Thursday, October 30, 2014

Saveur: Candied Orange Peels

I'm not in the mood for mini bags of M&M's and tiny Kit-Kats even though it's almost Halloween.  Why eat those processed candies that were made nine months ago when I can have my own candy that was made nine minutes ago?  If I had known it was this easy to make my own candy, this would have been happening every year.  Although I doubt the neighborhood parents would appreciate me handing this out to their kiddos.  Their loss, because these candied orange peels are awesome.

Candied Orange Peels
Adapted from Saveur magazine, December 1999

3 navel oranges
1 cup granulated sugar, plus additional for coating
⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon half-and-half or whole milk

Trim ½-inch off ends of navel oranges, then make a slit in rinds and scoop out flesh. Slice peels into ⅓-inch-wide strips, put in a bowl, cover with water, and refrigerate overnight.

Transfer strips to a medium pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Drain strips and set aside. In same pot bring sugar and ½ cup water to a boil until sugar dissolves. Add strips. Simmer until soft and glazed, about 30 minutes.

Dry strips on a rack until tacky. Roll in sugar.  Melt chocolate chips and half-and-half together and dip ends of orange peels in melted chocolate, if you like.

Makes 40-50 strips

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Betty Crocker: Creamy Swiss Steak

I know, I know, this recipe has canned soup.  Normally I hate that kind of thing.  But this has been in the dinner rotation since I was first able to shove little bits in my mouth.  There's just something so good about earthy mushroom soup and onions that makes this beef pretty darn delicious.  It's like country fried steak cooked in its own gravy.  Without the crunch that eventually gets soggy as you're trying to eat it.  Without taking up the whole plate.  I only see positives here.

Creamy Swiss Steak
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cookbook

2 pounds boneless beef round steak or cube steak, tenderized
¼ cup flour
1½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 (10¾-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut the beef round steak into serving size pieces. If the meat was not run through the tenderizer at the butcher’s, hit the steaks all over with a tenderizer mallet. Mix together flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge steak in flour mixture. In a large skillet, heat oil until shimmering. Add steak pieces and cook until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Mix together mushroom soup, onion soup mix, and milk. Pour a small amount of mushroom soup mixture in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish. Lay the steak pieces over the sauce. Pour the remaining sauce over the beef. Bake for one hour or until tender.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pillsbury: Fudge Nut Orange Bars

You know those fist-sized chocolate candies shaped like oranges that taste like happiness?  The ones you have to smack on the counter to break into "segments"?  Well, this is that candy, in bar form.  And I'll give you one guess which option I picked when it came to OJ versus liquor.  Hint: I don't have any OJ.

Fudge Nut Orange Bars
From Pillsbury

1 (15¼-ounce) package butter cake mix
1 cup rolled oats
⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup ground pecans
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
½ cup orange juice or orange liquor

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon orange juice or orange liquor

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch pan.

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine cake mix, oats, and butter at low speed until fine crumbs form. Reserve 1 cup crumbs for filling. To remaining crumbs, blend in 1 egg until well mixed. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a medium saucepan, heat chocolate chips, sugar, and butter over low heat, stirring constantly, until chips are melted. Remove from heat.  Add eggs; mix well. Stir in remaining filling ingredients. Pour over base; sprinkle with 1 cup of reserved crumbs.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and center is set. Cool completely.  In a small saucepan, heat all glaze ingredients over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Immediately drizzle over bars.  Cut into bars.

Makes 16 servings

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Emeril Lagasse: Sugarcane Baked Ham with Spiced Apples and Pears

I've had a ham taking up all the room in my freezer for a little while now.  Long story.  Basically involves getting a giant ham on special for $8.  But I got tired of this ham taking up all my freezer room.  So it was time to cook the darn thing.  And why not cook it coated in every type of sugary substance they sell at the grocery store?  And since I couldn't find swizzle sticks, but they actually had sugar canes at Central Market, I got to take out all my aggression with a cleaver.  I swear, the lady downstairs probably thinks I was killing someone.  Totally worth it.

Sugarcane Baked Ham with Spiced Apples and Pears
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

12 sugarcane swizzle sticks, each cut into about 3-inch pieces
1 hickory smoked ham, spiral sliced, 8 to 10 pounds (no bone, water added, cooked)
1½ pounds (about 3 to 4) Granny Smith apples
1½ pounds (about 3 to 4) Bartlett pears

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup Steen's 100% Pure Cane Syrup
½ cup dark molasses
½ cup dark corn syrup
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons bourbon

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a shallow baking pan with parchment or waxed paper. Insert the sugarcane sticks into the ham at 3 to 4-inch intervals. Tie the ham, using kitchen twine, horizontally and vertically, like a package, to hold it together. Place it on a wire rack in the baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the glaze ingredients together except for the mustard and water. Mix well. In a small bowl, dissolve the mustard in the water, then add to the spice mixture. Blend well.

Brush the entire ham with the glaze, coating it evenly. Wash, core, and halve the fruit. Place all around the ham. Baste the ham a second time and baste the fruit with the glaze. Bake for 45 minutes. Baste the ham and fruit again.  Bake another 45 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the string and swizzle sticks. Serve the apples and pears on a platter with the ham. Serve everything warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 servings

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gourmet: Seckel Pear Tart with Brandy Pear Cream

I can't resist Seckel pears when I see them.  They're just so cute.  And I'm all about cute.  I mean, tiny pears!  Okay, maybe it's just me.  But I made this beautiful tart with those tiny pears.  And it was amazingly delicious.  Very autumn.  And while the original recipe called for some $40 bottle of pear brandy called Poire William, I made do with pear juice and regular brandy.  Because I'm not going to spend that kind of money for 3 tablespoons.  I'm going to assume you won't either.  Still delicious.

Seckel Pear Tart with Brandy Pear Cream
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 2008

Sweet Pastry Dough
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup pear juice
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 pounds Seckel pears
3 large egg yolks
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons brandy, divided use
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon unflavored gelatin

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 20-by 8-inch rectangle, re-flouring surface as necessary. Transfer to tart pan, gently fitting dough into pan without stretching. Trim overhang to ¾-inch, cutting off corners. Fold overhang inward to reinforce side, then trim flush with edge of pan. Reserve excess pastry for another use if desired. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, then bake until sides are set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden brown all over, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool completely in pan.

Put wine and pear juice in a wide 4-quart pot and stir in sugar and vanilla bean paste (or scrapings from vanilla bean). Carefully peel Seckel pears, leaving stems intact, then cut in half.  Using the tip of a vegetable peeler or a small knife, core the pears to remove seeds. Bring wine mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then add pears, in 1 layer if possible. Simmer, tightly covered, turning occasionally, until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Carefully transfer pears with a slotted spoon to a rack set over a 4-sided sheet pan to drain and cool, standing them upright. Transfer pear syrup to cleaned 2-cup measure, adding any juices from sheet pan under pears (you will have about 1½ cups syrup), and reserve for pastry cream and glaze.

Whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk in 1 cup pear syrup. Transfer to a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons brandy and the butter. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely, its surface covered.

Stir together remaining 1 tablespoon of brandy and the gelatin in a very small bowl and let stand 1 minute. Bring remaining pear syrup to a boil in a very small heavy saucepan, then boil, if necessary, until reduced to about ⅓ cup. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat.

Remove side of tart pan. Whisk cooled pastry cream to loosen, then spread in shell. Lay pear halves on pastry cream, arranging them in 8 rows of 2 or 3. When glaze has cooled and thickened slightly (to speed cooling, set pan in an ice bath), brush it on pears. If glaze gels in pan, reheat very briefly.

Makes 8 servings

Note: Tart shell, poached Seckel pears, and pastry cream can be made 1 day ahead. The assembled tart can be kept at room temperature for 1 hour or chilled 4 hours.

Sweet Pastry Dough
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
1½ to 2 tablespoons ice water

Stir together flour, sugar, and salt, then blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Stir together egg yolk and 1½ tablespoons water and drizzle evenly over butter mixture. Gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add remaining ½ tablespoon ice water (or more, if necessary), stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. (Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.)

Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat.
Gather all dough into a ball, with a pastry scraper if you have one, then flatten into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kim Sunée: Crabapple Ginger Spice Cake

I think I should get the prize for the best way to bring in the cold weather of autumn.  Seriously.  We had a storm last night, and this morning it was in the fifties.  So I made this awesome spice cake.  I literally had to put the cake in the fridge to keep from eating more than was logical.  See?  I win.

Crabapple Ginger Spice Cake
Adapted from Kim Sunée

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons diced crystallized ginger
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 cups cored and coarsely chopped crabapples (from about 1 pound of crabapples)
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Gingered Whipped Topping

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ground ginger, cloves, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream both sugars, butter, and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, fresh ginger, crystallized ginger, and yogurt. Combine until well-blended and smooth.

Slowly mix in reserved flour mixture, and then fold in crabapples. Scrape batter into prepared springform pan. Sprinkle evenly with demerara sugar.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool slightly before eating, warm or cold. Serve, if desired, with Gingered Whipped Cream.

Gingered Whipped Cream
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

Using a hand mixer, whip cream with sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in crystallized ginger.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The New York Times: Concord Grape Sparkler

Who says newspapers are dead?  Well, this is the New York Times we're talking about.  And I assume they probably know their concord grape cocktails.  Why?  Just a gut feeling.  And guess what?  They do!  This is definitely something different.  But different in a good way.  Like the weird artsy girl who everyone wishes they were friends with in high school.  Except this one is spicy in a special, star anisey kind of way.

Concord Grape Sparkler
From The New York Times

1½ ounces Concord grape purée
1½ ounces vodka
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Citrus-based sparkling water
Cluster of whole Concord grapes for garnish.

Fill a cocktail shaker with several ice cubes, and shake together the grape purée, vodka and lemon juice.

Pour into a martini glass (or into a highball glass over ice) and top with sparkling water. Stir gently and garnish with a tiny cluster of grapes.

Makes 1 cocktail

Concord Grape Purée
1 pound whole Concord grapes, washed and stemmed
½ cup sugar, or to taste
2 pieces star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of ½ lime

Put all of the ingredients in a wide-bottomed stainless-steel pot, stirring to combine. Cook over medium-low heat until the grape skins fully separate, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Strain the mixture using the back of a large spoon. The purée should be a vibrant eggplant color and thick.

Makes about 1 cup