Showing posts from December, 2006

Mogador Cake and Pear Charlotte

My friend Yvonne took a summer course in French pastry at the famous French culinary institute Le Cordon Bleu Paris. And we got together to make some of the beautiful classic cakes -- Mogador cake and pear charlotte. A Mogador cake has a chocolate sponge cake bottom, imbibed (a culinary term I just learned, meaning saturated/soaked) with raspberry syrup, topped with a layer of raspberry jam, then a layer of chocolate mousse, and finally a glossy raspberry jam glaze. A pear charlotte is mainly a pear mousse cake, consisting of whipped cream, pureed poached pears, and dissolved gelatin and surrounded by freshly baked lady fingers. We made several mistakes and learned some interesting baking lessons. The Mogador cake came out tasting and looking great regardless of the errors. We were afraid the pear mousse was not going to solidify, so we reconstructed it into a multi-ramekin dessert. Important notes:

1. The sponge cake batter for the Mogador cake required first whisking eggs and sugar o…

Comfortable and relaxing dining environment

This is one of many unique and fun restaurants in Taipei. Tables are low on the ground, and diners sit freely around it on cushions. The cuisine is Chinese dishes with a modern twist. But this place is also famous for traditional Chinese pastries. The price is pretty cheap -- around $10-$15 for a meal set, which includes some salad, small appetizers, the main dish, and dessert. What I like best is its relaxing environment, perfect for private conversations or group gatherings. Why couldn't there be more of this kind of places in New York?

Chef sizes

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the celebrity TV cook show chefs. Oh, be warned, this is a gossipy entry with my personal opinions. Don’t take it too seriously :-)In the last post I praised Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe. Her show Everyday Italian is a very entertaining show. Her techniques are sound (she went to culinary school) and she has a well-meaning approach to introducing each dish. And all the food looks very very tasty. But I just have one problem with her – she looks so pretty, and she is very skinny. I know I should not be one to judge, me being very thin on a very fat diet after all. But I just can’t help but suspect that she might have food issues. I wonder if she just doesn’t eat very much. Another skinny chick is Sandra Lee, whose show is just god-awful. Crab bisque with canned crab meat? Chili made with boxed chili mix dumped into a crock pot? This woman is a hack! The name is terrible too – semi-homemade. Why not just call it Mostly Industrialized Crap Slapp…

Fish Soup

After several bizarre 70 degree December days, the Northeast finally settled back down to its normal chilly wintry self. It is so satisfying to listen to the wuthering winds and watching bare tree branches swaying to and fro, knowing that you are kept safe and warm within the nicely heated apartment. And you can spend the rest of the day curling up on the couch in your PJs, reading a book with a cup of hot cocoa in hand. But to make dinner you have to brave the freezing windchill to buy food! Don’t fret. Soup is the answer to a day like this, warming you from the inside out, even if the bitter cold has chilled into the bones.Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network made a wonderful Italian fish soup, not unlike the famous French Bouillabaisse. Following her recipe, we built the soup base with onions, fennel bulb, and tomato paste. Earlier, I simmered a fish stock with a piece of freezer-burned fish filet and a bag of shrimp shells from months ago. Like chicken stock, fish stock benefit…

Kitchen Myths

There are many kitchen myths. Here are some:

- I am so sick of these cooking show hosts saying that by measuring oil (or spraying non-stick cooking spray) first before measuring honey or corn syrup, the greased surface of the cup or the spoon will make the honey/syrup come out completely non-stick. This is just simply not true, and can be easily experimented by anyone.

-when making blueberry cakes, toss the blueberries with some flour so that their coated surfaces will make them stay suspended in the batter while they bake. NOT TRUE! They will sink if they have a higher density than the batter because the flour coating easily incorporates into the batter anyway.

-A piece of steak nicely seared with a crust will seal in the moisture and become more juicy -- also not true. Honestly, who thought that a crust, which is merely made of proteins, carbohydrates, and fat, can form a water-tight barrier? The key to a juicy steak is to undercook it and let it rest before cutting. A brown crust adds…