Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mise Not En Placed Sufficiently

Started with the brownies, as is my wont, the logic being that if I fill myself up with sugar and batter, one of these days I will keel over the stove. No, wait a minute ...

Soon discovered the reason I marked these as time-consuming - not so much because they take a long time, but because it's time which requires you to babysit the mixture. You cannot do anything else. It's 20-some minutes of stirring the espresso mixture on low heat until it boils. The reason these are double espresso brownies is because there's prepared espresso in both the brownies themselves and the frosting. If I were naming them, I might call them Espresso Yourself Brownies.

I think the use of mini-morsels rather than regular morsels messed up the melting time a bit, so a few strands of the egg cooked. The recipe doesn't call for it, but it might be a good idea to temper the eggs. (I am exceedingly proud of myself that I know what that means.) In other words, pour a bit of the mixture into the egg to let it heat it up gradually before dumping it into the pan. Per egg.

Final verdict (Double Espresso Brownies): Very rich brownies, worth the hassle.

I determined that to have both portions of dinner warm, I needed to make both dishes roughly at the same time. This is a new one on me: I've always made something with lengthy oven / cooker time and then a quicker dish after I've thoroughly cleaned up after the first.

Well, I had a major episode of mise en place failure. I did have the sense to do the time-consuming work ahead, grating the cheeses and ginger and chopping the pineapple, but I completely forgot to do the simpler stuff, such as measuring other ingredients (or indeed knowing what those measurements were supposed to be) or taking things out of the pantry / fridge. This stuff is quick enough that it wouldn't have been a problem with one dish, but with two, it had me running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

In the middle of all this, I realized my stove-side salt shaker was on the verge of empty. Also cue some potential cross-dish pollution as I had to chop the sage fast and the only cutting board handy was the one I had used for the pineapple.

I kept being sure that one dish was going to be made way ahead of the other, but the unforeseen time delays kept balancing each other out. The pasta water boiled early, the mustard seeds took a long time to pop, then the macaroni took a while to broil ... I even had time to frost the brownies before I ate.

Final verdict (Sweet and Sour Pineapple): I don't know if it was the use of the regular mustard seeds, the red pepper flakes over dried chillis, or merely the intention of the recipe, but this was spicy! But the basic flavors were excellent, so I would make this again. I did use onion powder rather than onion seeds.

Final verdict (Sage Butter Macaroni and Four Cheese): Mmm ... cheesy, but not overwhelmingly so. The sage butter is quite strong. I might consider making my tablespoons scant. (As opposed to scarce, which would involve them running away.) Not enough crumbly-crunchy topping for my tastes. Next time, I will use a 9 x 13 baking dish and increase the amount of topping. I did use a small handful of regular parmesan with the other cheeses - my piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano was 4oz, but had a pretty significant crust on it.

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