C is for Macaron*

I’m a bit of a Hermione. I like to learn things. And get them right. And be a bit show-offy about them. Then move on to something else.

So, macarons have recently come to my attention.

Not macaroons, those flavorous lumps of coconutty sweetness.

Macarons. Light, crispy, chewy, soft, luscious, buttercream-sandwiched pillows of heaven. Poncy. Exquisite. Difficult. Well, let’s say difficile, because they are, of course, French. And they are trés difficile.

But I’m a girl who relishes a challenge. Tell me something is near impossible, and I am all over it.

At first, I was mildly intrigued. Saw them on TV. Saw them on Pinterest. Saw them on Martha Stewart’s website. (don’t judge me!) I said to myself, “Hmmm. That might be a hoot.”

Then I tasted one. After that first eyes-rolling-back-in-my-head bite, I was hooked. No longer mildly interested, I now craved these puffy pleasures with a blinding lust. Yes, lust. Have you ever had a sweet little cloud of heaven melt on your tongue? No, you haven’t. But I have. Oh, I have.

But the making of them smacks seriously of effort. After trolling the ‘net for hours and hours, I finally settled on what I found here for a recipe and here for a (FABULOUS) troubleshooting guide and here for a how-to video. I gathered and prepped all my elements and hardware beforehand (thank you for the great advice, video chick!) and voila! Disaster…

Disappointment. No feet. All crackly. *sigh*

The visual hallmarks of a perfect macaron are a shiny, sleek shell and a “foot,” or a pretty, ruffled base. Yeah. Not happening this first time.

Three (sort of) passable cookies.

Three came close…well…close-ish. Meanwhile, I started the second batch.

I’m wary but hopeful…there are wee feet appearing!

Not a total success yet, but better! A marked improvement.

Closer!

They sort of resemble the top half of a McDonald’s hamburger, but they’re shiny, and they’re smooth, and they have feetGigantic spreading Sasquatch feet, but feet nonetheless!

I made a Nutella buttercream filling for these lovelies that I found here. Yeah, I’m just cannibalizing tons of sites tonight. But it’s worth it for food porn of this quality — look at these!

Ready to pawn off on my teacher peeps!

Next time: lemon macarons with strawberry filling. Oh. Yeah. My new obsession.

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

*Oh, and here‘s why C is for Macaron. Careful, though. It’ll eat into your brain…

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Batten Down the Hatches!

It’s Hatch Chile time here in Texas. Earlier than the rest of the country, apparently. That’s the trade-off for triple-digit heat.

They are dirt cheap. DIRT CHEAP! 97¢ a pound. Are you kidding me? I couldn’t help it. They needed to be cooked and baked and roasted and, of course, canned.

Pretty, pretty pepper (and blurry…)

Two things made up my mind: their dirt-cheapness (versus Dr. Nancy’s info that plain ol’  jalapeños cost $2.79 for a pack of FOUR peppers way up in Canadialand) and their sweet, spicy tastiness that I discovered quite by accident.

I had grabbed a couple on a whim when at my local HEB grocery because they looked to be the perfect size and shape for a recipe I found for Black Bean & Sweet Corn Stuffed Peppers. And they were sweetly hot and smoky and perfectly nom.

Ignore the messy plating. I had some issues transferring it…was purty in the cooking vessel.

This pepper needed to be jellified. Many ways. This morning, I jumped out of bed (figuratively) and ran (again, figuratively) to buy scads of the Hatches.

First: a double batch using the three-pepper lime jelly recipe, sans lime and avec only the Hatch peppers. The plus side is that these lovely peppers are such a gorgeous color — ranging from pale chartreuse (look it up) to a rosy Kelly green — that you don’t need food coloring.

Bubbling and boiling merrily

Not that I’m so inclined. Not a big day-glo green pepper jelly fan.

A couple of notes:

These peppers have only a few seeds, but MAN, they were potent. I had to stop a couple of times because I inhaled while de-seeding and, well, just don’t.

Also, these suckers FOAM. I’ve never made a jelly with so much foam!

Mad dog! Mad dog! GRRRRRRR!

Just make sure to scoop it all away. All of it. This will assure you a lovely crystal green jelly worthy of any occasion.

Pretty, pretty jelly!

Off to roast some of these suckers for a new and different jelly now.

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

Back in the (curried) Saddle Again

While visiting with Dr. Nancy in the lovely seaside village of St. John’s, we snacked on something called Curried Vegetable Spread. Every afternoon.

She found it at the local Farmers’ Market. This was seriously good stuff. Made by a sweet lady doing business under the name of Soups, Spreads, and Such – St. John’s.

The puzzle

Now, since I came to expect this wonderful mélange of veggies and tastiness AND since I can’t fly almost nine hours to retrieve some, I decided to deconstruct the ingredients and make my own.

There aren’t recipes for this on the web, my friends. At least not where I can find them. Perhaps they hide in dark corners of the Internet, showing themselves to only the most expert of searchers.

Either way, the day after I arrived, I rushed to the store and collected all the ingredients listed on the lid. Then I napped. For about 18 hours. Then, today, I felt the curried monkey on my back. I was jonesing for my afternoon hummus and spread snack… So I made hummus and prepared to attempt the veggie spread…

No more chickpeas. Used them all in the hummus.

Which was tasty…but I needed that curry tastiness. I wanted that spread.

So I began:

Sliced the eggplant on a mandolin first to assist in speedy dicing

See? MUCH easier to dice after the mandoline slicing

Cauliflower chopping — vair difficult to make it uniform

Tomatoes? Much easier to dice to perfection

Cremini? YUM-ini!

I used 1/4 of this seriously ginormous onion

BLORP! Love that sound…

The end result? Just as fresh, just as satisfying despite the differences. Spicier than the original, but tasty nonetheless. Veggies a bit crisper in texture, but fabulous nonetheless.

Here’s the original inspiration:

Super-terrific spread, no? Look at those COLORS!

And my copycat:

The end result! Awfully close, no?

Dr. Nancy, here’s the recipe! I’ll need another obsession now. Besides beer. Ice cider. Yellowbelly. Kayaking…remind me why I left again?

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

An homard in every pot

Lobster day today. It’s dirt cheap here, and just sitting there in the store, waiting for us to cook it and dip it in butter and suck it down noisily.

Off to the store. Walking. What’s that? WALKING. Seriously. Walked up to the store to get our dinner bugs:

Lobsters in their version of a gladiator’s den…

you shall…BE DINNER!

The choosing finished, our lovely wee lobsters were hospitably collected into a plastic bag…

Hospitably confined…

and taken home to chill in the chill drawer while we gathered supplies.

Sel toujours sec, claw cracker, butter, Quidi Vidi beer, and chocolate: all necessary lobster-cookin’ tools

Time for more prep: 2 1/2 quarts of water in a pot with 5 tablespoons of the sel (that’s salt in French), set it to a boil, then grab the lobsters from the chill bin…

Stunned by the chill and ready to become dinner

…and drop them in head-first…

Thank you to my hand model and co-chef, Dr. Nancy

and boil them for 15 minutes. Unless they’re male. Then cook them for 17 minutes. Good luck to you in finding out before the fact.

A lobster in every pot (this place only had two sort-of-large pots…)

Run them under cold water (ironically, didn’t have ice) to stop the cooking process.

How awesome is this shot, may I ask? Just freaking awesome, I may answer.

All set up with Dr. Who on the telly and tasty lobster dinners on the table. And beer.

Almost didn’t get this shot in. Too excited. Dr. Nancy reminded me.

How gorgeous is this claw?

NOM.

Did I mention the beer?

Fighting Irish Red: the most non-PC likker in all the land!

And the aftermath…

Oh! The humanity!

And now off for British Butter ice cream at MooMoo’s. Yes. You heard me. Butter ice cream for dessert. Jealous much?

Sincerely,

Bonnycate