Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chicken Satays

There's something fun about food that you can eat with your hands.  Especially small finger foods.  It's the perfect thing to have at a party as you walk around, mingle, and sip on your evening poison of choice.  Finger foods give you freedom, not only to shake hands and hug at your leisure, but it gives you the freedom to completely over eat - and I mean completely stuff yourself like a thanksgiving turkey.  Shrimp cocktail, dumplings, pigs in a blanket, smoked salmon canape, carrot stick loaded with vegetable dip, a chip buckling under the weight of guacamole, mini cheese cake, mini creme puff, another drink, and a "wait, have you tried these??" from the hostess as she points to the shrimp.  Your answer, of course is: "No! I haven't!  They look great!" as you take two.  Since there's no plate on your hand guiltily reminding you of what you put on it, what you ate, and what's left - you just continue eating. 
The only thing that's better than a regular finger food is food on a stick.  It doesn't matter if it has been deep fried, grilled, baked, frozen, etc., all it matters is that it adds a fun but a still discrete party food element, since no one will still know how many you really had. 

Chicken breast or thighs - cut into strips
1 jalapeno
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp ginger - chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Blend all ingredients except the chicken in a food processor.  Pour over chicken, mixing well, and marinade for 24 hours.  Soak bamboo skewers in warm water, place the chicken on skewers as shown. 

Grill on medium high heat, or bake in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. 

Serve hot with a side of carrot and sugar snap pea slaw and a dipping sauce if needed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Carrot and Sugar Snap Pea Salad

A cross between a salad and a slaw - it encompasses all of the flavors of spring and summer in the middle of winter, thanks to the year-round availability of ingredients like sugar snap peas.  Sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy, and fresh.  Prefect palate cleanser for a spicy meal and the perfect salad to have after heavy and butter-loaded holiday food. 

3 carrots - shredded
2 cups sugar snap peas - cut on a diagonal
green chili - minced
2 garlic cloves - minced
mint - handfull chopped
cilantro - handfull chopped

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup oil
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 tsp sriracha
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
salt / pepper

Combine all salad ingredients together in a bowl - tossing well.  Blend all dressing ingredients - taste for seasoning, it should be fairly aggressive on the heat and vinegar side.  Because the carrots and sugar snap peas are sweet, the dressing will balance them out.  Dress the salad, tasting for seasoning - adding more salt and pepper if needed.  Let stand refrigerated for at least half an hour.  Taste again for seasoning before serving. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder

pork shoulder - about 5.5 lbs
2 tbsp whole grain mustard, or herb flavored mustard (not yellow)
1 tablespoon of garlic - mashed to a paste
fresh herbs - thyme, rosemary, oregano, etc
salt / pepper / adobo
1/2 cup white wine
bunch of parsley
2 garlic cloves
tarragon vinegar: extra virgin olive oil (1:3)

Make 1 inch deep slits in the pork, season pork shoulder all over with salt, pepper, and adobo.  Rub all over, including in the cuts made.  Mix garlic paste with mustard and rub all over over pork.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 days.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and roast the pork for about 6 hours total, or until completely fall-apart tender.  Cover half way through with foil.  About 4 hours in add the wine to deglaze and baste with the liquid.

Shred pork.  Mince parsley and garlic.  Add a vinegar and olive oil, whisk together, season with salt and pepper.  Spoon sparingly over the pork and serve. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spaghetti with chickpeas, walnuts, and orange

One can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
salt / pepper / smoked paprika
juice of 1/2 orange
white wine
handful of fresh parsley
handful toasted walnuts
about 1/3 lb of spaghetti

On medium heat saute garlic in a couple of tablespoons of oil until fragrant.  Add chickpeas, season with salt, pepper, and about a half a teaspoon of smoked paprika, and same of oregano.  Continue to saute until the chickpeas are beginning to turn a golden brown. 

Deglaze with about a 1/4 cup of white wine. 
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and toss into the chickpeas.  Add the fresh orange juice and keep sauteing for a couple of minutes more.  Add about a tablespoon of butter and half of the parsley, cook until butter has melted and parsley has wilted slightly.

Add walnuts and the remainder of parsley.  Toss, season with a bit of sea salt, and fresh black pepper.

Serve, drizzling with good extra virgin olive oil.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Party - Part 3

Seckel Pear and Cinnamon Cream Tart

1/2 pkg of puff pastry
flour to roll out
1 egg
Seckel pears
1 quantity of pastry cream made with an extra egg yolk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup ruby port
2 cups red wine
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
powdered sugar

Heat port, wine, about 1 cup water, cinnamon, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a sauce pan.  Peel the pears leaving the stem intact.  Gently place in the simmering liquid.  Simmer until pears are tender - about 20 minutes depending on ripeness.  Remove from the poaching liquid and let cool. 

Strain the liquid, bring back to a boil and reduce to about 1 1/2 cups, it should have a consistency of maple syrup. 

Roll out puff pastry until about 1/4 inch thick, dusting with flour as needed.  Cut in half to form 2 rectangles.  Cut a smaller rectangle out of one of the halves, leaving a "picture frame" border.  Beat egg with water to make an egg wash.  Place the larger rectangle on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, brush with egg wash.  Top with the border and brush the egg border with egg wash.  Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Add cinnamon and maple syrup to the pastry cream.  Add the pastry cream to the tart, avoiding the border.  Add the pears on top.  Bake for about 30-45 minutes until the puff pastry has lightly browned. 

Let cool before dusting with powdered sugar and drizzling with spiced port reduction.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Party - Part 2

Wild Mushroom and Potato Gratin
onion, chopped
garlic, chopped
wild mushroom mix - chantrelles, shitakes, portabellos
olive oil / butter
salt / pepper / thyme
Milk / half and half
parmesan / romano / fresh mozzarella

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until translucent on medium heat, seasoning with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Turn up the heat to medium high and add mushrooms, adding more oil if necessary.  Saute until the mushrooms have caramelized slightly.  Reseason with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Remove from heat and let cool. 

Peel and slice potatoes about 1/4 inch thick.  Mix potatoes with mushroom mixture.  The ratio should be about 3:1 (potatoes:mushrooms).  Season heavily with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.  Add a generous hand full of each cheese.  Toss together.  Butter an oven safe dish and add the potato and mushroom mixture.  Add more half and half, scantly covering the potatoes.  Cover with foil.  Refrigerate until ready to bake - can be done a day in advance.
When ready to bake - preheat oven to 375 degrees, bake covered with foil for at least 1 hour.  Stir halfway though.  When potatoes are almost tender, remove the foil, top with a few hand fulls of cheese and bake until cheese had melted.  About an hour and a half to 2 hours total. 

Brioche and Chicken Andouille Sausage Stuffing
1 Brioche / Challah loaf
1 lb chicken andouille sausage
Red / yellow / Anaheim roasted peppers
onion, chopped
garlic, chopped
green onions
salt / pepper / thyme
Chicken stock
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Cut the bread into large cubes, spread on a cookie sheet, season with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and olive oil.  Toss.  Bake, tossing occasionally for about 30 minutes, or until the bread has dried. 

Saute onions, garlic, and sausage together until cooked through, seasoning with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Add to the bread cube mixture in a bowl.

Chop green onions and roasted peppers - either fresh roasted or from a jar, add to the stuffing mixture. 

Beat eggs, add about 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock, season with salt and pepper.  Add to stuffing mixture.  Butter an oven safe dish, add the stuffing mixture. 

Drizzle with olive oil, season the top with salt and pepper.  Bake for 45minutes - 1 hour until stuffing has set and the top is browned. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Party - Part 1

Whenever my best friend comes into town, the first question is always "when are you making dinner?" followed by the gift of complete creative freedom.  This time around, I had a plan for a small Sunday dinner party.  I had a menu figured out.  It was going to be perfect - the theme, the wine, the guest list. Until another friend informed me on Saturday afternoon that she had a 14lb, thawed out turkey and asked if I wanted it for Sunday.  Slight complication.  I, naturally, wanted the turkey, but did not want to do a complete makeover of the ingredients I already had.  Considering that the holiday was a week and a half away, having a completely traditional thanksgiving dinner was out of the question.  As was waking up early in the morning to make a half a dozen side dishes.  With a bit of play on the ingredients, we had a slightly modern-style thanksgiving.  Up-dos on all of the sides and definitely something a bit different for dessert. 

Ginger Apricot Glazed Turkey with Sweet onion Jus

1 cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
chicken stock
1 stick of butter, softened
Salt / pepper / thyme / rosemary / sage

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Slice onions, place on the bottom of the pan, season with salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme.

Set the rack for the turkey on top.  Wash and dry the turkey.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Make compound butter - mix butter with about a teaspoon of each salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and sage.  Rub the turkey with the compound butter. 

Place on the rack over the onions.  Add about 2 cups of chicken stock to the pan to prevent the onions from burning.  Roast for 25 minutes, then turn down the heat to 375 degrees. 
Mix preserves, ginger, garlic, ws sauce, few pinches of salt, pepper, and thyme.  Add just under 2 cups of stock to make a basting liquid, and baste every half hour after the initial 25 minutes. 

Take the turkey out when the internal temperature is around 158-160 degrees, tent for about 20 minutes - residual heat will raise the internal temperature to 165 degrees.  The total bake time on the 14lb turkey was approximately 3 hours. 

Pour off the onions and the juice into a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, let reduce slightly and re-season with salt and pepper as needed. 

Carve the turkey adding the onion jus over and serving extra on the side.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roasted potato salad with beech mushrooms

For most people, the words "potato salad" are synonymous with picnics, summertime, hot dogs, and a lot of mayonnaise.  Like most, I absolutely love all of those things, but there's something fun about taking a classic and turning it completely upside-down.  Warm instead of cold, light instead of heavy, no eggs, no celery, and definitely no mayonnaise.

An Asian mushroom became the inspiration for the twist on the classic.  These mushrooms looked absolutely beautiful - all connected together at the base, wrapped neatly in a package - and were not to be passed up.  Having never cooked with this variety of mushrooms before, it was a match for what I wanted to do with a potato salad.  I wanted to keep it simple with minimum ingredients - each of which could stand on its own, but hopefully be so much better together.  The result - warm, crunchy, soft, tangy, earthy salad topped with crumbles of salty, briny feta.  The perfect varietal on a classic. 

Roasted Potatoes
few small potatoes - quartered
1/4 red onion, sliced
olive oil
oregano / salt / pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all ingredients on a cookie sheet and roast until potatoes are cooked through and have crisped on the outside, about 15 minutes depending on size. 

Beech mushrooms (3.5oz package)
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
olive oil
salt / pepper / thyme
While the potatoes are cooking, heat a skillet to medium high heat.  Add a couple of table spoons of olive oil, onion, and garlic.  Let saute for a minute, season with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Toss in the mushrooms adding a bit more olive oil if needed.  Saute, tossing for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms turn a light golden.  Remove from heat. 

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
juice of half of a lemon
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
about scant 1/4 cup olive oil
Combine juice of lemon and mustard and whisk in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dressing should be moderately tart.

1 green onion finely chopped
finely chopped parsley, few tablespoons
feta cheese
In a bowl combine potatoes (discarding the onions - they were used for flavoring the potatoes during roasting), the mushroom mixture, parsley, green onions, and the dressing.  Toss well.  Let sit for about 10-15 minutes for flavors to develop. Mound on a plate, without excess dressing, sprinkle with feta, and top with additional olive oil. 
Note:  I use Fustini's Wild Mushroom and Sage Olive Oil to finish the salad.  This oil is absolutely delicious and adds an extra deep mushroom flavor to the dish.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monday night dinner party and a warm fall welcome

A dinner party is a great idea any time, but especially at an unexpected time... like on a Monday.  Just as the weekend has gone and there is a long work week ahead, there is nothing better than an unexpected comfort of a good bottle of wine, a great meal, and wonderful company.  The best part is that it's possible to throw a dinner party any night of the week, even if you are fighting bumper to bumper traffic on a Monday. 

However... I must be honest... I had Monday off... but with this dish I wish that I hadn't because it really is that much better the next day.   So this can easily be made on a late Sunday evening and served the following couple of days. 

The intention was to make something that had to be served immediately out of the oven or straight out of the pan, but the want for something warm and slow-cooked took over.  Instead of planning on spending a good amount of time in the kitchen, I spent hardly any time at all.  The result was this: a fall-apart-tender braised beef with herbed mashed potatoes - by no means a disappointment that the original intention was not followed, as it really was the perfect dish to welcome the onset of late fall.

But first the appetizer

The Appetizer - Roasted tomato and caramelized onion bruschetta
fresh mozzarella cheese
caramelized onions (slow cooked red onions - olive oil, salt/pepper)
slow-roasted tomatoes
olive oil / salt / pepper
fresh basil / parsley

Preheat broiler on high - place oven rack at top third of the oven.  Slice a baguette in half, drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil.  Place on a stone / cookie sheet and broil until toasted.

top with caramelized onions and tomatoes, broil inches from heat for about 3-4 minutes until heated through and tomatoes have slightly caramelized.

Top with mozzarella, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Broil until cheese has melted.  Serve topped with chopped basil or parsley.

Roasted Tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes - halved
salt / pepper / olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place tomatoes on a cookie sheet cut side up, season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Roast for at least 45-60 minutes until tomatoes are soft. Reserve.
Caramelized Onions
Red onions, sliced medium thin
butter / salt / pepper / balsamic vinegar

Saute a couple of red onions, over medium low heat in melted butter until starting to caramelized.  Season with pepper and salt.  Continue to saute until completely caramelized.  Add a few table spoons of balsamic vinegar.  Saute until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat and reserve. 

Note: Caramelized onions and tomatoes can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.

The Entree - Braised beef in red wine and vegetables
About 2 lbs of beef (top blade steak - chuck beef cut)
salt / pepper
1/3 - 1/2 bottle of Spanish red wine
1/2 Spanish onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
chopped mixed vegetables (carrots, green pepper, cabbage, jicama, etc)
whole grain mustard

Season the beef with salt and pepper, dust with a couple of table spoons of flour, shaking off the excess, and brown in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. 

Remove from dutch oven and reserve on a plate. 
Add a table spoon more of oil and all of the vegetables.  Saute for a few minutes, add salt, pepper, tomato paste and the herbs.  Saute for a few minutes. 

Add the wine, stir well, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pot.  Add the reserved beef.
Stir.  Let simmer, covered over low heat for at least 2-3 hours. Taste for seasoning - beef should be falling apart.  Stir in a tablespoon or a little more of or whole grain mustard.  Let cool for a few minutes more.  Serve with herbed mashed potatoes.

Herbed Mashed Potatoes
4 large Yukon gold potatoes - peeled and cut into uniform pieces
few sprigs of thyme
1 cup of milk
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup half and half
salt, pepper, nutmeg

Cook potatoes in salted water until completely cooked.  After 10 minutes of cooking potatoes, combine the rest of the ingredients in a sauce pot, bring to a simmer and turn off the heat and let steep covered until the potatoes are done.  The potatoes should take about 20 minutes or so to be fork tender.  The milk mixture should steep for about 10 minutes at least.  Drain potatoes well.  Place back in the sauce pot over low heat, shaking for about 3-5 minutes until excess water is evaporated.  Strain milk mixture into to the potatoes a bit a time, mashing well until desired consistency is achieved.  Add a few tablespoons of butter, cover, and reserve. 

To Plate:
Mound mashed potatoes on the center of the plate, stacking the braised beef over the potatoes.  Top with fresh parsley and serve with baguette and red wine.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Warm Plum Pavlova

adapted from Gourmet|April 2009
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites at room temperature
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Put the eggs into a double boiler with the sugar and a pinch of salt, whisk until the sugar has melted.  Beat in an electric mixer until peaks form.  Add the extract, cinnamon and vinegar.  Keep beating until glossy.  Spread or pipe meringues into disks about 6 inches in diameter on parchment paper-covered cookie sheet.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Turn off the heat, let cool in the oven with the door cracked slightly open.
Pastry Cream
Adapted from Gourmet| May 2000
1 cup whole milk
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 vanilla bean

Place milk and vanilla bean into a sauce pan, bring to a simmer.  Mix egg yolks with sugar and cornstarch in a bowl.  Add hot milk in a stream as to not scramble the eggs.  Pour the entire mixture back into the sauce pan.  Bring to a boil while stirring.  Remove from heat, remove the vanilla bean, and add vanilla extract and butter.  Strain through a sieve.  cover with plastic, let cool to room temperature. 

2 medium size plums, cut into wedges
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter (salted)
red wine
ginger powder
black pepper

Heat butter in a pan over medium heat, add plums, sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Saute until slightly tender.  Season with a pinch of salt, about a 1/8th of teaspoon of each cinnamon, ginger powder, and black pepper.  Add a splash of red wine to loosen the sauce. 

To assemble:
Spoon the pastry cream on the pavlova, add the warm plum with the sauce.  Lightly dust with powdered sugar.