Thursday, June 10, 2010

Elegant Dinner for Friends.. Salmon with Garlic Aoli and Chocolate Eclairs

Just the other week we had our neighbors over for a nice friendly dinner. It is one of those times when you want to do something simple, but special. It can also be one of those times when we run out of creative ideas. This time my mom decided we would make Grilled Salmon and Twice Baked Spuds.  

However, she stalled out on the dessert ideas. She asked me and that's when I got my brilliant idea! Let's make Chocolate Eclairs! They are one of my favorite things and I have always wanted to learn how to make them. It was decided. We got all of our recipe books out and found the common thread behind all of them and then added our own little twists.

One thing that I used a lot of here, is the piping bag. This is the perfect tool to make things simple and a lot less messy. I found a great deal on amazon for some piping bags if you want to be fancy, or you can always use a regular large sip lock bag too! We used it to pipe in the potato filling for the Twice Baked Spuds and we used it to pipe in the pudding for the Chocolate Eclairs. It made my life extremely easy and there wasn't any messes to clean up. I simply threw out the empty plastic bag and voila! Everything was ready to bake and serve. I also had a blast putting the melted chocolate on the eclairs.

Dinner was easy to prepare and delicious. The other benefit of this meal is that everything was prepared ahead of time with the exception of the salmon (which only took about 15 minutes). Which allowed us more time to catch up and share stories with our guests. It was the perfect evening and the perfect meal. 
We served it with a nice tossed salad as always that included lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, and a little vinaigrette. Perfection!

Grilled Salmon

1 fillet of wild Alaskan Salmon
1 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. fresh dill; minced
1 tsp. Kosher salt
 1 tsp. pepper

1. Marinade salmon fillet by rubbing the olive oil on the top of the flesh. Squeeze the lemon juice over the salmon flesh. Then sprinkle with the dill, salt, and pepper. Wrap the fillet in foil and marinade for at least one hour in the fridge.
2. To grill, heat the grill to 300 degrees and place the salmon on the grill still wrapped in foil. Grill on medium heat on an electric grill for 10 minutes or until the salmon begins to sweat. 

We served with an aioli sauce using the recipe that we have published in our previous blog about salmon.  But it's worth publishing again and we made a few minor changes to improve things!

Awesome Aioli

3 egg yokes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. Italian Seasonings

1. Mash garlic cloves and sea salt together in medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together until smooth and creamy. Serve over the salmon for a delightful treat!

Twice Baked Spuds
5 Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/2 Cup Fat Free Sour Cream
1/4 Cup Fat Free Cream
1 tsp. Parsley Flakes
1 tbsp. Minced Garlic
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper

1. Bake the Yukon gold potatoes in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. They should be soft just like a baked potato. You can cool for up to a few hours if you are doing prep work or overnight if you are planning for tomorrow's dinner party.
2. Once the potatoes have cooled, cut an oval on the top of each potato and place the scraps in a large bowl. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the contents of the potato leaving about a centimeter of flesh and skin hollowing out the potatoes and adding all of the innards to the large bowl.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the potatoes and mash all ingredients together using a potato masher until the mixture is creamy and soft.
4. To stuff the potatoes, take the potato mash mixture and add to a piping bag or zip lock bag. Make a small snip in the corner of the zip lock bag and pipe the potato mixture into the hollowed out potato skin.

5. Sprinkle the tops of the potatoes with a tablespoon or sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese.

6. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes or until cheese on top bubbles and browns. This is an easy and elegant potato to serve your guests and impress.

Chocolate Eclairs
Serving: 9 medium sized eclairs

For the pastries:
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1 pinch of salt
1/4 cup baking splenda
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Combine the water, butter, and salt in a large sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil.

2. Remove from heat and add the flour and sugar whisking vigorously until the ingredients are combined. The dough will be thick but glossy. It will want to stick together-- this is a good sign!

3. Add the eggs one at a time; whisking the ingredients together. The dough will be glossy and smooth and thickened and should resemble a thick pancake batter.
Pour into a plastic zip lock bag or a pastry bag and pipe onto a greased cookie sheet. Give each eclair enough room to spread out and grow. They will puff up in the oven. Use two cookie sheets if yours isn't large enough to accommodate and give them room to swell and grow.

4. Place them in the middle rack of your oven for 20 minutes. The eclairs will puff up as they cook. Make sure to monitor. If they start getting brown in the first 10 minutes, reduce the heat in your oven to 350 and continue cooking.

5. Once done, remove from the oven and move them to a cooling rack to cool immediately.

For cream frosting:
I took some shortcuts here that I think you will really enjoy!

1 box dried sugar free vanilla pudding mix
2 cups fat free milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1. Mix all ingredients together using a wire whisk until smooth and incorporated. Pour pudding into a piping bag or a zip lock bag. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes while the pastry shells are cooling in order to allow the pudding to thicken.

 To assemble the eclairs:
1. Gently slice the eclair pastries in half evenly. There will be a hollowed out portion in the middle.

2. Take the piping bag or zip lock bag and cut the corner and gently pipe the pudding onto the bottom half of the pastry filling it full and using all of the pudding mix across the 8 eclair pastry shells.

3. Place the top of the pastry over the pudding mixture making a sandwich of sorts.

4. For the chocolate drizzle on top. melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute in a microwave safe bowl and stir. Continue heating the chocolate in 30 second intervals until it is thin, glossy, and melted.

5. I used a fork and splattered the chocolate hot mess style all over the platter of eclairs. Splatter the chocolate until you feel they are sufficiently covered with just the right amount of chocolate for you and serve! They also can be stored at room temperature for an hour or refrigerated overnight.

Mental Health Benefit: Even though you are eating a chocolate eclair, you can feel a little better knowing that it's sugar free. Hey, sometimes dessert is necessary and if you are me, you might even eat the dessert first. What is that old saying again? Life is uncertain, so eat dessert first. I think whoever came up with this is on to something. Try these easy and healthy recipes out for yourself and let me know how it goes!

Cheers and best entertaining and eating!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen


Cris said...

Pics are amazing!

Hot Mess Cooking said...

Thanks! I discovered you have to be as smart as your camera! :)