Thursday, December 30, 2010

Been An Angel All Year...

Well not quite an angel, but Santa (erm, my parents, Ryan and friend L) certainly hurried down the chimney with lots of kitchen goodies.

1. & 2. Reusable sandwich and snack bags - no more using up ziplocs at an alarming rate, these cute little bags will keep my lunch together and do the environment some favors in the process.

3. A three piece glass food storage set, because even though I have BPA free plastic, it's still plastic and eventually they're going to find out that plastic turns you into a newt or something.

4. A tiny dish for my salt and pepper mills to sit on so they don't shed salty and peppery bits all over my counter.

5. Itty bitty portable utensil set, so I can stop eating with a spork. Because the cafeteria only gives out sporks.

6. Nigella Express - you've already benefitted from her cheddar risotto, just think of all the other delicious recipes!

7. New candy thermometer (so meat thermometers no longer need to be inserted in white chocolate).

8. A second silpat mat! I can actually prepare a second batch of cookies while the first is still baking! More cookies! More cookies!

9. Everyday French Cooking by Christian Constant. I have been kicking myself for not buying this ever since Ryan and I left Paris (a few years ago?) We loved our meal at Cafe Constant, particularly the duck (which sadly isn't in the cookbook). It is not for the faint of heart though, it has a somewhat unthinkable number of foie gras recipes.

10. Digital meat thermometer - my current meat thermometer and I often have differences of opinion. I'm hoping I get along better with this one.

11. Empanada maker - this sucker is sweet! You use the bottom to cut your circle of dough, stick the circle on top, drop in some filling, and smoooooosh! Empanadas. Turnovers. Handpies.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post-Blizzard Blues

You should have been here Sunday. We were still camped out at my parents' house following Christmas festivities. I spent the morning warning my family about impending snow. They spent the morning ignoring me. By mid afternoon I was dashing between the windows crying "BLEEEEEZZARD, BLEEEEEEZZARD" and singing "Let it Snow." Everyone else was looking at me like I was crazy, but I was in heaven. Sadly, all good blizzards must come to an end, and this one meant a drive home to Philly and parking in a lovely gray slush drift. The only way to stave off a post-blizzard mood crash is to have some comfort food for dinner, and this definitely worked. I found the recipe in my Christmas loot - Nigella Express.

adapted slightly from Nigella Express

1 T butter
1 leek, pale green and white parts only, minced and rinsed to be free of grit
1 1/2 C arborio rice
1/4 C dry vermouth
1/2 T dijon mustard
4-5 C veggie stock (Nigella said 4 C, I ended up using an extra C of water to make the risotto, because it wasn't soft enough with just the 4 C).
1 C grated cheddar cheese
4 pieces bacon (for garnish)

gluten-free note: Vermouth should be gf, but feel free to substitute white wine if you're more comfortable with that or even stock. Check your mustard labeling.

Put the butter and leek in a large pan with high sides. In a pot next to it, heat up the stock. Melt the butter and cook the leek 2-3 minutes until softened. Watch closely so it doesn't burn. Add the arborio rice and cook another 2 minutes or so, turning frequently so the rice gets coated in butter and toasts a bit. Then increase the heat and add the vermouth. Allow it to cook off, add the mustard. Add the warm stock about a ladleful at a time. Stir the risotto after you add the stock until it is mostly absorbed (I wait until I can pull a spoon through the risotto without having liquid fill up the track I've made). Then add another ladleful or two. Keep doing this until the stock is gone and the rice is soft (not mushy) but still has some texture. It should take about 18-20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your bacon and toss it in a hot frying pan. Give it about five minutes to crisp up. Put on a paper towel to drain and set aside. When the risotto is soft enough, add the cheddar and stir. I used a nice sharp cheddar and was amazed at how cheesy the risotto tasted. I think the salt from the stock and the cheese worked beautifully together to sort of extend the cheese flavor. It was like macaroni and cheese, but with risotto not pasta. So tasty. I tossed the bacon on top and yum!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

All right, already!!

Last night at 10:54pm my mother received an e-mail from a friend asking for this recipe. It's my fault really. Last weekend Ryan and I went to my parents' house and had dinner with them and their friends. The pot roast was heaven, but the big winner of the night was this roast vegetable dish. I waited a whole two days before I made it again for us. And I had promised to blog it, but then the time just got away from me. So in order to stave off any other Christmas crises, here's the recipe.

from my mom
Serves 4 as a side dish
Cooking time: 1 hr

1/8 C olive oil
1 t salt
5 carrots
3 tennis ball sized turnips
1 smallish bulb fennel


Get out a small roasting pan, and preheat your oven to 425F. Peel the carrots and cut off the tips (top and bottom). Cut the bottom half off your carrots and cut that in halves lengthwise. Then cut the tops in half lengthwise and then again lengthwise. Next cut the fennel. Take off the furry fronds and the end of the bottom. Then chop into half inch strips. Put the carrots and the fennel in the roasting pan together. Finally, peel your turnips and cut off any icky ends. Chop them in half and then in pieces that are of uniform size, and about the same size as your carrot sticks. Add the 1/8 C of olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss well until everything is coated. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Then toss gently to give everything a chance to be in the best roasting spots. Cook for another 30 minutes, but check every 10 minutes or so to make sure things aren't burning. The fennel especially can burn if it you cut it too small. The carrots cooked the most slowly for me. If they're really not cooking at an even pace, you can always pull out the fennel pieces and put them back in for the last few to heat up again. You shouldn't need to do this, just giving advice should things go very wrong. If you cut things in pieces of the same size to start you really should be okay. At the end, taste for salt and pepper, add more as needed. Serve and wait a few days. See if you get demanding late night e-mails looking for the recipe. Breathe easily and send them a link here, I'm already on it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scenes from the Kitchen

Tuesday, December 14 - time undetermined: Focaccia runs out.

Friday, December 17 - 10 pm: Last of four dozen gingerbread cookies leave the oven.

Saturday, December 18 - 7:30 am: The gingerbread army starts receiving their royal icing.

Saturday, December 18 - 2:40 pm: Tupperware full of gingerbread plumets from the car dash onto the seat. Casualties are reported.

Sunday, December 19 - 9:45 am: The first of almost 150 pizzelles comes off the pizzelle iron.

Sunday, December 19 - 1:10 pm: The last of nearly 150 pizzelles comes off the pizzelle iron. Celebratory quiche is consumed.

Tuesday, December 21 - 6:50 pm: Almond bark goes into the fridge to cool.

Tuesday, December 21 - 10:25 pm: Candy thermometer stops working while I'm melting the white chocolate for peppermint bark.

Tuesday, December 21 - 10:26 pm Meat thermometer pressed into service for emergency candy duty.

Tuesday, December 22 - 10:38 pmCandy cane dust encrusts hands, counters, rolling pin.

Tuesday, December 22 - 11:28pm Exhaustion wins.

What does it look like in your kitchen these days? Mayhem? A Merry Martha Christmas? Moderately Messy? Something else entirely devoid of "M"s?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Make the Focaccia!

I'm going to go ahead and assume you're not like me. That you have a whirlwind of holiday parties to attend, a beautifully decorated house, profusions of gifts already purchased, wrapped and tucked under the tree and are simply relaxing by the fire sipping something decadent and doodling menu plans on your personalized stationery. Good for you. Clearly, all you need is an easy, impressive recipe to bring to your potluck parties, or add to your already high-end gourmet spread.

Of course if you are like me, and haven't started shopping, haven't heard even one carol that was not some crappy new-age elevator music rendition, are avoiding the only party you've been invited to, you probably need some carbohydrates to help you eat away Scrooge-y feeling burning inside your two-sizes too small grinchy heart.

Either way, this focaccia will make your season bright. Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial is an absolute whiz with breads and this one tempted me the moment I spied it on her blog. It did not disappoint. In fact, I made it Saturday and there is naught but a tiny corner left. I've altered her recipe only to account for the fact that I lack sea salt and bread flour and to give you the proportions of fillings I used. But feel free to experiment, I believe Celia would say that was the spirit of the thing in the first place! If you're going upscale you might want to use marinated artichokes and some kalamata olives. If you're eating away stress like me, seriously go with provolone and pepperoni - it's like a portable pizza. There are more delicious ideas for fillings on Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, so make sure to click the recipe link!

adapted from filled focaccia for a less impressive kitchen.

3 1/3 C flour (I used all-purpose, Celia says bread flour)
1 packet dried yeast
1 tsp table salt
1 1/3 C water
3 T + 1 t olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1/3 lb provolone chopped
1/2 C chopped turkey pepperoni
I absolutely would use more filling next time!

Combine flour, salt and yeast, then add liquids, mix. Then chop up all the goodies you plan on putting inside and add them. Blend gently. Then cover with wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. See? Sitting:

Knead gently. Do this in the bowl to keep stuff from flying off everywhere. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Pat out onto a normal sized cookie sheet covered in silpat or parchment. Let sit for 20 minutes again covered. At this point Celia recommends preheating your oven to maximum. My crappy but old school oven has a max well over 550F. I turned to 525F and smoke was coming out. Don't do that. 500 is about the best I can do with an intervention from a fan so that might have to be that.Poke holes in it with your fingers like so:

Lower the oven temperature to 425F and bake for 25 minutes. Celia advises rotating it once but I totally forgot and had no ill effects. Pretty no?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Monkeying With Tradition

Those of you who know me well know that I don't like to mess with tradition, particularly around Christmastime, but desperate times call for desperate measures. You see, Christmas has always meant a pork pie. My nana has always had a pork pie. Like any good French-Canadian, her mother used to make them for Christmas Eve. Of course, Nana Grenon wasn't much for a recipe, so she showed my grandmother what to do. I tried to write that recipe up last year, but there were too many variables. You see, in my family, a pork pie recipe works a bit like this: grind up some leftover pork with some onions, mix some salt and pepper and poultry seasoning with mashed potatoes, toss it all together with leftover pork gravy and tuck between two pie crusts. How much? How wet? How fluffy? The answer to all three is enough, which isn't exactly helpful for recipe writing.

But this year Nana had a bit of a challenge for me. She needs a pork pie recipe without pork so that her holiday guests can share in her favorite holiday meal. I'd needed to improvise one some time ago since Ryan doesn't eat pork. And so here I am, the ultimate traditionalist, monkeying with tradition.

You'll have to bear with me a bit for this recipe. It's really for my Nana, but I'm sharing it with you. I know that there are parts where she'll be thinking "I know that!" or "That's not how I'd do it!" So Nana, you're probably right, do what you think is best! And there are parts where you'll be wishing I gave better instructions, but I'm afraid it can't be helped. I did my best.

This amount of filling makes a slightly scant 9" pie. I don't want to be guessing at proportions which is what I'd be doing if I wanted to make it more stuffed.

Using up Thanksgiving leftovers? No problem. Get 12 oz of cooked turkey instead of the raw. You'll need to grind it up using your meat grinder.

1 recipe dough
12 oz ground turkey - preferably a high ratio of fat, so 93% fat free if you can get it. 99% fat free will taste like cardboard. Also as this is not a whole package of ground turkey, you can use the rest for something else, white turkey chili would be great.
2 C mashed potatoes
1/2 a large onion chopped - this was about a cup for me
2 garlic cloves chopped
2-3 tablespoons butter
approximately a 1/4 C of homemade turkey gravy
salt and pepper
6 leaves fresh sage (Nana - I have these in the house, you can use poultry seasoning to taste if you prefer!)

Make the dough and put it in the fridge. In a large pan, melt a tablespoon of butter and add the garlic and onions and a small pinch of salt. Saute for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add the ground turkey and brown over medium heat, using your spoon to break apart the meat until crumbly. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus the well minced sage leaves. Thanksgiving leftover version - still cook those garlic and onions, but mix it in with your meat grinder turkey. Then mix it with the potatoes by hand, skip the food processing step below.

Now Nana usually combines the ground meat and the potatoes by hand, but I did it in my food processor. Don't over process because you don't want a paste, but make sure the mashed potatoes and turkey don't have any big chunks left. Working with warm or room temperature potatoes helps matters. The resulting mixture should be sort of fluffy and crumbly but should smoosh together if you press it. See below:

Moisten with a 1/4 C of turkey gravy. You don't want this too wet, just moist and flavorful. If it's too dry (a real problem especially if you started with dry mashed potatoes) use more gravy or some chicken stock in a pinch. Taste this. You have to. Add more salt and pepper as needed, clearly how much you add depends on how seasoned your potatoes, gravy and turkey were to begin with. Don't worry if it feels like you're adding a lot of salt. Anything that's made primarily from a mild flavored meat and potatoes needs salt.

Preheat the oven to 325 F (Nana cook this however you would normally, if you don't use 325/45 minutes tell me and I'll fix it in this recipe!).

Roll out the bottom crust and place in your pie plate. Fill with the turkey and potato mixture. Top with another tablespoon or so of butter, pinched off.

Then roll out the top crust, add the top, pinch the sides closed, cut slits in the top and bake for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden and the pie is warm.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gingered Cranberry Sauce

My mother-in-law is an incredibly lovely woman. This year she welcomed my family to her beautiful home for Thanksgiving. Since Ryan and I weren't arriving until the night before, she asked for a shopping list so that she could get the ingredients we needed for our Thanksgiving cooking. I dashed off an e-mail. She went to the store. The end result was that we had both whole cloves and fresh ginger in the house, but not the ground cloves or ground ginger that we needed for the pumpkin pie. I felt terrible because I hadn't said to get ground cloves and ground ginger, I just wrote cloves and ginger. My mother-in-law felt terrible because she hadn't known that I meant ground ginger and ground cloves. Then on Thanksgiving morning as we were wallowing in our respective guilt, she mentioned that she'd picked up a couple of bags of cranberries that she thought might be turned into sauce. A teensy tinesy little light went on in my head as I remember a friend of mine passing along a recipe for gingered cranberry sauce. I ran to the computer and in a true stroke of kismet learned that the recipe called not only for fresh ginger, but also whole cloves. I felt better. My mother-in-law felt better. And thankfully, the cranberry sauce was good. Delicious even. I may have been eating it straight out of the pot. And later out of the tupperware. But we won't discuss that. This is about heart-warming family moments at the holidays not dirty little secrets.

adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Below is a doubled version of the recipe because we made a lot of sauce. But when do you make sauce except at Thanksgiving? And don't you usually have a lot of people there?

2 12 oz bags of cranberries
1 1/4 C sugar
1 1/2 C water
2" plump knob of ginger minced
8 whole cloves
juice of a clementine (the original recipe calls for zest of 2 oranges, but we only had clementines and they don't zest well, at least not with a box grater)

DIRECTIONS: Put your cranberries in a colander and rinse them. Go over them carefully and pull out any mookie ones (squished, white). Also pull off any remaining stems. Put in a saucepan with the sugar, water, ginger, cloves and clementine. Heat to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cook until the berries pop. I found this to be incredibly forgiving, I just let it cook while I was doing other things and stopped it when it looked saucey enough. If you don't want any chunks you could puree or strain this, but I liked it the way it was. Refrigerate before serving if you like it cold.


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