Monday, December 29, 2008

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Like many foodies, I love to collect cookbooks. When I'm not actually cooking or eating some wonderful dish, I can spend hours flipping through the pages of a beautifully illustrated cookbook and dream of when I can make this dish or that and for whom. If there at least 3 recipes that I want to try immediately, I consider the money well-spent on my new volume. For the past several years, I have been buying used cookbooks online to add to my collection. I don't understand how someone doesn't put her name in a new book. The very minute I get a new book, either a bookplate or a scrawled name and date are added to the inside front cover. I also rate each recipe I try and make notes about any detours I may take (and I must confess to taking many). Finally, many of my cookbooks would qualify as "scratch and sniff" books since despite having a collection of cookbook stands, I seldom dig through the cabinets to find them. You're apt to find color washes left by sauces, the odd piece of dried dough, or fleck of spice. Personally, I think it adds to their authenticity.

A few weeks ago, one of my foodie friends mentioned a cookbook in a comment she left. I've searched through my deleted posts, but couldn't verify who it was. I'm fairly certain it was Gloria C.--I wanted to thank her--who mentioned the book Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini. Since I was ordering The Language of Baklava, our next read for Cook the Books, I went ahead and ordered Carmellini's book as well. I was not disappointed. I love the premise of his book. A professional chef for many years, Carmellini was awaiting the completion of his new restaurant and found himself, as the book jacket describes, "up against the harsh reality of life as a civilian cook: no prep cooks, no saucier, no daily deliveries--just him and his wife in their tiny Manhattan apartment kitchen."

Yes, I crowed, now let's see what he produces when he's stripped down to the bare bones as most of us foodies bloggers are! If there were a fat, juicy crow, I'd be digging in right now based on just the first recipe I've recreated. In addition to a wonderful Sunday dinner, I've enjoyed reading of his many cooking and eating experiences, one of them being his service as weekend executive chef to the Cuomo family in Albany.

The recipe I tried last night was for short ribs braciole. As Carmellini reveals upfront, the name of this dish makes no sense at all. Braciole in Italy are really slices of beef, pounded thin, and fried quickly. Italian Americans call involitini (beef rolls) by the name braciole. This dish was basically slow-cooked short ribs, but, what's in a name? The result was pure heaven. From the minute I began browning the short rib slices in a mixture of pancetta, onion, and garlic, to the time I opened the oven after a 2 1/4 hour slow cooking, the scent was incredible. The dish came together quickly and just needed to be checked every 20 minutes or so to make certain they weren't cooking too fast. I served them with some cavatappi pasta, a last minute decision when I tasted the rich, smoky sauce. I can hardly wait to eat the leftovers tonight! As usual, I've taken a few liberties with the original recipe--not too many--but below is exactly how I made the dish.

Serves 4
For the short ribs:
1/4 lb pancetta, roughly diced
2 1/2 lbs boneless beef short ribs, each rib sliced in thirds
1 tsp Kosher salt
freshly grated pepper
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
2 28 oz cans whole, peeled SAN MARZANO tomatoes, with their juice
1 tbs sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Cook the pancetta in a large, dry ovenproof pot over medium high heat until the fat renders (about 2 minutes)

Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper; add them to the pot and brown the meat (about 5 minutes)

Add the onion and cook until it softens (about 2 minutes)

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, mix well

Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to the pot along with their juices

Bring the mixture to a low boil

Remove the pot from the stove and place it in the oven, checking every 20 minutes or so to make certain it's not boiling too hard

Cook for 2 1/4 hours

For the topping:
1/4 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
dried oregano and parsley
salt and pepper
2 tbs freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

Toast the pine nuts in a dry saute pan over low heat (about 8 minutes)
Add the olive oil, mix well, continue cooking

Add the panko breadcrumbs; cook about 2 minutes, until toasty brown

Add the salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley

Remove from heat and stir in the cheese; set aside


To finish the dish:
Remove the pot from the oven and immediately remove the short ribs

Use a ladle to remove excess fat (by pressing chunky sauce away as you tip the pot so ladle fills with fat only)

Place a few slices of meat on each plate, spoon sauce over, sprinkle with nut-crumb mixture


Prepare for lots of yummy noises as you eat this dish!




Saturday, December 27, 2008

FOODIE FRIENDS ARE THE BEST


What a nice surprise to receive an award from a foodie friend. If you don't know Gloria C. from http://www.cookbookcuisine.blogspot.com/, please visit her blog for some great reviews of cookbooks and recipes and other blogs. Thank you, Gloria, for your Friendship Award. I'll display it proudly.

Friday, December 26, 2008

THE ULTIMATE CRAB CAKES

With visions of icy roads and traffic jams, Larry and I decided to stay home for dinner on Christmas Eve which gave me a chance to try another recipe from one of my newly acquired cookbooks, Tyler's Ultimate. We both love crab cakes, but generally eat them out. This recipe proved that this is a weeknight meal, if you so choose. The crab cakes went together easily and, after a few hours in the refrigerator, were sauteed in under 10 minutes. I served them with spaghetti alio e olio, but will do them again with risotto or garlic mashed potatoes.

Tyler's recipe called for fresh, jumbo lump crabmeat. I had to use the jumbo lump in the can, but it was delicious nonetheless. I did not prepare the chile mayonnaise. We prefer our crabcake au naturel or with remoulade sauce. I used the extra virgin olive oil, but will not do so again. You really don't want anything to take away from the crab and olive oil does impart its own flavor. DO use fresh breadcrumbs; they make a huge difference, I'm sure. I would imagine commercial bread crumbs would dry out the cakes. Instead, you have big juicy lumps of crab and little else.

Serves 4 - 8
vegetable oil (the recipe calls for extra virgin olive oil; use vegetable)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 onion, finely minced
1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (made from 3-4 slices white bread)
2 tbs mayonnaise
1 large egg white
juice of 1 lemon (his recipe called for lime; I prefer lemon)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(I left out the 1/4 cup chopped cilantro)


Heat a 2-count of oil in a frying pan over medium heat

Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes until kind of carmelized

Place onion-garlic mixture in a bowl and add crabmeat, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, egg white, lemon juice and mix until well blended

Season with salt and pepper


Shape into 6 fat crab cakes

Put crab cakes on a plate, cover, and refrigerate at least until chilled

Heat a 2-count of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the crab cakes and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until they're nice and crispy. Garnish and enjoy.






Tuesday, December 23, 2008

BUTTERBALLS--THESE COOKIES ARE NO TURKEYS


I've been baking cookies here and there and waiting until Larry finishes up one batch before I make the next. As I was blog-hopping the other day I discovered Emily of http://backtothecuttingboard.com/ and her chocolate-filled Mexican wedding cakes. Although I make Mexican wedding cakes and their close cousin Russian teacakes, I decided I'd try out Emily's idea with my butterballs. The essential difference among these 3 cookies is that the wedding cakes and tea cakes are made with nuts and lard and the butterballs are made with butter, coconut, and no nuts.

The butter produces a somewhat different texture than the lard and they're less dry. I use a small amount of coconut, actually about half what the recipe calls for. The addition of the chocolate in the middle was pronounced a "good thing."

Ingredients - Yield 2 1/2 - 3 dozen
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate bits
more confectioners' sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Cream the butter and confectioners' sugar
Blend in the flour
Fold in the coconut
Break off walnut-sized pieces
Stuff 4-6 chocolate bits into middle
Roll dough around chocolate, covering completely
Roll balls in confectioners' sugar
Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets
Bake 18-20 minutes
Roll in sugar again and place on racks to cool



I had to show off the Christmas table runner I made this year and the new candy-cane candles I found.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

SNOWSTORM SUSTENANCE

Despite being retired for over 4 years, I still get the calls when school is closed since Larry works for the same school district. No matter that he leaves for work between 4 and 5 AM. As always, it's impossible to get back to sleep once you've gotten that early morning call, so I turned my thoughts to what I was going to make for dinner. Having been sick all week, the larder was looking a little empty. We'd already done the only take-out our small community has to offer, so I had to be a little creative. Then I remembered the lovely piece of Gruyere I'd had Larry purchase when he took over shopping duties last weekend when this cold first hit. Fingers flying over the keyboard, I searched for a meal worthy of an evening in the woods in front of a roaring fire. A bin filled with yellow onions, my wonderful piece of cheese, enough flour and butter to get through the holiday season. An SOS to Larry to pick up a carton of half and half at our deli outpost in town and it was settled: French onion soup gratinee a la the Barefoot Contessa and a spinach, Canadian bacon quiche.


By noon, we were in the middle of a white out. The storm came on suddenly and was relentless until almost 9 PM. But I digress. Although both Larry and I adore a good, rich onion soup cloaked in gooey cheese, I'd never actually made onion soup. The larder had no lard (sorry, former English teachers do love their play on words), so I had to make a butter crust.


I'm pleased to announce that making onion soup is a snap. As has always been my experience, actually carmelizing onions takes 2 to 3 times longer than any recipe states. Making pastry on my wonderful new silicone Food Network pastry mat is a snap and leaves my kitchen relatively free of the flourstorm that used to characterize any baking. I got mine on sale at Kohl's for less than $25. I love it because I just throw it in the sink to clean, then roll it up and store it between the oven and the microwave.

French Onion Soup Gratinee - Serves 4 - 6

2 1/2 lbs yellow onions, halved then sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 lb unsalted butter (this IS an Ina recipe)

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup sherry*

1/4 cup brandy*

1/2 cup dry white wine*

6 cups beef stock**

2 cups chicken stock**

Kosher salt to taste


*I reduced the amount of alcohol in Ina's recipe; hers called for 1/2 cup each of sherry and brandy and 1 1/2 cups of white wine


**in the best of times, I don't have veal stock in the larder; her recipe called for 4 cups each of beef and veal stock


In a large stockpot (my LeCreuset again) on medium high heat, carmelize the onions with the butter and bay leaf. It took me 45 minutes.


Deglaze the pan with the sherry and brandy and simmer uncovered about 5 minutes. Then, add the wine and simmer another 15 minutes.


Add the stock and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.


At this point, I put soup in a crock, topped with thin slices of baguette, covered the bread with copious amounts of shredded gruyere, then broiled until it reached a lovely shade of brown.



What's in the Larder Quiche - Serves 4



For the Crust:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup iced water

flour for dusting


Egg Mixture:

4 eggs

1 cup half and half

pinch black pepper

pinch dry mustard


For the Filling:

4 slices Canadian bacon, diced small

1 box frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry

1/3 cup diced onion, sauteed until translucent

4 oz Gruyere, grated

2 oz shredded mozzarella


Make the Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Cut in the butter. Add water to bring the dough together. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out on a floured surface and place and shape in your favorite deep dish pie plate.


Assemble and Bake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the Canadian bacon, spinach, onion, and cheeses over the crust. Slowly pour over the egg mixture. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


My larder is now somewhat increased with 3/4 of a lovely quiche--guess what's for breakfast?--and 4 quarts of onion soup. When the going gets tough, the tough start cooking.






























Friday, December 19, 2008

BASIC FRENCH SABLES

If you've been blog-hopping recently, you can't help but have noticed that there are many posts dedicated to mom's or grandma's or Aunt Marie's favorite Italian or Mexican or Greek butter cookie. What's more, they all sound suspiciously like the same recipe. In an effort to bring you something new (ahem!), I decided to share my favorite recipe for basic French sables. Oh, all right, French sables are butter cookies, too, but they're are tres chic and tres petite.

A few words of warning here. If your household is populated by several of the male species, you may want to hide these. Men don't get the concept of petite, They operate from the "more is better" variety. When you see your beautifully decorated little coins being grabbed by the handful and tossed into the mouth, you may get a sudden urge to resurrect the guillotine. Let me assure you that if you do manage to salvage some of these treasures, they are quite delicious and look rather festive.
BASIC FRENCH SABLES - 6 dozen
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white, beaten
OPTIONAL: colored sugar, chopped nuts, melted chocolate, non-pareils
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar.
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat thoroughly.
Combine the flour and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and blend until the dough is smooth.
Shape the dough into cylinders about 1-2 inches in diameter on a lightly floured surface.
Wrap the cyliners in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
Brush refrigerated logs with beaten egg white and roll in decoration of choice.
Slice the dough with a sharp knife into 1/3 inch disks.
Place 1 inch apart on parchment or silicone mat covered baking sheets.
Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are slightly colored.
You may freeze the shaped, but uncooked dough for baking at a later time.
There are many variations to be made from this simple, but delicious, dough. You may, for example:
tint the dough
substitute 1/4 cup cocoa poweder for flour for chocolate butter cookies
substitute 1/2 tsp of the vanilla with mint, rum, walnut, or any other flavoring
make sandwich cookies by spreading one cookie with ganache
mold a log of dough into squares, ovals, hearts, or other simple shapes
roll and cut the dough with cookie cutters
While the first batch of these cookies is a distant memory, they are so easy they can be made in a snap. Joyeus Noel.

Monday, December 15, 2008

CINA-YUMMY















I don't know about you, but the first thing I notice when I walk into a mall are the smells, and what smell is more distinctive than the smell of cinammon buns baking? A few weeks ago I tried a recipe on the side of a box of baking mix. The result was more of a biscuit than a cinammon roll. I began to hunt through my recipe collection in search of a cinammon roll that did not require hours of preparation.

Not only did I find a very simple recipe, but the result is a clone of your favorite mall shop cinammon roll. I love to mix and knead by hand, so the recipe was a double success. I'm guessing Larry will be asking for these a lot.

YIELD - 12 rolls

DOUGH
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F)
1 pkg. active dry yeast
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar

Dissolve the sugar in the milk, then add the yeast. Let foam (about 10 minutes), then add the eggs and butter, then add the flour, salt, and sugar. Knead (about 8 minutes). Spray a bowl with cooking spray, place dough in the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size (30-45 minutes).

FILLING
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tbs ground cinammon
1/3 cup butter, softened

Combine filling ingredients

ICING
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Beat together cream cheeses and butter; add confectioners sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat until smooth.

TO MAKE CINAMMON ROLLS
Roll dough into a 16 X 21 inch rectangle. Spread the dough with 1/3 cup btter and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9 X 13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled (about 30 minutes).










Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Spread icing on warm rolls before serving.


These rolls reheat well in the microwave. The next time I make them, I'm going to freeze a few unbaked for a quick treat.










Friday, December 12, 2008

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP, CONTESSA STYLE




There's no doubt about it, Ina is shaking things up in my kitchen. A few posts back I wrote about trying her recipe for scampi after making my own version for years and years. Since that experiment was so tastefully successful, I decided to try again with another of my "revered" recipes, this one for Italian wedding soup. While I don't mind standing and rolling tiny meatballs, I draw the line at frying them and generally poach them in the broth. Ina's version calls for pre-baking the meatballs. My meatballs are beef-based. Hers were supposed to be chicken-based, but there's got to be a little wiggle room in a recipe, right? I used turkey and turkey sausage. Ina replaces my standard escarole with baby spinach.

The results were every bit as delicious as my original recipe. In fact, Larry prefers her version because he loves sausage. I made a vat of this soup and served it with homemade focaccia (from Carol Field's book Focaccia). Nothing smells as wonderful as a pot of soup simmering on the stove and a loaf of bread baking in the oven. There were no leftovers to freeze, but I'm quite certain that if you kept the pasta separate, this soup would freeze beautifully. The recipe that follows is my interpretation of the Ina Garten's recipe, though very little is changed except some methods and the omission of dill, which I really don't find very Italian.




Italian Wedding Soup - Serves 6 to 8

FOR THE MEATBALLS
3/4 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb Italian turkey sausage, casings removed (I used hot)
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tbs fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbs milk
1 egg, beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper



FOR THE SOUP
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
3 carrots, 1/4 inch dice
2 stalks celery, 1/4 inch dice
10 cups chicken broth (I used ready-made low sodium)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup tubetini pasta
12 oz baby spinach, washed and trimmed

*place the ground turkey, turkey sausage, garlic, parsley, cheese, bread/milk mixture, egg, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper in a bowl and combine well

*shape mixture into approximately 40 meatballs, placing them on the parchment lined sheet

*bake for 30 minutes

*as the meatballs bake, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot

*add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery and saute for 5-6 minutes

*add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil

*add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook 6 - 8 minutes

*add the meatballs and simmer 2 minutes

*taste for salt and pepper

*stir in the fresh spinach and cook 1 minutemore, until the spinach is just wilted

*serve with extra grated cheese

BASIC FOCACCIA

SPONGE
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
3/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour

DOUGH
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water ( 105 - 115 degrees F)
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Sponge (above)

TOPPING
2-3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 - 1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

TO MAKE THE SPONGE: Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large mixing bowl, whisk it in, and let stand about 10 minutes (until creamy). Stir in the flour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until very bubbly and doubled (about 45 minutes).

TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl, whisk it in, and let stand 5-10 minutes, until creamy. With a wooden spoon, stir the yeast mixture and olive oil into the sponge and mix well. Whisk in 1 cup of the flour, stir in the salt and remaining flour, and mix until the dough is well blended. Knead on a lightly floured surface until soft and velvety, 8 - 10 minutes.
FIRST RISE: Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise 1 1/4 hours, until doubled.

SHAPING AND SECOND RISE: The dough will be soft, delicate, and filled with air bubbles. Flatten it on an oiled 11 X 17-inch baking pan and press it out with oiled hands. The dough will be sticky and may not cover the bottom of the pan. Cover it with a towel and let it relax for 10 minutes, then stretch it again. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 mintues to an hour, until the dough is filled with air bubbles. Just before baking, dimple the vigorously with your knuckles, then drizzle olive oil over the dough , and sprinkle with the coarse sea salt.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a baking stone inside it. Place the focaccia pan directly on the stone and spray the walls and floor of the oven with cold water 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking. Bake about 20-25 minutes, until the crust is crisp and the top is golden. Remove to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Don't be afraid of yeast. Nothing is more calming than kneading dough. I love my food processor, but never use it to make bread.









Monday, December 8, 2008

BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN




















Have you ever had an inexplicable craving for something? A craving so strong that it's all you can think about? A craving for something you almost never eat and seldom, if ever, make? Well, that's what happened to me. I hadn't reread Gone with the Wind or passed a Popeye's or heard The Battle Hymn of the Repubic, but out of nowhere I began to think it was the perfect weather for a piece of crispy fried chicken. I can't remember the last time I made fried chicken. In fact, it's been so long since I used my deep fryer that it's way in the back of the closet over the stove. The closet I can only reach by standing on a chair. Once the craving hit, nothing would do but to put it on the rotation. I happen to love buttermilk fried chicken and, since this was right after Thanksgiving, I already had a wonderful gravy. That, of course, meant that I had to make some more mashed potatoes. My craving was satisfied after a thigh and a leg, so Larry had plenty of leftovers for lunch and for dinner the night I ate out with friends.

Serves 4 - 6

1 - 3 lb chicken cut into 8 - 10 pieces

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

salt, pepper

2 cups flour

  • place chicken pieces in a gallon-sized, ziplock bag; mix the buttermilk with 1 tbs salt and 1/2 tsp pepper; pour in buttermilk, seal, and refrigerate for 2 - 24 hours

  • place the flour, 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper in a large brown paper bag and shake to combine
  • lift half the pieces of chicken from the buttermilk mixture into the bag and shake to coat completely
  • remove from bag and place on a large wire rack set over a baking sheet until you are ready to fry; do the other half of the chicken in like manner

  • spoon enough shortening into a 12 inch skillet to measure about 1/2 inch; heat to 350 degrees
  • drop chicken, skin side down, into hot oil; COVER and cook for 5 minutes; after 5 minutes, lift with tongs to make sure pieces are frying evenly, then cover and cook for another 5 minutes
  • turn chicken over and cook, UNCOVERED, for another 10-12 minutes
  • drain on paper towels and serve

Any kind of fried food is a rare treat. While most people think of fried chicken as a summer dish, I must tell you it tasted wonderful in the dead of winter with creamy mashed potatoes with my leftover turkey gravy. Giving in to one's cravings every once in a while is a wonderful treat.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Stollen






If you're fortunate enough to live in the Hudson Valley area, among the many perks is the close proximity to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park. I once hoped to attend as a full time student, but the school district I worked for "made me an offer I couldn't refuse," and so that was the road not taken. When I retired 4 years ago, one of my first adventures was to take one of their Saturday classes. I've since taken 5 more classes and hope to attend another in the near future. That first class was on appetizers and we ate our classwork. After that, the classes I took were all in the baking department, so in additon to bringing home armloads of baked goods, we were served a fabulous lunch in one of their beautiful halls. One of those classes was Christmas baking. We made cookies and tarts and breads from around the world. After your first class, you learn to bring lots of Tupperware and bags. I've been making this Christmas stollen every year since. Although it's supposed to "develop," I couldn't resist cutting into one of the loaves last night and sampling it with a cup of tea. It's still my favorite recipe for stollen. It's more cake-like than bread-like.



Like Panettone (Italy) and brioche (France) and Gugelhupf (Germany), stollen has a rich history. Its origins are in the 14th century when this delicious bread was given by the Bakers' Guild to the aristocracy and the ruling church in the form of a tax. The shape of the loaf alludes to the Christ Child, swaddled in white cloth. Stollen is very popular throughout central Europe during Christmas. It is often made days and weeks in advance of Christmas to allow the flavors and aromas to heighten. It's sweetened with sugar as well as candied fruits and raisins. My only deviation is to substitute regular raisins for sultanas. There's just something about the golden raisins that I don't find aesthetically pleasing.



INGREDIENTS - makes 3 loaves




  • 10 oz raisins

  • 2 oz candied lemon peel

  • 3.5 oz candied orange peel

  • 3.5 oz toasted slivered almonds

  • 2 oz rum

  • 8 oz unsalted butter

  • 5 1/2 oz granulated sugar

  • 9 oz cream cheese

  • 5 extra large eggs (4 oz)

  • 1/3 oz pure vanilla or 1/2 vanilla bean

  • 3 drops almond extract

  • zest of 2 lemons

  • 1 lb., 2 oz all purpose flour

  • 1/2 oz baking powder

  • 1/8 oz baking soda

  • 1/4 oz salt

(1-2 sticks unsalted butter, melted)



OPTIONAL: almond paste, softened and rolled into 3 logs, roughly the length of each loaf



DIRECTIONS



The Day Before You Bake: combine the almonds, raisins, lemon peel, orange peel, and rum and soak overnight.



The Day You Bake:




  • cream the butter and cream cheese in mixer bowl; add sugar and continue to mix; add eggs one at a time and continue to mix; add the almond extract and lemon zest

  • sift dry inrediens together and add to the butter mixture

  • add the dried nuts and fruit mixture

  • scale into 1 lb, 4 oz loaves; shape the dough by rolling or patting it into an oval, placing an almond log in the middle; seam on bottom

  • bake immediately at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes

  • brush the stollen with melted butter as soon as you take it out of the oven

  • cool the stollen completely, then brush with butter again and roll in granulated sugar

Wrap the stollen in aluminum foil and store in a cool place. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if you wish, before serving.

I wrapped several pieces of cardboard with foil to place my wrapped loaves upon so they won't break in the middle. Whole loaves or slices of the loaves make a wonderful hostess gift.

Monday, December 1, 2008

BAKED SCAMPI CONTESSA





You've no doubt heard the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix." Grammar aside, there's a certain truth to the saying. A case in point: I have been making scampi the same way for over 25 years. My recipe is delicious served hot for dinner or warm to room temperature as part of a buffet. However, I have such faith in my new cookbook, Back to Basics by Ina Garten, that I decided to try a new recipe. The Barefoot Contessa is batting 1000 because her recipe was fantastic! Larry's comment was that you couldn't get something this delicious in a restaurant. He thought it took a lot of work, but frankly, aside from a bit of chopping, it assembled easily and, better yet, would be a wonderful dinner party dish since it CAN be assembled ahead of time and takes under 15 minutes to bake. I couldn't get the 12-15 count shrimp called for in the recipe, so made do with the 9-12 count. I served the scampi with my microwave risotto--if you haven't tried it yet, you're missing out on a great, simple dish--and roasted brussel sprouts and carrots. I got the recipe for the roasted sprouts in this same cookbook and just added diagonally sliced carrots. I scaled the recipe down for the 2 of us.


Serves 2


1 lb shrimp in the shell


1 1/2 tbs olive oil


1 tbs dry white wine


6 tbs unsalted butter, softened


2 cloves garlic, minced


1 large shallot, chopped


2 tbs minced fresh parsley


1 tsp minced fresh rosemary


1 tsp grated lemon zest


1 tbs lemon juice


1 extra-large egg yolk


1/2 cup panko bread crumbs


Kosher salt and pepper


lemon wedges, for serving




  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

  • Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp (leave tails on)

  • Place shrimp in mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, wine, salt and pepper; allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the butter mixture

  • In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the minced garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, salt and pepper until combined

  • Arrange the shrimp in a single layer in a gratin dish, cut side down and tails toward the center of the dish. Pour remaining marinade over the shrimp. Divide the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp

  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, until hot and bubbly; to brown the top, broil 1-3 minutes, watching carefully so as not to burn; garnish with lemon wedges

The only additon I would make to this dish is to add wonderful bread to sop up the butter mixture. I was unhappily out of bread, but will know better next time. I may serve the scampi over pasta next time.

Others have found this and other Contessa recipes to be the "bomb," too. Check out www.whatsonmyplate.wordpress.com ).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

LET'S COOK THE BOOK: LA CUCINA BY LILY PRIOR

How lovely to find like-minded people, who seem quickly to become friends. So it was with Debbie of Kahakai Kitchen (http://www.kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com/) , Rachel, The Crispy Cook (http://www.wheat-free-meat-free.blogspot.com/) , and Jo of Food Junkie not Junk Food (http://www.jodimop.wordpress.com/), my 3 food-blogging friends who, in their time away from the stove, love to read. Please check out their new blog, http://www.cookthebooks.wordpress.com/ , where we read and discuss a new book bi-monthly, celebrating it in the way we love best by cooking something inspired by our read.

Our first book was Lily Prior's novel La Cucina, subtitled A Novel of Rapture. We follow our heroine Rosa through the seasons of her life, beginning with the harsh winter she loses her first love Bartolemeo to a blood feud. Rosa purges her soul through her cooking. Who of us has not salved a broken heart with crusty loaves of bread, nibbles of freshly-baked cookies, or pots of braised meats and vegetables? While the spring of her life does not awaken until nearly 15 years later, Rosa meets a kindred spirit in L'Inglese. No longer using her kitchen as catharsis, Rosa enters a period of sexuality matched by her culinary creations. For a light read that is sure to "stir your juices," pick up a copy of La Cucina and discover for yourself how it resolves.

I knew almost immediately what my culinary inspiration would be--not a dish, but an ingredient. The alliterative cacciocavallo cheese was to prove somewhat elusive. In fact, it took trips to 3 different Italian delis in 2 different states before I could lay my hands upon this beautiful, elliptical prize.

Because my heritage is Napolitan and Calabrese, I was somewhat at a loss as to how best to showcase this newly-discovered cheese. After some thought and a bit of research, I decided to go pan-Italian. My first taste of cacciocavallo was as part of a panini comprised of some of my favorite things. The second was a pasta dish. Though neither of them is a Sicilian dish, both were inspired by my discovery of cacciocavallo.

READY, SET, GO PANINI




On the eve of the Opening Day of hunting season, I found myself alone to experiment with my Breville Ikon panini maker and my cacciocavallo. My panini was comprised of:
shredded cacciocavallo
sweet soppressata
caponata
ciabatta



It was simply a matter of layering the meat and cheese on a ciabatta roll, spooning on some caponata as garnish, and grilling. The panini had salty, sweet, creamy, and crunchy all at once and was delicious with a glass of pinot noir.




Now it was time to get down to some serious use of this wonderful cheese which reminds me of a cross between provolone and asiago. I decided to use one of my favorite pastas--cavatelli--with the Bolognese-style meat sauce I have made since I purchased my copy of The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan back in the early 70's. This incredible meat sauce does not freeze well, so must be used within a few days of making it.


Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style
2 tbs. chopped yellow onion
3 tbs olive oil
3 tbs butter
2 tbs chopped celery
2 tbs chopped carrot
3/4 lb lean ground beef (chuck)
salt
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 cups canned Italian tomatoes (San Marzo is my pick), roughly chopped with their juices


I use my wonderful LeCreuset to make all my sauces.




  • Put the chopped onion in with the oil and butter and saute briefly over medium heat until just translucent

  • Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for about 2 minutes

  • Add the ground beef, crumbling it with a fork; add 1 tsp salt and cook just until the meat loses its raw color; add the wine and turn the heat up to medium high; cook until all the liquid has evaporated

  • Turn the heat back to medium, add the milk and nutmeg and cook until the milk has evaporated, stirring frequently

  • Add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly; when the tomatoes start to bubble, turn the heat down to the barest simmer and cook uncovered for 3 1/2 - 4 hours, stirring occasionally

  • Taste and correct for salt

After cooking the fresh cavatelli and topping it with this flavorful ragu, I topped it generously with grated cacciocavallo. A few stirs and it melted beautifully. Along with my new, favorite garlic bread--use roasted garlic with just a bit of butter--I toasted Rosa and L'Inglese and added cacciocavallo to my arsenal of foods of love.



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Herb-marinated Loin of Pork





You may not think of it as "fast food," but if you have a few loins of pork on hand, you can have a wonderful dinner on the table in under an hour. Generally sold two to a package, these loins make enough for 4-6; or, in our case, 2 plus lots of leftovers. I've been cooking my way through Ina Garten's newest cookbook, Back to Basics, and had to try her recipe for herb-marinated loin of pork. The bonus is that it is done on the grill, so you don't even have to dirty a pan.

I marinated the pork overnight, but you could marinate for as little as 3 hours. The mixture of herbs and lemons made for a very fragrant dish. The pork was juicy and flavorful. The marinade had really penetrated the meat. Served with pierogi and red cabbage, this was a very quick, but tasty dinner.

Marinade
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4-6 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbs minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 tbs minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbs chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
2-3 pork tenderloins, 1 lb each
freshly ground black pepper


Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 tsp salt in a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 3 hours. (I like to put the bag in a bowl, just in case).

When you're ready to cook, preheat the grill. Be sure to brush the grillwith some oil to prevent the pork from sticking. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then grill, turning a few times to brown on all sides, for 20 minutes--until the meat registers about 140 degrees at the thickest part.

Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. LET REST FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES.
Carve in 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. The thickest part will be pink; this is just fine. The end parts will be well done--something for everyone. Serve with the juices that collect on the platter.

I have a whole new respect for the Barefoot Contessa. Her recipes are right on the money. There hasn't been one that I've tried that hasn't gotten a "10" and been added to my rotation.





Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bistro Roast Chicken with Maple-roasted Butternut Squash















Let me begin this entry by revealing that I've just spent 30 minutes trawling the internet for an obscure literary term that did not appear in any of the dozens of sites that I perused. But as often happens when you are trying to recall a word or a name, it suddenly just popped into my head. Now, what does a literary term have to do with food? And just what was this literary term?

The term I was struggling to recall was an "objective correlative." A simple definition of an objective correlative is that it is a situation or a series of events or objects that evokes a particular emotion in a reader or audience. What it has to do with food is that I was trying to find a word to convey how certain smells or tastes can evoke so instantly a place visited or an event or occasion. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever caught the aroma of something that immediately triggered a memory so intense that you could almost relive the moment? A well-seasoned roast chicken, for example, transports me instantly to Boston and to the many wonderful visits I've made to that city.

If I could have chosen the place of my birth, it would most certainly have been Boston, Massachusetts. I regret that I didn't discover this wonderful city until after I had completed my undergraduate work and was teaching high school English. I remember vividly my first trip to Beantown in the fall of 1975. I was to return there at least four or five times a year for the next 20 years.

A few weeks ago the magazine section of my local Sunday paper ran an article on bistro chicken and featured a restaurant that I visited many times over the years--Hamersley's Bistro in Boston's South End. While I'm certain there were many fine entrees on Gordon Hamersley's menu, I could never get past his aphrodisical roast chicken. I don't know why I never bought one of his cookbooks, but there in this article was the recipe for this ambrosia. Hamersley's served theirs with roasted potatoes and onions, but my new Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics cookbook contains a recipe that was calling out to me to audition as a possible side dish for Thanksgiving. Ina Garten's Maple-roasted Butternut Squash did not disappoint except in that it states it serves 6 and the two of us gobbled up every last bite. This WILL be on the Thanksgiving menu this year instead of sweet potatoes.
If you plan to make this roasted chicken, it's best to marinate it overnight, though you can get away with a 4 hour soak in the wet rub. The fragrances wafting through our kitchen were amazing.

Roast Chicken with Garlic, Lemon, and Parsley





Marinade:
1 cup flat leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
2 shallots
1 tbs freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tbs Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp dried herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp grated lemon rind

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a food processor and process to a paste. Coat the chicken inside and out with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.

To Prepare Chicken:
1 (3 lb) chicken
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 head garlic (unpeeled)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbs lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken with the salt and pepper, place on a rack in a roasting pan. Wrap the garlic in foil and place it alongside the chicken. Roast 1 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in thigh registers 170 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes.

Reserve pan juices in the roasting pan. Add the broth and lemon juice, then squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the mixture. Whisk, stirring to loosen the brown bits. Simmer until slightly thickened and serve with the chicken.

I'm sure you'll love this chicken with any number of sides--mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, gnocchi. But I don't know if I'll ever be able to make it again without making this incredible side dish of butternut squash.


Maple-roasted Butternut Squash
1 large butternut squash
1 head garlic, separated, but not peeled
2 tbs olive oil
2 1/2 tbs pure maple syrup
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 oz pancetta, chopped
16 whole fresh sage leaves (I used poultry seasoning because I couldn't find fresh sage)
French bread, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and seed the squash (or buy it already done, as I did), then cut it into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes.

Place the squash and the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves on a sheet pan in one layer.
Toss with the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Sprinkle the pancetta and sage (or seasoning) evenly over the squash and bake another 20-30 minutes until the squash and garlic are tender and caramelized.

Serve the roasted garlic as a spread for the hot French bread





There you have it. Simple, straightforward food that is nothing less than ethereal.





Thursday, November 13, 2008

CRANBERRY VINAIGRETTE: IT'S NOT JUST FOR THANKSGIVING


Retirement affords one the opportunity to pursue new interests, but also provides the time to engage in favorite pasttimes. I like combining the two, the favorite pasttime being cooking and eating, the new interest being lunch. After years of closing the door and throwing down food as I returned phone calls and emails, prepared reports and budgets, and prayed for a "knockless" lunchtime, I know what it's like to sit down and relish an uninterrupted meal. Yes, lunch is really a meal and it can take longer than 7 1/2 minutes to eat it! Lunching out is great and needs no explanation, but inviting a few good friends to share a midday meal is a new pleasure. I have to confess that lunch is my favorite meal, much to Larry's chagrin. He adores breakfast, with dinner a close second, but for me, lunch is Queen.


Panini are always tempting, but some days, nothing will do but a salad. Last time the "ladies who lunch" stopped by, we had wonderful prosciutto and fontina panini with an apple walnut salad dressed with a fabulous cranberry vinaigrette.


I generally prefer oil and vinegar, balsamic vinegar, to dress my salads rather than cream-based dressings or highly seasoned vinaigrettes. When I was looking for something different to dress this salad, I came across this recipe from allrecipes.com. This dressing immediately became a favorite and I've made it regularly since. While I prefer it over mesclun, I've used it with romaine and even iceberg lettuce. I generally whip up a batch in my blender and put it in a Mason jar. It dresses over a week's worth of dinner salads as well as a few lunch salads. For lunch, I'll add grilled chicken or shrimp or some ceci. I love it with crumbled cheese--goat cheese, feta, or gorgonzola being my favorites. I can't wait to have leftover turkey to make a real Thanksgiving-inspired salad. I may even toss in some leftover stuffing cut into crouton shapes.


INGREDIENTS


1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup red onion, chopped

1 tbs sugar

1 tbs Dijon mustard

1 cup vegetable oil

salt and pepper to taste


chopped walnuts (best if lightly toasted)


DIRECTIONS

In a food processor or blender, combine the cranberries, vinegar, onion, sugar, and mustard. Puree until smooth. Gradually add oil, then season with salt and pepper.


Dress your salad with the desired amount, then sprinkle with chopped walnuts.


Friday, November 7, 2008

CHICKEN AND FONTINA CHEESE CASSEROLE




Growing up, we didn't eat many casseroles. My mother considered them "ah-mid-i-gan." Since she was a third generation Italian American, that was pretty funny, but she thought peanut butter was poison, too. Certain of her dishes would surely have qualified as casseroles, but casseroles were something that Betty Crocker made, not "real" cooks who didn't need to write down recipes. Find the right ingredients, though, and no matter what you call it, it's delicious, as was this wonderfully rich dish. This isn't something you'd eat every day--unless your metabolism runs on high gear and you have no fear of coronary heart disease. But everything in moderation is my motto.

Pollo e Fontina
1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground nutmet

2 lbs chicken cutlets, pounded 1/4 inch thick

3/4 cup canola oil

2 tbs butter

1/2 lb mushrooms, stemmed and cut in half

1/2 pint heavy cream

1/2 lb Fontina cheese, cut into chunks

1/4 lb prosciutto, cut into 2 inch strips

1/2 cup Locatelli Romano cheese, grated

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced into rounds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the flour, salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the nutmeg in a plastic bag, close, and shake to blend. Add the chicken cutlets, a few at a time, and dredge them in the mixture. Place the cutlets on a plate and set aside.

Pour the oil into a large saute pan and heat to medium high. Brown the cutlets on each side, a few at a time. Transfer the cutlets to a shallow baking dish.

In the same saute pan, melt the butter and cook the mushrooms until they begin to brown.

Combine the cream and Fontina cheese in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Cover and set aside.

Sprinkle the mushrooms over the cutlets. Lay the prosciutto strips over the mushrooms. Pour the cheese sauce over all.

Place the tomato slices over the sauce and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and browned.


We had lots of leftovers and I diced some of them, added a box of defrosted and squeezed-dry chopped spinach, and used that as a topping for a wonderful pizza, having had dough left from the last Daring Bakers' challenge.

Wow! Just realized this is my 100th post.









Wednesday, November 5, 2008

MOM'S MEATLOAF...NOT



My mother was a wonderful cook, as was her mother before her. No one could touch her beef soup, her Sunday "gravy," her meatballs, her macaroni and potato salad, her cream puffs--to name a few of my favorites. On the other hand, she made some dishes that I wouldn't eat, both as a child and as an adult. Meatloaf was one of those. What made her meatloaf so anathema to me? She put hard boiled eggs down the middle of the loaf so that there was one framed in each slice. Now, this may have looked pretty, but it totally grossed me out. She also topped her meatloaf with "red sauce." Instead of just taking the egg out of my slice and scrapping off the sauce, I steadfastly refused to eat this dish. Many a war was waged over meatloaf. About the only other dish she made that was sure to make me produce gagging noises was her oven-baked pork chops topped with spinach and red sauce. On one memorable dinner, the noises I made were so awful, she insisted I sit at the table until I had finished every bite. I could no more force one bite of that dish down my throat than I could fly, so I bided my time and when her back was turned, I fled the kitchen and locked myself in my room. That was probably one of my most defiant moments. But...back to the meatloaf.

I eschewed meatloaf most of my life, but at some point realized that it had all the earmarks of a dish I could appreciate, minus, of course, the hard-boiled eggs and red sauce. After many years of experimentation, this is my favorite version of meatloaf. It serves 6-8; or, two people can have 2 lavish dinners with lots leftover for sandwiches (preferably on potato rolls). It also freezes well, sliced or unsliced.

You can either wrap the loaf in bacon slices or double the glaze and leave out the bacon.

Brown sugar-ketchup glaze
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbs dark brown sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar

Meat loaf
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large eggs
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt (you can use milk, in a pinch)
2 lbs meat loaf mix (50% ground chuck, 25% ground pork, 25% ground veal)
2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers

Optional: 8-9 slices thin bacon

GLAZE: mix all ingredients in a small bowl; set aside

MEAT LOAF:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat oil in medium skillet; add onion and garlic and saute 5 minutes.
Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire, and yogurt.
Add egg mixture to meat in a large bowl, along with crackers and cooked onion/garlic.
Mix well until mixture doesn't stick to bowl.
Shape mixture into a loaf about 9X5 inches.

TO BAKE:
Cover a wire rack with foil; prick foil with a fork.
Place rack on a shallow roasting pan lined with foil for easy clean-up.
Set formed loaf on rack.
Brush all over with all the glaze (if using bacon).

Arrange bacon slices CROSSWISE (I wasn't paying attention; my picture is the opposite of what you want) over loaf and tuck in ends.

Bake loaf 1 hour. Cool for 20 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

COMFORT FOOD AT ITS FINEST: CHICKEN POT PIE








I often turn the TV to the Food Channel when I'm flipping through magazines or doing some hand piecing or applique. That's how I came to be watching Tyler's Ultimate the day he did homemade chicken pot pie. When I was young, I loved those Swanson's things--mostly for the crust and the shiny tin that they came in. I could take or leave the filling. The first time I ordered chicken pot pie in the Amish country, I was shocked to discover that there was no crust, rather noodles, which the Amish call dumplings. It was rather like my first experience ordering lobster in Florida--"Where's the claws?" I cried to my waiter.

Although I knew there were shortcuts I could take with this recipe, I decided to do it completely from scratch this first time. It was definitely labor intensive, but definitely worth it as well.

Serves 4-6 (depending on size of container)

Chicken Broth
1 whole 3 lb chicken
1 gallon cool water
2 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 onion, halved
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
2 small parsnips, halved
thyme, rosemary, bay leaf

Pot Pie
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 carrots, cut in 1/2 inch coins
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 box frozen peas
1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg mixed with 3 tbs water

To Make the Broth
Put the chicken in a large stockpot and cover with the water. Add the vegetables and hers and bring to a boil. Skim, then simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, skimming as necessary. Remove the chicken carefully to cool and continue to cook down the broth for another 15 minutes. Use a colander to strain the broth; discard the solids. You should have about 8 cups of broth. You will use HALF (4 cups) for the recipe. Freeze the rest.

To Make the Potpie
Wipe out the stockpot and put it on the stove over medium heat. Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour to make the roux, which acts as the thickener. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 4 minutes to get rid of the floury taste. Very, very, very slowly add the 4 cups of chicken broth, stirring constantly. This is a sauce veloute. Cook another 4-5 minutes in this manner, then add the chicken and vegetables* and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and remove from the heat.


Before adding veggies:

*defrost the peas
*blanch the onions for about 2 minutes, drain

*parboil the carrots for about 5 minutes


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lay the thawed sheets (2) of puff pastry on a lightly floured, cool surface and invert the crocks you are using for the potpies (I made 2 large crocks and 3 mini pie tins) onto the puff pastry and trace a circle just slightly larger with the tip of a knife. Remove the circles carefully to a sheet of waxed paper or a cookie sheet.

Ladle the chicken stew into each crock/tin, filling to the top. Cap each crock/tin with a pastry circle, pressing the dough around the rim to form a seal. Do not cut steam vents.

Beat the egg with the water to make an egg wash and brush some on each pastry round. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.

Set the crocks on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the puff pastry is puffed and golden.

I served the potpies with mashed potatoes, but they could have stood on their own.











Wednesday, October 29, 2008

THE DARING BAKERS DO DOUGH, PIZZA DOUGH














This pizza dough challenge marked my third Daring Bakers' Challenge and the second challenge in a row of savoury instead of sweet. I've made pizza dough before, but never this easily. Our hostess, Rosa from http://www.rosas-yummy-yums.blogspot.com/ chose a recipe from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice and it will be one that I use again and again. So excited was I to try this new recipe--and so busy multi-tasking (I made ale-sauced ribs, cranberry walnut salad dressing, and chocolate cake simultaneously) that I grabbed the wrong bag of King Arthur's flour. Not to worry, my whole wheat pizza dough worked very well. Next time, however, I'll go for the bread flour.

The basic recipe goes together quickly and makes 6 small pizza crusts or 4 larger ones--I opted for the larger and froze 2 for future use. I like whole wheat pizza dough for my Reuben strombolis (stay tuned, I'll make them soon).

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups (20 1/4 oz) unbleached high-gluten (14%) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 oz) olive oil
1 3/4 cups (14 oz) ice cold water
1 tbs sugar
cornmeal for dusting

Method -- Day One



  • Mix together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a big bowl

  • Add the oil, sugar, and cold water and mix well to form a sticky ball of dough

  • On a clean surface, knead for about 5 - 7 minutes, until dough is smooth

    (If dough is too wet, add a little flour; if too dry, 1-2 tsp more of water.)
  • Flour a work surface. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and oil the paper

  • Cut the dough into equal pieces--4 or 6 pieces
  • Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Flour your hands and gently round each piece into a ball

  • Tranfer the dough balls to the lined jelly roll pan and mist them generously with spray oil

  • Enclose the pan in a plastic bag or cover with plastic food wrap

  • Put the pan in the refrigerate and let the dough rest overnight or up to 3 days (or freeze)


    Method -- Day Two
  • On the day you plan to eat the pizza, 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the work surface with flour. Place the dough balls on the floured surface and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with flour, mist with oil, and loosely cover dough balls with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 2 hours.
  • At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees

  • Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly roll pan with cornmeal

  • Flour your hands and place 1 piece of dough carefully across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion; move to a full toss when the dough has expanded outward

  • When the dough has the shape you want, lay it on the floured surface and shape; you may use a rolling pin, if necessary; let dough rest a few minutes

  • Lightly top the dough, remembering that the best pizzas are not topped too generously

  • Slide the garnished pizza onto the baking stone or bake on the inverted pan for 5-8 minutes
  • I made 2 pizzas, my Turkey Alfredo Pizza and a simple Three Cheese Pizza.
Turkey Alfredo Pizza
1 cup shredded smoked turkey breast
1 cup chopped cooked spinach (I used fresh, but defrosted, squeezed dry frozen works)
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz sliced mushrooms sauteed in 1 tbs butter
1/2 cup Alfredo sauce (I used jarred)
3 oz shredded Fontina cheese


Combine the first 4 ingredients. Spread the Alfredo sauce evenly over crust. Top with turkey mixture. Sprinkle on cheese. Bake as directed above.

For my 3 Cheese Pizza, I spread 1/2 cup pizza sauce evenly over crust. Season with oregano, garlic powder, and grated Asiago cheese. Top with 2 ounces each of shredded Fontina and shredded mozzarella cheese and bake as directed above.





AND NOW, for a little FOODIE FUN:


Gloria from Cookbook Cuisine passed this challenge on to Teresa at http://www.mexicanbordercooking.blogspot.com/ after getting it from Camille, at Croque-Camille. Teresa passed it along to me.


Follow along and join us on our phenomenal gathering. We're stranded on a deserted island; or, as Teresa rethought it, a “desserted island”? What 5 foods would you bring? This didn't require too much thinking on my part since I know what I love:


  1. Chocolate-of course I'd bring dark chocolate so that not only would I be feeding my soul, I'd be getting important antioxidants that wouldn't be available since the island is deserted and has no cosmetics' counters.

  2. Pizza-I just can't conceive of a life without pizza. Preferably this would be brick oven pizza with the thinnest of crusts, topped with the freshest buffalo mozzarella and basil and just a touch of tomato sauce, thickened with sun-dried tomatoes. See above for a glorious recipe.
  3. Bread-if I could have just one kind of bread, foccaccia would be my choice. If I could add a few favorites, my bread basked would include a few loaves of ciabatta, semolina, and baguettes.

  4. Soppressata-or salami, or both. I need to have something to put on the bread. Maybe there'll be some leftover mozzarella from the pizza and I can put them BOTH on the bread; yum!

  5. Wine-I'd like to have a combination of reds and whites--a nice Santa Margherita and a really good Sangiovese.

It may not be your food pyramid on a good day, but I would find sustenance in this combination. And now I'd like to "tag" a few more of our fellow foodies to play:

Kathy of http://paninihappy.com/ and I share a love of our Breville Ikon panini grills. Her photographs and recipes always make my mouth water. I challenge you not to want to run right out and buy a grill to try one of her happy concoctions.

Rachel, The Crispy Cook of http://wheat-free-meat-free.blogspot.com/ is living one of my dreams. In addition to being a foodie, she owns a used and rare book store in upstate NY. I met her at http://cookthebooks.wordpress.com/ where we're presently reading Lily Prior's La Cucina. Rachel's recipes inspire me to eat healthier.

Deb of http://www.kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com/ has been living in paradise for 7 years. Another foodie friend living out one of my dreams--my 13 trips to Hawaii instilled a deep love for this magical place--Deb's recipes are always something that I want to eat...right now! Deb is one of the 3 creators of Cook the Books.

So, Kathy, Rachel, and Deb, what 5 food items would you need to survive on your deserted island?
































Sunday, October 26, 2008

CLASSIC APPLE PIE




If you live in the country, as we do, you almost give up hope of ever being able to visit a farm on the weekends. That is because nearly every city dweller within one hundred miles has had the same idea. Larry and I passed a half dozen of our favorite, large farms this past weekend. One had traffic backed up for miles; another had a person on the main road directing traffic. We really wanted a just-made apple cider donut and some apple cider as well as some apples for a homemade apple pie. After driving for an hour, we discovered a smaller farm, apparently as yet undiscovered, and were able to score on each count.


At the recommendation of the cashier, I bought Northern Spy apples, a departure from my usual Macoun or Gala. As she described them, they would soften, but retain their shape. While Larry would have preferred them softer--he'd probably like applesauce pie--I thought they were perfect. I saw no good reason to make a pie crust when they sell perfectly good sheets of crust. About the only time I'll make homemade is if I need a pate brisee. The pie was classic...and perfect!


Servings 10

1 pkg refrigerated rolled piecrusts (I swear by Pillsbury)

1/2-3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it; Larry likes sweet!)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

3 tbs cornstarch

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

pinch allspice

4 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch slices

3 tbs unsalted butter

2 tbs lemon juice

1 egg, beaten with water


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.



  • unroll 1 piecrust onto work surface; it into bottom and up sides of 9 inch deep pie dish and prick bottom of crust all over with fork; refrigerate


  • in small bowl, blend sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and allspice; set aside


  • prepare apples





  • in large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; add apples, lemon juice, and sugar mixture and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until juices thicken; cool on rack for 25 minutes



  • pour cooled apple mixture into prepared pie plate, then unroll top crust, fit over, crimp and seal; cut 1 inch vent in top


  • brush egg over top and sprinkle with a teaspoon of granulated sugar


Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool at least one hour before serving.



This apple peeler is an antique; it belonged to Larry's Aunt Ruth, a wonderful woman whom we miss. It makes quick work of peeling apples. I'm told she and Larry's mom used to peel mountains of apples for their church fair. I love having a remembrance of Aunt Ruth.






Wednesday, October 22, 2008

SOUL-SATISFYING SOUP: PASTA E FAGIOLI




Fall is the season to braise, roast, and make soup. Nothing beats the aroma of soup simmering on the stove. It's the one food whose leftovers may be even better than the original meal. One of my favorite soups is pasta e fagioli, but not the nasty stuff they serve in most restaurants. When I am tempted to order it out, I always get a "look" when I ask the waitress if it's red or brown. I hate the stuff that is loaded with tomato sauce. A true pasta e fagioli has just a touch of tomato to enhance the beans. I also find that when you order this dish out, it usually has fat floating in the broth and it tends to be thin. My soup is so thick you have to thin out the leftovers. As delicious as it is, you can have it on the table in under an hour and that includes cooking time.

4 Hearty Servings
3 15-oz cans of cannelllini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 oz pancetta, diced
1 tsp each parsley, oregano, rosemary (you can use dried)
4 cups beef stock
2/3 cup diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb small pasta shells


  • Place 2 cans of the drained and rinsed cannellini beans in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the remaining can of beans


  • In a deep skillet over medium heat, warm half the olive oil and saute the onion for about 5 minutes


  • Add the garlic, pancett, parsley, oregano, and rosemary and saute for another 4 minutes


  • Add the rest of the olive oil, the beef stock, the diced tomatoes, and the bean mixture and bring to a boil


  • Season with salt and pepper (some people like to add a dash of red pepper flakes)


  • Add the pasta shells and cook until the pasta is tender (about 15 minutes)


If the soup is too thick, add water or additional beef broth. I served this with a salad of mesclun lettuce and garlic bread. We enjoyed the leftovers for the next 2 days.

Friday, October 17, 2008

COWBOY COOKIES: ANOTHER GREAT MARTHA STEWART COOKIE

There are so many recipes for chocolate chip cookies out there that it's sometimes easier just to follow the directions on the bag of chips. But, if you're looking for something with a bit more body and a lot more taste, cowboy cookies may be for you.

This is one of Martha Stewart's Cookie of the Month recipes and it is going into my permanent collection. Larry loved them and wasn't even troubled by their smallish size (he of the opinion that bigger is better when it comes to food). The recipe is straight-forward and my only adjustment was a few minutes longer in the oven.

Cowboy Cookies - makes about 5 1/2 dozen
nonstick cooking spray--I like the baking spray with flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
6 oz (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 oz (3/4 cup) pecans
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and spray parchment with nonstick spray. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder into medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium high until pale and creamy (about 3 minutes). Reduce speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Beat in oats, chocolate, pecans, and coconut until combined. You can refrigerate dough at this point for up to 3 days (but why would you want to???).

Using a 1 1/2 inch scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart.

Bake until the edges begin to brown. The recipe states 11 - 13 minutes, but my cookies took from 15 - 17 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely.