Welcome to My Cognac Birthday Bash

Welcome to the 4th day of June. On the National Front, this is National Cheese Day and National Cognac Day. Oh how those National Days inspire me. Just you wait and see.

Did you know that Cognac was named after the town of Cognac in France? The liquor is a distilled brandy that must meet certain legal requirements to bear the name Cognac. One of these requirements is that a particular variety of grape, Ugni Blanc, must be used. Additionally , the brandy must be distilled twice in copper pot stills. The brandy must age at least two years in French Oak barrels from Limousin or Troncais. Many of the finer distillers age their cognac much longer than the minimum legal requirement. It is estimated that over 90% of the cognac imported to the American markets come from only four French producers. No wonder this liquid gold is so pricy. It also explains the price for Grand Marnier, made from Cognac and distilled essence of bitter orange. I’ve heard tell people actually sip Cognacs. I cook with mine.

Today is also National Cheese Day. A list of cheeses would cover the entire alphabet and undoubtedly contain more varieties of cheese than found even in the most well-stocked markets. The milk used to create cheese can come from cows (most common) buffalo, goats or sheep. Personally, I’ve never had cheese made from the milk of a buffalo, but I’d love to try it. Goat cheese or a blend of cow and sheep cheese are some of my favorite.

Today is also my birthday. I’ve borrowed from the National Celebrations to create a Birthday Menu that utilizes Cognac in every course while featuring Goat Cheese as part of the appetizers. It also happens to be Friday, so I’ve let my Catholic Traditions shine through. Enjoy!

Three-Course Celebration
Deep Fried Goat Cheese Balls
Cognac Shrimp with Beurre Blanc Sauce

Main Course
Cognac Cream Seas Scallops
Roasted Red Bliss Rosemary Potatoes
Broiled Asparagus with Lemon-Tarragon Dressing

Chocolate Mousse Cognac Cake with White Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting

Deep Fried Goat Cheese Balls
3 oz soft Goat Cheese
1/2 cup Cornstarch
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Egg White
2 tablespoons Water
1 loaf Sourdough Bread
1/2 cup Butter, soft
Handful Arugula

Divide goat cheese into 6 equal pieces. Roll into balls. Transfer cheese balls to a plate lined with wax paper and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Mix thyme, paprika, cayenne pepper and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Whisk egg white with water in another small bowl. Place cornstarch in a third bowl. Set the bowls aside.

Slice Sourdough Bread into 1-inch thick rounds. Brush bread rounds with butter. Arrange on a baking sheet, set aside. Heat oven to broil.

Heat skillet on medium for 3 minutes. Add oil (about 1/2 inch deep) and heat for another 3 minutes.

While the oil heats, warm bread rounds under the broiler until golden and lightly toasted yet still soft. Remove from oven, keep warm.

Remove goat cheese from freezer and generously coat each ball in cornstarch, then egg batter, then breadcrumbs.

Carefully place goat cheese balls in heated oil, turning with metal tongs every 3-4 seconds until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess grease.

Arrange Arugula in the center a serving platter. Arrange toasted bread rounds around the Arugula. Place goat cheese balls over the Arugula bed. Serve with a butter spreader to spread the warm cheese on the bread.

Cognac Shrimp with Beurre Blanc Sauce
Beurre Blanc Sauce
12 tablespoons Butter
1 Shallot
1/2 cup Dry White Whine
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Heavy Cream
White Pepper to taste

Cut butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. Wrap and chill well. Peel and mince shallot, set aside.

Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer the shallots, white wine, and lemon juice in the pan until the mixture is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 8 minutes or so,

Add the cream and bring to just under a simmer. When the first few bubbles rise, turn the heat down slightly. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly. Allow each pat of butter to melt completely before adding the next.

Once the butter is fully incorporated, season the Beurre Blanc sauce with white pepper. Set aside.

Cognac Shrimp
24 (about 3/4 lb) Medium shrimp
5 tablespoons Butter
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Cognac
Basil for garnish

Rinse, deveine and pat shrimp dry. Set aside.

In a skillet over high heat, melt 5 tablespoons of butter. Sauté shrimp, turning several times, until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low, season the shrimp with salt. Carefully add the Cognac and stir thoroughly.

Divide shrimp between four small plates. Spoon the warm Beurre Blanc Sauce over the hot shrimp. Mince basil, garnish plates and serve.

Cognac Cream Sea Scallops
16 Sea Scallops
1 Shallot
3 Garlic Clove
1/2 teaspoon fresh Tarragon
Salt to taste
Cracked Pepper to taste
1/2 cup Cognac
2 tablespoon Butter, divided
1/2 cup Baby Peas
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoon Butter, divided
Parsley for garnish

Place sea scallops on several layers of paper towels and store in the refrigerator until all excess moisture has been drained. Turn scallops over at least once during the draining process. Replace paper towels if they become too wet.

While the scallops drain, peel and finely mince the shallot, set aside. Peel and finely mince garlic, set aside. Pluck tarragon leaves from the sprigs, mince and set aside.

Remove the scallops from the refrigerator. Sprinkle salt and freshly cracked black pepper on one side of the scallops.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt about 1/2 tablespoon of butter over low heat, spread evenly on bottom of pan. Increase heat to medium or medium high. Gently lay half of the scallops, seasoned side down, space so that they are not touching or too close to each other for even cooking. Sprinkle salt and freshly cracked pepper on the top side of the cooking scallops. Cook on the first side until a noticeable sear is reached, about 2 minutes. Gently flip scallops, and cook about 2 minutes more.

Remove first batch to a plate, cover and keep warm. Wipe out skillet, melt another 1/2 tablespoon of butter over low heat. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan, increase heat to medium high. Sear remaining 8 scallops beginning with seasoned side down. Transfer to plate with first batch, tent and keep warm.

Add the garlic and shallots to the pan used to sear the scallops. Sauté until softened and golden, not crisp. Stir in the tarragon.

Add the cognac to deglaze the pan and cook just about 2 minutes. Add the cream and stir to blend well. Add the peas and continue to cook until the mixture is bubbling.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir frequently, pushing the sides back into the middle until sauce and simmer until reduced by about a third. The sauce should thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat, whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter about a half a tablespoon at a time. Whisk to incorporate completely.

Add the scallops back into the sauce, pouring in any juices accumulated in the resting plate. Place over low heat and let simmer until heated through.

To serve, tip the pan and spoon some of the sauce on individual plates. Arrange four scallops over the sauce on each plate, drizzle with a little more sauce if desired. Garnish with parsley.

Roasted Red Bliss Rosemary Potatoes
3 Garlic Cloves
2 tablespoon Fresh Rosemary
8 medium Red Potatoes
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Kosher Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 450-degrees.

Peel and mince garlic, set aside. Roughly chop rosemary, set aside. Wash potatoes and pat dry. Cut into large wedges.

Place potatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Add garlic, rosemary, salt and white pepper. Toss well. (I’m one of those use your hands cooks, so I toss the potatoes around in my hands rather than to use a spoon).

Pour potatoes out onto a rimmed baking pan large enough to hold potatoes in a single layer. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes, shaking pan occasionally to allow for even roasting.

When the potatoes are nicely roasted on the outside, tender on the inside, add butter to the roasting pan. Cover and allow butter to melt. Swirl potatoes through the melted butter just before serving.

Broiled Asparagus with Lemon-Tarragon Dressing

1 Bunch Asparagus Spears, trimmed
4 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Black Pepper to taste

Set oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler element. Heat broiler on high.

Trim asparagus of any woody ends. Toss the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out onto a baking sheet.

Broil in the hot oven until the asparagus spears are just tender and begin to turn lightly brown, about 8 minutes. Turn the spears over halfway through cooking.

While the spears are cooking, prepare the dressing.

Lemon-Tarragon Dressing
1 Shallot, minced
1 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon dried Tarragon
1/4 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Olive Oil

Peel and finely mince the shallot. Place in a small bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice, tarragon, mustard, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To Serve: Place broiled asparagus on a serving platter and drizzle the dressing over the top.

This cake is both beautiful and complicated with multiple steps and plenty of down-time. The best approach would be to make the cake over several days, then assemble in the morning to serve that evening. Let the cake come to room temperature before the final assembly.

Chocolate Mousse Cognac Cake with White Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting
Chocolate Cake

8 Jumbo Eggs
4 tablespoons Butter
1-1/4 cups Flour
1 cup Dutch Process Cocoa – sifted
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 pinches Fine Salt
1-1/2 cups Sugar

Note: Before beginning, allow eggs to reach room temperature. Melt the butter for the cake batter and let cool slightly before using.

Heat oven to 375-degrees. Lightly butter and flour 2 (9-inch) Cake Pans, set aside

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk until well blended. Set aside.

Place the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk at high speed until very pale and thick, about 2 or 3 minutes. Slowly add the sugar; whisking constantly at high speed until soft peaks form, about a minute or two more.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the whipped eggs. Fold in carefully to avoid deflations. Add the melted butter; fold carefully. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients just until blended, avoid overmix.

Divide the batter equally into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the cakes have risen and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature before removing from pans.

Milk Chocolate Mousse Filling
9 oz Milk Chocolate
1-1/2 cups Heavy Cream
1 tablespoon Chocolate Liqueur
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Note: Chill mixing bowl and attachments in the freezer for 30 minutes before whipping the cream.

Coarsely chop chocolate. Place the chocolate pieces in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir constantly until chocolate has melted completely and is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool until just warm to the touch.

Place the heavy cream, chocolate liqueur and vanilla in the chilled bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip at medium speed until thick, taking care not to overbeat.

Pour the melted milk chocolate into the whipped cream and fold with a soft spatula until well blended. Transfer mixture to a container with a lid. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

White Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting
12 oz White Chocolate – coarsely chopped
1-1/2 cups Heavy Cream

Note: Clean and chill mixing bowl and attachments in the freezer for 30 minutes before whipping the cream.

Coarsely chop the white chocolate and place the pieces in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir constantly until pieces have melted completely. Remove from heat and let cool until just warm to the touch.

Place the heavy cream in the chilled bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip at medium speed until thick, do not overbeat.

Pour the melted white chocolate into the whipped cream. With a clean, soft spatula fold until well blended. Transfer to a container with a lid, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.

Cognac Finish
1 cup strong Coffee
1/3 cup Cognac

Brew strong coffee, allow to cool to room temperature. Add Cognac to the coffee, set aside.

Using a cake leveler, cut each cake into 2 even 1-inch layers for a total of four layers. Place the first layer of cake centered on a serving platter. Once positioned, line the rim of the platter with plastic wrap to keep the rim clean while frosting.

Using a pastry brush, soak the cake with one quarter of the coffee mixture. Top with a third of the milk chocolate mousse. Spread mousse evenly over the entire top surface of the cake. Top with a second layer of the chocolate cake. Repeat soaking with the coffee mixture followed by the mousse layer. Top with the third layer of chocolate cake, soak with coffee mixture and apply final mousse layer.

Top with the final layer of chocolate cake, soak cake with the remaining coffee mixture. Reserve half of the frosting for the final touches. Begin at the top of the final layer, frost with the white chocolate followed by the sides. Place reserved frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe decorative stars around top rim of the cake. Remove the plastic wrap lining from the platter. Pipe stars around the base of the cake. Loosely cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

2 oz Bittersweet Chocolate

To serve, remove cake from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. When ready, shave the bittersweet chocolate using a vegetable hand peeler over the cake and around the rim of the platter.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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