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S01E07 The one with the salmon mousse

Monica cooks a gourmet meal for a restaurateur who is looking for a new chef, however he arrives at the apartment stoned. Meanwhile, Ross tries to master 'dirty talk'.

Now, if that doesn't sound like a great episode, I don't know what does.

[ Scene: Monica's apartment. Everyone is there but Ross and Chandler. Monica is making food, and having everyone try it.]
MONICA: [to Joey] Ok, try this salmon mousse.
JOEY: [tasting] Mmm. Good.
MONICA: Is it better than the other salmon mousse?
JOEY: It's creamier.
MONICA: Yeah, well, is that better?
JOEY: I don't know. We're talking about whipped fish, Monica. I'm just happy I'm keeping it down, y'know?

Salmon and cream cheese and dill, oh my! That's right, no fancy introduction this time. Well, no introduction at all. If you're thinking there's something fishy going on, you're on to something.

CHANDLER: Can you believe it? I mean, don't I look like someone who should be doing something really cool? You know, I just always pictured myself doing... something.
RACHEL: Oh, Chandler, I know, I know... oh,hey! You can see your nipples through this shirt!
MONICA: [brings a plate of tiny appetizers over] Hey, maybe this'll cheer you up. 
CHANDLER: Ooh, you know, I had a grape about five hours ago, so I'd better split this with you.
MONICA: It's supposed to be that small. It's a pre-appetizer. The French call it an amouse-bouche.
CHANDLER: [tastes it] Well, it is amous-ing...

In case you are now as confused as a headless chicken, I will attempt to clarify the situation. Today's recipe is salmon mousse fancy appetizers. I am here to prove that even if fancy is not your thing, this is totally doable. Take it from the person who forgot she didn't have a pipping bag, and tried to manufacture one last-minute. The great adventure of Chuck - the almost pipping bag. His majestic body was made out of a sandwich bag and his nozzle - the top of a tuna can, bent and battered into submission. This is the stuff great legends are made of. Or mediocre tales. Also, by “I tried to manufacture one” I mean I made my boyfriend do it. Why? Because I am a helpless little duckling or a demanding little bitch. Pick your favourite and let's move on.

Things and stuff

A food processor (to process the shit out of that salmon mousse) or some sturdy man muscles, a pipping bag (if you want them to be real purty), baking tray & parchment paper, and your usual bowl, spoon, knife combo.

It was this big

One medium sized bowl, 500 gr. of mousse, aprox. 100 amouse-bouches (that's a lot!, I only made one batch, the rest awaits in my fridge)

It took this long

5 min. to mousse, 10 min. to bread and 10 min. to assemble ( this for one batch-25). So 30 minutes if you take your time.

Ingredients and quantities

The Process

Step 1: Finely chop your salmon / Put your salmon in a food processor and mix until finely chopped. Waaaay easier with the magical tool that plugs in. It's noisy but fast and efficient. I mean, it gets the job done (wink wink).

Step 2: Combine chopped salmon, cream cheese, sour cream and dill. You can thoroughly stir this by hand (if you want a chunkier texture) or process that baby 'till desired mousiness level. I initially went for the “by hand” approach but changed my mind. I want it moussier. 

Tip: don't add salt! The smoked salmon was salty enough. It was actually a tad too much. Next time, I will consider keeping the salmon in water before using it, to get some of the saltiness out. It looked somethin' like this:

Step 3: Now that your mousse is ready, get the bread ready for party. The journey from bread to crostinni is short and safe. Thinly slice your baguette. Tray, parchment paper, place slices.

Step 4: Lightly brush yo' slices with olive oil. You don't have to do this. I just like olive oil on bread. And cheese. Ok, on everything!

Step 5: Put those bad boys in the oven at gas mark 4, aprox. 180 degrees, basically moderate heat. For 5 to 8 minutes. They will be lovely golden brown and crispy as a motherfucker.

Step 6: Yay, assembly time! Get your mousse on the crostinni. If you don't have a pipping bag, to do this “properly”, or if you have a home-made pipping bag, that becomes a hazard after 3 pretty successful crostinnis, go rustique. Use a butter knife or a lil' spoon. 

Step 7: It goes like this: crostinni, mousse, a lil' dollop of sour cream, chopped salmon, chives and or capers.

Even if you think they don't look as fancy “as they should” or whatever amouse-bouche prejudice you have in that head of yours, forget about it. It's fun, it's easy, it's yummy and it can have any personality you want it to have. I wanted mine to be super fancy, very meticulous, very proper, a testimony of patience and precision. I failed. They reflected my true self. And that's a good thing. Food should reflect your true nature. That's what makes it interesting and personal.

Feedback: Slightly too salty. Easy to make. Fun to put together. You can add a lot of things to this. From mustard to horseradish, hard boiled egg yolks, replace the cream cheese with mascarpone or ricotta, top it with dill, capers, finely diced peppers or cucumbers. You can replace the bread with philo pastry, or puffpastry, or crackers, or tiny salad leaves! A lot of wiggle room. This being my first salmon mousse, I chose a basic one. I wanted to feel the intense salmon-ness of it all before I start playing with other flavors. 

There you go, my little mousse-amouse-bouches:

Me gusta la moussolina, dame mas moussolina! 

Mmm... amous-ing ;) Until the next one, bon apetite


S01E06 The one with the chocolate mousse

Imdb describes “The one with the candy hearts” as it follows:

As Valentine's Day approaches; Ross and his date end up at the same restaurant as Carol and Susan, Joey inadvertently sets Chandler up on a blind date with Janice, and the girls burn mementos of their old boyfriends.

Come on, you remember this one! I dare you not to read this in her voice!

You totally read this in her voice! Oh, and remember this particular conversation?

JOEY: She said she wants to slather my body with stuff and then lick it off. I'm not even sure what slathering is, but I definitely want to be a part of it.

CHANDLER: Ok, you can not do this to me.

JOEY: You're right, I'm sorry. You're right.

LORRAINE: [to waiter] Uh, can we have three chocolate mousses to go please?

JOEY: I'm outta here. Here's my credit card. Dinner's on me. I'm sorry, Chandler.

CHANDLER: I hope she throws up on you.

Ka-ching! We have a winner! Chocolate mousse detected!

The day was Friday. The weather was more Irish than ever. During the one hour it took me to make the mousse and set everything up, we experienced sun, hail, rain, sun, more rain, hail, sun, different kind of rain. You get the drift. The temperature: around 10 degrees. The mood: jazzy. In the background, old documentary about Dean Martin, Marylin Monroe, vintage Hollywood. And so it begins.

As far as utensils go, you will need: a medium size pot, 2 big heatproof bowls ( I like big bowls and I cannot lie), a whisk/hand mixer, a large spatula (for gentle folding).

1. Ingredients and quantities

2. The process

  • The chocolate. The darker, the better, get one that has a minimum of 70% cocoa solids. Roughly cut up le chocolat. Place it in the bowl over a pan of simmering water. This means low heat, no hurry here.

! The water must not touch the bottom of the bowl, otherwise it will overheat it and your chocolate will become grainy.

  • While the chocolate is melting away, separate the egg whites from the yolks and place them in your other clean, dry bowl.

 ! When separating the whites, be careful not to get any traces of egg yolk in there. The fat in the yolk will prevent the rising of the egg whites. 

  • Now whisk the egg whites with the lemon juice from the lemon wedge, on medium speed until they start to foam (2).
  •  Then switch to high speed and gradually add the sugar. Whisk until you get firm, cloud-like peaks (3). By the time you're done with this, your chocolate should be melted and glossy (4).
  •  The next step is a crucial one. Take a third of the egg whites and whisk them fast and whisk them good. I did it with a spatula, cause my judgement was clouded. Do as I say, not as I did. It worked, but it was more difficult than it should have been.

 ! Because you are adding a cold mass (the eggs) to a hot and sexy one (the chocolate) there is the possibility/risk of the cocoa butter inside the chocolate solidifying, leading to a lumpy mousse. So whisk it "Fast and Furious" style. Show her who's boss.

  •  When she's loosened up (5) add half of the remaining egg whites (6), replace the whisk with the spatula and gently start folding. Move the bowl as you move the spatula in a slow, therapeutic fashion. This is where you apologize for being so rough before, so go nice and gentle. Use the love. 
  •  When you've incorporated that (7), add the last of the whites (8) and repeat the careful procedure.

 ! The reason for this is that over-mixing will ruin the air bubbles in the egg whites that you've worked so hard to create and the result of that will be a heavier mousse and less volume. When it's smooth and the whites have been integrated (9), pour your mousse into glasses, jars, ramekins, or bowls and leave it to set for at least 2 hours. 6 is best. After 12 hours it will become heavy and lose its innate moussiness. 

Then you'll find yourself saying things like: "You're not the same as you were before. You were much more moussier. You've lost your moussiness."  You get the reference, right? (insert chirping sounds here)

Before setting in the fridge and adding delicious and pretty toppings:

After setting in the fridge and adding delicious and pretty toppings:

Girl, look at that body! That's some seriously moussy business we got up in this biatch! Uhm, I mean, look at the lovely texture:

Feedback:  Oh my! How did I not make this before? It's easy, it does't take much time and it's one of the best ways to eat chocolate! Plus, it has sooo little sugar in it! It's all about that chocolate, baby! Oh, and I love the raspberry combo! The intense chocolate flavor, in that airy, fluffy textured form loves the slightly sour freshness that the raspberries bring to the table. Will definitely repeat the experience!  I ate some of it after two hours of chilling in the fridge, then after a day, aaaand after two days. I prefer the first one. The more it sets, the heavier it gets. Something that applies to life too! I've imparted enough "wisdom", I'll go away now.

Until the next time, happy eating!

S01E05 The one with the cookie dough

This one is from episode 13, better known as The one with the boobies, and it's not really a proper recipe. We don't see the actual boobies, aaaaa cookies, I meant cookies! We just see the cookie dough. I didn't think I would make it as part of the challenge, but then my house mates left for a week and I was feeling surprisingly alone in this big house. And terrified at every sound! A very stressful time in my life!

This is where the idea of eating cookie dough didn't sound so bad. Many times we find the cookie dough more delicious than the cookies and we end up binging and licking the bowl and risking our very lives in the process (please read in a overly-dramatic voice). So I searched the internet for a edible cookie dough recipe, so that my house mates won't come home to find me belly up. Death by cookie dough. That's not the way I wanna go.

I did find several versions, all leaving out the egg, so I decided to go ahead and try this. I had a whole night planned out! I googled Pms movies and the internet did not disappoint. I decided on Bridget Jones Diaries (a classic), big ass glass of rose wine and a bowl of cookie dough. The perfect clichee! I was quite excited. First step: make said cookie dough.

1. Ingredients and quantities

2. The process

  • Pre-step: get the butter out of the fridge, to soften.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until it looks like in the second picture.
  • Get the vanilla and the salt in there. Mix to incorporate.
  • Add flour. I didn't add mine all at once, because it seemed much (especially since the plan is to eat it raw). I did add all of it eventually but I do think it was too much. And unnecessarily so.
  • After all your flour is incorporated it will look thick and lighter in color than before. 
  • Now add the 2 tablespoons of milk to loosen it and give it that consistency we all know and love. Mix.
  • Add chocolate chips. As many as you like. I used about 75 gr. out of the 100 suggested. 
  • Incorporate and there you go. You now have kinda edible cookie dough. 

When this was done, I covered it with cling film and let it chill in the fridge until I was ready to get my pity party started. I took a bubble bath, put on my Thumper t-shirt, my Winnie-the-Pooh pijama pants, my socks with kittens on it, and my bear slippers. 

I was sssssexy AND cosy! At the same time! I poured a glass of cheap rose, put the movie on the big screen, got my cookie dough bowl with a reasonable sized-spoon close and pressed the play button. It was ON!

Feedback: Bridget Jones Diaries is the best chick flick movie ever! Colin Firth is dreamy as fuck! Sweeter than cookie dough. Which brings me to reviewing what really matters here. The infamous “edible” cookie dough. I don't know if it's just me, but I found it quite disappointing. Maybe I wasn't sad enough, or lonely enough. Or maybe eating raw flour with butter and a ton of sugar just didn't quite do it for me. Maybe I'm too grown up for this shit. Oh, man, now I've bummed myself out. Maybe now I could use some cookie dough. Nope, still not my thing. Too sweet and nothing more. I had to wash that down with some old fashioned bread and butter. 

All in all, a good night. But not thanks to the cookie dough. It could just be me. Try it and decide for yourself. Maybe you have a higher resistance to sugar. And raw flour. Or maybe you're still young at heart. Who knows?! 

 Until the next one, happy eating!

S01E04 The one with Pheobe's cookies

Finally, cookie time! Tananananananana can't touch this! Break it down!

Now, some people may be confused by the title and mistakenly believe that I'm talking about the “Nestle Toulouse” cookies. No. The cookies in this episode are Pheobe's “best oatmeal cookies in the world”, that she offers Rachel after this particular incident:

Pheobe: Ok, uhm, we haven't known each other for that long a time, and, um, there are three things that you should know about me. One: my friends are the most important thing in my life. Two: I never lie. And three: I make the best oatmeal raisin cookies in the world.
Rachel: Ok, thanks, Pheebs. [tastes cookie] Oh my God! Why have I never tasted these before? Pheobe: Oh, I don't make them a lot, because I don't think it's fair to the other cookies.

Yeah, that sums it up nicely. Now that you know where we are on the cookie scale, let's get down to bussiness. As far as utensils go, you will need: a big bowl+a big spoon, an electric mixer/a whisk and some willpower, a sieve, a baking tray, parchment paper, ice cream scoop (not necessary, but helps get your cookies the same size) and a genuine love for cookies.

Most recipes I researched used two types of sugar. As I find myself so sick of unnecessary usage of sugar, this whole sugar conspiracy where there's sugar even where no sugars should be, I decided to use just one type of sugar, the better type–brown moscovado sugar. This one creates an awesome chewy texture and gives a caramel flavor, which creates amazing depth. You feel like that cookie could go all around the universe and back, that's the kind of magic I'm talking about! I'm not here to bash white sugar, but I always find myself (no matter what recipe I follow) overloaded with sugar. Every-time I make a new recipe I cut down 20-30 gr. of sugar from the start, and most of the time the end result is still too sweet! I find that usually half the amount of sugar is sufficient! Desserts are about more than sugar! They're about butter, and cream and eggs, and cinnamon and I don't need sugar overshadowing all that! Don't get me wrong , I love decadence in food, I'd just rather have in the french way: de la creme, du bon chocolat, beurre! No matter how amazing a dessert is, if after two bites I feel like I'm getting diabetes, you lost me! That being said, you should know I did the same thing for this recipe and I think next time I'll make these, I'll cut another 10-15gr. of sugar, so that they're perfect for my needs.

This batch made 18 giant cookies. If you make the normal-sized ones you will get about 30 cookies.

1.Ingredients and quantities

Given the fact that the weather was partly sunny, my camera's battery was fully charged this time, and I was baking some goodness, I felt pretty happy so I played with the camera a lot. About 200 pictures were taken for this particular post. Don't worry, only a few made it here. I present to you still life with spoons and vanilla:

 2.The process 

  • The very first thing you need to do is get the butter and the eggs out of the fridge. Everything needs to be at room temperature and the butter needs to be soft enough so that it blends easily with the sugar. I got mine out of the fridge about an hour before I started using it, because it's a whole pack, it needs some time to adjust. Have patience. Don't rush the butter. Just remember to do this first! Consider this like a pre-step to the entire process. 
  • Next, soak your raisins in warm water. This makes them nice and moist and prevents them from burning in the oven. The initial quantity of raisins was 220 gr. I soaked them and everything, and then I realised that that can't happen. Way too many raisins! So I used half – 110 gr. 
  • Turn your oven on so that it's nice and pre-heated for the cookies. It is indeed too early, but I tend to get wrapped up in the dough making process and forget about it. So I'd rather be too early than too late. When your butter is soft enough that a butter knife cuts through it easily, no opposition, we are ready to rumble. 
  • Cut the butter into small cubes and throw it in your big sexy bowl (1). 
  • Add the sugar (2) and mix them together until you get something that looks creamy and intense (3).
  • Add thy eggs and vanilla, fair maiden (4). Mix. Now it should look lighter and looser (5). 
  • Now, gently (or roughly, who am I to judge?) throw in there the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and incorporate.

This is how it looks like:

Now is a good time to strain your raisins. And mix in the oats:


This is the moment I realised I underestimated the power of raisins and decided half is plenty: 

Incorporate the raisins, cover the bowl with cling film and chill your dough for 15 min in the fridge. 

After chilling time: tray, parchment paper and scoop, baby, scoop! This is my favorite part! 

Don't crowd them, they need space to “deflate” and you don't want them to form a monstrous coalition and take over your tray. 

Now bake those pretties in the oven on what should be 180 degrees for 10-12 min, or until the edges are golden brown. 

This is the perfect moment to tell you that my oven is weird. The heat is awkwardly distributed, the temperature is very hard to control, it's either too high or too low, doesn't really seem to have a middle ground. I have an oven thermometer so that I at least know how wrong it is and try to work with what I have. Of course, it broke. You may think I'm joking or making stuff up. No, it just stopped working. So, I was completely in the dark. I put the tray in the oven, had no idea what temperature was actually in there (even though theoretically gas mark 4 should be the equivalent of 180 degrees, my oven is not trustworthy) and also forgot to turn on my timer. Success all the way!

I am the living proof that you can make these cookies without the usually needed precision. Just go with your gut feeling, keep an eye on them and that should be enough. It was for me! Get the tray out of the oven and do not attempt to move the cookies, they are slightly too soft when hot. Don't worry, they're supposed to be like that. They get stronger with time. Like people! There's a little cookie-life-philosophy for you :P.

After they have cooled enough to hold their shape move them onto a cooling rack/grill thing and get ready for the next batch. 

I had mine with black tea with milk and honey, and I would repeat that combo any day! Except black tea makes me dizzy so I had a sip of tea and many cookies. You do what you have to do. 

Drumroll! Batch number two, boy, are we ready for you!

This was my first time making oatmeal raisin cookies and I actually believe they might outshine chocolate chip cookies! Just in MY heart! No need to start throwing rocks! I love the chewiness of the raisins, the sticky texture and the slightly burnt caramel flavor given by the brown sugar. The complete lack of white sugar did not affect anything! No regrets! In the first day these cookies were sweet and soft. The next day, I got to feel those little grains of salt here and there and I was bewitched, bothered and bewildered (the Ella Fitzgerald version). If you know the song, sing along!

If you are anything like me and enjoy your cookies as they toughen up, don't put them in a jar (just because you wanna be able to say that you have a cookie jar). They will get softer and softer in there, they'll feel safe and relaxed and they will never get strong enough to face life. So do them a favour, put them on a plate and let them evolve and grow. That is, before they find their end in your hungry mouth. Oh, what a lovely way to go!

And I'll tell you, it really isn't fair to the other cookies.

That's a wrap! Until the next one, happy eating!

S01E03 The one with the spaghetti

It's actually the same episode, it's what they ate instead of the lasagna that Rachel lost her ring in. I love Friends and everything about it, so what I'm about to say might sound blasphemous. I apologise for ruining any dreams. But I have to put it out there, that plate of spaghetti is one of the most unappetising things in spaghetti history. Thank God that the food did get better-looking, otherwise I would have been inclined to think that Monica is a crappy chef. Bashing over. Had to be said. Back to the love.

Me and spaghetti go way back, had a fiery romance when we first met, went through that staying-up-all-night phase and now, after years and years we're committed to each other. The flame has softened but the love is deeper. We are very loyal to one another. I must confess I have been so stuck in trying many “complicated” pasta dishes that I forgot about the beauty of a simple tomato sauce spaghetti. This hit the spot nicely.

It was a rainy day in Dublin town which is not at all surprising, but I did do that stupid thing people do, and hoped for better food photography weather. Instead it was a great day to listen to Billie Holiday, drink and smoke and watch the rain. Play it once, Billie. For old time's sake.

Imagine this: a seedy dive-bar, faces obscured by smoke, thoughts obscured by drink. All of this in black and white, my house transformed in a smoky club filled with romantically tormented hearts, embracing their blues. Looking through my imaginary room at my imaginary guests, filled with imaginary sorrows, I thought this group could use something. As Nina Simone was singing “I need some sugar in my bowl” (yup, she was there), I saw the hungry look in Hemingway's eyes, the longing on Virginia Wolf's face, the dark thoughts in Sylvia Plath's head and I decided I'd better get cooking.

I put my polka-dot parka on and headed to the Italian place for some fresh spaghetti and some flavourful tomatoes. This crowd deserves the best, wouldn't want Tom Waits to be disappointed.

While my fantasy world was blooming, reality needed a little bit of help. I get my ingredients out and start playing with the camera. I couldn't wait to try some of the camera things I'd researched in the last week. You know that saying “check yourself before you wreck yourself”? Yeah, that would have been great advice! Because as I was just getting into the groove, my camera shuts down. I couldn't believe it! I immediately went to that weird place when you're laughing out laud but kinda crying at the same time, so the result is quite frightening. In order to keep up the “I'm handling this just fine” lie, I start making stupid jokes about it. Stuff like: my battery is so low, I'm gonna trip on it! My battery is so low it can't get up. Get up, you fat fuck! Get uuuuup! Voice of reason: He's dead, Jim. So is the funny bone, give it up.

I know what you're gonna say. “You need to have another set of batteries and have them recharged and ready for this type of situation.” I do! I did! They didn't work either, they were broken for some reason and didn't even have the courtesy to let me know! A reality check would have been very smart of me, and as you can see, quite necessary. But since time travel is not an option for me, I had to just deal with it. I went through with it despite all the obvious signs that I should try another day. Cause I'm a fearless rebel, that's why! Or a delusional fool! Anyhow, this is what came out of it. Photos courtesy of my knight in shinning armour – The phone camera.

1.Ingredients and quantities

  • 1 small onion/ half of a big one
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tiny chilli pepper
  • 2 normal sized tomatoes
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • basil leaves-to your heart's desire
  • olive oil- "some not a lot"
  • 280 gr. of spaghetti
  • salt and pepper

2. The Process

Finely chop the onion. Put your pan on the stove. Low heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add your onions.

Let them soften for about 5 min. Then add your garlic and chilli and let them get soft too. Be careful not to overdue it. Soft and golden, not brown.

Now is a good time to chop your tomatoes. I like them more on the chunky, uneven side, because you get different levels of taste and get a piece a tomato in your mouth once in a while. Don't know about you, but I find that exciting.

Get your pasta water ready. The rule is 1 l of water for each 100 gr. of pasta. Salt the water. It's really important, otherwise the pasta will be bland and your sauce will have to work extra hard. Also, the end result will never be as good. Don't be afraid of the extra salt here, it's mostly going down the drain. Put the pot on the stove on medium heat. Don't add the pasta yet! Go back to the sauce pan.Next, add your tomatoes. Put a lid on and check up on it in about 5 min.

When the tomatoes get softer and you see they have started to release their wonderful juices, add the ½ teaspoon of sugar (that will help quiet down the acidity of the tomatoes ;-) lightly season, put the lid on and get everything back on the stove.

Meanwhile, the pasta for your water should start to heat up nicely. Once the sauce becomes too thick and wants to stick to the pan, I add half a ladle of water or so. Use your instincts here, work with what you have. Put the lid back on the pan and the pan back on the stove. 

At this point in time, your water should be bubbling in expectation of your spaghetti. So do the right thing and unite the two. Translation: add the spaghetti to the boiling water. Turn the heat down a bit. Leave them for as long as the instruction on the package say. Mine were fresh so they only needed about 3 min. To make sure that they are the way you like them, just taste them. Keep in mind that they will be tossed in the pan with the sauce, so that's another 2-3 min of heat there too. 

Back to the sauce. When it looks like this, it's ready for the basil. Add a generous amount but don't go overboard, we want to feel other flavours too. Add a bit of olive oil (if needed) and put it back on the stove.

After about 2-3 min, it will look like this and be ready for that spaghetti.

When the spaghetti is ready, use some tongs to scoop them out of the water and into the pan. Three important things:

  • The pan needs to be hot and on the stove, sauce bubbling slightly. 
  • I have a good reason to scoop the pasta with the tongs instead of draining it: that water will help your sauce. It has pasta starch in there, it will thicken and loosen your sauce at the same time. Plus it's salted, so it's not bland. 
  • Keep that pan moving! Don't let the pasta sit in there, wiggle them around until everything is nice and saucy on every little piece of spaghetti.

Done. Put it on a plate, eat straight from the pan, it doesn't matter. Just don't forget the Parmesan cheese, you don't want to anger the Gods of Pasta! I had mine with a side salad and mozzarella cheese. I ripped it in half and drizzled olive oil all-over it, because I just love the combination. And because visually it's stunning. That white, milky ball of cheese, with the nectar of the gods dripping that glorious green-yellow colour that no one can define! Sorry, I got carried away. Can't help it, I'm a sucker for chromatic perfection. 

That's all folks! Until the next one, happy eating! 

S01E02 The one with the lasagna. Part 2.

Next day, rise and shine, hungry people! Hopefully eat lasagna tonight. Today we're walking on the creamy side of the street. That's right, the Bechamel sauce.

You will need a pot, a whisk, a wooden spoon and a lil' bit o' courage. No biggie. So put your bechamel face on and let's do this!

Yes, that is my game face of choice. Feel free to channel your own here.

1.Ingredients and quantities

  • 100 gr. of butter- any temperature will do (it's gonna melt anyway)
  • 100 gr. flour
  • 1 l milk-fresh and full fat
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

The recipe apparently asks for - or suggests - 00 flour. I had the opposite, which is strong white flour. Still works fine. The difference is that the 00 flour is fine flour, not fine like a booty is fine, but more like refined and dusty, which makes it better for thickening sauces. My bechamel turned out all right without it, so don't worry.

2.The process

Please use the handy collage you see below, it's there to guide your steps into the mysterious world of bechamel. Melt butter in your pan (1). Low heat, my friends. When melted, add flour. Mix well. What results is called a roux, and yes, it's supposed to look like that (2). The key to this is cooking the flour, so don't rush to add your milk just because you fear it's gonna stick to the pan or something. It won't, that's why the butter is there. The easy thing to remember is that the butter quantity and the flour quantity is the same. This is for a medium thickness sauce. The amount of butter and flour are the ones controlling this. So, if you want a thicker sauce, increase the butter and flour amount, if you want a more liquid sauce, diminish the butter and flour content. Or, if you realize you want a more liquid sauce when you're almost done, add more milk and thoroughly incorporate it. I don't know if it' s recommended, but I found myself in that situation, and that's what I did, and it turned out fine. Can't stress enough how important it is to cook the flour at this point! (3) Otherwise your bechamel will have a pasty taste. Unpleasant.

Next step: take the pan of the heat. Add a third of the milk (4). Now, some recipes say the milk is supposed to be warm, others say that having the milk cold helps prevent the formation of lumps. I tried both versions. When the milk is warm, you have to move faster, because the process of cooking is faster. Having the milk cold slows things down a bit, you need to whisk just as thoroughly, though. The result were good with both methods. After incorporating the first part of the milk, it should look like this (4). Creamy and thick. Put it back on the heat. Whisk, whisk. Take it off, add the second part (5). Incorporate. Back on the stove. Whisk. Do the exact same with the last third of milk. At this point it should be liquid enough so that it doesn't hold onto the whisk, as you can see in the picture (6). Add salt and nutmeg. Put in back onto low heat, all the while whisking.This is consistency that my sauce had (8).

The thing I think I did (twice) was let it get a bit too thick, because as it cooled it got even thicker, so I added a bit of cold milk to it, whisked and it loosened right away. So, have that in mind, the fact that as it cools it thickens too. If you know you are not using it immediately, pour the sauce into container that doesn't hold onto the smell of other foods (like glass, ceramic) - you don't want your bechamel infused with the smell of old fried onions or whatever, cover it with cling film and let it cool gradually. Second component, done!

Last piece of the puzzle: the lasagna sheets.

I thought about making them from scratch, I really did, but them I remembered I'm not Superwoman. And I also remembered that I have an amazing little Italian restaurant around the corner, that also sells fresh pasta. Problem solved! I strongly recommend using fresh lasagna sheets as opposed to the dry ones. One day I will try to make my own and let you know how that went. Now that everything is ready, lets put this baby together. First layer is a thin bolognese one, this is to prevent the bottom of your lasagna sticking to your tray. Next, the lasagna sheets; have them overlapping a little bit so that they don't run away from each-other when you add the heavy load.

Then bechamel, then ragu, and last but not least, some grated Parmesan cheese. Repeat this process until you hit your final layer (I had 3 layers).

For the last bechamel and ragu layer, I mixed them together and added them as a unit, as a team, as one (read this in a dramatically and over the top fashion) then topped it with a bit of the tomato sauce I mentioned at one point (wish I had a bit more, preferably without the tomato chunks that I now cannot unsee). For the final step, grate glorious Parmesan over your much worked for lasagna.

Look at it and sigh a “Oh, my cheesy, overweight baby! You're finally here”. Don't judge, talk to me after you have gone through the same thing. We'll compare. Exchange notes, even. Now pop that in a pre-heated oven, at 150 degrees for approx. 50 min. Thank [insert preferred deity here] for my oven thermometer, cause otherwise I would be completely lost. My oven is weird, but more on that in a different post. The way I checked up on it was by inserting a trusty fork in there. She went in easily, no opposition, then came out, told me everything was fine and I believed her. Call me crazy, if you wish, but she was right.

Now, the pictures I took, are few and let's face it, not so good. My only excuse is that I had 4 man-sized hungry boys, surrounding me like vultures, so I did what I had to do. Lil' tip: don't rush into cutting your lasagna the minute you get it out of the oven (that's madness!) because it's gonna be very hot and it won't hold its form (not even if you beg) and it will look like a melted lasagna monster (which is not a thing, I just made it up).

Feedback: I had two Germans, a Romanian and a Polish guy at the table. The Germans were not very vocal, but they did ask for seconds, the Romanian attempted to ask for a third and the Pole offered me money in order to make this again. I thought I went a little overboard with the filling, because I was mostly terrified of ending up with a dry lasagna, but it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Not the prettiest dish I've made but definitely one of the tastiest.

This was my very first post. I had a number of difficulties and realizations while making this. First of all, will improve photography skills. Second,will remember to photograph ingredients and everything important. Third, will enjoy this process. Will take my time to prep, and play and experiment. If that means I will be eating frozen pizza, so that I am not hungry and in a rush when doing this, then be it. Cooking and cooking for blog are different. Must get out of the ''make it quick and delicious'' mindset and step into the slow, creative, attention-to-detail one. We'll see what comes out of it.

Until the next one, happy eating! ;)

S01E02 The one with the lasagna. Part 1.

The first food „item” that appears in Friends is in the second episode, where Rachel loses her engagement ring in the lasagna Monica made for her parents visit. I've only made lasagna once and it was the easier version, it was Jamie's spring lasagna. And I say it was easier because it didn't involve the laborious making of the ragu al bolognese. That is, if you ask me (and people that know better), the most important part in a good lasagna and the one that takes the longest. I have been trying to experience the making of a traditional lasagna for a while now, but as usual, I kept postponing it. Well, not anymore! First things first: I'm the realest. No. Wait. It's not that.

Since I don't plan on making lasagna every week, I decided to go for the Large Size Lasagna. L.S.L. I like to call it. It makes it sound official, and kind of dangerous, but in a good way. So, the L.S.L. has 3 glorious components: the ragu al bolognese, the bechamel sauce and the lasagna sheets.

And in the beginning she created The Ragu. You will need a thick bottom pot. The ragu needs to simmer for at least 2 hours. For that to work successfully and not have the meat stick to the bottom of the pot, I strongly recommend this. If you don't have it, there is another method (that I had to use when I lacked a proper-bottomed pot). Instead of adding all your liquid at once and then being able to mostly move on with your life, you will basically add one or two ladles at a time and stir. And stir. And add. And stir. You get the idea. You basically have to treat it like a baby, you can't really leave it alone, 'cause it will do something stupid.

1. Ingredients and quantities

  • 500 gr.minced pork
  • 500 gr.minced beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 2 carrots
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 350 ml. red wine
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 400 ml. beef stock/2 Beef Stock pots
  • 600 ml. water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 cup of milk

I made the ragu the day before, for two reasons: first of all, the flavors in the ragu get better with time and second, because I know myself, and if I get overwhelmed I stop enjoying it and then freak out, melt down, become a panic-driven-desperate version of myself. So, yeah, I try to avoid that.

2. The Process

Mince the onion, carrots and celery. The finer the better, they need to get lost in the sauce. You don't need to know they were once there, you can smell them, maybe taste them, but never see them. Mincing takes time. I used my little food processor and, even though I want to work on my knife skills, cause they're crap, I much appreciated the help. Did the same thing with the garlic and then I put the pot on the stove to get the party started. Get the olive oil in there, wait for it to heat up a little bit (not too much, we don't want it to burn) and then get the lovely things you or your processor minced, and stir. Give it like a minute alone in there, and then add the meat combo. This is where the work begins. You need to stir, to work the meat, to separate it until it starts looking kinda like this.

The meat IS the sauce. Your strong stirring and the long time on the stove will transform this from chunks of meat into a smooth operator, in charge of saucy business. What we are doing here is we're getting the water out of the meat. Add tomato paste. When there is no more liquid in the mixture, add wine and reduce it, so that it evaporates and you don't actually feel it in the ragu, it just helps flavor the meat. Then I added about two ladles of tomato sauce, that I had left from some tuna pasta I made. I like adding the tomato sauce because it results in a prettier looking bolognese and it makes it less heavy. A little goes a long way. I made a simple sauce from canned tomatoes, olive oil, 1 clove of garlic and some basil. I know this doesn't sound very specific. That's because it isn't. If you want a specific recipe for a tomato sauce there will be one in the next episode of Friends Food when we're making spaghetti. Stay tuned!

Next step: the beef stock. I used a beef stock-pot and 500 ml of water. Add sprigs of thyme and bay leaves, lightly salt and pepper. This is how it looked at this point.

The recipe I made is a combo of various recipes that I checked out. Now, some of them used less water that I ended up needing. Let me explain myself. So, I added the stock pot with 500 ml of water, turned the heat down, and let it slowly cook. I stirred once in a while. 1. Because I couldn't help it, I have trust issues. And 2. Because I didn't know this pot very well, was my first time using it, didn't want to risk it sticking to the bottom. And a good idea that was, because if I wouldn't have been there, stirring suspiciously in it, I would have ended up with ragu al burn-ognese. After about an hour, the 500 ml of water I added almost vanished, so I, trusting my eye sight and half decent brain, decided to add more water. I got zealous and added another stock pot and another 500 ml of water. 10 min into this daring ( some might say stupid) decision, I regretted it. I started saying things like: "I ruined it, I ruined it! I got cocky and I ruined it. Why? Why such stupidity? WHY add soooo much water?! Why not try half? And then, if needed, IF NEEDED! another half!”. By the time I was done being a dick to myself, I noticed that the sauce was actually fine, the water seemed to be fitting in just fine. Well, what do you know, I might actually pull this off. Cancel the shaming parade! Everything's alright!

After another hour, the meat was smooth, the texture was completely different. The point is for it to melt in your mouth, no chunks, no tough bits!

Final step, I followed the traditional old school recipe that adds milk. If you find this weird or unsettling in any way, avoid it, pretend I didn't say anything. However, I used about one cup, mixed it well into the sauce, tasted it for salt and pepper and that was that! Almost 2 hours and half later, I had ragu al bolognese.

Leave it to cool and then refrigerate. And then sleep, it's 12 a clock at night cause you foolishly (some might say stupidly) started doing this at 9 pm! First mission of the L.S.L. mission, accomplished.

The One in the Beginning

Meryl Streep in 'Julie & Julia'

As I was re-watching Julie and Julia last night, I got hit by a new wave of motivation. I have been wanting to start a cooking blog for a while now, but I always postpone it because "I'm not good enough, I know nothing about food photography, I'm just a beginner with high standards" bla bla. I suffer from the same "I can't finish a damn thing" issue that Julie (from Julie and Julia) suffers, so I need to set small, everyday goals and stick to them. Step by step, baby. First of all, I will not pretend to be more experienced than I actually am. Every stupid mistake I make, I will write all about it, so that you don't have to repeat it. I will post every failure and every success. It's only fair.

That being said...

The first challenge of this baby blog is to cook all the food from Friends. I have that disease called "Friends Frenzy". I have watched the show so many times, I am actually afraid to attempt counting,cause I might be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive-clingy-as-hell syndrome. And nobody wants that. Over the years I have found many new reasons (excuses) to re-watch the show, but I have to say, this one is by far the best! Approximately 84 possible recipes in there, I will attempt to make all of them and meet you on the other side!

The victorious, belly-filled-with-awesome side.