Er, Lunar New Year that is. Speaking of which, I had the best dim sum I have ever had last weekend. We were seated in a main drag rather than the wasteland that is reject cart area. And the quality of bbq pork and shrimp was just out of this world, melt in your mouth delicious. My only complaint was that the pork bao cart didn't come by until the very end when we were stuffed. Almost unforgivable! I say almost because we forced ourselves to eat two orders of it anyway.
But I have a confession to make. This post has nothing to do with Lunar New Year. I just thought it was appropriate to point out a New Year holiday, while I blog about another one past. That's right, it's time I finally got around to telling you more about the meals I was eating around the new year. You may remember from my Year in Review post a few weeks ago I talked about the two most delicious meals I ate were right before the new year. Well here they are!
A few days before New Years Eve I took advantage of my week off from work to make bagels. Why? Well here's one of the things I love about Husband: he is endlessly supportive of my cooking, and especially my baking. It's not surprising since he obviously benefits big time from the effort, but he never tires of telling me how proud he is. Even better, there are a few items Husband will no longer buy and insists that I make myself, bagels being one of them. Husband is also a man of tradition like myself (erm, a woman of tradition in my case), few traditions, but traditions none the less. A big one with him is smoked salmon from Seattle. I'm not talking lox, people. I'm talking salmon that is actually smoked. I've only ever seen it in fish markets in Seattle, and it is definitely worth the hassle that is trying to get ice on a plane nowadays (here's a tip: bags of ice are not allowed, they could leak and ruin other people's luggage, but cores that come with coolers that have caps, or I would assume other sealed vessels, are allowed. But you have to check it. If some idiot at the check-in counter tells you ice is flat out not allowed, ask to talk to her manager because she's a frakking liar). Anyway, every time we go to Seattle, we come home with smoked salmon, and it goes in the freezer until it is consumed by the appropriate method, which is on a bagel with cheese of some kind and slices of apple. So freaking good.
So that's how I ended up with bagel attempt number two (my first attempt was blogged here), and I am happy to report it was a resounding success! Whereas last time there were pretty good, this time they were great. I've definitely still had better at bagel shops, but I've also had worse, so that's pretty darn good, right? Not to mention these blow those icky store bought bagels out of the water. I stuck with Peter Reinhart's recipe, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen (though I could have just looked it up in my Peter Reinhart cookbook, but I like Deb's notes).
I took Deb's advice and did the egg wash. I like the texture an egg wash gives, and since I did poppy seeds and sesame seeds, I wanted to make sure they would stick. I generally prefer my bagels denser and chewier (I boiled them extra which supposedly made them chewier, but not quite dense-chewy), but they had a great crust and the flavor was...well, you just can't beat that fresh out of the oven flavor. I unfortunately didn't get a picture of the finished salmon-bagel sandwich because, well, when faced with such deliciousness I just can't wait.
My bread doughs have been coming together much better ever since I excepted the fact that my doughs always seem to require more flour than recipes call for. You know when something says to add 6-8 cups of flour, depending on what you need to keep it soft and elastic without being tacky? Yeah, I usually get to about seven, and then after kneading for a few minutes it gets sticky again, so I add more, etc., etc., that I usually end up with over 8 cups. I just don't pay attention to the recipe and try to listen to my dough instead. It works out much better that way.
I remembered this being very labor intensive, and even though it's a two day process, it really wasn't that bad this time around. Yay for my Kitchenaid mixer which does all my kneading for me! Gotta love it. I don't know how often I'll make bagels just because I try and limit my carb eating (not in an Atkins way), and these aren't whole grain, but I will definitely add this recipe to my special occasion bread mental list.
My other success at the end of last year was my New Years Eve dinner. It was kind of accidentally fancy. Really we were supposed to hang out with friends on New Years Eve, but after spending the week running around trying to accomplish a year's worth of ignored errands in the span of 3 days, we were exhausted and just wanted us time. So we flaked. I'm a bad person. I know. It's ok though, I made them brunch the next day.
Also, we had this fish. See, the night we got back from visiting Husband's parents, Husband was watching that show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on Food Network, and the episode on ended up featuring a place in our city, so I sat and watched the segment with him. It was this fish joint owned by two brothers who are deep sea fishermen. One brother does the grilling, the other brother runs the seafood counter. Everything is fresh, made to order and looked delicious. It looked so good, in fact, that we decided to trek over there for lunch the very next day! Man oh man is that show good for business. On a Tuesday at 11:30am it was packed, and it stayed packed until we left about 75 minutes later. But the food was great. We've already been back there this year. But the best part is their fish counter. There are slabs and slabs of fresh caught fish! Nom! So Husband and I got some to take home and make ourselves. We ended up, among other things, getting some escolar, a fish I'd never heard of but looked delicious (and it was!).
So long story long, we had this escarole we really needed to cook or it was going to spoil, so we stayed in and cooked rather than going out and partying. Heh, me party...yeah right. I had no idea what I was doing. When I was shopping for ingredients at the store I had no idea what I was doing either. I just grabbed ingredients that called out to me and didn't question it. When I was cooking in the kitchen I just kind of started putting those ingredients together and didn't question it. What I got was this:
Don't ask me how! It just happened! Like magic! The fish is the escolar, grilled with meyer lemon and orange garlic butter. To the bottom left is a shaved fennel and raw beet salad with walnuts and a meyer lemon, truffle oil, and champagne vinaigrette. And to the top left is a roasted cauliflower puree topped with small pieces of roasted cauliflower and sauteed leeks. It was amazing. By far one of the best meals I've ever cooked. And I didn't use a single recipe. How could I when I didn't even know what I was making? Go figure. The fish was so buttery it just melted in your mouth. Husband was making all sorts of groaning noises while he was eating, he was so happy. And no, I did not eat that huge piece of fish. I ate half of it...and Husband ate the other half on top of his huge piece. Yeah, he really liked it.
Phew! Slowly, but surely, I'm getting all caught up! Is anyone tempted to attempt bagels, or have you accidentally made a gourmet meal before?