Friday, October 28, 2011

Sausage Patties

It seems I can't turn the pages of a food magazine without running into a recipe for sausage and biscuits or sausage and gravy. I finally decided it was something I needed to explore. Eschewing recipes that called for ground pork, I decided to grind my own favorite cut of pork, the butt.

Sausage Patties - 8 small patties
1 1/4 lb Boston butt
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped into a paste
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbs dried sage
1/2 tbs dried thyme
2 tbs canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the pork butt into 2 inch chunks. Place pork, garlic, sage, thyme, oil, and salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until  ground (consistency of ground beef). Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours to let the flavors meld.

Shape the mixture into 8 patties, each 1/2 inch thick. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook the patties until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side.

Cream Gravy
1 cup whole milk
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs all purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground  pepper

Heat the milk in a small saucepan until just simmering.

In another small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in the warm milk. Raise the heat and continue whisking until the sauce thickens and the raw taste of the flour cooks out, about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over the biscuits and sausage patties.

Baking Powder Biscuits
Here's one of my favorite biscuit recipes,simply and simply delicious.
DSO and I enjoy the occasional breakfast for dinner, so sausage and biscuits with gravy and a side of over easy eggs was a perfect Friday night meal. The sausage was very tasty and, though I'm not usually a gravy hound, I did enjoy spooning some of the "gravy" (white sauce, really) over my sausage and biscuit. These patties freeze well, cooked or uncooked, and taste just as delicious on a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chocolate Pecan Tart

You all know the research:  dark chocolate is good for you. In fact, I recently read an article that cited research regarding a reduced risk of stroke in women who indulged in a small amount of dark chocolate each day. For those who want to save up that daily 1 ounce of chocolate, this tart is for you.

From Real Simple, November 2011

1 3/4 cup pecan halves
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt, plus pinch for the filling
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghiradelli 70%)
3/4 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing once, until fragrant, 6-8 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until creamy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture; mix until combined, but still crumbly.

Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 4X14 rectangular or 9 inch round tart pan. Line with a large piece of parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet  and bake until the edges of the crust are dry, 20-22 minutes. Remove the parchment and the beans and bake until dry and set, 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chocolate and bring the cream to a bare simmer. Pour cream over chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Stir gently until the mixture is smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the pecans. Pour the mixture into the cooled tart shell and sprinkle with the remaining pecans. Refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Cut the slices of this rich tart small (12-16 servings) or it will make you swoon, for sure. I absolutely adored the chocolate crust and the ganache filling. Pecans are the perfect nut for this taste treat. I have noticed, however, that most men have a decided preference for milk chocolate, so you may end up having to eat more of this tart than is typically the case. Well, we all do what we have to do.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cream-braised Brussels Sprouts

I love Cook the Books, my online foodie book group, but life has been getting in the way of my participating lately. That doesn't mean I don't read the books, just that I haven't always cooked and posted a recipe from those books. Sadly, I missed joining in when the group posted recipes from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life. Some of you may already be familiar with Wizenberg's blog, Orangette. I had certainly come across it before, but confess I wasn't a regular reader. But I will also declare that I absolutely loved Wizenberg's story of how the kitchen came to take center stage in her life. I could identify with how her memories of food were always inextricably bound to her memories of family. Ironically, I began The Food of Love just one month before my mom passed away. While she was ill, her death came as a shock. Writing this blog proved to be therapeutic for me as well since my memories of food always lead back to my mother. Molly's story touched me and while I'm no vegetarian, I did bookmark several of her recipes. One is for cream-braised cabbage. As soon as I saw it, I knew I was going to try it with one of my favorite veggies, brussels sprouts.

Serves 2
1 pint brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tbs unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs fresh lemon juice

Trim and halve the brussels sprouts. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the brussels sprouts in a single layer with one of the cut sides down. Allow them to cook, undisturbed, until the downward facing side is nicely browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to gently turn them over and brown the other side in like fashion. When the second side has browned, season to taste with salt and pepper, add the cream, then cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, until the sprouts are tender. Add the lemon juice, shaking the pan to distribute it evenly.
Move over roasted brussels sprouts, there's a new kid in town and she's going to be front and center on our Thanksgiving table. This is such an incredibly simple preparation, but the taste is nothing short of fantastic. I'm not breaking up with pancetta-studded sprouts or roasted sprouts or bread-crumb topped sprouts, but right here and right now, these cream-braised sprouts reign supreme. I'll probably have to make 3 pounds of these for Thanksgiving because there's so delish. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beer-braised Country-style Pork Ribs

Nothing says fall like a slow-braise filling the house with wonderful smells that make you glance at the clock to see if dinnertime is close. I clipped this recipe and instead of adding it to "the folder" (the folder that I have to edit judiciously every month or so when the clippings start fighting each other for space), I put it into this month's rotation. I'm fairly certain it came from Food Network Magazine, based on the print and format.

Because it requires browning the ribs, I passed on using the slow cooker. My rule of thumb is to dirty as few pots and pans as possible. This is not a weeknight meal since it takes a bit over 2 hours from start to finish. Don't let that dissuade you since much of the time the pork is happily braising away in the oven.

I'm fortunate to still have some thyme, sage, parsley, and rosemary growing in the boxes on my back porch. I think the end is near and I have to get cracking on putting together a small window garden. It pains me to pay $1-3 for an herb that I use for one meal and then find browned and wilted the next time I need it.

I served the ribs with some whipped potatoes and new brussels sprouts dish that I'll be posting later in the week.

Serves 6
4 lbs bone-in country-style pork ribs
Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp hot paprika
3 tbs EVOO
3 medium onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1- 12 oz bottle amber ale
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbs honey

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pat the ribs dry, season with salt, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp paprika. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ribs in batches and cook until browned (5-8 minutes per side). Remove to a plate. Add onions and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tsp paprika and season with salt.

Add the beer; bring to a boil and cook until the kiquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes, scraping up the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, and thyme. When the liquid begins to simmer, return the ribs to the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook, uncovered, turning the ribs once or twice, until the meat is almost tender, about 1 hour.

Mix the vinegar and honey in a measuring cup. Remove the pot from the oven and place on the stovetop; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the vinegar mixture and bring to a boil, then return the pot to the oven. Continue to braise, uncovered, until the ribs are tender, another 10-15 minutes. Return the pot to the stovetop and transfer the ribs to a plate. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat. Skim off the fat and cook until thickened, another 10-15 minutes. Return the ribs to the Dutch oven to heat through. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs before serving.
It wouldn't have mattered if I didn't like the ribs because the cider gravy was finger-lickin good. Happily, though, the ribs were fall-off-the-bone wonderful. There are lots of leftovers which I'm guessing will taste even better after sitting in the aforementioned ambrosial gravy. I'm also thinking that this same gravy would be fabulous on a braised pork roast. The bottom line was this was time well spent.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Perciatelli all'Amatriciana

On my second trip to Italy, I spent a week on the Isle of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. It was a destination that I had planned to visit for 2 days and was reluctant to leave after a mere 7. One of the highlights of that trip was going down to Porto each evening for a meal beside the sea. At a small seaside cafe I had my first taste of pasta all-Amatriciana and the taste is forever associated with that beautiful island. It's difficult to find bucatini, an extra-long pasta tube that looks like a drinking straw on steroids, but I happened upon a box of perciatelli and decided it would do. While neither as long nor as thick as bucatini, the perciatelli reminded me of long-ago Sunday dinners and my father. We would typically eat the Sunday meal at 2:00--good thing since it took most of the afternoon to work off the extra calories and that stuperous feeling that comes from too many carbs (did I really say that? can there be too many carbs? ever?).

This dish requires a minimum of ingredients and time, so don't wait until Sunday to try it. If you absolutely can't find bucatini or perciatelli, you could use linguine, but don't use anything other than pancetta or the sauce simply won't be the same.

Serves 4
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
6-8 oz of 1/4 inch thick slices pancetta cut into 1-inch long strips
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
2 small cans diced tomatoes with juice
salt and pepper
1 lb perciatelli
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring 6 quarts water to a rolling boil in a large pot.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Drain all but 2 tbs fat from skillet and add the onion. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook just to release the flavor, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and season to taste. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and return pasta to the empty pot. Add pancetta to the sauce, then add the sauce to the pasta and toss over low heat to combine, about 30 seconds. Add the cheese and toss again. Serve immediately.

Food that is associated with happy memories is the best and this dish was a winner on all counts. Calling to mind childhood meals with my parents, both of whom are gone, is comforting and poignant at the same time. Reminiscing about my wonderful week in Ischia makes me long to return there soon. This is a simple dish, but a lusty one. Try it!

Friday, October 7, 2011

More from the Homesick Texan

I practically sat by the side of the mailbox waiting for my copy of The Homesick Texan to arrive, so it pains me to report that my first 2 outings with this cookbook that has been all over the blogosphere were dismal failures. The first recipe I made was arroz con leche. I know the difference between this and rice pudding, but this recipe produced rice soup. It went over the bank behind the house and I hope some of our woodland creatures derived some nourishment from it. Relatively undeterred, I decided to make the tres leches cake. If you've ever eaten a piece of this, you know how decadent it is. I followed Fain's recipe to the letter. I've made genoise/sponge cake many times. The cake that I produced from this recipe did not look good, but I proceeded to poke holes in it and pour over some of the milk mixture. The next day we tossed that over the bank as well. DSO's suggestion was that I toss the cookbook over the bank, but I figured three's a charm and so I went on to make cheese enchiladas with chile con carne and Austin-style black beans. Finally, success!

After my lack of success with the first 2 recipes, I decided to use Fain's recipes as guidelines and made a few small changes. I used flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas; chipotle chilis in adobo instead of ancho chilies, and I put the chile con carne inside the enchilada along with the cheese. I also doubled the amount of ground beef called for.

Cheese and Chile con Carne Enchiladas (4-6 servings)
For the chile con carne:
1-2 chipotles chilies in adobo, finely chopped
1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tbs ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 cups beef broth
salt,  pepper to taste

For the enchiladas:
10-12 small flour tortillas
4 cups grated cheddar cheese (16 oz)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Place cooked onions and garlic into the blender along with the cumin, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, and 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth. Set aside sauce.

In the same pot on medium heat, brown the ground beef, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the chilies and the beef broth on high until boiling, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, adjust the seasonings.

To make the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large baking dish. One at a time, dip the tortillas into the sauce, shaking off excess. Lay the tortilla on a plate and add 1/12 of the chile con carne and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese down the center. Roll the tortilla tightly and add to the prepared baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining grated cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. Serve with additional chopped onion, if desired.

Austin-style Black Beans (8-10 servings)
1 lb dried black beans
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs tomato paste
1/4 cup lime juice
salt, to taste

Rinse and sort through the beans, removing any stones or shriveled beans. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 1 inch water. Bring to a boil, then cook for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse the beans in a colander.

Return the empty pot to the stove and on medium-low heat, warm the vegetable oil. Add the onions and carrots to the pot and while occasionally stirring, cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are lighter, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic to the pot and cook for 30 more seconds.

Return the beans to the pot, along with the chipotle chiles and 1/4 cup of cilantro. Cover with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer UNCOVERED for 1 1/2 hours.

After 1 1/2 hours, add the remaining cilantro, cumin, tomato paste, and lime juice. Taste and add salt. Cook uncovered for 30 more minutes or until beans are tender. When done, smash a few beans against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken the broth. Stir the pot and serve.
I almost didn't post the pictures because, as you can see, these dishes aren't too "purty." That said, I'll be quick to add that they were absolutely delicious--as good as or better than what we get at our local "cantina." I'm so pleased that I didn't let DSO convince me to toss the cookbook along with the failed desserts. My decision to place the chile con carne INside the enchiladas was simply to assist with portion control. I could easily anticipate having just cheese enchiladas left over if I'd put the sauce on top. I'm glad I gave Fain a third shot and look forward to more delicious recipes (though I'm swearing off the desserts!).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Almost-famous Swedish Meatballs

I remember the first time I discovered a Top Secret Recipe cookbook and found the recipe for Twinkies in it.Fast forward at least 20 yearswhen I rediscovered that same euphoria with Food Network Magazine's monthly "Copy That!" column. I haven't gotten around to making Macaroni Grill's rosemary focaccia yet, but the minute I saw the recipe for Ikea's Swedish meatballs, that iconic appetizer of the 50's and 60's, I knew I had to make them. While there's a recipe for meatballs in Ikea's Real Swedish Food Book, the article notes that reps confirmed that it is not the recipe for the meatballs served at their restaurants. I've only been to Ikea once and I did not eat there, but after making this recipe you can be sure I will try the meatballs next time for comparison purposes.

Servings:  45 meatballs
For the meatballs:
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used unseasoned panko)
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced white onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb lean ground pork
1 large egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
vegetable oil for brushing

For the gravy:
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used light; it works great)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

Make the meatballs:  put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, allspice, 2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp white pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Pour the milk mixture over the bread crumbs and stir to make a thick paste; let cool. Add the beef, pork, egg and egg white to the bowl and mix until combined.

Brush a baking sheet with vegetable oil. Roll the meat into 1-inch balls and arrange on the prepared sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the meatballs until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Make the gravy:  melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire a little at a time and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and the meatballs. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.
I made these for dinner with egg noodles and roasted butternut squash. It was a party in my mouth! These are like no Swedish meatballs I've ever made or eaten. There was no sour cream and the meatballs were light as air. DSO practically swooned while he was eating them and happily carried some leftovers for lunch the next day. I can't say enough good things about the gravy. It was creamy, but not heavy; plentiful, but in just the right proportion to the amount of meat; and flavorful, but not so that it overpowered the delicate meatballs. Run, don't walk, to the store to buy the ingredients and whether you serve them with some lingonberry jam as an appetizer or with noodles for an entree, close the windows unless you want the neighbors to come knocking.