Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Night Menu, Grilled Thyme Pork Chops, December 30, 2011

Tony got me Jacques Pepin's new cookbook for Christmas and it's an awesome book.  I made all Jacques recipes this week except the Sweet Potato dish that I made up.  Jacques is so good with techniques and he's also an artist so he does everything in a decorative way, which I like.

Split Pea Soup with Cracklings

This year at Christmas my cousin was talking about pea soup... and then I got this book and there was this split pea soup recipe.... and Tony went to get some dried chick peas for something he was making and he grabbed a bag of split peas and yellow peas just for fun...and so, I thought, making this recipe was meant to be. Here it is...

6 oz chicken skin, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium onion, cut into i inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped (1 Tbsp)
8 cups water
2 tsp herbes de Provence
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce, plus more for serving
1 lb dried split peas, picked over and rinsed

Put the chicken skin in a large skillet and saute over high heat for 8-10 minutes, until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp.  Transfer the cracklings and fat to a large saucepan.  Add the onions to the saucepan and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and mix well, then stir in the water, herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, Tabasco and split peas.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and boil gently for 1 hour.

It was good and simple.  We liked the flavor the chicken skin gave, but I think Tony was looking forward to the "cracklings" being crispy, but as you can imagine they were, but then they are cooked  in liquid for an hour, and they weren't anymore.  Personally I didn't eat the chicken skins but Tony thought they were good.

Grilled Thyme Pork Chops

This was very simple and quick to make.  It was in his book and I was flipping through the pages trying to figure a good main dish.  My concern was that the next day we were roasting a whole standing rib roast on New year's Eve and last Friday I served fish, most of the week we were eating chicken because of one of the recent posts about de-boning a whole chicken (we practiced a couple times).  What's left??  Pork.  Actually Jacques calls this a "grilled" dish and I had planned to do that, but it was cold out side and I had just bought this non-stick, ceramic coated pan at Homegoods and it claimed to brown food more than a Teflon non-stick pan.  I cooked it just like he said, season with salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp or so of dried Thyme, 4 minutes on each side with olive oil brushed onto the pork chop first and let it rest 5-10 minutes ( I let it rest 5 minutes before plating).  To ensure that there wound be a nice brown crust I didn't move it at all once I got it in the pan, until I flipped them.  This pan worked out perfectly!  Nice crust and juicy inside, just right.

Sweet Potato and Fromage Blanc Brulee

I wanted to use sweet potatoes but do something different with them.  I had bought some Fromage Blanc just because, and thought that added to a puree of sweet potato might be good.  This is what I did...
I peeled then cut 2 large sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch thick rounds and braised them in a large skillet with 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil and a splash of water.  Braising is cooking over low heat, with a small amount of liquid.  I checked them after 30 minutes and they were nice and soft.  Leaving most of the liquid behind add the sweet potatoes to the food processor and process until creamy; squeeze the juice of 1/2 orange to the braising pan and reduce it until it's syrupy, pour into the processor; add salt, pepper, the zest of 1 orange, 8 oz of Fromage Blanc; a teaspoon or 2 of cinnamon; 1 tbsp of softened butter;  I tasted as I went to see if it needed more salt or whatever; Remove to a pastry bag that's fitted with a large decorative tip and put it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes; chilling the mixture helps to show the form of the decorative tip that you use; pipe out serving sizes into mounds onto a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat and put into the refrigerator until you are ready to heat and serve them.

I put the sheet pan into the oven just to warm the mounds of sweet potato for about 15-20 minutes then I sprinkled about 1-2 tsp of brown sugar over the mounds and used my torch to Brulee the sugar.  This was very good with the pork.

Braised Endive

I wasn't sure what vegetable to do when I was at the store I just grabbed what looked good and figured I'd make one of them.  I got one big endive, a bunch of Swiss chard and asparagus.  I settled on the endive but instead of raw in a salad (which is what I was thinking with that), I saw Jacques did a braised endive so I went with that.  I kind of followed his recipe but I didn't have the 8 medium endives, I had one large, so I ended up cutting it in half when he left his whole, and he says to remove the rind from one lemon and put it in the pan along with 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 4 Tbsp butter, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and 3/4 cup of water.  I did all that but reduced the amounts to equal doing just the one big endive.  This was good, but I didn't think it went perfectly with the other components of this dish.

Banana-Mint Ice Cream with Rum Raisin Sauce

This was a recipe that reminded me of another one I had made from a friend who is a vegan.  She said to slice bananas and freeze them, after they are frozen add them to the food processor and process, adding sweetened almond milk until you have what looks like ice cream.  It works amazingly well.  Jacques is the same idea but he's not a vegan and he uses sour cream.  Here it is...

Ice Cream

3 ripe bananas cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/4 cup honey
6-8 fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup sour cream


1/4 cup peach preserves
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp dark rum
1/4 cup golden raisins

For the ice cream: arrange the bananas on a silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer.  Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or over night.  Remove the bananas from the freezer and allow them to sit for a few minutes.  They should still be partially frozen.  Put the bananas in the bowl of a food processor add, the honey, mint, sour cream and process for at least a minute, until the mixture is smooth and creamy ( this is ice cream after all).  Place in a container, cover and freeze for several hours until solidly frozen. 

For the sauce:  Mix the preserves, orange juice and rum together in a bowl until smooth.  Stir in the raisins. 

At serving time scoop some of the ice cream into a bowl and coat with the sauce, garnish with a fresh mint leaf.  Love it!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Friday Night Menu, December 23, 2011, Flounder with Mustard Sauce

I got the new issue of Bon Appetit and as I flipped through I came across a couple pages of "French"...that's all I needed to see...Friday's menu was born.

Roasted Vegetable Tart

This could be French but it wasn't in the French section I was telling you about.  It was on the front cover and looked really good so I gave it a go.  Here it is.

Flounder with Mustard Sauce and Haricots Verts

So the recipe called for Dover Sole but my Whole Foods didn't have that fish so I got what I thought would be a substitute.  It was a good substitute but maybe much thinner because it cooked in half the time the Dover Sole would have. 

Basically you season the fish with salt and using a fine mesh sieve, dust paprika over both sides.  Cook undisturbed in a large non-stick skillet with a Tablespoon of grape seed oil heated in it.  The Dover Sole will take 3-5 minutes on each side but the Flounder takes more like 2 minutes per side.  Remove to a serving dish and serve with the mustard sauce (below).

Mustard Sauce

Bring to a simmer in a small saucepan; 3/4 cup dry white wine, 2 tsp minced shallot, 1 small sprig thyme, 1/2 small bay leaf and 1/4 tsp white wine or tarragon vinegar, transfer the mixture to a medium metal bowl and let cool slightly; meanwhile, simmer 6 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foamy, skim foam from surface and discard, pour clarified butter into a small glass measure cup and keep warm; Whisk 2 large egg yolks, 1/8 tsp paprika and 1 Tbsp water into the wine mixture; set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until ribbons form, about 5 minutes, slowly whisk in butter, whisk constantly for about 2 minutes until it's well blended and fluff; remove from the heat and whisk in 1 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard, season to taste with kosher salt.

Haricots Verts were blanched ahead of time and just heated in butter, then tossed with fresh minced tarragon, parsley, shallot and garlic then seasoned with salt and pepper.

Chocolate Souffles with Chantilly Cream

So Bon Appetit had a recipe for a chocolate souffles but I wanted to follow Julia Child's recipe (just because). 

Chantilly Cream is simply heavy cream that is whipped and it's sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

De-boning a whole chicken

I gave Jeanne a new cookbook for Xmas...Essential Pepin. The book comes with a DVD where Jacques demonstrates various culinary techniques.

As we watched the video clips, one really stuck out...De-boning a whole chicken.  (After a little research on the web) It seems that Jacques has demonstrated this many times on different shows (see below).

Jeanne and I have both tried it now and it is (believe it or not) easier to accomplish than you think!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday Night, Steak with Mustard Butter, December 9, 2011

So if you noticed last week I started to talk about doing "Jeanne and Julia", that is making all the recipes in the Mastering the Art of French Cooking book.  Well I will still do that, but much slower.  In a week in a half I have made about 20 of her recipes, including the two in this weeks Friday Night menu and I have gone through more butter... and cream... and cheese.... and eggs... than you can imagine.  Like we like to say here at our house "everything in moderation", so I can make it all I just don't want to go as fast as I thought I might. 

Anyway this week I did make two recipes in the book the Cauliflower mold with Sauce Mousseline and the Pear and Almond Tart.  I figured between the duck last weekend, the chicken I roasted during the week and fish and salads the other days, we needed some beef.  I decided to go with a couple good steaks for the grill and I thought I would make one of Julia's sauces, instead I went with a Mustard Compound Butter from her book.

Cream Filled Mozzarella with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil

So the cheese is something we discovered a few years ago and we love it.  It's called Burrata Cheese, if you see it buy it.  We had it at a small restaurant in Boston probably 10 years ago and we couldn't believe how good it was for Mozzarella cheese...something was different but we didn't know what.  In making mozzarella the cheese curd is stretched and kneaded until the desired texture and formed into a ball.  For Burrata they do that but before closing it they fill the center with outstretched mozzarella and cream.  When you cut into it the milky, creamy goodness spills out and it is awesome!  I got these medium sized tomatoes on the vine and roasted them for 20 minutes with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic cloves.  When they came out I drizzled on some Balsamic vinegar and fresh basil.  I plated it all with some slices of Baguette.

Steak De Deux Maniers with Mustard Butter

Well everything sounds better in French so I googled..."translate Steak Two Ways from English to French"... and Steak De Deux Maniers is what came up.  Basically I stood at the meat counter at Whole Foods and I picked out a nice bone-in rib eye for Tony (looked freshly cut and perfect) and I didn't want a lot of meat so I picked a tenderloin for me because of it's size.  I was looking for something to go along with the steaks as a sauce in Julia's book and I found this section of compound butters.  I have made compound butters before, its softened butter that you add flavorings to like roasted garlic, herbs, capers, etc... this one was made by mixing a stick of softened butter with 2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard and a couple Tbsp of minced parsley.  You combine the ingredients and place the flavored butter on some plastic wrap and roll it and twist the ends like a sausage and chill it.  When you serve the steak cut off a Tbsp or so and let it melt on top of the steak. 

Cauliflower Mold with Sauce Mousseline

So this was a combination of a starch and vegetable to go with the steak.  It almost was like mashed potato but then again it was a whole head of cauliflower too. 

To make this you butter a 6 cup souffle baking dish and coat it with stale bread crumbs.  Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and put the rack in the lower third of the oven.  In a covered saucepan cook 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions in 1 Tbsp of butter for 10 minutes; scrape the onions into a 3 quart mixing bowl; add salt, pepper, pinch of nutmeg, 1/2 cup of grated Swiss cheese; 2/3 cup of stale white bread crumbs; beat in 5 eggs; heat 1 cup of milk and 4 Tbsp of butter to a boil and slowly pour this mixture into the egg mixture while beating; fold in 1 head or about 3 cups of pureed cooked cauliflower; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and place the baking dish in another baking dish filled half way with boiling water; bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  She gives about 5-6 different options for a sauce to pour around the outside of the cauliflower mold after it's inverted onto a serving dish.  I picked this Sauce Mousseline, it's a hollandaise with whipped cream folded into it.  This is the kind of thing that is in her book that is good but if you are trying to keep your arteries clear it's just not necessary. We thought it tasted very good but the cauliflower mold would have been excellent with out the sauce.

Pear and Almond Tart

So this was really good, high end tasting and not too bad with the fat content.  It's a sugar crust from the book.  I made it in the food processor with the blade attachment.  Here is the recipe...

In the bowl of a food processor add 1 1/3 cup of flour, 5 Tbsp sugar, 1/8 tsp baking powder; add 5 tbsp of chilled butter and 2 Tbsp of chilled shortening and pulse about 10 times or until it looks like grated cheese; add 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp of cold water and 1/2 tsp vanilla; pulse until it comes together to form slightly bigger clumps (it will still look crumbly); if you can grad a bit and squeeze it together and it holds it's shape it's good; Form into a disk and chill for at least an hour; roll it out and fit it into a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom; place a buttered piece of parchment on it and fill with beans of pie weights and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 5-6 minutes, remove the parchment, prick the bottom of the crust and finish baking for another 8-10 minutes more or until the crust gets lightly browned; remove the tart pan and cool on a rack.

Make the Frangipane ahead so it's ready when you are.  To make this Frangipane or almond custard it goes like this...

In an electric mixer add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, gradually add 3/4 cup of sugar until a thick pale ribbon is formed; beat in 1/3 cup flour; beat in 1 cup boiling milk; Pour into a saucepan and over moderate heat whisk reaching all over the bottom of the pan; vigorously beat as it starts to coagulate; lower the heat and beat with a wooden spoon for 2 or 3 minutes to get rid of any raw flour taste; off the heat beat in 3 tbsp of butter, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 tsp almond extract, 1/2 cup almond flour and 2 Tbsp Kirsch liquor.

For the pears she says to combine 2 cups of Bordeaux wine, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar and one cinnamon stick to a boil and add 2 lbs of pears that you have peeled and cut in half and removed the core from; cook until the pears are tender when pierced with a knife (she said 8-10 minutes in simmering liquid but my bosc pears took more like 45 minutes covered); remove the pears from the liquid and drain on a rack; reduce the wine to the thread stage which is at 230 degrees or when it begins to look syrupy and add 1/4 cup of the syrup and 1/4 cup of red currant jelly ( I used apricot) together in a small pan and heat together.

To assemble brush the inside of the tart shell with the syrup and spread in the frangipane then top with the pears in a decorative fashion and brush with more syrup; decorate with some toasted almond slices and your done!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Night Menu, Roast Duck with Orange Sauce, December 2, 2011

The Jeanne and Julia Project...

Julie and Julia came on last week and I watched it. One week later I have now made 8 of her recipes in the "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" book. Well one was just the Bechamel sauce as a component of a dish but of the recipes in the book. Starting on Monday night for dinner I made Gratin of Leeks with Ham, which included Julia's Bechamel Sauce (which has a slightly different ratio of butter to flour and even the milk then I have made from other recipes), the next night was Chicken Breasts rolled in Parmesan and Fresh Bread Crumbs with her Turnips braised in Butter. Two nights ago I made Fish Filet poached in White Wine with Mushrooms, and now I can check off the Roast Duck with Orange Sauce, Peas Braised with Butter and Onions and the Potato Cheese Sticks. The French have a way of making dishes so good! It might be the butter and cream, I don't know...but whatever it is, I like it!

Potato Cheese Sticks

I tasted one of these cheese sticks and couldn't believe was a Cheeze-it!! It was easy to make, but I did have trouble squeezing the mixture out of the pastry bag onto the baking sheet; I have some more of the unbaked dough that I am going to try just spreading it out onto a sheet pan, bake, cut and bake again to get the edges browned. But this is how Julia's recipe goes...
Peel and cut 1/2 lb baking potatoes (about 1 large russet) and boil in salted water until soft; drain and put through a ricer; you should have about 1 cup of potato; stir the potato over moderate heat for 2 or 3 minutes until it forms a light film on the bottom of the pan to dry them out a bit; Beat 2/3 cup of flour into the potato; bit by bit add 1 stick of softened butter; season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste; add 1 egg and beat in; add 1 cup or 4 oz of Swiss cheese. (I seasoned and tasted it before putting in the egg and keeping in mind the cheese would add a saltiness). Julia pipes 2 1/2 inch sticks onto a cookie sheet, using a 1/4 inch fluted pastry tube; bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Roast Duck with Orange Sauce

I started by following her directions for the duck stock and cutting off the excess fat early in the day. I pricked the skin on the back, lower part of the breasts and the thighs like she said. She didn't say to leave it to dry in the refrigerator all day but that's what I did, since you want the skin to be dry to get a nice crust. I found the recipe already typed for me on line (I know it's cheating but I need more time to cook instead of typing).  So basically it's like a whole roasted chicken, but she says to roast breast side up in a 425 degree oven then after 15 minutes turn it down to 350 degrees, then on it's side for 30 minutes, the other side for 30 minutes, then back to breast side up until it's done.  I took the temperature after 1 hour and 20 minutes (she specified that it would take 1 hour and 20 to 1 hour and 40 minutes), and it shot right up to 165 degrees.  She says 165 is too much, the French like their ducks more like 140 degrees, but I thought the temperature was perfect, not dry at all.  The problem was the skin.  If I wasn't trying to follow Julia's recipe exactly (she is the queen in the kitchen), I would have left the temperature up at 425 degrees for a little longer to get the skin crispy more, It looked to me like it needed that heat, but now I know next time more heat or stick to duck pieces that can be pan seared???

Peas Braised with Lettuce and Onions

The duck chapter in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" suggested peas to go with duck.  I flipped through the book and found this recipe.  She suggested you use freshly shelled peas in the spring but here we are in December and so I got a bag of frozen peas, it worked out perfectly.  Here is the way Julia says to do it....

First you cut a head of Boston lettuce into quarters and tie with kitchen twine to make sure they keep their shape, set aside; Bring 6 Tbsp of butter, 1/2 cup of water, 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar,1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper to a boil in a saucepan; add 3 cups of peas and toss to cover in the liquid; bury 8 parsley stems in the midst; arrange the lettuce quarters over them and bast with the liquid; place about 12 green onions with bulbs or small white onions that have been blanched for 5 minutes, over the lettuce and be sure to pierce them with the tip of a knife for even cooking; cover the sauce pan with an inverted lid or bowl and fill the top with ice cubes to create steam, and as the steam condenses it falls back onto the peas; cook for 20 to 30 minutes until the peas are tender; correct seasoning; discard the parsley and lettuce strings; just before serving toss the peas and onions with 2 Tbsp butter; place on a serving platter and arrange the lettuce around and on top of the peas; serve at once.

So it was delicious, but I didn't think the inverted cover with the ice cubes was necessary (for frozen peas anyway), The idea of the lettuce holding it's shape was good but when you take the string off it falls apart anyway, and surprisingly the 20-30 minutes of cooking was good, I thought it would be way too long but I think I ended up cooking them 25 or 30 minutes.

Creme Caramel

This isn't from Julia's book, it's from Jacques Pepin's show called Essential Pepin. I am sure it's very close to Julia's recipe except I didn't heat the half and half. Jacques made it so simply without heating anything just whisking eggs, sugar, vanilla and half and half (he said there was no reason to heat the half and half anymore, that was years ago they did for some reason, but not necessary now-a-days). So caramel stumps me sometimes and I am trying to figure out a full proof caramel. So he did it this way and I followed...Pour 1 cup of sugar into a sauce and dribble in water, just enough to wet all the sugar granules, then let it boil over medium-high heat. After about 5-10 minutes you will see big bubbles appear and you can swirl the pan (before that don't touch the pan or even stir it or it will crystallize), let it get a nice deep golden color then pour out some caramel into a 6 or 7 cup,
round, Pyrex baking dish; enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish. Very carefully and slowly add water (about 4-6 Tbsp) to the caramel that is still in the pan and slowly stir over low heat so it cools to a sauce and doesn't harden. Now you can make the custard. It a large mixing bowl, whisk together
4 eggs

1egg yolk

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup sugar

After whisking for a good 2-3 minutes add and whisk in

3 cups half and half

Pour this mixture over the hardened caramel in the baking dish and place the baking dish into another baking dish that is slightly larger and pour hot water to come half way up the sides of the dish. Put into a 350 degree oven for about an hour ( mine took about 1 hour and 15 minutes). It will still be jiggly and you can test it by putting the tip of a knife half way from the center of the bowl and the outside of the bowl. If it comes out clean it's done (don't put the knife all the way to the bottom or it will break when you un-mold it.

Un-mold onto a dish with a rim and remove the excess liquid and pour thick caramel on top of the custard with the caramel sauce that you made. This was gooooood!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saturday Night Dinner

Tony here again.  Making another guest appearance.  Jeanne was busy with something yesterday so I agreed to make dinner.  And I had a couple ideas.....

Jeanne had challenged me to do some one bite appetizers as part of the meal (mainly because we wanted to use these little app spoons (see salmon app below). I think she may have been just joking, but I thought it would be a fun challenge.

One bite app #1 - Gazpacho Shooter garnished with baby arugula and prosciutto chip
I did a google search on "one bite appetizers" and a slideshow on came up.  Something simlilar to this came up in their list.  It also reminded me that we had something similar at a wine tasting we went to a few years ago at Wentworth by the Sea in Portsmouth, NH.  I really enjoyed it there, so I thought I'd give it a try.  It's really simple, diced fresh tomato, cucumber, roasted red pepper, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, a bit of siracha, salt and pepper.  I put it all in the blender and blended until it was still slightly chunky.  The proscuitto chip was an experiment that worked out perfectly.  I put sliced proscuitto on a cookie sheet and baked it at about 300 degrees for 30 minutes.  It stuck to the pan slightly, but that worked out OK too as when I scraped it off it made the perfect size chips for garnish.  The last piece was just a small sprig of arugula.  The flavor was perfect.  A nice little shot of flavor to start things off.

One bite app #2 - Potato coin with salmon mousse & cucumber garnish
Jeanne is more into seafood lately and salmon has been her favorite.  This is great news for me!  Trying to take it to the next level (or maybe a level lower), I bought some canned salmon.  I remember my mother buying this when I was little.  I didn't like it back then, but I thought it was time to try it again and maybe find a low cost way to enjoy salmon.  For this recipe, I sliced a potato and cut it into "coins" using a ring mold that we had, then browned them in a pan.  I mixed some of the canned salmon with goat cheese, marscapone cheese, lemon juice, cilantro, salt, pepper and a bit of cayenne.  I assembled them on the little app spoons with a small piece of cucumber as a garnish.  I had the same reaction as Jeanne did.  The first bite was a bit fishy (from the canned salmon), but the next bites were fine.  The lemon juice and cayenne cut the fishy taste nicely.

Grilled swordfish with bernaise.  Served with sauteed baby kale and roasted golden beets
Jeanne had been talking about trying more of the "classic" sauces and we recently caught an old episode of the French Chef where Julia makes hollandaise and bernaise.  I jumped in and tried bernaise before she could!

The bernaise was easier to make than you would think.  I originally learned to make this way back in our Quidnessett Country Club days.  Credit to my chef mentor Rob V!  A bernaise is an emulsion!  In a nutshell you reduce vinegar, wine, tarragon and shallots.  You then add that mixture to egg yolks and beat over low heat while you add butter.  The result is a sauce that goes great with meat, fish, poultry, just about anything.  The swordfish, beets and baby kale were the freshest looking items at Whole Foods yesterday morning.  All were tremendous!

Jeanne's Apple Tart
Jeanne agreed to make dessert.  And she didn't disapoint with her Apple tart that was inspired by a visit to Alforno's many year's ago.  She served it with vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream.  Perfect combo.  Photo shows the tart ready to go into the oven.....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday Night Dinner, Pork Chops grilled over Applewood, November 18,2011

I tried to think of a good fall menu for the Friday before Thanksgiving.  Pork chops came to mind, pumpkin ravioli, apples and a different squash that I stumbled upon in the grocery store called "Carnival Squash". 

Pumpkin, Mascarpone and Vanilla Bean Ravioli with Sage Pesto Cream Sauce

So I made this up and didn't measure anything.  I had this can of organic pumpkin I bought one day sitting in the cabinet and decided to use it for this dish.  I combined about 1/2 the can, about 4 oz of mascarpone cheese, the seeds of a vanilla bean, salt, pepper, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, Parmesan cheese, chopped pine nuts and a couple handfuls of almond flour.  Tasting as I go to see if it needs more of this or that.  I added the almond flour because it was too thin for stuffing ravioli and I thought the almond flour would thicken it and it did.  I mixed in 2 egg yolks for richness and to help bind the mixture.  I made the pasta dough using just OO flour and 2 eggs.  I kneaded the dough for about 10-12 minutes to ensure silky pasta and let it sit until I was ready to roll it out and fill it.  I got a pot of water boiling and rolled out the pasta; drop by tablespoons full of the filling on one sheet of pasta dough and cover with another sheet of pasta dough pressing down around the filling; I used a cookie cutter to cut out circles around the filling; make sure they are tightly sealed and drop into the boiling water; cook about 3-4 minutes and remove to a pan with a couple tablespoons of butter melted with a couple sprigs of fresh sage; Cook the ravioli in the butter for a couple minutes; grate some Parmesan cheese over and plate.  I made some sage pesto using a combination of sage and parsley I combined it in the food processor with garlic, the herbs, salt, pepper, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil.  I heated this pesto and mixed in some heavy cream to make it a cream sauce and spooned it over and around the ravioli.  I topped with a sprinkling of pea tendrils.  I loved the pine nuts in the ravioli, it added a nice texture to the otherwise soft pillow-like ravioli.  Tony wasn't sure the pesto went with the sweetness of the ravioli filling.  We will have to taste it again at lunch and see if we still think that.

Pork Chop Grilled over Apple wood

Simply just how it sounds Tony got the charcoal ready by adding some soaked apple wood to the embers and he did the grilling.  I prepared them with a good sprinkling of kosher salt and roughly ground black pepper and olive oil.  They were very nicely done.

Roasted Carnival Squash with Garlic and Apple

I thought I would roast this different squash and mix it with roasted apple and garlic and that's what I did.  I cut the squash in quarters, sprinkled on salt, pepper and olive oil.  On two of the quarters I added maple syrup.  After 40 minutes at 400 degrees they were roasted.  I removed them and roasted the apples chopped into 1 inch dice with lemon juice, cinnamon and butter.  I also separated some garlic cloves leaving the skin on and drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them at the same time but separate from each other.  After about 30 minutes they were done.  I spooned all the flesh out of the skins of the squash and put it into a baking dish, added the apples and squeezed the caramelized garlic out of the skins and lightly mixed the three ingredients.  Top these ingredients with a couple pieces of butter and just before eating I put it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Yum!

Sauteed Baby Kale with Shallots

This was the biggest surprise of all.  I found these baby kale at Whole Foods and figured I would saute them.  I heated butter and olive oil then added sliced shallots, after just a couple minutes I added the kale and a sprinkling of dried cranberries.  From start to finish they took 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, they were sooooo goooooood!!

Creme Brulee with Fresh Berries

I have made creme brulee many times, but not lately, and it was so good!  To make 8, 4 oz ramekin servings heat in a small saucepan 3 cups heavy cream, 1 vanilla bean and the zest of an orange; bring to a simmer and remove from the heat; cover and let steep for 5 minutes; meanwhile whisk 6 large egg yolks and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when dropped from the whisk back into the bowl; slowly incorporate the heavy cream mixture into the egg mixture while constantly whisking; strain the custard and pour into the ramekins and place the ramekins in a shallow pan lined with a kitchen towel; pour hot water in the pan to come half way up the sides of the ramekins; bake in a 350 oven for 30-35 minutes; remove the ramekins from the hot water and let cool slightly; chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours; sprinkle on a thin layer of brown sugar and use a kitchen blow torch to caramelize the sugar; let sugar harden for about 3-4 minutes then serve with or with out fresh berries.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Night Bites #14, November 11, 2011

I have missed a few weeks of blogging. It's been busy but we are back from vacation and I am ready to cook.  I thought it would be nice to do "bites" this time. 

Goat Cheese, Mango Salsa and Sweet Soy Syrup with Flat bread Crisps

This idea came from Tommy Bahama restaurant in Naples Florida.  We order this every time we go and I thought I'd try to recreate it.  So I formed some softened goat cheese in a small bowl I have just to make it look like it does at the restaurant, I did that earlier in the day and just put it in the refrigerator.  I made a mango salsa by combining finely diced mango, lime juice to taste, salt, chopped scallions, diced red bell pepper and fresh cilantro.  The salsa is a no recipe, recipe, it's all about tasting as you go to see if it needs more salt or lime or whatever.  I made a soy syrup by combining 1/2 cup of soy sauce and 1/4 cup of sugar and cooked it over medium heat until it started to thicken and the sugar dissolved.  The "flat bread crackers" they serve at the restaurant looked a lot like the Lavash flat bread wraps, that are cut into rectangles and toasted in the oven, and that's just what I did.  I heated the oven to 375 degrees, cut and sprayed the flat bread with Pam and it took about 6 minutes for them to get lightly browned.  Cool on wire racks and they were perfect.  Tony was very impressed and it tasted like we were back in Naples, so we were very happy with this.

Mung Bean Pancakes with Scallion Dipping Sauce

We were watching a new show called Kimchi Chronicles with husband an wife team Marja and Jean George Vongerichten, and this recipe that Marja was making was so crazy and unusual, I had to try it.  First I needed kimchi which is fermented cabbage.  I planned on buying the kimchi already made but the store I went to didn't have any, so I decided to make it myself and got a head of cabbage.  After coming home and looking for a recipe, I noticed that all the recipes called for Napa cabbage and I got regular green cabbage.  I can imagine the the Napa is better because it's thinner but I didn't want to bother with getting another cabbage, I just used what I had.  I found this fast kimchi recipe (usually it needs to sit for weeks, but this one would be ready in just a few hours) by Tyler Florence.  I made it and allowed it to sit for 2 days.  I soaked the mung beans for 24 hours and here is the recipe for the pancakes.  I was worried as I made it that it would taste too healthy but really with the dipping sauce it was healthy and very delicious.  It reminded me of pot stickers while eating it, mostly because of the soy dipping sauce but the texture too.

Roasted Artichoke Hearts Filled with Chanterelle Duxelles and Served with a Spicy "Pork Sausage Steak"

I got these artichoke hearts packed in water one day at Trader Joe's and I loved how the stem was long and I imagined I would fill them with something, and today was the day.  I made duxelles by sauteing shallots in butter and then adding finely chopped chanterelle's.  Cook until the mushrooms are slightly browned then add a pinch of salt and a spash of Madeira wine.  Cook out the wine and remove from the heat.  I added some fresh parsley chopped fine.  I dried the artichoke hearts well, cut them in half lengthwise and removed some of the center so I would have a place for the duxelles.  Fill each half as much as you can and top with Panko that's been moistened with olive oil.  Bake in a 400 degree oven until toasty and they start to smell good which takes about 10-14 minutes.  For the sausage I first simmered it in water over medium low heat for about 10 minutes just so I can easily cut it in half, remove the skin and sear it like a steak.  I just browned the sausage in a skillet and served it with some watercress, the roasted artichokes, some sauteed chanterelle's and some homemade lemon aioli.  This was very good. 

Fresh Fruit and Berry Sorbet with Balsamic Syrup and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

I have been looking for fresh passion fruit and I found some the other day.  I wasn't sure what to make for dessert tonight and I figured I would use this passion fruit.  After a few different ideas I realized I would have to remove the seeds because they were too hard and that left me with a juice.  I came up with a sorbet, but I didn't have enough to make a cup of juice, which is what I would need for the recipe.  So I had some blueberries and raspberries in the refrigerator and decided to go with a trio of fruit and berries.  I melted I cup of sugar in 2 cups of water on the stove top then let that cool.  To the cooled sugar syrup add the cup of fruit and berry juice, chill and freeze in an ice cream maker.  What do you serve with sorbet????  I had to have something with it, and I came up with a balsamic syrup (like the chocolate sauce you would have on ice cream).  I didn't measure but I probably poured 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of balsamic into a small sauce pan and added about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of sugar and cooked it until it starts to thicken.  I chilled the sauce until I was ready to serve.  I also had and idea for a cookie and this rosemary shortbread cookie idea popped into my head.  I remembered Mario Batali talking about this rosemary shortbread cookie one time and I have always been curious.  So I found this recipe on line and made it.  Wow, I wasn't sure all these would be perfect together, I hate to toot my own horn, but it's a match made in heaven!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Real, sour pickles

Tony here.....This was a spur of the moment decision.  I was flipping through my copy of Charcuterie to find the next cured meat project that I wanted to tackle and came across this simple recipe.

The best way to describe it is real, sour pickles.  Or as titled in the book, "The Natural Pickle".  It reminds me of going to this old butcher shop on Rt. 18 in Abington, MA with my mother (can't remember the name of the place).  They had large open barrels of this type of natural, cucumber pickels.

Essentially, you take fresh veggies, soak them in a salt, spice and water mixture for 7 days (at room temperature) then store them in the fridge.  That's it.  The book leaves the choice of vegetables, spices and other flavorings to the reader.  I went with what we had at the time which was:
  • Zuccini, sliced into rounds
  • Baby carrots
  • Pickling spice
  • 2 dried chile peppers
  • Black peppercorns
  • 3 garlic cloves lightly crushed
The results were great.  Nice mild sour pickle taste.  The heat from the peppers was just right.  However, too much garlic.  There must be something about the fermentation that accentuates the garlic flavor.  Next time one clove, if that.  And I need to try some traditional cucumber pickles!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Friday Night, Cider Glazed Turkey Breast with Lager Gravy

The best part about Friday Night Dinner is Saturday Afternoon Lunch!  You get a fantastic lunch and you are revived from a good night sleep, and sometimes I even think things taste better after sitting in the refrigerator over night.  This week I ended up doing a Thanksgiving feast (basically).  I received the new Food and Wine magazine in the mail and there was a section of recipes by Michael Symon and it turns out I made all his recipes except for the appetizer, which I found in the same magazine.  I didn't make a whole Turkey, I just made the turkey breast so I had to modify the recipe a little bit.

Whipped Feta with Cucumbers

There is more to this than it sounds.  It's got feta, cream cheese, heavy cream, olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings.  I liked the cucumbers marinated in lemon and oregano too.  I had the option of serving this combination on French Baguette slices or pita tri-angles, since I tend to use the baguette I went with the pita, which was very good.  I liked this appetizer because the cucumbers kept it light, I didn't feel like I was over eating before the big dinner I was about to eat.  Here is the recipe.

Cider Glazed Turkey Breast with Lager Gravy

I kind-of, sort-of followed Michael Symon's turkey recipe.  I couldn't completely follow it because he was using the whole bird and I had just the breast.  The cooking time was much less and I didn't have the giblets, neck and wing tips he uses to make the gravy.  He salts his bird the night before and wraps it with plastic wrap.  He lets it sit overnight then makes a butter, sage and cider mixture and soaks cheese cloth in it then covers the breast meat with it.  I did that and it looks beautiful with the cheese cloth on and I put some pretty sage leaves under it, it looked nice and brown...but the skin was flabby and not at all something I wanted to eat (Tony had no problem though).  I can only assume that the longer cooking time a whole bird takes would give better results.  I cooked my breast at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.  After 45 minutes I added a splash of water to the bottom of the pan.  For the gravy I reduced about a cup of (low sodium always)chicken stock to about 1/4 cup, just to help with flavor and to kind-of make up for the absent turkey neck, giblets and wing tips (I think it helped).  I followed Micheal Symon's recipe but only did about half of the recipe and I let it simmer for an hour and a half like he suggests.

Butternut Squash and Corn Bread Stuffing Muffins

We loved this recipe and loved the idea of putting it in muffin tins, we will be doing this for Thanksgiving this year for our family.  The butternut squash is roasted until soft then added to a food processor with eggs, a little sugar, chicken stock, salt and pepper and processed until smooth.  This is combined with some cubed and lightly toasted corn bread and a mixture of other flavors; onion, celery, garlic, sage and bacon.  Here is the recipe.

Swiss Chard and Leek Gratin

This was also very delicious.  Any time you add bechemel cream sauce to anything it automatically tastes sinful, and basically that's what you make for this dish.  It's Swiss chard that's pre cooked and squeezed dry and chopped.  In a skillet you cook some leeks and seasonings.  In another pan you make the cream sauce and then combine them all together in a baking dish.  I put mine in the refrigerator for a few hours then baked it just before dinner.  This was so good and very rich.  Here is how you make it!!

Apple Brown Betty

I saw this and said "what is an apple brown betty"??  I had no idea so without even thinking about it I decided to make this.  It turns out, in case you didn't know either, that it's a combination of a bread pudding (without the milk-ey custard), and an apple crisp.  You get brioche or challah bread and toast cubes of it in the oven then pulse in a food processor.  You combine sugar with orange and lemon zests, cinnamon and nutmeg.  You slice Granny Smith apples thinly ( I used my Japanese mandalyne).   Combine some apple cider with lemon and orange juices.  You layer the bread crumbs, the apples and the sugar and drizzle on the cider mixture.  Then more bread crumbs, apples sugar and apples and breadcrumbs, like a lasagna.  It's very flavorful with the zest and quite good with homemade vanilla ice cream.  Here is the Apple Brown Betty recipe.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday Night, Lamb Navarin, October 7, 2011

I got a new cookbook!  A friend of mine gave it to me last week and I knew immediately I would be making something from it for this weeks Friday Night Menu.  It's a French cookbook called French Feasts by Stephane Reynaud.  When I first looked through it I thought, I like it because it's straight to the point; no over-explaining, not really a good book for a new cook though.  I picked out an appetizer, a main dish and a dessert and got all the ingredients the day before.  I wanted to run some errands on Friday before starting to cook so I looked at the amount of time each recipe would take and it said the tart appetizer would take 20 minutes, the main dish would take 45 minutes ( with a 1 hour and 45 minutes cooking time) and the dessert (which was the biggest lie of all) would take 30 minutes.  So I hate making all new recipes for Friday night and being rushed (that's no fun).  I figured as long as I am home by 1:00-2:00 that would be plenty of time, well I got home at 2:00 and started the dessert...3 hours later I was finishing it up!!  So the 30 minutes estimated time they gave was a little off!!  The tart was pretty accurate I guess, but the cooking time on the lamb was off by about an hour!!  This cookbook reminds me to follow my own instincts, because I thought those times were off, and seasoning was all done at the end and I usually like to season as I go, next time I'll know...

Provencal Vegetable Tart

Store bought puff pastry is great stuff.  Take it out of the freezer and out of it's package and let it sit on the counter for an hour.  While it's defrosting make the filling.

9 oz puff pastry
6 cherry tomatoes
6 sun dried tomatoes in oil
1 zucchini, diced
1 small eggplant,diced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 big handful of fresh basil
10 black French olives
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a skillet on the stove top over medium-high heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil in it and add the onion, zucchini and eggplant.  Saute the vegetables with a pinch of salt for 5-8 minutes so they are cooked but still left al dente.

Pick the basil leaves and dress them with olive oil, set aside.  Remove the pits from the olives and have ready.

Roll out the pastry dough slightly and prick with a fork.  Place onto a cookie sheet.  Arrange the vegetables, basil, both tomatoes and the olives into the center of the tart, leaving about 1/2 inch boarder around the outside.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

This combination of flavors was great with the crispy puff pastry.

Lamb Navarin 

Tony has been suggesting lamb lately so I thought this recipe looked good and something different with the heavy cream added to it.  The recipe was for 6 people and called for 2 lbs 11 oz of boned lamb shoulder.  I like to have leftovers for the next day but that's it so I got a pound of lamb, which was perfect.  I will give you the amounts that I used which was enough for 4 servings. 

1 lb of boned lamb shoulder cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
bouquet garni (parsley stems, thyme and a bay leaf tied together with butchers twine)
1 leek
16-20 baby peeled carrots
4 scallion
a good handful of snow peas
a good handful of frozen edamame soybeans
2 Roma tomatoes
1 scant Tbsp of flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup white wine
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and butter.  Once the butter is melted add the lamb and season with salt and pepper.  Brown the lamb on all sides.  Once the lamb is browned add the leek and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the flour and cook and stir for about 5 minutes.  De glaze with the wine, scraping up all the brown bits at the bottom of the pan and let the liquid evaporate completely.  Pour enough water on the lamb to cover it by an inch and add the bouquet garni, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer (the recipe doesn't say to cover but I partially covered mine but think that if I covered it tightly it may not have taken the extra hour that I talked about above).  Stir in the heavy cream and simmer for an additional 30 minutes ( mine wasnt' tender and I let it cook another hour at this point).  While the stew cooks you can cook the other vegetables.  In a saucepan filled with salted boiling water cook the vegetables separately starting with the carrots for 20 minutes, then remove the carrots to a bowl and add the scallions and boil for 15 minutes, then remove them and add the snow peas for 5 minutes, the edamame for a few minutes.  Cut an X at the base of the tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water for 10 seconds or so then into ice water, you should be able to peel the skin right off, if it's not coming off add the tomatoes back into the boiling water for a few more seconds until you can easily remove the skins.  Cut the skinless tomatoes into a dice and add to the vegetable bowl.  When the lamb is tender add the cooked vegetables and heat through for about 5 minutes and check for seasoning.  I served a French boule along side that I heated in the oven.   

Opera (Layered Cake)

Apparently the way the French say layered cake is Opera, my new book has both French and English pronunciations.  This cake has 4 different components; the biscuit layer, the ganache layer, the coffee cream layer and the topping.  For the biscuit layer you will need

5 eggs
5 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Beat the 5 whole eggs with the sugar until the mixture is pale and thick.  Incorporate the flour and ground almonds. 

Beat the egg whites into peaks and gently fold them into the egg and almond mixture using a rubber spatula.

Spread the mixture over a *baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about **10 minutes. Allow to cool.  *The recipe didn't say what size pan but I used a 1/2 sheet pan which is about 17X12X1 inches.  **I took the cake out of the oven and after a few minutes realized it needed more time so I put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes and it was perfect. 

For the ganache

9 oz bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler; then add the milk and cream, mix well.

For the coffee cream

1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups butter
a few drops of coffee extract
2 egg yolks

Cook* the sugar to the "soft ball stage"; dip the tines of a fork into the sugar and dip the fork into cold water and when a soft ball forms on the end of the fork then stop the cooking process. Whisk the egg yolks until pale yellow and carefully incorporate the sugar syrup.

Allow to cool and then add the softened butter (add the butter slowly whisking after each tablespoon) and coffee extract.

* To cook sugar just add the sugar and about 1-2 tbsp of water to the sugar to get it going; heat over medium heat brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water so no ice crystals form.  You want the sugar to dissolve before it starts to simmer.

For the topping

4.5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
slightly over 1/3 cup of heavy cream ( of half of 3/4 cup, because I made half of this recipe)
3/4 Tbsp butter

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler with the butter and add the cream.  Whisk until smooth. 

Cut the biscuit into three identical rectangles.

Assemble the cakes by layers, alternating biscuit, coffee cream, biscuit, ganache, biscuit and then topping.  If any of the layers seems too soft and runny just chill until the desired consistency being careful not to over-chill or the chocolate (especially) will become a solid mass.  I happened to have chocolate covered espresso beans so I decorated some beans down the center while the topping was still soft.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hopedale Oktoberfest, October 1,2011

This year we had the opportunity to have a booth at the Hopedale Oktoberfest!  Tony, John, Lisa and I decided to team up and do our specialties.  Tony and John with their pulled pork sandwiches and Lisa and I with big cookies!! 



Here are some pictures we took along the way...

Five of the ten pork butts before getting flavors injected and rubbed on them

Tony beginning with injecting each butt
John rubbing each butt with just the right flavors
Moments before going into the smoker

Tony fit 8 pork butts on his smoker, they smoked for 16 hours and here they are just before pulling them apart...

Here is the end result on display (Lisa's great idea) people could see exactly what they were getting and they loved it!

Big cookies right out of the oven.

Lisa working on packaging each cookie and a pretty blue ribbon
Cookies as far as the eyes can see...

Here is how they were displayed on the table and they were a big hit, we sold 180 of our 200 made.

Please leave a comment if you tried our cookies or pulled pork.  We already heard a lot of complements and would love to hear more!!!!