Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lady of Spain

OMG! I made croquetas! I can't believe it.
You know croquetas...those yummy little nibbles at Jaleo Restaurant!

Serrano ham and chicken fritters

Croquetas de jamón serrano y pollo

Makes about 18 fritters
(halved from recipe in: tapas: a taste of spain in america by josé andrés)

4 TB Butter
¼ cup, finely diced Spanish onion
1 ¼ cup flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup finely chopped Spanish cured ham (jamón serrano)
3 oz chicken, boiled and shredded
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

I don’t know anyone in Spain who doesn’t love croquetas, and they are one of those dishes that always tastes better at home. But today many tapas restaurants offer a huge variety of croquetas, filling them with different mixtures. At my Jaleo restaurants they are one of our most popular tapas, proving that good taste travels. When my daughter Carolota inviter her entire class to Jaleo, it was the croquetas that her thirty classmates devoured. –Chef Andrés

Heat the butter in a medium sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent, 5 minutes. Add ½ the flour and mix energetically. Cook for five minutes to make sure the flour is cooked through; it should start to take on a golden color. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and cook, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes, until you have a thick béchamel.

Add the ham and the chicken, and sprinkle in the salt and nutmeg. Cook for another 2 minutes. You should now have a thick mixture you can mold in your hands. Carefully pick up a bit and try to ball it in your hands. It shouldn’t be too sticky. If it does stick to your hands, cook it a little longer. Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and let it cool to room temperature.

Take a spoonful of the cooked béchamel mixture and roll it in your hands to make a small cylinder the size of a wine cork. Roll the cylinder in the remaining flour, then in the eggs and then in the breadcrumbs. Repeat with all the croquetas.

In a small, deep frying pan, heat the oil to 375 (measured with a thermometer). Add the croquetas in small batches, making sure they are covered completely in oil. Fry until they have a nice golden color, about 1 minute; then transfer them to paper towels to drain. Repeat with all the croquetas, and serve hot.

Jose’s tips: Croquetas are highly versatile, adaptable to whatever you have on hand. This recipe is a starting point. Instead of jamón serrano you can use more chicken, boiled egg, or other types of ham if you like. You can even add leftover crab or shrimp.

Tips and Photos

Safeway didn't have Serrano Ham...big suprise. So, following Chef Andres' tips, I substituted and went with some finely chopped smoked bacon. A good substitute!

Yum. Butter and Onions! I used 1/2 a small yellow onion.

I simmered one chicken breast in some chicken stock, until it was about 30 seconds from being done. This wasn't on purpose, it was on accident. But the I was fine with it and then when I tossed the chicken into the béchamel, it finished cooking. I didn't shredd it either. It was finely chopped.

I think this was a mistake. I think I had too much flour that I added to the onion/butter. But I kept worries. But note to self, when I do this again, make sure to add the flour bit by bit, until the butter has taken all it can.

Safeway also didn't have a small jug of milk, just the large two gallon jugs which would be such a I went with 1/2 & 1/2. I did about 1 1/2 cups of 1/2 & 1/2 and 1/2 a cup of water. (1/2 & 1/2 & 1/2 & that line looks confusing...!) But keep stirring. Those lumps will start to come out.

I'm not sure if this was supposed to happen either, but it all came together. The gluten formed and the whole mess started to pull into a ball. Keep moving forward!

All dumped out on a plate to cool.

Formed into shape. Corks. That plate of mix would have made about 18 croquetas. I only made about 1/2 of them. If you make these for a party, plan on about 3 per person, if you have more food. Since this was our dinner, I think we had about 5 each, plus the other goodies we had.

The money shot!
We had croquetas, cheese, smoked almonds, salami, roasted peppers and some bread. And Wine! I was so pleased! The texture was...if perfect is 5, 1 is sloppy and icky and 10 is leather chewy...the texture was about a 6. Maybe a touch more milk/cream or a little bit less of flour? I'll have to try again?!?!

Low Carb Night

Last night I dug into the recipe archives for a little, easy dinner. I clicked on an Asian named dish because I couldn't remember what it was, or when I made it.

Thit Bo Sao Dau--Beef with Green Beans in a Brown Sauce. I don't know if that's a literal translation, so I apologize, but it is tasty and easy. And to make it even easier, I put my lazy pants on and didn't make rice (which I regretted) and just served it up. I really wanted that rice for the rich flavorful sauce. I made the recipe as it's presented in the archives, with the tips I suggested after making it the last time. One new addition. About 1 TB of Hoisin Sauce to the sauce mixture! Good addition. Oh, one more lazy pants maneuver...frozen green beans. Giant had squat for green beans and what they had were terrifyingly limp and blemished. Sad really. The frozen worked very well.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Grandma Rocks!

What The?

I've shared stories about my grandmother before. Love her. Sadly she's no longer with us, but she has left me with few signature dishes that I've enjoyed and have had the pleasure of sharing.

One of those special recipes is the German Potato Dumplings.

The German Potato Dumplings were not an everyday dish. When made in the volume that Grandma made them, I can see that they are not an everyday endeavor, but when just making a few, they are quick, easy and cheap! Generally speaking, the dumpling were served with a roasted country style pork rib, sauerkraut and meatballs. I've made this all together in the past. It's a lot of food and tasty. But I seem to always have trouble making the pork ribs turn out properly and the meatballs...the way grandma made them, always come out really dry! Sadly.

Well, tonight I only made the dumplings. Served with some leftover turkey and gravy. Gravy is the key and without the gravy, it's not worth making the dumplings. Well, there are alternatives to no gravy, but really, what are dumplings without gravy?

German Potato Dumplings
(about 4 servings)

3/4 loaf of sandwich bread (blend of white and wheat is good)
1-2 potatoes

That's it. Now the disclaimer...the exact amounts very, but it comes down to texture and what your hands tell you.

Pull the bread apart into pieces, like you're feeding the birds. A good guide line-no larger than your finger nails. (1/2 inch pieces).

Peel the potato and chop into large, 1 inch pieces. Throw in a blender, with a little water. You want to blend this until it has the consistency of a thick milkshake. So don't use too much water, but you need some to get the potatoes whizzing.

Pour the potato puree over the bread pieces. Season liberally with salt and pepper. I did two large pinches of salt and a good 15 grinds of pepper.

Throw your hands into the mixture and mix. Squish. Blend. Mix.

When completely mixed, form into small balls. About two inches across. I got nine dumplings.

Gently place the dumplings into a large kettle of boiling, salted water. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from water and drain. Slice and smother in gravy!

The ingredients.

The pureed potatoes.

Getting ready to blend. Don't add all the puree at once, you don't want the mix too wet. You can always add more. If you do add too much puree, a light sprinkle of flour can help bring it back to the right consistency.




Two dumplings really is all you need to serve one person. But another might be shoved down your gullet, be warned...the dumplings sink to the bottom of your tummy like lead weights. This recipe gave nine dumplings. The leftovers...they are great. But. They turn to the most unappetizing color of gray you can imagine. Just chunk them up, nuke them and again, smother in gravy! Seriously...gray!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Post Bliss

Thanksgiving is done! It was delicious and I have to say...what's this "leftover" business everyone talks about? This is the second year in a row when we barely were able to have a plate of leftovers for lunch the next day and everything is gone. Do people not eat on Thanksgiving and save everything for the days after, specifically for dishes that require the leftovers? 13 pound turkey, basically gone. 4 pounds mashed potatoes, gone. There are some cranberries and some sweet potatoes. And gravy. And two pies that still haven't been cut. We'll get to those today!

OK, some pictures....

I put my fruit in some pretty wine glasses on the buffet. It looked I say it's my centerpiece.

Virtually Fat Free. Pumpkin Pudding. Easy as...easier than pie and just as delicious.

Third tasting course. Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque with Sage Infused Olive Oil.*

*Chop about 10 sage leaves and put in a small container. Cover with about 1 cup of olive oil. Sit for at least a week. Pour through a sieve to remove the leaves and any bits. Store in an air tight container.

I made Brussel Sprouts with Bacon. It's a Rachel Ray recipe. I still don't like Brussel Sprouts. The bacon flavor came through nicely, but overall, I could still taste the nasty sprout taste I remember as a child. Can't overcome that one! I'll put the recipe up in a few days or so, for those of you suckers who like sprouts! (I kid, I kid!)

Here's my baby. I hope she doesn't get cancer from staying in the sun too long. Seriously kids...brine your bird. On Wednesday night, I cleaned up...George...George Glass...I cleaned George up, removed his insides, rinse him out, trimmed, some extra bits that didn't seem to below. George was set aside. In a large (12quart?) stock pot, I mixed two cups of kosher salt with a few quarts of water, plus I added 1 lemon, 1 lime, handful of sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and a few cracked pepper corns. I put George into the stock pot and added more water so he was covered. I put the lid on George and placed him in the fridge. The next day I drained him, rinsed him and patted him dry before roasting. Mmmmmm!

The plate of goodies. Yummy gravy everywhere!

And there was a secret suprise dessert. Blueberry and Sage Sorbet!

It was incredible! Both flavors came through, without overpowering either. Smooth and luscious. Sweet and cool. Perfect. Yeah Me! I'll post this recipe in the next few days as well.

Well Kids, that's Thanksgiving 2006. I don't really have any suggestions for what to do with the leftovers, as we've already had the one serving of leftovers we had. Oh well.

Thanks to my guests for indulging me for the day and letting me go wonky. Thanks for the two pies and brownies. Thanks for the wine. And Thanks for the friendship. Until next year...cheers!

Friday, November 24, 2006


Yesterday was a tasty success! From the detailed timeline (and sticking to it), to the tasting courses (I think there was a very clear winner), the full turkey dinner (once you brine you never go back) and to the final sweet sweet dessert suprise.

There will be more details coming, as I regain my girlish figure.

In the favorite picture of the day!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wednesday Ramblings

Proof that I am Garfield! Steamed Vegetables. I don't find that funny.

Here is the invitation for our T-day steamed vegetables there!

There is a secret dessert suprise coming up tomorrow (see invite). It really doesn't have much to do with Thanksgiving, but I thought it might be really interesting to try those flavor combinations. From what we tasted the other night, it's an experiment that worked! I'm not going to announce it, but "it" is listed in the timeline below.

And there was a request to see my planning spreadsheet for Thanksgiving. Click to read. It will be a a busy day, but once I get started it won't feel hurried at all.

This is taped on the cupboard in the kitchen. Need to keep moving!

Happy Thanksgiving Ya'll! If I was a bigger dork and if CNN would sponsor me, I'd consider doing "live blogging" as the day goes on, but I suspect I'll be a touch busy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Let me squash your head*

The third tasting course of my Thanksgiving Dinner this year will be Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque. I've never made it. I've never had it, but here goes.

I took two recipes and merged them together to make the bisque (commonly known as cream soup-officially bisque is a creamy seafood soup).

One recipe came from Simply Recipe. Another from Oprah. Yes, Oprah. Really the only difference was the addition of an apple to pot. Now, if I think far enough ahead next time, I'm going to roast the squash for a deeper, richer flavor. Of course, this is for Thanksgiving, so I also added 1 TB of butter! Please note, the final soup goes through the blender, so the size of the diced doesn't really matter. Except for the celery, which is particularly fiberous, so dice those suckers smaller.

Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque
serves 4-6

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tart apple, peeled, seeded, cored and diced (I used a Pink Lady)
1 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
1 carrot, sliced thin
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cups stock (chicken or veg)
3/4 cup cream
Salt & Pepper to taste

Add oil to a 4-quart saucepot and place over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots and rosemary and cook until the onion begins to brown, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Add the squash, apple, stock and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let soup cool slightly, about 8 minutes.

Using a standard or immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. If using a standard blender, puree in small batches to prevent spillage (cover blender with a towel, just in case). Transfer to a clean pot or storage container. Soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to 2 months.

When ready to serve, reheat over gently heat. Add cream and taste for seasoning adjustments. Add additional cream or stock if too thick. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

I'm cooling this in the fridge for now and will transfer to the freezer until later this week. Then I will thaw, reheat and add the cream and final seasoning. Stay tuned.

* I saw a bit on Kids in the Hall the other day, so I had to reference the one skit I always remember...the one guy (can't remember who) squinting his eye, holding up his thumb and fore finger and saying> "I will squish your head," while positioning someone's head, in the distance, between said thumb and fore finger and squishing... Sorry, I find it funny.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Texture is important

Got your attention?

Mmmm, it was tasty. And fast!

Smoked Almond Crusted Chicken
with Mustard Shallot Cream Sauce

I made this up as I went, so I don't really have measurements, but will guestimate here:

2 large chicken breasts, cut into quarters (8 pieces in total)
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground coriander
1 egg, beaten with a touch of water
1/2 cup smoked almonds, chopped to bits
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
4 TB vegetable oil
1 TB butter
1 shallot, sliced thing
4 TB water
1 TB grainy mustard
3/4 cup cream

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil.

Lightly dredge the chicken pieces in flour, which had salt, pepper, cayenne and cumin mixed in.

Dip the chicken in the egg.

Lay the chicken into the almond/bread crumb blend. Coat evenly. Gently lay into the hot oil. Cook for a few minutes per side...until perfectly golden brown and ferociously delicious.

Remove to a warm plate.

Pour out the excess oil. Toss in the butter and the shallots. Give a quick stir. As the butter stops foaming, add the little bit of water (or broth if you have a little bit handy), scrape up the tasty bits. Quickly stir in the mustard. Then the cream. stir to incorporate. Gently simmer for a quick minute or two. When it thickens a wee bit you're good.

Plate the chicken and spoon some of the sauce over the chicken.

The flavors are pretty good. The almonds give some great texture, but the "smoked" flavor doesn't come through. I was ok with that. The texture was worth the flavor sacrifice. I might have mentioned before that I was never a huge fan of mustard, but in the right way, it's really tasty. I like this way. I look forward to trying this again to see how I might make it better, maybe draw out some of the flavors more.

The almond/bread crumb give you an idea of the texture we get.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Getting Your Veggies

Tonight was another of the "What's in the fridge?" nights for dinner. I odn't know about J-lo, but I was happy with the results. Pretty simple really.

Chunky Garden Marinara

3-4 TB Olive Oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1/4 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 can of tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
Tomatoes/Sauce (When I only use part of a can, I freeze the extras--probably one can diced and one can of sauce)

Heat the oil, saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic. Cook for a minute. Add the rest of the veg. Saute for a few more minutes. Season with Salt & Pepper.

Add the tomato paste, let cook for a minute. Season with the herbs of your choice. Thyme, Basil and Oregano seem to be my favorites when I'm playing with tomatoes. Add the wine and stir to incorporate. Add the tomatoes. Simmer and enjoy! Serve with your favorite pasta. I had ziti tonight.

I really wanted garlic bread, but didn't have a nice fresh loaf of bread, so I popped open a tube of Poppin' Fresh and brushed them with a touch of butter and a little garlic powder. Then grated some parmesan over the top, baked and eat them all up! The garlicy parmesany biscuits are in the back...I needed something for dessert, so I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on them. Mmmm.

Getting Your Greens

I had a tasty treat in my email in box about two weeks ago from my good friend in Philly. She was having dinner with her cousin and brought a salad. She wanted to share with me and I wanted to pass it on to you all. Enjoy!
I made a pear salad for the first time, inspired by the one they serve at LeBus. I started with their menu which says the salad includes greens, bosc pears, roasted red peppers, candied walnuts, blue cheese, and candied walnuts in a citrus vinaigrette.

I ended up using:

-head of green leaf lettuce, chopped (more can be added based on preference)
-small jar of roasted red peppers
-3 bosc pears, sliced and chopped
-bag of sweetened pecans (couldn't find walnuts)
-blue cheese, crumbled

First I chopped the lettuce, using a little more than 1/2 the head, although more can be used depending on preference. Then I drained the peppers and chopped the larger pieces into smaller ones and threw them in. Next came the bag of pecans (although I good number of them went straight into my mouth - so yummy!) Finally I crumbled in the blue cheese, estimating how much to use -- this can vary.

I held off on cutting the pears until we got to their house so they would not brown.

Then it was on to the citrus vinaigrette. I found several recipes online and picked one that looked good but varied it slightly:

Juice of one large navel orange
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
dash of salt
dash of fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. brown sugar -- I used regular white sugar
1 crushed clove of garlic -- I used a dash or two of garlic powder

I mixed all of this in a small container and then just shook it all up to blend. I carried it with my to our friends' house so I could add it later and keep the lettuce from getting soggy.

Finally, when we were ready to eat, I chopped the pears, dressed the salad, tossed, and served. Delicious!
I have to add...and I'm sure you all already knew this...but crispy fruit (apples/pears) and nuts (almonds/cashews) in a salad are soo good. I never thought it would be tasty, but slowly realized I was a stupid head when I started going to more and more events where it was norm. Mmmmm!

PS: I don't like it when some of my favorite restaurants doesn't have a webpage of it's own...well, Le Bus does, but it's been underconstruction since GET ON IT LE BUS! And FYI...if you go to Philly/Manayunk--GO! And White Dog Cafe! See...a website!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Chef Boy O' Boy

I've mentioned that my Thanksgiving this year will be course based...tastings, more than courses. Well, the first tasting is completed and ready! I want to spend time with my guests, so I'm going to get as much done as I can in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

The first tasting course will be...

Drum Roll Please!!!

Pumpkin Ravioli with Hazelnut Cream Sauce

These was my first time making ravioli. It's a bit tedious and I might not do it again, but it's not to difficult...just time consuming...and that's really all in the assembly.

To start, make 2 batches of basic pasta dough.

Let that rest for a few hours.

Time to make the filling.

You'll need 4 cups cubed pumpkin and 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced. Put all into a large kettle and just cover with water. Simmer until tender. Drain and put back in the kettle to let the heat chase away the last bit of moisture.

Add the tender veg to your food processor with 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Whiz until baby food smooth. Taste for seasoning, adjust as necessary.

Meanwhile, in your kettle you rinsed out, start 4 TB butter and 2 medium onions, finely diced over medium heat. Slowly saute until the onions are tender. Add 2 cloves garlic, minced. Cook for another minute. Turn off heat.

Stir in your whizzed veg. As it cools, stir in 2 TB pure maple syrup, 1 cup grated parmesan. And when it's cool, 1 beaten egg.

And now it's time to assemble your raviolis. Roll your pasta dough out flat. My machine does to 6 and I rolled the dough to 6.

When you have a flat sheet of dough, add 1 tsp dollops of filling to the dough. Lightly brush a light layer of water around the filling. Gently lay another sheet of dough top of the first. Carefully press any air out and apply a nice bit of pressure to seal the layers.

And now for the sauce.

Toast 1 cup of hazelnuts in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt 3 TB butter until just sizzling. Add in 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 pinch of cayenne pepper. Cook for about a minute, but don't burn or brown the garlic. Add 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, stir all to incorporate. Simmer until slightly thickened and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Toss in 1/2 of the hazelnuts and a few grinds of white pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir in 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Keep warm.

Boil the ravioli until done...just a few minutes...fresh pasta cooks really quickly. Drain and plate. Spoon over the warm sauce, garnish with a bit more grated cheese and remaining nuts.

These were the first ones I made. And they were good. I actually didn't make the full amount of sauce because we used too much cream last night. But it's ok. You don't want the raviolis to drown in sauce, but a nice coating is good. And the filling...that's some good filling!

I was able to make 22 raviolis the way I did this. We had few each tonight for dinner. I have the rest in the freezer for thanksgiving day. I know I wasted a lot of dough, being my first time making these guys. I still have about 1/2 of the filling as well. I might try to make more of these next weekend to have in the freezer for the future. Mmmmmm!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pumpkin: We Thank Thee

Tee hee...! I finalized the Thanksgiving Day menu!!! I'm excited for some of the new treats that will be featured.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm going the "Course" route and will have the first course served at 1pm, second course at 3pm, third course at 5pm and the main course at 7pm!

Stay tuned for the full menu. I have to send out the invitation to my guests today and let them giggle with excitment before I share. Last year we gave thanks for butter. This year, it's safe to assume we'll be giving thanks for pumpkin. Don't worry, butter will still be featured!

I have one question for my gentle readers.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving Tradition? This can be food related. Or something your family has done each year. Or even, a tradition you want to start with your own families.

I'm selfish. The tradition I love the most is hosting Thanksgiving and all the trappings that go into that. Selecting the menu. Preparing for days. And finally creating a detailed timeline telling me what to do and when so everything is done when it's supposed to be and the day of goes smoothly! And ultimately serving and sharing dinner with friends. The only regret to hosting...we have no dishwasher!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hi-Fat is Goooood!

Last night's dinner was Alfredo! Mmmm.

Very easy. Simple ingredients. Done in minutes.

There you go. Cream. Parmigiano Reggiano. Salt/Pepper. Pinch of nutmeg. Done and done!

Butter and Cream getting to know each other.

Tossed and plated. There is a little chicken sitting under the pile of pastas...warm and creamy!