Monday, December 08, 2014

Better Homes & Gardens: Peanut Butter Blossoms


I have a bit of a cookie exchange to attend, and I didn't want to bring the third container of chocolate chip cookies.  I also didn't want to be the person who shows up with a cookie that only half the people in the room think is appetizing.  So I went with a childhood favorite.  I seriously would sit in the kitchen and wait as my mom topped each little cookie with a Kiss, and then bite into the warm cookie once the chocolate had gotten all melty.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
From the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
48 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Thoroughly cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Sift together the dry ingredients; blend into the creamed mixture. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in granulated sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. When the cookies are removed from the oven, immediately press a chocolate kiss onto the top of each cookie. Cool slightly; remove from pan.

Makes 4 dozen

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Neely's: Tony's Chocolate Pecan Pie


I've always kind-of liked pecan pie.  But even for someone who loves their sweets, it's a bit... much.  The pie just needs something to balance everything out.  And that something appears to be a combination of bourbon and semi-sweet chocolate.  With those two magic additions, the pie goes from too-sweet-to-eat to what-is-the-recipe-for-this-slice-of-heaven.  And the vanilla bean whipped cream doesn't hurt, either.

Tony's Chocolate Pecan Pie
Adapted from The Neely's

3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs, beaten
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons bourbon liquor
 cups pecan halves
½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. While butter is melting, add beaten eggs to a medium sized bowl. Stir in brown sugar, flour, vanilla extract, corn syrup and bourbon until combined. Add butter when just melted.

Mix in the pecans and chocolate morsels. Mix all together. Pour mixture into pie shell.

Place on a sheet tray and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.

Pour heavy cream into a bowl and whip with an electric mixer for a few minutes, until it becomes thick. Add confectioners' sugar and beat until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Fold in vanilla extract.

When ready to serve top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings

Bon Appétit: Cranberry Rum Punch


Sometimes when you're dealing with family, you need a little liquid mood brightener.  Something that will make you not care that you have to kiss your creepy uncle or listen to another speech about how you are now officially an old maid.  And this is even a seasonal mood brightener!  Works wonders, I promise.  But maybe keep it to two glasses, or it will also function as a truth serum.

Cranberry Rum Punch
From Bon Appétit magazine, November 2014

2 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup sugar
1 cup white rum
½ cup fresh lime juice
Mint sprigs (for serving)

Bring cranberries, sugar, and 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Strain syrup into a pitcher; cover and chill. Set cranberries aside.

Add rum and lime juice to syrup; chill until cold, about 1 hour. Serve punch over crushed ice garnished with reserved cranberries and mint sprigs.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Saveur: Maple-Glazed Carrots with Hazelnut Crumbs


I love those little baby carrots still on the stem that I can find at Central Market.  They're just so cute.  And they're crying out for something a little more interesting than being dipped in ranch dressing.  I'm glad I listened to that cry, because these carrots are pretty darn scrumptious, and they make a perfect Thanksgiving side dish.

Maple-Glazed Carrots with Hazelnut Crumbs
From Saveur magazine, November 2014

2 pounds small carrots with green tops, tops trimmed to ½-inch, carrots scrubbed
½ cup peeled hazelnuts
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 slices country bread, toasted and halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup real maple syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 oranges, suprêmed, plus 2 tablespoons fresh juice
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

Cook carrots in boiling water until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to an ice bath; drain and pat dry.

Pulse hazelnuts, cumin, bread, and salt in a food processor into crumbs.

In a medium pan, combine maple syrup, butter, orange juice, and salt to taste.  Add carrots, and cook over medium-high heat until carrots caramelize, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Top with crumbs, suprêmes, and cilantro.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saveur: Bouchon Turkey Thigh Roulades


I've made a lot of turkeys over the years.  Some have been delicious, some have left a bit to be desired.  But when you're having a small Thanksgiving, you don't need a 15-pound turkey staring you down.  Luckily, I can buy bits of a turkey, instead of the whole thing.  And stuffed with a creamy mousse that cooks up tender and light, turkey can be had without a big fuss.

Bouchon Turkey Thigh Roulades
From Saveur magazine, November 2014

2 large boneless turkey thighs
1 pound ground turkey, chilled
2 large egg whites, chilled
½ cup heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup crème fraîche, chilled
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Butterfly and lightly pound thigh meat until ½-inch thick; chill until ready to use.

Puree ground turkey in a food processor.  With the motor running, slowly add egg whites, then the cream, crème fraîche, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper until mixture is smooth.  Transfer mousse to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

Heat a large saucepan of water until a thermometer reads 180°F.  Lay thigh meat flat on a work surface and season with salt and pepper.  Divide mousse among thighs and spread widthwise down the center of each thigh.  Working from one short side, roll each thigh, encasing the mousse, into a tight package; tie with butcher's string.  Wrap roulades separately using a triple layer of plastic wrap until airtight; twist ends and tie with string.  Gently lower roulades into water; poach until filling is firm, 35 to 45 minutes.  Discard plastic wrap; pat roulades dry using paper towels.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium.  Cook roulades, turning as needed, until browned, 18 to 20 minutes.  Transfer skillet to the oven; cook roulades, basting often with pan juices, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thight meat reads 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let rest 15 minutes before carving.

Makes 6 servings

Bon Appétit: Citrus and Endive with Walnut Gremolata


This year I figured I would help us all out and make something crunchy and refreshing amid the sea of potatoes and creamy casseroles.  It would be like a palate cleanser.  Well, it was crunchy and citrusy, but it just seemed to be missing something.  The dressing was non-existent.  The flavor was non-existent.  And I even used a whole garlic clove instead of half.  This happens pretty rarely, but I'd say this one is a non-repeater unless you're half rabbit.  At least it was pretty, right?

Citrus and Endive with Walnut Gremolata
From Bon Appétit magazine, November 2014

⅓ cup walnuts
½ garlic clove, finely grated
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 endives, cut lengthwise into ½-inch wedges
4 oranges (such as blood oranges, Cara Cara, or other navel), peel and pith removed, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds, seeds removed
2 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil
1 lemon, halved

Toast walnuts in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Coarsely chop walnuts and toss in a small bowl with garlic, parsley, and lemon zest; season gremolata with salt and pepper.

Gently toss endives, oranges, oil, and half of gremolata in a medium bowl; transfer to a platter. Top with remaining gremolata and squeeze lemon over.

Do ahead: Gremolata, without garlic, can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Stir in garlic just before serving.

Makes 8 servings

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Saveur: Sweet Potato Purée


My mom loves candied sweet potatoes.  Me?  Not so much.  I know that sounds like sacrilege, and who wouldn't love something covered with toasted marshmallows?  It just always seemed so cloyingly sweet.  I needed room for my true favorites, so the sweet potatoes often got left behind.  Not anymore.  These potatoes are delicately flavored and not terribly sweet.  I wasn't super impressed when I tried just the purée, but when you put the marshmallows on top, the whole thing comes together beautifully.

Sweet Potato Purée
From Saveur magazine, November 2014

4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon ground allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
3 cups mini marshmallows

Heat oven to 375°F.

Mix potatoes, butter, brown sugar, honey, allspice, salt, and pepper on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet; spread into an even layer.  Top with a sheet of parchment paper and cover with aluminum foil; bake until potatoes are very tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Let potatoes cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor; add mascarpone cheese and purée until smooth.  Spread mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish; top with marshmallows.  Heat oven broiler; broil casserole until marshmallows are browned in spots, 2 to 3 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Saveur: Haricots Verts Casserole


This year I decided to do a traditional Thanksgiving, but with new recipes.  I like the usual round of casseroles, but I think I've been eating the same thing for 30+ years.  Time for a refresh.  I found this recipe in an article about Thomas Keller and the dinner he makes for veterans each year.  I figured that kicking the canned mushroom soup couldn't be a bad thing.  The casserole actually turned out pretty well, but I have to admit something.  I did not fry a load of shallots.  At this time of year, something has to give, and that was it.  French's fried onions all the way!

Haricots Verts Casserole
Adapted from Saveur magazine, November 2014

2½ pounds haricots verts or green beans, trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced ¼-inch thick
1¾ cups heavy cream
8 sprigs thyme
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 cups canola oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced
½ cup all-purpose flour

Cook haricots verts in an 8-quart saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to an ice bath until cold. Drain and pat dry using paper towels; transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Add butter to pan; heat over medium-high. Cook mushrooms until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cream, thyme, and garlic, and reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, until cream is reduced by half, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and discard thyme; transfer to a blender. Add vinegar, salt, and pepper; purée into a smooth sauce (consistency should be similar to thick pea soup; if necessary, add more cream). Transfer to bowl with haricots verts; toss to combine and spread into a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Heat oven to 400°F. Wipe pan clean and add oil; heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 300°F. Toss shallots in flour and, working in batches, fry until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to paper towels to drain; season with salt and arrange over casserole. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bon Appétit: Broccoli-Mascarpone Soup


Since my family eats Thanksgiving dinner later in the afternoon, we inevitably get hungry before the main event.  I mean, cooking is tough work.  You need fuel for that kind of thing.  But what to eat that doesn't fill you up and spoil dinner?  And in my case, what uses up the rest of the container of overpriced mascarpone cheese that is staring at me from the first shelf of my fridge?  Soup.  Warm, veggie-filled soup.

Broccoli-Mascarpone Soup
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, December 2006

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ cups sliced shallots (about 6 large)
1½ pounds broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth
10 ounces mascarpone cheese
¾ teaspoon seasoning blend (I used Emeril's Essence)
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Heat butter in large pot over medium heat until melted. Add shallots; sauté 3 minutes. Add broccoli; sauté 1 minute. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, transfer soup to blender; puree until smooth. Return to pot. Whisk in mascarpone, seasoning blend, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt.

Note: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Heat soup over medium heat, stirring occasionally; do not boil.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Magnolia Cafe: Gingerbread Pancakes


When you live in Austin, and you....overindulged...a bit the night before, you have two good options.  You can either go to one of the many breakfast taco places, or you can hit up a breakfast spot like Kerbey Lane or Magnolia Cafe.  Depending on my mood, I can go either way, but you can bet that I will always go for the gingerbread pancakes if I'm sitting in one of the latter.  These things are big, cakey, puffy masterpieces, especially smothered in syrup.

Gingerbread Pancakes
Adapted from Magnolia Cafe, Austin, TX

3 large eggs
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup water
½ cup fresh brewed coffee
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl, mix eggs and brown sugar until well combined. Add buttermilk, water and brewed coffee, and stir to combine. In another large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Stir in the melted butter.

Grease a griddle or heavy skillet. Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat and then add the batter, by ladle-fulls. Cook until little bubbles appear around the edges of the pancake, and then flip. Cook on the second side until golden brown and cooked through in the middle. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings