Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shrimp Dip and Costco's Artichoke and Jalapeño Dip

Who has a girl's night out scheduled tonight?  I DO!  Wow, that was a little overenthusiastic.  I think I'm just so fed up with all of the bad dates I've been going on that I need some time with the girls.  We're going to drink, watch movies, and eat a ton of dip.  My friend has already promised me some super fabulous seven layer dip, so I had to figure out my contribution.

So, the shrimp dip is based on a recipe my grandmother handed down to my mother.  I have no clue where she got it from, but it's pretty darn delicious.  I tweaked it a little bit with some dill and lemon, but otherwise, it's the same darn thing.   The other dip I made is based on that luscious artichoke and jalapeño dip you can buy in tubs at Costco.  Alas, I don't have a Costco card, so I had to find another way to ease my craving.  I looked up the ingredients on the label, and knowing that they all go in weight order, I managed to pull off something pretty incredible.  I've listed the weights along with the approximate measurements, because honestly, the weights are probably more accurate.  Good excuse to go buy a cheap kitchen scale.  Totally worth it.

Shrimp Dip

6 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1 tablespoon jarred pimento, minced
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup finely chopped green onion
1 (4-ounce) can tiny shrimp, drained
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or more if you like it spicy)

Blend together cream cheese, chives, pimento, sour cream, green onion, and shrimp. Add mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well. Sprinkle with parsley flakes.

Note: The original recipe called for 1 (3-ounce) package of cream cheese with chives and 1 (3-ounce) package of cream cheese with pimento. Both products have been discontinued, and the recipe above reflects appropriate substitutions.

Makes 8 servings

Artichoke and Jalapeño Dip

1 package cream cheese (8 ounces)
1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (6 ounces)
¾ (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained (6 ounces)
½ cup mayonnaise (4 ounces)
¼ medium onion, cut into small chunks (2 ounces)
3 tablespoons pickled jalapeño slices (1½ ounces)
2 cloves garlic (¼ ounce)
1 teaspoon cornstarch (¼ ounce)
1 teaspoon sugar (¼ ounce)
1½ teaspoons lemon juice (¼ ounce)
1 tablespoon fresh dill (⅛ ounce)
Sea salt, to taste

Combine the cream cheese and mayonnaise in a food processor and process until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until mixed, but still chunky, or to desired consistency.

Makes 8 servings

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How Sweet Eats: Pan-Crisped Salmon with Dijon Cream Sauce and Garlic Panko Crumbs

I was wandering through my local supermarket last night, and I came to the fish department.  Now, I normally just keep walking since the prices tend to be high and the fish to be old, but I happened to glance down.  And what did I see?  A mismarked beauty of a salmon fillet.  The dang thing was only $6.99 a pound.  For sockeye.  You bet I bought that sucker.  But then comes to the problem of how best to cook such a marvelous find.

I quickly scrolled through my Pinterest files (you have no idea how helpful this is), and I came upon this beautiful recipe I had pinned some time back.  The salmon is cooked simply, and the sauce is just a basic mustard cream.  But put it all together, and it's really very yummy.  This is doing fish right.

Pan-Crisped Salmon with Dijon Cream Sauce and Garlic Panko Crumbs
Adapted from How Sweet Eats blog

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1 pound salmon filet
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
2 tablespoons freshly chopped sage or 1½ teaspoons dry rubbed sage
¼ cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
¾ cup low-fat evaporated milk
2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Prepare the breadcrumbs first by heating a small saucepan over medium-low heat and adding 1 tablespoon of butter. Add in 2 minced garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant, then stir in breadcrumbs well, tossing for a minute or two until the mixture is combined and slightly golden. Set aside.  When slightly cooled, stir in the chopped parsley.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, then place in the skillet (skin side up, if the salmon has skin) and cook until opaque in the center and golden on each side, about 5-6 minutes for salmon that is 1-inch thick. If you use salmon with skin, simply cook it skin side up the entire time. Remove the salmon and set aside.

Add the remaining ½ tablespoon of butter to the hot pan, along with the shallot, garlic, and sage. Stir well to coat, then cook for 1 to 2 minutes until sizzling, then add in white wine. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, allowing it to bubble and slightly reduce, then whisk in the evaporated milk and Dijon mustard. Continue to whisk and cook while milk bubbles on the sides and thickens, stirring for a minute or two. Taste and season additionally or whisk in a bit more Dijon if desired.

Serve salmon immediately, drizzled with Dijon cream sauce and then topped with breadcrumbs.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Simply Recipes: Cajun Turkey Pot Pie

When the holidays are all over, and you have a freezer full of turkey leftovers, you start searching, somewhat desperately, for something to do with them.  Turkey is delicious and all, but it definitely needs some help in the flavor area.  So when I came across this spicy pot pie, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for my leftover turkey to shine.  Now, the original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of packaged Cajun seasoning, or an "alternative" mix.  The alternative mix did not have any cayenne pepper.  I'm not sure what Cajun seasoning looks like in other states, but here in Texas, we get the real thing from our next door neighbors.  And the second ingredient is...cayenne pepper.  If you used 2 tablespoons of that stuff, you'd be scraping the charred remains of your tongue out of your mouth.  So I reworked the recipe to use the "alternative" spice mixture and added a little bit of cayenne, just enough to make it interesting.  I also replaced the pie crust with a puff pastry, mostly because I just didn't feel like messing with pie crust after all that holiday cooking I finished.

Cajun Turkey Pot Pie
Adapted from Simply Recipes blog

5 tablespoons peanut oil or unsalted butter
3 celery stalks, chopped
1½ cups chopped yellow or white onion
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, deveined and seeded, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups diced, cooked turkey meat
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
1½ teaspoons paprika
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2½ cups turkey or chicken stock
1 cup dark beer (brown ale or Guinness)
1 (14½-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted

Heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion, celery, green pepper, and jalapeño, stirring often, until they are soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, turkey meat, and all seasonings (through cayenne pepper). Mix well and cook another 1 minute, stirring once or twice.

Bring the stock and beer to a boil in a small pot. Sprinkle the flour over the turkey and veggies and mix well. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often and making sure no flour burns on the bottom of the pan. Slowly pour in the hot stock-beer mixture, stirring. It will seize up at first, then, as you pour in more stock and stir, will form a silky sauce for the turkey. Add the tomatoes and cook until the mixture thickens, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the heavy cream and parsley, and taste to see if the seasoning needs to be adjusted.  Pour the filling into a 2-quart square casserole.

Lay the puff pastry onto the filling. Bake at 375°F for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Spaghetti Squash and Smoked Gouda

I was in the store the other day, and the lady in the checkout line behind me noticed I had a wedge of smoked Gouda.  She proceeded to tell me about the amazing fabulousness of smoked Gouda mac and cheese, and I practically had to wipe the drool off my chin by the time she was done.  For someone who hated that orange Kraft stuff as a kid, mac and cheese certainly has me in its thrall now.

I figured if I was going to stuff my face with cheese sauce, I could at least try to be a teensy bit healthy about it.  That and the fact that a spaghetti squash I had purchased was giving me the evil eye from the second shelf of my fridge for not using it quickly enough.  This dish is not the same as the real deal, but it's still pretty fantastic.

Spaghetti Squash and Smoked Gouda
Very loosely adapted from Thomas Keller

1 medium spaghetti squash
4 ounces applewood smoked bacon, cut into batons
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 ounces smoked Gouda, shredded
Green onions, sliced, for serving

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds and discard them. Put one half of the squash, cut side down, on a ceramic plate, and microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes. Test squash to see if it is soft enough to shred with a fork. If not, continue microwaving until it is done. Repeat with the second half of the squash. Set aside.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.

Add butter to the bacon fat left in the skillet. Lower the heat to medium. When the butter is melted, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Sprinkle with the flour. Allow the roux to cook for a minute or two, but do not let it burn or brown. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and add the salt, white pepper, and cayenne pepper. Lower the heat to medium low and continue to stir until the mixture thickens.

Add the Gouda cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Fold in the cooked and shredded spaghetti squash.

Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Jeffrey Steingarten: American Coconut Layer Cake

I'm always looking for a bigger, better coconut cake.  My mom's recipe is pretty darn good, and the filling cannot be topped.  But I hate baking with Crisco.  I want a butter cake, not a shortening cake.  And I want a buttery icing, not an egg white icing.  After searching and searching, I finally found this beauty by food writer Jeffrey Steingarten.  It's adapted from a cake in one of Paul Prudhomme's cookbooks.  So you know it's amazing and authentic.

I kept to the recipe in almost every way except for the filling.  I needed my Grand Marnier pudding filling.  It's my favorite part of the cake.  Or used to be.  Now it sits serenely in between buttery layers of sweet coconut goodness that doesn't shame it at all.  Oh, and I actually cracked a coconut for this.  I'm sure my downstairs neighbor thought I was murdering someone, but I was so worth it.

American Coconut Layer Cake
Adapted from Jeffrey Steingarten, as adapted from The Prudhomme Family Cookbook by Paul Prudhomme

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup heavy cream, chilled
2 cups sugar (superfine)
4 large eggs
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch chunks and allowed to soften to room temperature
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups shredded coconut (divided)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using room-temperature butter, grease and flour three 8x2-inch round cake pans. To be extra safe, you may also line the inside bottom of each cake pan with circles of parchment paper. Note: The custard filling needs to be made several hours to a day in advance to be chilled.

In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Pour the heavy cream into two- to three-quart metal or glass bowl and put it into the freezer along with a medium-large whisk. Let them chill between 30 and 45 minutes. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and eggs; beat on low speed until smooth, about one minute, pushing sides down with a rubber spatula. Add the butter; beat on low until mixture is creamy and light colored, about three minutes. Beat in the milk and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition just until smooth and pushing sides down as needed. Then beat on high speed for about one minute more, pushing sides down. Remove the bowl of cream and the whisk from the freezer, and whisk, by hand, until the cream has gone just past the soft-peak stage. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the cake batter, using a rubber spatula. Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans and bake in the middle rack of the oven, until the centers spring back when lightly pressed (and the layers just begin to pull away from the pans), about 18 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze, following the recipe below. Then make the frosting and remove the custard filling from the refrigerator. Stir 1 cup shredded coconut into the chilled custard filling.

Remove the cake pans from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Then, using a knife, loosen the outsides of the cakes from the pans. Invert the pans onto wire racks and eject the layers from the pans by gently pounding and shaking the pans. Once the layers have cooled for another 15 minutes, use a long, sharp knife to slice each layer in half horizontally. Brush the glaze over the top surface and sides of one layer, a little at a time and using one-sixth of the glaze (about 2½ tablespoons) for each layer. Make holes in the cake so the glaze can sink in. (A dozen holes in each layer should do it; you can use either a small knife or a roasting fork, which you’ll twist a little after you insert it.) Immediately (before glazing another layer) spread one-fifth of the filling on top of the glazed layer, extending it to about ½ inch from the edge. Then place another layer on top and repeat procedure of glazing and spreading on filling until all the layers are glazed and all but the top layer have filling spread on them. Let the cake cool thoroughly, then frost the top and sides. Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups of shredded coconut all over the cake. Let sit at room temperature for between four hours and two days (so that the cake absorbs the sweet, moist coconut flavors) before slicing.

1½ cups canned coconut milk, unsweetened and pure
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the coconut milk and the sugar in a two-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue boiling until glaze reduces to one cup, about five minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into a glass measuring cup.

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon evaporated milk
4 cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar, equal to the contents of a 1-pound box, sifted

Combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed until creamy, about one minute. Turn speed to medium and beat in milk and 1 cup of the sugar, pushing sides down with a rubber spatula. Beat in the remaining 3 cups of sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing until smooth before adding more. If the frosting becomes too thick for the mixer, do the last bit of mixing with a spoon.

4 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, with a wire whisk, mix well all of the ingredients until well blended. Over medium heat, cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Cover the custard’s surface with waxed paper; refrigerate until well chilled, about 1½ hours.