Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My birthday: What I had to eat

It's sort of an obsession of mine: Whenever someone has an event or occasion, I want to know "What did you have to eat?" I worry about this a little and wonder in amazement that I'm not the size of a house, so I was glad that a friend who sent birthday wishes asked "What did you have to eat?" It's good to know I'm not alone.

Here's the Peking duck I had at my birthday dinner Friday night hosted by the MIL at Great China. Determined not suffer another meal at a restaurant the MIL thought was "nice," I stamped my foot a little to insist on being taken here. She agreed the food was excellent. In my book, that's all that really matters.

Hiding beneath that perfectly crisped duck skin is an enormous pile of tender, lean duck meat. Sophie gave everyone at the table a demonstration of how to assemble and eat this dish.

Last night at home, I celebrated my actual birthday by doing what I like most: messing around in the kitchen. Several months ago I had taken a run at petit fours, or fairy cakes, as Sophie likes to call them. I had actually taken a class on petit fours, but in the class we made only a chocolate poured coating. We were sent home with a recipe for a poured fondant coating that the teacher assured us would work just as well. NOT. Something went dreadfully wrong, and I ended up with a big gloppy mess that tasted like crap. I was so discouraged, I wrapped up the rest of my cake (delicious: layered with marzipan, buttercream, and raspberry preserves) and threw it in the freezer. I decided to take it out last night and try again but this time with the help of blog pal Jen over at use real butter. She made a poured fondant that was just the look I wanted, and I trusted her not to lead me astray.

I followed instructions carefully. So far, so good.

The addition of both vanilla and almond extracts improves the flavor, but Jen's right that the vanilla gives it a grey tint. A drop of red food coloring turns it a lovely pink and solves the problem.

I messed with the consistency by adding a little more water and fussed with the temperature until I got something that was smooth and pourable. No glops! But I still wasn't getting quite the coverage I wanted. Next time I'll make my cake not quite as tall, which will help, but in the meantime, loading the fondant into a squeeze bottle helped.


OK, so they don't look nearly as lovely as Jen's, but I'm on a roll. Sophie and even Husband were delighted with them, and Sophie and I are pretty sure she'll be the only child at summer camp today with a petit four in her lunch.


For dinner I made a lemon pizza, modified from a recipe my friend Matt snagged off the Food Network website. Matt makes his on a grill, but since I didn't have any of the nonstick foil he recommended and it wasn't too hot, so I made mine in the oven. I started with Matt's excellent dough and slightly modified the Food Network's recipe for toppings.

LEMON PROSCIUTTO PIZZA

Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal
2 teaspoons salt
1 packet dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup warm water
pinch of sugar or honey to activate yeast

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix with a fork. Turn out on floured board and knead briefly. Place in bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until nearly doubled. I can never get dough to rise in my kitchen without putting it in the oven. My gas pilot light gives just the right temperature.

When dough is finished rising, roll out very thin. Place on pizza pan or baking sheet that has been coated with a thin layer of olive oil and corn meal.

Toppings

2 tablespoon of heavy cream (I used half and half)
fresh mozzarella
prosciutto
sweet onion, thinly sliced
lemon, half juiced, half sliced
parmesan, shredded or grated
fresh mint, chopped

Brush crust with cream and then layer mozzarella, prosciutto, onion, lemon slices, and parmesan. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Bake at 500 degree for about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped mint.
This went nicely with a green salad. And did I mention I started off with a glass of Prosecco? It was nice on its own, but I'm looking forward to pairing it up with the white peaches that are just hitting the market for one of my favorite summertime bevs., the Bellini. Stay tuned. 

8 comments:

Jen Yu said...

ha ha! first to comment!! happy happy birthday, lady! that peking duck looks sooooo good. i am uber impressed with your petits fours and i totally dig your idea to use the squeeze bottle. i will have to do that next time because that glaze makes me swear like a sailor - you are correct that glazing the sides is a pain in teh butt. i hope you had a great time and enjoyed the celebration. also... love that you and sophie bonded at the stream by her school. you are such a kickass mom. i meant to comment on this when i read the last post, but i ran out of time.

kristenspina said...

Happy Birthday! It all looks delicious, but that pizza? I am so making that.

Jenn said...

You are such a kitchen goddess! Happy belated birthday!

jilly said...

NUM! Now how did you get MIL to go to a decent restaurant to celebrate with you?

I am going to try the lemon pizza, it looks SO good!

KK said...

It's only 9 am, but I NEED a petit four NOW!!!

Glad you had a good birthday.

Kerry McKibbins said...

I just discovered your blog - from Kerry, at More, More, More.
Love it.
I'll be back.

MsMVNJ said...

Oh my gosh that looks so good. Thanks for turning me on to "use real butter" that looks like a great blog.


Happy belated birthday!

Kate said...

Cindy, you are superwoman. I'm so envious, but in the nicest way.