Monday, November 30, 2009

Turtle Tart

This was my contribution to our Thanksgiving Feast. I based it on a recipe from Bon Appetit.
If you love turtles (chocolate, not reptiles) then this is for you.

It's a little bit tricky for a novice, but if you follow the recipe closely, you should do fine. Make sure you read and understand the instructions before starting because there are a couple of steps that are a little time sensitive.

One technique that may be new to you is making the pastry in a food processor. Making amazingly easy pastry is one of the main reasons I got a Cuisinart. If you've never done it before, you'll be amazed at how simple it is.
Flaky pastry requires two things:
1. You must not overwork the dough (especially once you add water) because the gluten in the flour will make the dough chewy.
2. The dough must stay cold so the butter (or other fat) remains firm. Little bits of butter melting during the baking are what make pastry flaky and wonderful.
Using a food processor makes it easier to comply with those two requirements. It's so fast, that it's hard to overwork it, and it doesn't have time to warm up.

The second skill that you may likely not have done before is making caramel.
Just watch it closely so it doesn't burn. When you're boiling the sugar, let it turn to an amber color before adding the cream and butter. Add the cream carefully, because it will be EXTREMELY hot.

Here is the recipe.

I used pecans instead of macadamias and sprinkled a little fleur de sel because I like a little extra salt with my caramel.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy St. Patty's Day!

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day early this year so that I'd be able to post this early enough to inspire you to make it this March 17th (Tuesday).
Corned beef and cabbage, though it is not among the most aesthetically pleasing meals on the planet, is one of the tastiest and easiest to make. Next year I'll corn my own beef, this year I let the folks at Kroger do it for me.
First the history and background, then the recipe.
As it turns out, the Irish origins of this meal are questionable at best. It seems to have become popular among Irish immigrants looking for a less expensive alternative to bacon.
Where's the corn? That's what my son wanted to know when I served him a bowl yesterday.
The corned part actually refers to coarse kernels of salt, sometimes referred to as corns, used to prepare the beef. A beef brisket is covered in lots of salt and some water, along with some herbs and spices, then allowed to cure for 2 or 3 weeks. the salt preserves the meat, which isn't that important nowadays thanks to our Whirlpool, but was very important before the advent of refrigeration.
Here's how it's done:
Buy yourself a corned beef brisket
Open it and place it, along with the juices inside the package in a large pot.
They usually come with a little seasoning packet which generally includes mustard seeds, coriander seeds, allsoice, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Open this packet and throw the contents into the pot too.
Put in enough water to cover the beef, put it on the stove and bring it up to boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Let it simmer for three hours or more until it becomes tender enough to easily pierce it with a fork.
At this point, you could definitely eat it as it is, but I like to throw it in the oven while the veggies are cooking to get it a little crispy on the outside.
Pull the beef out of the liquid and throw it on a pan then into a 300 degree oven.
While it's in there, throw some peeled potatoes and carrots into the liquid and let them cook until they're soft (I actually like to strain the liquid first to get all the chunks out). Once they're cooked, pull them out (saving the liquid) and throw them onto the pan and into the oven with the beef to keep them warm while you cook the cabbage.
To cook the cabbage, cut a head into 4, 6, or 8 pieces, leaving the core intact (it will hold the leaves together while it cooks. Cook it in the same liquid until it's soft (about 10 minutes).
Pull everything out of the oven and slice the beef. Here's the important part: make sure to slice it ACROSS the grain. That means perpendicular to the lines running through the meat.
Throw everything onto a giant platter and serve it with some coarse ground mustard, some butter, and maybe some sour cream (that was a new addition this year thanks to Anne).
Seriously, it's so easy and an non-negotiable part of any serious St. Patty's Day celebration.
You can't go wrong as long as you cook it for a long time and slice it across the grain.
Have fun!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Wife the Chef (Lemon Risotto with Mushrooms and Zuchini)

This post isn't so much about sharing a recipe as it is to demonstrate an important point.
Five years ago, Anne had never heard of risotto. Tonight she made a risotto that easily could have been served at any restaurant in Ashland (and we have some good ones here). I wish you could taste it. It had mushrooms and zucchini and it was enhanced by a little bit of lemon juice and homemade chicken stock that came from a chicken she roasted herself a couple of weeks ago.
Now for the real surprise . . .
I wasn't even home! This picture is of the leftovers!
The lesson you can learn from this is this:
Don't be intimidated by cooking. Anne loves risotto, so she decided to learn how to cook it. If there's something you want to eat--find a recipe for it and cook it. You might not nail it the first time, but you will learn and get better each time.
When you're trying something new, give yourself extra time and enjoy it. Turn on some good music, pour yourself a lemonade, and enjoy it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nanaimo Bars

Well, what kind of a food blog is this when Thanksgiving passes without so much as a recipe for yams or cranberry salad. I couldn't let the same happen during Christmas, so if you're looking for a recipe to add to your cookie/bar repertoire, this is it. These are a classic holiday treat in my family. They are a little more work than most bars, but are well worth it. The name, as far as I have found out, comes from Nanaimo, British Columbia, which is across the bay from Vancouver and is where they were created.
They're really not tricky--the hardest part, actually, is cutting them without breaking the chocolate layer on top.

Here's what you do:

In a double boiler over medium/low heat, combine:
1 stick butter
1 egg, beaten slightly
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
Whisk constantly until it's all combined and starts to get hot and thicken slightly.
Once hot, remove from the heat and add:
2 c. graham cracker crumbs
4 oz. coconut (about 1 cup)
1/4 c. chopped pecans or hazelnuts
Stir until well combined and press into the bottom of an 8x8 pan (don't use nonstick because you're going to need a sharp knife to cut them).
Place in the fridge until you're ready with the next layer.
In a large mixing bowl, mix:
3 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. instant vanilla pudding
then add:
1 stick butter, softened, but not melted
2 c. powdered sugar,
and beat until well combined.
Spread the butter mixture over the bottom layer and make it as smooth as you can. Return the pan to the fridge and let it chill for a while before adding the next layer.
Melt 6 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips over a double boiler or in the microwave and pour the chocolat over the butter layer. Smooth it out gently, being careful not to pull the butter layer up into the chocolate.
Return it to the fridge and let the chocolate set.
Once the chocolate is firm, but before it gets really hard, cut them into small rectangles (as you might have guessed, they're pretty rich so small is preferable). I find it works best to score them first, then cut them by putting the point of the knife all the way to the bottom of the pan, then pulling it across the pan (as opposed to pushing down with the knife which squishes the filling out).
You should definitley try these. They will make your days merry and bright.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Beef Pot Roast

So Anne thought that this is one that needed to be blogged because perhaps there are people who are wishing they had paid closer attention when their mothers (or in my home father) were preparing this staple of Mormon Sunday evening cuisine.
It is a very simple dish to prepare, but takes time.
There are of course a million ways to do it, but I will set forth some basics to help you out.
First of all--the meat. A chuck roast is what I have in this picture. It has more marbling (fat running throught the meat) and yields a more tender, fall-apart-with-a-fork finished product than a rump roast does. Rump roasts are good too, just different.
Basically, all that you really need to do is salt the roast liberally, then throw it in a dutch oven with the lid on, or some other oven-safe, coverable vessel and let the oven work for 4-5 hours at 300 degrees or so.
That said, the way I like to do it is to brown the meat first in the pot on the stovetop. Cover the bottom of the pot with a little oil, then brown all sides of the roast. Make sure to get it a nice deep brown--this will enhance the flavor and help lay the foundation for a good gravy.
After the roast is browned, I remove it and deglaze the pan (add some liquid and use a spatula or whisk to scrape all the little browned bits off the pan )with a little brandy or sherry (water or beef broth would work too--1/2 cup or so) and line the bottom of the pan with two thickly-sliced onions and a handful of peeled, quartered carrots. I put the roast on top of the veggies, cover the pot, and toss it in the oven (are my two-year-old's nursery rhymes affecting my vernacular?) for 4 to 5 hours at 300 degrees.
Now on to the gravy. I find that one roast never yields all the drippings I need to make enough gravy for all the mashed potatoes I need to accompany a whole roast. So I add about 1 1/2 cups of beef broth. Gravy made entirely from broth tastes like the stuff at Hometown Buffet, but with the veggie-flavored drippings, the gravy still turns out very homemade tasting. Remove the roast and the veggies and add the broth to the pot. Bring it up to a boil.
Put 1 cup of milk in a Mason jar, then add 3 heaping tbsp of flour, put the lid on, then shake it as hard as you possibly can until you are convinced there could not be any flour lumps left.
Add half of the mixture and whisk it in and bring it back to a boil. You can never tell how much effect a thickener will have until it boils. Then gradually add more until it's as thick as you like it. Taste it and adjust the seasonings.
I'll leave the mashed potatoes up to you with just this one suggestion: salt them. If the taters are properly seasoned, the gravy has less work to do. Leaving your potatoes without salt is like baking a cake without sugar and expecting the frosting to pick up all the slack.
Feel free to ask any questions or leave tips on how you like to do it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes

These pancakes are kind of a classic in my family. Anytime anyone cooks breakfast at my parents' house (as opposed to pouring cereal or making smoothies in my dad's pride and joy--the Vita-Mix), it invariably includes these pancakes. They are superdelish, and provide an excellent way to rotate wheat berries and dried milk that some of you may have about a year's worth of. You start with whole wheat berries and use your blender to grind them up into the batter.

Put in the Blender:
1 Cup of wheat berries
1 1/4 cups of water
1/4 cup Dried milk
(Or of course you can use 1 1/4 cups of milk)

Blend for three minutes (I actually like to do it for about 2.5 min. so it's a little more coarse)
Then add:
1 egg
1 tbsp. honey/sugar
1 tbsp. oil
1/4 tsp salt

Blend to combine everything,
then add:
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
and pulse it a few times.
Then cook it like any other pancakes (I'm assuming you've done that before).
Adding blueberries or pecans on top of the pancakes before flipping them is highly recommended.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Quinoa Chili

Lately I have been a little obsessed with Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah). It is what you might call a superfood. It's packed with protein, supplies all nine essential amino acids, and is filled with all sorts of minerals and other good stuff that nutritionists want us to eat. It is perfect for vegetarians and vegans or anyone else who is trying to eat meat a little more sparingly, but it also make an excellent side dish (like rice) and is good for salads (maybe a tabboulehesque sort of thing).
We had just loaded up on some from the bulk food section at WinCo (how can they sell food so cheap?!)when Anne received an e-mail from her cousin with a recipe starring Quinoa. How did she know it was my favorite food of the month?
When I got home from work tonight (the reason my blog has been seriously neglected lately--see link on the side) I walked into a fragrant house with a set table--ice water and everything, and a meatless, low-fat, protein-filled gesture of my wife's love--I'm a lucky man.
I recommend this dish whole-heartedly. I loved it loved it loved. The cinnamon adds a subtle depth that I think you will enjoy. If this is your first time with Quinoa, do not be afraid. It's easy to cook and quite neutral, like a brown rice maybe, but lots smaller.

2 cans kidney beans, rinsed & drained (or whatever beans you like)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoon salt
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed in warm water &
cup frozen corn
1 can tomato sauce, low salt (about 2 cups)
1 cup water
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions, and sauté until tender. Add salt, garlic, pepper and spices; sauté for 5-10 minutes. Add rinsed quinoa and stir in. Add corn, tomato sauce, and water to onion/quinoa mixture. Simmer together 20 minutes. Add beans to the pot and simmer another 15 minutes. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, sliced avocadoes or whatever else you like to put on chili. Makes 6-8 (1 Cup) Servings.