Sunday, March 27, 2016

Country Living: Hot Cross Buns

I've never made hot cross buns, but it's never too late to remedy that, right?  I even did my research.  Versions of this bun have been around since at least Queen Elizabeth I's time, and possibly dating back to before Christianity.  That's pretty impressive.  The ones they make in the UK and Australia normally have a cross of flour and oil piped on the top before it's baked, but here in the US, we like our buns with actual frosting on top.  It's like a delicious little raisin bread bun, and my nephew snapped his up and cried for more, so I guess these pass muster.  Definitely try them toasted and buttered the next day.

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Country Living, June 2007

1 cup half-and-half, warmed to between 105°F and 115°F
1 (¼-ounce) package dry active yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon barley malt syrup (or granulated sugar)
3 cups bread flour
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup currants (or raisins)
2 tablespoons candied lemon peel
2 tablespoons candied orange peel
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground star anise
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk

⅔ cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

Make the dough:
Coat a large bowl with oil and set aside. Combine the half-and-half, yeast, and barley malt syrup in a small bowl and let stand until bubbly. Combine the flours, sugar, currants, candied peels, salt, and spices in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook (or in a large mixing bowl) and mix on low speed. Add the butter, eggs, vanilla bean paste, and the yeast mixture, and continue to mix until a sticky dough forms, about 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth, about 5 minutes. (If dough has been combined by hand, increase kneading time to 10 minutes.) Form the dough into a ball, place it in the prepared bowl, and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in volume -- about 1 hour.

Shape the buns:
Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Punch the dough down, transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead for 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces, about 4 ounces each. Shape each piece into a ball and place the balls about 1 inch apart in three rows of four on the prepared pan. Cover and let rise until the buns double in volume and touch one another, about 1¼ hours.

Bake the buns:
Preheat oven to 500°F. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the mixture on the top of each bun. Place buns in the lower third of the oven and reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

Ice the buns:
In a small bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, remaining milk, and vanilla. Stir until smooth. When buns have cooled slightly, drizzle a horizontal line across each row of buns followed by a vertical line to form a cross on the crown of each bun.

Makes 12 buns

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Twisted Noodle: Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Wild Mushrooms

Since I love-love-love Brussels sprouts, I'm always looking for a new way to cook them up and convert others to join the Brussels Sprouts Fan Club.  I've noticed that using bacon always helps, as most people would even eat cardboard as long as it was smeared with bacon grease.  But another personal favorite, mushrooms, also joins the party here, so I personally think this is pretty much the pinnacle of veggie side dishes.  Wait, what am I saying?  Side dish?  I ate this bad boy as my main dish, and it was delicious.

Note: I used cremini, oyster, and brown clamshell mushrooms, but go for anything that looks good at your store.  You can even use plain 'ol white mushrooms if you don't want to drop the extra cash for wild.  I used a 10 year old balsamic vinegar.  Try to use something halfway decent since you're pouring it all over your veggie.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Wild Mushrooms
Adapted from Twisted Noodle blog

¼ pound applewood smoked bacon, cut into batons
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound mixed wild mushrooms, sliced or separated
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Brown bacon in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and let cook for about 60 seconds.  Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet, and when melted, add the mushrooms.  Increase heat to medium high.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add Brussels sprouts.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until Brussels sprouts are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add remaining butter with the Brussels sprouts if the pan is too dry.

Stir in balsamic vinegar and cook another 2 to 4 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Remove from heat, and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bon Appetit: Colcannon

Normally I'm more excited about St. Patrick's Day, but for some reason I can't muster much energy for cooking lately.  I just want to eat out of to-go containers and skip the big mess in the kitchen.  But I've been eyeing this recipe for colcannon, and it's the perfect time of year to give it a whirl, so I really can't justify going for some more reheated Tex-Mex.  These potatoes are creamy and delicious, and it certainly doesn't hurt that there's a great leek-garlic thing going on in the background.

Note:  I found that dumping the potatoes into the milk/cream gives you ZERO leverage for adjusting the liquidity of the recipe, so I say that you should add the milk to the potatoes a little at a time, not the other way around.  Because once you add the milk, you can't un-add it.

From Bon Appetit magazine, March 2016

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1¾ pounds)
Sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups (packed) shredded savoy cabbage (from about ¼ large head), divided
1¼ cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
1½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Cover potatoes with water in a small pot; season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until a paring knife slides easily through the flesh, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain, let cool slightly, and peel.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant and leeks are just beginning to brown around the edges, about 3 minutes longer. Add 1 cup cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted. Add milk and cream and bring to a simmer.
Add potatoes and remaining 1 cup cabbage, then coarsely mash with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer colcannon to a large serving bowl. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with scallion.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Mar-a-Lago Club: Key Lime Pie

My sister is currently 8+ months pregnant, and it is nearing her birthday.  We asked what she wanted for her birthday meal, and she told us Alaskan king crab legs, deviled eggs, chocolate fudge, and key lime pie.  If that's not a stereotypical pregnant woman meal, I'm not sure what is.  I think all we're missing is some pickles.  But I made sure to fulfill her wishes (everyone gets what they want on their birthday), and I used this fabulous pie recipe to do it.

Note:  You really should take the advice and freeze the pie briefly before cutting.  It's really too creamy to get a good slice otherwise, and it has a tendency to try and collapse as you're pulling it out of the pie plate.  Lesson learned.

Key Lime Pie
From Chef Jeff O'Neill at Mar-a-Lago Club, Palm Beach, FL

¾ pound graham crackers
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 large egg yolks
Grated zest of 1 Persian lime
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
⅔ cup fresh key lime juice (from about 2 pounds key limes)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Break up the graham crackers, place them in a food processor, and process into crumbs.  Add the melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse until combined.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan, forming an even layer on the bottom, sides, and edge.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool.

While the crust is resting, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until fluffy, 5 or 6 minutes.  Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to whip until thick, 3 to 4 minutes longer.  Lower the mixing speed and slowly add the key lime juice until incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until the filling has just set.  Cool on a wire rack, and then refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until nearly stiff.  Evenly spread the whipped cream on top of the pie, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to serving.

Makes 12 servings

Friday, March 04, 2016

Creole Contessa: Lemon Pepper Salmon with Lemon Butter Rice

It's a great time of year for citrus.  Every time I go to the grocery store lately, there are these big heaps of yellow and orange fruits.  Shiny nubbly skins just waiting to be peeled.  So of course I want to buy these beautiful ripe citrus, parading saucily before me.  But then you actually have to do something with them.  So I decided I would do a dinner with lemon.  Lemon juice in the rice, lemon slices on the fish, and lemon pepper seasoning all around.  It was fantastic and refreshing and just the right dinner for the beginning of spring.

Note:  The rice mixture is really more a result of digging up the odds and ends of the rice in my pantry than any sort of actual planning or intent.  However, the arborio added a really nice creaminess and the basmati stayed a little more firm, so the texture overall was the best of both worlds.

Lemon Pepper Salmon with Lemon Butter Rice
Adapted from Creole Contessa blog

2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dried parsley
½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
⅛ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup basmati rice
¼ cup arborio rice
Sea salt

1 pound salmon fillets
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon Chef Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Redfish Magic seasoning or other Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lemon, sliced

For rice: In a medium pot, bring the chicken broth, butter, parsley, lemon pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and lemon juice to a boil.  Add the two rices and stir well.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat and leave the pot covered for another 5 to 10 minutes to allow the rice to absorb the remaining liquid.  Season with salt to taste.

For fish: Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and lay the salmon fillets on the pan.  Sprinkle evenly with the lemon pepper, blackening seasoning, and garlic powder.  Cut butter into ¼-inch pats, and lay them evenly over the fish fillets.  Place the lemon slices evenly over the butter.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until fish is desired doneness and flakes easily with a fork.  Serve with the lemon rice.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Salt and Wind: Spiced Persimmon Pudding

So, apparently I have too much food in my freezer.  So sayeth my mother.  I thought that was actually a good thing, having food saved up, ready for when you need it.  But then again, she does have a point.  I have a habit of squirreling away food that looks interesting, and I fully intend on cooking it...someday.  So I'm attempting to clean out the full freezer (to of course make room for new interesting things).  And one of the first things I laid my eyes on was my final package of persimmon puree from back in the fall when I went wild persimmon picking.  And I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it.  A soft-ish cake, full of delicious spices, best served with whipped cream.

Spiced Persimmon Pudding
From Salt and Wind blog

2 cups pureed persimmon pulp, from 6 to 7 very ripe Hachiya persimmons
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon packed orange zest
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and briefly cooled, plus more for coating the baking dish
¼ cup Calvados brandy
Ice cream, whipped cream, or yogurt, for garnish (optional)
Roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and orange zest in a large bowl to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

Combine the persimmon pulp, half-and-half, brown sugar, and eggs in a large bowl and whisk until evenly blended. Add the melted butter and brandy and whisk until just incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture in four parts, letting the flour incorporate before adding the next part and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary until the flour is totally incorporated.

Turn the batter into the prepared dish and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with toasted hazelnuts and ice cream, yogurt, or whipped cream.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke

Lately I have been having the absolutely worst cravings for seafood.  Apparently that means I might be deficient in fatty acids or protein.  Or I just want some seafood.  And it certainly didn't help that I started coming across pictures of tuna poke ("poh-kay") from Hawaii, which is becoming the "it" food of 2016 according to the internet.  And we know the internet is never wrong.  So here you are, the most up-to-date food trend.  Because I've always wanted to be trendy.  Okay, not really, but it fulfills my seafood craving and makes my tummy happy, and that's all that really matters.

Note: My furikake was ebi fumi (shrimp-flavored), but you can use whatever flavor makes you happy.  And honestly?  This is kind-of like making tuna salad.  Just add whatever you want in whatever amounts taste good to you.  The basic poke is ahi tuna-onion-soy sauce-sesame oil-candlenuts.  Explore from there.  Also feel free to explore sashimi-grade salmon instead of tuna.

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke

1 pound sashimi-grade ahi tuna, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons chopped green onions
4 tablespoons furikake
1 teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon minced roasted garlic
¼ teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
¼ teaspoon Hawaiian pink sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise (optional)
½ Hass avocado, cut into ½-inch cubes (optional)
Chopped candlenuts or macadamia nuts, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except avocado and nuts.  Refrigerate, covered, for two hours to let the flavors meld.  Mix in avocado and sprinkle with nuts before serving.

Makes 2 meal portions or 4 appetizer portions

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms)

If you believe Julie and Julia, Boeuf Bourguignon is the pinacle of French deliciousness.  It is comfy and heartwarming and harkens back to a simpler time.  So, of course I had to make it.  Because who doesn't want comfort, a warm heart, and a simpler time?  Apparently me, because this sucker took a total of about 5½ hours over two days and was by no means simple.  I was expecting for my socks to be blown off with that level of dedication going into it.  And it was...good.  But no socks were blown.  I definitely think this recipe could stand some editing, because no little French farmer's wife is going to spend that many hours working on a beef stew.  I will say that the onions are pretty fantastic.  I'll probably make those on their own again another time.  But for the stew itself, I think I'm going with a one-pot approach from now on, instead of trashing my entire kitchen.

Note: My bacon did not have a rind.  It came sliced like all normal modern bacon.  So it did not go swimming, it just got browned.  I did my stew over two days, refrigerating it after its long oven simmer.  The next night I spooned the hardened fat off the top and cooked up the mushrooms and onions.  I also pulled the meat out of the sauce and ran the sauce through the blender since the carrots refused to melt into the ether.  Then everything went in the pot together for a quick warm up session.

Note 2: I learned something interesting when I went to buy some wine for this stew.  Burgundy red wine is more than likely going to be a pinot noir.  And according to the wine expert I spoke with, all the subtlety gets cooked out, so there's no point in buying more than the cheapest wine for this.  So go all California if you want.  I did get a real Burgundy pinot noir just to be authentic (2012 Albert Bichot Vieilles Vignes de Pinot Noir).  It was the cheapest Burgundy they had at $18.  New retirement plan: buy a pinot noir vineyard.

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

1 (6-ounce) chunk of bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef (such as rump, chuck, or round), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups of a full-bodied, young red wine, such as Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux-St. Émilion, or Burgundy, or a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
A crumbled bay leaf
Oignons Glacés à Brun
Champignons Sautés au Beurre

Remove the rind, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, ¼ inch thick and 1½ inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1½ quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a 9- to 10-inch casserole, sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325°F.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2½ to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2½ cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Oignons Glacés à Brun (Brown-braised Onions)
18 to 24 peeled white onions, about 1-inch in diameter
1½ tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons oil
½ cup brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine, or water
Salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, ½ bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves tied in cheesecloth

When the butter and oil are bubbling in a 9- to 10-inch skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet.

Champignons Sautés au Beurre (Sautéed Mushrooms)
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, quartered if large

Place a 10-inch skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bon Appetit: Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake and Michael Symon: Bourbon Cherry Sauce

When your pregnant sister calls and invites you over for dinner on Valentine's Day, and she requests a cheesecake, you had better make a fantastic cheesecake.  And since it's Valentine's Day, the scourge of single ladies everywhere, you'd better include a heavy dose of chocolate.  And just for the heck of it, you might as well throw some bourbon in, too, because everything is better dowsed with alcohol, right?  Well, I managed to hit all three green lights with this doozy of a dessert.  You'll probably want to cut the pieces small unless you really enjoy having a stomachache, because this is one rich piece of V-Day luxuriousness.

Note: I used Ghirardelli 70% bittersweet chocolate, as my local store was out of Scharffen Berger.  I used Valrhona for the cocoa.  I couldn't find the usual Nabisco chocolate wafers, so I substituted with some chocolate Moravian wafers.  You could also use Oreos with the filling removed.  I used Maker's Mark for the bourbon.  No one will know if you snag some on the side.  Chef's prerogative.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, October 2006

24 chocolate wafer cookies (from one 9-ounce package)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted

10 ounces high-quality 70% bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¾ cup whipping cream
6 ounces high-quality 70% bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Chocolate curls (optional)

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Blend cookies in processor until finely ground; blend in sugar. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling:
Stir chopped chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Mix in espresso powder.  Remove bowl from over water; cool chocolate until lukewarm but still pourable.

Prepare a water bath: wrap the springform pan in a large piece of heavy duty foil, making sure all edges reach the top of the pan.  Set the pan in a large baking pan and pour water around the pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the springform pan.  Make sure none of the water gets between the foil and the springform pan, or the crust will be soggy.

Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in vanilla extract.  Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour filling over crust; smooth top. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour.

Turn off the oven and crack the door.  Let cheesecake cool in the oven for an hour.  Remove from the oven and remove the springform pan from the water bath.  Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Chill overnight.

For topping:
Stir cream, 6 ounces chocolate, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over center of cheesecake, spreading to within ½-inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until topping is set, about 1 hour. Do ahead: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with foil and keep refrigerated.

Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Top with chocolate curls, if desired. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

Bourbon Cherry Sauce
Adapted from Michael Symon

1 (16-ounce) bag frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed (about 2¼ cups)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cinnamon stick
½ vanilla bean, split and beans scraped, OR ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup water

In a saucepan over medium heat, add the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, bourbon, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, lemon juice, and water. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cherries are bursting and the sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat to cool.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Commander's Palace: Coconut Beer Shrimp with Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce

Okay, I admit it, I'm probably the only person I know who isn't watching the Super Bowl.  Is it just me, or does it seem like the Super Bowl is becoming a national holiday?  I don't seem to remember this level of obsession from when I was younger.  But hey, who can complain when it creates a fabulous opportunity to make delicious tailgating food, right?  And this year I decided to celebrate a game I'm not watching (hey, at least I know it's Broncos versus Panthers) with some delicious coconut shrimp.  Now, I used some shredded coconut that I shredded fresh and froze, and the shrimp aren't really sweet at all.  If you like your shrimp to have a sweet coating, go ahead and use that blue bag of sweetened shredded coconut instead.  Hey, it's a holiday, so calories are excused.

Note: I used Stella Artois for the beer and Crosse and Blackwell for the orange marmalade because that's what I had.

Coconut Beer Shrimp with Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce
Adapted from The Commander's Palace: New Orleans Cookbook by Ella and Dick Brennan

4 eggs
1 cup beer
3½ teaspoons Creole Seafood Seasoning (below)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
48 large raw shrimp, peeled but with tails on, deveined
1½ to 2 cups shredded coconut, fresh or moist-pack
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce
2 cups orange marmalade
¼ cup Creole mustard or Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons shredded horseradish

Combine eggs, beer, 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, flour, and baking powder.  Blend well.

Season shrimp with remaining seafood seasoning.

Dip the shrimp in beer batter and roll in coconut.  Fry in oil heated to 350°F in a deep-fat fryer, wok, or deep saucepan.  The oil should be at least 1½ inches deep.  Drop shrimp in a few at a time and fry until golden brown.  Remove and drain on paper towel.

Blend together dipping sauce ingredients.

To serve: Put a small bowl of the sweet and tangy sauce in the center of each plate.  Arrange 8 shrimp around it and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Creole Seafood Seasoning
4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated or powdered garlic
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1½ teaspoons dried basil
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons paprika
2¼ teaspoons granulated or powdered onion

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a blender, food processor, or mixing bowl, and pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic jar. Seal it so that it's airtight. It will keep indefinitely.

Makes about ½ cup