Monday, December 15, 2008

Pre Barcelona Tapas

Today I leave for 3 days in Barcelona, then two and a half weeks in Norway for the holidays!

How is this happening when I'm without a steady job and my savings are depleted? I ask myself the same thing.

However, last year, I got off an overbooked flight, waited a day to go on a trip, and was rewarded with a 600 dollar voucher for American Airlines and a night at the Hyatt. The Hyatt was nice, but the 600 dollars came in super-handy when planning my trip this winter.

And then there's the fact that my mind is always at work on how to make things work to make things I want to do remotely feasible. Two of my best friends in the world are doing a year abroad in Barcelona this year, and having been in America the past two or three years, people have been talking about Europe as a single entity. I started thinking that, well, Norway's in Europe, and Barcelona's in Europe, so it shouldn't be too hard to stop by there on the way home. And in some ways it's true, because tickets were really pretty much the same price to stop by Barcelona and with the voucher, it was actually really affordable. I'm PSYCHED, to say the least. I've only heard amazing things about Barcelona and I can't wait to hang out there for a few days with my friends.

Before I left New York, though, I wanted to have some people over and celebrate the fact that I've survived 4 months in this city. I obviously wanted an excuse to do some cooking and try out some new recipes as well... I invited them over for a potluck tapas night.

Try out new recipes, I did.

I found this recipe for Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares on a food blog called Smitten Kitchen. It looked too awesome to pass up, and honestly, completely objectively, it really was... Gah, these squares are sooo tasty, the BEST finger food.

Since I'm leaving today, I promised one of my friends last night that he could take the leftovers home with him. He kept telling people how good they were, and then kicking himself because people kept eating them, so there was less for him to take home...

The recipe was also exciting because it called for things I've never done before like making dulce de leche out of sweetened condensed milk and using a water bath for baking. Don't be scared to make it, though, it's fancy and you need to start a day ahead, but not too difficult!

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares


3 1/2 oz graham crackers, crumbled (1cup)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with foil and let some hang over the edge.

Grind graham crackers, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Add melted butter with motor running. Blend until combined, then press evenly onto the bottom the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool for about 5 minutes.

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup whole milk
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Make dulce de leche out of the condensed milk. Some people do this by just putting the entire tin can in water and boil it for an hour. I didn't try this cause I read somewhere that it could be dangerous. You can also pour the condensend milk into the top a double boiler and boil for about 50 minutes until it turns into dulce de leche, stirring every now and then. That's what I did.

Sprinkle gelatin over the milk in a bowl, let stand for 2 minutes to soften. Add cream cheese, eggs, salt into the gelatin mixture and mix with electric mixer until well combined, about 2 minutes. Stir in dulce de leche gently but thouroughly. Pour filling onto crust, and bake in a hot water bath in the oven until the center is set, about 45 minutes.

A hot water bath is just a larger sized pan filled a little with water that you put the pan into when you bake it. It's so the cake cooks evenly.

Cool the cheesecake to room temperature, this takes about two hours. Then chill, covered, in the fridge for at least 6 hours. I chilled mine overnight.

3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Within 2 hours of serving the cake, make the glaze. Heat the three ingredients in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Pour over the cheesecake. Tilt to cover the whole cake. Chill in fridge, uncovered.

Lift the cake out of the pan and cut into 1 inch squares. Devour.


I also tried making this pear, onion, and jack cheese strudel that I found on epicurious. It was made with phyllo dough, which I've never used before either, so it was a new experience. It turned out good, but messy, and I feel like it could've had a little bit more bite taste-wise. If I try it again, ever, I'll definitely try adding something like gorgonzola cheese or bacon, like some of the people suggested on the site.

Pear, Onion, and Dry Jack Cheese Strudel
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 Bosc pear, peeled, halved, cored, chopped
3/4 cup (packed) grated dry Jack cheese or 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
3 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until brown, about 7 minutes. Add pear and sauté 3 minutes. Transfer pear mixture to medium bowl. Cool slightly. Stir in cheese, mustard and salt.
Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface. Brush with melted butter. Top with second phyllo sheet. Brush with melted butter. Top with third phyllo sheet. Brush with melted butter (do you see a pattern here?) Arrange half of pear mixture in log along 1 short end of phyllo, leaving 1-inch border at each end of pear mixture. Fold in sides and roll up tightly into log. Brush all over with butter. Transfer to large baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo, butter, and pear mixture. (Strudels can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake strudels until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Transfer 1 strudel to cutting board. Cut on diagonal into 12 pieces. Repeat with remaining strudel. Transfer to platter and serve
Finally, I made honey Dijon Chicken Wings from a recipe that I found on the Whole Foods site, of all places. I had no idea it was so easy to make chicken wings. It's kind of scary that I now know it's so easy because if there are two things wings are, they are (1) yummy and (2) really bad for you. Mmmmmm.
Honey Dijon Chicken Wings
3 pounds chicken wings
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey

Bake wings on a baking sheet covered with foil for about 40-50 minutes, turning once after about 25 minutes. Stir together butter, mustard, and honey in a sauce pan. Toss the oven hot wings with the glaze in a bowl. Transfer back to baking sheet, pouring remaining glaze over and bake for another 8-12 minutes.
The tapas night was really very nice. Everyone brought something, either wine or a tasty dish and we sat around eating, drinking and talking to our heart's desire. My kind of night.
Next stop: real Spanish tapas in Barcelona!!! Let's see how they hold up to what New Yorkers can pull off...

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