chocolate

A Crawfish Boil at Gaskins

by Anne Maxfield on May 23, 2016

Accidental Locavore Crawfish SpreadThere are always restaurants you want to try and for whatever reasons never seem to get to. Such is the case with Gaskins, a local (if a 40 minute drive counts as local) place that opened about a year ago. It’s owned and run by Sarah and Nick, two refugees from some major Manhattan eateries. They’ve settled in Germantown and opened a casual “gathering place” featuring some great-sounding dishes, mostly sourced from local farms.

Accidental Locavore Crawfish BoilThe Accidental Locavore says “great-sounding dishes” because the evening I was there was for the second annual Spring Social and Crawfish Boil put on by the Hudson River Exchange, a local arts group, which featured only one item on the regular menu (more about that one thing later). Instead, all the tables in the place were laid out end-to-end and covered with kraft paper. After drinks (including a mango-mint daiquiri that will make you rethink daiquiris and find a designated driver) they poured 100 pounds of crawfish along with potatoes, smoked kielbasa, ramps, scallions and fiddleheads along the length of the table.

Accidental Locavore Eating CrawfishSarah gave us a quick demo on how to properly eat the crawfish and suggested that there was pride to be taken in having the biggest pile of empty shells, so we all eagerly set to work. It’s been a long time since I’ve had crawfish and these were delicious! If you’re not familiar with them, they look and taste like little lobsters, but are probably much healthier as melted butter does not have to be involved.

Accidental Locavore Crawfish AfterFiddleheads (the tiny beginnings of ferns) are another spring treat I hadn’t had in ages. They were so good that the next time I come across them, I’m taking advantage of their short season! The kielbasa, which somehow wasn’t at my end of the table, was well worth the stroll to the other end. In other words, everything was great!

Accidental Locavore Gaskins Ice CreamIf you didn’t save room for dessert—your loss! That’s the one thing that we had that is a menu item and totally worth saving some space for (trust me, you won’t want to share). Nick’s chocolate ice cream is one of the great ones! Creamy and richly chocolate it’s almost worth going to Gaskins just for that! The other ice cream, a sweet cream one, was almost as good—buttery and silky smooth, but for me, the chocolate was all I needed.

Now that I’ve seen what a fun place Gaskins is and how terrific the food for a crowd was (never an easy task), I’m excited to go back and try their menu items. And you know what I’m having for dessert…

 

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse

by Anne Maxfield on May 19, 2016

Accidental Locavore Salted Carmel Chocolate MousseThese were the criteria: I needed a dessert for a dinner party, it needed to travel well and since the hostess is another foodie, the dessert needed to be pretty damn good. After spending a lot of time with Made in India, the Accidental Locavore decided to go back to another favorite, David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Since he’s such a dessert guy, he had to have something that would impress 6 people:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt, preferably fleur de sel or Malden

Accidental Locavore Mousse PrepSpread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a wide sauce pan. Heat the sugar over medium heat. As it begins to liquefy at the edges, with a heatproof spatula (thank you, GIR), very gently drag the liquefied sugar towards the center. Watch carefully as once the edges start to darken, the sugar is in danger of burning. Continue to cook, stirring gently until all the sugar is melted and begins to caramelize.

When the sugar is a deep amber color and starts to smoke, remove it from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter, stirring until it is melted. Gradually whisk in the cream and stir until the little bits of caramel are completely melted. I find it helps to warm the cream before you add it in.

Accidental Locavore Caramel for MousseOnce smooth, add the chocolate, stirring gently until it’s melted and smooth. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Once it’s no longer warm, whisk in the egg yolks.

In a separate large bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold 1/3 of the mixture into the chocolate and sprinkle in the salt. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks of white remain.

Divide the mousse into serving glasses or a serving bowl and chill for at least 8 hours. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Who knew 6 ingredients could be so delicious? I had eaten these before when David was cooking at DeGustibus, but somehow (sorry David) these tasted better. Somewhere in the process, it occurred to me that they needed a little something crunchy (probably too much time spent in Nice eating chocolate desserts) so I made some tuiles to go with them and it was the perfect touch. That recipe will go up next week, so stay tuned. Be careful making the (any) caramel, it’s a mere moment in time between beautiful and burnt. Gently warming the cream makes it much easier as the caramel doesn’t harden and take forever to combine with the cream.

And the reaction at the dinner? One of the guests asked if he could lick his dish!

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Shopping My Freezer: 8 Weeks and 23 Meals

by Anne Maxfield on May 2, 2016

Accidental Locavore Freezer InsideYou know that moment when you open the freezer and the last thing that was shoved into it drops on your foot. You howl in pain and vow to clean it out—pronto! That was the state of the Accidental Locavore’s freezer. As a challenge, I thought I’d see how long we could go eating what we already have, buying vegetables and perishables only.

The unofficial start was March 12th – with a grape leaf “pie” from Ottolenghi’s Nopi cookbook (delicious!) made with ground beef and a marrowbone from the freezer – and is still going on as we reach the end of April. We have eaten out several times, and I haven’t really counted the nights we ate leftovers, but so far it’s been over 20 meals created from what we had on hand.

Accidental Locavore Grapeleaf PieI have bought fish three times, some (extraordinarily tough) chicken thighs and a couple of pork tenderloins, but that’s it for the meat and seafood section of the market in eight weeks. Needless to say, our grocery bill was significantly lower too.

So what does a month of shopping the freezer look like?

  1. The aforementioned grape leaf pie
  2. Albondigas I made for Frank before I left for France and an avocado with dressing.
  3. Lunch of salad with feta (homemade), and leftover steak
  4. Indian chicken, basmati rice and roasted broccoli
  5. Guests for dinner of pulled pork and mac and cheese
  6. Pasta Puttanesca with Italian sausage (from the pig class)
  7. Moroccan lamb shanks with artichokes, butternut squash (from freezer), dried chickpeas (balance now in freezer) and couscous
  8. Leftover grape leaf pie
  9. Chicken with cilantro chutney
  10. Meringue cookies with chocolate from freezer, cornflakes from cupboard, egg whites from hollandaise sauceAccidental Locavore Freezer Door
  11. Broccoli soup with stock from freezer
  12. Lamb stew with spinach and basmati rice
  13. Lasagna, sauce and Italian sausage from freezer
  14. Pork roast with hoisin sauce
  15. Cod wrapped in banana leaves (from freezer) with cilantro chutney
  16. Amazing Tartine Bakery bread for toast
  17. Lamb-stuffed grapeleaves
  18. French onion soup
  19. Another batch of pasta Puttanesca with Italian sausage and a couple of meatballs
  20. Lasagna with the leftover Puttanesca
  21. Chocolate salted-caramel mousse with chocolate from the freezer (and some tuiles I whipped up
  22. Rao’s meatballs with ground beef we were going to make burgers from
  23. BBQ spare ribs

Accidental Locavore Sealded FoodMy verdict: Without my FoodSaver (sealer) almost all of this would have suffered from freezer burn–it is worth the money! All the pork, lamb and beef we got locally was either sealed or well wrapped in butcher paper. Even with all these great meals, the freezer is still pretty packed. We could/can go at least another month and let me tell you, shopping from my freezer is a whole lot easier than running out to the market every other day! Besides, I like the challenge of working with what I’ve got. How long do you think you could go shopping your freezer?

 

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Almost Everything Chocolate

by Anne Maxfield on February 11, 2016

Accidental Locavore Chocolate CaramelIf you were presented with an exquisite display of pastries, you’d decide you needed to taste them all, right? The Accidental Locavore decided it was a mission she could accept and decided to eat my way through all the chocolate desserts at LAC, a lovely, modern patisserie in Nice. And if a couple of stray pastries ended up in the mix, so be it.

Accidental Locavore a Dessert Named DesireIt started out innocently enough with Désire, a wonderful stack of praline, chocolate and chocolate mousse. Surviving that (former hazelnut allergies), I decided to see what other goodies they offered. Next up, Guerande, a chocolate mousse oval filled with apple purée and salted caramel.

Accidental Locavore Lac DessertThe deepest, darkest chocolate one, Intense, was well named, being a square of dense chocolate mousse totally covered in an even darker ganache. It got a little mangled on the way home (which is why it’s not the most beautiful picture) and it was super rich with all that chocolate, but I’d been spoiled by the previous two, which were much more interesting, with the layers and textures.

Accidental Locavore les ReligieusesMoving slightly away from all chocolate was les Religieuses Think of it as a round éclair base, with a smaller one on top and you’ve got the basic idea. Good for those days when you need a little pastry and a little chocolate, but not too much of either.

Accidental Locavore St. HonoreOne of my favorite non-chocolate desserts is a St. Honore. On the surface, it looks simple. A biscuit topped with whipped cream, topped with a mini cream puff glazed with almost burnt caramel. It’s rich and scrumptious and then there’s the extra kick from the crunch of the caramel. Done well (and it was) it’s one of life’s great treats. What got me hooked on these were the ones at Maison Kayser in New York, which are still the best in my book (because they have three mini cream puffs, giving you three times the crunchy caramel).

Accidental Locavore Chocolate LiegeoisBack on the chocolate trail, but not from LAC, was a chocolat liégeois. More like extremely chocolate whipped cream, this had a surprise at the bottom of the glass – a red currant coulis. Good, but too much like chocolate whipped cream to be a winner.

Accidental Locavore Chocolate GateauAt another favorite place, Le Safari, the patisserie du jour was described as a gateau au chocolate (chocolate cake in other words). Dummy me was thinking chocolate layer cake for some reason, but what came out was so much better! A round disk of chocolate, very rich, with a swish of even darker chocolate sauce, and some whipped cream if you needed to lighten it up a little (ha!). There was a cookie holding it up, which gave it some crunch and texture.

Which was my favorite? While they were all well worth the calories, I think that honor has to go to the Guerande (that’s why it’s the top photo). The mixture of the cake with the surprise apple filling and the salted caramel accents was a terrific combination. Which would be the first you’d want to try?

 

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