3/16/14

A Weekend of Cooking

No sewing, but lots of cooking at the Three Cats Ranch this weekend. Last night we enjoyed the oysters and clams I got at the opening of the Portland Farmers Market. If you're an oyster lover like I am (cooked ones only, please), then you'll love these Oysters Rockaway that Mike and I came up with. You can find the recipe for these in my post from yesterday. They are pretty simple to make once you get the oysters shucked. The first time we made these, Mike used his regular pocket knife to shuck them, promptly breaking off the tip. After being thoroughly scolded by several of you for this dangerous move, I stopped on the way home and picked up an oyster knife yesterday. I got this one from OXO Good Grips:


I like their ergonomic handles. The blade isn't sharp, but it has a nice point for working your way in through the oyster's hinge, and then the blade is nice and stout so that it won't break off. While Mike was shucking the oysters, I made up the tomato mixture. I didn't have any fresh basil, so I used dried this time. You just fill them with the goodies and then barbecue them for about five minutes.


And Oh. My. Goodness. They are so yummy!


Just cook them until the butter and cheese are melted. You'll see that the edges of the oyster curl a little bit. Then slap those babies on a tray and eat 'em up.


While Mike was barbecuing those, I steamed the clams. So dee-licious. And here's the link to the recipe I used for those. They are surprisingly simple to make.


No leftovers. Sorry.

Then, this morning I got up and tried a new recipe for some Irish Soda Bread with Currants. It looks pretty good out of the oven, but I'm not very happy with its rise. We'll see. Haven't cut into it or tasted it yet, so I'll have to report back.


And as long as the oven was hot, I decided to get going on my individual Bruleed Key Lime Tarts. You'll want to preheat your oven to 350°F. 


This isn't a difficult recipe, but it is relatively time consuming. It needs two hours in the freezer, and several periods of cooling time at various stages. I'll give you the low-down right here. Once you've got your oven preheating, then pull out four 4 1/2-inch individual tart pans with removable bottoms and spray them lightly with cooking spray.


Then grab yourself a bag of Oreo cookies and drop ten whole cookies into your food processor. Grind them up until they're smooth. I had a little trouble with some of the larger pieces clinging stubbornly to life, and so I used the arse-end of a table knife to crush them, and then gave them another whirl in the food processor.


Be sure to devour the remainder of the bag of Oreos as you proceed. You don't want that temptation around the house, now do you?

Next, pulse in two tablespoons of melted butter.


When it's mixed up, it will resemble coffee grounds. Then press it into the bottoms of your tart pans.


Now you're going to want to bake those babies in your preheated oven for 8 minutes, then take them out and let them cool a little. At this point, you'll want to turn down the heat on your oven to 325°F.

While they're baking, separate five egg yolks from their whites and put the yolks in a medium sized bowl. Do whatever you want with the whites. I usually save them for scrambled eggs or an egg white omelette...or an angel food cake will work too. To your five egg yolks add one can of sweetened condensed milk,


and 1/3 cup of Key lime juice (Dana, you are my very best friend in Florida), 


and the zest of a whole lime. (Gasp...I used a regular lime for this.)


Then, whisk that all together,


and fill your cooled tart pans. 


Then bake them in your oven for 15 minutes until the edges are firmly set. 

While those are baking, you can make up your lime sauce. You'll be dissolving 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar in 3 tablespoons of water. Just stir that around until the sugar is dissolved.


Let it cool a little and then stir it into the remaining 1/3 cup of Key lime juice.


Refrigerate that until later on. 

About that time, your tarts will be ready to come out of the oven. They don't look a whole lot different than they did when they went in, but trust me, you'll be able to see that the edges are set.


Let them cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes, and then put them in your freezer until they're really cold...about 2 hours. Just stick them in there right next to the ice cream.


Now comes the fun part. After two hours, take them out and sprinkle each one with 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar.


You'll be able to pick them up and shake them a little to get a nice even covering of sugar.


Okay, now I apologize. This part requires a specialty tool, but it doesn't have to be scary. I happen to believe that good cooking requires good tools...not just because things taste better when prepared correctly, but because it's just so much easier on the person doing the cooking. I firmly believe that many people dislike cooking because they don't have good tools. I wouldn't think of using a can opener to hammer a nail into the wall (although I have used a stapler on occasion). Nevertheless, we cooks often do something equally ridiculous in the kitchen. 

Okay, so now let me get down off my soapbox, hopefully without falling, and I'll tell you what to do next. Here you'll need some sort of blow torch. I happen to have this model, available on Amazon.com, and elsewhere too, I presume. I like it because it fits my hand well, and it is refillable with butane. Mike loves creme brulee and so I invested in the proper tool for the job.


There are other less-expensive alternatives. For one thing, you can use the same blow torch that your husband uses in the garage for whatever men use those things for. (Or maybe you have your own...don't mean to be sexist here, but I've been married for a long time. I think of a blow torch as a man's tool.) Or you can also probably get away with an inexpensive torch-style cigarette lighter. You'll want the kind with the flame that comes from the side of the lighter rather than the top. There are lots of different varieties right here. And if this all seems like a lot of trouble, forget the whole thing, and get your creme brulee at a restaurant. That too is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

But if you're feeling adventurous...read on. 

So put your flame right down next to that sugar. You'll see that it starts to melt and bubble.


You are caramelizing it to get a nice crunchy candy crust on the top of your tart.


I went back over each tart a couple of times until I was satisfied that they were completely caramelized. You want a nice crunch when you press your spoon into them. The sugar almost looks liquid, but it isn't. If you tap it with your fingernail, you'll see that it is firm and crunchy.


And there they are. Later on this evening, I'll unmold them, place them in a shallow dish, and ladle some of the refrigerated lime sauce over them. I might put a little dab of whipped cream on them too just for looks. I'll have to check back later since that's as far as I've taken them as I'm writing this.

My corned beef is in the Dutch oven and it's still several hours before we eat. I'll just bet the suspense is killing you, isn't it?

* * * * * 

Okay, so the weekend is over. Matthew and Valerie have gone home. Dinner was good. We started with an appetizer of Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto, a super easy recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis:


With asparagus in season, how can you go wrong? Erik and Mae weren't able to make it tonight, which was fine because it gave us a chance to get better acquainted with Matthew's girlfriend, Valerie. And let me tell you, this woman is definitely a keeper. It was so much fun seeing them together.


Matthew looks like he's barely tolerating this picture, doesn't he? Actually, he seemed fine with it. They know they always have permission to forego being published on the blog if they want to. I'm not sure what's going on with Mike's expression, but he's looking self-satisfied enough, isn't he?

I totally neglected to take a picture of our main course, Corned Beef and Vegetables, but I have a fairly good idea that you've seen corned beef before. This was nothing extra-special, but it was tasty and enjoyable...and easy, since all the prep work is up front. Also, for my concerns about the bread, it turned out nice too. It had a nice bakery style crust, and with no sugar, the currants provided a nice little bit of sweet. We all liked it.

But the pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance was the Bruleed Key Lime Tart, which was really delicious. For all the time it took, it was worth the effort. It makes a pretty dessert with all the best flavors. You have the nice Oreo cookie crust along with the lovely lime flavor and fragrance, and the crunchy bruleed topping. Mmmmmm Mmmmm good! I will definitely be making this again sometime.


And that brings me to the end of a tiring, but fun weekend. Things couldn't have been much better when I started Saturday morning at the Portland Farmer's Market with Erik and Mae, and ended Sunday at dinner with Matthew and Valerie. Could it get more perfect? I don't think so.

Tomorrow Mike is driving my car downtown to the dentist so that he doesn't have to take the camper off his truck. (He has to park in an underground garage...a place campers can't go.) That means a day at home in my sweats, and I am going to sew and sew and sew. My sewing has suffered over the past week, but it was good to take a little break from it. I'll be back at it tomorrow, and I'm hoping I'll be able to finish up the latest of the Folk Art Cats.

It was a wonderful weekend here. I hope you had a good weekend too.

7 comments from clever and witty friends:

Vroomans' Quilts said...

I'm coming to your house to eat -

Jacque said...

I agree with Sharon....I want to come and party with you and Mike. Hubby and I will be right over. NOT. Can we discuss your being our next door neighbors? There must be some way to arrange this.... Haha!

quiltzyx said...

The steamed clams sound yummy - the oysters, well you did put those poisonous things on them. And the lime brulee - divine!!! I love Valerie's smile - she looks like she's a lot of fun. I'm glad you had such a great weekend of good weather, good food & FAMILY time!
I did actually do some sewing on National Quilting Day Saturday - finished Rilo the Hedgehog's quilt and worked a bit on my sister's quilt too. Even did a little mending.

Tami C said...

All that work to fix something to eat is way beyond me, but it looks delicious! I see that you have your new table runner on the table. Looks pretty! Mike sure does look like he's happy and is maybe hiding a secret or laughing at a joke!

Kate said...

Looks like you had a wonderful St. Pats celebration.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

I have the old Campbell's soup commercial running thru my head: ...Mmm mmm Good, that's what Campbells soups are: mmm mmm good. I am relatively certain it was the Key Lime Tarts that did it !~! Yumm.

Brown Family said...

The asparagus looks yummy but the Key Lime tarts looks divine!