Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée (Onion Soup Gratinéed with Cheese)

I was really excited to try this recipe. Who wouldn't be? French onion soup is everywhere, most of it bad, so I wanted to try the authentic article.  I did veer away from Julia's recipe in just one respect. When making the bread and cheese crouton toppers for the individual soups, I used Gruyére cheese instead of Swiss or Parmesan. I seem to remember reading somewhere that it's really good on onion soup, and plus, doesn't it still count as a Swiss cheese?

The result of my efforts was an incredibly rich and hearty soup, perfect for a winter's day. The onion were sweet, and the beef broth (yes, I used canned!) had picked up all the flavors, including the liquors. I was very impressed, and I think I'm ruined for this soup anywhere else.

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée (Onion Soup Gratinéed with Cheese)
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

1½ pounds or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar (helps the onions brown)
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon
½ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1½ cups grated Swiss, or Swiss and Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in a covered 4-quart saucepan for 15 minutes.  Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine, and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally.  Correct seasoning.

Just before serving, stir in the cognac.  Preheat oven to 325°F.

Bring the soup to the boil and pour into soup pots.  Float the rounds of toast on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it.  Sprinkle with the oil or butter.  Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to brown the top slightly.  Serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Vegetarian Times: Veggie Tamale Pie

I've been toying with the idea of vegetarianism.  I even went so far as to subscribe to a vegetarian cooking magazine.  To be honest, I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to commit for any length of time to giving up meat, but it certainly doesn't hurt to try and get some extra vegetables into your diet.  I deliberately picked a recipe that had tons of spices in it, because my one big fear is that eating vegetarian means eating without flavor, and that is certainly not going to happen, in this lifetime or any other.  This little tamale pie was actually pretty good, and I got a nice dose of zucchini that otherwise wouldn't have been part of the dish.

Veggie Tamale Pie
From Vegetarian Times magazine, January 2010

½ cup dry polenta or corn grits
¼ cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1½ teaspoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
1 small zucchini, diced (½ cup)
½ medium red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced (½ cup)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if available)
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14½-ounce) can tomato purée
½ cup frozen corn kernels
2 teaspoons brown rice flour

To make topping: Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in saucepan. Stir in polenta, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often. Stir in cheese. Set aside.

To make filling: Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook 5 minutes. Add zucchini, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook 5 minutes more.

Stir in beans, tomato purée, and corn. Mix rice flour with ¼ cup cold water; stir into zucchini mixture. Cook 3 minutes, or until mixture thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Spread filling into 8-inch square baking pan. Spread topping over filling. 

Place casserole on baking sheet. Bake 40 minutes, or until filling bubbles and top is golden. Let stand before serving.

Frozen cooking instructions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover casserole with foil, and place on baking sheet. Bake 90 minutes. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.

Makes 6 servings

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup)

I decided to start trying some more recipes from the good old Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and since I’m not a big fan of soup, I figured I would start there.  Hey, if anyone is going to convince me to eat soup, it’s Julia.  Well, the soup was delicious, creamy and comforting in all its simplicity. And even though I have never had this soup before, it seemed somehow homey, like something you've had as a child.  Delicious.

Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

3 to 4 cups or 1 pound peeled potatoes, sliced or diced
3 cups or 1 pound thinly sliced leeks including the tender green
2 quarts of water
1 tablespoon salt
4 to 6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2 to 3 tablespoons softened butter
2 to 3 tablespoons minced parsley or chives

Either simmer the vegetables, water, and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender; or cook under 15 pounds pressure for 5 minutes, release pressure, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork, or pass the soup through a food mill.  Correct seasoning.  Off heat and just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls.  Decorate with the herbs.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Truluck's: Texas Striped Bass Pontchartrain

Tonight my family went to Truluck's for some delicious seafood. Unfortunately, the crab was just a little bit too pricey for my taste. Lucky for me, the fish sounded fabulous. I choose the Texas Striped Bass Pontchartrain. This is a fried striped bass fillet topped with a spicy sauce made from shrimp, crawfish, and crab. The fish is served over crab fried rice. The dish was pretty spicy, but oh so rich and delicious.

Fish Pontchartrain
Inspired by Truluck's

2 (7-ounce) fish fillets (redfish or striped bass)
3 teaspoons blackening seasoning
2 tablespoons lemon garlic butter
4 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined (size: 31/35)
2 ounces blue crab claw meat
2 ounces crawfish tails
6 ounces Pontchartrain Sauce
12 ounces cooked rice
2 lemon wedges
1 teaspoon chives, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Season redfish with blackening seasoning. Do not add additional salt or pepper.  Sear the redfish flesh side down on an extremely hot griddle or in a sauté pan.  When the fish is blackened, turn fillet over and turn off the heat. The carry over heat will continue cooking the fish.  Fry the fish until golden brown in oil or for about three and a half minutes.

In a sauté pan, heat lemon garlic butter. When hot, add the shrimp and cook until opaque and just under done or about two minutes. Add the crawfish, crab and heat thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the Pontchartrain sauce and mix well.

Place rice in the center of a hot plate.  Place the crusted fillet on top of the rice.  Pour the sauce, crab, crawfish and shrimp over the fried fish.  Garnish the plate with lemon wedges and chopped chives. Serve immediately.

*For Texas Stripped Bass Pontchartrain, coat bass fillets in grated Parmesan cheese and fry.

Pontchartrain Sauce
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 shallot, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced, ends removed
3 ounces all-purpose flour
1 quart chicken stock
1 pound crab shells, roasted
6 quarts heavy cream
5 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Zatarain’s creole mustard
2 tablespoons A1 steak sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons basil, picked, chopped
2 tablespoons oregano, chopped
¼ cup green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon SwampFire seafood boil seasoning
1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons sea salt and black pepper mix

Sweat carrots, shallot, jalapeño, and garlic in melted butter until fragrant and soft.  Add flour to make a roux and cook until roux is red in color. Set aside.

In a different saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil and add roasted crab shells.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.  Strain crab-chicken stock into the roux and whisk continuously.  Add the heavy cream and remaining ingredients. Simmer for twenty minutes.

Blend with an immersion blender until smooth and check for seasoning.  It is suggested to prepare sauce 24 hours prior to use.  Flavors will marry and intensify overnight.  When serving the Redfish Pontchartrain, squeeze one lemon wedge over the fish and sauce prior to serving to complete the sauce.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Williams-Sonoma Collection: Christmas: Gratinéed Leeks

When you're cooking for Thanksgiving, nothing really beats something smothered in cheese.  So I knew as soon as I saw this particular recipe that I needed to somehow work it into our dinner plans.  I think the only way this could have been improved was with a little bath of cream before the cheese took over.  Oh, and unless I just had really difficult, tough leeks, they needed quite a bit longer than 30 minutes to braise.  Consider yourself warned.

Gratinéed Leeks
From Williams-Sonoma Collection: Christmas by Carolyn Miller

6 large leeks, about 4 pounds total weight, trimmed to 8 inches long and halved lengthwise, then crosswise
1 cup chicken stock or prepared low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup dry white vermouth
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
½ cup shredded Gruyére cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 2-quart flameproof gratin dish.

Hold each leek under cold running water and rinse between the leaves to remove all the dirt; drain well.

Lay the leeks, cut side up, in the prepared dish.  Pour the stock and vermouth over them.  Season with kosher salt and white pepper.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the leeks are tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven.

Preheat the broiler.  Uncover the dish and sprinkle the Gruyére and then the Parmesan evenly over the leeks.  Dot with the butter.  Place the dish under the broiler 3 to 4 inches from the heat source and broil until the top is golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Serve warm.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fine Cooking: Cranberry Sauce with Caramelized Onions

I am searching for cranberry nirvana.  I need something homemade and delicious and not a jelly roll from a can.  Why should everything else on Thanksgiving be homemade but the cranberry sauce?  It's a required part of the meal.  I am going to require that it be made from scratch from now on.  Which probably means I will be responsible for making it every year from now on.  This isn't a bad candidate.

Cranberry Sauce with Caramelized Onions
From Fine Cooking magazine, October/November 2009

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into medium dice
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One (12-ounce) bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 cup granulated sugar

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, cloves, a pinch of salt, and a grind or two of pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden-brown and very soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium high, and cook the onions, stirring often, until deep caramel-brown, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the cranberries, sugar, a pinch of salt, and ½ cup water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 1 minute, then cover, turn off the heat, and let cool to room temperature.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gennie's Bishop Grill: Peanut Butter Pie

After reading a blog entry over at Homesick Texan about peanut butter pie, I definitely wanted to try some. Only problem? The recipe she used came from a now-defunct eatery in Oak Cliff, Texas, called Gennie's Bishop Grill. Luckily for me, I was still able to find a copy of their self-published recipe booklet on Amazon. For a price, of course.

The pie was delicious. It's basically a peanut butter pudding inside a pie shell. Then you whip up some thick whipped cream for the top. It's a diner pie specialty, and it's sooooo good.

Peanut Butter Pie
From Gennie's Bishop Grill

3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
Blind-baked pie shell
1 cup whipped cream
1/2 cup roasted peanuts

Combine egg yolks, salt, and milk.  Mix well.  Place in heavy saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until warm.  Combine sugar and flour; gradually add milk mixture, stirring constantly until thickened.  Boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla and peanut butter.  Let cool slightly.

Pour filling into cooled pie shell.  Chill thoroughly.  Garnish with whipped cream and roasted peanuts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Unforgettable Desserts: Caramelized Banana Cream Tart in Pecan Crust

As part of my cookbook testing, I made this delicious banana tart. It's a pecan crust, caramelized bananas, vanilla pastry cream, fresh banana, whipped cream, and caramelized pecans. This was one of those all-day projects.  Cookbook testing...it's a rough job, but someone's got to do it.

The final result was amazingly delicious and over-the-top rich. It was worth every minute of prep time. Only problem? The fresh bananas on top of the pastry cream start browning after the initial serving. By the next day, they were turning. This is definitely a one night only dessert, but it sure is a stunner!

Caramelized Banana Cream Tart in Pecan Crust
From Unforgettable Desserts by Dede Wilson

Caramelized Pecans
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons water
½ cup pecan halves

2½ cups pecan halves
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

Caramelized Filling
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 large, ripe but firm bananas

Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened and cut into tiny pieces
1 large, ripe but firm banana
1½ cups chilled heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramelized pecans, line a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil; smooth out any wrinkles.  Coat lightly with flavorless vegetable oil using a pastry brush.

Put the sugar and water in a very small saucepan and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until it turns light amber in color.  Immediately remove from the heat.  Quickly drop the pecan halves into the caramel one at a time and use two forks to help them submerge and become coated with caramel.  Use the forks to remove the nuts from the caramel, allow the excess to drip off, and place them right side up on the prepared pan.  Repeat with the remaining nuts; do not allow the nuts to touch one another on the foil. Allow nuts to cool completely and harden at room temperature. Store up to 3 days ahead in airtight container.

For the crust, position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat a 10-inch loose-bottomed fluted tart pan with nonstick spray; set aside.

Place nuts and sugar in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade and process until very finely ground.  Pulse in melted butter until well blended. Pat into prepared pan, creating an even layer across bottom and up sides.  Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes. The crust might look puffy. Use the back of a soup spoon to press the crust down and back into shape along the pan’s sides and bottom. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes more or until very lightly colored. Cool completely on a rack. Store at room temperature up to 1 day ahead, loosely covered with foil.

For the caramelized banana filling, prepare the filling and topping the day of serving. At least 4 hours before serving, stir the sugar and water together in nonstick skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until it turns a light to medium golden amber. Meanwhile, peel bananas. Remove the skillet from the heat and immediately slice the bananas into ½-inch rounds right into the skillet. Toss well with caramel. Immediately scrape into prepared crust and set aside.

For the pastry cream, place the milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer; remove from heat.  Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heatproof bowl until very smooth. Reheat the milk if it has become tepid.
Drizzle about ¼ of the warm milk over the egg mixture, whisking gently. Add the remaining warm milk and whisk to combine. Immediately pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over a medium-low heat just until it begins to simmer and bubbles appear. Whisk constantly to prevent scorching, cooking for about 1 minute. The pastry cream should be thick enough to mound when dropped from a spoon, but still satiny. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and butter. Allow to cool slightly. Scrape warm (not hot) pastry cream over the bananas and spread until smooth using a small offset spatula. Let the pastry cream cool, then refrigerate at least 6 hours or until firm enough to slice. After it chills, you may cover it with a piece of plastic wrap pressed onto the surface for up to 4 hours.
For the topping, up to 2 hours before serving, peel and cut the banana in half crosswise then slice lengthwise into thin slices. Place these along the edge of the tart, using the curve of the fruit to follow the shape of the pie. There should be one ring of banana slices going around the entire pie along the edge. Beat cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Pile the whipped cream attractively on top of the pie. The pie may be served immediately or refrigerated for up to 2 hours. Sprinkle the caramelized pecans on top right before serving.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Allrecipes: Licuado de Mango

Today I went with a friend to a Guatemalan restaurant in Union City, NJ. I don't remember the name, but it was a small storefront, with a bakery rack near the door, and some seating on the side. It was pretty chilly inside, but the food was fabulous.

First I had a licuado de mango, which is mango and milk frothed together in a blender. Like a milkshake, but no ice cream. For an appetizer we had some Guatemalan sopes: masa rounds with tomato, ground beef, and white cheese on top. For lunch I tried two different kinds of tamal.  One a tamale colorado: pork, red bell pepper, and tomato inside, and the other a tamelito de loroco: masa mixed with loroco and no filling. I also ordered a guacamole tostada because I'm a glutton.

Licuado de Mango
From Allrecipes

1 mango, peeled, seeded, and diced
1½ cups milk
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup ice cubes

Place all ingredients into a blender.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.

Makes 1 drink

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good Housekeeping Best-Loved Desserts: Almond Lattice Brownies

These were just a quick treat. The kind of treat that you need when you've had a hard day and your brain keeps screaming CHOCOLATE.  Plus, I got to use up the almond paste I had leftover. So it was fudgy brownie deliciousness with a pretty puffy almond lattice.  Because food doesn't have to just be yummy.

Almond Lattice Brownies
From Good Housekeeping Best-Loved Desserts

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Almond Lattice Topping:
1 (7- to 8-ounce) can or tube almond paste, crumbled
1 large egg
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt.  In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter, semisweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth.  Remove from heat; stir in the sugar and vanilla.  Add the eggs; stir until well mixed.  Stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture just until blended.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

In a food processor with the knife blade attached, pulse the almond paste, egg, sugar, flour, and vanilla until the mixture is smooth, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Transfer the almond mixture to a small ziptight plastic bag.  With scissors, cut the bottom corner of the bag on the diagonal, ¼-inch from the edge.  Pipe the almond topping over the brownie batter to make 10 diagonal lines, spacing them 1 inch apart.  Pipe the remaining topping diagonally across the first set of lines, to make 10 more lines and create a lattice design.

Bake until toothpick inserted 2 inches from edge comes out almost clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.  When cool, cut brownie lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 6 pieces.

Makes 24 brownies

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Family Circle: Chipotle Tomato Salsa

I swear there's a Tex-Mex restaurant on every corner in Texas.  When you walk up to your table, the friendly salsa boy is practically knocking you over to get your chips and a bunch of bowls of salsa down on the table first.  And they will keep bringing more chips and salsa until your sides split, actual dinner be darned.  And that's about when I realized that I had never actually made salsa at home.  It's everywhere I look, except my kitchen apparently.  This recipe gets you a good base, and you can tinker from there.  Adobo sauce not getting you the spice level you want?  Dump in a jalapeño.  Heck, dump in a habanero if that's what does it for you.  Like it a little more sour?  Add more lime juice.  Play with it until it's yours.

Chipotle Tomato Salsa
Adapted from Family Circle magazine, January 2009

1 (28-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
½ medium red onion, chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeds removed and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons adobo sauce from can
1½ teaspoons olive oil
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and chopped

Run all ingredients through a food processor or blender for 5 to 10 seconds.  Store in airtight jars for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 3 cups

Sunday, August 09, 2009

One Pot French: Tomates de Vigne au Sainte Maure (Roasted Tomatoes with Sainte Maure Cheese)

When I saw this recipe, I thought, wow, that looks relatively simple.  Tomatoes, cheese, herbs, done.  This is why I shouldn't listen to myself.  Sainte Maure cheese is nowhere to be found.  Nowhere.  So I bought the closest thing, an aged goat cheese with the same bumpy rind as Sainte Maure.  But could I cut it into slices?  Heck, no.  The thing was like a brie.  So I got to put scoops of goat cheese on my tomatoes.  But they still tasted pretty darn good.  Very slightly warm, lots of good flavors.  And yes, I have a heavy hand with the herbs.

Tomates de Vigne au Sainte Maure (Roasted Tomatoes with Sainte Maure Cheese)
From One Pot French by Jean-Pierre Challet

4 vine-ripened tomatoes, halved
¼ cup olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ pound Sainte Maure cheese, cut into 8 slices
1 teaspoon finely chopped chervil
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Warmed olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In an ovenproof dish, gently toss together the tomatoes, olive oil, shallots, and garlic.  Bake for 5 minutes - just long enough to warm the ingredients and bring out the flavors.  Flip each tomato cut-side up; top each with a slice of cheese.  Bake 1 minutes to soften the cheese slightly.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the herbs, drizzle warm olive oil over top, and serve in the baking dish.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Heritage of Southern Cooking: Vidalia Onion Pie

Yes, I'm still on my southern cooking kick.  Can you blame me?  After those biscuits and catfish fillets?  The stuff is amazing!  So I decided to veer off the pavement onto the dirt road a little and make something a bit non-traditional.  Have you ever eaten an onion pie?  Yeah, me neither.  But this one is special.  It's made with Vidalia onions, the ones that are sweet.  So I promise this pie won't make you cry, unless it's from overwhelming happiness.

Vidalia Onion Pie
From The Heritage of Southern Cooking by Camille Glenn

3 tablespoons butter
5 medium Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
1 partially baked 9-inch pastry shell
1 cup grated aged Swiss cheese
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan.  Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat until they are limp but not the least bit brown.  Drain the onions and arrange them in the pastry shell.  Cover the onions with the grated cheese.  Beat the eggs, egg yolks, milk, and cream together.  Season with salt and cayenne pepper, and pour over the cheese.

Place the pie pan on the lower shelf of the oven and bake until the pie has puffed in the middle and is golden brown all over, 35 to 40 minutes.

Makes 6 servings

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ina Garten: Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing

After making peanut butter cupcakes with a chocolate ganache icing, I started to wonder if it could work the other way, too.  Okay, okay, I was really just thinking how I could make the equivalent of a giant Reese's peanut butter cup.  There's a surprising amount of options when it comes to peanut butter icing.  But Ina's never done me wrong.  In fact, I think she tends to err on the side of fabulous in all the right ways.

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing
From Ina Garten

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bill Neal's Southern Cooking: Creamy Mushroom Chicken and Dumplings

How do you improve on chicken and dumplings?  That is an excellent question.  And one I thought was silly until I saw the recipe for this dish of beauty.  You improve on chicken and dumplings by dumping a bunch of mushrooms and cream in it.  The answer was so obvious.  Now I'm wondering if maybe I should throw some bacon in next time, too...

Creamy Mushroom Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from Bill Neal's Southern Cooking

1 cooked rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed
3 ounces chicken, duck, or goose fat (or unsalted butter)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
9 tablespoons flour
6 cups chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
Ground black pepper
Hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco or Frank's)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 large egg plus enough whole milk to equal ⅞ cup

Pull cooked chicken into bite-size pieces and set aside.

In a large pot, cook onion in chicken fat until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until water is released and then cooked away. Add garlic and cook another few minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and combine. Cook for a few minutes, but do not let flour brown. Add chicken stock, heavy cream, black pepper, and hot pepper sauce and stir to combine.

Bring liquid in pot to a simmer, and allow to bubble for about 15 minutes. Add chicken, and continue to simmer another 15 minutes. The liquid will thicken slightly.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a small bowl. Make an indention in the middle for the liquid ingredients. Beat egg with milk and pour into the small indention. Mix liquids with dry ingredients until a dough is formed. Drop in small spoonfuls over chicken stew, stirring to make more room. When all dumplings are in the pot, cover with a lid and simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bite-Size Desserts: Peanut Butter Mini Cupcakes

What is the ideal pairing?  I'm sure there are plenty of contenders, but I think I'm going to vote for peanut butter and chocolate.  I mean, you can't beat a Reese's peanut butter cup.  Those things are fantastic.  And these were a slow, sweet waltz in my mouth. The cake has a tender crumb, and the frosting has a rich, deep chocolate flavor. I highly recommend you make a batch of your own. I dare you to still have some left two days later.

Peanut Butter Mini Cupcakes
From Bite-Size Desserts by Carole Bloom

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of kosher or fine-grained sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup smooth peanut butter
⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup half-and-half
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Frosting
¼ cup salted peanuts (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Use two 12-cavity 2-inch round silicone mini muffin pans. Place the mini muffin pans on a baking sheet.

Over a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and toss together to blend.

Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the flat beater attachment or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer on medium speed until it's fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and blend together until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until creamy, about 1 minute.

In a small bowl, use a fork to lightly beat the egg and vanilla together. Beat this mixture into the peanut butter mixture. Stop frequently and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The mixture may look curdled as the egg is added, but as you stop and scrape down the bowl, the mixture will smooth out. Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture in 3 stages, alternating with the half-and-half, and blending well after each addition.

Use a 1½-inch round ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly among the cavities of the mini muffin pans.

Bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes, until light golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool the mini muffin pans on racks.

Use a small offset spatula, a rubber spatula, or a spoon to spread the top of each cupcake with the ganache frosting. Or fit a 12- or 14-inch pastry bag with a large open star tip and fill it partway with the ganache. Pipe the ganache onto the cupcakes in rosettes, covering the tops. Sprinkle the top of each cupcake with peanuts, if desired.  Serve the cupcakes at room temperature.

Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Frosting
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (66 to 72% cacao content), finely chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-size bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and let it stand for 30 seconds. Use a heat-resistant spatula to stir the mixture together until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until thick but not stiff, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Whip the ganache in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the flat beater attachment or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer on medium speed until it holds soft peaks, about 1 minute.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dim Sum: Chinese Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp and Garlic Chives

What do you do with leftover dumpling filing?  You scour the internet until you find out that scrambled eggs with shrimp and chives is a thing.  A really delicious, super-easy-to-make thing.  And since there are eggs, it's a breakfast dish, right?  Well, it is now.

Chinese Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp and Garlic Chives
Loosely adapted from Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder

1½ teaspoon salt
½ pound Chinese chives, cleaned, trimmed, and cut in ½-inch lengths
4 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in ¼-inch dice (about ½ cup)
½ teaspoon soy sauce
⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons

Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the chives and blanch for 1 minute over high heat.  Drain the chives in a colander, and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.  Squeeze the chives dry and transfer them to a medium bowl.  (You should have about 1¼ cups.)

Combine the chives with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, the shrimp, soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil, and eggs.  Scramble the eggs until the shrimp is pink and the eggs are cooked.

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the butter, and when it has melted, add the egg mixture.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Guotie (Potstickers - Chinese Dumplings)

This month's Daring Cooks challenge was chosen by Jen from use real butter, and she chose to have us make Chinese dumplings from scratch, including the wrappers. Originally I wanted to do a clear dumpling, like har gow or chive dumplings, but for some reason, every time I tried to make the dough, it turned into sludge. I followed the same recipe I have used successfully in the past, but when I added the water, it didn't make a dough, but a watery mess. I still have no idea what went wrong, but after three tries, I decided to make something else.

For the challenge I ended up making a traditional flour wrapper. Unfortunately, I had a filling for a clear wrapper, so the dumplings tasted a little odd, but they still turned out. I have to say, after all of the work, I think the frozen wrappers at the Chinese grocery are worth the money. My wrappers seemed thick (even though you could almost see through them) and tough. I'm not a fan, but it was definitely an interesting experience.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Alton Brown: Southern Biscuits

This whole week in New Jersey has been raining and miserable, which seems to be a pretty accurate reflection of my job and life at the moment, so I really needed something amazing and homey and rich and flaky and warm to make me feel like it was really going to be okay. What I needed were biscuits. Not just any biscuits. Light as air, soft as silk, and tender at the heart. I am what I eat.

Southern Biscuits
Adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown and his grandmother Ma Mae

1½ cup all-purpose flour*
½ cup cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
2 tablespoons lard or Crisco shortening, chilled
1 cup buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 450F.

Sift both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter and lard until the mixture resembles small crumbs. Pour in buttermilk, and stir with a spoon until just mixed.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and pat with floured hands just until dough comes together. Handle the dough as little as possible. Pat into a 1-inch high round, and use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut straight down, then twist slightly to pop the biscuit round loose of the surrounding dough. Combine scraps, repat into a round, and cut additional biscuits.

Place the biscuits on a thick aluminum baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat to avoid burning the bottoms. Arrange in rows, with biscuits just touching. Bake for approximately 12 minutes. Serve warm with butter.

*If you're lucky enough to have a source for White Lily flour, you can use 2 cups of it and eliminate the cake flour.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Love Affair with Southern Cooking: Fried Catfish

After the horror of the oyster pie, I decided to go a little easier on myself and my southern cravings.  Find something that's not quite so far on the fringes.  Something that's so incredibly good that you spend 20 minutes trying to figure out exactly how much you can eat without making yourself sick.  You may think I'm kidding, but when you find yourself standing over the plate of hot, crisp catfish, don't say I didn't warn you.  And don't skip the lard.

Fried Catfish
Adapted from A Love Affair with Southern Cooking by Jean Anderson

4 (6-ounce) US-farmed catfish fillets
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup self-rising flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoon lard

Lay the catfish fillets in a dish with high sides and pour the buttermilk over them. Let rest in the refrigerator for one hour. When the hour is up, turn the fillets and refrigerate for another hour.

When catfish is done marinating, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and both peppers in a shallow dish. Take each fillet and shake gently to remove excess buttermilk. Lay in the dish with the cornmeal mixture, and pat the dry ingredients onto the fillets until well breaded. Gently shake off excess.

Heat half of oil and lard in a heavy frying pan or iron skillet. When the fat is hot, add the fish fillets. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip the fillets, add the remaining oil and lard, and cook an additional 4-5 minutes. Drain the fillets on a paper towel and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gourmet: Chocolate Raspberry Clafoutis

What do you do with a ton of raspberries you picked that are staring at you from the shelf of the refrigerator?  Why, you get online as fast as possible and try to find a recipe that will incorporate every last one of those little buggers in a way that is interesting, satisfying, and hopefully sweet as can be.  I think I succeeded.

Chocolate Raspberry Clafoutis
From Gourmet magazine, March 2009

12 ounces fresh raspberries (2¾ cups)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 to 3½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter a 1½-quarts shallow baking dish.

Toss berries with granulated sugar and let stand 15 minutes.

Blend milk, butter, eggs, brown sugar, flour, cocoa, and salt in a blender until smooth. Scatter berries (with juices) evenly in baking dish, then pour batter over top.

Bake until slightly puffed and firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chopped chocolate. Cool to warm, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Aunt Toot's Oyster and Almond Pie

So I decided that it was time for me to make some dishes that reminded me of the South.  Now note, I have never eaten any of these dishes previously.  So they are not treasured family heirlooms or any of that.  I just felt like I wanted something that was quite obviously southern.  So I hiked all the way to Chinatown to procure a quart of oysters to make this very southern oyster pie.  And then I proceeded to put one spoon of it in my mouth and make the kid yuck face.  You've seen it.  Where the kid is afraid to swallow and afraid to spit it out, so they just sit there with this look of misery and horror on their face?  Now, this has nothing to do with this casserole, per se.  It definitely has something to do with the fact that I am not southern enough to enjoy oysters, apparently.

Aunt Toot's Oyster and Almond Pie
From My Mother's Southern Kitchen by James Villas

⅓ cup slivered almonds
2 cups crushed soda crackers
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 quart freshly shucked oysters, liquor reserved
⅓ cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

To toast the almonds, spread them evenly on a baking sheet and bake, stirring several times, till slightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.  Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the crackers, nutmeg, and salt and cayenne pepper and mix well.  In another bowl, mix together the reserved oyster liquor, sherry, and Worcestershire.  In a 2-quart baking dish, arrange alternate layers of seasoned crackers and oysters, drizzling the oyster liquor mixture over each layer, dotting each layer with pieces of butter, and finishing with a layer of crackers dotted with butter.  Pour the half-and-half around the sides and bake 20 minutes.  Scatter the reserved almonds on top, baste with a little of the cooking liquid, and bake till the top is nicely browned but the pie is still moist, about 10 minutes longer.  Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, June 04, 2009


You know what makes any day brighter?  Guacamole.  I mean, how can you be sad when a dish of this creamy, happy goodness is set in front of you?  There are days when I literally just have guacamole for dinner.  You hit most of the food pyramid, right?  Okay, maybe not.  But that won't stop me from doing it again and again.


2 medium ripe Hass avocados
Juice of ½ lime
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
½ jalapeño pepper, seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
Dash of ground cumin

Scoop the flesh from the avocados into a medium bowl.  Mash the flesh with a fork.  Sprinkle with the lime juice and mix well.  Add tomato, jalapeño, onion, and cilantro.  Sprinkle with cumin and mix well.  Add salt to taste.  Additional lime juice, or any other ingredient, may be added to balance the flavors or to adjust for personal taste.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kaffeehaus: Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)

One of the best parts of a German meal is the dessert.  Germans really know their sugary sweets.  While I normally go for something chocolate, occasionally I feel the need to try something with a pile of freshly whipped cream.  And that thing is normally some type of strudel.

You've probably seen several different fillings, but I decided to make a sweet strudel, with apples and walnuts in the filling. I left out the raisins since I think they're nasty, but you can certainly add them back in.  When I pulled this goodie out of the oven, I almost couldn't believe I'd made the thing.  Like an apple pie, but self-contained, tender, flaky, and scrumptious.

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
From Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons golden rum (or use apple juice)
3 tablespoons raisins
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1½ cups fresh plain bread crumbs
Strudel Dough
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds tart baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs.

Spread the walnuts about 3 inches from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling.  Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself.  Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it.  Curve it into a horseshoe to fit.  Tuck the ends under the strudel.  Brush the top with the remaining butter.

Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is a deep golden brown.  Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.  Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel Dough
1⅓ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.

Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30 to 90 minutes (longer is better).

It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36-inch round table or a work surface of 23x38 inches. Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.

Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet wide and 3 feet long, it will be tissue-thin by this time.  Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.