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Posts posted by Malawry

  1. Len, I'm glad you posted that, because I'm considering my coffee service options again right now. I'm tired of renting urns and think I'm ready to invest. Now I'm considering 1 urn and 2 airpots--the regular stays in the urn, while the pots hold decaf and hot water.

  2. I need to make a boatload of pastry cream that can be piped through a pastry bag this weekend. (I'm making 150 mini fresh fruit tartlets, and I need to be able to line them up and hit them quickly with the bag.) My regular formula is this:

    Pastry Cream

    2 cups milk

    5oz sugar

    6 egg yolks

    2 ½ tbsp cornstarch


    This makes a perfectly tasty cream, but it's too floppy to pipe. How should I make it thicker? More cornstarch? How much? Should I add sheet gelatin? Again, how much? (I don't know how strong my sheets are, they came in an unlabeled bag unfortunately, so make an educated guess.) I don't need the cream to hold any particular shape, I just want to be able to use the pastry bag to fill the tartlets quickly.

  3. These particular pigs in blankets are for a catering job, so I am very concerned with the look of the final product. They have to look tidy and enticing on the platter. Can these look good if they're made from cut-up sausages? I can't really do Marlene's recipe in this case but it's a cool idea that I might use for entertaining at home.

    I Googled on "gourmet sausages" and Aidell's came up first--and their product list includes three mini-sausages. But I've never seen their minis at my local Costco. Harumph. Also, Cajun Grocer lists some "party size" boudins--would Cajun boudin make a good pig in a blanket? I've actually never eaten Cajun boudin. The people coming to this party I'm catering are all in the seniors age group so I need something...familiar, but I don't want it to suck. I never make anything that sucks and sell it to other people, y'know?

  4. How do you make your pigs in blankets? The New York Times recently ran a story about their comeback, so I know ya'll have to have been all over them for some time now. (Surprisingly, there doesn't appear to be a thread on the subject--not by my search anyway.)

    I am making them for a party soon, and I am trying to figure out if there's any online supplier who makes a better smoked sausage than I can find in my local supermarket. I like individual sausages, not big ones cut into little pieces, in my pigs in blankets. If I have time, I'll wrap them in scratch puff pastry...if not, I'll use the frozen stuff. I plan to serve with a honey mustard sauce (1:1:1 good mustard:honey:mayo) but am open to other ideas.

  5. I need to get in some kind of miniature sausages to make pigs in blankets with. I'd like something better than the supermarket mini-sausages. I don't need a huge quantity, but I will be ordering enough to make shipping costs worthwhile. I really don't want to cut down bigger sausages. I am hoping for something smoked and not too spicy. D'artagnan, Poche's, and the local Simply Sausage don't appear to carry what I need, so that exhausts my usual sausage resources. Any suggestions?

  6. In the "Ethnic Standard Bearers," I still think that the restaurant next door to Four Sisters, Viet Royale, is a noticably better spot, but maybe, this time, everybody else in the world isn't wrong. Just this time. :wink: Seeing El Chalan mentioned reminds me of my friend who dated the waiter there, the guy with the long pinkie nail who gave us all pisco sours free.  What on earth would a straight Peruvian be doing with a long pinkie nail like that?  PS, does Belgian really count as "ethnic?"  If so, why not the three-star Marcel's instead of the two-and-a-half star frites factory Mannequin Pis?

    New Chef Nathan Beuachamp ably fills local legend Ris LaCost's clogs, keeping 1789 a three-star "old reliable."  (Whither Marcel's?)

    Yeah, yeah, I like Marcel's too (that boudin blanc!), but it doesn't have the casual party vibe of Le Mannequin Pis--and I'm sure that's why LMP made the "ethnic standard bearers" list. Personally, I acknowledge the food is better at Marcel's, but I'd rather go to LMP for moules et frites. It's just more fun there, imo.

    I was pleased to see A&J getting its due, seeing as how I have been a total whore for the Rockville location for many years now. I wonder if Corduroy is getting the shaft when it's categorized as a "Delicious Deal"--yes, it is a delicious deal, but to me it's much more than that on many levels...it could reside in at least three other categories on Tom's list.

    I am totally unsurprised at Blue Duck's prominence on the list. Anybody else who has seen Chef Brian McBride cook close-up knows why. I'm glad he's having the chance to showcase his skills in a new setting, because I think he's one of the most talented chefs in town.

    I think reading the guide online is a different experience from the paper edition, so I look forward to getting the Post Magazine tomorrow. I look forward to many pretty pix to go with the text, and a chance to read all the reviews straight through.

  7. I'm catering my husband's annual choir gala next weekend. Here's my proposed menu:

    Savory side:

    Cold, on trays:

    Asparagus with proscuitto and balsamic drizzle

    Vegetable crudite platter with five-onion dip

    Belgian endive leaves with herbed goat cheese mousse and pepper confetti garnish

    Assorted cheeses with crackers, baguette and sour cherry jam

    Marinated lemon-garlic olives

    Hot, probably passed:

    Chicken potstickers with sweet chili sauce

    Crab-boursin mushrooms

    Chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce

    Zucchini-spinach tyropitas

    Sweet side:

    Brownies with ganache frosting

    Sour cherry-almond tartlets

    Lemon tartlets

    Candied almonds

    Fruit platter with caramel and chocolate sauces

    This event used to be all desserts and champagne, but it has evolved and this year they're trying to up the ante a little--requesting evening dress on the invitations and charging admission. They usually ask me to suggest a few wines, and then the choir members each donate a bottle as their contribution to the event. This is the first time there's been this much savory food and only the second time they're offering other wines in addition to sparklers. Most of the members of the choir will either buy their wine at a nearby Costco or else at a nearby Total Wine, so ideally selections will be available at both places. Selections should definitely be under $15, and preferably closer to the $10 mark.

    What would you suggest?

  8. I ended up using radishes. Unfortunately, these ceramic picks are too heavy for most radishes. And then some people ate the radishes off the tray! :shock: I have a couple of weeks before the next cheese tray, so I may experiment between now and then. I adore the floral foam idea, I think that sounds pretty sharp-looking, but I suspect the foam will also be too weak to support the picks.

  9. I love serving cheeses, at home or at parties I cater. I've learned over time that it's better at a party with a buffet if you can pre-portion most of the cheese for easy sampling, and it's best if the cheeses are labeled. I own some nice white ceramic cheese picks with a gold dry-erase marker for this purpose.

    I'm catering a small party tomorrow, and they want a cheese tray. So I bought some nice cheeses for them. But since it's not such a large party, some of the pieces of cheese are rather small--so by the time I preportion them, I won't have a chunk left that's large enough for holding the pick. Does anybody have any suggestions for what I can pick up at a regular supermarket to use for holding these picks? They are not exactly sharp, so they need to go in something firm.

    I like to decorate cheese platters with fresh herbs and colorful fruits like kumquats or cranberries. How do you present your cheeses?

  10. I'd add that minis are a lot easier to keep looking attractive than whole desserts, and they let people try a lot of different items rather than having to commit to one or two things. (A whole cake can be beautiful, but once people start taking slices from it, it doesn't look nearly as nice.) Minis of course take much more time than whole desserts do, so build that into your cost.

    I personally think it's important to keep trays looking fresh, so if I can help it I don't like to just drop off trays of food when I cater. It's much more appealing to look at a neat buffet, so make sure you have extras to replenish trays (I usually have extra desserts already trayed up, I just swap them out with depleted ones from the buffet and then clean and refresh the depleted tray back in the kitchen) and do things like remove abandoned napkins and cups from the buffet table. I think of buffet presentation as a point of pride when I cater, and I don't like it when buffets get messy or empty--I feel it reflects poorly on my business and my reputation.

  11. I've had a few of their products--they used to sell some of their stuff at the food coop where I lived in Takoma Park, MD. I know I tried the cowvin cookie sandwich, the little devils and the chocolate-chip cookie. It's not bad stuff, but everything was very sweet--probably to make up for the lack of dairy and egg.

  12. I figure this is not the time for gourmet wowie zowie, but I want to do good card-playing grub with quality ingredients. I like the meatball idea if I drop chili (though really, chili is easier and cheaper for me to produce in quantity)--I think both are redundant. I was considering mini pulled pork sammiches as well, but think there should be a non-porky sammich option and I'm too in love with the muffaletta to drop it. Hmmm. These are great ideas, folks, thanks!

  13. There's a new development going in near here that's geared towards "55 and more" adults. There are three model homes that are now complete, so the builder is planning to throw a "grand opening" type bash. I've been asked to do a cooking demo in one of the homes. Simple enough. I've ALSO been asked to provide food for another model home, which they plan to be "for the guys" featuring Texas Hold-Em games potential buyers can join at will. (The third home will just have coffee, tea and desserts provided by the builder.) They expect about 300 people to come, and they plan to serve tastes but not a full meal.

    I've already got the demo stuff worked out. The poker food is another question. Obviously they don't want just chips and salsa, or they wouldn't have hired me. Most of the food I would normally want to do for this sort of thing (dry-rubbed ribs, sweet chili-glazed chicken wings, etc) is too messy--they don't want to have to steam-clean the carpets or replace the furniture in this model home when we're done, after all.

    They suggested chili, which is a nice start--perhaps with cornbread. Is there a killer chili recipe I should make? I like the chili idea 'cause I can make it way in advance and freeze it. I'm also thinking mini muffalettas on sesame-semolina bread, since everybody loves those Italian meats. (If I make them properly, I can probably keep them from getting too messy, right?) Any other ideas? I expect to have one or two employees with me, but I don't want somebody to HAVE to be with the poker food all the time--I will need help with my demos and such too.

  14. I love endive apps.

    Endive with a star-pastry-tip squirt of hummus and rainbow bell pepper brunoise "confetti"

    Endive with salty rich soft cheese and tangerine sections

    Endivive with herbed goat cheese mousse and chive garnish

  15. Yeah, I saw the Cuiz version at Amazon.com and was considering investing. But now I'm reconsidering--if I have an IB I'd rather have the Braun professional. So maybe I'll just make something else for the demo with no power supply. (I was considering making a butternut squash soup.)

    Snowangel, you just made me spit out my water. :raz:

  16. I've been working on the richest, most decadent burger possible and I've finally settled on one that has become a staple. ...

    With a big glass of meaty Syrah or an old Bordeaux, what's better?

    I think I need a cold shower. (And an invitation to dinner, please!)

  17. I use a lot of the advice in this thread--80/20 beef, smoking-hot cast-iron skillet, mix the meat gently, use salt. I always add brunoised onion, worcestershire sauce, and a little egg yolk to mine. But I'd like to take them to the next level--find out what makes the difference with those truly superior burgers I've had in restaurants. I don't own a meat grinder, but I do have a Cuisinart. Can you grind your own meat in a Cuiz? What cuts are best? Don't 70/30 burgers shrink a lot when cooked? (80/20s seem to...) I often eat my burgers without a bun on a bed of shredded lettuce, so the flavor of the burger itself is paramount.

    I've never made Dave the Cook's worcestershire, but I've tasted it and I wonder if homemade worcestershire sauce makes a big impact. Yesterday I threw a little leftover A1 I had lurking in the fridge into the mix and it was pretty good, but lacked the anchovy zip of worcestershire.

    Does grinding the onion with the meat make a big difference? I kinda like the confetti of onion bits in my very onion-y burgers, but since I am buying supermarket ground beef I am stuck with having to work the meat a fair amount to get the onions mixed in well. I think my burgers suffer for this.

    Do you put a hole in the center of your burger? I do sometimes, and it results in more even cooking.

    Burger Cook-Off thread for more burger love

  18. We had a great time at RTC last night. It's hard to pick favorites off of such a great menu, but I'll take a stab anyway.

    The starters are an amazing value in addition to being scrumptious. When was the last time foie gras appeared anywhere for under $10?? The foie starter at Ray's sails to your table for a paltry $9--for four rounds of the luscious liver, topped with a crunchy jicama salad. The devilishly good eggs were so good, my friend with the andouille biscuits attempted to barter a whole biscuit for one of my egg halves. I scarfed my fair share of everything, but I was jealously possessive of those eggs with their steak tartare filling and their mustard, cornichon and caper garnish. The biscuits didn't suck either, as we say--nicely spicy and crisp and fluffy.

    I had the Mark Slater veal chop as my entree--if it's got Mark's name on it, it must be delectable. This is a substantial piece of meat, lusciously juicy, strewn with lump crabmeat and fava beans. I picked up the bone (frenched for tidy cavewoman gnawing) and stripped off every scrap of meat when I'd gotten all I could with the knife and fork. My husband's fried chicken was great, full of old-fashioned flavor. I also enjoyed samples of the hanger steak and the bacon-wrapped scallops--both solid preparations of bistro classics. The sauteed mushroom side was a particular standout--perfectly salty-earthy and quite generous in proportion.

    We skipped dessert because we were stuffed, but we'll try to catch some next time.

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