Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Soup and Bread

What a great dinner on a chilly Snow Day*...

Fresh loaf of French Bread. I tried to make a more traditional loaf shape this time around, but through rising and cooking, the loaf flattened out, more of a Ciabatta loaf instead of a French loaf. But still really good!

And hot Tomato Soup.

*Snow Day will be defined as a sunny, clear Monday that you have off of work because the entire region is still digging out of 20+ inches of snow we received from Friday night to Sunday early morning.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Baby It's Cold Outside

Make some soup! We treated ourselves to a big pot of Corn Chowder the other night. Very tasty, filling and totally hit the spot on a chilly day. This is my vegetarian version of the recipe. Use vegetable broth! That's it. Otherwise, I don't generally add any meat or seafood, just broth and veggies.

Butter, Onions, Potatoes, Spices. The recipe calls for 2 tsp of Cayenne pepper. That can be too much. I used 1 tsp this time and it was just right, but that still might be to hot for some folks.

Add the corn and broth.

When the soup comes to a simmer, I add the peppers. I don't like to overcook them, so I add them about half way through the cooking. Once the potatoes are tender, you're good to add the milk and cream, warm it up and serve it up.

We each had a large bowl of soup and there were about three larger servings for leftovers.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Groove Is In The Caramel Deee-Lite!

Every year the Girl Scouts come around and start selling their goods. The old-fashioned classics of Trefoils/Shortbreads and the ubiquitous Thin Mints. But one of my top favorites has always been the Samoas, aka Caramel deLites! Well, now I don't have to wait for one time of year to have them thanks to this recipe shared by the Well Fed Network. They are pretty easy and really to taste like the original.

The first step is to make a shortbread crust. Once baked and cooled, you need to melt some caramels with milk and a pinch of salt...

...and then mix with some toasted coconut.

Spread the coconut/caramel mixture over the top of the shortbread and allow to set for a few hours. Then using a sharp knife, cut into nice bite size pieces. Don't make them too big as they are rich and sweet.

Then it's time to dip the bars in chocolate and/or drizzle chocolate on top. I wish I would have left the bars like this, but I did attempt the chocolate drizzle. My chocolate was starting to set up and get lumpy and kept blobbing out of the pastry bag. The final cookies are little sloppy looking, but they taste great!

Homemade Samoas Bars
Recipe from Well Fed Network

Cookie Base:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

First, make the crust. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly, like wet sand. The dough does not need to come together. Pour crumbly dough into prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before topping.

3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
10 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula. Put dollops of the topping all over the shortbread base. Using the spatula, spread topping into an even layer. Let topping set until cooled.

When cooled, cut into 30 bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter (it’s easy to get it through the topping). Once bars are cut, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment or wax paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish. Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes 30 bar cookies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Look out Campbells

The ubiquitous can of Cream of Mushroom Soup. A staple of many casseroles and quick dinners of my childhood. There was the Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Onion, Cream of Celery. They were virtually interchangeable when presented in a recipe.

Favorite childhood dishes we find ourselves making today include the always popular Tater Tot Casserole. There's the Pork Chops in a Paprika Cream Sauce (I don't know if the dish has a formal name) and Beef Stroganoff. To say nothing of the Green Bean Casserole (which I'm a heathen and don't like.)

All of these recipes are pretty simple. Cook some meat or veg, dump the Cream of ____ Soup in the pan/pot, stir. Maybe you'll add some cheese or something else. Maybe not. Then you'll either simmer or bake for a while. Done.

Last night we decided to use some ground beef to make the Beef Stroganoff. The recipe from the 70's/80's that we use goes something like this: Brown the beef. Add some garlic powder and granulated onion. Stir in a little bit of flour and add a can of "cream of" soup, plus 1/4 cup of milk. Simmer. Stir in sour cream and serve over egg noodles. Easy.

We didn't have a can of "Cream of" soup. But that didn't stop us from playing around.

Here's our new version of the recipe:

*Brown the beef and 1/2 a chopped onion. Season with salt/pepper and some garlic powder if you like.

*When the beef is cooked and the onion is soft, drain the excess beef fat from the pan, add 2 TB of butter. When melted, stir in 2 TB of flour. Cook for one minute.

*Add 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of water or chicken/veggie broth. Stir and bring to a simmer.

*A minute before you are ready to serve, stir in 1/2 cup of sour cream. Taste and adjust seasoning. Warm through and serve over egg noodles.

Done. That is substituting a roux for a can of "cream of" soup. We could barely tell the difference! I really look forward to trying this with tater tot casserole in the future. If you want Cream of Mushroom soup, add some chopped mushrooms to the pan instead of onions. Celery...ditto!

Super easy and we didn't need a can of "Cream of" soup. I didn't happen to have milk either, but I did have dried milk. You could use heavy cream and add a little extra water or you could use Half & Half. The point is, this is a cream sauce, so you want some dairy in there. If you want, you can skip the milk and just use broth for a lighter version and maybe just enrich the sauce with a swirl of cream if you like. You can also use no-fat/low-fat sour cream.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Maybe a new favorite cookie???

I've grown tired of the common chocolate chip cookie. Perhaps because I've had too many that just are worth their weight in chips. Dry, brittle, crumby, etc...why bother. So when I have been choosing my cookies for consumption, the chocolate chip is usually towards the bottom of my list.

So, I was pleased to see the following recipe on Serious Eats the other day. Soft Molasses Cookies. Highly spiced. Chewy gooey goodness. This might be a new favorite cookie for me.

Butter and sugar creamed together, then add the molasses. Molasses is one of those ingredients that with the first sniff, I fly back to my childhood.

After the sugar, molasses and butter, you add spices, eggs and flour. Let the dough rest in the fridge for an hour.

Scoop the dough into balls and coat in granulated sugar.

Give them some space on the pan and place in a 350 degree oven.

Ten minutes later you are left with a soft, chewy, fragrant, spicy cookie. Mmmm!

Soft Molasses Cookies
from Serious Eats.

- makes 44 cookies -

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.

1 cup (2 sticks , 8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar, plus more for coating the dough
1/2 cup (6 ounces) molasses
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the molasses while mixing at a slow speed, then the baking soda, salt, and spices. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated. Stir in the flour. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

3. Shape or scoop the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here. Roll them in granulated sugar and put them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them.

4. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. The centers will look soft and puffy, which is okay. As long as the bottoms are set enough to lift partway off the cookie sheet without bending or breaking, they're ready to come out of the oven. Cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Julia Child's Beouf Bourguignon

Here's some more of Thanksgiving 2009 prep. Julie Child's Beouf Bourguignon. So Good! I followed the recipe, almost exactly. Per one of my guests dietary restrictions, I used beef bacon instead of pork bacon...a fine substitute.

Start with the beef. I bought two large roasts and cut them into smaller pieces and cut some of the fat off as I went.

Carrots and Onions.

After the beef has been browned, you add some flour. This will help thicken the sauce as the stew cooks.

Because I needed my pans for multiple dishes, I seared the meat in a large skillet, then poured the liquid in to deglaze the pan, then I poured the whole mess into a foil baking pan.

Ready to go in the oven. You can tell in this photo how "lite" the sauce is, having not thickened at all.

After several hours. The sauce changes colors, the red dissipates, and becomes a dark brown. The meat was super tender. Remove the meat and strain the sauce. Discard the veggies.

I made the Beouf on Monday night, so serve on Thursday. Here we go, all ready for the fridge. I waited to do the onions and mushrooms the day of. Once they were braised and sauted, I added them to the beef and sauce and placed in a warm oven for about an hour or so while we enjoyed the first few courses of dinner.

Beouf Bourguignon served with creamy mashed potatoes. Amazing. But so rich and I was already so full from the first three course, I didn't really enjoy it!!! I still hate mushrooms. But I DID cook with them. In the future, will probably serve this with buttered noodles or boiled potatoes.

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon:
  • 6 ounces bacon
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind
  • 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
  • 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs
Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the melt is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Covet the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

I continue to be a slow poke in posting things to the blog. Perhaps its my new way of doing business? I hope not...

Anyway, in continuing to share Post-Thanksgiving recipes, let's move on to the French Onion Soup.

To lessen the amount of time spent in front of the stove caramelizing onions, I use a roasting pan and the oven! Make sure you have a good quality roasting pan for this...

We need some butter.

I used 10 large onions for my soup. Two red ones and 8 sweet Vidalia onions.

The onions will start to sweat in the oven.

I could have stopped here, but I felt the onions weren't dark enough yet.

Here we go. Caramelized Onions!!!

Now, I put the roasting pan on the stove top to help dissolve the sugars and get the onions slopping around. Add the various types of broth, wine and cider.

Once the roasting pan is cleaned up, I simmer the soup in the big pot with a bouquet garni and start tasting to adjust the seasoning.

The soup simmers for about 20-30 minutes, developing the flavors. Notice that color! Dark and souper rich! I had to add additional broth prior to serving, as the soup almost had the texture of a thick stew.

Serve the soup in an oven safe bowl, top with bread and grated Gruyere cheese. Place under the broiler until golden and bubbly! Serve hot!!!

French Onion Soup
10 large onions (combination of red and sweet)
4 TB unsalted butter
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup unfiltered apple cider
Fresh thyme, Bay leaf and Parsley wrapped in cheese cloth for a Bouquet Garni

Fresh Bread cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces
1-2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 350, place the roasting pan in the oven while you prep the onions.

Slice onions in half from end to end, the slice each half, in half, finely slice into thin slices. When the onions are sliced, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add the butter. The butter will melt, add onions and stir to coat with the butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Place onions in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and stir. Return to the oven for one hour. Check about half way through the cooking time. After an hour, stir and return to the oven for another 30-60 minutes until the onions have reduced and taken on a dark, rich color.

Place the roasting pan over two burners on your stove top. Over high heat, add the wine. Stir to incorporate, bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add the broth and cider. Scrap up any bits of onion stuck to the pan. Pour all of the onions and broth into a large pot.

Place pot of low heat and add the Bouquet Garni, bring a low simmer, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed.

To serve, pour soup into oven safe bowls. Top with bread croutons and grated cheese. Place under a broiler until golden brown and delicious. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thanksgiving Photos

Hey gang. It was a busy few days immediately following Thanksgiving, and tomorrow we head out on the road for a few days to celebrate our 10th anniversary. I promise more photos and recipes in the near future.

Puff pastries rising in the oven. These will be our profiteroles.

A French Bread Boule! I made two loaves. Very good!

First course was French Onion Soup with Toasted Croutons and topped with Gruyere Cheese and baked until bubbly and brown.

Second course was a Frisee Salad with Spiced Pecans, Bacon and Apples, tossed with a Citrus-Chardonnay Vinaigrette.

Third course was a French Cassoulet with Chicken and Sausage. Super savory and amazingly filling.

Fourth course was Julia Child's Beouf Bourguignon on Creamy Mashed Potatoes. I think it was divine. But I'm not sure. I was so stuffed at this point, I'm not sure if I really enjoyed it.

Fifth course, dessert! Profiteroles filled with Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream and topped with a Warm Creme Anglaise and Crushed Spiced Pecans. (I actually forgot to the take a photo when dessert was served, so this was a recreation the next morning, the sauce was thicker and I forgot the pecans...and this was breakfast!)

And that my friends was Thanksgiving 2009! I promise recipes and more photos in the next week or two. The profiterole recipe was really easy! The onion soup takes awhile, but it's mostly hands off. BTW, I'm craving turkey, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes...I loved a French Thanksgiving, but now I want the Traditional Thanksgiving. Christmas Dinner will be right around the corner!!! Perhaps I'll get my wish.

So, there were so many left over profiterole puffs. I repurposed them into a bread pudding, topped with mini-chocolate chips and extra creme anglaise. Damn!