Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Earl Grey Salted Caramel Macarons

These are my new favorite macarons to make. The Earl Grey tea makes them wonderfully fragrant, and the salted caramel adds not only a great balance of salty and sweet, but also gives the macarons a little chewier texture than usual.

And when I say Earl Grey, I mean Earl Grey. There are little bits of tea leaf running through the shells, and the heavy cream used to make the caramel is infused with the tea itself.

See the specks of tea leaves. Smell the intoxicating bergamot scent. And finally, taste the floral, chewy macaron. If you really wanted to go crazy, have them with a warm cup of Earl Grey tea.

Even after months of not making any macarons, they were relatively cooperative and didn't really give me any trouble. I thought I would be a little rusty, but I think making macarons has become second nature to me. I experimented with the filling this time and did a combination of two different caramel fillings. In the center, I made a caramel that I softened with a little butter. Around the caramel center, I made a salted caramel cream cheese frosting to temper the sweetness of the caramel. Filling the delicate shells with only caramel would have been overwhelming.

Earl Grey Salted Caramel Macarons
makes 24 macarons

for the macarons shells:
110g blanched almond slivers
200g powdered sugar
90g aged egg whites
30g fine granulated sugar
2 tea bags Earl Grey tea ( I used Tazo)

As always, make sure to age the egg whites for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours. Weigh out the ingredients accurately. Combine 110g blanched almond slivers with 200g of powdered sugar with the tea leaves from 2 tea bags of Earl Grey tea. in a food processor. Process until very fine and sift into a bowl. Process any larger pieces left over.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat 90g of egg whites on high until frothy. Add in 30g of granulated sugar gradually, taking care to incorporate sugar well after each addition. Beat until relatively stiff peaks form. You should be able to invert the bowl and the meringue should stay in place.

Add half of the almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites and gently fold to incorporate. Add the rest of the mixture and fold until the consistency of lava. Fold carefully. You would rather under-mix than over-mix the batter.

Pipe 1 inch rounds onto silpat lined baking sheets, giving them ample space because they will spread a little. Let them rest for 30 minutes or until the tops aren't sticky to the touch.

Heat a convection oven to 260 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets. I prefer to let them cool and "dry" out a little bit overnight before filling them the next day.

for the caramel:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Earl Grey tea bag
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp coarse fleur de sel
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp butter

Heat 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 1 Earl Grey tea bag. Let the tea infused until the heavy cream is a warm tan color.

Combine 1/2 cup of granulated sugar with 2 tbsp of water in a deep saucepan. Cook until a golden brown amber color. Watch the mixture carefully because it can burn in the blink of an eye.

Carefully add in the heavy cream mixture and turn off the heat. Be careful because the mixture will seize and bubble up when the cream is added. Don't panic. Just keep stirring and it will calm down. Add in 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tsp coarse fleur de sel. Make sure it is a quality sea salt. It makes all the difference.

Make two batches, one for the center of the filling, and one for the cream cheese filling.

for the salted caramel cream cheese filling:
1 batch of caramel sauce
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
50g powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 4 oz unsalted butter with 4 oz cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy. Add in sugar and incorporate well. Add in 1 batch of caramel sauce, cooled almost to room temperature, and beat to incorporate.

To fill the macarons, place a small amount of caramel in the center of a shell and encircle that caramel with the cream cheese mixture before topping it with a matching macaron shell. Place in refrigerator and let them "mature" overnight. Macarons will retain their optimal texture for about 3 days.

P.S. I also made that celadon-glazed ceramic piece in the background! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010


The best lunch deal in town right now is at Hatfield's. Simple as that.

$29 gets you the Session Prix-Fixe and $19 gets you the ridiculously well-priced Studio Prix-Fixe. Both are three course menus, and both are pretty amazing. During our lunch last Thursday, I ordered the Session and Darin ordered the Studio. My roommate Denise had the lobster roll which I jealously coveted throughout the meal.

6703 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
tel: 323-935-2977

Lobster Club [$18]
Creamy lobster with pickled shallots on house-made toasted brioche, curry onion rings

I had a delicious bite of the sandwich which consisted of perfectly cooked, sweet lobster, and fluffy brioche. Next time I need one of these to myself.

Today's Piping Hot Soup
Butternut Squash

Advertised as "piping hot" soup, it was indeed piping hot. It was so hot, in fact, that Darin's first bite burned him. I loved that it was warm. Lukewarm soup is the worst. I was worried that the soup would be too sweet because of the butternut squash but it actually very well balanced.

Pan Roasted Flank Steak
Braised radish, fingerling potato, balsamic jus

I kept wanting to stab more little potatoes off Darin's plate but I refrained. The piece of steak that I had was cooked to a good temperature, but I felt like it could've been a little more heavily seasoned. It could just be because I didn't get enough of the components on the plate in one bite though.

Scoop of Today's Sorbet

We were able to switch our scoop of sorbet from mission fig to cantaloupe. Cantaloupe was very good. It was icy and tasted just like cantaloupe.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Truffle Cake [$11]
Vanilla ice cream, baked to order

Once broken into, warm chocolate and peanut butter oozed out of the cake. The peanut butter portion was rather tame. There was a definite peanut taste but it wasn't overwhelming, just a little nutty. The entire dessert also wasn't as sweet as I was expecting it to be.

Butter Lettuce Salad
Toasted walnut, fresh goat cheese, strawberry vinaigrette

I won't say this is the best salad I've ever had but all the ingredients were as fresh as they could be. The strawberry vinaigrette mixed with the goat cheese made it a little creamy and the walnuts were nice and crunchy.

Pan Roasted Salmon
caramelized fennel, oven-dried tomato, Kalamata olive, sautéed pea tendrils

This, on the other hand, is one of the best salmon dishes I've ever had. It was so good I was inspired to make my own fennel salmon dish a few days later (will blog about it soon). I'm STILL going through my fennel phase so this was the perfect dish for me. The caramelized fennel was sweet and the oven-dried tomatoes provided the acidity I'm always looking for in fish dishes. The salmon was moist and just cooked-through inside with a deliciously crisped skin. Oh and I've always loved pea tendrils. Man I want this dish again.

Caramelized Goat's Milk Cheesecake
hazelnut shortbread, citrus compote, Grapefruit Lillet sorbet

The set menu had indicated that the dessert course was to be a Carrot Parsnip Cake. I'm sure it must've also been delicious, but I'm so glad they let me switch it to this cheesecake. I LOVED this cheesecake. The hazelnut shortbread crust is better than any crust you've ever had on a cheesecake, trust me. The grapefruit Lillet sorbet was so refreshing and the bitterness of the grapefruit actually went really well with the creamy cheesecake. The caramel on top only made it that much more decadent. Karen Hatfield is a genius.

I definitely plan on returning to Hatfield's sometime soon. If it wasn't a little far from me, I'd love to have a weekly lunch there. I can't wait to go in for dinner!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Broccoli Beef


Sometimes I crave Chinese food. Not legitimate Chinese food, but the Americanized, Panda Express-esque version. "Blasphemy!" you might say. I say it's perfectly alright to appreciate bastardized Chinese food.

However, when Panda Express is less okay than usual, I turn to my own wok and stove for my version of Broccoli Beef. It could not be easier to prepare and making it yourself means you can really control the quality of ingredients. I love cooking the broccoli just enough so it's still slightly crunchy and marinating the beef first to get more flavor penetration. I'll be honest now and admit I don't actually own a wok, but really, any kind of skillet will work.


Broccoli Beef
serves 2

3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp mirin

sliced beef
1 broccoli crown
vegetable oil

First, put together the marinade. Feel free to adjust the ratios in the marinade to your own tastes--more mirin and honey to make it sweet or more sriracha to make it spicier.

Place the beef in the marinade and for about 15 mins. It does not need to be marinated for very long if your cut of beef is thinly sliced.

Break the broccoli crown down into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Heat vegetable oil and garlic in a skillet. Do not brown the garlic too much or it will end up being a little bitter. Add the marinated beef and cook until just cooked through. Reserve the residual marinade.

Take the beef out and add the broccoli pieces to the pan. At this point, add the rest of the marinade to the broccoli and cook until desired doneness.

Add the beef back into the skillet and combine.

Serve with a steaming bowl of rice and be glad you're not eating Panda Express!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

LA Loves Alex's Lemonade

For those of you who don't know yet, I am now the new Dine intern at L.A. Magazine. I've been helping with the online restaurant database and also blogging on the Digest blog. It's been great fun and I'm super excited for what's to come.

One of the biggest perks so far, was being able to attend L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade this past Sunday. I really had an amazing time. The weather was perfect, and the venue was beautiful, with the stately mansion at Culver City studios acting as the backdrop to the event. (some of Gone with the Wind was filmed on those steps!) The food was great, with a lot of out-of-town chefs I wouldn't normally get to experience.

Lemonade was definitely present in its traditional form and in boozy variations. Red and white checkered table clothes were thoughtfully placed on the green lawns in front of the mansion for those who wanted to have a little picnic. Grilling seemed to be the popular method of cooking, and it did get a little smokey at times, but it only added to the outdoorsy, picnic-y ambiance of the event.

The best thing about the event though, was how genuine everything felt. The event benefited Alex's Lemonade Stand which raises money to help fund research in the battle against childhood cancer. Cancer is something that a lot of people can relate to. I know my life was just recently touched by cancer, and it's not an easy thing to deal with. Listening to Suzanne Goin and David Lentz talked about how they were inspired to put this event together was beyond touching. I'm not gonna lie, when Alex Scott's parents talked about their daughter's strength and courage in battling her cancer, I teared up a bit.

The live auction that followed was actually very entertaining. I enjoyed it for two reasons: 1) the items being auction all involved food in one way or another (i.e. an underground tour of L.A. eateries with Jonathan Gold, a day with Alice Waters in Chez Panisse's kitchen, a dinner for 12 cooked by some of the best chefs in town...) Of course these things were going for thousands of dollars which puts them a little out of my budget, but it was fun fantasizing nonetheless and 2) the crowd was very enthusiastically participating in the auction. It's always great when you get something in return for giving to a good cause.


L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade 2010
Here are pictures of all the delicious bites we sampled that day.

Giada De Laurentiis
The Food Network [Los Angeles]
"pasta ponza"

Pasta topped with crispy prosciutto bits and breadcrumbs--simple, but the pasta was Giada-brand pasta!

Paul Kahan
blackbird, Avec, The Publican [Chicago]
"ham in hay"

Delicious house made chorizo with ham hock that was cooked in hay to give it a grassy, earthy flavor. It was topped with fresh farmer's cheese, apple slices, and dandelion greens. The chorizo was amazing!

Tony Keene
Gordon Ramsay at the London [West Hollywood]
"caramelized scallops with cpaer-raisin purée"

One of our favorite of the day. A tender piece of sweet scallop was crusted in crispy little rice puffs? on top of a creamy cauliflower purée.

Susan Spicer
Bayona [New Orleans]
"grilled rosemary shrimp with artichoke bread pudding

In hindsight, I should've enjoyed this dish more. It was too early in the day and I was too busy trying to plan out the best way to eat everything there. The shrimp was whatever, but that artichoke bread pudding was something else. I would kill for that recipe.

Judy Rodgers
Zuni Cafe [San Francisco]
"marin sun farms hamburger on rosemary focaccia"

We told ourselves we wouldn't finish the entire burger because then we'd be too full, but it was just so juicy and the home made pickles were so good, we ended up eating the entire thing...

Maria Hines
Tilth [Seattle]
"pete knutson's sock eye salmon, caper aïoli and niçoise oil"

This was tasty. You could definitely taste the brininess of the capers in there. I might have went back for another of these...

Johnathan Sundstrom
Lark Licorous [Seattle]
"wood grilled wagyu skirt steak with chimichurri and green tomato relish"

Good but nothing too special. I did enjoy the green tomato relish though.

Jonathan Waxman
Barbuto [New York]
"farmers market vegetables with grand aïoli"

I absolutely adored the "Zen" chef when he was on Top Chef Masters, but really Jonathan Waxman? Really? Just some raw vegetables with dip?

Chris Bianco
Pizzeria Bianco [Phoenix]
"seasonal antipasto"

Sadly, no pizza was to be seen. Although I guess it's hard to make a pizza outdoors...

Joseph Manzare
Globe [San Francisco]
"chicken robata with serano chili yuzu koshu"

Good but it was chicken and it just tasted like chicken. I could've used more yuzu koshu.

Neal Frazer
Grace [Los Angeles]
"whole pig in a box"

Definitely my favorite bite of the day. I wish I'd gotten a picture of them carving the whole pig. The meat was super flavorful and the mustard potatoes that accompanied it was delicious. I could've eaten an entire bowl of that stuff. The purple sauce that topped the dish was also very interesting. I'm not sure what it was, but look how cute Neal Fraser's daughter looks while piping on the sauce. I don't like kids but she was just too adorable.

Michael Tusk
Quince [San Francisco]
"quail and chicory salad with quince mostarda"

This was also another highlight of the day. The quail was delicious and the slightly sweet quince mostarda was great with it.

Donald Link
Cochon [New Orleans]
"assorted link sausages with chow chow and cochon's abita beer whole grain mustard"

These sausages were spicy!

Marc Vetri
Amis, Osteria, Verti Ristorante [Philadelphia]
"lamb mortadella sandwich with ricotta and honey"

While the ricotta and honey with nuts was interesting in a sandwich, it wasn't enough to overcome the fact that it was just a sandwich.

David Tanis
Chez Panisse [San Francisco]
"mexican crudité"

Really Chez Panisse? You too? Raw veggies and fruit?

Russel Moore
Camino [Oakland]
"boudin blanc with homemade sauerkraut"

Another sandwich I wasn't very interested in.

The Hungry Cat brought amazingly fresh oysters and shrimp. I may or may not have eaten more than my allotted share of oysters. It was oyster heaven.

Nancy Silverton
Mozza [Los Angeles]
"gelato bar"

Mint chocolate chip, espresso, meyer lemon, pistachio, passionfruit, vanilla, salted caramel, oh my! All the flavors were amazing. I know because we tried almost every flavor. Sadly, I was most excited about passionfruit, and that was the one they ran out of. The tangy, yogurt-y meyer lemon was my favorite out of the bunch.

Zoe Nathan
Huckleberry [Santa Monica]
"beignets with hot chocolate"

These were the best beignets I've ever had. Light and airy on the inside, crispy and sugar-crusted on the outside, it was like a warm cloud of deliciousness. The hot chocolate on the side wasn't necessary, but it added a nice touch.

Christina Olufson
Tavern [Brentwood]
carrot cake, salted caramel macarons, "Snickers" bar, chocolate chip cookies, s'mores, pumpkin cupcakes"

Tavern's spread of desserts took my breath away. The salted caramel macarons were the best I'd had on this side of the Atlantic. So amazing! The s'mores built from an incredibly crisp graham cookie, chocolate, and brulée homemade marshmallow were better than any s'mores I've ever had. The "Snickers" bar had a layer of peanut-y feuilletine on the bottom that was ridiculously good. The variety of desserts offered was spectacular, but it was the flavor and execution of each little bite that really impressed me.

Yeah...I definitely had too many desserts that day and I definitely took too many pictures of the macarons.

There were plenty of celebrity sightings that day--chef and non-chef. I'm not usually one to ask for pictures with celebrities, but we couldn't resist one with Giada! Oh and that kid from Modern Family...


I can't wait to love Alex's Lemonade some more next year!