Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pumpkin Soup with Chipotle Chiles

Serves 6

I made this to try and get rid of some stuff in my pantry, hence the pumpkin. It was very good, but adding some fennel might also be nice, and some sage.  

  • two 15 ounce cans pure pumpkin
  • one 15 ounce can coconut milk
  • one large yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock--until you achieve the consistency you'd like. I wanted something rich.
  • 1 T butter
  • 1-2 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp sage (optional, did not use the first time)
  • Kosher salt
  • White pepper
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • maple syrup (optional, for garnishing)
  • 1 small (appx 7 oz) can chipotle chilis in adobo sauce. Minced
  • Sour cream, for garnish
Sweat the onions over medium high heat until translucent. Add pumpkin, coconut milk, marjoram and desired amount of stock to onions and simmer for around 15 minutes to let the flavors mix. Add kosher salt, white pepper (or black) and brown sugar to your taste. Remove from heat and puree in small batches. Garnish with 1 T sour cream/bowl, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Provide minced chipotle on the side as a condiment. We used about 1 tsp each. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Molten Chocolate Ganache Cake

Serves 12
Recipe from Ina Garten 

When I do this, I actually do it as cupcakes, or mini-cupcakes, since a large party is the only way I could ever be convinced to actually do something made with chocolate (just not a fan). 


  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 16 ounces Hershey's choclate syrup
  • 1 T pure vanilla Extract
  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces good semisweet chocolate, or chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp instant coffee/espresso granules
  • Flavoring (to taste... grand marnier, mint, almond, hazelnut, etc...)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour an 8" round cake pan, or cupcake tin. Line the bottom with parchment paper, or use muffin cups for cupcakes. 

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and the vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat of cake will be tough. 

Pout the batter into the pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes (less for cupcakes) or until it is just set in the middle. Don't overbake! Let thoroughly cool in the pan. 

For the ganache, cook the heavy cream in a double boiler and add chocolate and coffee granules until melted and warm. Remove from heat and add flavor to taste. 

Glaze cooled cake with ganache, and serve with whipped cream or ice cream. 

Bruschetta with Arugula Pesto, Pepperonata, and Goat Cheese Truffles

Makes 20 Bruschette

I adapted this recipe from a salad in Mario Batali's Babbo cookbook. In that salad, the arugula is blanched and makes up the base of the salad, with the bread, truffles and pepperonata arranged over the top of the blanched greens. I love the flavors, but wanted to find a way to make it more "portable" so I could do it at a party. The blanched arugula wouldn't exactly work, so we did this arugula pesto. 


  •  15 ounces goat cheese (low water content, so you can form truffles)
  • Pimenton
  • Fennel seeds, ground to a dust
  • Poppy seeds
Roll goat cheese into 1" balls. Roll a third of them in each of the spices above. 

1 Recipe Arugula Pesto 
  • 5 ounce packaged washed/dried arugula
  • 1 ounce parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic--skin still on
  • Large 1/3 cup raw walnuts
  • 4-6 T EVOO
  • Large pinch of salt
Pan-roast the garlic. In a small saute pan,  heat 1 tbsp canola oil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and add the garlic cloves. Turn each piece of garlic every few minutes till quite brown on all sides, but not black. This will roast the garlic in about 10 minutes.

Place walnuts in food processor and pulse until coarse-grained. Add everything else except EVOO and salt. Pulse till all is coarsely ground. Add 4 T oil, and pulse till you achieve correct pesto consistency --pretty fine, but no where near a paste. You should be able to distinguish individual grains. Add more EVOO if you need it, and salt to taste.

  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced 3 mm thick
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced 3 mm thick
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 T sherry vinegar
Heat canola oil over high. Add peppers, and saute until beginning to brown. Add sherry vinegar, and cook around 30 seconds more. Season with salt and pepper. 

  • 1 baguette, sliced into 1/4" slices (not on the bias), and toasted on both sides
Split all truffles in half. Spread one hemisphere of one flavor of truffle onto the sliced baguette. Spread appx 1 tsp arugula pesto on top of that. Then spoon around 1 tablespoon of pepperonata onto arugula pesto. Place another hemisphere of a different flavor of truffle on top. The colors on this are great, especially for Christmas. 

Note: All except bread can be made ahead--up to several days. If you make the pesto ahead, just make sure to add a small amount of EVOO to the top to prevent it from oxidizing. 

Wild Mushroom and Gruyere Tart

Serves 12 for appetizer portions
Modified from a recipe on epicurious.com

  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg yolk 
  • 2 tsp
  • 1/4 cup creme fraîche or sour cream

  • 2 T butter
  • 1.5 pounds fresh wild mushrooms (chanterelle, black trumpet, oyster, enoki, hedgehog, shiitake, maitake). Don't overdo the really strongly flavored ones like maitake. 
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced to a paste
  • truffle salt (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal (appx 1.5 cups)
  • 1 Pillsbury "unroll" style pie crust
  • 6 ounces sliced gruyere
Preheat oven to 400 

Purée ricotta in a food processor until smooth. add 2 tsp EVOO and egg yolk, and pulse just to blend. Remove and gold in creme fraîche. 

Melt butter over medium heat, and add garlic. Saute until garlic is beginning to get golden. Add mushrooms and saute till soft, and significantly cooked down. Add truffle salt and thyme, and adjust until you have the desired flavor (usually takes many giant dashes of truffle salt). 

Place pie crust in a tart pan. Spread over ricotta-creme fraîche mixture on bottom. Place half of the mushrooms on top of dairy mixture in tart. Then arrange half of gruyere on top of mushrooms. Place the remaining mushrooms on top of that, and the remaining gruyere on top of that. 

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until gruyere is golden and bubbly, and crust is golden. 

Fig and Foie Gras Empanadas

Serves 20, makes 30

  • 1 pound Grade A or Grade B foie gras
  • 1 jar of fig jam
  • 6 Pillsbury "Unroll" style pie crusts
  • 2 eggs, beaten
Slice foie gras into appx 1.25" x 3" rectangles/half moons. Unroll pie crusts, and using an appx 4 - 4.5" cookie cutter, cut out 5-6 rounds from the dough. Spoon 1 tsp of jam onto each disk of dough, then place the half moon of foie in the center, and fold in half. Crimp the edges sealed. These can be made a day ahead, or several days ahead and frozen individually, using some kind of shrink wrap or Glad Press-n-seal. 

Pre-heat oven to 425
Place on parchment paper or a baking mat. Brush with an egg wash. Cook 12 minutes, until top is golden. Don't cook much longer, or all your foie gras will melt. 

Serve with Tokaji or Sauternes wine

Jamón Iberico, Parmesan and Mango Salad

Serves 8, easily
Modified from a Cooking Light cookbook

  • 3 mangoes, peeled, and chopped into appx 3/4" cubes
  • 6-8 ounces Jamón Iberico (or serrano), sliced to around a thick-construction-paper  thickness. Coarsely chopped. A note on the thickness: this is just the standard thickness that Jamón Iberico or Serrano is sliced to, but if you have to use prosciutto, you'll need to tell them to slice it thicker than they typically do prosciutto. 
  • 4 ounces shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • EVOO
  • good balsamic, or raspberry wine vinegar
Place first three ingredients into a mixing bowl. Layer these ingredients like a trifle, in several layers. Otherwise, this has a tendency to clump. Mix together, with just enough oil to make tossing easy, then adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar (should require very little oil and vinegar). Do not make more than 2 hours in advance, as the mango can turn snotty. On the other hand, if you are unable to find ripe mangoes, make it several hours in advance, and use more vinegar than usual, add some sugar, and let it sit for a while. This will make the unripe mangoes taste ripe :) 

We usually serve this on spoons as an appetizer/salad. 

Goat Milk Panna Cotta with Balsamic Vinegar

Makes 12-15 small panna cotte, and 8 large ones
Adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali and posted on epicurious.com

  • 2 T water
  • 1.25 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 2 C whipping cream
  • 1.24 cups plain goat's milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • High quality balsamic vinegar. You may reduce if you choose. 
Pour the 2 tablespoons of water into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the water. Let stand until softened, about 15 minutes. Whisk 1 cup cream and goat's milk in a bowl to blend. Prepare a large ice bath to put your mixing bowl in to chill the panna cotta. Heat remaining 1 cup cream and 1/2 cup sugar in a small sauce pan, over medium heat. Scrape vanilla grains out of bean into cream, and put husk into sauce pan as well. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Whisk in gelatin mixture. Then whisk in reserved milk-cream mixture, and warm, but not to boiling, whisking continuously. Pour all of mixture back into mixing bowl, and place mixing bowl in ice bath. Continue whisking in ice bath, until the panna cotta has returned to room, or slightly below room temperature. Divide among bowls or ramekins, cover and refrigerate over night. DO NOT SKIP ICE BATH. If you do, your panna cotta will separate. 

Serve with a teaspoonful of balsamic vinegar/ panna cotta. Instruct guests to tilt vinegar away from themselves, so they don't get too much at one time. 

Cranberry Orange Bread

Makes 1 large loaf cranberry bread
(this is pretty much the recipe off of the cranberry bag, but it's still great)

Preheat oven to 350

  • 2 C sifted flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 C sugar
Sift all of the above together, then add:
  • 2 C very coarsely chopped cranberries (not more than half, can even be whole)
  • 1/2 C chopped walnuts
  • 1 T orange zest
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 C OJ
  • 2 T canola oil
Mix all together and pour into a buttered and floured pan--don't fill more than 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 50 - 55 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. 

Chestnut-Sherry Soup

Serves 6

  • 1 cup chopped fennel
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped into a in a large dice
  • 3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 8 whole anise
  • Two 14-15 ounce jars peeled, cooked, whole chestnuts, crumbled 
  • 1/4 cup sherry, amontillado or cream (get good sherry, because the best pairing for this, it the sherry)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
Optional equipment: Cheesecloth and kitchen twine, to make a bag for spices (called a bouquet garni). Otherwise, just fish them out yourself (not a big deal)

Melt butter in a 4 qt sauce pan over low heat. Then stir in celery, fennel, and onion. Sweat the vegetables over low until softened (around 15 minutes). You may cut a piece of wax paper or parchment and place it buttered side down on top during this, but you'll be fine if you don't, too. Just make sure not to terribly over-cook it. 

Add the broth and the bouquet garni (the parsley, bay leaf, and anise, tied up in cheese cloth with a string, or not, if you elected not to). Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Add the chestnuts and sherry and simmer, covered for 3 minutes. Remove the spices that were to be in the bouquet garni. Save the spices, and use anise for garnish later. 

Purée the soup in small batches until smooth. Return to a sauce pan, then add the cream, pepper and salt to taste. Garnish with star anise, and optionally, creme fraiche or mascaprone.

Serve with sherry in cordial glasses.


Makes about 30 gougeres
From one of Jacques Pepin's cookbooks

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash cayenne pepper. 1 cup flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 c. grated Swiss cheese (Emmenthaler of Gruyère)
  • Coarse salt (fleur de sel or kosher) to sprinkle on top
Preheat the oven to 375

Bring the milk, butter, salt, and cayenne to a boil in a sauce pan (at least 4 quarts, with high walls). Remove from the heat, and add the flour in one stroke, and mix vigorously with a wooden spatula until the mixture forms into a ball. Put back over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute, to dry the mixture a bit. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor, let cool for 5 minutes, then process for about 5 seconds to cool further. Add the eggs and paprika to the processor bowl, and process for 10 - 15 seconds, until well mixed. Transfer the choux paste to a mixing bowl, and let it cool for 10 minutes. 

Line a cookie sheet with a reusable nonstick baking mat, or parchment paper. Reserve 1 tablesppon of the grated parmesan cheese and add the remainder of the parmesan and all the Swiss cheese to the choux paste. Stif just enough to incorporate. Using a tablespoon, scoop out a level tablespoon of the gougère dough, and push it off the spoon onto the cooking mat. Continue making individual gougères, spacing them about 2 inches apart on the sheet. (you should have about thirty.) Sprinkle a few grains of coarse salt and a litle of the reserved parmesan cheese on each gougère. Bake for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned and crisp. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature. 

French Hot Chocolate

The difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa is that hot chocolate is made by melting down actual chocolate, where hot cocoa is made by flavoring milk with cocoa powder, sugar, etc. This version of hot chocolate starts with a mousse, and as such is very rich indeed. 

  • 8 - 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (use a bread knife to chop)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks
  • 1-2 tsp flavoring (mint, orange [if you want it to taste like a tootsie roll], almond, hazelnut, even lemon)
  • 8 C scalded whole milk, keep warm
Melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water, being sure to mix and pull away any melted chocolate from the walls of the bowl. You don't want to burn the chocolate. Once all the chocolate is melted, remove from heat, and add a small spoonful (a few tablespoons full) of the whipped cream into the chocolate and whisk vigorously to incorporate and slightly cool the chocolate. DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH WHIPPED CREAM--it will to turn to ganache, and you won't be able to get a mousse texture. Using a rubber spatula, immediately move all of the chocolate into the whipped cream and vigorously whip to incorporate and get a smooth, even distribution of chocolate into the whipped cream. Add flavoring to taste. Note, mint takes very little to absorb the flavor, while almond takes a ton before you can taste it at all. 

To serve, either pipe into cups, or serve in a bowl with a spoon, allowing people to add their own mousse. Then pour the hot milk over. You should have about one part milk to one part mousse. Provide spoons or stirrers to mix. 

Curried Lamb and Lentils

Serves 4 
Modified from "The Book of Yogurt" by Sonia Uvezian

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 arge garlic cloves, crushed to a puree
1.5 T currey powder
1.5 tsp salt
3/4 cup, + more yogurt
1.5 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1" pieces
1.5 cups lentils
3 T  butter
3 c. boiling water, or chicken stock
1/2 English cucumber cut into 1/2" dice
Several T. minced fresh mint

In a large bowl, combine the onion, garlic, curry powder, salt and yogurt. Mix well, then add the lamb. Marinate up to 5-6 hours. We frequently only get in 1/2 an hour or an hour of marinade time, but it is not the end of the world.

Put lentils in sauce pan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then strain out water and set aside.

Melt butter in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add lamb mixture, being sure to scrape all of marinade out into pan. Continue to brown/cook, until cooked through, and onions are soft. Stir in lentils and boiling water or stock. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt, curry, and/or yogurt. Serve with cucumbers, a dollop of yogurt, and a liberal sprinkling of mint.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Deep Fried Turkey

We did a deep fried turkey this year. It wasn't a resounding success, so these are my notes to improve it. 

  • 14 pound turkey
  • Tony Chachere's injection marinade
  • Tony Chachere's seasoning
  • 3 gallons peanut oil
Liberally inject turkey with marinade. Liberally season all skin with Tony's. 

Heat oil to 400 degree. Turn off flame, and lower seasoned bird into oil. Turn propane back on and return to 350. You will have to watch the heat on the fryer to keep it at 350. It tends to want to go higher. 

We cooked ours for 45 minutes, and it was very dry. We let it sit for about 45 minutes. So our plan for next time, will be to cook for 35 minutes, let it sit again, and then hopefully have a properly cooked bird. 

Duck Confit Salad with Pears, Bleu Cheese, and Cranberry Fig Vinaigrette

This was probably the highlight of our Thanksgiving this year. The duck confit was absolutely fantastic, and worked so nicely with everything else. 

Serves 4 for salads, 2 for entrees

  • 2 Confit duck legs. We used this recipe, and it was wonderful. Be aware that you'll need to start the duck confit the day before, to get the seasoning right. 
  • 2 pears (anjou, bartlett, whatever), thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces greens. We used 1/2 cress and 1/2 arugula
  • 2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese (something rich like bleu d'Auvergne
  • Cranberry-Fig balsamic vinaigrette
    • 1 part cranberry sauce
    • 1 part fig balsamic vinegar
    • 1-2 parts good EVOO
    • 1/2 to 1 tsp Dijon mustard
    • kosher salt

Toss greens with vinaigrette. Fan out pears on salad. Arrange confit duck on top, and crumble bleu cheese.  

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

This is the thread that tied our whole Thanksgiving together this year. Usually it is a highlight (simple though it is), but this year it figured much more prominently. 

  • 1 standard package cranberries (I forget the weight--around 10 ounces or a pound)
  • 1 cup orange juice (the fresher, the better)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Salt, if you feel it needs it. 
Bring everything to a boil, let simmer for 10 minutes, then cool prior to serving. 

We serve this with the turkey, but usually make a 2x recipe because it makes such wonderful turkey sandwiches the following days. For turkey sandwiches, mayo on both pieces of bread, Dijon mustard on one, Cranberry sauce liberally applied to the other piece (which will be the bottom piece). Then warmed turkey, topped with arugula tossed in balsamic vinaigrette. The real secret is buttering the bread before you put the mayo on, and salting the turkey when you re-heat it. No need for cheese or anything else, it's perfect as described above (we've experimented a lot). 

Oysters in Cranberry Mignonette Sauce

We served these as the appetizer for Thanksgiving, and it was really wonderful. Basically used the cranberry sauce in as many things as we could. 

  • 1 dozen oysters (we used Island Creek, b/c that's what they had)
  • 1 T. minced shallots
  • 4 tsp champagne vinegar
  • a few T. Cranberry sauce, try to get as few berries as possible, and just the saucier part
  • Kosher salt, and pepper
Mix together mignonette ingredients, and let sit for a half an hour or so. Serve oysters on ice, with lemons.

Mashed Carrots with Orange and Mint

Borrowed from Fine Cooking magazing

Serves 6

  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
  • kosher salt
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T cream
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 1.5 T chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • Tabasco to taste
Put carrots in pot and cover by at least an inch of water. Salt water and bring to a boil for around 25 minutes. Heat all other ingredients in a pan over low heat until butter is melted. Puree carrots, then mix in seasoning sauce. 

Notes, suggestions...
When we made this, we mashed instead of pureed. It would have been much better pureed. Also, it's got a nice middle eastern flavor profile. It could benefit from some lemon juice, add to taste afterwards. Also, I might consider toasting some cumin seeds in a T or two of butter, and mixing that in (that's what I do for my red lentil dal, and this kind of reminds me of that.

We served this for Thanksgiving, and while it was very good, it was overwhelmed by the other flavors. It's more subtle, but still very good.