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!!!!