Thursday, August 13, 2009

Weeknight meal for two

The other night, I had time to shop for groceries after work, and as we’d mainly subsisted on homemade hummus for a week, Allen and I decided it was time for a real meal.

A couple of weeks ago, I’d made crab cakes. The recipe called for a pound of lump crabmeat, and it felt too decadent to eat ten crab cakes in two days, so I shaped the cakes and froze four of them raw.

I had also made pistachio-shortbread tartelette shells for a party, and ended up needing only about half of the recipe yield, so I froze six baked shells.

We were halfway to a good dinner already! I made parmesan mashed potatoes, remoulade sauce for the crab cakes (and vegetables, mashed potatoes, and every other salty item I could find in the kitchen), and pastry cream for dessert. The recipes for the crab cakes, the mashed potatoes, and the pastry cream follow. For the remoulade sauce, I used Emeril Lagasse’s recipe; it is the best ever (add a little mayonnaise to the recipe, though). The tartelette shells are from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, page 255. These are delicious, but any shortbread recipe would be great, too. This recipe is basically a not-too-sweet cookie dough, baked in the shape of a shell.

There are a few things I like to keep in the freezer – raw tarte dough and pie dough, unbaked gougeres, baked tartelette shells. Whenever you freeze anything, suck out all the excess air from the bag (that is hopefully the least dignified thing I’ll ever say on this blog). In the case of tarte and pie dough, wrap the dough in plastic wrap before putting it in a bag. Gougeres, also from the Baking Handbook, are a great thing to have in the freezer in case friends come over or you want a salty carbohydrate to go with your dinner.

This was a great meal, and most of it was made right before eating it, but it was so much easier to have the two really labor-intensive components right in the freezer. And since I had made them, albeit well in advance, I didn’t even have to feel lazy.

Crab cakes
1 pound lump crabmeat (remove any bits of shell)
3 eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup minced green onions
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup coarse (homemade) breadcrumbs
¾ cup flour
Fine breadcrumbs, for coating
Olive oil or vegetable oil

Mix the crabmeat with one egg, the mayonnaise, green onions, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and coarse bread crumbs. Place in a colander and let drain.

Place the flour on a plate, and the fine breadcrumbs on another. Lightly beat the remaining eggs. Shape the crab mixture into rounded tablespoonfuls. Coat with flour, then with egg, and then with fine breadcrumbs.

Heat equal parts butter and oil (to a depth of about 1/3 the height of your crab cakes, about ¼ to 3/8 of an inch) in a heavy skillet. Cast-iron will retain its heat when the crab cakes are added.

Place crab cakes carefully in the heated oil, leaving room between them. Brown for a few minutes on each side.

This is a basic recipe to which ingredients, like chopped pepper, may be added.

Parmesan mashed potatoes (for 2)
1/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Peel the potatoes, and cut into 1-inch chunks.

Bring a pot of water to a boil; add some salt. Add the potatoes, and cook until tender. Drain, and return the potatoes to the stove (on low) to dry for a minute or two.

Add all the other ingredients, and mash until smooth.

Vanilla pastry cream
Vanilla pastry cream, lightened with whipped cream, is one of Earth's perfect foods.
2 cups whole milk
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. very good vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1-½ cups heavy cream

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form; chill at least two hours.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Cook until mixture simmers.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly. Whisking constantly, very slowly drizzle the hot-milk mixture into the egg yolks until it is all incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens (the foam on top will dissipate, and the mixture will register about 170˚ on a thermometer).

Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter, and beat on medium speed until the butter melts and the mixture cools, about five minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly to the surface of the custard. Refrigerate at least an hour.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the custard.

Note: If you’re preparing pastry cream for use in a layer cake, or any application in which it needs to be really thick and firm, omit the whipped cream.


Post a Comment