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Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.
This month’s challenge was all about the wonderful world of gumbo. Our hostess gave a great (and very thorough) lesson on all the components that go into making a traditional gumbo, and challenged us to prepare our own pot, using one of the provided recipes, a variation thereof, or any other gumbo recipe that might tickle our fancy. We were also encouraged to make our own stock and Creole Spice Blend. I wasn’t ambitious enough to make my own stock, but I did throw together my own spice blend based off of the one I found on Chow.
In addition to the two main gumbo recipes provided (Chicken & Smoked Sausage and Seafood), our hostess provided a link to a vegetarian Gumbo Z’herbes recipe. This is the recipe I opted for. While it may not look very attractive (and I know, the terrible cell phone picture doesn’t help its case), it definitely did not disappoint. It is a powerhouse of flavor with fragrant spices and delectable greens. My husband and I both enjoyed it, and I think it will be a recipe that I keep around for a long time to come.
Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!
Ugh. You would think that by now I would remember when the posting date is for these challenges, but apparently I don’t have a clue. I was thinking it was tomorrow, when it was in fact yesterday. Sigh.
Well, posting mishaps aside, I have to say I really enjoyed this month’s challenge. We were challenged to make a savory edible container. Our host provided several ideas along with a link to a fantastic edible container round-up article she had written. We could choose any recipe provided or create something totally new as long as it was a container that was edible and had suitable content.
I played around with some different ideas, but the stand-out winner for me where these black bean cups. I got the recipe from Cake, Batter, and Bowl. My only adaption was to bake the cups in a regular sized muffin tin rather than a mini one. This will yield about 7 bean cups. If using a regular sized muffin tin, just place about 2 tablespoons of dough into each muffin cup and spread the dough up the side of each cup (I found that pressing the bottom of my tablespoon measure into the dough helped create nice, fairly uniform sized cups). Then bake the bean cups at 350ºF for 18-20 minutes or until set. Cool completely.
For the filling I used the Mexican Couscous Power Bowl recipe found at Healthy. Happy. Life. I just adapted it to what I had on hand and decreased the amount of beans since I would be serving them in the bean cups. She provides a recipe for an optional Gave-Rika ‘dressing’ for the dish, and I would highly recommend you go ahead and make it to serve over the bean cups. To me, it really brought the whole dish together. One more note, the couscous dish makes a lot, so if you are making it to serve in the bean cups you may want to halve the recipe or just be prepared to have leftover filling to munch on for lunch the next day – which of course, isn’t an entirely bad thing.
Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.
This month’s challenge provided the Daring Cooks the opportunity to dish up some exciting Peruvian cuisine. The first option was to try our hand at making ceviche. Ceviche is typically made with fresh fish or seafood that is marinated in citrus juices. The citric acid in the juice “cooks” the fish – either partially or completely, depending on how long it is marinated. The second option was to create papas rellenas. This traditional Peruvian dish is comprised of a potato “dough” that is stuffed with a filling (usually made with beef) and then deep fried. The dish is also usually accompanied with a “salsa criolla.”
For the challenge we had to make at least one of the aforementioned Peruvian dishes. Always a fan of the carbs, I opted to make the papas rellenas. For the filling I used a vegetarian recipe that was provided by our hostess. The recipe for the vegetarian filling was really wonderful, and would be great just served as a dish on its own. I also chose not to fry my papas rellenas and baked them instead. I was really nervous about having to bread all of these little potato balls; breading and I have not always meshed (use the tempura challenge as a case in point). I usually end up with globs of gooey breading on my plate and fingers, so this time around I read up on some breading techniques, and I’m happy to report that they worked brilliantly. I am now a breading master (at least more so that I was before this challenge). I do have to admit, these little guys are truly a labor of love. It took me a very long time to stuff, shape, and bread all of the dough balls, so if you plan on making these be sure to allot yourself plenty of time. In the end though, I have to say they were definitely worth it. I loved the crunchy outer texture, and as our host recommended, they are definitely best served with the salsa criolla.
This challenge certainly provided a great introduction to Peruvian cuisine, and I hope to have the opportunity explore some more Peruvian dishes in the near future.
You can view the recipes used after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »
The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.
This month’s challenge was super exciting because I love, and I do mean loooove, eating Japanese food! So when I saw soba noodles and tempura were on the menu I was through the roof. For this challenge we were to make Hiyashi Soba, a popular soba noodle salad reserved primarily for summer. Soba noodles are a thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. They are usually served cold with a dipping sauce (as in this dish), or in a hot broth as a noodle soup (which is how I’ve normally had them up until this challenge). We were also challenged to make tempura. Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. A light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light and soft) and wheat flour (cake, pastry or all-purpose flour). Eggs, baking soda or baking powder, starch, oil, and/or spices may also be added. I don’t do any deep frying in my kitchen, so I opted for a baked version of the tempura. While still tasty (and a whole let healthier), it really doesn’t hold a candle to the traditional deep fried version.
I must say that after this challenge I have completely fallen in love with cold soba noodles, and the provided spicy dipping sauce recipe is definitely a keeper! I love the fresh flavors and simplicity of this dish, and can definitely see a lot more Hiyashi Soba on the menu come summer!
You can get the recipes and learn how to serve Hiyashi Soba after the jump.
The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.
For this month’s challenge we were challenged to make a biscuit joconde imprime that would be cut and fit into a dessert mold for a completed entremets. Are you totally lost? Because I know I was! So let’s go over some vocabulary:
A joconde imprime (French Baking term) is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake providing an elegant finish to desserts/torts/entremets formed in ring molds. A joconde batter is used because it bakes into a moist, flexible cake. The cake batter may be tinted or marbleized for a further decorative effect.
This joconde requires attentive baking so that it remains flexible to easily conform to the molds. If under baked it will stick to the baking mat. If over baked it will dry out and crack. Once cooled, the sponge may be cut into strips to line any shape ring mold.
Entremets (French baking term) is an ornate dessert with many different layers of cake and pastry creams in a mold, usually served cold.
For this challenge the joconde imprime would be the outside cake wrapper of the completed entremets dessert.
Once I got my brain wrapped around the vocabulary, I went into full-on panic mode. I was still recovering from a holiday baking overload, and this challenge was looking pretty out of my league. I seriously almost threw in the towel before I even began. I just didn’t think I had it in in me, but I didn’t really want to start off the new year skipping out on a challenge, so I let it sit for a few days and then reread the challenge. The more I went over the steps (and after watching a few videos of the process) it slowly started to look a bit less daunting.
I began scouring the internet looking for entremets that featured a decorated joconde sponge. For this challenge we were to decorate the joconde sponge using a provided décor paste recipe. I had my heart sent on a vegan version of this challenge and got really hung up on the fact that the décor paste recipe included so many egg whites. I really had no idea how to sub for the egg whites, and I was having no luck finding an already existing veganized décor paste recipe. Then I stumbled upon an image of a joconde sponge decorated with preserves. I got super excited and decided that even though it wasn’t sticking to the original challenge recipe it would still result in a decorated joconde, and I would be ok with that. I decided on raspberry preserves and bouncing off of that decided to go with a raspberry/lemon cheesecake type entremets. There were a number of vegan joconde recipes on the internet thanks to when the Daring Bakers took on Opera Cakes.
From what I could find, in order to decorate the sponge with preserves one would just pipe the preserves into a pattern on top of the sponge batter and then bake. Simple enough. Only problem was that while the sponge was baking the preserves started to sink into the batter, resulting in less than clean lines. I really did love the flavor of the preserves in the sponge, so I am curious if anyone out there knows of a better way to decorate sponge in this manner. It is definitely something I would like to master.
To assemble the entremets I had to build a make-shift mold out of a cardboard cereal box. It actually worked surprisingly well, although I lined the inside with parchment paper and the moisture from the entremets filling made it get all wrinkly (can you tell I really wanted some pristine lines and smooth edges for this thing?). For the base I used leftover joconde sponge and layered that with some more raspberry preserves. I topped the preserves with a layer of the lemon filling along with some fresh raspberries. Then threw in another layer of joconde sponge with preserves and the rest of filling. Topped it all off with some fresh raspberries and powdered sugar and voila – a super impressive looking dessert!
Despite it’s less than perfect appearance, I did really love this dessert. And in the end, it was not all that hard to put together. In fact, because I had leftover filling, and I was feeling guilty about not veganizing the décor paste, I made another quick one the next day!
I had read someone mention decorating the joconde sponge by tinting a portion of the joconde batter and piping that onto the bottom of their baking pan and freezing. They then poured the un-tinted batter over the frozen tinted batter and placed the pan back in the freezer before baking. I tried this approach by tinting my batter with cocoa powder, and it actually seemed to work. I did two different designs and unfortunately totally broke the joconde with the cool pattern on it. Thus, I was left with my failed homemade pastry comb attempt, which really didn’t have much of a pattern.
Since I used cocoa for the joconde I decided to add a few tablespoons of chocolate chips to about 3/4 of the leftover lemon filling and then added some raspberry preserves to the leftover 1/4 of the filling. I layered those in the mold and then topped with more preserves, some toasted almonds, and chocolate chips.
And just to show you the other sponge that broke:
You can view the recipes and how to assemble the dessert after the jump. Please bear in mind that a lot of this was experimentation and could certainly use more tinkering to get the decorated joconde just right.
Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.
While a cassoulet isn’t totally new to me, I was pretty shocked to see the sheer amount of work that goes into a traditional cassoulet recipe. A traditional cassoulet recipe will typically contain pork, sausages, and white beans as well as a duck or goose confit and a nice topping of fried bread crumbs or cracklings and – get this – can take up to three days to prepare! I have made a couple of “cassoulets” in my day, but they have been nowhere near as labor intensive as this – I’m talking 30 minutes to prepare tops!
A confit on the other hand, was totally new to me. I have seen the term on menus, but never actually really knew what it was. Turns out it’s actually one of the oldest ways to preserve food. A confit is basically any kind of food that has been immersed in any kind of fat for both flavor and preservation. When stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months. Typically meats (most often waterfowl) are preserved in fats, while fruits are preserved in sugar.
For this challenge we had to make a confit and incorporate it into a cassoulet. We could choose any combination of meat or protein source that we wished, and we were encouraged to soak our own beans. There was an added challenge to make our own sausages as well. Three cassoulet recipes were provided: a traditional recipe, a vegetarian recipe, and a quick 30-minute cassoulet recipe. There were also various meat and vegetable confit recipes provided. I opted for the vegetarian cassoulet recipe along with a provided recipe for garlic confit.
The garlic confit came together rather easily. Most of it is really down time while it cooks in the oven. I only did half a recipe though – I couldn’t imagine having 65 garlic cloves sitting around in my fridge! I wasn’t really sure how to incorporate the confit into the cassoulet, so I just used it anywhere the recipe called for garlic or olive oil.
Since the challenge had been thrown out there to make our own sausages I decided I would also try to make the seitan sausage recipe that had been provided as part of December’s poaching challenge. I have only made seitan once before, and that was a baked recipe, so I was looking forward to trying out this method of poached seitan. It was certainly a bit of a process and where the bulk of my time was spent in this recipe. My sausage shaping skills are definitely lacking, and sadly they were no replacement for those tasty Field Roast sausages. In fact, they were rather bland. My husband and I both felt like they could’ve benefited from the addition of a little more salt and that might reflect a poor choice on my part in using a low sodium broth for my poaching liquid.
I also feel like my cassoulet was a little less than stellar. I’m not sure where I went wrong here because everyone had been saying great things about this recipe. Admittedly, I did have to replace the leeks in the cassoulet with onions because the two places I shop were out of the leeks that were called for, but I’m not sure if that would’ve made that much of a difference as far as flavor. Maybe it was a bad choice to use the garlic confit in place of the raw garlic in the recipe? Despite its drawbacks, I did like how the cassoulet recipe called for mashing a portion of the beans for a thicker broth; I really enjoyed that thicker consistency of this cassoulet from previous ones that I had made.
You can view all of the recipes used after the jump.
Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
This month’s challenge was to make a filling and roll it in grape leaves. I’ve tried stuffed grape leaves a few times before at various restaurants, but have never really been a huge fan of them. They often have a very “briney” taste that is a little off-putting to me. Nonetheless, I was excited to try rolling some from scratch.
The filling for the grape leaves was totally up to each individual cook, but whatever filling was chosen had to include rice. Lori provided two recipes for inspiration – one with meat and one without. I opted to go the meatless route and followed Lori’s Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves recipe with a few additions.
I knew that rolling the leaves was going to be the most time consuming part, and I also knew that I wanted to go all out with a tasty Greek feast to accompany the grape leaves. Taking those things into consideration, I enlisted the help of a fellow daring cook to knock these babies out. That was definitely a good decision – having someone to help stuff and roll the leaves not only helped make the time go faster, but I think it also helped me my maintain my sanity. The smaller the grape leaf, the more difficulty I had in getting it rolled and stuffed without splitting. I got desperate near the end and started layering the smaller torn leaves in creative ways to try and produce enough grape leaves to fill the pan tightly.
Despite all the difficulty rolling, I have to say that the end results were fantastic. These were by far the best stuffed grape leaves I have ever tasted. And while they probably won’t be in my regular rotation of cooking, I am so glad I had the opportunity to make them and enjoy the company of good friends while doing so!
You can view the recipe for the Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves after the jump.