Thursday, June 26, 2008

Double Rib Lamb Chops with Cassoulet of Summer Beans and Rosemary

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you an artistic rendering of my experience in making this dish:

My friend, Jen's, son "Skeeter" (like Prince, Cher, and Madonna before him, he wants his artistic name to be singular) drew this picture for the blog: that's me, and my dog, Jake, having a bit of a hurl; the lamb chops are blue and emitting blue and black rays of death; and, my face is undeniably green upon having smelled the lamb chops when I opened the package. For the record, I did not actually throw up, but it was close.

Here's the deal: I bought my lamb chops from my local Whole Foods, brought them home, and the next day when I opened them? They smelled bad... really bad... almost WORSE THAN TRIPE bad. They were yellow and green, and made my eyes water with their badness.

I'd only bought them the day before, and this particular Whole Foods does really good meat, so I got on the phone immediately with the store and talked to my buddy, Larry, who runs the meat department there. He told me to throw those chops in the trash and get my arse over there pronto so he could take care of it. Not only did he refund my original purchase, he hand-cut new rib chops himself from a fresh rack that had been delivered that morning, and didn't charge me for them.

Yet another benefit of getting to know your vendors, folks. I'm positive this store would've handled it right, regardless (they've always been great to deal with in my experience), but I felt taken care of, and that was a nice boost, considering the stench nearly burned my corneas completely off my eyes. And, for those of you who might ask, yes, they conducted a full inspection to find out what caused it, but I don't know what the end result was. I've bought other meat there since then, and everything's been great. I am relatively certain this was a fluke, and they handled the situation above and beyond my exepctations and better than my previous experiences with other food vendors. So, yay for Whole Foods. Say what you will about them (and people DO have their opinions), they get a check-plus in the customer service column on this one. Thanks, Larry.

Now, on to the dish. This post will be on the shorter side, because there aren't that many steps to making this dish, which means *AHEM* that maybe some of you might want to try making this yourselves. I did one short-cut, which I rarely, if ever, do with these dishes, but taking the lamb situation into account, I thought it was the right thing to do. More on that later.

Let's start with the beans. I bought and soaked some dried marrow beans and adzuki beans overnight, then put them into separate pots for cooking. Each pot got some chicken stock, water, leek, carrot and onion, and then I brought it to a simmer, skimming off the junk that rose to the top:

I simmered them for about an hour, when they were tender. I let them cool off while in their cooking liquid, and I prepared the other beans -- blanched green beans (double the amount the recipe calls for because I couldn't find yellow wax beans), fava beans, and soybeans.

It's at this point that I realized I'm supposed to mix the beans in the lamb quick sauce that I'd also just made. However, even though the lamb bones I used for the sauce came from another source, I was feeling superstitious and weirded out by the rancid chops, so I threw away the lamb quick sauce and instead reduced 2 C of veal stock until there was about 1/3 cup left and it was thicker and almost glaze-like.

I drained the marrow beans and adzuki beans and mixed them into the reduced veal stock, then added the other beans I'd just blanched. To that, I added tomato diamonds, brunoise, and salt and pepper and kept it warm on the stovetop while I cooked the lamb:

Now that the beans were done, it's time for the lamb chops. Here they are, in their fresh, non-rancid glory:

I put them in the skillet with a little canola oil and cooked them over medium-high heat for 4 minutes to brown them. I turned them and cooked them for another 3 minutes, then turned them on their sides to brown the edges, as well:

I removed them from the pan, drained the oil, added butter to the pan, and returned the chops to the melted butter. I topped the lamb chops with garlic and thyme, basted them with a bit of the melted butter, and put them in a 375-degree oven for 5 minutes:

I took them out of the oven and allowed them to rest for a few minutes while I got the plates ready. First in the dish were the beans, then I topped them with a lamb chop:

I have to say, that even though I'm sure this would've been great with the lamb quick sauce, and that it was very likely the lamb sauce would've been fine from a quality and non-rottenness perspective, the reduced veal stock was a great substitute... and I had no reservations whatsoever about it. It gave the beans a hearty, creamy quality, and bolstered the lamb-ness of the lamb. The beans were absolutely delicious, and the lamb was so tender and perfect, and almost as creamy as the beans.

If you have The French Laundry Cookbook, you may notice that I skipped the step about adding the rosemary and the rosemary oil. That's because I hate rosemary. I don't know it this is the same for my fellow cilantro loathers, but rosemary has a similar effect as cilantro does on my palate. Eating even one little leaf of it is like chewing on a giant Christmas tree and it makes everything taste and smell like one of those taxicab air fresheners. So, I avoid it whenever and wherever I can. Rosemary wasn't always this way for me, but when my food allergies shifted a year or so ago, the rosemary thing came in full force, so no rosemary for me, or my guests. No one seemed to miss it, and no one uttered the words, "Wow, Carol... this dish really sucks... if only you'd added some rosemary maybe I could stomach it." Not even close. In fact, it was so good, after we finished the beans, we gnawed whatever last morsels of meat we could get off the bone. Classy all the way.

Special Note: We've only got a few months left of French Laundry at Home, and you'll notice I've done a Q&A with Michael Ruhlman and my fishmonger, and there will be others to come (particularly, Susie Heller, and my favorite farmer). However, I thought it also might be fun to do a Q&A with me. Actually, a few of you have suggested it in recent emails, and after thinking about it, I agree. So, feel free to use the comments section or send me an email with any questions you may have -- food-related, non-food-related, whatever -- just wanted to give you guys an opportunity to ask me whatever it is you might want to know. I'll answer your questions in a "Q&A with Carol" post in a few weeks.

Up Next: French Laundry at Home Extra: Q&A with Susie Heller

Lamb and produce from Whole Foods
Dried beans from TPSS Co-op
Thyme from my garden

Music to Cook By: Roxy Music; Avalon and OMD; Crush. This summer, more than any other, has made me nostalgic for the music of my teenage years... especially when I cook. When I'm in the car, I want new music, but when I'm at home, I crave the old stuff. I still have the worn out cassette tape that had each of these albums on one side. Of course, I have the MP3s now on iTunes, but I'm keeping the tape because I remember the day my friend, Molly, and I made those tapes, taping from one tape deck to another, releasing the pause button on one deck and pressing record on the other and trying to time it perfectly. Man, I'm old. Don't even get me started about how we used to hold a casette tape recorder up to the speakers on my record player to make tapes that way. I'm downright jurassic with that crap.

Read My Previous Post: "Banana Split" -- Poached-Banana Ice Cream with White Chocolate-Banana Crèpes and Chocolate Sauce

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Banana Split" -- Poached-Banana Ice Cream with White Chocolate-Banana Crèpes and Chocolate Sauce

When I was growing up, my parents and other family members spent many, many nights suffering through a seemingly endless parade of dance recitals, band, orchestra, and chorus concerts, and musicals. I'm sure it was to quell the splitting headache they endured listening to my squeaky oboe, but after the end of nearly every show, we'd go out for ice cream to this place called Rutter's. It's a family-owned dairy that spawned a small chain of family restaurants in my hometown. I was pretty easy to please back then -- chocolate ice cream with chocolate jimmies (or sprinkles) was my regular order. Every now and then I would branch out, be bold, take a risk, go big and order chocolate-marshmallow ice cream instead, but that was about as far as I'd go.

My brother, on the other hand, would order whatever super-duper-punchbowl-death-by-cow concoction they had on the menu... and would finish every last drop. I was never a fan of fruit and chocolate in the same dish, so banana splits and other desserts of that ilk never really appealed to me. In fact, it's only been recently that I have come to love the banana-chocolate combination. I still really dislike chocolate with all other fruits, but this is a combo I can get behind.

I love that there's a "Banana Split" dish in The French Laundry Cookbook -- but, (there's always a but), this dish had white chocolate in it, which I think I hate more than the idea of a chocolate-fruit combo. Is it just me? I don't know about you, but I really can't stand white chocolate. A) it's not really chocolate, and 2) it's just so slimy in its texture it gets stuck in my throat and makes me cough and gag. Same for milk chocolate. They both taste like burned plastic smells or what I would imagine licking a 9-volt battery might be like. I'm a dark chocolate girl, all the way.

I thought about substituting some dark chocolate instead of the white chocolate, but having just had success with the Île Flottante I did not want to incur the wrath of the pastry gods so I stuck with the recipe at hand and hoped against all hope that it wouldn't suck. I started making most the elements of this dish the night before I knew I was going to serve it, because the ice cream needed time to fully chill, and the crèpes needed time to freeze.

The first thing I did was make the poached-banana ice cream. Thanks to David Lebovitz and his awesome book, I've had lots of practice making ice cream over the past year or so, so I knew this step would be a breeze. I placed the bananas in a large saucepan, and covered them with cream, milk, sugar and some seeds from a vanilla bean:

I turned the heat on low and warmed them up for about 15 minutes so that the bananas could poach. I removed the bananas from the liquid, tossed the vanilla bean, and strained the poaching liquid.

I put the bananas into the food processor and puréed them.

I pushed the puréed bananas through a tamis, scraping them to get every last bit through, and reseved it in a bowl to use for the crèpe filling.

I'd saved the liquid in which I poached the bananas, strained it, and put it in a saucepan to bring it up to a simmer. I then whisked some egg yolks in a separate bowl, used the warm milk/cream mixture to temper the yolks, then put the yolky mixture back into the creamy mixture in the saucepan and stirred until it coated the back of a wooden spoon. I poured this custard into a bowl that was sitting in a bowl of ice and stirred it until it had cooled off:

I strained the custard and let it completely cool off in the fridge overnight. The next day, I churned it in my ice cream maker, and you'll see the final product later on in the plating.

The next step was to finish the crèpe filling, and stuff and roll the crèpes. I already had the mashed nanners in the bowl, remember them?

I chopped up 9 oz. of white chocolate (fffllleeaarrggghhhh), melted it in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, then stirred it into a food processor, along with the bananas, as well as a wee bit of salt and some lemon juice, where I processed the heck out of it:

I refrigerated this for two hours to let it become a little more firm. In retrospect, it needed to be refrigerated overnight, but it still worked. Sort of. Well, more than sort of. You'll see.

With the filling done, it was time to make the crèpes. I've made crèpes before, but those were savory and these were sweet, so it required a few tweaks to the core ingredients, but the cooking process was still the same. My crèpes ended up more yellow than I thought they'd be, but they smelled really great. I trimmed them to be a little more rectangular-ish, then added the filling to the lower third (you'll see it was a little more blobular than it should've been). I rolled them, then wrapped them in plastic wrap before freezing them.

Yeah, so go figure that every time I tried to take a photo, the wrapping popped loose. I ended up twisting and tying them tightly, like I did the duck breast, way back in the day, and they stayed all snug and tight in the freezer overnight.

The next evening, I finished the final steps of the dish -- making the chocolate sauce and the whipped cream. Making whipped cream is easy: cream, Kitchen Aid mixer, whhhiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrreeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEE, and done. The chocolate sauce also was really easy: chopped bittersweet chocolate into a bowl of warm cream and corn syrup:

You'll see how beautifully it melted in the final plating photo. Which reminds me: time to plate!

First in the dish went a small pool of warm chocolate sauce, followed by three slices of the frozen, filled crèpe. I topped that with some of the banana ice cream some whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry:

The crèpes, as you can see, were not perfect rounds, which I knew when I rolled them was the case, but still... they tasted amazing, white chocolate and all. The ice cream was so so so good, and the chocolate sauce? I should've taken pictures of our licked-clean plates. Everything was absolutely delicious. Smooth, creamy, and I love the hot and cold together.

While the Île Flottante was far and away a grand slam, this was a home run, for sure. Each one of the elements could and did stand on its own (I ate the leftovers, so I am in expert in making this assessment), but together, they were just lovely. In fact, it not only made me miss my childhood, post-concert ice cream treats, the chocolate-banana combo makes me a little bit homesick for my favorite ice-cream stand on the way to the beach, where they make killer chocolate-banana milkshakes. That ice cream stand is only 2 hours from my house..... hhhhmmmmm.... what's my day like tomorrow? FIELD TRIP!!!

Up Next: Double Rib Lamb Chops with Cassoulet of Summer Beans and Rosemary

Bananas and lemon from Whole Foods
Milk and cream from Organic Valley
Domino sugar
Eggs from Smith Meadows Farm
Vanilla bean from the TPSS Co-op
Noi Sirius bittersweet chocolate (70%)
Karo light corn syrup
El Rey Icoa white chocolate
Great Expectations maraschino cherries

Music to Cook By: Journey; Frontiers. There's something about this time of year that makes me nostalgic for my high school days -- not really wanting to relive them or anything, but thinking back to how awful being 14 was and if only I knew then what I knew now, I might not have gotten that one perm. Okay, those 20 perms. But I digress. I was in 9th grade when I got my first Walkman, and I always looked forward to having a few new tapes to listen to on the car ride to the beach with my family in the summer. I thought "Separate Ways" was the rockinest song, and I would air drum to it when I thought no one was looking. I also thought (and still think) "Send Her My Love" is one of the most awesome songs ever written and totally thought Steve Perry was singing about me. I have this feeling that had YouTube existed back in the day, my friends and I would've recreated the "Separate Ways" video and posted it there for the world to see. I would've also insisted that we recreate "Oh, Sherry" too, because why not? That song is really good, and again, Steve Perry was totally singing it to me. I just know it. Shut up.

Read My Previous Post: "Yabba Dabba Do" -- Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna, and Bordelaise Sauce

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Yabba Dabba Do" -- Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna, and Bordelaise Sauce

Look, I know I talk a lot about my boyfriend, bacon, and my other boyfriend, Mike Bloomberg. But there's a very good chance I might be cheating on both of them with my new boyfriend, Bordelaise Sauce. Oh my..... my heart is racing just thinking about it again. Let's just jump right in.

I started this dish a day before I wanted to serve it because you have to season your meat (*snerk*) and let it sit in the fridge on a plate for a day. Here's my double rib-cut steak (it's just over 2.5 lbs.):

An hour before cooking, I removed the steak from the refrigerator so it could come to room temperature.

Before that, however, I started working on the sauce and the Pommes Anna. Let's do the sauce first. Oh, the sauce.... THE SAUCE!!!!!!!!!!

I brought to a simmer some red wine, parsley, thyme, a bay leaf, shallots, carrots, mushrooms and garlic:

At the point when the liquid had nearly evaporated....

... I added veal stock and some peppercorns and simmered it for about 20 minutes:

After 20 minutes, the liquid had reduced to a sauce-like consistency, so I strained it into a smaller saucepan. It was during this 20-minute simmer that I fell madly in love with the deliciousness we call Bordelaise. Veal stock, wine, aromatics... oh, how you tempt me. Mom... Dad... meet your new future son-in-law, Bordelaise Sauce:

Of all the sauces I've ever made in my entire life, this is by far my greatest acheivement. I mean, LOOK AT IT! Have you ever seen anything so lovely? I know I go on and on about wanting to take a bath in certain foods, but this was above and beyond.

With the SAUCE! completed, it was time to move on to the Pommes Anna. I put some prunes in a small pot with chicken stock, brought it up to a simmer and cooked them for about 15 minutes.

The prunes were mushy and soft, so I minced them and mixed them with some minced shallots and some sel gris (grey salt).

I know it looks like doody, but believe me, it smelled amazing, and ended up tasting divine. But more on that later. Let's keep going with the potato dish.

I peeled and trimmed some Yukon Gold potatoes into a 2" cylinder-ish shape (I had to add the "-ish" because you'll see there's nary a smooth edge. More like a lopsided, art deco, hexagonal fandango sort of thing) and sliced them to about 1/16" thickness using my kickass Benriner mandoline.

I soaked the potato slices in cold water for a minute or two to get rid of some of the starchiness. While they were soaking, I skimmed the little instruction booklet than came with the mandoline. Of course, I've been using my mandoline for months now, and still had not yet read the instructions. (On a side note, I have also had my car for two years and have never read the manual. I'm awesome like that.) I had a few *snorts*snerks* when I skimmed this particular instruction manual, because I'm a big fan of seeing how things are translated. Get this:

"When vegetable becomes small, thrust it slowly by fixing your eyes on it with great care of your fingertips...." Um sure, Kreskin/Hugh Hefner, I'll get right on that.

Or this:

Typos and odd punctuation/grammar aside, that last sentence has to be one of the longest run-on sentences in the history of kitchen-tool translations. Wow.

So, the potatoes are sliced (not by the thrusting of my eyes, or whatever) and they've soaked, and the prune goop is done. Time to assemble.

First, I gently placed a potato slice in the center of an 8" skillet that had been brushed with clarified butter. Then, I made two layers of potatoes, salted them, added some of the prune mix, then two more layers, salted those, then prune mix, then a final layer of potatoes, which I brushed with clarified butter:

I put the skillet over a medium flame on the stovetop and let it cook for about 5 minutes. I then put it in the oven at 450 degrees for 45 minutes and the potatoes were starting to brown and get crisp.

I let this sit on the stovetop and the put it back in the oven for 10 minutes to rewarm it before serving it.

In the meantime, I made the steak. Let's take another look at that glorious piece of beef:

It had already been out of the fridge for a little over an hour when I patted it dry with paper towels and then kerplonked it into my saute pan with some canola oil already heated up and ready to go:

I seared it for four minutes on one side, then flipped it to sear the other side:

After a few minutes on that side, I took the steak out of the pan, poured off the canola oil, then added some butter to the pan before putting the steak back in it:

I put the steak in the butter-filled pan into a 450-degree oven and roasted it for about five minutes. Then, every five minutes for about 25 minutes, I flipped it and basted it with the melted butter and pan juices. Here's the finished meat, resting for a few minutes while I put the potatoes back in to reheat, and warmed the bordelaise sauce:

At this point, the book recommends sautéeing some chanterelles in butter and a little salt and pepper, but there were no chanterelles at the market, so I used oyster mushrooms instead. I like the taste of oyster mushrooms a little better, too, so this was an easy substitution.

Time for plating. I sliced the steak into half-inch slices, added some potatoes next to them, and topped it all with the mushrooms and the SAUCE!. It's not exactly going to be on the cover of a magazine any time soon, but hot damn, was this delicious:

Fantastic. Amazing. Delectable. Aromatic. Excellence on a Plate.

If you like meat and potatoes and want something hearty but not heavy, this is it. This dish was really outstanding, and honestly? Not all that difficult. Not only was the steak tender and good and the potatoes cooked through really nicely, I swear, you will want to marry this sauce when you taste it -- it's so complex and layered, but also so simple and pointed. The one thing about the potatoes that I would change for next time is somehow change the pruney-ness of the potatoes. I thought they were too prune-intense, but that's just my opinion. However, I was so thrilled to have some potatoes and sauce leftover for lunch the next day... and the smell of the reheated sauce made me the happiest camper around.

Up Next: "Banana Split" -- Poached-Banana Ice Cream with White Chocolate-Banana Crèpes and Chocolate Sauce

Meat, produce and most of the aromatics from
Whole Foods
Parsley and thyme from my garden (woo-hoo!)

365 unsalted butter

David's kosher salt

Ex Libris Cabernet Sauvignon (2004)

Music to Cook By:
Jem; Finally Woken. Not everyone likes Jem Griffiths. Some think she's too strummy-strummy-la-la. Others think she's a Kate Bush or Dido knock-off. I don't necessarily agree or disagree strongly with any of these assessments. I just like her music. I usually listen to her in the car, but this time I cranked it up while I was cooking, and it worked.

Read My Previous Post: Île Flottante

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Île Flottante: Slow-baked Meringues with Crème Anglaise and Bittersweet Chocolate

I have to confess: I was putting off making this dish for months now, and I'm not quite sure why. You may have seen it pop up in my "Up Next" section three or four times, excited to see it, and then get ka-blammed when I did monkfish and oxtail or some sort of organ-related dish instead. Sorry 'bout that. I'm not normally a tease, but I kept losing my mojo about this dish. It's one of the only desserts that absolutely intimidated me, and again, I have no clue why. It's weird, because when you look at all the separate elements of it, it's really not all that difficult. There was just something about the dish as a whole that made me nervous and uneasy about making it, so I procrastinated.

Boy, was that ever a stupid thing to do.

Why? Because this is the best dessert I have ever made, bar none. I highly recommend you go out and buy the book, or check it out from your library, and make this dish. Immediately. I am totally being the boss of you right now. Seriously, turn off your computer, get yer arse to the grocery store, and go make this. Oh wait. Maybe you should finish reading this post first. Yeah. But when you're done, call in sick to work, blow off any other commitments you've made and make this dessert. You won't be sorry. And, you can share it with the ones you love, or eat all six of them yourself. That's up to you. Who am I to judge?

Let's get started. Step one? Mint oil.

Pretty, pretty mint leaves my friend, Linda, grew in her garden and she graciously let me have since the deer have eaten all of my mint (and parsley - what's up with that, DEER? Bad breath problems? Feeling gassy from all the hostas of mine YOU ATE WITHOUT ASKING??).

I blanched and ice-bathed the mint leaves, mixed them with some canola oil and blended them in the blender.

I let the purée rest in the fridge overnight, then wrapped it in a cheesecloth and let the mint oil drip out over the next hour or so:

I put the mint oil in a small eye-dropper bottle since I knew I'd want to make smaller dots, rather than the somewhat sloppily executed oil rings I'd done in the past. I stored the bottle of oil in the fridge until it was time to plate the dish.

Up next? Meringues.

I think this may have been the step that intimidated me the most, and I still don't know why because it was really easy. I've made meringues before, but for some reason, I thought this particular method would set me up for the glorious failure I know you all love so much. But TOO BAD FOR YOU, it did not.

To prep, I preheated my oven to 250 degrees and sprayed some non-stick spray into six foil cupcake liners. I combined egg whites and sugar in my metal Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, whisking it until the mixture was warm and the sugar had dissolved. I put the mixing bowl on the mixer stand, and used the whip attachment to beat the egg whites and sugar until they formed soft peaks.

I reserved a half cup of the meringue to use later in the mousse, but put the rest into a pastry bag (you could use a ziploc bag with the tip cut off, if you don't have or don't want to buy a pastry bag or the tips) and piped it into the foil cups. The cups were in a baking dish, which I then poured hot water into so that it'd go halfway up the sides of the foil cups. I covered the baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and baked them for about 20 minutes.

When they were done, I removed the meringues (still in their foil cups) and put them in the fridge for about an hour to cool and firm up.

While the meringues were in the fridge, I made the chocolate mousse. I put the chopped bittersweet chocolate into a mixing bowl. I brought some cream up to a simmer, and then poured it over the chocolate, letting it melt the chocolate. After a minute or two of just letting the cream work its magic, I stirred the mixture until it was smooth and all the chocolate was melted.

Then, I whisked some cream until it had reached the stiff-peak point, and folded that and the reserved meringue into the chocolate mixture. Zee mousse, she is ready.

Now, on to my favorite part of the process -- digging out the center of the meringes and filling them with the chocolate mousse:

Not exactly the most precisely perfect execution, but for a first-timer who had expectations of meringues and mousse flying all over the kitchen, I was pleased. These lovelies remained in the fridge until I was ready to plate. I also saved the leftover mousse (and there was a decent amount left over) to eat later.

Next, I made crème anglaise, which you can see here. I didn't photograph it this time.

Last, but not least, I made the chocolate tuiles. I was also sort of intimidated by this step, although when it came down to actually making it, it was really easy and I felt like a doofus for being hesitant about it.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, and in a mixing bowl, creamed some butter and powdered sugar:

I sifted together the flour and cocoa powder, mixed half that in, then an egg white, then the remaining cocoa/flour mixture, and ended up with this (it was making a slappity-slapper sound, which told me it was time to turn off the mixer):

Using an offset spatula and a 2.25" circular stencil I cut out of a plastic 3-ring binder divider, I made little cookie-type things on a Silpat. I then put the Silpat on a baking sheet and baked them for 7 minutes when the tuiles were set.

When they were done, I put the Silpat on a cooling rack to bring the tuiles to room temperature:

Man, was I happy those tuiles worked -- I fully expected to burn them, break them, drop them, or just have them not be what they were supposed to be... but they were excellent.

Time to plate.

I made a small pool of crème anglaise, then placed one of the meringues in the center. I had to gently remove each merinuge from its foil cup wrapper and allow the goop to drip off before inverting it onto the dish. I bypassyed the step of using a round cutter to make it more of a cylinder instead of the shape of the cupcake liner I made them in. I'd gotten this far and was pleased with the results, I didn't want to risk the meringues imploding or falling apart during that step. Because you know that totally would have happened, and I am sick and tired of sucking at desserts, so I kept on going with what I knew I could do for a first-timer.

So, crème anglaise, inverted semi-trapezoidal meringue, tuile on top, on top of that some chocolate shavings with drizzled mint oil and a tiny sprinkle of fleur de sel, and drops of mint oil around the meringue:

What's that sound you just heard? Every pastry chef across America falling off their chairs onto the floor in astonishment that I did not screw this up. Not trying to be all self-congratulatory here, but that is soooo not ugly!! It's actually kind of pretty and appetizing! And, even more importantly, it tasted absolutely delicious. I'm a fan of dark chocolate and mint together, but all of this in one dessert was beyond my wildest expectations. It was creamy and cool and fluffy and smooth, and just out of this freakin' world. The chocolate and the mint alone were delightful, but the vanilla of the crème anglaise, and the lightness of the meringues... and the different textures of crunch and smooth.... oh, I wish I could make one for every one of you out there, but alas, I think you should make it yourself. It's so well worth the effort, I promise.

Look at that mousse in the center! Woo-hooo!!!!!! This recipe makes six servings, but leaves enough leftover mousse to enjoy the next day for breakfast... I mean, dessert after lunch. Or, lunch. You know, whatever floats your boat.

I finished these in the afternoon and had planned to serve them to my friends later that night. So, I plated one, photographed and ate it, but when I was downloading the photos, I realized that I forgot to add the tuile, so that meant I had to assemble YET ANOTHER ONE at THAT VERY MOMENT, photograph it, then eat it, leaving only four meringues left for my friends. Oh darn. Sucks to be them and have to share, I suppose. *Snerk* I did, however, serve them the leftover mousse because I felt a little bit guilty. See, I'm human, despite what some people think. And in honor of my humanitarian effort around mousse sharing, and because I made the best dessert of my life, today, I officially crown myself Successfully Awesome Dessert Maker of The Month For Someone Who Usually Sucks At It And By The Way I Also Rock At Sharing.

Even though I live in Maryland, I need to see if I can get the Mayor of New York City to issue a proclamation in my honor. Anyone know how to get in touch with him? It's official business, I swear.


Up Next: "Yabba Dabba Do" -- Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna, and Bordelaise Sauce

Eggs from Smith Meadows Farm

Domino sugar and powdered sugar

Organic Valley heavy cream and whole milk

Vanilla bean from the TPSS Co-op

365 organic unsalted butter and canola oil

King Arthur flour

Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder

Mint from Linda's garden (thanks!)

Guerande fleur de sel

Noi Sirius Bittersweet chocolate

Music to Cook By: Boston; Boston. When I was in elementary school, we were allowed to bring in a record to play in music class so that we could learn about different kinds of music the other kids liked. In fourth grade, I brought in an ELO double album (I was obsessed with the song "Sweet Talkin' Woman" and also I was a geek who loved ELO) and one of the boys in my class brought in this Boston album. I've been hooked ever since. There's something about the song "Foreplay/Long Time" that I just love. That whole intro feels like Tom Scholz was a former symphonic director who escaped the loony bin and began attacking a synthesizer. Later on in the song, the hand claps, harmonizing vocals, lead guitar... all of it still to this day makes me wish I was in a band wailing on a drum kit or wielding a mike like nobody's business. And it was a great album to have on in the kitchen while I made a dessert that I am officially adding to the permanent repertoire.

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