Tag Archives: wedding

An Edible Souvenir

13 Aug

For our honeymoon last August, we spent a week on Vieques, a tiny island just off Puerto Rico. Vieques was a US Navy testing ground (i.e., a place to practice blowing stuff up) until 2003; civilian protests finally convinced the navy to cut it out, and upon their withdrawal eighty percent of the island was designated a protected wildlife refuge. The island is thus only beginning to attract significant tourism–until a “W” hotel opened last year, the only options for lodging were small non-chain hotels and B&Bs. Vieques was a great choice for us–nearly empty beaches, a bioluminescent bay, not (yet) overrun with tourists, great for swimming–but it’s definitely not for everyone. You’ve got to be ok with flying in a eight-seat puddle jumper, the odd bug in your rum, and an occasional encounter with one of these. And horses. Lots and lots of wild horses who will remove themselves from the middle of the road whenever they please, thank you very much.

We stayed at a fantastic B&B just outside Esperanza, the smaller of Vieques’s two very small towns. Every night we’d walk into town for dinner at one of the restaurants that opened up onto the malecón, which meant we had views like this while we ate:

On the menu at one of these restaurants was a dessert we’d never encountered before: goat cheese cheesecake. I was wary of such a thing, but we agreed to share a slice. We regretted this decision. The cheesecake was light, lemony, not overly sweet–exactly what a cheesecake should be. (Not this.)

We were back in Chicago for, oh, two days, before I tried to track down a recipe for this perfect cheesecake. I found a number that included a combination of cream cheese and goat cheese, which I am pretty sure was not the case with the Viequan version. No, I wanted goat, and goat alone. I found what I was looking for at Food & Wine: just goat cheese, a little sugar, and lemon. With a few tweaks, I was able to re-create–almost–the dessert we had that night.

Honeymoon Goat Cheese Cheesecake

for the crust:

  • 2 cups almond biscotti crumbs (You can of course use the traditional graham cracker crust, but I thought the almond would be a nice complement to the goat cheese and lemon. And it’s fancier.)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • dash of salt

for the cheesecake:

  • 11 ounces mild goat cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Before I get into the procedure, a few notes:

  • Make sure everything is at room temperature before you begin.
  • Don’t over beat the eggs.
  • On the subject of water baths: The jury is still out on whether water baths are important for the extra humidity, for providing even heat, or both. I didn’t use a proper water bath here simply because I don’t have a pan that is both wide and deep enough for my springform. What I did do is place a large baking dish full of water on the lowest rack of my oven, figuring that I could at least get whatever benefits humidity provides. I ended up with a cake that was plenty moist but that cracked slightly as it cooled. I don’t care too much about cracks–gives it character–but use a water bath if you can.

On we go…

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. If you’re using the method I described, place the pan on the bottom rack now. Prep your springform however you like–parchment circle on bottom, aluminum foil wrapped around the seam, etc.

Combine the crumbs, melted butter, and salt. Dump the mixture into the springform and spread evenly. With something sturdy and round–bottom of a drinking glass, bottom of a measuring cup–press the crumbs until they’re packed down and evenly distributed. Put the pan into the fridge to let the crust firm up until you’re ready to fill it.

In a large bowl, beat the goat cheese, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla until smooth. Add the eggs yolks two at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour at low speed.

In another bowl and using clean beaters, beat the eggs white until they’re firm but before they form peaks–they should still look “wet.” Beat one-third of the whites into the filling on low speed. Gently fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the filling into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes; the very center should still look a bit wobbly. Cool completely before releasing the springform.

So You Forgot to Eat at Your Wedding? Have Some Quiche.

9 Aug

One of my favorite parts of our wedding last summer was the backyard brunch my parents hosted the next morning. It was nice to have the chance to catch up with everyone in a more relaxed setting and while not wearing several pounds of lace. And there was food. Glorious, glorious food. See, I had made Bride Mistake #1, the mistake I never should have made, because it had been drilled into my head by every wedding magazine and every friend who had been through it: I didn’t eat at the reception. We had a cocktail reception, so there was no designated time for me to grab a plate and sit down. I distinctly remember my matron of honor offering to fix me a plate and I distinctly remember saying, “Oh, no, don’t worry, I’ll get my own in a few minutes.” Midnight found me eating stale Oreos from a vending machine in my wedding gown while my much smarter and not hungry husband looked on and shook his head.

I tried my best, then, to do the brunch justice. I parked myself at a table and did not budge until I had made up for the reception and then some. But try as I might, my mother was left with six or seven quiches–spinach and mushroom, cheddar and bacon, ham…Lucky for us, the quiches froze well. The next day my parents drove us, our wedding gifts, and several quiches back to Chicago.

We had two days in the city before we were scheduled to leave for the honeymoon. During those two days we lived off quiche, wedding cake, extra bottles of champagne (did I mention there was extra champagne too?), and trippy Nicholas Cage movies.

So in honor of our first anniversary, I decided to try my hand at quiche. My recipe is basically a mashup of advice from Michael Ruhlman (caramelize your onions! shallots!), Julia Child (naturally), and my own kitchen. Technically, my kitchen did not provide advice, but I am becoming more and more averse to shopping trips for a single ingredient. Hence the 2% milk rather than cream, and a parmesan topping rather than a softer cheese incorporated throughout. And really, this is comfort food, which should be simple and flexible. But if you feel the need to use French cuisine to make you doubt yourself and the very world we live in,  try one of these. Which I, arrogant little thing, did for French class when I was in high school. It went…it went.

But live and learn, and celebrate with quiche instead.

Rustic* Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Quiche

  • 1 pastry crust , rolled out large enough to accommodate the high sides of a springform pan
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • a few tablespoons of butter
  • salt
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (cremini or button)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 oz ounces baby spinach
  • 2 cups milk (2%, whole, or cream–pick your poison)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 ounce grated parmesan

the crust:

Unlike pies and cheesecakes, you can’t get away with not parbaking the crust, so preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Foil the seam of your springform pan and place a parchment circle in the center. Gently place the rolled crust over your springform and press it to the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim any excess from the top edge. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

Now, if you’ve got pie weights, you’re smarter than me. I ended up making a contraption that mostly worked. I wrapped a round cake pan slightly smaller than my springform with folded strips of aluminum foil until the sides touched the crust. There were a few puffy spots in the parbaked crust where the foil wasn’t perfectly flush with the sides, but that didn’t seem to hurt the final product.

Bake the crust for 30 minutes; set aside while you prepare the filling. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees.

the filling:

First, the onions: Melt a little butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion slices, toss to coat, add a little salt, and put the lid on. Keep covered for 10 minutes–this will give the onions time to steam themselves and get the caramelization process rolling.

After 10 minutes, remove the lid and turn the heat down to low-ish (a 2 on my gas range, not the “low” setting). The darker the onion, the sweeter and more complex the flavor, so give yourself enough time to get the onions where you want them. I kept mine on for about 35 minutes, stirring more frequently toward the end to prevent sticking. If you have some on hand, deglaze with a splash of red wine. Balsamic vinegar works well too.

When your onions are done, remove them from the pot and set aside. Melt another tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and shallots and a little salt and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms have reduced by at least half–they should be soft, but not floppy. One round of mushrooms cooperated very nicely, but another batch produced much more liquid than usual. I couldn’t cook it off without overcooking the mushrooms, so I simply ladled it out. You don’t want too much liquid going in with your filling.

While the mushrooms are cooking, whisk together the milk, eggs, a little salt, and thyme in a bowl or large (at least 4 cup) measuring cup.

When the mushrooms are done, turn the heat off and put the onions back in the pot. Add the spinach and mix everything together. The spinach will wilt a bit. Spread the vegetables evenly in the parbaked crust. Pour the eggs/milk over the filling. (Note: depending on how much your onions and mushrooms cooked down, you might not be able to fit all the egg/milk mixture; the crust should accommodate at minimum 3 1/2 cups, though.) Sprinkle the parmesan over the top.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until the quiche is puffed and browned. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before removing the springform and slicing. (Don’t worry, it will still be warm to serve.)

* Why am I calling it “rustic”? Because I can. And “rustic” things seem to be in vogue, so maybe it will improve my SEO. But mostly because it’s not one of those pretty quiches in a fluted tart pan. Which have their place, of course, and I’m sure this recipe could be halved to accommodate such a device.

One Year

5 Aug

One year ago today I went to a really fun party.

We had some snappy new outfits,

and we of course arrived in style.

The decorations were lovely,

and the food was good too.

It was a very groovy crowd,

but after a while we needed a break from the action. We tried to hide,

but there were photographers lurking in the grass.

So we hopped into a getaway car,

and went to an island to hang out with some horses.

Happy first anniversary to my favorite.