Sunday, April 30, 2017

Midwest Living: Heavenly Morel Tarts

It's morel time!  I must admit...I look forward to this time of year every year.  Because this is when the fun, elusive stuff comes to market.  Things like fiddlehead ferns, morels, and ramps.  Delicious ephemeral beauties.  But once I get these delights home, and the initial glee has faded, I have to figure out what to make with my bounty.  And due to the transient nature of these delicacies, the recipe options can be rather limited.  Luckily I found this tasty pocket of creamy mushroom goodness.  Absolutely well worth the effort and the expense.

Heavenly Morel Tarts
From Midwest Living

3 ounces fresh morel mushrooms*
2 green onions, chopped
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
⅛ teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
⅛ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 (17.3-ounce) package puff pastry sheets
1 egg, lightly beaten

Clean mushrooms. Place morel mushrooms, if using, in a large bowl. Cover with cold tap water; add ½ teaspoon salt. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, rinse and repeat two more times. Drain thoroughly; pat mushrooms dry with paper towels. Chop mushrooms (you should have 1 cup).

For filling: In a large skillet, cook onion in butter over medium heat until tender. Add mushrooms, salt, white pepper, marjoram, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, and parsley. Cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly evaporated. Remove from heat.  In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and flour until combined. Stir sour cream mixture into mushroom mixture.

On a floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten the puff pastry dough. Cut dough into eighteen 3-inch circles, re-rolling dough as necessary. Using small cutters, make cutouts in the centers of half of the rounds or cut a slit in half of the rounds to let the steam escape during baking.

Place 9 of the circles, without cutouts, on an ungreased baking sheet. Place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each. Moisten edges of filled pastry with a little water. Add the remaining 9 circles with cutouts or slits. Crimp edges together with a fork. Brush tops with beaten egg.
Bake in a 350°F oven for 16 to 20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Serve warm.

Makes 9 tarts

*If fresh morels aren't available, substitute 1½-ounces dried morel or porcini mushrooms. In a small bowl, cover the dried mushrooms with hot water. Let stand for 20 minutes. Rinse under warm running water; squeeze out excess moisture. Slice the mushrooms.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Strawberry Cake

This is it.  The absolute last piece of the cake.  The same cake that I had for approximately 80% of my birthdays growing up.  At least until I decided that artificial red dyes and preservatives should probably not be a main staple of my diet.  But there's something so good about being bad.  This cake is ludicrously pink and ridiculously sweet.  But it's also deliciously strawberry, and there's nothing wrong with that.  Go old school and see.

Note: Versions of this cake have made the rounds of the internet since its inception.  This is my grandmother's take.

Strawberry Cake

1 box white cake mix
1 (3-ounce) package strawberry-flavored instant gelatin
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, chopped
4 large eggs
Strawberry Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

Combine the cake mix and gelatin thoroughly. Add the butter and 1 cup of chopped strawberries; mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on a rack. Frost with Strawberry Frosting. Refrigerate for at least half an hour to set the frosting.

Makes 16 servings

Strawberry Frosting
1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar (about 3½ cups)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, chopped

Mix the sugar and butter together. Add the strawberries, a spoonful at a time, until the frosting reaches spreading consistency.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Little Spice Jar: Firecracker Chicken Meatballs

Every year I swear it gets harder and harder to make a dish that I can take to a family gathering and get everyone to eat.  Like moving-a-mountain impossible.  I've got medical issues to work around, weird aversions to certain ingredients, someone who pretty much only eats meat and potatoes, and someone who tries to keep the food fresh and healthy and without chemicals.  Okay, that last one is me.  Trouble maker: identified.  But I think I've found a good option here.  Meat, but not heavy, greasy meat.  Carbs are almost nonexistent in the meatballs.  Flavorful sauce hides lack of carbs, but don't take too much because sugar.  Crunchy lettuce works well with spicy meatballs.  I'm moving a mountain, one meatball at a time.

Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Little Spice Jar blog

2 pounds ground chicken thighs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Boston lettuce leaves, for serving

Firecracker Sauce:
¾ cup Frank's hot sauce
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on spice preference)

Position 2 racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 475ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the ingredients of the Firecracker Sauce over medium-high heat, allow to come to a boil, reduce the heat so it simmers. Let simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so don’t worry if it looks thin.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, panko, eggs, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and white pepper. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together. The mixture should be sticky. DO NOT OVERMIX, it will result in drier meatballs.

Shape the meat mixture into ball, about 1 inch in diameter. Place shaped meatballs on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the meatballs are completely cooked.

Place meatballs in serving dish and pour the sauce over the meatballs, making sure each meatball gets coated in the sauce.  Sprinkle with green onions and serve with Boston lettuce leaves.

Makes 44 meatballs

Saturday, April 08, 2017

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Lemp Mansion German-Style Cut Green Beans

I love these green beans.  I'm not sure what else to say, really.  They are just that good.  I even considered just cooking some plain white rice and eating these green beans on top of it for the whole week.  It's green beans in gravy, and somehow that seems to defy all the rules of eating your vegetables, but is somehow perfect.  If you have some kids and you struggle to get green stuff into them, try this dish.  If they don't eat it like it's chocolate cake, your children have serious problems and probably need a therapist.

Lemp Mansion German-Style Cut Green Beans
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Lemp Mansion restaurant

2 (14½-ounce) cans cut green beans
4 to 6 slices bacon, chopped
½ medium onion, diced small
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons chicken base
1½ teaspoons beef base
¼ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 drops Kitchen Bouquet
Extra cooked bacon and onion, for garnish

Heat oven to 400°F.

Reserving the liquid for the gravy, drain the green beans for at least 15 minutes. Once drained, place beans in an oven-safe shallow baking pan.

In a large, heavy saucepan, sauté bacon on medium high heat until slightly crispy.  Add onion and use a whisk to sauté onions until they are slightly golden but still retain some texture, about 3 minutes.  Add margarine, let it melt, then stir in.  Sprinkle about half the flour over top, stir in well, then add remaining flour. Stir constantly on low heat until floury taste cooks off, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in reserved green bean liquid and bring to a boil, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Let simmer for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens, stirring often.  Stir in chicken base, beef base, salt (if desired), pepper, and Kitchen Bouquet. Let cook for 5 minutes.  Pour hot gravy over top of the beans without stirring in. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until beans are hot.

To serve Lemp Mansion-style, transfer hot beans to a large serving bowl and top with extra bacon and onion.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Mission Lutheran Church: Shrimp and Rice Casserole

Tonight I was feeling very retro.  I just wanted something warm and comforting.  Something that comes in a casserole dish and screams '70's at the top of its lungs.  And luckily I found exactly what I wanted in an old community cookbook.  I swear, those housewives knew exactly what they were doing.  We all pretend like we're super foodies and above this kind of meal, but the moment any stress hits, we're right back to what mom used to cook.  Why?  Because it's good and non-threatening and reminds us of being 10 years old (when adulting was a far-away thing).

Shrimp and Rice Casserole
Adapted from Mission Lutheran Church community cookbook, Richardson, TX

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped green pepper
⅓ cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 small jalapeño, deveined and deseeded, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Emeril's Essence
½ teaspoon Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
2½ cups cooked long-grain white rice
1 (10½ ounce) can condensed cream of shrimp soup
1 (10½ ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
⅓ cup sour cream
1½ pounds large shrimp, cleaned and patted dry
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
⅓ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup panko

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, then add celery, green and red pepper, jalapeño, green onions, and garlic.  Sprinkle with Emeril's Essence and Adobo seasoning.  Sauté until onions are translucent and tender.  Add the shrimp and cook until they start to turn opaque.  Lower heat to medium and mix in the cooked rice, canned soups, and sour cream.  Add white pepper and parsley.  Stir well and cook until warmed through.  Pour into a large casserole dish and sprinkle with panko.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 12 servings