Nontraditional Raclette dinner party

Finally! My long promised post of the Raclette dinner party! A few weekends ago I had a little dinner party at my place with my 7 closest friends, making us a total number of 8. Eight was the crucial number. My friends came over for a Swiss Raclette dinner and the Raclette machine we used had 8 trays, one each. If you do not know what a Raclette is, imagine cut up potatoes, veggies, sausages, etc placed on a little tray which is covered with a slice of semi-firm cow’s milk cheese and then placed under a heat source to make the cheese melt. It is a really fun thing to do and the wine flows very easily.

So you can have a very traditional classic Swiss Raclette…or you can do like me and choose lots of stuff making it very nontraditional. I used a lot of different cheeses instead and prepared a variety of foods to add to each tray. I’ll go through my list below with you all. A lovely salad is great to serve as well. For dessert we had a Cherry Clafoutis which I blogged about already. Sorry the pics are not the best. Still learning how to use my new dslr and action shots or food shots on a shaking table will take a bit more time to learn.

Meats, seafood, protein: plan 150gr (5oz) per person

  • sausage lile mild Mergez
  • hard boiled eggs
  • shrimp
  • ham

Cheeses: plan 200gr (7oz) per person

  • Edam
  • Gouda
  • Emmental
  • Goat cheese
  • Asiago
  • Brie

Veggies and more:

  • tomatoes
  • broccoli, blanched
  • mushroom, pan fried a little bit
  • potatoes, boiled
  • pickle onions and gherkins
  • apples and pears

Notice I have no actual Raclette cheese…believe it or not I could not find any at my usual store. Grrr!

This is the Raclette contraption. Set it in the middle of the table and place the food dishes around the table. Dessert plates are perfect, not a big main course plate.

The grill on top is used to cook meats like sausages and roast veggies a bit if you like. I had everything partially precooked to speed things up. Below the grill you can see the little trays prepared with cheese slices on top…have the melted already? So hungry.

To make your tray: load up your plate with a little bit of the food dishes you like. Place in the tray in the food combo you desire, add your cheese on top.

Here is what your ready tray will look like with the cheese melted. Slide it onto your plate and enjoy! Then make another tray and so forth. I think here I used ham, tomatoes, potatoes, pickled onion and brie cheese.

This is a great concept for a dinner party. As the host you can prepare everything ahead of time so you are free to enjoy the party without stress. Your guest will enjoy participating and this is a great way to make a meal last longer and have more fun. Plan half a bottle of wine per person. I did a little research and I found two excellent wines that pair well with a Raclette.

– For a white selection go with a light bodied, dry white wine with ample acidity, crisp and fresh. Look for a Pinot Gris, Chardonnay or a Fendant . I chose a Lurton Pinot Gris Valle de Uco 2011.

– For the red try a light bodied, spicy and fruity wine with a low tannin: just make sure that is was not Oak barreled. Look for a Merlot, Pinot Noir or Syrah. I served a Tommasi Valpolicella Classico 2010.

The Greek Moussaka

When you start exploring more exotic foods you realize pretty soon that your local Chinese, Japanese, Greek and ethnic etc. restaurants are bastardized versions made for the North American palate. You may find the small gem family run restaurant that serves more authentic dishes or you can really find out what the true cuisine of a country is when on holiday. Greek food is a perfect example. When I was there many moons ago I ate grilled octopus, devoured lams stews, enjoyed moussakas and drank frappes in large quantities. No souvlakis or gyros in sight. I tell you the food and the islands there are so gorgeous I should consider moving there and start looking to find the best mortgage deals.

Moussaka was actually something I discovered first in a Greek restaurant in Montreal, not in Greece. I still remember the first time I ate it and immediately associated as extreme comfort food. Of course I would choose an ethnic dish as comfort food and not something closer to home! Now when I go to a Greek restaurant, if moussaka is on the menu chances are that is what I will order. Warning: moussaka is not the most photogenic food but it is amazing.

One day I came across a recipe for Greek Moussaka. Remember the days when gas stations gave out free stuff like glasses and plastic containers? It was pretty lame stuff usually but at one point one company (can’t remember which one) was giving away a series of little cookbooks. My parents had that whole collection. One of the books was fancy recipes for dinner parties and in it was this recipe below. I first made it about 15 years ago and I keep going back to it because it is the best moussaka I ever ate, hands down. I don’t have a source as I wrote down the recipe in a personal book a decade ago and my mom no longer has the cookbook.

Contrary to popular belief, moussaka is not solely a Greek dish but a dish of the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Each country and/or region has a different spin on it, with a common base of sauteed eggplant, tomato and usually minced meat. But the one we are the most familiar with is the Greek one, which is characterized by lamb meat spiced with cinnamon and a top layer of Bechamel sauce with nutmeg.

The Greek moussaka is believed to be invented by Nikolaos Tselementes, a Greek chef considered one of the most influential chefs of the early 1900s who modernized Greek cuisine and published many influential Greek cookbooks.

Ξ Greek Moussaka Ξ

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants
salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs. ground lamb (or beef)
2 large onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cups plain breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan

Bechamel Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups cottage cheese
1 tsp. nutmeg

Directions:

Slice the eggplants in to 1/2 inch slices. Lay the slices of eggplant on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes to draw out the bitterness. In a skillet over med-high heat, heat 1 tsp. approx of olive oil per batch. Quickly fry the eggplant until browned. Set aside.

In a skillet heat the remaining olive oil, add onion and saute until semi-translucent. Add the ground lamb (or beef) and brown until the pink color disappears. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add wine, tomato paste, cinnamon, salt and pepper, bring to a boil and allow to simmer for approx 15 minutes. Add the parsley.

In a 9×13 inch baking pan, sprinkle evenly half the breadcrumbs, layer half the eggplant slices, spread half the meat sauce and sprinkle half the grated Parmesan. Repeat. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the Bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and allow the flour to cook for a minute. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly until it thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs, then the cottage cheese and nutmeg.  Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens.

Pour the Bechamel sauce on top of the layers, smooth the sauce evenly with a spatula and allow the sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the sauce has a golden color. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before serving.

 

 

Epiphany’s Galettes des Rois Pistachio Style

OK class, today we will have a lesson in religion. January 6th is known as Epiphany, a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of Jesus of Nazareth as the living Son of God on earth. Over the centuries the specific events which testify to this revelation have varied a lot but for today’s Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, with only a minor reference to the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at the Wedding at Cana.

And of course, in some  parts of the world,  a dessert had to be created to celebrate this revelation. In parts of  France people have traditionally  prepared a Galettes des Rois, a cake consisting of puff pastry with almond cream (frangipane) to their celebrations. It is reminiscent of the King Cake found in the American Southern States that celebrate Mardi Gras. Hidden inside the cake you will find a trinket (usually a porcelain figurine) or a dry bean. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes the king/queen for the day and will have to offer the next cake. The analogy of the king refers to the three kings drawn to visit Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Often a paper crown accompanies the cake which is placed on the chosen king/queen.

I am not a religious person but by pure coincidence I happened to host a dinner at my place with a few friends on the evening of January 6th so of course I had to make a Galettes des Rois for the fun of it. Without a small porcelain figurine or dry bean in sight I opted for a small button. The crown took the form of a tiara with pink marabou which I happened to have lying around (don’t ask). And since I had a hankering for pistachios this was my nut of choice for the frangipane. Hey traditions only survive with the addition of modern twists!

For my filling I adapted a recipe found on Pham Fatale. Since we were only 4 at the dinner table I made the galettes small enough to ensure there would be no leftovers should the trinket not be found on the first round. If you buy a package of frozen puff pastry this recipe will make 2 galettes of 5 to 6 servings each. You could just make 1 bigger galette, in that case roll you disks out to 12 inches.

Ξ Pistachio Galettes des RoisΞ

5 ounces roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts, shelled
2 eggs, at room temperature
10 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
4 x 9 inch disks of puff pastry (1 package of frozen puff pastry 397 gr/14 oz)

Directions:

Place the pistachios in a blender, a food processor or spice grinder and process them until you have a coarse crumbs. Make sure you stop before it turns into nut butter.

Using a handheld mixer, whisk the eggs and 5 tablespoons of sugar for about about 5-6 minutes, until the eggs are a pale yellow and very airy.

Cream the butter with 5 tablespoons of sugar, the salt and vanilla extract. Pour in the egg mixture and the ground pistachios. Gently mix until the batter is smooth.

Using a fork, beat the egg yolk with a tablespoon of milk. Use as your egg wash as described below. Place 2 disks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lay half the pistachio frangipane on each puff pastry disk, leaving a 1 inch ring of pastry. Brush the ring with the egg wash and place the remaining disks on top. Press the perimeter very tightly together. Using a knife, make decorative cuts on the top disks and brush with egg wash.

Refrigerate the galettes for an one hour. If you skip this step your filling may end up leaking out of the disks while baking (which happened to me). Preheat the oven to 400F, bake 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350F and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until the top is golden.

And in case you are wondering who was the lucky trinket finder this year. It was me! Yep I have the button in my mouth.

Matcha Fudge Fruit Cake

Lately, reading my favorite food blogs has been a guaranteed catalyst to get into the holiday mood. Blogs of Thanksgiving feasts are the kick in the rump I need right now since Montreal is not showing any signs yet of a white Christmas – or what ever holiday you celebrate. But I know one morning soon I will open the curtains of my bedroom window and feel the sudden urge to hang my mistletoe.

Thankfully the holiday cheer is quite present in the kitchen. The wonderful people at Faye Clack invited me to participate in a fun contest hosted by California Walnuts. The theme: coming up with a completely original recipe that screams holiday gatherings and winter entertaining.

 

I humbly present you my entry post for the California Walnuts Holiday Blogger Challenge: my Matcha Fudge Fruit Cake.

Coming up with an original recipe with walnuts is not exactly a small feat! We are talking about a very popular nut here that graces most holiday recipes. This was a perplexing challenge, until I opened my kitchen cupboard and a bag of matcha powder fell out, bringing on inspiration.

Visions of sugar plums and fairies…oh wait that is the Nutcracker. Visions of a sliced fruitcake with gorgeous chunks of red cherries and chocolate coated walnuts dances in my head…all of it wrapped up in a melt in your mouth matcha fudge. I wanted to reinvent the fruit cake. To achieve my pale green fudge color I chose a basic white fudge recipe where I added a touch of matcha powder.

 

Ξ Matcha Fudge Fruit Cake Ξ

Ingredients:

250 gr dark chocolate
1 cup California Walnuts
3/4 cup maraschino cherries
500g white chocolate, chopped
1-300ml can of condensed milk
30gr of butter
2 teaspoons matcha powder

 

Directions:

  1. Melt dark chocolate in a bowl. Dip the walnuts in the melted chocolate one by one plan place on a wrack to let excess chocolate drip off. Place the chocolate covered walnuts  in the fridge to harden
  2. Drain and dry cherries on a couple of layers of paper towels.
  3. Line with cheesecloth a 25cm x 10cm (10” x 4”) loaf pan. Make sure the cheesecloth hangs over the edged of the pan.
  4. Place all the white chocolate, condensed milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir well. Microwave for 30 another seconds.
  5. Remove, add the matcha powder and stir well. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir completely.
  6. Add cherries, chocolate covered walnuts and stir once very fast (stir too much and the dark chocolate will melt).
  7. Quickly poor mixture into the loaf pan, fold the cheesecloth over the top and press down to level the top.
  8. Set fudge in the fridge for 8 hours. Remove from pan and slice.

I was absolutely thrilled the results. The matcha flavor was subtle, the cherries were a juicy surprise and the chocolate covered walnuts gave the perfect amount of crunch. This makes a big log of fudge so you can slice it up, take what you need to a few parties and then just freeze the rest. Happy Holidays!