Sunday, January 07, 2007

Happy Meal

Sometimes, eating dinner, maybe something I’ve prepared quickly, or something that had to be made because something was in danger of going bad, or maybe something I made primarily for someone else, I can think of a thousand things I would really rather be eating.

Truffles, maybe. Black, earthy, smoky slivers. On some super rich and creamy risotto. Or used as the base for some sauce napping some wonderful fish.

Or fresh oysters. On large trays packed with ice. Sitting in a tablespoon of their own juice, on the half shell, waiting for me to slurp them down, one after the other.

Or a nice pate. Sinfully rich, buttery, thick. Where you can just taste the herbs, a touch of pepper, and maybe a hint of champagne beneath the liver-y wonderfulness.

Or some painfully, squeaky fresh sushi, sliced to exact geometric perfection, combined with some fish roe, and a quail egg, and tied together with some crisp seaweed.

It seems like the list is endless.

Of course, mainly because all the things I am imagining are impossible to have at that moment. Forbidden, in a sense. The more impossible it all is, the more forbidden, the more things I can think of that I would rather be eating.

That’s the easy one.

Much harder is the question – suppose nothing is impossible. What one thing would you pick. Only one. If you could have anything.

The possibilities expand out to infinity. So quickly that they seem to suck all the concrete ideas out of your head. Since everything’s possible to consider, the proposition of selecting just one thing from such a sea of possibilities is almost too difficult to comprehend. So the mind goes blank. And you sit there wondering where all those great ideas from the other day have vaporized away to.

Well, at least, that was how I felt. Fortunately, the problem was not mine.

I had been thinking about this as I was going to make a special birthday dinner for TeenBoy. And I was at a loss as to what to make. My mind had expanded to the infinite, and was useless.

He, however, answered in one second.

“Those giant meatballs you made that time, the sage ones, in marinara sauce, piled high on a sub roll, with lettuce, onion, melted cheese, those Italian peppers, and some tomatoes”.

“Oh yeah, and chocolate mousse. Not with dark chocolate (yuck!), with the sweet chocolate. And some raspberries mixed in.”

How can you know something like this? And so quickly?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to have the ingredients for all this overnighted from some exotic location. As in my mental wanderings.

So we made the gigantic meatballs with sage and rosemary. And simmered them in marinara sauce. And put them on gigantic rolls. And melted some cheese on top. And lettuce, and pepperocino. The tomatoes didn’t fit anymore.

And made mousse. With milk chocolate, not dark. Which everyone seems to like better than a cake anyways. And the mousse, as always, is almost painfully delicious. It is amazing how the addition of beaten egg whites and cream takes the chocolate to a whole new dimension.

The mousse is pretty basic, with two tricks that always makes chocolate mousse easier. I beat the egg whites with cream of tartar first, then beat the cream, and then I melt the chocolate last. So the chocolate is still as warm as possible as I fold it into the beaten items. The second trick is, Chocolate mousse always involves whisking egg yolks into the melted chocolate. Which causes the chocolate to seize up immediately and get very thick. I always reserve a few tablespoons of the cream to whisk into the chocolate egg yolk mixture, and it immediately reverts back to a smooth, creamy texture that can then be easily folded into the egg whites and whipped cream. Resulting in a luscious dessert.

And the mousse was even firm enough to hold the birthday candles.

Print Recipe

Basic Milk Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

½ pound fine milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces no larger than ¼ inch
2 cups heavy cream, ¼ cup reserved for the chocolate mixture
4 eggs, separated, and at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
Frozen raspberries, defrosted on a paper towel, for garnish

Bring the water of a double boiler or Bain Marie to a boil, and turn down the heat, keeping the water just below a simmer. Make sure the hot water does will not touch the container holding the chopped chocolate.

Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add a pinch of cream of tartar, and beat until they hold still peaks. Reserve.

With clean, chilled beaters, and in a chilled, tall container, beat the cream (except the reserved ¼ cup) until it just holds stiff peaks. Reserve

Place the chopped chocolate over the simmering water, stirring. Continue to stir until all the chocolate pieces are melted, and the mixture is smooth. Remove the chocolate from the heat. Whisk in one egg yolk at a time, incorporating the yolks as much as possible. Add the reserved ¼ cup of heavy cream, and whisk the mixture smooth.

Add a heaping tablespoon or two of both the beaten cream and the egg whites to the chocolate mixture, and combine completely. Add ½ of the remaining beated cream, and carefully fold into the chocolate. Add ½ of the remaining beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture, and carefully fold in. Add the remaining beaten cream and egg whites to the chocolate mixture, and fold carefully. Chill the mousse, covered with plastic wrap, for at least one hour. Spoon onto serving dishes, decorate with the raspverries. Seve immediately. Enjoy!

Print Recipe

Big Meatball Subs
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4 as a main course

4 pounds ground turkey
1 onion, chopped fine
1 cup parsley, chopped fine
1-2 cups panko bread crumbs – depending on if you like your meatballs meatier or breadier
3-4 eggs – use 4 if you added more bread crumbs
salt, pepper
2-3 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
2-3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
olive oil
4 cups marinara sauce
1 cup red wine
4 foot long sub rolls
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups lettuce, shredded
½ cup pepperocino, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, sliced thin

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, onion, parsley, bread crumbs, eggs, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary and thyme well. Form into 20 large balls.

Heat olive oil in 2 large skillets. Brown the meatballs over medium high heat, turning (with tongs is easiest), until browned on all sides. Pour ½ of the marinara sauce and ½ of the wine over the meatballs in each pan. Turn the meatballs to coat. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or so, covered, turning the meatballs occasionally.
While the meatballs are simmering, heat the rolls in the oven for 15 minutes at 350ºF.

Slice the rolls in half – or more clever – slice down on both sides of the top at an angle so the top comes off as a sort of shallow ‘V’. This keeps the meatballs in the roll better. Place 4-5 meatballs on each roll. Spoon sauce over the meatballs. Sprinkle each sandwich with the grated parmesan cheese. Place the sandwiches under the broiler until the cheese melts. Top the sandwiches with the shredded lettuce, pepperocino, and tomato slices. Serve immediately. Open very, very wide and enjoy!

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