Monday, December 27, 2010

Sausage Making

A present to myself this Christmas was Michael Ruhlman's book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.  Yesterday was my first attempt at  a couple of the recipes.

I purchased a pork shoulder from BJ's (same cut I purchase for BBQ pulled pork) and split it in half so I could try both the "Fresh Garlic Sausage" and "Mexican Chorizo" recipes.

Both sausages were juicy and delicious with a very smooth consistent texture inside.  Not chunky like supermarket sausages.  The process was fun and the results were excellent.  You could easily skip stuffing the sausages into the cases if you wanted and just use the sausage meat in recipes or make patties.  The hassle with the case wasn't the cases themselves, they were suprizingly easy to work with.  The issue was with keeping the hopper on the Kitchen Aid filled with sausage meat while guiding the links out.  Tough to do with just two hands.

Here's some photos....  

Hog casings soaking prior to stuffing

Diced, seasoned pork shoulder in the freezer waiting to be ground

Ready to begin grinding


First length of casing complete.  A little inconsistent, but not bad for a first try.  Reminds me of that scene in Good Fellas.....

Twisting into links

Last night we simply sauteed some of these in a pan with some carmelized onions and served with some dijon mustard (very good).  Tonight I'm going to smoke some to see what that does to them.

Next challenge from the book will be home cured bacon or pancetta.  Would also like to try some salami, saucisson sec or brasaola.  Time, temp and humidity are critical for those.  You might see meat hanging from the rafters next time you come over!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Florida Keys Trip

At the start of vacation we spent a few days in the Florida Keys.  There's always great travel deals to be had just prior to Christmas!!

Here's a Google Map showing our trip...
View December 2010 FL Keys Trip in a larger map

After landing on Thursday, we drove south towards the Keys.  We made a quick stop at a Walmart in Homestead, FL for some critical supplies (Corona Beer and water) then crossed over onto Key Largo.  We stopped for lunch at Sundowners On the Bay.  Jeanne had a Cuban Sandwich and since I wanted to dive right into some local seafood, I went with a Blackened Mahi Mahi sandwich.  Both were excellent.  Large portions. At this point on Thursday the weather was pretty grey and the temp was only in the lower 60's.  We'd love to return here for sunset on a warmer day!  During lunch we were joined at the next table by "George" the resident heron (I think it was a heron).

We stayed at the Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key.  Great location and a great resort.  It was very quiet during our stay, but there was a small wedding party that arrived on Friday for the ceremony and reception on Saturday night.  Thursday night we ate at Alma Restaurant right in the resort.  We were tired from a long day of travel, so it was just a light dinner sitting at the bar.

Since the weather report showed improving temperatures during our visit, we decided to hop in the car Friday morning and head to Key West.  It was a Cheeseburger in Paradise at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville on Duval Street and some shopping.

There are not a lot of nicer restaurants in the mid-Keys, but prior to the trip I had found a couple dining rooms at higher end resorts that sounded interesting.  Friday night we had quite a dining experience at The Dining Room at the Little Palm Island Resort.  As we were waiting to board the plane at Logan, I received an email confirming our reservation.  Here is what was included in this email:

"We would like to remind you of a few of the Island Customs. No children under the age of 16 are allowed. Although dress is upscale island casual, men are required to dress in collared shirts...The time of your reservation is the departure time for the motor yacht to the island. Please plan on being at our Welcome Station 10 to 15 minutes prior to departure. The motor yacht ride is 15 to 20 minutes from our Welcome Station to Little Palm Island."

Since all of the Keys are islands I assumed that this resort was right off of the Overseas Highway, so the boat ride was a pleasant suprise.  The captain did a quick safety briefing before departing.  He also asked that we not "feed the Key deer on the island any food from our table during our stay".  More to follow on this below...

Dinner was excellent and the service was even better.  Jeanne had the arugula salad with gorgonzola cheese and the Veal Chop with corn risotto. I went with the tuna tartare appetizer and the Yellow Snapper with Key Lime Beure Blanc.  For dessert Jeanne had the confit pineapple with sour cream ice cream and I had the key lime pie with bruleed citrus fruits.

After dinner we sat by the fire pit and listened to the live band that was playing in the bar.  While we waited for the next boat back to the mainland, we took a stroll around the island and ran into one of the very friendly key deer.  Jeanne fed it some leaves from one of the trees.  Very impressive....

Saturday morning we sat in the sun, then went for a late lunch at the Sunset Grill.  This is the ultimate Keys location.  The whole place is one huge tiki bar.  It's right at the start of the Seven Mile Bridge and positioned perfectly to view the sunset.  Jeanne had a curry chicken salad sandwich and I did sushi.  I went with the bartender's suggestion of the "Seven Mile roll".

On Saturday night we wanted to go to our favorite place from our last trip to the Keys, Morada Bay in Islamorada.  They were hosting a wedding on Saturday night so we just headed back to the resort.  We ended up going here for lunch the next day.  Nothing beats eating at a table on the beach with a margarita in our hand and our toes in the sand!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Welcome to our international friends!

The Blogger stats function now allows us to see the number of hits on our blog and even what country the hits are coming from.  To our amazement, we actually get some hits from outside the US.  As of this afternoon, here are where the hits have come from since May of 2010:

United States 635

Canada 18
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Russia 12
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United Kingdom 3
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While we love it when anyone leaves a comment to one of our posts, we'd especially like to hear from those of you outside of North America.  How did you find us?  What are your favorite posts?  Please leave comments when you visit!!

Time off

I haven't stopped blogging, don't worry. I find it hard to do "Friday Night Meals" the right way for the months of November and December, so I am not even going to try. We are still having really good food on Friday Night's for these two months but nothing too different. So let me tell you about the past couple weeks and after that come back and see my posts in the new year.

Last week was a great steak on the grill and my favorite apple tart that I like to make every so often. The week before was dinner with the Roke's (next door). We had a great night...

I made some hummus and olive tapinade with some homemade walnut and Gruyere crisps for the appetizer.

Grilled Swordfish with Roasted Tomato Parsley Sauce and Lemon Risotto

Croquombouche (Krok-Kuhm-BOOSH) which is a dessert they serve in France at weddings or even at Christmas because it resembles a Christmas tree. It's cream puffs filled with pastry cream (I did 50% butterscotch pastry cream and 50% Chocolate pastry cream) they are "glued" together with caramel, very carefully, into a round shape then "glue"more as you go up to form a tree shape. Once it's shaped you use the tines of a fork dipped in the leftover caramel to drizzle over the outside for another layer of (caramel) crunch. The trick is you have to make this within a couple hours of serving. I pushed it, I made it about 4:00 and we had dessert about 8 or 9:00. It was really good, a little messy but good.

Friday Night, Charred Skin Salmon

Endive Cups

I did endive cups before and they were a good way to start a meal because they aren't too filling and it's kind of like a cool way to eat a salad. I candied some pecans by tossing them in a quick caramel that I made and remove to a plate to cool. Once they are cool (about 10 minutes later) they are crunchy and sweet. I cooked a few slices of pancetta and let those drain on paper towels. So separate the leaves from the endive and you get to a point where they don't come off easily anymore so that's where you stop. I used 2 endives for us. So chop up the heart of the endives that you couldn't separate and add to a bowl. Chop up the candied pecans and pancetta and add to the bowl. Crumble some blue cheese of your choice into the bowl. I drizzled olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the mixture and filled each endive cup with mixture. I cut some green grapes into quarters and put one quarter on the top of each endive. Really good with the sweet and crunch of the pecans, the salt of the pancetta, the creaminess of the blue cheese and the crispness of the grape.

Charred Skin Salmon

I had the idea to get the charcoal grill nice and hot, then put the skin side of the salmon down and never flip it, let it cook through on just that one side. I never ate the skin before so I thought if it's crispy like a potato chip it might be good. Well Tony ate it, I thought it was ok but too fishy tasting for me. It was a good way to cook the salmon, on the verge of being overcooked though. We only had it on for 5-7 minutes... so watch it, it goes fast.

Braised Fennel

I think fennel goes well with fish so I have done this before, nothing new here. It's just sliced thin and cooked in a skillet with olive oil for a couple minutes. I add in some chicken stock, cover and let it simmer gently until it's tender. Season to taste.

Red Skinned Sage Mashed Potaoes

I infused some milk with sage leaves by just heating the milk and sage, cover and let it steep for about 30 minutes. After the potaoes cook and are mashed I reheated the milk and poured it in along with some butter, salt and pepper. Once it tastes great serve and garnish with fresh sage leaves.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Fresh Raspberries

People raved about this on It's an Aaron McCargo Jr recipe. I had never made any of his recipes before. It was good, super rich...even more rich than I had imagined, like a chocolate truffle. I served it with whipped cream and raspberries and it was good....but

Two days later we had the neighbors over for the game and I had this extra round of flourless chocolate cake (I didn't have the right size pan so I used 2 smaller ones) in the refrigerator and I thought I would embellish it and serve it for dessert. I thought it would make a good layer in ice cream cake. I made some vanilla bean ice cream and I got some chocolate ginger snap cookies that I crushed and mixed with melted butter. I put the crumbled cookies at the bottom of a spring form pan (no need to bake, it will firm up when the butter gets cold). On the base pour in 1/2 of the ice cream, the layer of chocolate cake, the rest of the ice cream sprinkled with some toasted hazelnuts, whipped cream and fresh rasperries. Put the whole thing in the freezer. Cut out slices as you would a cake and I think it was a fantastic way to use that 2nd round of cake!

Saturday Night, Rotisserie Chicken

I fell behind a couple weeks and I really shouldn't do that because I forget little details. I will do my best to remember everything.

Smoked Salmon Terrine with Dill and Capers

I found this in the Bon Appetit November 2010 issue. I noticed that the Whole Foods Market in Framingham Ma. has "in house smoked salmon", they have maybe 8 different flavors to choose from. When I came across this recipe as I flipped through the pages I thought of the smoked salmon I saw. I got the Mediterranean (I think) flavored one. You combine cream cheese, red onion, dill, capers, lemon juice and salmon that you chop. Then you layer that mixture with more smoked salmon that is cut into slices so when you cut into it (after it sets) you see the layers within. I served it with toasted slices of French bread.

Rotisserie Chicken with Steamed Buns and Two Sauces

Because Tony was home for all the cooking I let him take care of the chicken part of this menu. Also because I don't know how he rigs up his charcoal grill with this rotisserie part that he bought on EBay. Just a sprinkle of salt and pepper over the trussed chicken before hovering over the grill is all it needed because the flavorful part would come in the form of sauces. I made a Hoison Barbecue Sauce by combining and simmering Hoison, ketchup, brown sugar, rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, dash of Tabasco, salt and pepper. I also made a roasted cranberry sauce from Bon Appetit November 2010. The steamed buns is something the Chinese do. It's yeast and water combined with sugar, dry milk, cake flour and baking powder. It's a bit time consuming... you mix it together and kneed it then let it rest for 2 hours then add the baking powder and kneed again then let it rest for 30 minutes then form the dough into 16 pieces then let it rest for 30 more minutes and then you steam then for 3 minutes. It's all put on the table and you make your own flavorful steamed bun sandwiches.

Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

On this Saturday morning while I made breakfast, Tony had Julia and Jacque's show on and Jacques was making this gratin. We said..."that looks good"...I happened to have all the ingredients and so it went on the menu, I needed a side dish and this was perfect. It's just thin slices of each the zucchini and tomato, layered decoratively in a shallow baking dish and seasoned with salt and pepper, topped with bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Baked in the oven until the top gets golden brown and the vegetables become tender.

Pumpkin Cappuccino

I envisioned a pumpkin mousse in a glass coffee cup with whipped cream on top to look like a cappuccino. Well I thought the idea came together perfect and for having very little sugar in the recipe it was good and healthy. But Friday Night's are not about being "healthy". It needed more sugar in my opinion but I was following a recipe that was given 5 stars, so I didn't change anything.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Friday Night Menu, Wiener Schnitzel

I decided to look for inspiration on Wolfgang Puck's website this time. I have never been disappointed after making one of his recipes. I saw the recipe for Jaeger Schnitzel where you can use beef, veal or venison, it's pounded out thin and coated in flour before sauteing in a skillet. I immediately thought I would do veal and I checked out my "Food Lover's Companion" book for any information and it said that a Schnitzel made with veal is called a Wiener Schnitzel (you learn something new everyday). It's not that easy of coarse. The recipe has a sauce and it calls for veal stock, so off to the store for veal bones and a night of simmering I went!

Pot Stickers

I forgot to get dumpling wrappers at the store for the pot stickers so I had to be creative. I always have Spring Roll Wrappers in the freezer from the Chinese market. I never used the spring roll wrappers in any other way but to deep fry them with a filling. I cut them down the middle and put a small amount of the filling, which was a flavorful ground pork mixture, on one end. I then folded it up like you would fold a flag forming a triangle. I put them on a sheet pan in the refrigerator until I was ready to serve. When the time came I heated a skillet with a little safflower oil and got it hot then added the "pot stickers" to the pan. Once they started to brown and form a bit of a crust which takes only a few minutes at med-high, I put in about 1/4 cup or so of water and immediately cover the pan to create steam. I set the timer for 5 minutes and removed the cover and let any remaining liquid evaporate. Serve with a sauce that had rice wine vinegar, ginger syrup (below) and sesame oil. It was goooood! Crunchy bottoms and steamed tops are just what the doctor ordered.

Ginger syrup; I made this so Tony could make me a ginger gimlet and he did a fine job! I boiled 1 cup of water with about 1 cup of chopped fresh ginger. When it comes to a boil cover the pan and remove from the heat and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain the ginger out and return the ginger water to the pan and add a scant cup of sugar to the pan. Heat over medium, stirring to dissolve the sugar and let it simmer for about a minute. Pour the syrup in a bowl set over a bowl of ice water. Once cool you can use it how ever you wish.

Wiener Schnitzel

The veal stock is roasted veal bones and onions for about 1 1/2 hours, then add to a stock pot with carrots, celery, seasonings, tomatoes and garlic. Cover with water and simmer for 6 hours or up to 24 hours. I started making this about 6:00 on Thursday night so I let it simmer over a very low heat overnight. I added more water in the morning and let it go until about noon. I strained it out, removed any of the fat from the surface and reduced it further. I put it in the frig and when I was ready to make the main course I browned the veal on both sides and removed it to a plate. In the pan I added onions, carrots, celery and a bouquet garni. Add wine and reduce, add some of the veal stock and the veal back in. In another pan cook some bacon, mushrooms, pearl onions and parsley in some butter and oil then add that to the pan with the sauce.

Camozola Mashed Potatoes

I simply mashed in about 3 oz of blue cheese into the potatoes along with butter and milk until the consistency was nice and creamy and delicious.

Steamed Brocolette

Brocolette I believe is the same as Broccolini which is a combination of Chinese kale and broccoli. I steamed it until it was tender which seemed to take about 10 minutes. I cut the base of the stems off and just let them remain whole and gorgeous. I put them on the plate and sprinkled a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil over the top.


I have made tiramisu many times but always with Lady Finger cookies. You make a coffee and Liquor syrup and dip each Lady Finger into the syrup, and that's a good way of doing it but Friday Night is all about trying new things. I wanted to make a Tiramisu with a thin cake in place of the cookies. I gotta say this is much better! The cake is 3 ingredients; eggs, sugar and flour. It comes together in minutes and bakes for 12-15 minutes on a 1/2 sheet pan. This is a Wolfgang Puck recipe so go to his website for the exact recipe. You make an espresso syrup and a Mascarpone cream mixture. To assemble you put a layer of the cream in the bottom of a 9X13 pan, then 1/2 of the sheet cake, pour over 1/2 of the espresso syrup. You do that one more time with cream, cake and syrup then top with one more of the cream, shave some chocolate over and your done. There is no dipping into syrup and wondering if you dipped too long or too little. It's less expensive because you don't buy all the cookies. The only change I would have to work on for our own personal taste is the cream mixture, which is very rich. I want to do not quite as much Mascarpone cheese and a little more Sabayon, which is a egg and sugar mixture cooked over a double-boiler then the Marsala and Brandy are whisked in...or is there no such thing as too rich??

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friday Night, Bone-in Rib Eye

It's only been a few weeks since I did a bone-in rib eye in the grill, but it was so good and Tony keeps talking about it. I did have another plan, which was to do braised short ribs. Sometimes the short ribs don't look meaty enough so I told myself if they don't look good I will get a rib eye. Well something wanted me to make the rib eyes because there were no short ribs and the rib eyes looked fantastic.

Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers, Harissa Olives, Buffalo Mozzarella and Crusty Bread Plate

I was sitting in the dentists office when I saw an October Food and Wine sitting there. I thought..."hey this doesn't look familiar, why not, I have all the food magazines"...So I immediately got on the cell phone after leaving the dentist office and Tony called back to say he has ordered a years subscription to Food and Wine. I don't know what happened there, we will have to keep a closer eye on that!!! But anyway as I flipped through the pages I saw Mario Batali did an appetizer with these roasted red and yellow peppers and there were capers and olives and crusty bread and I think a ball of mozzarella. So I did all that I remembered from the picture. I also had in mind that I would make some homemade harissa. A couple posts ago you will notice we had a vegan cook-off, well we have another one in December that will include "harissa", which is a chili-garlic sauce. You can buy this sauce but I saw that you can make it from scratch. I don't want to say how I made it (in case someone is reading this who is in the contest) but it includes some spices and dried chili's and garlic, its made into a paste. I thought I would mix the sauce into the olives but I chickened out and just put it on the side. It was very good, it turns out I could have mixed it in. The Buffalo Mozzarella was the star. We ate the whole ball. It's got a soft and creamy texture on the inside and it's skin is more firm. It was worth spending $7.99.

Bone-in Rib Eye

I always think I should do a sauce or different spices but in the case of a good piece of steak, simple is best. The thing I did this time that was different was instead of just kosher salt and black pepper I sprinkled over a generous amount of very coarse gray salt along with the black pepper. The salt was very nice, it gives a nice crunch, and it wasn't too salty because some of it will fall off on the grill. What I always do is take the steak out of the butchers paper and let it sit on a plate in the refrigerator for the day or until you are ready to grill it, without any plastic wrap or anything. You want it to dry out a little. Then about 30-45 minutes before it goes on the grill I bring it out and let it sit at room temperature. I salted it about 5-10 minutes before it went on the grill, this brings some of the juices to the surface which will caramelize on the hot grill.

Celeriac Souffle

I bought the celeriac thinking I would mash it like potatoes and maybe mix 50% potato to 50% celeriac which I have done before. I was laying in bed that morning thinking what else can I do instead of mashing it??? Souffle came to mind. I looked on and there was nothing like that, so I just did what I thought and it worked. I boiled diced celeriac in water with salt then added the drained celeriac to the food processor. I put in 3/4 stick of soft butter, about 3/4 cup milk (heated), salt and pepper, grated Parmesan reggiano (about 1/2-3/4 cup) and 3 egg yolks. I whipped the egg whites in another bowl and folded them into the celeriac mixture. I carefully spooned them into a souffle dish that I buttered and coated with Parmesan cheese. I put it in the refrigerator for about 4 hours before baking it at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. I have a chocolate souffle recipe that I have made a few times that says you can leave it in the frig and just before serving you bake it off. Souffles are best baked off as soon as it's assembled but can be done ahead then baked off hours later for convenience.

Braised Swiss Chard

I always do Swiss chard the same way. I cut the stalk and saute that with garlic then add the leaves and cook over med-high heat until just cooked through, and that's always good. This time I decided to braise it, I started out the same way but when I added the leaves I also put in some chicken stock and covered the pan. I slowly braised the chard for about 15 minutes. It was really good that way. I finished it with a little white wine vinegar and salt and pepper.

Ginger Mousse

I saw this in a Bon Appetit October 09. Someone wrote in asking for the recipe, they had it at a restaurant and they wanted to make it at home. It sounded different, I love ginger, so I made it. It was good, it's 3/4 of a cup of fresh ginger steeped in water then strained. Then gelatin, sugar, eggs and whipped cream are Incorporated and it sets overnight or at least 8 hours which is what I did. I layered in some whipped cream and ginger cookie crumbles from some ginger snaps that I bought at the store. It made me think, what other flavors I can do instead of ginger. This would also be good dolloped on a slice of apple pie or something like that.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Friday Night Dinner, Pork Tenderloin Gone Crazy

This was one of those weeks where It's Thursday and I am still lost with what to make on Friday. I thought hard as I worked on Thursday so I could shop on my way home that day. I had no idea if my appetizer would even work, but I had to give it a go!

Cylinder O' Salad

My idea was that I would remove the crusts from a soft and moist sliced bread and roll it out with a rolling pin, then wrap it around my cannoli forms and seal the bread together with egg wash. Then I would either deep fry or just shallow fry them in butter for flavor and oil for a higher cooking temperature. I did it and it worked! I sprayed Pam on the cylinder shapes first and wrapped the rolled out sourdough bread slices around the metal forms. After letting them brown in the two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of canola oil for about 5 minutes I removed them from the oil and let them drain and cool for about 2 minutes. I removed the forms, and it was easy to remove because of the Pam. For the filling I chopped Calamata Olives (about 3 Tbsp) and a garlic clove together then combined that with softened goat cheese (about 4 oz). I ripped some green leaf lettuce into small pieces and made a salad dressing that included honey, mustard and sherry vinegar. Coated the lettuce with the dressing and stuffed each cylinder with the lettuce and cheese (about 50/50). I made the cylinders a few hours ahead of time and I stuffed them just before serving so the bread wouldn't get too soft. They were really good, I think next time add some diced cucumber or something with a crunch, but it was a great first course.

Pork Tenderloin Gone Crazy

I thought of a Filet Mignon wrapped in Phillo dough, but I didn't want to spend the money on a Filet so I thought I would do my idea with a pork tenderloin (which is the same cut, but different animal). I would brine the pork so it stays moist. My worry was that the Phillo usually takes 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees and would the pork be done in that time or if I sear it first will it be over done???? So I brined it to help it stay moist so if it overcooked a little it would be ok. I wanted to sear it but I seared it ahead and put it in the refrigerator. About an hour from when I wanted to serve I took it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Then I sliced up some Phillo dough and wrapped it trying to make it look like hay or something crazy like that. Brushed some melted butter on the Phillo and put it in a 400 degree oven, when the Phillo browned and about 20-25 minutes later I checked it and it was a perfect 150 degrees. I took it out of the oven and finished the sides while it sat for another 5-8 minutes to get about 155-160 degrees. It was very tender and moist and perfectly cooked. The only problem was a little too salty from the brine. I did about 1 cup of salt to 4 cups of water, next time 1/2 cup salt to the same water and 1 1/2-2 hours instead of 3 should be perfect.

Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Risotto

I had a risotto at the Mills Tavern in Providence one time that had roasted squash and I always remember that dish. I have copied it a few times since that dining experience, and here I have done it again. The difference is that I was making a basic risotto one time and ran out of chicken stock. Instead of just using water (which you can do, but much less flavor) I had some apple cider in the refrigerator so I deluded about a cup of the cider with water and used that to slowly add to the Aborio rice. What that does is it adds a sweetness that you would almost swear the onions (which absorb the flavor throughout) are apples. So I combined the roasted squash (small dice with olive oil, salt and pepper which you can do a couple hours ahead or just before) and the apple cider method to make this Fall tasting risotto. Yummy!

Crisp Julienne Snow Peas

I quickly made this dish as the meat was resting from just out of the oven. Thinly slice the snow peas into long strips then quickly cook in butter in a skillet. Season with salt and pepper and after about 3 minutes remove them to the plate.

Sour Cream-Lemon Cheesecake

I saw a picture, in an ad for a restaurant, in a magazine. It was a two layer individual portion of lemon cheesecake, I had to figure it out. I don't make cheesecake very often, I love it but it's so high in fat, it can't be good for your body (especially when Tony and I eat Friday Night leftovers, for the days that follow). I bought some sour cream when I was at the store because I wanted the cheesecake to be very creamy and I would worry about a recipe later. I looked on when I got home and Alton Browns recipe had good reviews for a sour cream cheese cake. I divided the recipe in half and used ramekins instead of the cake pan that he used. I did half of the ramekins with the Graham cracker crust and the other half without to make the two layers. They came together quickly and took about 1/2 the time because of the smaller cooking vessels (as Alton would say). I was able to cook these the night before because Tony was traveling so he wouldn't see what I was making (because Tony never knows what Friday's menu is until he comes home on Friday). I let the cheesecake chill overnight. In the picture from the magazine it showed a sauce the same color as the cheesecake, basically, so what sauce should I make? I thought of doing a lemon curd but I turned to my "Joy of Cooking" for inspiration. I looked under "lemon" for a sauce or maybe the curd. I came across "Lemon Sabayon". Wow, it was perfect with the cheesecake. You mix on the top of a double boiler some eggs and sugar then whisk in some lemon juice then zest. It's light and airy and lemony and lovely! Garnished with some raspberries from the garden it was fantastic!

Vegan Cook-Off

We had a cook-off at my friends house where there were four contestants and three judges. We did this before with chicken wings, about a year ago. We came up with this idea at a summer cook out when we were trying to come up with a theme for a new cook-off and a friend of a friend is a vegan. We thought that was a good challenge, and Mara (the vegan) would be one of the judges. Everyone had good and interesting ideas... John made a vegetable chili, Alan made a tofu jambalaya, Tony made a gazpacho and I made a grilled vegetable panini with a side of mock mac and cheese. I don't have their recipes but here is mine...

Grilled Vegetable Panini
I started by making an eggplant spread for the sandwich. I roasted 3/4 inch dice of skinless eggplant and 1-2 whole garlic cloves in the paper tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper in a 400 oven until tender, about 30-35 minutes. I put the cooked eggplant into a food processor with a garlic clove or two with the paper removed, more salt and pepper to taste, a good amount of lemon juice; enough to taste it in the final sandwich and olive oil. Process until smooth and make sure it tastes good. I pressed the eggplant spread through a fine mesh sieve because there seemed to be a lot of seeds. I got the charcoal grill going and cut slices of vadalia onion, zucchini and cut the core out of a couple red peppers. Olive oil, salt and pepper on all the vegetables and grill, moving around the vegetables so they get charred but not too charred and softened but not too soft. I roasted some San Marzano canned tomatoes for the mock mac and cheese (recipe follows) and had that ready to put in the sandwich too.
To assemble I cut a French Baguette open like a book and hollowed out the inside of the bread to make room for the filling. Spread on the eggplant spread on both sides and layer in the onion, zucchini, red pepper and roasted tomatoes. Close the sandwich and wrap in plastic, weigh it down with a sheet pan and a heavy book in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Just before serving cut into serving sizes and press in a panini press with just a light spray of Pam. Press until the exterior is nice and crispy.

Mock Mac and Cheese
Get a nice firm pasta made with durum wheat semolina and cook in in boiling salted water until al dente (I used regular elbows and it's too soft in my opinion). I used one from Whole Foods, it's the whole foods brand and it's shape is called "casarecce". Set aside. To make the sauce, cut San Marzano canned tomatoes in half and let most of the juice drain out. Place the tomatoes cut side up on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and 2-3 whole garlic cloves with the paper still on. Place the pan in a 400 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes to intensify the flavors and to roast the garlic cloves. In a blender add 1 container of silken tofu, about one to one and a half 28 oz cans of roasted tomatoes, 1 or 2 of the roasted garlic cloves with the paper removed, 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder, 1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Buzz it up and taste for seasoning. I heated it up by heating the sauce in a saucepan just until it starts to steam and add the cooked pasta. Being careful you don't add too much pasta, you want to get plenty of the sauce with each bite of the pasta, heat through but don't over heat. I also made a crunchy top by using the insides of the french baguette (from recipe above). I cut up the centers of the bread as fine as I could with a knife. Heat up a good amount of olive oil (maybe 1/4 cup to 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs). Once the oil is hot and starts to shimmer add the fresh bread crumbs and it will start to brown, toss the pan now and then and when it's all golden brown drain it on paper towels and add salt and pepper. When you serve the mock mac and cheese top with the bread crumbs.

Friday Night Dinner, Cast Iron Roast Chicken

I decided to set the table in a French style this time by using a table cloth and I cut some flowers from the yard. I also changed up my usual white plate (used only for better pictures) to a french blue plate. It really makes things a bit more special by making these small changes.

Fresh Figs with Lavender Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

I didn't have any good ideas for the appetizer so I left it up to the market. I figured I would see what looked good and go from there. The produce department had these really good looking figs, with a different name (which I can't think of), and there was a sign that said good when wrapped with prosciutto. That's all I needed to start the ball rolling. I came across some lavender and honey goat cheese in the cheese department and I got some really good prosciutto. So I cut the figs in half and filled the centers with the lavender goat cheese then wrapped in prosciutto. When I was ready to serve I put a little olive oil in a non-stick pan and place in the bundles of joy. I turned them as they cooked to caramelize the prosciutto slightly and warm the centers. I removed them to a serving plate and deglazed with a little balsamic vinegar and let it reduce for a second then add a tablespoon of butter and swirled it in to melt off the heat. I poured the balsamic glaze over the figs and walla. It was really yummy.

Cast Iron Roast Chicken

I recently watched an Anthony Bourdain show again where "my guy" Thomas Keller was on his show showing how he makes a basic roast chicken. It's different than the recipe in his "Ad Hoc At Home" cookbook. Also different than what I would normally do. I normally would add herbs or lemon to the cavity and some butter or oil on the skin and it's always good but he was showing how he just uses salt and pepper in the cavity and on the skin and that's it. He roasts it at about 425-450 for 25 minutes then turns down the temperature to 400 until the temperature of the chicken is at 160 degrees. He did his chicken in a medium sized skillet. I wanted to use my cast iron pan. I love when rutabaga or turnips are under a chicken while it roasts so I added that to the pan first. Of course you truss the chicken before roasting to keep it all together. What a great way to do it. It was juicy and the skin was crispy too.

Potato Pave'

This was the whole reason I bought the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook in the first place. I saw Thomas Keller do this recipe on a show (I think Martha) and it looked easy but impressive, and it is. You start by slicing russet potatoes very thin using a mandolin (or a meat slicer, which is what I used), and dropping the slices into milk seasoned with salt and pepper. Butter a loaf pan that stands about 3 inches tall. Start layering in the potatoes and every two layers add a bit of butter and salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil tightly and bake for 1 hour and 50 minutes at 375 or until the potatoes are very tender. Remove from the oven and weigh it down and let it come to room temperature. Chill at least 6 hours or overnight. Cut slices and cook in a non-stick skillet on it's side in canola oil. As it browns you start to see all the layers of potato get crisp on the outside and it's almost creamy on the inside. Brown on two sides and plate. Top with butter and fresh cut chives. This was good for days to follow and along side an egg for breakfast.

Crunchy Brussels Sprout Leaves with Pancetta

I started by cutting off the end a little to allow the layers to "fall off, with a little help form a knife" and when it gets down to the centers I just cut it into quarters. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cut thick sliced pancetta cut into a small dice. Brown the pancetta and leaving the fat in the pan (remove some fat if there is too much) add the Brussels sprouts. Toss and cook for maybe 4-5 minutes over med-high heat, season with a little salt and pepper. Delicious!

Apple Fritters with Bourbon Ice Cream

This was in the October 2010 Bon Appetit magazine. We got the magazine in the mailbox just the day before and Tony commented on these fritters with the ice cream when he saw it, so I thought...there is the dessert for Friday Night...

The fritters remind me of a donut batter made with flour, sugar, spices, buttermilk, eggs and baking powder. The apples are sauteed ahead with butter and sugar then sparkling apple cider, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon are added. You combine the apples and the batter and deep fry for about 4 minutes until cooked through. Toss with cinnamon-sugar right out of the oil. The ice cream has 5 Tbsp of Bourbon in the whole recipe so it's subtle but really the right amount of flavor. It was great as we head into Fall. The best part was Tony stopped on the way home and bought a new liqueur that he's been seeing in drink recipes and he made me a drink that combined cinnamon and sparkling apple cider. It paired perfectly with what I made for dessert, I think he read my mind.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday Night Bites #11

Last Friday night we went to The Mills Tavern restaurant in Providence and it was fantastic as usual. We used some Hilton Honors points and stayed in Providence for the night, neither one of us wanted to behave and not drink.

This week I did some "bites". I had the "mortadella bignet" idea left over from "Friday Night Bites #10", it was another idea from Marc Vetri from his restaurant in Philadelphia. Dessert was something I have been wanting to do from our Chicago trip. We had a ricotta and chocolate chip filled sweet brioche as a dessert at "The Purple Pig". I wanted to use black truffle butter that I saw at Whole Foods somewhere and so I came up with an egg yolk ravioli to bath in the butter. The blue cheese souffle was something I printed off foodnetwork a few years ago and I came across it in my files so I thought I'd finally do that and maybe a salad would go nicely with it. That's it, too many courses is not needed as I am discovering.

Mortadella Bignet (meat donuts)

I started by making the mortadella mousse. I am calling it mousse but all I did was take some pistachios (a handful) and get them really ground up in the food processor, then about 3 big and thick slices of deli mortadella and get that really ground up with the nuts. Then I drizzled in some heavy cream just to make it more luscious and creamy. I put that into a piping bag and put it in the frig so it would be ready for later when it was time to fill the bignet's. For the bignet's I made a savory Choux Paste. Its just a basic recipe with out any sugar, but a little salt in it's place. Choux Paste is butter and flour and eggs basically, it's used to make chocolate eclairs and cream puffs. Then usually you would bake them and fill them but they showed Marc Vetri deep frying them so that's what I did. I put the choux paste into a piping bag and dropped round pieces into the oil and cooked them for 4-5 minutes. Once they come out of the oil I made a small hole in each one with a skewer and then piped in the mortadella mousse. It was fantastic! They were very hard to resist.

Blue Cheese Souffle with Crisp Greens and Toast

I decided to make a salad to go along with the souffle. The souffle was rich and very flavorful and the salad went perfectly with it, it really needs something crisp like a salad. The salad was arugula, red onion, thinly shaved celery cut on the bias and grape tomatoes. I made a dressing that included shallots, sherry vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and olive oil. The souffle only has 3 ounces of Roquefort cheese and it's the perfect amount, other wise it would be too over powering. The Cheese Souffle is an Ina Garden recipe from the foodnetwork. The toast was a nice loaf from Whole Foods bakery that had sprouted wheat and raisins.

Egg Yolk Ravioli with Black Truffle Butter

I saw someone do this before, with the "mashed potato bed" and then place an egg yolk in the bed. I thought of it when I was coming up with this idea. I just made mashed potato and added in some chives, parsley, butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. The pasta dough itself is mostly egg yolk with a little of the whites, all purpose flour, olive oil, salt and pepper and I rolled it out fairly thin. Instead of boiling the ravioli (very delicate with the egg yolk) I decided to take a skillet and put in about 1/2 inch of water with a few tablespoons of the black truffle butter (bought at Whole Foods in the cheese department). I brought the water and butter to a simmer and added in the ravioli. Cover the skillet and allow the ravioli to cook and steam for about 2-3 minutes only. Remove the lid and let the water evaporate a little bit and the truffle butter to coat the ravioli adding another pat of butter at the end. I also added right at the end some pre-cooked panchetta pieces and the dark green parts of a scallion sliced thinly. It was a nice dish.

The next day I fried up the two left over ravioli in olive oil until it was completely heated through and the pasta browned up a little crispy, and some toast on the side for a perfect breakfast. Believe it or not the yolk was still perfectly runny.

Brioche "Cannoli"

I followed an easy recipe for brioche in the Jacques and Julia cookbook, Jacques makes it in the food processor. His was for a savory dish with sausage stuffed in the center but I was doing this sweet version so I added a couple tsp of sugar. After letting it sit overnight in the refrigerator to rise slowly I mixed together the filling which was ricotta cheese, confectioners sugar, vanilla, a tiny bit of whipped heavy cream just to make it creamier and bittersweet chocolate. I rolled out the dough and cut rounds out of the dough. I filled the centers of the dough rounds with as much filling as I could and completely enclosed them, and then placed them into a cupcake pan (which is what it looked like they did at the "Purple Pig" restaurant; above). It was tasty right from the oven but it wasn't the same as the restaurant. The one at the restaurant had a lot of filling and the chocolate was melted and it looked completely enclosed. Mine, I don't know where the filling went, it seems like the cheese became one with the brioche and the filling wasn't there. Like I said it was tasty but I wouldn't make them again, I'll just have to go back to Chicago and get one there!