Without a doubt, one of the hardest parts of planning last month's trip to Las Vegas was trying to decide where to eat. We were only there for 4 nights, and there were at least 15 restaurants I would love to have visited. I could go to Vegas over and over again if for no other reason than to try restaurants and see shows! In a separate post I'll tell you about some of our other experiences, but for now I just want to talk about the meal we had on our last night.
As soon as I found out Hubert Keller had restaurants in Vegas, they went on my must-try list. I watched him on Top Chef Masters a few years ago and aside from the fact that his food looked amazing, I thought he was incredibly likeable and funny. (Random aside - he's apparently also a DJ, which I think is awesome - this video is great!) We passed up Burger Bar this time (mostly due to time constraints) in favor of Fleur (if you're familiar with Vegas, they're both at Mandalay Bay), which seemed a little less casual for our last dinner. We did a quick check of some online reviews of the restaurant, and they were mostly positive so we made a reservation.
We enjoyed a really nice dinner at Fleur - maybe not the best meal we've ever had but definitely memorable. Our favorite thing about the restaurant was that they serve small plates, which means we got to try quite a few things from the menu. Highlights included steak tartar (the presentation was amazing, but I didn't feel comfortable taking photos), sauteed shrimp in cayenne butter, lime and spiced rum and Italian style meatballs. For me, though, dessert was the best thing I ate that night. Shane tried the chocolate souffle - it was insanely rich and decadent, while I ordered the PB&J - chocolate macarons sandwiched with peanut butter buttercream and strawberry marmalade. The combo was delicious, and the cookies were gorgeous. There were 3 of them on the plate, and each was served with a shot of rum iced milk, which was basically a luscious, slightly boozy milkshake.
When we got home I got to work on recreating that dessert. I've only made macarons once before and they're known for being finicky, so I was a bit hesitant. Fortunately, I got lucky, and they turned out pretty well - they even had the characteristic feet! The hardest part for me is determining when the macarons are finished, and I underestimated just a little this time. When I tried to remove the macarons from the baking sheets, a few stuck. My best tip if this happens to you is to peel the parchment away from the macarons rather than trying to pull the cookies off. I know, it seems minor, but it made a difference for me. I filled the macarons with peanut butter buttercream and strawberry preserves, just like the ones I had at Fleur. They were delicious little treats, though definitely not quite as pretty as the original. Next up on the agenda: figuring out how to make a homemade version of that rum iced milk!
PB & J Macarons
chocolate macarons from Annie's Eats (originally from Use Real Butter, who adapted it from Tartlette)
(Note: only weight measurements were provided and I didn't attempt to convert to volume measurments. You'll have the best results if you stick with weights and use a scale to make these.)
110 grams blanched slivered almonds
200 grams minus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
100 grams egg whites (from about 3-4 eggs), aged at room temperature for 24 hours
50 grams granulated sugar
Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting
recipe here (I made 1/3 of the recipe to fill my macarons)
I used store-bought, but you could try homemade with this recipe
Line two rimmed baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper (I had better results with the silicone baking mats).
To make the macarons: Add the almonds to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder to the bowl and pulse until combined. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. With the mixer still running, slowly add the sugar. Beat the mixture until it is shiny and stiff peaks form. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the almond mixture into the egg white mixture - you want to work quickly but try not to deflate the egg whites too much. Fold until no streaks remain; the batter will be thick (thicker than I expected) and should fall from the rubber spatula in thick ribbons.
Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe 1-1 1/2 inch rounds onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch of space between them. Set aside at room temperature for an hour.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 F. Bake for about 10 minutes - the tops should look dry and matte. (I cheated by removing one from the baking sheet to try it and see if it was done, I'm not experienced enough to be able to tell my appearance.) Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the macarons cool completely.
Once cool, pair the cookies by size. Pipe a small dollop of peanut butter buttercream onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair. Spread the flat side of the other cookie in the pair with strawberry preserves. Sandwich the two cookies together, gently pushing the peanut butter buttercream to the edges.
Makes about 25 sandwiches