Every year, I give my niece and nephew “Tia time” an extended, special time with me, their favorite Tia. (Hey, I was reading Ana Castilla and Sandra Cisneros when they were born and really liked Tia, the Spanish word for Aunt better than “Auntie Taylor”.)

I put lots of thought into these birthday presents and sometimes the kids have to wait months after their birthday to get their Tia time. Becca’s Tia time when she turned 8 (I think) was lunch at Habana Cuban restaurant in Austin followed by a matinee of the Austin Ballet performance of Swan Lake. That present came months after her birthday.

I had been promising to take her to Swan Lake since she was three.

But it took a full five years before a ballet company in Texas finally staged it. In February!

Sometimes I struggle to come up with the perfect “Tia time” gift. For his 12th birthday, Ben and I stayed up late at night watching Ellen DeGeneres’ “Here and Now” comedy video, gossiped like a couple of schoolgirls (ok, my brother is going to hate hearing that!), and then drove up to Ft. Worth the next day to see the Star Wars Exhibit.

So how do I top that for the 13th?

I had to prove that “Tia time” would remain OUR special time even though Tia is now married.

Well, we know Ben loves to cook, so what could be more perfect than a cooking class for our Tia time?

I signed us up for a private session with Chef Denice of Friendship House here in Salado. Ben had promised to cook dinner for me and Terry for our wedding present so he requested a lesson on how to cook a nice steak dinner. Chef Denice knows 13 year old boys so she created a lesson that included homemade ice cream and fire – Steak Diane!

Taking Notes

So our menu included:

  • vanilla ice cream
  • biscotti
  • grilled carrots and asparagus
  • Steak Diane

Chef Denice provided a handout with the recipes for us to keep. Ben was a conscientious student taking notes and learning new techniques.

So here are the recipes and some tips we picked up.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. egg yolks
  • 12 oz sugar (we learned that real chefs weigh ingredients. That tip cost me $29 for a kitchen scale)
  • 1 qt milk
  • pinch of salt (did you know that there are measuring spoons for pitch, dash, etc. Another $8 at BB&B)
  • i pt heave cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
Slowly adding milk

Preparation

  • Combine egg yolks and sugar
  • Bring the cream, milk, salt and vanilla bean to a boil
  • Temper egg yolk mixture to the cream misture
  • Cook over medium heat until nape (coats back of wooden spoon)
  • Strain and cool in an ice bath
  • Freeze in machine (on my shopping list at $50)

Almond Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 7 oz. all purpose flour
  • 6 1/4 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t anise seeds
  • 1/2 t lemon zest (her zester was so much easier to use than mine – $8 at Splendors)
  • 1/2 t orange zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 1/2 oz whole almonds

Preparation

  • Combine the dry ingredients
  • Add eggs, yolks, vanilla, and almonds
  • Mix or pulse mixer only until the ingredients are combined
  • Shape into a narrow log (about 2″ wide)
  • Bake at 350 until light goldern and baked (about 30 minutes) TIP: turn halfway for even cooking
  • Cool slightly
  • Slice and bake at 325 until dry (about 15 minutes)

Steak Diane

Pre-measured for convenience

Prep time: 10 minutes (if Chef Denice has the ingredients laid out for you!

Cook Time: 6 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 (3 oz each) center cut beef medallions, trimmed of all fat and pounded to 1/2 inch thick, chilled
  • 1 1/2 t clarified butter
  • 1 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T shallots, copped fine
  • 1/8 t garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c mushroom caps, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1 T lemon juice, fresh squeezed (I’ve resisted buying the lemon press she uses. I’ll stick with what I’ve got for now)
  • 1 t dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 t thyme leaves, fresh if possible
  • 2 oz heavy cream
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1 T parsley, chopped (she prefers flat leaf parsley, a habit I’ve adopted, too)
  • 1 T chives, chopped
  • Salt, about 1/2 t or to taste
  • Ground black pepper, fresh ground, 1/8 t or to taste

Preparation:

In a small 8-10 inch saute pan, heat 1T butter over medium for 1 minute. Add the tenderloin medallions, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, increase heat to medium-high and saute exactly 2 minutes on each side. Remove them to a plate and chill in refrigerator for 5 minutes.

Ben Flambe

Preheat a large (12 inch saute pan over medium heat for 1 minutes. Add clarified butter and then add the Worcestershire sauce to the butter. Place the shallots, garlic and mushrooms in the center of the pan with the tenderloin medallions around the edges. With a spoon, stir and toss the mushroom mixture. After 2 minutes, add the lemon juice and season the ingredients with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Turn the steaks and add the thyme, chopped parsley and dried mustard powder. Cook the medallions to the doneness you like. Leave them in the pan and add the heavy cream and chives. Tilt the pan slightly, and pour the brandy into the front edge of the pan, turn the heat to high and let the flame (or if electric, light with a match) catch the brandy’s vapors and ignite it. Swirl slightly, turn off the heat and let the flame go out.

Place the medallions on plates and top with the sauce from the pan.

NOTE: You may want to slightly undercook the medallions prior to adding the cream and brandy so that the reduction process of making the sauce doesn’t overcook them

Grilled Carrots

While Ben was playing with fire, I grilled the carrots and asparagus. I’ve never been a fan of cooked carrots, but they are yummy grilled!

I’ve posted the photos of our day on my Flickr account.

I’d say it was a successful birthday.

Tasty, at least!

And now we dine!

And now we dine!

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