published from San Francisco's Greens Restaurant) and they would go well with it. Meanwhile, all week I was scooping out my chili with tortilla chips and savoring 3 biscuits for breakfast. I'm so obsessive about them, they might as well be labeled 'mine' in the freezer where I put them to stay fresh until I pull them out, barely days later, to re-heat while I shower and get ready for work.

Make these, I dare you, and your memories of Bisquick drop biscuits will disappear and every time you have cheddar in the fridge, you will find the 30 min to make them. I swear.

Salted Chocolate Caramels

It all started with Michael Recchiut's Fleur de Sel Burnt Caramel . I fell in love with the combo, came to understand that it had origins with others, and have yet to branch out because I'm so addicted to his. That said, this holiday season, I decided to try Gourmet's salted chocolate caramels. I made them amazingly perfect, the ganache frothing up in the caramel, the sea salt sitting on the chocolate, each one sitting in its own (albeit slightly greasy in a buttery way) spot in the containers for Liam's family. After everyone realized that yes, in fact, one can create caramels in the home kitchen, they were hooked too.

I made them again last night for our Dinner Club. The salt, again, seemed to be the key. Someone who didn't even like sweets was convinced to eat one, and come back again and again. Others kept taking the small pieces as they melted in chocolatey, caramely goodness with flakes of Maldon sea salt sticking to your teeth (not the caramel). I think I could've improved them slightly by letting the caramel turn 'deep golden' and what for me was most likely 'tawny' before adding ganache. I also upped the ante with Plugra, and thought this fat may have made them a bit more gooey than I had anticipated (these are the benefits of a Dinner Club with actual trained chefs!) They still taste amazing and are amazingly easy to make if you watch the caramel (and despite recipe reviews on the site, I did keep it until 255 without a problem - I had lower heat and kept them on the stove maybe twice as long as the 15 min. suggested).

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Dairy Queens, Volune 1

It took a while to get this reblochon. Earlier today, I didn't even know what it was, but before that, I dragged Liam with me to the Bowl and then out to the Cheese Board only to find that the Bowl was a crazy Sunday-ness (Liam accidentally elbowed a child in the eye in the check-out), and the Cheese Board isn't open, and La Farine doesn't have a single baguette until 1:30, and so there I am at the Cheese Shop in Rockridge with my list of cheeses straight outta the Cheese Primer, suspect enough that the guy asks, 'where did you get the idea for these cheeses?' Next thing I know, he's offering me a Sainte Maure instead of a Saint-Marcellin, and I know this is wrong because I'm supposed to bring cow's milk. Not goat.
The idea of a cheese club came about after I decided I needed to know more about cheese as my culinary goal for 2007. Jasmine and I talked about it, then Sara said she wanted to embark on a thematic project with cheese: read, experience, create. Out of this, 'cheese club' was born. (How lucky am I to have these friends?For the record, I do have a cookbook club, a book club, knitting gatherings, and used to have a craft club)So here we are today with the first meeting of The Dairy Queens, armed with cheese in one hand and Steven Jenkins The Cheese Primer in the other. We each chose one of his favorite cheeses, or one that inspired us. New Englander that I am, I went for a Somerset Cheddar. French as I try to be (not in a Franco-phile way, more like Liam is half-French and wants to move there some day so I'm trying), I got the Reblochon. My cheeses were the most boring.
Despite my aversion to the phrase 'bloomy rind,' Sara brought an amazing French goat with that part between rind and inside that we all adored. She also couldn't resist a gouda goat that was so soft and slightly piquant and creamy, that we all adored it (trying to learn from Jenkins' words AND use my own here!). Jasmine took the cake, in my cheese book, with the Sardinian pecorino with truffles. Earthy and mushroom-y and even beefy. We took chunks of La Farine's sweet batard (same incredible dough as their 5-star Rustic Baguette), and slathered with each. The cheeses were incredible enough to shadow the Medjool dates and Marcona almonds on the side.
I used to be lactose intolerant. It was a long, slow road of admission after denial, conquering the problem, and eventually, dismissing it with 8 weeks of Dr. Andrew Weil's Optimum Health (I swear). Today, as I ate each of these pieces of fromage while flipping through Jenkins' opinions on everything from Brie (not worth buying) to rind (to eat or not, you can pretty much decide yourself), I thought, "we are dorky and delicious - the Dairy Queens."