Well since tonight I had leftovers for dinner (see yesterday’s post about the scallop risotto) I figured it would be fun to try and create a simple dessert. In this instance I decided to go with a nice chocolate mousse.
For my own personal tastes, I’m more into the darker, bitter chocolates as opposed to the lighter milk chocolate types. So I used a 70% extra bitter chocolate for the mousse. For some strange reason lately I’ve had this craving, if you have ever had the Lindt Chocolate bars they make one with Chili Pepper and it is delicious. I decided to go with that concept and when I was blending the mousse, I had cut up (and de-seeded) one dried chili pepper. For the mousse I started off with some milk, a few tablespoons of sugar and some cinnamon on the stove top, heated up until it got warm and the sugar dissolved. This was then added to my blender cup which contained the chocolate and chili pepper and was quickly blended for a few seconds to mesh it all together. At that point, I then added a few egg whites (I approximated it as I have the carton of egg whites in my refrigerator somewhere around 3 or so). This was all then blended for a solid 1-2 minutes without stopping. It was then poured into the serving glasses, covered with plastic wrap and left in the refrigerator for approximately 2.5-3 hours.
The fun came with making the cream. Since I had some mascarpone from a previous project (see raviolis), I used it as a base for the cream sauce. Really all you do is take a quarter cup mascarpone, I added some orange liquor for flavor (optional…felt it would bode well with the dark chocolate-chili pepper combo). This is then mixed together until smooth. I then added a pinch of orange peel, a half cup of whipping cream and then mix and whisk together until it thickens. I then set it in the refrigerator until ready. After I added the cream to the mousse I then added some berries.
Wasn’t up to the weather this past week so had to take a bit of a break from my normal cooking routine. To get back into the swing of things I figured I’d keep it a little simpler and go with a risotto.
Typically in a lot of cases, the arborio rice is cooked in a type of stock, usually chicken or vegetable depending upon what is being done with the risotto. In this case however, since I was going with a scallop-based risotto I wanted to go with a flavor that didn’t detract from that of the scallops and more or less blended in more. As opposed to using as general stock I had actually taken pieces from a bacon slab (end pieces) and simmered them to obtain the juices. This along with some seasonings was the basis for the “stock”.
The scallops themselves were initially pan seared in some oil until lightly browned and then placed in the oven on the warm setting to keep them that way. The asparagus spears were seared in a skillet as well to give them a “grilled” flavor.
The arborio rice was initially places into the oil along with some onion and other spices and simmered on low heat for a minute or two. I then added a few ounces of dry white wine and raised the heat to a medium temperature for a few minutes. Every few minuted thereafter, I added a little less than a cup of water to cook the arborio until it was cooked nicely and absorbed the water with a little excess as you do not want it to dry out (whole process took between 20-25 minutes).
When there was about 3-5 minutes left in the process, I had added the scallops into the mix and mixed the risotto thoroughly. At this time I had also added a little bit of a romano/parmesan blend as well. Upon completion, I scooped it out into the bowl and added the seared asparagus spears. As the risotto is a heavier dish, for a side I just made a small mixed green salad which I used a little olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon, smoked salt, and some Hungarian sweet paprika to flavor.
A lot of times on the weekends I am not always around to cook or come up with masterpieces. In this case I will give a short review of a place I had dined at back in the fall so if you happen upon the Southern New Jersey area, “The Little Tuna” is a fine, quaint restaurant to dine at.
A little background of the area, Haddonfield is a nice historic town which has numerous street shops so you can walk around and shop in a nice rural environment- versus going to a mall.
The restaurant “The Little Tuna” itself is as the name may suggest specialize in a variety of seafood inspired dishes (as well as catering to those who may not be as keen on seafood).
One thing I like is the variety. Starting from the appetizers ranging from traditional plates such as mini crab cakes, clams casino, shrimp, soups and salads to having a raw bar, there is something for everyone.
Being how I was with Jenn I couldn’t do anything too exotic so we went with the flash fried calamari and marinara sauce. The calamari was very tasty as it did not have too much breading nor was it cooked to the point where it gets on the rubbery side. Marinara sauce is marinara sauce so not too much to say with that, it was good, but nothing saying excitement like in some restaurants that offer a horseradish or wasabi based sauce. Very good product none-the-less.
For my main dish I had ordered the Pan Seared Wasabi Tuna which was done to perfection. The wasabi coating added a nice spice but was not overpowering as to take away from the taste of the tuna. The sesame ginger broth was a nice compliment to the dish as well as the ginger blends well with the wasabi spiciness.
All around the visit was pleasant and exceptional. The wait staff was good and the feel of a “small-town” restaurant is nice when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle and just sit down and enjoy a peaceful meal. Another nice aspect of the dining experience is when the weather gets warmer they have nice outdoor seating as well to take in the fresh summer air.
For tonight, I will post a very nice dessert that can be done a variety of different ways depending on your mood, seasonal fruits, etc… Crepes are an amazing menu item as they can be utilized for a variety of concepts ranging from breakfast and lunch items and even for desserts (as in this case).
My basic batter (as it is just cooking for myself so I do not need to make a whole lot) is as follows:
Half cup of flour
Approx. 2/3 cup whole milk
1 tbsp butter
Vanilla Extract (Optional)
Saigon Cinnamon (Optional)
These are all mixed together thoroughly and then let to sit for one hour before making the crepes in 8 inch pan.
For the banana topping, I sliced up 1 and a half bananas. Put them in a deep skillet, added some butter, some brown sugar, and a pinch of triple sec. These are then heated up to the point where you can then add the Brandy (Viewer Discretion: I have included a photo of this part of the process. I do not condone you in any way to take photos while you are igniting the bananas as I did).
You would then let the flames go until they are out and finish the process until bananas are slightly browned.
For the sauce, which was fairly simple I used some apricot preserves, a tbsp. of olive oil and some triple sec. These are then put on the stove and heated up until nice and warm. The bananas are placed over the crepes followed by the apricot-citrus sauce.
Contrary to the many people I know and hear talk about chicken to cook with, I would take the thigh (in my instance boneless thighs) over the breasts any day of week (well except for chicken parmesan). The thighs are a much more flavorful and juicier part of the chicken and the fact of them not being nearly as thick not only means a quicker cooking time, but a variety of options when it comes to cooking them.
As you can see by the picture I had oven roasted the chicken and for a side I sauteed both red pepper and green squash. One of the things I like most with boneless thighs is the versatility. They can be cooked all on their own, either in the oven grilled, etc. or in this case due to their “boneless-ness” and being on the thinner side I had previously stuffed them with cheese and mushroom. For seasoning I created a curry style rub to create a little spice. Then just put in the oven and cook. For the vegetables I just cut up a red pepper and a green squash used a little oil and some seasoning and sauteed them. The lighter and sweeter flavors of these particular vegetables bode well as a nice contrast coming from the curry spices on the chicken.
A lot of time I make stuff up as I go along so in a lot of instances I can’t really say “I’m making Chicken Cordon Bleu or Chicken Parmesan” so I try and compare it to something of the sort that a lot of people may know and can associate my dishes with in one sense or another.
In this case I had taken a chicken breast, butterfly cut it and added in broccoli and a sharp cheddar. Easy enough to coat the chicken, I used one egg, and then panko bread crumbs (I like the crunchier coating it gives more than regular bread crumbs). You can leave it at this or add some seasoning on top (I did some pepper and rosemary). This can then be put into the oven casserole and baked until the chicken is cooked. For a thicker piece like this and having the vegetable inside, I use a little bit of oil and also some water in the bottom of the dish (doesn’t stick and has a bit of a steam affect and doesn’t burn the outside of the chicken with the breadcrumb mixture. For a sauce, all I took was a mustard that I had, some garlic and added some red wine to add a bit of a zest and to make it more saucy as opposed to being thick like a mustard.
For the potatoes, I just cut them in half, put them in the skillet and heated them in some oil. For my personal tastes, I seasoned with smoked sea salt and some thyme (but you can utilize whatever spices you desire. Initially I cover the potatoes to trap in some of the moisture for them to cook in and get tender quicker then I remove the lid and saute them until golden.
One thing that I hear a lot of people say when it comes to cooking and making dinner is how they feel that it takes a long time to make something “really good” or that they don’t have the time to prepare a full meal.
One of the things I like to do when I grocery shop is to have a game-plan for the types of meals I would like to have over the course of the next several weeks and to buy accordingly. Even though I currently live by myself in my apartment I have a tendency to either buy items in bulk or buy larger pieces of meat (about getting the better price). Also having past experience working in a meat-room for a retail store I know that for a variety of items they just cut the same piece of meat different ways, i.e. boneless pork loin doubles as numerous types of chops as well as being country style ribs (also a very easy piece of meat to cut yourself at home).
Back to the point is that I plan a variety of meals because then when I get home and unpack, I like to prep a lot of meals right then and there and then individually freeze a large variety of meals because then with work and school, I can wake up every morning pull something out of the freezer and by nigh-time I can just put it in the oven and make a quick side dish.
For this particular instance I used a pork loin which I cut into what I like to call “mini-roasts.” When I’m at the store I see whats on sale and I will pick up different fruits, vegetables, and cheeses. This particular meal can be done to your own individual liking. I already happened to have crushed walnuts from something else I had made so I took my mini-roast, cut a slit into it, like a butterfly cut, then I stuffed it with apples, fontina cheese, and crushed walnut). This then gets sealed and goes into the freezer. With a variety of vegetables you can change it up, i.e. I have some that may have different types of squash or mushrooms in them as well as other cheeses such as cheddar.
Then when it comes time to cook, I just put some oil in an oven casserole dish, put it in the oven, and prepare my sides. Tonight I went with a yellow squash. Fairly simple, I just saute the squash in olive oil with some cracked pepper and some salt. Cook until tender. The optional addition I did was a balsamic reduction sauce I made to pour on the squash (In this instance I had used a juniper-berry infused balsamic.