Wednesday, October 5, 2011

El Jeffé's Birthday Meal

Like I said in my previous blog: birthday weeks are a big deal around here. So big, in fact, that I'm barely getting around to writing this blog.

For Jeff's pièce de résistance, I decided to make all of his favorites. El Jeffé is a simple man who doesn't ask for much. The poor guy works his buttocks off AND puts up with his feisty Mexican wife, so I tend to go a little overboard for his birthday meal. I've inserted hyperlinks to my recipes in case you would like to create them in the comfort of your own home.

Birthday Menu:
Green Salad with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

Ribeye Steak, grilled to perfection
Crab Legs
Homemade Macaroni and Chérieezy
Homemade Chocolate-Covered Toffee and Caramel Ice Cream
Crème Brûlée, topped with fresh berries


We celebrated his birthday with our dear friends, The Zaleskis, and had a great time. As always, I've included step-by-step instructions for every recipe. Let me know if you try any of them! Here are some pictures of our fantastic dinner:


Homemade Ice Cream with Toffee and Caramel








Crème Brûlée (pronounced "krem broo-lay")

Yes, you can make creme brulee in the comfort of your own kitchen! Fancy restaurant prices be darned--it's so easy that you'll never order it off of a high priced menu again! As always, I've included step-by-step pictures for my culinary challenged friends (you know who you are).

Here's what you'll need to begin:

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle and scraped
1 cup sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water
6 Ramekins (Bed, Bath and Beyond is a great place to purchase these)
Torch (optional, but 90% of the fun. You can purchase one at Williams Sonoma or Bed, Bath & Beyond)


Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp (all of the sandy black stuff that you scraped from its inside) into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

Here's what the mixture will look like when it's finished.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. 


4. Add the cream a little at a time, constantly whisking as you drizzle in the cream. You want to whisk as you slowly add in the cream to temper the eggs (the last thing you want is scrambled egg brulee!)
5. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan.

6. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. 

I add the boiling water to the roasting pan after I've put it into the oven. I prefer this because the pan isn't too heavy when I'm attempting to put it into the oven.

7. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. You can make these ahead and refrigerate them for up to 3 days.



8. Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. For a flavored sugar, put a few drops of vanilla into the sugar and mix well before sprinkling it on top of the creme brulee.


9. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.


 10. Top with fresh, sliced fruit. I like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. The tartness of the blackberries pairs quite well with the richness of the vanilla custard.