Tuesday, December 31, 2013

happy new year's eve

New Year's Eve is here, can you believe it? I'm sitting on the couch in an old pair of Daniel's pajamas, nursing a cup of coffee and making lists of what I need to get done before the celebration tonight. I have a new party dress and the expectation that there will be a lot of champagne, so I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. We're going over to our friends Dave and Lindsay's house for pre-dinner cocktails and then heading to The Abbott's Cellar for dinner- exactly the kind of New Year's Eve celebration I like best. I hope that everyone has some plans they're looking forward to- whether that means staying home with loved ones or heading out on the town. Best wishes for 2014- I have a feeling it's going to be a great year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

suzanne goin's meyer lemon tart

This year for Christmas, I gave Daniel a bar cart. I'd been searching for one for ages and finally - finally - found one that was both aesthetically pleasing and reasonably priced. Triumph. Anyway, setting up the bar cart got us excited to do some entertaining, so tonight we're having friends over for cocktails (made by Daniel) followed  by dinner (made by me). 

Before I settled on what I wanted to make for dinner, I already knew what I wanted to make for dessert: Suzanne Goin's Meyer lemon tart with a layer of chocolate brushed over the crust.

Unfortunately when I got to the grocery store there were no Meyer lemons to be found so I decided to go with regular lemons plus one orange for a little extra sweetness.

I used Ms. Goin's recipe for pate sucree, which came together reasonably well, and used the leftovers to make a few little pie crust stars and little scraps dusted with cinnamon sugar.

After baking the crust and brushing it with melted bittersweet chocolate, I started on the lemon curd. It burbled and got thick in the pot as I whisked until finally I decided it had to be done, stirred in some butter, and set it aside to cool before sieving it into the crust.

It firmed up nicely in the refrigerator. I'll be serving it this evening with some barely-sweetened whipped cream- back soon with a report!*

*Verdict: tart was fantastic; the dark chocolate layer makes it special. Definitely one to hold on to.

Suzanne Goin's Meyer Lemon Tart with a Layer of Chocolate from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
1 portion of pate sucree to cover a 10inch tart dish
2 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 70%)
4 extra large eggs
3 extra large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
A pinch of kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream for whipping

Preheat oven to 375
Line tart pan with pate sucree and prick the bottom with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill the tart shell with beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the parchment paper and weights. Return the tart shell to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes until the crust is an even golden brown. Set aside to cool.
In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the tart shell and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes until the chocolate has solidified.
While the crust is chilling, make the lemon curd. Whisk the egg yolks, eggs, sugar and lemon juice together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, alternating between a whisk and a spatula, until the curd has thickened to the consistency of pastry cream and coats the back of the spatula. Remove the curd from the heat and stir in the butter a little at a time. Season with the salt. Let the curd cool about 8 minutes and then strain it into the prepared tart shell. Chill the tart in the refrigerator for several hours. It should be served cold with a dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

bahia drake, costa rica

We just got back from seven days in Drake Bay, Costa Rica. It was quite the adventure getting there- a flight from San Francisco to Miami, another flight from Miami to San Jose, an overnight layover in San Jose, another flight from San Jose to Drake Bay, a truck ride, and finally, a boat ride out to our hotel, the lovely Copa de Arbol.

The flight from San Jose to Drake Bay was actually really cool- we took a single engine plane and got to enjoy views all along the coast and across the mountains.

Getting to the hotel took some time but it was well worth the effort- it was an absolute oasis of tranquility. Once we arrived at the hotel, we were welcomed with fresh coconuts to sip and sat down to a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit and gallo pinto with homemade tabasco sauce. We watched little white-faced capuchin monkeys caper around in the trees outside the dining room, making eyes at our food.

My mother did a fabulous job planning the trip, so in between taking dips in the ocean and drinking caipirinhas we also managed to fit in a tour of the Corovado reserve (we saw all four kinds of monkeys indigenous to Costa Rica), a boat trip to Cano Island to snorkel (I immediately got stung by jellyfish and then spent the rest of the morning sunning myself on the beach), hikes along the coast, and massages. The rest of my family also opted for zip lining through the rainforest canopy but I was feeling lazy and spent some time lounging by the pool reading.

I actually didn't take all that many pictures- I spent so much time in the water that my camera mostly stayed in the room. But I wouldn't have changed it for the world- it was the most relaxing vacation I think I've ever taken. A huge thank you to my parents for having arranged such a fabulous family vacation! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

a much anticipated vacation

Fall quarter is over and I'm packing up my things for break. I'm headed to Costa Rica on Friday for a much anticipated vacation; I've never been before and I can't wait. I'm definitely going to blind everyone with my pallor but I'm looking forward to escaping the chilly weather and enjoying some time on the beach. Back soon (but not too soon) with pictures and stories!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

to the library

Sculptures of the individual figures from Rodin's Burghers of Calais stand in front of Memorial Church on the Stanford Campus. They're dramatic and beautiful in their way but have always seemed a little out of place to me in sun-washed Palo Alto. But since the end of the quarter is approaching and finals are upon us poor students, I thought it was appropriate to put up something with just a hint of despair and resignation. As I write this, I'm brewing an exceptionally large pot of coffee, putting on one sweatshirt over an even larger sweatshirt, and packing my things to head to the library.  I'll be done next Tuesday - see you on the other side.

Monday, December 2, 2013

cook's illustrated's boston cream pie

On the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, my uncle made dinner for the whole family. A homemade seafood sausage with a touch of beurre blanc followed by duck breast with a mushroom ragout. My aunt made a Boston Cream Pie for dessert. As you can see, our family is not one to stint on meals prior to Thanksgiving.

I am the sort of person who will choose pie over cake any day of the week but this cake.... THIS CAKE is something else. The cake itself is tender, the custard rich and dense, the chocolate ganache a perfect bittersweet foil to the layers beneath. It was the best cake I've had in ages, and though I hate to admit it, even better (or perhaps just more novel) than the excellent pies that followed on Thanksgiving. Our eight-year-old twin neighbors who joined us for dinner agreed, eschewing pie for staggeringly large slices of cake piled high with whipped cream.

My aunt was kind enough to give the cookbook the recipe comes from to my mother as a gift, and if you should be interested, the recipe can be found here. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
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