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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Britishish Brunchishness

So, this month's book (okay, we don't read a book every month, but humor me) was Atonement by Ian McEwan. I thought a British book called for a British menu, so decided on:
Ginger-Hazelnut Scones with Crème Fraîche, Rhubarb-Ginger Jam and Fresh Strawberries
Salmon-Wrapped Poached Eggs with Avocado, Asparagus and Lemon-Chive Sour Cream Sauce
Rhubarb Custard Pie à la Mode

Preparations began on Friday with all the rhubarb stuff. I used a recipe for Rhubarb-Ginger Jam that I got from Adriana last year, but this time I decided not to add water (as called for in the original recipe) and see how it turned out. So, chop about 2 lbs of rhubarb and mix in a non-reactive pan with 2 C sugar. Then (here's where I deviated), let the mixture sit for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. This draws the juices out of the rhubarb, so it can cook without adding additional water. Here is what mine looked like after about three hours:



Then add about 3 oz. fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into pieces that will be easy to find and fish out later (ie., not too small). 3 oz. ginger is more than it sounds like--not just a thumb or a couple of fingers, but pretty much a whole hand. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb has softened. Then scoop or strain out the rhubarb, and simmer just the liquid and the ginger until it's thick and syrupy. Toss the ginger, stir the rhubarb back in, and then put in jars. I used two pint jars, made sure the rims were clean, screwed the lids on tightly, then turned upside down. When they were cool, I put them in the fridge, and they seem to have sealed. The acidity of the rhubarb plus the sugar should mean it'll be good as long as it's around.



Then I baked the pie, the crust for which I had mixed up earlier in the day. I used a recipe that appeared in this week's Oregonian FoodDay. My only note on this recipe is that 3 lbs is more than enough rhubarb, even for a 9-inch deep pie dish. Next time I won't use more than 2.5 lbs. Before going to bed, I set the table with linen and lace I got from my grandmother, and our nicest china and goblets.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, after an odd dream (aren't they all?) in which MWR was a grower of organic red onions, and we met Portland chef Leather Storrs (great name, eh?--he was interested in the onions), and he looked like Jeff Spicoli. I cut some black tulips from the garden for a centerpiece, then headed out for the last of the provisions: asparagus, strawberries, smoked salmon, brioches, fresh eggs. Then I came home and whipped up the scones. I've tried lots of scone recipes, but not since I tried the one for Dorset Scones in Sheila Lukins's Around the World Cookbook. Here's how I made them yesterday:
2 C flour
1 T baking powder
3 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 C chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 large egg
a little less than 1/2 C milk
1/3 C chopped crystallized ginger (I use ginger chips from the Ginger People)
1/3 C diced roasted hazelnuts

1. Put dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt) in food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Break egg into a Pyrex measuring cup and whisk lightly. Add milk to just over the 1/2 C mark, and whisk lightly to blend. Pour all but 1-2 T over the flour/butter mixture and process until the dough is just starting to come together. DO NOT process until dough comes all the way together and makes a ball going around the food processor bowl.

3. Dump dough into a medium-sized bowl, add ginger and hazelnuts and blend quickly with your hand. Make into one large 1/2-3/4" thick disk for big scones, two disks for mini ones. Use a bench scraper to cut each disk into 8 wedges, and place on a parchment-lined insulated (this is important if you don't want scorched bottoms) baking sheet. If you have time, chill shaped scones on baking sheet, 15 minutes-overnight (I was in a hurry yesterday and skipped this, and they turned out fine, but I did start with very cold butter and I didn't overwork the dough).

4. Preheat oven to 450. Brush tops of scones with reserved egg-milk mixture, sprinkle with sugar, and bake 10-15 minutes, until tops are lightly colored. Cool a few minutes on wire rack before serving.

Here you can see the table setting during the first course, including the black tulips just visible at the top of the frame. My friends pointed out that the lace placemats echoed nicely the filigree of the Lane Twitchell prints (Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters) hanging in my dining room.





For the main course, we had Salmon-Wrapped Poached Eggs from The Gourmet Cookbook. I am not normally a fan of either poached eggs or smoked salmon, but this recipe won me over. The only thing you really need the recipe for is the sauce, a lemon-chive-sour cream sauce instead of the more traditional hollandaise. It was easy to make, didn't risk breaking, and was delicious.

1/2 C sour cream
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/4 C olive oil
1 T finely chopped fresh chives [another good one to grow, dear readers!]
1 1/2 t chopped fresh tarragon [I skipped this because I don't particularly like tarragon, but in hindsight I wish I'd added some of the fresh dill I had in the fridge]
1/2 t kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together sour cream and lemon juice, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until blended. Stir in herbs, salt and pepper.

For the rest, slice individual brioches into 1/2-3/4" slices, and toast lightly then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with a little sorrel or arugula [I skipped this, but I think watercress or baby spinach would work great, too], then thinly sliced red onion [I skipped this, too, because I forgot to pick one up at the market, but all tasters agreed it would have been great], and sliced avocado [do NOT skip this--it really made the dish]. [I put a few spears of blanched asparagus next to the toasts, but I would probably skip this next time--the flavors just didn't go as well as everything else.] Then poach the eggs, season with salt and pepper, wrap with thinly-sliced smoked salmon [I used lox and it tasted great], and put them on the toasts. Drizzle sauce over all and serve, sprinkling with a few more finely chopped fresh chives [or dill!] if desired.

I seem always to forget to take pictures before things are half-eaten, but this kind of gives you the idea.



And the bottom picture is the pie after we were done with it. I served it with Tillamook Vanilla Bean ice cream, which was perfect. I think the juices wouldn't have run so much if I hadn't reheated the pie in the morning. If I decide to make this pie for a brunch again, I may try assembling it the night before and leaving it in the fridge, and baking the next morning. Then I can serve it warm without reheating.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Swizzies said...

Ubiquitous, gratuitous salmon comment-maker here:

You don't like smoked salmon?! Hah! I don't believe you one. little. bit. You love salmon so much you'd marry it if you could. You probably sleep with salmon and just don't tell us about it. You...you...

Ah crap. I'm out. I'm like the boy in third grade that stops teasing the cute little girl he likes when she never gives him the time of day. I can't keep coming up with my UNAPPRECIATED GENIUS comments about your unnatural love of Salmonidae Oncorhynchus if you flatly refuse to have any reaction whatsoever.

I've swum up that stream for the last time.

Nice brunch.

April 30, 2007 at 5:09 AM  
Blogger janeannechovy said...

Well, what do you expect me to say? It's not like I can plausibly deny how much I love it.

But it's true that I only like it fresh, and fully cooked (none of that rare crap for me). I've never liked smoked salmon, really, and when Adriana was talking about putting canned salmon in her mac and cheese, I nearly gagged. I also don't like caviar, because I was raised to believe that fish that tastes fishy is not fresh and should not be consumed, and caviar is nothing if it's not fishy-tasting.

April 30, 2007 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Lane said...

I love all salmon. I'd probably even like that salmon jerky crap if I tried it, which I won't, because I have to preserve my dignity somehow.

What a spendid feast!

(Adriana, not Lane)

April 30, 2007 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger MWR said...

To think I would ever be a grower of organic onions . . . when everyone knows it's the DDT that makes them so flavorful and sweet!

My rule is simple: I love all smoked fish. Give me some pumpernickel bagels, scallion cream cheese, some lox, some sable (black cod), a tomato and a DDT-cured onion, and I'm yours forever.

May 4, 2007 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger janeannechovy said...

Theoretically, I should like smoked fish as much as I like other things I grew up with, like gjetost (Norwegian goat cheese--mmm, I think I'll have some for lunch), because my dad had a smoker and smoked stuff (smelt, venison jerky--only things he'd killed himself, not bought from the store), but it just didn't take.

Of course, he never got me to like pickled herring, either. ~shudder~

May 5, 2007 at 11:22 AM  

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