Monday, May 3, 2010

BRUNCH PARTY! + Mini Chèvre Cheesecakes with Strawberry Coulis

It's Spring, it's Sunday, and we had friends in town. What better occasion for a BRUNCH PARTY?

Hoping to wow said friends with my sparkling culinary wit and American brunching know-how, as soon as we decided that the BRUNCH PARTY would be held chez Clément and I, which happened Friday evening when I got home from work, I immediately started planning the menu. Sundays can sometimes be a little tricky for errands, and Saturday was May 1st (French Labor Day), so forget doing major shopping then, as many shops are closed. I had to get the ball rolling, as they say. And roll it did.

Until, of course, I came home from the store starving and sleepy, and pretty much ate dinner and went to bed. It pretty much stopped rolling then.

But then, like a Brunching Superhero, I woke up early Saturday morning, bought the couple of ingredients I couldn't find and/or forgot to buy on Friday (all while fending off aggressive Lily-of-the-Valley hustlers, the relentless May Day flower pushers that come out once a year--ok, maybe they're 7 years old, but that's no excuse), and did some preparation work so that Sunday would go smoothly, even after a night of endless sangria at our favorite tapas place.

And smoothly it went, indeed. Dessert done in advance, all we had to do this morning was whip up hollandaise sauce, make biscuits, fry potatoes, and poach eggs. Considering we were a team of 4, this was pretty manageable.

My goal was to make Eggs Benedict, but over chive biscuits instead of English Muffins. However, we deemed the cutting in half of said biscuits too risky, as they were rather smaller than I had imagined them, and would not have very gracefully survived the surgery. So, I settled on a more deconstructed version of the dish, serving the biscuits on the side. The biscuits were great. I got them from Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Buttermilk and Chive Biscuits, but used soured milk in the place of buttermilk (you know, the tablespoon of lemon juice in the cup of milk and wait one minute trick).

We started by snacking on Virginia Peanuts brought from home, and pink radishes with butter and a mixture of fleur de sel and smoked paprika. I got the idea of the salt/paprika mix from this recipe for Avocado and Radish Canapés with Smoked Salt, which I made a couple of weeks ago and can heartily recommend that you try, especially seeing as it's prime radish season. And don't throw away the leaves, make the radish leaf pesto instead!

So then for the main dish, we had poached eggs over canadian bacon with hollandaise sauce, chive biscuits, home-fried potatoes, and a green salad. I unfortunately don't have any pictures of this, as I was busily poaching and doling out eggs, and then eating them. But I do have Clément's trusty recipe for home-fried potatoes, or simply "potatoes" in French (fast-food restaurants use the English word "potatoes" for the "rustic fries," and it's caught on). Then next is the recipe for dessert.

Potatoes façon Clément 

Cut your desired quantity of potatoes (a type that fries well) into bite-sized pieces, peeling them if desired. Put them in a tupperware container or other lightweight container that closes tightly. Add a small amount of oil, close lid and shake until coated. Then pour in enough flour to coat, and whatever spices you like (paprika, cayenne, cumin is a good start) with salt and pepper. Close the lid and shake again until coated.

Heat 1/2 inch oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. When hot enough that a potato sizzles when you put it in, add your potatoes. Fry until golden brown on one side, then flip and repeat.

Drain on paper towels.

Mini Chèvre Cheesecakes with Strawberry Coulis

I followed the same chèvre cheesecake recipe as usual, but this time I topped it with a strawberry coulis (it's strawberry season!). Instead of making a crust, I served the cheesecakes with a speculos cookie. Let me just say that strawberry coulis is amazing and takes all of 10 minutes to make.

Cheesecake (slightly modified from the Becks & Posh recipe)
8 oz fresh chèvre
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup crème fraîche
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C.

Mix the chèvre and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the crème fraîche, then add the eggs one by one, mixing in between each addition.

With a ladle, pour batter into silicon muffin tins*. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheesecakes start to rise and swell. The outside should be well set, and the inside should still jiggle when the pan is shaked.

Remove from oven and let cool, then turn muffin pan over onto a plate to remove the cakes.

*I use silicone muffin tins. I imagine that nonstick ones might work, but otherwise it could be easier to simply bake them in a small, muffin-sized vessel from which you could eat them directly, like a small ramekin.

Strawberry Coulis (recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini)
250 grams strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp water

Wash strawberries and cut off the green tops. Quarter them, and add to a saucepan with the water and sugar. Bring the ingredients to a simmer, then immediately turn off heat and throw it all in a blender. Blend to smooth, allow to cool.

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