My Motto

May the muffin rise to greet you, may your friends be always at your door, and until we meet again, warm a single-malt in the palm of your hand and make something homemade for someone you love.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sausage Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

"Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see how they are made."
~Otto Von Bismarck (1815-1898)
This is something that I've been wanting to make for years.  I like stuffed mushrooms so much that I often order the appetizer as an entrée.  This dish takes care of that craving, and then some!  The recipe came mainly from Emeril Lagasse, with some tweaking by me.  But whatever you do, if you have any left over, DON'T let the dog eat the scraps.  TRUST ME HERE.   
No, he's not drinking the water...
These made a great light dinner.  The portobello mushroom caps were quite large, so one per person was enough.  I rounded out the meal with some steamed asparagus and crusty bread.  Tons of flavor without the rich decadence that much of the foods of this season hold.

Sausage Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

4 large portobello mushrooms (4 or 5 inches in diameter) stems removed, and minced, 1/2 cup reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1/3 cup minced fresh onion
1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper (red or green)
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2  cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon Emeril's Essence Creole Seasoning (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using your hands, rub 1/2 tablespoon olive oil into each mushroom...on the outside of the cap.
Squeeze sausage from the casings and place in a skillet.  Cook the sausage in a medium skillet until browned, about 4 minutes, using a spatula to break up the meat as you go.  Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and mushroom stems and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat.

Transfer sausage-vegetable mixture to a bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of the parmesan, the parsley, the Essence and the egg.  Stir until well combined.

Divide the filling among the caps, about 1/2 cup each mushroom.  Place the filled mushrooms on a baking sheet.  Combine the remaining bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  Divide the bread crumb mixture evenly among the tops of the mushrooms.  Bake about 20 - 25 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the mushrooms are tender.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cheddar Cookies (AKA The World's Best Cheezits!)

"If I had to give up cheese or chocolate, I'd give up chocolate in a heartbeat."
~Amanda Peet

This post is for my friend Kate, who tweets as @CoastalKate and was looking for a finger food for a holiday office party.  It was just the kick in the pants I needed to try this recipe which has been tucked in my Christmas cookbook for, well, who knows how long.  It is handwritten, and says "Cheddar Cookies AKA June's Secret Cocktail  Cookies" at the top.  I have no idea who June is, don't know a June and cannot remember when I wrote this down or where I obtained it.  Many apologies to June, but apparently it was no longer a secret, since I must have gotten it somewhere!  I thought of them for Kate, but would never recommend a recipe with actually trying it, so I made them today.  Oh, fortunate me! (munch, munch, munch)
Let me just say....THEY ARE AMAZING!  If you like sharp cheddar, then I think it is virtually impossible to dislike these cookies....which, by the way, are light, flaky, crisp and cheesy with just the perfect amount of heat.  Kind of like the cheese straws you sometimes find in gourmet baskets, but better.  They are traditionally served at cocktail parties and would be great at a holiday party, as they are simply elegant.  I tucked some in the box of treats I'm mailing off tomorrow to Curtis for final exam snacks.  He loves Cheezits, so c'mon, why not?  These are some serious home-made cheezits!  For these you will want to buy a nice sharp cheddar, I used Vermont Sharp white cheddar, grated it myself and they were perfect.  I find that when I grate the cheese myself, it melts much better than the pre-grated stuff in the bags.

Cheddar Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup flour
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer.  Add the flour, cayenne pepper and salt and mix in.  It will look crumbly.  Mix with your hands, just a little, until it starts to clump, then mix in the cheddar with your hands.  Roll into balls (about 2 teaspoons of dough) and place on cookie sheet.  Find a glass with a flat bottom and use it to flatten the balls.  Dip bottom of glass in flour, and press all the dough balls down, periodically flouring the bottom of the glass, so the cookies won't stick.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Makes 30 cookies.  Serve at room temperature and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bourbon Pecan Pound Cake, Three Ways

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough."
~Mark Twain
There were lots of things my mother traditionally baked in the weeks before Christmas, and one of them is Bourbon Pound Cake.  I was always intrigued by this off-limits cake that was wrapped up and secreted away to be tended and aged.  I would sneak peeks at it, and it smelled sooo good!  A great treat at Christmas that was worth the wait, even though us kids were only allowed a thin slice.
"Oh holy cow....., this bourbon cake is AWE-some!"
(sung to the tune of "Oh Holy Night")
There are some things to note that are important to your success with this.  Always have your butter, cream cheese and eggs at room temperature before you begin.  If you neglect this step, your cake will lose height (in other words - be a brick).
Pass the pound cake
It is also important to beat the butter and cream cheese together for the full 7 minutes.  There is no other leavening agent in the cake other than the air you beat into the butter and egg whites, so skimping on these steps will really alter the results, trust me!
This versatile recipe can be done three ways; pecan, pineapple-pecan-cherry and coconut-pecan.  The pineapple-pecan-cherry one tastes like pineapple upside-down cake, and is so good.  I've dubbed it Christmas Cake.  It's not your grandma's fruitcake.  If you're not keen on spirits, you can substitute milk for the bourbon and still have a really delicious pound cake that you won't have to wait weeks for.  I made the coconut-pecan one like this for my daughter, and it was great.  A completely different animal, but delicious.  Also, it can be doubled and baked in a tube pan (that's the way my mother always did).  If you do that, make sure you up the baking time to about 1 1/2 hours.  The cake keeps beautifully over the 2-4 weeks that you store it and it also is a great cake to ship to a loved one.  It's sturdy, keeps well, stays moist and just gets better over the course of the month!

Bourbon Pecan Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter (one and a half sticks), softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/3 cup bourbon
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a large loaf pan and set aside.

Sift some cake flour onto a plate.  Carefully measure 1and 1/2 cups into a bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, then re-sift that and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with electric mixer for 7 minutes.  SEVEN MINUTES. Scraping down sides of bowl occasionally.  Gradually add sugar, beating constantly, until light and fluffy.
In a small bowl, whisk the 4 egg yolks with the bourbon and almond extract.  With the beaters running, slowly add bourbon mixture to the sugar/butter mixture, pouring a thin stream and beating constantly.  When the eggs are all in, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat 2 more minutes.
In a medium bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until they are glossy and hold stiff peaks.

Sift 1/3 of the flour/salt mixture over the butter/egg mixture.  Gently fold in the flour until it is evenly distributed, but not completely mixed in.  Add half the beaten egg whites and fold in.  
Sift on another 1/3 of flour mixture and fold in, followed by the rest of the beaten egg whites and fold them in.  Sift on the last of the flour mixture and the chopped toasted pecans and fold into batter until it is completely mixed.  It is important to add the pecans (or any add-ins) now, because the coating of flour prevents them from sinking to the bottom while it bakes.

Pour batter into prepared pan and level the top.  Bake until golden brown and a long wooden pick comes out clean, 45-60 minutes, depending on your oven.  Mine needed the full 60 minutes.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.  When almost cool, brush loaf (or cake) with bourbon, being careful not to soak it, because you don't want it to end up soggy.  Wrap loaf in bourbon dampened cheesecloth, then with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight, then unwrap and again brush loaf heavil with bourbon,  re-wrap loaf with cheesecloth and plastic wrap then wrap with foil and store for 2 weeks (but will keep as many as 4) in a cool, dry place.

Bourbon Pineapple Pecan Cherry Pound Cake (aka Christmas Cake):
During the last step of recipe, when you would add the chopped pecans, also add 3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple and 3/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries.

Bourbon Coconut Pecan Pound Cake:
During last step of recipe, add 1 cup coconut along with the 3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Beaumond Bread

"Cheese has always been a food that both sophisticated and simple humans love."
~M.F.K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf (1942)
"Wow"  "Oh wow"  Those were the only words I heard for the five minutes this bread was on the table before we inhaled it.  The inspiration for the recipe came from one I found in a cookbook called Old Fashioned Country Christmas.  The page has been dog-eared for 10 years.  Why does it take me so long to try these things?  It was easy, too.  If you like Swiss cheese, you WANT to try this.  Now it will probably be making a weekly appearance here until we get sick of it.  This could be an appetizer, paired with soup or salad for a light meal, or a fun snack anytime.  

I bought a 9 ounce loaf of French bread, but the amount of spread the recipe makes is enough for a 12-15 ounce loaf.  One last thing; a couple teaspoons of minced fresh rosemary added to the butter mixture or sprinkled on top before baking is a nice twist.

Beaumond Bread

1 loaf French bread (9 to 15 ounces)
8 to 12 ounces of Swiss cheese slices
3 tablespoons minced onion
1/2 teaspoon beaumond seasoning*
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 t. lemon juice
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, onion, beaumond seasoning, dry mustard lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. *If you cannot find beaumond seasoning at your local market, you can make it yourself by combining equal parts onion powder and celery salt.

Place French bread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil.  Without cutting all the way through, make diagonal cuts in the French bread all the way across and then back the opposite way.
 Stuff the cuts with Swiss cheese.
Spread butter mixture all over the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Have everyone pull the bread apart.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Challah Bread

"Oh, God above, if heaven has a taste it must be an egg with butter and salt, and after the egg is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?"
~Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes
If someone were to ask me what my signature recipe was, this would have to be it.  The recipe was given to me 20 years ago by an acquaintance from church.  Since then I've made it countless times.  My extended family all love it and request it frequently, so it shows up at most family dinners.  A friend of mine even had me make it for her son's bar mitzvah, which is saying a lot, since I'm not even Jewish.  Basically, when this is in the house, it's the only thing anyone wants to eat.  Plain, toasted or turned into fat French toast slabs, this slightly sweet bread is fabulous slathered with real butter and paired with a tall cold glass of milk.  
Since today is the first day of Hanukkah, and challah is the traditional braided bread used for the Jewish Shabbat and celebrations, I figured this post would be fitting.  A very Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and relatives.

Challah Bread

2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
4 eggs
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted
1 3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon salt
6 or 7 cups of unbleached flour
1 egg, beaten
sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

In a large bowl, combine yeast, honey and salt.  Whisk in butter, eggs, water and 3 cups flour.  Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Knead on a flour surface for 10 minutes.  
Place dough in an oiled bowl and turn to thoroughly coat dough with oil.  Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let dough rise for about an hour and a quarter or until doubled in bulk.  
Punch down dough.  Cut dough in half.  Set one half aside.  Take the other half and cut 1/3 off of it.  Cut the 1/3 into 3 equal portions and make 3 ropes, 8-10 inches long.  Braid. Cut the large 2/3 piece of dough into 3 equal portions and make 3 ropes, 12-14 inches long.  Braid.  Place the large braid on a greased cookie sheet.  Place the smaller braid on top and gently press down.  
Follow the same procedure with the other half of the dough.  Cover with a slightly damp towel or linen cloth and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour or until double in bulk.
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Bread is done when you tap it and it sounds hollow.
Yields two large loaves.
For an extra treat, spread with honey butter:
Soften 1 stick of sweet, unsalted butter.  Add 3/4 cup honey and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla.  Whisk together.  Store in fridge, but soften a bit before serving.

This post was submitted to Yeast Spotting and selected for publication in their Holiday 2010 Edition

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Filet Mignon au Poivre

"Did you ever see the customers in health food stores?  They are pale, skinny people who look half dead.  In a steak house you see robust, ruddy people.  They're dying, of course, but they look terrific." 
~ Bill Cosby
  I discovered this dish in the 1980's at a restaurant in Mystic called J.P. Daniels.  The restaurant is no longer there, but the memory of the meal lingers, it was that good.
I generally make it for our New Year's Day meal, since it is also Scott's birthday and he LOVES it.  Also doesn't hurt that it is pretty easy so it can be pulled off even if you had a little too much fun on New Year's Eve (wink, wink).
The dish is not difficult and it takes only about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your steaks. The creamy cognac sauce is the perfect complement to the bursts of pepper flavor you get when you bite through the pepper crust which is the hallmark of the dish.

A few notes on peppercorns.  My favorite are the green, and I've used them both packed in oil and dried, but cannot always find them.   Dried white peppercorns also work great with the dish, but again, can be elusive.  Tonight I used a mixture of black, red and green that are meant for use in a pepper mill, and they worked great, it just made the dish a bit hotter in terms of spice.  It is important to follow the recipe and crush the peppercorns rather than grind them because it effects the crust and how they release their flavor.

Filet Mignon au Poivre

3 tablespoons green peppercorns (if you can find them, otherwise, white, black or a mix is fine)
4 (3/4 to 1-inch-thick) filet mignon steaks (about 8 ounces each)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
2/3 cup Cognac
1 cup heavy cream
4 toast points (optional)

Place peppercorns in a sealed plastic bag, put on a cutting board and smash them with a meat mallet, bottom of a heavy skillet, or hammer.
Pat steaks dry.  Press pepper onto both cut sides of steaks and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Season steaks with salt.  Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 10 - 12 inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat.  Add steaks and cook about 5-6 minutes or using tongs, check to see if the crust has formed, dark brown, but not burnt.  Turn steaks and repeat, being careful not to overcook.  They should be springy to the touch.  Cut one open to check, if you need to.  They should still be dark pink in the middle.  Remove to a baking dish with sides and keep warm in the oven.  If you have particularly thick steaks and they seem to red, or raw in the middle, at this point, you can throw them on the gas grill for a couple minutes to finish them.  I've done that when I've had really thick steaks and they still come out good, it doesn't ruin the crust.
Keep in mind that they will continue to cook for a few minutes even after you remove them from the heat source, so I always shoot for a tiny bit underdone so they will keep cooking a little while I make the sauce.

Add remaining two tablespoons of butter and minced shallots to the skillet and cook over medium heat until shallots are softened.  Add Cognac and boil down until it becomes a glaze, about 2-3 minutes.  Add cream and boil down, stirring, until it is reduced by half, another 3-5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt.
These are nice served on toast points to soak up the sauce.  Serves 4.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Orange Sweet Rolls

"Try not thinking of peeling an orange. Try not imagining the juice running down your fingers, the soft inner part of the peel. The smell. Try and you can't. The brain doesn't process negatives." 

I find the smell that the flesh of an orange releases as you break into it is one of the most intoxicating on the planet.  I clean my house with orange oil, and my favorite candle scent was orange clove tea until it was discontinued.   This season, I was happy to notice that Yankee Candle started selling a candle called Spiced Orange, which I promptly purchased.  
Flipping through The California Heritage Cookbook this morning I noticed a page was marked with a coupon that expired in 2002.  Apparently this recipe caught my eye years ago, but I never got around to trying it....until today.  The first thing I did was take a couple oranges to my micro-planer to extract some orange zest for the recipe.  The scent flew to my nose and then filled the whole house.  It made me think of that ride in Epcot called Soarin, which takes riders on a simulated hang-gliding adventure over California.  It makes you experience the feeling of flight as you fly over California's most beautiful settings, including an orange grove, where they also secretly release orange fragrance that makes you really imagine you're there.  
These rolls were very moist and deliciously, fragrantly orange infused.  They go equally well with coffee or hot cocoa and would be a great  morning treat for those overnight guests you might have over the holidays!  Make them the day before and warm them up in the morning. 

Orange Sweet Rolls

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons grated orange rind
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Sour Cream Orange Glaze
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 cup butter

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water.  With an electric mixer, beat 1/4 cup of the sugar, the salt, eggs, 1/2 cup sour cream and 6 tablespoons of the melted butter into the yeast mixture.  Gradually add 2 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture, beating until smooth.  Knead the remaining flour into the dough.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 1/2-2 hours.  Punch down dough and turn out on the floured surface.  Divide in half.  Roll each half of the dough into a 12-inch a circle.  Combine 3/4 cup sugar and the orange rind.  Brush each half of the dough with 1 tablespoon melted butter and sprinkle each with 1/2 the rind-sugar mixture.  Cut each half into 8 wedges.  Roll the wedges up, starting with the wide end, and place them point side down in two rows in a greased 13x9 inch pan.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour.

Brush the tops of the rolls with the last 3 tablespoons melted butter and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Pour Sour Cream Orange Glaze over the rolls.  Serve warm.

To prepare glaze, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sour cream, 3 tablespoons orange juice, and 1/2 cup butter in a medium saucepan.  Boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A 100 Year Old Family Recipe: Fruit Pudding

"Grandparents, like heroes, are as necessary to a child's growth as vitamins."
~Joyce Allston
If the test of a great recipe is how often you make it, then this one aces with honors.  It's been handed down on my mother's side of the family for at least 100 years.  My mother remembers her grandmother making it for her when she was a child.  A simple country dessert that has survived the test of generations who all found it worthy to treasure and pass down.
I have memories of my mother making this for me that go back as far as when I was four years old.  I can remember the kitchen table I sat at (a very unique oak table that she still has), the little crystal bowl she served it in and the secure, loved feeling I had.  I remember thinking it was wonderful then, and I still do now.  The other day when I served this my son had 3 helpings.  My daughter and her friends finished it off.  My hope is, when they are older they'll remember it like I do.  Tart, warm, silky cooked apples, lightly sweet soft cake with a crunchy topping and a dollop of vanilla ice cream, served with love.  I like to think of my Great Grandmother baking or enjoying this long before most of the modern conveniences we enjoy today.  She was gone long before I came along, but this fruit pudding was the same then, and possibly even many years before, as it is now.
No, this isn't her, but the era is just right :-)
I made the fruit pudding with apples this time, but you can substitute many different kinds of fruit, such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries or peaches.

Fruit Pudding

3 cups fresh fruit prepared as for pie
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 1 1/2 - 2 quart casserole dish.  If using apples, peel and slice as for apple pie, and stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.  For peaches, quickly blanch, peel and sweeten with 2 tablespoons sugar.  For berries, simple sweeten with 2 tablespoons sugar.  Place sweetened fruit in casserole.  In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder.  Add to butter and sugar with the milk.  Spread over fruit, it will seem skimpy, but is enough.
In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Sprinkle this evenly over the dough.  
Pour one cup of boiling water over all.
Bake one hour.  Serve warm with ice cream.  Serves 6.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Today's Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

"From a man who's eaten his fair share? I think it's all about the... Jesus, what's the secret to a good meatball? I have no idea. I like a lumpy ball, personally." 
~Daniel Holzman, The Meatball Shop
Today has been one of those days.  I was awakened by a flash followed by a clap of thunder.  Okay, we're having a storm.  Tic tic tic tic...sounds like sleet on the window; unusual, but not unheard of for November.  Then a phone call at 5:45 a.m.  School will be delayed for 90".  Huh? What?  I pull back the drape.  Snow all over the ground.  Really?  On November 8th?  I shake off the cranial cobwebs and go up and turn my daughter's alarm clock off.

Next, after showering, was the daily ritual where I hang my head upside-down to blow dry my hair.  Today, while I'm taming the coif, I feel claws on my neck, which scared the bejeebies out of me resulting in a blood curdling scream, a tossing of the hairdryer and a fall on my behind.  My parrot Nigel, who has a thing for the blow dryer, decided to fly off his perch and land on the back of my neck.  I was sure I had killed him in my panic, and from my vantage point on the floor I couldn't even find him.  He was happily sitting in the sink.

When I recovered my bearings, if not my dignity, I walked out and asked Scott "Did you see him fly in there?"   "Yes.  I was waiting for your reaction.  (pregnant pause)  It was beautiful. (sly smile)"  Thus began my day.
A couple of hours before the end of my day at work, the cook started making meatballs.  I had hamburger at home that I had been planning to turn into meatloaf, but after being immersed in the savory aroma of marvelous smelling meatballs for two hours, my mind was made up.  I had to make meatballs for dinner.  And I wasn't in the mood for red sauce, I wanted to really TASTE the meatballs, so Swedish it would be....on mashed potatoes.  Dinner couldn't come fast enough.

Since I was making them for dinner, and not hors d'œuvres, I shaped them bigger.  If you want to make them for use as appetizers, shape them bite size and when the recipe is completely cooked, transfer meatballs and gravy to a crockpot to keep them gently heated.  

They are such a great meal on a cold night.  We all LOVE them, but I hadn't made them in over a year.  Scott said "This meal is a sleeper...they are so good."  This is my own recipe.  By the way, don't substitute beef broth for the beef consommé.  The consommé has a distinctive taste that makes the gravy.  I could literally lick the plate like a dog (I'm pretty sure I did, actually.)

Swedish Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground veal (optional)
1/2 cup minced onion (minced in food processor, if you have one)
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 (10 1/2 ounce) cans beef consommé
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix minced onion with 1/2 cup milk and bread crumbs.  In a large bowl, add ground meats, onion mixture, eggs and seasonings.  Mix with your hands until very well combined.  Shape into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.  bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from cookie sheet and place into a 13x9 inch baking dish.  Pour both cans of beef consommé over, cover with foil and bake for 1/2 hour.  In a small bowl, whisk flour into the heavy cream.  Remove baking dish from oven, remove foil, nudge meatballs over to the side and whisk cream mixture into beef broth.  Stir around meatballs until it is combined.  Bake 15 minutes more, or until bubbling hot.

Serve over mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.
Serves 6 for dinner, or 12 for hors d'œuvres.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cream of Wild Mushroom and Leek Soup

"A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting."
~Abraham Maslow
Today is a raw and rainy day.  This doesn't bother me though, because it gives me an excuse to neglect the outdoor work I should be doing in the garden.  Instead, I look for ways to cozy up in the house.  One of them is this soup.  You know the "Song That Never Ends?"  I wanted this to be the bowl of soup that never ended.  It was so delicious and comforting.  Warming me through to my toes.  Add a fire and a good book and that's a cozy afternoon.  Should I be ironing?  Probably.  But it will keep for a couple hours.
This recipe is basically Ina Garten's Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup.  I just made an easier version, since I am not averse to canned chicken stock. 

Cream of Wild Mushroom and Leek Soup

4 tablespoons butter
5 ounces shitake mushrooms
5 ounces portobello mushrooms
5 ounces white button, cremini (or porcini) mushrooms 
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green part only (2 leeks)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup dry white wine
32 ounces chicken broth
1 cup half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel.  Don't wash them!  Trim off any bad parts and half of the stem.  Slice mushrooms 1/4 inch thick.  Melt butter in a large pot and add leeks.  Cook on low for 10 - 15 minutes until they begin to brown.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 10 -15 minutes until they are browned and tender.  
Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Add the white wine and seasonings and stir for another minute, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pot.  Add chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in creams and parsley and bring just to a simmer.  Serve immediately.  If you would like to use bread bowls, wrap them in foil and heat them in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Just before soup is ready, slice off the top and then scoop out the doughy center, leaving 1/2 inch of bread all around the bowl.  Fill with soup and serve immediately.
Serves 6.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fresh Cranberry Salad

October is cranberry season in New England.  The fresh ones are readily available and generally less expensive than the rest of the year.  I always throw a couple bags in the freezer for the holidays.  Throw a few frozen cranberries in a Cape Cod cocktail.  It's an easy festive touch. 
3 parts cranberry juice - 1part vodka - COLD!
I love these glasses.  They were my Mom's - over 50 years old.
I've been making this fresh cranberry salad for at least 15 years.  What I love about it, is that it's as beautiful as it is delicious, and it's sweet-tartness is a great foil to savory dishes.  It goes equally well with beef or foul.  I've served it with Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas meals of prime rib.   It's not difficult, but you do have to plan ahead a little.  Fresh cranberries are bitter, so in order to make them palatable for this salad, you need to chop up the berries, mix them with sugar, and let them sit in mesh strainer overnight, or for at least 4-6 hours.  All the bitterness drains away, leaving crunchy, slightly tart, sweet berries and this gorgeous red syrup I have yet to find a use for (I'm working on it though).  
The original recipe is from The California Heritage Cookbook, a fabulous cookbook that my aunt sent me  years ago.

Fresh Cranberry Salad

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 pound red grapes, halved and seeds removed
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup chopped toasted nuts 
Bibb lettuce, or nice lettuce leaves (optional)

There are a few different ways to chop the nuts, depending on the equipment you have.  I used a food processor, but before I owned one, I used to pulse them in the blender a couple times.  You don't want them pulverized, just chopped.  You can even use a meat grinder set at medium, if you like.  
 Place chopped cranberries in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in sugar. Place the cranberry mixture in a strainer or  colander. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.  
Allow mixture to drain overnight, discarding the juice.  Halve the grapes, removing seeds if they have them.
Mix cranberries and grapes in a large bowl and refrigerate 1-4 hours.  Just before serving, whip the cream until very stiff.
Set aside a few cranberries and nuts as garnish.  Fold the whipped cream and nuts into the cranberry-grape mixture.  Serve on lettuce on individual plates, or from one large bowl.  Sprinkle with reserved cranberries and nuts.