Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Macarons, macarons, macarons!

Pierre Herme macarons

I have the best friend who brought me the best souvenirs! After a month-long honeymoon hopping across Eurasia from Russia to France, E.’s final destination was Paris. The morning before her flight back to Seattle, she rushed over to Pierre Hermé to buy one of every macaron available that day. After a trans-Atlantic flight with a brief layover in Iceland, a collision in the X-ray machine (the macarons, not the people), 90 degree weather in Seattle, E. and husband E., and a dozen of the prettiest macarons made it back home, well-traveled, tired, and a little sweaty.

That night, we hung out, drank French wine, ate French almond cakes and French rum cakes. Before Steven and I overstayed our welcome, we left the weary travelers and drove home with twelve macarons nestled in my lap and an obligatory mini Eiffel Tower.

ohhh yess...
I am one lucky gal! Just look at those beautiful colors!

I saved the Pierre Hermé plastic bag, Pierre Hermé decorative paper bag, the two macaron guides, and yes, even the napkin (unused!). Obsessed? Maybe.

First up
set 1
Top: CELESTE: Strawberry, Passionfruit, & Rhubarb
passionfruit cream mousse with rhubarb and strawberry compote

Bottom: Grapefruit
grapefruit and Campari cream with candied grapefruit pieces
A seasonal flavor I believe. Very grapefruit-y without being overly bitter.

Right: MONTEBELLO: Pistachio & Raspberry
pistachio cream with raspberry compote

Fast forward through eyes rolling back and guttural moans to the second set.
set 2
Top: MOGADOR: Passionfruit & Chocolate
passionfruit and chocolate ganache
This one was E.'s favorite and definitely one our favorites as well. The combo of passionfruit and chocolate is eye-opening.

Middle: Olive Oil & Vanilla
olive oil and vanilla bean cream
This one did not tolerate the heat very well. It started looking a little greasy but surprisingly didn't taste greasy at all. We were a little skeptical about this one but the flavor was very delicate.

Bottom: ARABESQUE: Apricot & Pistachio
apricot cream with praline and pistachio
This was probably my favorite. Both the apricot and pistachio flavors were so strong!

set 3
Left: Blackcurrant
Blackcurrant cream

Middle: Chocolate
pure origin chocolate from Venezuela ganache

Back: Rose
rose cream
Another one of my favorites, I can only imagine how delicious the Ispahan is (wasn't available that day).

By now Steven and I were faced with a dilemma. We were absolutely stuffed and couldn't eat another macaron. But what if they didn't keep well in the fridge?! The last thing we wanted was to wake up the next morning to find our beloved, flown-in from Paris macarons soggy! We probably could have googled for proper macaron storage but after spending a night in the fridge, they were as good as new.

set 4

Right: Fleur de Sel Caramel
caramel macaron with grains of Fleur de sel, salted butter caramel cream
Oh my god, it tastes like I died and went to heaven. I didn't want to part with this one but I had to give Steven his half. The things the French can do with sugar, butter, and salt amaze me.

Middle: Chocolate

Left: Fresh Mint
mint macaron, fresh mint creme
I'm normally not a fan of mint flavored sweets, which usually taste disturbingly like toothpaste. But this was totally different - it tasted minty and green (like fresh peas). It tasted just like how my Aerogarden mint smells.

Steven and I are two very happy people right now. Even though the macarons had rich fillings, they all tasted luscious without being heavy. Each flavor tasted as delicious as they sounded. Pierre Hermé is a friggin magician.


Yes, I specifically requested the mini Eiffel Tower.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Crab Cakes

Ginger Lime Dungeness Crab CakeMmm mm! 4 oz. crab cake with Israeli couscous (our current obsession) cooked in crab stock.

I’m back! I spent the last month working at a clinic in the coastal fishing town of Westport, WA. I had some of the best seafood ever while I was down there – crab, salmon, tuna, spot prawns all fresh off the fishing boats. Before heading back to Seattle, K., the gal I was staying with, hooked me up with 6 Dungeness crabs to take home. Whoohoo! I also had the clams we dug up the day before, salmon a neighbor brought over from his fishing, and blueberries I picked from the shrubs outside the house. It was some seriously sweet loot to take home.

My dad is in town and Dungeness crab is his favorite. We feasted on steamed crab with fresh ginger spiked black Zhejiang vinegar for dipping. I cleaned and picked out the meat from the leftover crabs for crab cakes. Dungeness crab is one of the meatiest crabs but even so, it took two very large crabs to yield one pound of crab meat. Jumbo lump Dungeness crab meat goes for around $25 a pound at my local fish market. Pretty darn steep in my book but it takes about three to four pounds of whole crab to yield a pound of crab meat and then factor in the time spent to get the crab out of the shell, the price is understandable.

Too many recipes out there have all sorts of fillers added to the crab – onion, bell pepper, even celery (blech), and calls for way, way too much bread crumbs. You end up with an onion flavored hockey puck. No thank you! The best crab cake in my book is made with as much crab meat as possible, no veggies, and minimal bread crumbs. I use panko because it’s light and airy and won’t weigh the crab down. Don’t even think about using the stale stuff that comes in a cardboard canister. The most important step is to thoroughly chill the cakes for at least an hour so they get a chance to set up in the fridge, otherwise the cakes will fall apart in the pan.

Ginger Lime Dungeness Crabcake

Ginger Lime Crab Cakes
1 lb jumbo lump crab meat
1 egg
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp chopped green onions, green parts only (approx 3 green onion tops)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp juice (approx from half a small lime)
1 Tbsp sweet relish
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp lime zest (approx from half a small lime)
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
Optional: dash of fish sauce
1/4 C panko bread crumbs and more to bread

Vegetable oil to fry 4 – 5 minutes on medium heat

Pick over the crab meat and discard any pieces of shell. Drain the crab meat on a few sheets of paper towels to soak up any excess moisture. You may have to gently squeeze the crab meat to remove excess liquid (you don't want to go overboard and have it end up bone dry either).

In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together except for the panko and crab meat and mix into a smooth sauce. Pour over the crab meat and add the panko bread crumbs. Gently fold together the crab, sauce, and bread crumbs. Try to keep the large crab meat pieces intact while mixing.

Divide the mix into 4 and squeeze the mixture tightly together to form a 3 – 4 inch patty that’s roughly 3/4 inch thick. Put the crab cakes on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour, up to overnight.

Pour some panko onto a plate and bread both sides of the crab cake with the bread crumbs.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry the crab cakes 4 – 5 minutes on one side then carefully flip and continue to cook for an additional 4 – 5 minutes. If the crust is browning too fast, turn the heat down. Frying the crab cakes slowly ensures that they are heated through by the time the crust get crisp and golden brown. Resist the urge to flip the cakes more than once because they are more likely to fall apart with repeated flipping.

Serve with dipping sauce of your choice.

Sriracha Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp fish sauce

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl.


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