Annie and Charles are back for dinner! Definitely not one of the lightest meals I've ever made, but maybe one of the best....
Herbed Rosti with Wild Mushrooms (p. 329)
When I saw the picture of this in the book, it looked enormous, but when I reread the recipe, I saw that it's meant to be made in a 10" pan. Which is not enormous. So the picture is a little deceiving...
This is basically an over-sized, super-deluxe potato latke. (That's pancake, for those of you who don't speak Jewish.) Same general idea - you grate potatoes, add an onion-y taste in there, and top with something creamy.
But Martha's version is much more refined. Instead of onion, it's leeks. And instead of sour cream, it's goat cheese. And then there are the wild mushrooms....
The first thing you do is grate, soak, and drain the potatoes. When I went to rinse out the bowl in which I'd soaked them, I was shocked to find a half inch layer of starch silt on the bottom. Potatoes really ARE starchy! I grated in advance, and put the potatoes in the fridge, and when I pulled them out later, they had developed a rusty color, which I'd also noticed in the soaking water. Happily, they went back to their regular color during the cooking process.
You brown the grated potatoes with some julienned leeks on the stovetop on both sides, and then you pop it in the oven for extra crispness. Meanwhile, you sauté the mushrooms with some more leeks. I thought I had bought chanterelles, but I just did a google image check, and turns out I bought some other very expensive wild mushroom. No matter. Martha says you can use any wild mushroom, and these worked nicely.
In the end, you put the pancake on a plate, dollop some goat cheese on top, cover with mushrooms, and serve.
What I realized when I was serving this dish was that there was no opportunity during the cooking of this dish when I was able to check the dish for taste, salt, flavor. I just prepared it as directed and put it on the table. At the last second, I thought, I have no idea what we're about to eat!
Well, it was heavenly. I mean, so perfectly balanced. Salt, crunch, light, heavy, creamy, herby, meaty. We polished that thing off so fast and probably would have eaten another, if it had been there. It was the ideal meeting point of comfort food and gourmet cooking.
I was very aware that Martha's proportions are excellent here. More cheese, and it would have been overkill. More salt would have been too salty. More butter or oil, too oily. More leeks, too leeky. Everything was just right...
...except the portion size. What was supposed to serve 4-6 was gobbled up by 3 in a hot second. If we had been six, there would have been an outcry, because a small portion of this dish would never have been enough.
Wiener Schnitzel (p. 267)
No one knows what Wiener Schnitzel is! Probably because of that hot dog place, which doesn't even serve it! It's a close cousin to Veal Milanese, i.e. a breaded and pan-fried cutlet served plain/dry with lemon wedges.
Which means I'm frying again - not my fave.
Word to the wise: don't try to make this and the rosti at the same time. I tried, but there were too many balls in the air. I had to pause the veal and serve the rosti as its own course.
I made my own bread crumbs! I cubed some beautiful white bread the night before and food processed them today. I thought those cubes would break down easily, but they put up quite a fight. I had to run the chopper for a few minutes!
This is a double breading process, like the Indian chicken cutlets. Flour, egg, bread crumbs.
I think the real trick for this dish to be successful is getting the right temperature of the oil. I have a candy thermometer, but when the oil is just a quarter inch high, there's no way to use it to gauge the temperature. I tried the trick where you throw in bread crumbs and if they sizzle, it's hot enough. They sizzle, but it wasn't hot enough. The first batch of cutlets sat in the oil too long. But the next two batches cooked perfectly, i.e. browned in a minute or two.
There's a decadent touch here. You pan fry the cutlets in oil, then drain them on paper towels in a warming oven, while you prepare a butter bath. Then you dip them in butter (!), drain, and serve with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.
So, veal, oil, butter, breading, lemon - what could be bad? It tasted great. And it had a nice texture. My cutlet, which was a little thicker than the others, cooked absolutly perfectly, still a little pink in the middle. My only complaint was that the breading was pulling away from the meat. I was hoping for the kind of breading that adheres to the meat.
It's a tiny thing. Overall, this was a delicious and well-made course.
Double-Crust Apple Pie (p. 442)
If you read the comments section on this blog, you may remember that when I mentioned that I still had the apple pie recipe to make, Annie asked me to save a slice for Charles.
So instead of saving him a slice, I just made him the whole pie. :-)
I'm happy to report that I'm finally getting the hang of pies. One big help was seeing an episode of The Martha Stewart Show last week, when Martha showed Rachael Ray how to make a pie crust. I'd never seen anyone make a pie crust, and there were conceptual things that I missed or ignored, like turning the dough an eighth of a turn after each roll of the pin. For the first time, I had circular crusts, with a normal amount of overhang! (My old crusts were so misshapen that I was trimming off giant blobs of crust and patching, etc.)
I chose a variety of apples for the pie: Fuji (my favorite - sweet and spicy, and it holds its shape), Granny Smith (for tartness) and Gala (I forget why). I made the filling, and I let it sit for a while so that some of the liquid would drain and settle. I didn't want an overly gooey pie.
I think one of the nice twists here is the addition of a little ground ginger in the filling. It's a tiny undertaste, but it's very welcome.
The pie baked perfectly. Martha says 10 minutes at 400°, then 70-85 minutes at 375°. Mine went the whole 85. I used a silicone pie crust protector (thanks again, Walter), and it worked beautifully. I thought maybe the crust wouldn't brown because it was covered, but it browned just right.
EVERYTHING about this pie was just right. The crust was flaky and light, but also rich and substantial. The filling was sweet, tart, spicy, and buttery, in perfect balance.
Charles who is obsessed with apple pie declared it the best apple pie he's ever had. And Annie, who isn't even a pie lover, declared it the best any-kind-of-pie she's ever had. Charles went back for a second slice. Annie just licked her plate. :-)
Until we eat again...
Incidentally, I served two other non-Martha courses tonight.
First, a salad, my own creation, which turned out really well! I made the shallot vinaigrette and lightly dressed some baby arugula. Over that, I put some shaved fennel and bosc pear which was also lightly dressed. And on top of that, some chopped toasted hazelnuts. A perfect combo.
I also made a red cabbage dish to go with the veal. It had bacon and apples and raisins and vinegar and caraway seeds. Very German and very delicious, if slightly overcooked.