November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Caramel Cake

This month, the Daring Bakers made Shuna Fish Lydon's Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. The recipe was chosen by Dolores from Culinary Curiosity and her co-hosts: Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food, & Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

According to Shuna:

This is one of those cakes that is truly about baking. It may sound strange because aren't all cakes about baking? What I mean is that getting this cake to bake is about balancing fat with acid and protein JUST RIGHT. Gluten free flours are going to have a hard time getting this cake to work. Not impossible, for nothing is impossible these days with all the chemical (natural and icky) at our fingertips, but very very tricky. One hint for the gluten free baker-- liquid Lecithen is your friend.

It would be very easy to get various other flavours in the caramel cake but what's tricky is making sure the flavour does not screw up the liquid-fat-flour ratio too much. Ideas/flavours: Browned Butter, vanilla bean, rosemary, burnt orange, warm spices, etc. Just remember: various flavouring ingredients and agents carry with them their own acidity and moisture contents...

Flavour imparting ingredients can be poached in the caramel once it's done. Even a cold steep would be good with some highly aromatic ingredients, like coffee beans or rosemary. One could make scented sugar and use that in tandem with the sugar in the recipe.
But I will say this about flavours: you will hide and lose the subtlety of the caramel flavour in the cake and that's what this cake is about.

As most people commented on the DB website, this cake is really sweet. To offset the sweetness, I sprinkled the top of the iced cake with a tad less than 1/2 teaspoon of kosher was like a salted caramel! Yum!

See the tiny brown specks? That's browned butter!

I didn't do anything fancy with my cake. Simply iced the single layer. I did, however, have one problem with it. The cake stuck to the pan, then it stuck to the cooling rack. Oh well...that's what icing is for, I guess!


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
  • In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly & dark amber.
  • When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
  • Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. (Obviously, wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.)
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup Caramel Syrup
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
  • Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
  • Sift flour and baking powder.
  • Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients.
  • Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.
  • Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
  • Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I didn't add vanilla to mine.)
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
  • Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add vanilla. Add salt to taste.
Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Twofer Pie (and Pie Dough Cookies)

Vibi from La Casserole Carrée chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, and it was the perfect thing for Thanksgiving: the Twofer Pie (aka Pumpcan Pie)'s part pumpkin pie and part pecan pie. So, I got to kill two birds with one stone, since I'd never made a pumpkin or a pecan pie!

This is a super simple pie to make. The fillings are easily mixed; you just pour all the ingredients for each into bowls and whisk. They are then poured into a pie crust with a layer of whole pecans separating them.

The recipe calls for a partially baked crust, but after reading the posts on the TWD website I chose not to pre-bake the crust. And, it turned out just fine!

Since the pie recipe called for a single crust and my dough recipe makes a double crust, I used the leftover dough to make pie dough cookies.

I added about a tablespoon of cold water to the leftover dough to strengthen it a bit; the dough recipe I used yields a very delicate, flaky crust & I wanted something a bit sturdier for the cookies. Then, I rolled out the dough into a large circle, brushed it with melted butter, sprinkled on cinnamon & sugar, rolled up the dough into a log, & cut it into 1/2 thick slices.

I baked the slices at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. The cookies should puff a little, and the bottoms should be lightly browned.

November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Favorites

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite meal of the year. For the past several years, I've tried new recipes...deep fried turkey, a soup course, stuffed turkey cutlets instead of a whole bird, scalloped oysters, a spiced carrot & raisin salad, pumpkin creme brulee. I loved all those recipes, but most of the time I just want the traditional meal that I always ate at my grandparents' house.

I am very picky about Thanksgiving dinner. A few years ago, I wrote:

It can sometimes stress me out...especially if things aren't done Just Right. My family always made the traditional Thanksgiving spread....turkey, real dressing (not from a box or a bag of dried bread cubes), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, 7-layer salad, cranberry salad, pumpkin pie, etc. I need that meal or else it just doesn't feel like Thanksgiving. I just can't bring myself to enjoy ham or Stove Top or Schwann's sides. Is that bitchy? Maybe. But, I am willing to accept and embrace my inner Thanksgiving Bitch...if it gets me The Meal.

This year, I am going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner. They always have prime rib and lobster for Thanksgiving, which is great and all, but I must have The Meal. So, I am going to be making turkey with all the fixin's this weekend. I am keeping it simple and traditional: a small roasted turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, white bread sage dressing, real green bean casserole (no canned beans and mushroom soup!), & Grandma's cranberry salad (recipe below).

Here are some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes:

Honey-nut glazed brie
Butternut-cider bisque
Turkey saltimbocca (a good alternative to a whole bird)
Chestnut & pancetta stuffing
Potato & mushroom gratin
Asparagus & gruyere tart
Spinach gratin
Scalloped oysters
Carrot & raisin salad
Pumpkin creme brulee

Grandma Martin's Cranberry Salad

It simply doesn't seem like Thanksgiving without this side dish.
More like a relish than a salad, this was what my family served instead of cranberry sauce.

1 bag fresh cranberries
2 red-skinned apples (like Jonathans), cored & cut into wedges
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 cup pecans, chopped
  • Pop the cranberries & mush the apples by running them through a meat grinder. Grandma always used the old fashioned metal kind that attached to the counter (in fact, I don't remember her using it for anything else!). If you don't have a meat grinder, pulse the cranberries in a food processor just to pop them. You want this to be fairly chunky.
  • Mix in the sugar & pecans. Taste. Add more sugar until it's sweet enough for you.
  • Serve as a side dish with Thanksgiving dinner.
This also make a great relish for turkey sandwiches. This year, I plan to make muffins with the leftover cranberry salad!

November 23, 2008

Savory Acorn Squash & Sausage Bread Pudding


I came home from work on Thursday, cold and tired, not wanting to cook a big meal. Instead, I threw a bunch of stuff together (an acorn squash that was expiring on the counter, some stale crusty bread in the fridge, breakfast sausage), poured it in a casserole dish, and baked it until it was golden and crunchy.

The result:

Savory Acorn Squash & Sausage Bread Pudding

This made for a satisfying dinner & a quick breakfast of leftovers.
It would be a good alternative to dressing/stuffing with Thanksgiving dinner, too.

4 cups crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (stale is better)
1 cup peeled & diced acorn squash (or butternut squash), roasted
8 ounces country (or Italian) sausage, browned
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (or thyme or fresh rosemary)
salt & pepper
  • Prepare the squash by tossing the cubes in olive oil, salt, & pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until just tender.
  • Meanwhile, put the bread into a large bowl.
  • Saute the onions & garlic in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add the onions & the cooked sausage to the bread. When the squash is done, add it as well. Mix in the mozzarella cheese, too.
  • Season with salt, pepper, & oregano
  • Mix the eggs with 1 cups of milk. Stir that into the bread mixture.
  • Pour the bread mixture into a butter casserole dish. I used an 8-inch, square dish.
  • Pour the additional 1 cup of milk evenly over the bread. Top with the Parmesan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crunchy.

November 22, 2008

Orange Pecan Wild Rice

Question: Is wild rice supposed to be crunchy?

I recently saw this recipe in Ina Garten's new book and wanted to try it right away, thinking it would be the perfect winter (or Thanksgiving) side dish. I followed the directions, but the rice was still pretty crunchy. It wasn't tender at all.

I also thought this dish was way too salty; it calls for mixing 1 teaspoon in to the finished rice. It was too much. I couldn't even eat it.

Overall, I was very disappoint with this...even though it sounds so good! Any suggestions to make it better?

Orange Pecan Wild Rice

from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics by Ina Garten


1 cup wild rice
1 1/4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/2 cup scallions, sliced in rounds, white and light green parts (2 scallions)
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Place the rice, chicken stock, 1 1/4 cups water, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  • Cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer and cook for about 1 hour, until the rice is tender and the grains begin to burst open. Stir the rice occasionally while it's cooking, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent it from sticking.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the rice to steam for about 5 minutes.
  • Stir the remaining tablespoon of butter into the rice, then add the grapes, scallions, pecans, orange zest, orange juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and toss well.
  • Taste for seasonings and serve hot.

November 20, 2008

Sicilian-Style Spaghetti

I didn't have any plans for dinner last night, but I noticed that I had the ingredients to make Sicilian-style spaghetti from Tyler's Ultimate cookbook...pasta, cauliflower, anchovies, raisins, nuts, parsley. And since I've had that recipe bookmarked for a while, I decided to give it a try.

It's easy enough to make...cook the cauliflower & anchovies in olive oil, steaming then sauteing, add raisins & nuts, and top with parsley, lemon, & toasted breadcrumbs.

I did have to make a few substitutions...I used pecans instead of pine nuts, plain breadcrumbs instead of panko, and I omitted the lemon.

Overall, I thought it was good...but it was dry. I ended up adding a bit more water to the finished dish and drizzled my bowl with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil. Would the addition of lemon juice, as the recipe calls for, have helped? It only calls for half a lemon, so I can't imagine that would make the dish less dry. It would, however, "brighten" it it was a bit bland. I would add garlic to the cauliflower & anchovies next time. A sprinkling of red pepper flakes would add a nice kick as well.

photo from Serious Eats

Sicilian-Style Spaghetti
Serves 4
1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into bite-size florets.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, smashed into a paste (use the side of a chef's knife)
1/4 cup raisins (I used golden raisins.)
1/4 cup pine nuts (or pecans), toasted
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped, about 1/2 cup
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Freshly grated Parmesan to taste
  • Bring a pot of salty water to boil, and preheat the oven to 350°F. In the meantime, put the cauliflower in a large skillet (12-inch, if possible) with 1/4 cup olive oil and the anchovy mash. Heat the oil over medium heat until the anchovies begin to sizzle, then add 1/4 cup water, season with salt, toss, and cover.
  • Steam for 5 minutes until somewhat tender, then remove cover, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook until the water has evaporated and the cauliflower is well-browned in the remaining oil.
  • Add the raisins and pine nuts to the cauliflower to warm them. Cover the pan and remove from heat.
  • Once the cauliflower is started, spread the panko on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Toast in the oven until crunchy and browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • In the meantime, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, transfer to a serving bowl, and drizzle in a two-count of olive oil. Add the cauliflower mixture, lemon juice & parsley and toss. Transfer servings to plates, and top with panko, black pepper, & Parmesan.

November 19, 2008

Creamed Turnips

A recent conversation I had:

Them: "Foodies are just thirty- and forty-somethings who used to shop at The Gap."

Me: "How do you mean?"

"I mean, they cook and eat the things that are fashionable at the time to be considered trend-setting and people who shopped at The Gap in the 80's & 90's."

"So, what foods do you consider trend-setting?"

"Right now, it's old-fashioned--I mean, retro--foods that foodies are bringing back and macaroni & cheese made with goat cheese or curried egg salad or creamed turnips."

"Hey, now! I'm not making turnips because they trendy-retro. I'm making them because someone just gave me an entire bag of fresh turnips!"

" foodie! Go buy another pair of khakis!"

I wouldn't consider turnips to be a trendy food, but I am noticing that turnip recipes are appeared on several blogs lately. My guess is that's because turnips are currently in season, not necessarily in fashion, at the moment.

Turnips were another food I'd never cooked or eaten. So, I chose to make Alanna's creamed turnips to go with roasted chicken earlier this week.

I think turnips have gotten a bad rap in past. Uncooked, they have a strong, peppery aroma. Cooked, they taste slightly sweet...though, I can see how they could be bitter if prepared incorrectly.

I thought this was a good alternative to mashed potatoes, and now I'd definitely try other turnip recipes.

Creamed Turnips

1 pound turnips, peeled and quartered
Water to cover, salted
1 cup whole milk
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
2 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
  • Bring water to boil in a small pot (if possible, use something other than non-stick so you can mash the turnips in the same pan later) on MEDIUM HIGH. Add the turnips and return to a boil, then reduce heat to MEDIUM to maintain a simmer. Cook until cooked through, about 15 minutes.Drain and return to pot.
  • While the turnips cook, combine the milk, bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns in asmall saucpan. Bring it just to a boil over MEDIUM heat, then let rest until ready to use. Remove the bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns.
  • While the milk is warming, melt the butter in a small saucepan on MEDIUM. Stir in the flour until the mixture is thick and silky and without lumps. Slowly & gradually add the hot milk, stirring all the time, incorporating the milk completely before adding more. Once all the milk is incorporated, continue to stir for a couple of minutes, finishing the cooking process. It's okay if small bubbles form but don't let the mixture boil. Once the white sauce is cooked, reduce the heat to LOW to hold. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg.
  • Add the sauce to the pan with the drained turnips and mash with a hand masher or hand mixer until somewhat smooth -- though they won't be as smooth as mashed potatoes. Spoon into a serving bowl, then top with another sprinkle of nutmeg.

November 18, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Arborio Rice Pudding

Thanks to Isabelle of Les gourmandises d’Isa who chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. Until last night, I'd never eaten rice pudding...though, it's something I'd been wanting to try for a while.

I was a little hesitant at first, because all of the comments on the TWD website were negative. A lot of people complained about having soupy pudding. However, Dorie herself posted this response:

Oh how I wish I’d seen this earlier. I’m traveling in Southeast Asia without a steady internet connection, so I didn’t see that you”re all making the rice pudding until a minute ago.
There’s a fatal typo in the recipe — the pudding needs to cook for 55 minutes, NOT 35 minutes. I posted this somewhere a while ago and am so sorry that I didn’t post it here sooner.
I know some of you had soupy rice instead of pudding and I’m deeply sorry.
With apologies — Dorie
Luckily, I'd read through the Q&A comments before making the pudding. As a result, I reduced the milk by 1/4 cup and cooked the pudding for about 1 hour. I wanted a thick pudding that I could eat while it was warm, instead of chilling in the fridge. For some reason, I think of rice pudding as a warm, comforting dessert.

I mixed half of the pudding with bittersweet chocolate and half with vanilla, cinnamon, & bourbon-soaked golden raisins. The vanilla version was really good! However, I didn't think this recipe was worth the hour+ it took to make.

So, next time I want rice pudding, I think I'll make it just like risotto...using Arborio rice sauteed briefly in caramelized sugar & butter, then mixed with whole milk (instead of stock)...a little at a time, letting each addition absorb into the rice to get creamy.

Sorry there are no pictures. It was after 9:00 pm when I ate the pudding, and the pictures were really horrible! Check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie bloggers for some great pics!

November 17, 2008

Stuffed Pepper Soup

One of the perks of having a food blog is free schwag. Because of this blog, I've had the opportunity to sample new You Bars (custom-made nutrition bars), chocolate, and chutney all thanks to Blake Makes. I was even invited to a free tasting dinner at a local restaurant (though, unfortunately, I couldn't make it).

Most recently, I was offered two free bottles of Country Bob's All-Purpose Sauce. The catch, of course, to all these offers is that I'd blog about the products in return. In this case, that's a good deal for me...because I already buy and use Country Bob's!

I mainly use Country Bob's like a steak sauce. I've never cooked with it. So, I browsed the recipes on their website, looking for something new to try, something "blog worthy." The chicken wings sound good, and I will most likely make them in the near future, but since the weather has finally gotten cold here, I thought soup was in order.

This stuffed pepper soup caught my eye because it reminds me of the cabbage roll soup that I make every year. You see, my Grandma Martin used to make stuffed cabbage rolls, a meal we always looked forward to. I remember her steaming cabbage and stuffing the leaves, then stewing them in tomato sauce. I remember it taking all day. When I crave cabbage rolls now, I make a soup with all the ingredients, and it tastes pretty much the same. Likewise, this soup tastes just like stuffed peppers.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

slightly modified from the original recipe

1 pound ground beef
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 beef bouillon cube
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Country Bob's All-Purpose Sauce
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes
15 ounces tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup (or more) cooked rice
salt & pepper
shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Saute the ground beef with the peppers, onion, & garlic until the meat is brown and the veggies are soft. Be sure to season this with salt & pepper.
  • Add the bouillon, oregano, vinegar, Country Bob's, tomatoes, tomato sauce, & water. Stir until combined and simmer on low, covered, for about 40 minutes.
  • Stir 1 cup of the rice into the pot OR put a few spoonfuls of rice into a bowl and spoon soup on top.
  • Top with cheese to serve.

November 16, 2008

Chorizo, Tomato, & Pine Nut Cake

I am verging on a cookbook addiction. It doesn't help, of course, that I work at a place which sells cookbooks. In an effort to curb my addiction, I've decided to start making recipes from the books I have before buying any more.

I bought Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini--a beautiful, fun book based on her blog--a while ago, but hadn't yet made any of the recipes. One, however, was always on my mind. The chorizo, tomato, & pistachio "cake" seemed the perfect thing to snack on with a glass of wine. So, when I was invited to a trivia contest last night, I decided to bake a loaf to take with me.

The original recipe calls for Spanich chorizo, a spicy dried sausage that's similar to pepperoni. I used Mexican chorizo, which is much easier to find, that I cooked in a skillet before adding to the batter.

And, since I can't seem to find shelled pistachios at any of my local grocery stores, I used pine nuts instead.

Chorizo, Tomato, & Pine Nut Cake

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 1/4 cups unbleached AP flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup buttermilk (or plain, whole-milk yogurt)

3 1/2 ounces Mexican chorizo, cooked.

12 sun-dried tomato halves, packed in oil, finely diced

3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley


  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds, tilting the pan to distribute them.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, salt, and pepper. Add the oil and buttermilk .
  • Sift the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, stirring until barely incorporated. Don't overmix.
  • Gently fold in the chorizo, tomatoes, pine nuts, and parsley.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds.
  • Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan to get out the loaf.
  • Slice when cool. This is really important! My loaf was still warm--hot, really--when I sliced it and it was very crumbly!

November 13, 2008

Seared Duck Salad

In my quest to find tasty recipes for wild duck, I experimented to find out the best way to sear duck breast.

Preparing the meat is a crucial step to eliminate the gamey taste and to tenderize the meat. I soaked fresh boneless & skinless breasts--And I mean fresh, those duckies were breasted out on my front porch!--in salted water overnight. Then, I soaked them in whole milk over another night.

After a rinse, the breasts were dried, sliced thin against the grain, generously seasoned with salt & pepper, dredged in flour, then quickly seared in a touch of olive oil.

At first, I tried chopping the meat coarsely, seasoning, & searing. The insides of the little meat cubes were pretty rare. While the meat was tender and the flavor was good, it was still a bit too raw for me. That's when I tried cutting the meat into thin slices instead. I liked the flavor and texture of the dredged pieces rather than the "naked" ones.

I served the slices (cut into bite-sized pieces after cooked) with a salad of spinach, romaine, caramelized onions, goat cheese, toasted pine nuts & pecans, and pomegranate seeds. I made a dressing with orange juice, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt & pepper.

And it was really good! I'll put this one down as a "do again" recipe!

November 11, 2008

No Churn Pomegranate Ice Cream

All of a sudden, it's cold here. One day, it was an unusually warm (80 degrees) day for November, and the next it was in the 30s and 40s. But, I'm ready for it. I've been craving warm, comforting foods and all else that autumn entails...fires in the fireplace, hot tea and cocoa, lazy weekend days, early-to-bed evenings, and the possibility of snow days.

Plus, I
'm excited to see lots of fresh fall foods at the grocery store...apples, pears, squashes, cabbages, cranberries, chestnuts, and pomegranates.

I've eaten many a pomegranate in my mom used to buy them all autumn long. We'd sit in the living room, in front of the television with a big bowl in our laps, tearing the fruits apart to get at the seeds.

This fall, I'm going to try several recipes that feature pomegranate seeds. The first is an easy ice cream recipe from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express cookbook. All you do is juice, whisk, and freeze to create a "delicate pink ice cream [that] tastes like fragrant, sherbey heaven."

No Churn Pomegranate Ice Cream


2 pomegranates
1 lime
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream
  • Juice the pomegranates and the lime and strain the juices into a bowl. You should have about 3/4 cup of juice. I plucked all the seeds & pulsed them in the food processor before straining.

  • Add the powdered sugar to the juice and whisk to dissolve.
  • Whisk in the cream until soft peaks form.

  • Spoon & smooth the ice cream into the airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.

  • Scatter with extra pomegranate seeds when you serve.

November 6, 2008

Duck Hunter's Pie

I have like a gazillion fresh, wild duck breasts in my refrigerator because Hunter McGee brings them to me. Seriously. I have no idea what to do with them. I heard that curing them like pastrami is good, but I haven't yet tried that (though I intend to very soon).

I've tried searing them (with the skin on). That was just okay, but not something I'd make again. Last week, I tried roasting a whole duck. That was a total failure. In fact, it grossed me out. (I have pictures, but I won't punish you with them.)

Anne said the key to cooking wild duck is to add fat and cook it low & slow.

So, I search online for some recipe ideas...because I am determined to find something to do with all this meat! I came across a recipe for "Duck Coop Pie," which is basically Shepard's Pie with shredded duck instead of lamb or beef.

To prepare the breasts--which are split, boneless, & skinless--I decided to braise them, making the most of the "low & slow" method. First, I soaked the meat in whole milk for 30 minutes(though, I've since heard that soaking in buttermilk overnight is better). This is supposed to make the meat tender and eliminate any gaminess.

Then, I put them in a baking dish, snug but not overlapping. I added salt, pepper, dried thyme, & garlic. Over the top, I laid thick slices of hickory-smoked bacon & sliced onions. I tucked in a couple of bay leaves before adding about a cup of chicken stock (the stock should just about cover everything). I covered the dish with foil and baked it at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then I turned the heat down to 300 degrees and continued cooking for 40 minutes.

Afterwards, I took the pan out of the oven, removed the cover, & let it cool. When the breast were cool enough to handle, I chopped the meat (the meat was fairly tender, but it was difficult to shred).

I made the pie filling by sauteing a couple a medium white onion with some chopped celery (2 stalks) & carrot (a handful of baby carrots) in some duck fat. Then, I added the duck meat, a cup of frozen peas, & a cup of frozen corn seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, & fresh rosemary. Next, I stirred in a bit of flour (a couple tablespoons), let it cook a minute or so, then added a few cups of chicken stock. It looked too thin, so I added some slurry (flour & stock mixed to a thin paste). I wanted it to look like gravy.

When the filling was thick, I poured it into a large baking dish. I topped it with mashed potatoes (skins removed & pressed through a potato ricer, then mixed with whole milk, butter, duck fat, salt & pepper) & dotted it with butter

The final step was to bake the pie at 375 degrees until the filling was bubbly & the potatoes were starting to brown, about 30 minutes.

And it was good! The meat was tender and flavorful, not gamey.

So, I'm inspired to try other recipes with wild duck breast. I'm thinking that pastrami for sure, as well as stew (with sausage & beans, cassoulet style) and confit (can you do that with breast meat?).

Any other suggestions? Please leave a comment!

November 5, 2008

President Obama's Family Chili Recipe

President Barack Obama. Has a nice ring to it, eh?
I am SO happy about the election results. You have no idea. The last two elections were deeply disappointing to me. I couldn't believe, especially, that this country elected Bush to a second term. It baffled--and stunned--me. It made me sad.
Yesterday's election results give me such hope for this country. It makes me proud to call America my home...and that's something I don't think I've ever said before!
Last night, I made a pot of Obama's---PRESIDENT Obama's (I can't say it enough!)--chili for dinner while watching the election results.
President Obama's Family Chili Recipe
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Several cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey or beef
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground basil
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
1 can red kidney beans, drained
  • Saute onions, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until soft.
  • Add ground meat and brown.
  • Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat.
  • Add red wine vinegar.
  • Add tomatoes and let simmer, until tomatoes cook down.
  • Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes.
  • Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream.

November 4, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rugelach

Grace of Piggy’s Cooking Journal chose Rugelach for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie event.

I baked mine this afternoon, in preparation for a small election result-watching dinner party. They were a big hit.

Dorie's recipe calls for a simple dough (only flour, butter, cream cheese, & a pinch of salt) filled with marmalade, dried currants, nuts, and chocolate. I used black cherry jam, dried cranberries, & pecans (no chocolate).

Overall, this is a very easy recipe to throw together. The dough is mixed in a food processor, then formed into to disks that are chilled for a couple hours.

You simply roll out the chilled dough into two big circles, then top with the filling of your choice (you could use any combination of flavors in the filling), cut into triangles & roll up before baking.

November 3, 2008

Charleville Winery & Microbrewery


There are perks to having friends in the restaurant/bar business. Last week, I was invited to go with Sara & Jesse Jones (from Amalgamated Brewing, owners of The Rotten Apple, The Stable, & Jake's Steaks) and Jerad (their beverage manager) to Charleville Winery & Microbrewery in St. Genevieve, Missouri. The Stable features Charleville's beers on tap, so the owners' son invited us to see their operation.

I'd never been to St. Genevieve, which is about an hour from St. Louis, before but I'd heard that there were good wineries down there.

We followed Mapquest's directions, which took us about 9 miles down a gravel road. We were all wondering where in the heck the place was, since there were no signs. Come to find out, there is a main road that leads you right to the winery.


The tasting room is set back in the hills, past their vineyards. It is absolutely gorgeous out there. It was also a beautiful, warm & sunny October day.


We got to taste their wines & beers. I liked the dry whites, the Chauvin & barrel fermented Chardonel, the best. I also liked their seasonal brew, Rudolf the Red-Nosed amber ale with hints of peppermint!


Jack & Joal, the owners, made a delicious lunch for us. We ate on the porch of their bed & breakfast, an 1800's cabin next door to the tasting room, overlooking the grape vines and rolling hills.




Their son, Tait, then took us on a tour of the winery & brewery. We met the winemaker, Tony, who took us next door (in the back of a pick-up, through the vineyard, down the hill) to Chaumette Winery, where he is also the winemaker.


This is my favorite picture of the day!

It was such a great day! The food, beer, wine, and people were awesome. It really is such a gorgeous place that I didn't want to leave. We are already making plans to go back.


Fabulous photos by Sara Jones.

November 2, 2008

Fried Risotto Balls

I've always wanted to try those cheese-stuffed, fried balls of risotto. But, I never make enough risotto to have leftovers. At work yesterday, we were cleaning out the fridges to make room for groceries and I snagged some leftover mushroom & spinach risotto to make the fried balls for dinner.

I didn't really follow a recipe. I just added an egg to the risotto because it didn't seem sticky enough. Then, I put a tablespoon of rice in the palm of my hand, added a pinch of goat cheese in the middle, topped it with another tablespoon of rice, then formed it into a ball (or patty). I then coated the balls with a breadcrumb mixture (crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, pepper, & thyme). This, I'll admit, was a sticky mess. I found it easier to form all the balls, wash my hands, then roll them all in the crumbs. I patted the breadcrumbs into each ball to form a thick crust.

Then, I fried the balls in a couple inches of canola oil until they were deeply golden brown.


I only wish I had more of the cheddar cheese risotto. I bet that would be fabulous! Then, again, what isn't fabulous stuffed with cheese and deep fried?

November 1, 2008

Cheddar Cheese Risotto

It's November, and the weather is starting to cool...finally. So, that means that I can resume my quest for the perfect macaroni & cheese recipe. Last winter's clear winner was Tyler's Ultimate, which is topped with peas and bacon.

Last night, I tried Nigella's cheddar cheese risotto. While it's not exactly pasta, it is similar enough for me in that it contains all the satisfying elements of mac & cheese: starch, cheese, creaminess.

The recipe calls for a bit of Dijon mustard. I didn't have any, so I used some of Stone Brewery's Ruination IPA Curry Mustard Grill Sauce that I had in the fridge. And, on my god was it good!

Cheddar Cheese Risotto

recipe & photo from Nigella Express

Serves 2 as a main course.

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil (I used olive oil.)
2 baby leeks for fat scallions, finely chopped (I used a small onion.)
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
1/2 cup white wine (I think beer would work, too!)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 cups hot vegetable stock (I used chicken stock.)
1 cup chopped cheddar cheese (I used shredded sharp.)
2 tablespoons chopped chives (optional)
  • Melt the butter and oil in a medium-sized pan and cook the onions until softened.
  • Add the rice and stir a minute or so, then add the wine & mustard and stir until the wine is absorbed.
  • Start add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, letting each addition become absorbed as you stir before adding the next.
  • Stir and ladle until the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.
  • Add the cheese, stirring until it melts.
  • Take the pan off the heat and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives, if desired.