"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bobcats Post Dump

Because I am the worse blogger in the world, I have neglected to update the Bobcat Chronicles, and I know all three of my readers are feeling the lack. So here are some reports to bring everyone up to date.

Les Chats de Robert Go Frenchified
We had decided to go regional/country French, and loosely settled on Provence. We started the evening with savory Quiche Lorraine, paired with Patricia Wells's Chanteduc Rainbow Olive Collection, which figured into another of the evening's recipes. Our specialty cocktail of the evening was French Martinis, with an alternative beverage choice of Raspberry Lemonade. Of course Edith Piaf and accordion music were in heavy rotation on the playlist.

Our main meal centered on another Patricia Wells dish, tuna daube in a sauce of red wine, garlic, tomatoes, olives, and onion. With this we had a spectacularly rich potato gratin, grilled asparagus with vinaigrette marinade and Parmesan, and salad. We followed this with an expertly curated cheese course, complete with breads, fruits, and all luxe accompaniments. Because we had not consumed all the calories in the world, we then moved on to dessert of the world's most divine dark chocolate tart, paired with lavender-honey ice cream, and silky creme brulee. Wine? It goes without saying. Also muscato.

The most amazing part of all? We finished virtually everything, a Bobcats first.

We Deep Fry Everything Imaginable
From the sublimely sophisticated to the pinnacle of downhome goodness, we decided to mix it up and go for a Festival of Deep Frying. It's hard to be exhaustive with a list of what hit the hot oil, but the meal started with appetizers of mozzarella with marinara, chunks of mac & cheese (amazing), taquitos, spring rolls, jalapeno poppers, mushrooms with homemade ranch dressing, plantains, and hushpuppies with choice of hot sauce or maple butter.

Then it was time for the serious eating -- good thing we had invited all our kids to participate. Main dishes included
chicken, chicken fingers, halibut, french fries, corn dogs, tempura asparagus with herb mayo and lemon mayo, crimson cole slaw, cucumber salad, and green salad with feta. Of course no deep frying extravaganza would be complete without the entire party gathered around the fryer, giddily battering and frying every conceivable sweet. Dessert was consumed on a grease-stained square of butcher paper and eaten off of paper towels in the garage, mortifying our hostess. What we fried: Oreos, Nutter Butters, Devil Dogs, Twinkies, Milky Ways, mini fruit pies, ice cream balls, ice cream sandwiches, chocolate-chocolate chunk cookies, everything covered with clouds of powdered sugar. To wash it down we had a bowl of fruit salad, which my little asked if we were going to deep fry (no, even we have limits).

At the end of it all we were all desperately in need of a facial and swore to never eat again. Of course within minutes we were thinking of all the things we didn't fry, and will have to include next year -- calamari, falafel, corn fritters, apple fritters, chicken fried steak, churros, zeppole, doughnuts....

A Tour of Asia
For a perfect summer dinner, we gathered for pan-Asian grilling. We started on the patio of our hosts with an assortment of appetizers -- shrimp summer rolls, five-spice ahi tuna, beef satay, minced pork in lettuce cups. To drink, Singapore Slings, Asian beers of many nations, and lemonade. We inhaled that and moved inside.

Our main course was centered on a spectacular assortment of meat -- grilled beef with two marinades, chicken satay with Thai peanut sauce, pad thai with chicken, sauteed string beans, and Thai cucumber salad. Copious amounts of sake.

For dessert, which we enjoyed outside, we had the world's most gorgeous and fluffy coconut cake, which was presented as a birthday cake for me. Haven't had such a charming birthday celebration in years. We had that with pina colada sorbet, fruit skewers, coffee, and green tea.

Up Next
And that brings us up to date. We will gather again in September for a culinary exploration of Louisiana -- Cajun, Creole, and New Orleans inspirations.

Notes from the Tomato Garden

The tomatoes are now tantalizingly appearing. I say "tantalizing" because with the exception of two medium-size yellow ones, nothing is ready for picking and eating yet. I expect we'll once again have our "all at once" glut in the coming weeks, where I find myself pressing papers bags of tomatoes on friends and neighbors, until the end of the season comes where I harvest the half-ripened stuff left around and turn it into chutney.

Pictured below is what we are expecting this year. I'm dubious about the Flamme (the orange ones) -- the catalog copy said they were like my beloved Sungolds, but a little bigger than a cherry tomato, and quite prolific. What I'm seeing so far is a much bigger fruit, and of course where they're bigger you don't get quite so many of them, but we shall see. I love The Tasteful Garden where I get my plants, and their customer service is incredible, but last year what I thought were going to be Green Zebras turned out to be the even tastier (but not green) Black Zebras. Ah, the mysteries and excitement of gardening.

At any rate, if all goes well we should be enjoying some exceptionally tasty and amazingly colorful heirloom tomato salads, with or without the spectacular fresh mozzarella we get at North Shore Farms in town.

Yellow Taxi:
Black Cherry:


Green Giant:

Saturday, July 24, 2010


So since macarons are the new cupcakes, Ms. Cake and I signed up to take a class at ICE on how to make them. It turns out that they're the most finicky cookies imaginable, and if you ask 30 pastry chefs how to do it you'll get at least 30 different answers.

But we paired up and persevered. Ms. Cake and I were assigned to make orange-flower-scented macarons with a turkish delight filling. The cookies themselves proved more comprehensible to make once we launched in -- we used the Swiss method of making the meringue, which involves whisking the eggwhites and sugar over a double boiler for a few minutes before whipping -- and we were pleased with the way they turned out. Nice rise, a smooth surface, and a classic "foot" at the base. They were a little underdone, though, so we put them back in the oven to dry out a bit, at which point they got a bit browned, but since they were tinted orange it didn't really matter.

The filling turned out to be a bit of a problem, despite the help of an assistant instructor, because the recipe neglected to incorporate a key ingredient in the instructions, and the chef instructor (whose recipe it was) was less than helpful. But we managed, and then managed to coat ourselves in sticky perfumed gel as we filled our cookies.

In the end, some groups had more success than others, but as the chef helpfully pointed out, while it's nice to achieve the perfect look, they still taste good no matter what. We divided the spoils to take home, which included German chocolate, lime with lime meringue, raspberry with raspberry ganache, rose with chocolate-raspberry ganache, and hazelnut with hazelnut-chocolate ice cream, which of course were consumed on the spot.

We look forward to future experimentation, at which point my kitchen and dining room will inevitably be draped with endless parchment sheets of piped-out meringue in unnatural colors. Can hardly wait.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Okay, Okay

I know, I've been lax. I owe a full recap of Les Chats de Robert and will bring it soon, along with a full, illustrated report on today's extravaganza entitled Five Hours of Deep Frying. I neglected to bring the pore-unclogging Noxzema, but the local cardiologists are going to be able to buy some very lovely summer homes this year. Among the topics of discussion: what can we fry next year, and should we all go in on a smoker.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cooking a la Fronchie

The Bobcats gourmet club has a week to go until our next dinner, and we're hosting Chez Gateau. Theme is regional/rustic French. Menu shaping up as follows:

French martinis (a favorite of one Bobcat)
Light hors d'oevure, perhaps a little tapenade
First course of either onion soup or composed salad TBD
Tuna daube with green olives from Patricia Wells' Provence cookbook
Potato gratin
Vegetable dish TBD by Mr. Gateau
Cheese course
Massive amounts of dessert, including cake TBD, creme brulee, and honey-lavender ice cream
Wine, dessert wine, port, coffee, tea, etc.

Getting the ice cream going today.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Packages of Love

We have been invited to a Super Bowl party today where the guests are asked to bring either an appetizer or a dessert. The host said that he assumed I'd be bringing something including bacon, so obviously I have a rep to protect. So I am wrapping marinated artichoke hearts in bacon and broiling, one of the hit dishes at the Bobcats tapas dinner. Should be simple and tasty.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Los Gatos de Roberto do tapas

The Bobcats, or in keeping with our Spanish theme, Los Gatos de Roberto, gathered late-ish on Friday night for an evening of tapas, which may have been our most successful dinner yet, if only because we finally all seemed to get over our baser instincts to double or triple every recipe we prepared. Maybe it's just the long graze that tapas is all about, but we seem to have figured out how to supply a luxurious dinner without drowning in leftovers. It's just too bad we were all too focused on making fantastic food for anyone to have remembered to bring a camera, so no photos this time.

For the first wave, we settled into the living room with glasses of white wine sangria and a table covered with mostly cold dishes, though the hot artichokes wrapped in bacon were a clear hit, as were the cheese-filled empanadas. With those were wedges of manchego with slices of quince paste, green olives stuffed with white anchovies, and platters of jamon.

With the remnants of that on the table, we moved into the dining room for the more substantial dishes, these served with bottles of rioja and dry sherry. Two types of tortilla, one with chorizo and one without, were accompanied by garlic shrimp, sherry-garlic mushrooms, patatas bravas, white asparagus in vinaigrette, and meatballs in a caramelized apple-sherry vinegar sauce. We capped that off with three desserts -- milk custard (served plain, rather than fried, when the frying didn't go well), burnt orange caramel ice cream, and Mexican churros with chocolate dipping sauce.

It was delicious, but even as we enjoyed our desserts, we were planning the next gathering. On February 27, Les Chats de Robert will meet for country French.