Day 5 Photo Finish: Carter Beats The Devil Cocktails

One of our favorite restaurants is The Slanted Door on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Their Vietnamese menu is exceptional, especially their inventive cocktails. With a view of the Bay Bridge, they almost seem indomitable.

But we found our own view an even better perch from which to enjoy the Slanted Door classic, ‘Carter Beats the Devil‘…

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This Mezcal concoction combined the smokey grandfather with his lighter cousin (Patron Silver), lime juice, agave nectar, and 20 droplets of homemade chile tincture (hot shit!)

Slurped down on our little ridge with the sun beginning to set, this was the perfect accompaniment to cheers to our last evening of DIY Cooking School in the Anderson Valley.

Till next time!

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Day 5: Homemade Not-So-French Bagels

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We threw bagels into the mix for our French cooking extravaganza because they’re something we’ve always wanted to make. And after our Wednesday-night French/Moroccan feast with one too many bottles of wine, this was the perfect pick-me-up.

Having lived in New York City, we knew we wanted a real NYC bagel, or as close as we could come to it, and this recipe from the Sophisticated Gourmet lived up to its promise.

Less than two hours of time (1.25 of it just to let the dough rise) and we had a crispy on the outside, chewy-doughy on the inside, seriously kick ass bagel. We topped those bagel bites with sesame seeds and flakes of Maldon sea salt, and they needed nothing more than cream cheese to be delectable.

One slip up was we used a little too much oil on the dough when letting it rise, and we didn’t have a dough cutter, so the result was a funky bagel bottom with folds of dough creased together instead of a smooth underbelly. But as the great JC once said, “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”

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With enough schmear, no one was turning these bagel bites upside down.

 

Day 4 Dessert: Tarte Tropezienne

What does this face say to you?

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To me, it screams ‘yum’. The guttural, buttery yum that comes from eating something so sweet and divine that you can’t even say it out loud.

The tarte tropezienne was a day-long adventure, involving 5 creations combined into the epic tarte Brigitte Bardot.

  1. Homemade brioche dough (note to self – stirring this tough dough made Paul’s muscles bulge like Popeye. Use electric mixer in the future! Or maybe, don’t…)
  2. Pastry cream (aka creme pat to the GBBO fans out there)
  3. Buttercream (mixed with the pastry cream to form the gooey filling goodness)
  4. Simple syrup (to soak into the insides of your halved brioche dough once baked)
  5. Brioche glaze (to top your brioche bake, prior to a confectioner’s sugar and pearl sugar topping)

We forgot to bring our spring-form pan, so the brioche was a bit lopsided and unevenly baked.  And, in the future, we’d make  thicker pastry and butter creams to give our tart a more ice-cream-sandwich look.

But looks aside (they’re not most important, right?) this tart was sugary pillows to the face. A totally transcendent and wonderful dessert, that we will  practice and perfect before surfacing at future dinner parties.

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Day 4 Dinner: Ottolenghi/Mourad/(love)Child Fete Marocaine

We’ve heard to often in Silicon Valley the phase ‘go big or go home’.  For our 8-person dinner party to share the fruits of our #diycookingschool labor, we thought we should go home AND go big.

Go big we did —

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Ottolenghi’s 5 lb bone-in lamb shawarma
Mourad’s grated carrot and orange salad and spicy eggplant, tomato and garlic salad
Kitty Morse’s raw fennel salad
Spiced olives
Couscous (we used instant – sue us!)
Mourad’s smokey harissa
Janet Fletcher’s homemade yogurt with pine nuts, herbs and spices
And more Julia Child baguette — why not?

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Our Anderson Valley wine-making friends brought their own goods to pair with our lamb meal — Van Williamson’s Witching Stick pinot noir and chardonnay, and Susan Lewis’ pinot and gewurtz. In addition to our neighbor,  Roederer Brut Rose to start…

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In our minds, the stand-outs were not only the individual dishes, but even more the dreamer’s combinations — fork a small bite of eggplant salad, yogurt sauce, harissa and baguette for a spicy mouthful; or lamb, yogurt and carrottes rapees for a hearty citrus surprise.

Said Jake, our Silicon Valley tech dude invitee, “Each dish was wonderful in its own regard, but collectively the spectrum of flavors from the citrus-y carrots, to the heavily spiced lamb — the sum of the whole was great.”

The buffet style lent itself to over-eating, to which we did not turn a blind eye. More surfing or yoga may be required today. Rinse and repeat.

Day 3 Dessert: Thomas Keller’s Tarte au Citrone with a Suzanne Goins secret ingredient

Thomas strikes again — why make a flour-based tart crust when you can use 2 cups of pine nuts for $19.99?

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At least his recipe makes enough dough for 3 tart shells — we’re freezing the remaining two for a special occasion (maybe a chocolate tart tonight for Day 4?)

A lemony sabayon tops the secret ingredient, a thin layer of melted bittersweet chocolate, a la Suzanne Goins in Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler and paint the pine nut tart shell like you’re Michelangelo. Fill your heavenly canvas with the lemon sabayon, pop under the broiler until it starts to bubble and turn spotted-cow-brown ( a sly nod to fellow Wisconsinites and their New Glarus beer favorite), and top with a thin layer of confectioner’s sugar. It’s what Norman, our fave from the GBBO would do.

Check out this slice and see if you’re not inspired to steal pine nuts from your neighbor and bake this baby tonight.

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Day 3 Dinner: Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken avec Jus, Spinach and Gruyere Gratin, and Salade de Fenouil Cru

Thomas doesn’t like to do things the easy way — he likes to do them the hard way. Masochism? Perfectionism? A little bit of both, we think. But we love it. Yes, we do.

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The chicken takes two days — day 1 involves making your brine (which you let your whole chicken sleep in overnight) in addition to starting the jus (which you ladle over your chicken on the finished plate and soak up with your bread and gratin).

The brine is as simple as Thomas gets – 8 common ingredients (spices like peppercorns, bay leaves and lemons) are boiled briefly in water and cooled before giving your chick its spa treatment.

The jus is complex but so worth it – first you long-roast 6 pounds of meaty chicken backs (the butcher can prepare these for you and they’re not very expensive), and then you simmer them for hours in water with a few other simple ingredients while skimming off the impurities. Once you reduce this puppy down it becomes a rich, brown… jus. What is a jus? It’s like gravy’s younger, better looking skinny brother. No cream, no flour. Just juicy, succulent yumminess.

The result is the best chicken we’ve ever had. Needless to say, we won’t be making turkey this Thanksgiving,  oh no we won’t.

The sides: Kitty Morse’s salade de fenouil cru (raw fennel) and Ina Garten‘s bechamelly spinach and gruyere gratin. Easy, quick, and the perfect complements to the juicy, savory poulet.

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Framed with our own homemade baguette and locally made ‘Deep End Zin’ made by valley neighbor Susan Lewis (formerly of Marguerite Vineyard), this meal could not have been more tasty.

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Our Kitchen: An Anderson Valley Hideaway

The setting, the site, the history, the ambiance — all important for a good bake. To help you understand why we chose this Place for our cooking extravaganza, here’s a dabble on the kitchen, the house, and the valley we call home.

Our kitchen: Open, light, and the best place we could think of to spend 5 days immersing ourselves in French cuisine.

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The house: A PISE (pneumatically impacted stabilized earth) gem near the top of the East Ridge of the Anderson Valley, north of Philo, CA. A post-and-beam vaulted ceiling, open kitchen,  Japanese themed grounds and garden. Best experienced in a bikini.

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The Valley: An hour north of Healdsburg and 45 minutes south of the funky village of Mendocino where the surf gods reign in their 5/4 wetsuits…

Mornings shrouded in fog, and afternoons toasted in sunlight. Whales in the winter, and tom turkeys in the backyard in the summer.

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Day 2 Dessert: Dorie Greenspan’s Pate Sablee: the very best crust

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Dorie gives us the version of pate sablee tart crust that doesn’t need to be rolled out. Simply blend the ingredients in your Cuisinart until they clump together, form them into a soft ball, and mold the dough into your 9″ tart pan and you’re ready to go. It is easy; impossible to fail.

We used Martha Stewart’s strawberry rhubarb tart filling because it requires no pre-cook! Just mix the ingredients, pop them into your crust, and bake for 1 hr 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

Paired with a surprise for Paul, homemade cardamom ice cream from David Lebovitz, this is a dessert we will make over and over again. He looked like a kindergartener when he found out about it.