Sunday, May 16, 2010

Poulet Sauté Basquaise / Sauté of Chicken with Bell Peppers

A month or so ago, Scott was heading up to one of his accounts on the Boise Bench and was rear-ended. We were lucky that there was minimal damage to the car and no damage to Scott, but it still made for a stressful day. Scott had some evening obligations, but asked for a dinner from the book. I opted for this chicken and the macaroons from the previous post. I'd planned for a few more things but ran out of time. It's easy to get over ambitious.

I still haven't found the Espelette pepper listed. I need to make it over to the Basque Market in downtown. I figure if anyone's going to have it, they will. The chicken is browned after being coated in a mixture of Espelette (or cayenne and paprika in my case) and flour. It's pan-roasted with garlic, Bayonne ham or proscuitto, chicken broth and red & green bell peppers.

It smelled amazing. The proscuitto added a meaty, salty character to the chicken and peppers. By the time the dish was cooked, the peppers were soft and almost falling apart. I served everything over basmati rice cooked in the leftover chicken broth. Overall, a comforting dish to make up for a stressful day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Les Macarons de Nancy / Almond Macaroons

I may have a new favorite cookie. These are so ridiculously easy and delightful. If you have a food processor, you can make them. Combine 150 g blanched almonds (The recipe calls for whole, but I couldn't find them. We've used slivered ands sliced.) with one cup of sugar, two lightly beaten egg whites and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Pulse in the food processor until a sticky paste is formed. Apologies on the weight for the almonds to those of you who don't have a scale. The recipe calls for 1 cup whole blanched almonds, but I haven't been able to find whole ones and have used the weight instead. The genius? You can choose how rustic you want the macaroons to be. I liked how the slivered ground a little better than the sliced, but I liked that the recipe is flexible.

It's also flexible if you make a mistake. The first time I made them, I looked at the 150 g of almonds and 200 g granulated sugar and combined the numbers to 250 g almonds. I was really confused when it took a few extra egg whites to make the paste come together, but it had said you might need more. The cookies turned out delicious, and I didn't think much of it until I was making them again for a beer tasting party. The pile of almonds was significantly smaller, and two egg whites was more than sufficient. Oops. The second batch was a little less dense than the first, which is to be expected.

Each time I make these little cookies, I'm amazed that they don't have any flour in them. They are pillowy and soft, with a terrific texture. Even looking at them, it's hard to tell they're nothing more than almonds, sugar and egg whites.

The first night, we had them with coffee and vanilla ice creams with caramel sauce drizzled over the top. Mmmm... The second time, they went to a beer tasting party where someone told me more than once that they were the best cookies he's ever eaten. The third time, friends joined us for How I Met Your Mother, potato-leek soup and macaroons with a chocolate sauce. Each batch turned out slightly different. I still have some almond meal left over from the chocolate cake and am looking forward to using it too. I think it would leave me with a cookie more similar to the classic French macaroon. Regardless, I have a new go to dessert when I need one in a pinch. The next step is to see what I can do to make different flavored ones. An attempt at strawberry was a disaster--too much water in the berries--but I think I could manage to make chocolate work out well.