I am in misery, there ain’t nobody who can comfort me…
5 frustrating batches later and I’m finally starting to get the hang of making french-style macarons. There’s a longer story to my ongoing fascination that I’ll share another time, but for now let’s just say that I’m enamored by the science behind these temperamental almond biscuits. …And I might have an addiction problem with hazelnut-coffee buttercream.
I’m collecting my lessons learned and will share when I can reliably make “perfect” macarons. So before that time in the distant future, I thought I’d first share a pic of this “milestone” where everything came together, albeit far from perfect. Like an Obama oratory, these macarons appear great on the surface but are sadly hollow on the inside. But at least I’ve narrowed down the number of my issues and have an idea on how to solve them (move somewhere with lower humidity).
For those interested in learning more about making macarons, I highly highly recommend the french macaron how-to guide from Not so Humble Pie.
“Have you chosen a name?” is now the most popular question asked by friends and family. Since we still have two months to go, G and I aren’t too worried that we haven’t come up with the perfect name. Technically, we also have two weeks after birth to pick a name and turn in Jr’s registration papers. So it may come to down to pulling an all-nighter before the deadline, furiously brainstorming over a pot of coffee (just like my college days).
Naming is an important task. In the hierarchy of ways to emotional traumatize children, I’d rank choosing the wrong name close to the very top. Other kids can be very creative in coming up with not-so-nice nicknames, so it’s no wonder that there are scores of websites and books available to help keep parents from inadvertently choosing names like Richard, Woody, or Fanny. In fact the last chapter of Freakonomics discusses the socio-economic impact a name has, and the importance of timeliness.
I made a duck breast confit ala sous vide the other night using some leftover duck fat (more on that in a future post). This was the first time cooking the breast meat (as well as deboning an entire duck), and it couldn’t have turned out better. The meat was evenly cooked, incredibly juicy and tender. Normally picky cousin L ate half of the plate for her dinner, and G skipped the sauce that I made. This will definitely be a repeat dish.
Instructions: Dry rub duck breasts with salt, pepper, and thyme for 24 hours. Sous vide 57.5 °C for two hours in duck fat. Then pan fry to crisp the skin. Enjoy!
G and I were in the mood for French when I remembered a tucked away restaurant near my old office. The lunch menu looked interesting and the reviews generally positive. Curiosity is as good a reason to try a restaurant, and voila! A new (old) place that we can recommend for lunch. It’s always a treat to dine at places that for one reason or another are no longer in the limelight, but still produce good meals. The crowd wasn’t in force when we visited, perhaps a victim of location, but it was nice to have a cosy lunch for two.
Capricci serves up an amazingly succulent and tender 1.2 kg prime rib á la florentine that you can cut with a butter knife (which they provide for this dish). But this isn’t the only reason to bring a group of friends to this cosy yet upscale eatery. Upon entering, you are likely to be warmly welcomed by the owner, Massimo, while Chef Luca personally takes your order, just a touch of traditional Italian hospitality. Likewise, the staff here have also been well-trained and are efficient and friendly. Finishing up the trifecta of reasons to visit is the very reasonable pricing for the meal offered.
We’ve been worrying about the size of our belly/baby even though the gynae said that we’re within the average range. At the same time, we’ve also been wondering whether our son should be kicking more especially since we’re supposed to be monitoring his kicks regularly from now on. I guess such is the fate of parenthood; the beginning of a lifetime of worrying about everything and anything.
The app we’re using (BabyBump) has a kick counter that helps to record up to 10 kicks or 2 hours, whichever comes first. We’re planning to start counting at least every other day before or after dinner time.
In the meantime, we’re looking forward to our next gynae visit in Week 29. Our gynae, Dr Ann Tan, doesn’t have any packages so we have to pay for each visit as we go along. She also only operates at Mount Elizabeth hospital (not exactly one of the cheapest places to deliver) so we have been (and will continue) burning quite a substantial hole in our pockets. However, she is very recognized in her field of expertise and I feel more comfortable with her, despite her no-nonsense approach, than my previously also-renowned gynae.
One thing that G and I miss from San Fran is the plethora of taquerias and taco trucks. There’s nothing quite so tasty as a juicy carne asada taco with a side of fresh pico de gallo and a lime. So when we had some uncooked tenderloin, I thought to whip us up a reminder of home. Since G prefers a bit more “ingredients”, I decided to make fajitas instead. The most important components for a good fajita (to us) are the guacamole, pico de gallo, and of course the carne asada. Other nice-to-haves include sauteed onions and bell peppers, shredded cheese, and sour cream.
Typically a cheaper cut of beef, namely flank steak, is used since the marinade will soften the meat after a few hours. No Recipes has a great recipe, especially if you plan to use it for tacos, check it out here. Since I’m making fajitas and will have salsa and guacamole, I prefer to use a simpler marinade. Continue reading
I was planning to sous vide another batch of pork belly when G pointed me to a (then recent) post on making sio bak (aka siew yuk) from I Eat I Shoot I Post. Hmm… same meat and cut, can brine with the same spices, and both are superb in part because of the texture contrast. Hence the birth of the sous vide roast pork (烧肉) frankenrecipe. The end result is a roast that is incredibly moist and buttery soft ala sous vide combined with the crisp crunchy crust of a traditional siew yuk.
Wholly unnecessary? Probably. Oh-so tasty? Definitely!
To familiarize myself with how to make traditional siew yuk, I did a quick search to learn how others approached this dish. It turns out there are more home recipe variations than there are dialect names (and spellings) for this roasted delicacy. In the end, I stuck with I Eat’s directions because of its elegant simplicity (though the photos for this other recipe are damn inspiring).
I managed to weather the great cupcake fad of 2008/9 without ever having to try or learn to bake any. However, thanks to G, I’ve regrettably succumbed to the macaron craze that’s spread worldwide with the virulence of the Macarena. My culinary interests are normally related to savory solids and sweet liquids, but since I had an opportunity to take a class at ToTT on macarons and prove a point (G doesn’t believe that I can follow recipes), I decided to learn all I could about these mercurial meringues.
Approaches for making the perfect macaron are as varied and confusing as the debate over whether it’s ok to refer to these confectioneries as macaroons (my spell checker refuses to acknowledge macarons). A quick search online turned up dozens of recipes and tips from which meringue type to use to proper oven baking and cooling techniques. In this ToTT class, Chef Mimi Wahadi of the 1-Rochester group taught us how to make macarons using a Swiss meringue* and very straightforward baking approach. Continue reading
… you take the opportunity to experiment. Scallops (specifically Hokkaido-originated ones) are at the top of G and I’s favorite seafood list, so it was with mixed emotions that the family was recently “gifted” with a large bag of frozen jumbo scallops. As fans of Top Chef might recall, this particular shellfish is a very different ingredient to work with frozen, and taste-wise they just can never compare to the “fresh” alternatives.