Friday, March 12, 2010

The Things We Did and Didn't Do, the Former Being Pumpkin Fried Rice

In life, we are bound to have regrets. Using my leftover pumpkin from the pizza in my last post is not one of them. Forgetting to photo-document the show-stopping spread I cranked out last night, however, is.

So, first about the spread in question. The menu was:

Savory Cheese and Thyme Shortbread with Fleur de Sel, with the apéro

Seared Glazed Duck Breasts with Garlic-Roasted Carrots and Salad

Mini Chèvre Cheesecakes with Caramelized Pear Sauce and Fried Ginger

And I have not a single photo. So, let me describe. The shortbread cookies, or sablés as they call them here, had a delicate, buttery texture, with a little crunch from the grated parmesan, and the subtly floral, woody aroma of fresh thyme. They were perfectly salted, which has been my great battle in concocting this recipe (solution: use salted butter, and sprinkle a little Fleur de Sel on top of the cut cookies, rather than adding salt to the dough--you can't go wrong). Only complaint: the first time I attempted this recipe, I used big kosher salt, but too much, and I baked them at too cool a temperature, which made me have to bake them longer than I meant to. However, the crunch from the salt together with the slight crispness the longer baking time, plus I think a little more Emmental than this attempt, made a PERFECT TEXTURE. Seriously, the texture was unreal. Too bad they were too salty. Clément said they would take care of the humidity problem in the apartment. Ha ha. This time the salt was perfect, but the texture was a little too light and dry for me. Once I get them completely perfect, I'll be sure to post about them.

The duck was a homerun this time, thanks to these very clear instructions, as well as my own learning of the lesson that despite the fact the above recipe says to glaze immediately upon turning the breasts in the pan, YOU SHOULD NOT. The glaze warms up and dribbles down into the hot pan and burns, which is no fun for anyone. Rather, I glazed right after removing the breasts from the skillet, at resting time, and this time it went off without a hitch.

The cheesecake was a dream, if I do say so myself. I used this basic chèvre cheesecake recipe, but I didn't cook them in a bain marie, rather just cooking them in my silicon muffin pan. I also cooked them longer than the recipe suggested, so they could stand on their own, since this recipe was designed for little pots, and I wanted something firmer and freestanding. Then I just simmered pears in butter for a long time with a touch of honey until they were soft and sugary and I got a nice syrup. Then I added some lemon juice and zest to the pears for acidity, and voilà. I also discovered that frying ginger is a delicious idea, and it added a nice little crunch. I just have to practice my technique, it came out a tad overfried (read: we had some blackage).

But, alas, no pictures.

What I do have a picture of his today's lunch, so I'll talk about that now.

So I have this bone to pick with fried rice. I know you're supposed to use cooled rice that was ideally made a day beforehand, because otherwise your fried rice is too smooshy, blah blah. But I LIKE my fried rice smooshy. What's wrong with smooshy? Some of the best foods are smooshy.

[How many times do you think I can use the word "smooshy" in this post?]

Anyway, I just hate fried rice that's dry, it kills my buzz. In my book, dry is a million times worse than smooshy. So, I never heed that little piece of advice. Instead, I make my rice on the spot, set it aside as I prepare the trimmings, and then put it right back on the heat. And guess what else! I use STICKY RICE, so it's even smooshier!! Sometimes I even don't cook the egg all the way, so that it will be extra wet and smooshy. Take that, conventional fried rice wisdom. I think my take on fried rice is more like a skillet version of dolsot bibimbap. And as with a good hot bibimbap, it can sometimes be nice to overcook your smooshy fried rice on the bottom, so you get that crispy, browned skin to eat as well.

Today I sautéed shallots, garlic, and lots of diced ginger in some grapeseed oil, then added about a cup of cooked pumpkin, and one diced hot red pepper. I added an egg and my small bowl of cooked sticky rice, mixed it all around on medium heat, then seasoned with a dash of rice vinegar, a splash of sesame oil, and a generous smattering of soy sauce. I stirred it around a bit more, and then I ate it. It was nice and smooshy, and the ginger was crisp, and with a glass of lager-style beer, I had a lovely lunch that was everything I hoped it'd be.

[Answer: 10 times.]

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