Whatsa Strata Witchu?

November's dinner theme was along the lines of layers. The usual suspects were in attendance ( Madame Claudia, Mr.Mike, and Kiriel) as well as a surprised guest diner. We started off with a petite amuse bouche of fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and homemade pesto.

Followed by a novel take on fois gras. Mike lovingly layered slices of cucumber, kiwi and fois gras on a slice of toast surrounded by a bed of roquette bitter enough to balance the rich dish and then topped the whole thing off with a spicy plum sauce he had made.

Let me mention the photo I forgot (it's amazing how easy it is to forget to photograph while you are busy stuffing your face on a fantastic meal) Claudia provided our much need greens with a layered salad and homemade vinaigrette.

For our main course Kiriel surprised us with an innovative take on one of her country's native creatures; a slow cooked kangaroo and polenta terrine. The kangaroo was highlighted by the sweet chili, balsamic, ginger, soy sauce, liquid smoke and worcestershire. I do believe this was a first for the rest of us, not many kangaroos round these here parts. A delicious first, if I may add. :) The adorable cuddly kangaroo is also pretty tasty.

Both Kiriel and I made variations on a theme for a potato side dish. Hers was a more European gratin and mine was a Swedish sardine-less Jansson's Frestelse.

And last but not least, dessert. Made with The Best Frosting Ever were individually sized chocolate layer cakes.

A great way to wrap up November. As December is a hectic and most crazy month we'll be taking a short hiatus but we'll be back in the kitchen and dining room again in January. The theme has been chosen and if you are in the Geneva neighborhood I invite you to join us. Just drop me a line.


American as....

Speaking of expecting, wanting, and needing Thanksgiving dinner (oh how right you are Mr. Bourdain!)...

This past Sunday the inimitable Mark hosted a mega Thanksgiving bash in Zurich to which Madame Claudia and I were invited. But wait! you say, Thanksgiving is THIS COMING weekend. Right you are astute blog reader, right you are. However, this way I am able to give you the gift of pie (recipe) for you to share with those near and dear. Plus Mark was leaving for the good ole U S of A for a second Thanksgiving feast (greedy cur) and arranged this one ahead of time. Plus Plus this coming Sunday is the second Swiss Foodie dinner (theme - Layers). I digress, so, what good guest arrives empty handed (and almost an hour late, cough cough)? Although we were one of the two, I still insist the conductor told us that THAT number 9 train went to Dubendorf, not the opposite direction.

(Sorry kiddos, not my photo, but a close facsimile thereof)

This pie made it's first Thanksgiving appearance 3 years ago in Connecticut at a Very RISD Thanksgiving tm. Ant and I had been invited home for the holidays with my studiomate and good friend Katie. There was a bit of a hullabaloo the night before when I dragged buddy Bryce out of his bed and made him take me to Stop and Stop for cinnamon at an ungodly hour, but By God, There Was Pie!!! A short road trip the next day and we arrived at Chez Rosenblatt on the shore of a river whose name I have forgotten. Connecticut is very picturesque and fall-like, what with the trees and leaves and all. There was already an impressive line up of all kinds of pie, pumpkin, cherry, and the like (shhh, but I am pretty sure that in those boxes were STORE BOUGHT PIES!!!!). In fact, I MAY have been told that while the pie was appreciated it wasn't really necessary, all in a very gentle way mind you. Ahhhh, but whose pie disappeared in record time? It made me sad I had left the second one back in Providence. And thus, Rachel-Pi was born (not to be confused with Gil-Pie, Katie's dog that got hammered on a forgotten glass of kaluha).

(makes 2 - 9" pies)

Pie crust dough

2 1/2c. flour
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2c. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter cut into small bits
1/2c. chilled solid veggie shortening (crisco) cut into small bits
~3T. ice water

Mix flour, sugar, salt in processor. Add butter and shortening a bit at a time, mix after each addition until it resembles coarse meal. Using on/off turns blend in enough water by tablespoonful to form moist clumps. Gather dough together, divide in half. Flatten each half into a disk and warp in plastic, refrigerate for ~30 minutes.

Crumble Topping

1 1/2c. flour
1 1/2c. quick cooking oats
1 1/4c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4c. (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Mix flour, oats, brown sugar and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add melted butter and stir until mixture resembles coarse meal. Can be made a day ahead, cover and refrigerate)

Apple Filling

1 1/2c. sugar
2T. + 2tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise or small amount vanilla extract
5 lbs. granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices
1/4c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Mix sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add vanilla, apples, butter, and lemon juice. Toss to coat. Preheat oven to 400F. Make the dough into a pie crust form and place in glass pie dish (sorry folks, I am transcribing this right from my personal handwritten cookbook. Which means I assume I know how to do this. If you need it. Just kidding. Ask me and I'll try to help out) Divide filling equally and sprinkle with topping. Place pies on foil covered baking sheets (they tend to bubble over and nothing is worse than carmelized blackened apple pie juice in the bottom of your oven. Take my word for it) Bake 15 minutes then reduce temperature to 375 and bake an additional hour and a half or so until the top is brown and the filling is bubbling thickly. Cool pies on a rack and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Anthony Bourdain Talks Turkey

"I'm expecting turkey, a bird I've ignored the entire year — save the occasional sandwich. I'm not just expecting it; I want it. I need it. I'll be angry, bitter and resentful if I don't get it." Sound like any expats you know?

MSN has a lovely little article by bad boy chef/author Bourdain with his take on turkey day. Not sure how long the link is good for but pop on over for some thanksgiving cooking tips and a video clip. Follow this link for turkey goodness.


An Excuse for Mousse

Last Friday evening my friend Vero and her boyfriend were coming to dinner, although really it was just an excuse for them to come play with the kittens. "Hmm, what was that? Dinner's ready? What dinner?" But admittedly, dinner was really just an excuse for me to make a dessert. As if I really need one! This is one of the most decadent delightful desserts I have in my arsenal. It looks gorgeous and tastes sinful. This little mouthful requires some time and preplanning though.

Chocolate Mousse in Hazelnut Phyllo Cups
Cafe Matou - Chicago, IL.
Bon Appetit Sept. 2002

Hazelnut Phyllo Cups (can be made 2 days ahead and stored airtight at room temp.)
makes 8

-18 fresh phyllo sheets, approx. 9"x13"
-10 T. (1 1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
-8 T. sugar, approx.
-8 T. finely chopped toasted hazelnuts, approx.

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter every other cup in a 12 cup muffin tin. Place one sheet of phyllo down, brush with butter and then sprinkle with ~ 1/2 T. sugar and 1/2 T. nuts. Repeat up to 6 layers. Using a 5 1/2" diameter plate as a guide cut layered phyllo into circles and push gently into buttered muffin tin. Bake 10 minutes, remove from tins and CAREFULLY transfer to wirerack to cool. * I like to cut up the extra irregular pieces and cook them as well. They make tasty pretty cookies but keep an eye on them, they needn't cook as long.

Chocolate Mousse

-4 large eggs, separated
-1/2 c. sugar
-1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
-1/4 c. water
-1 t. instant espresso powder
-8 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate or semi-sweet, chopped finely

Whisk egg yolks, 1/4 c. sugar, butter, water and espresso in a large metal bowl. Double boil while whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Add chocolate and whisk until all is melted and mixture is smooth. Turn off heat and leave bowl over water.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 c. sugar, beating until stiff and glossy. Remove chocolate from over the water and fold 1/3 of beaten whites into the warm chocolate mix to lighten. Fold in remaining whites and cover and chill until set, at least 3 hrs or overnight.

To serve carefully spoon mousse into phyllo cups, I like to decorate the tops with slices of fresh strawberries or raspberries. In a pinch, sprinkle with remaining crushed hazelnuts.