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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maple Syrup and More

While we were on Cape Cod, I bought a new cookbook called Cranberry Cooking for All Seasons.  Not only do we love cranberries, but the intro is a wonderful history of the cranberry in New England.  I had a bag of cranberries to use up.  Ditto several butternut squash and some chicken breasts.  I found a recipe for stuffed acorn squash and thought it'd be good done with a baby butternut.  It was.  We gave it a five.  I hunted thru the chicken recipes I've clipped and found one that went perfectly - chicken breasts glazed with a mix of fresh ginger, soy sauce and maple syrup.  Last, but not least, I just bought the new Ina Garten cookbook.  It's called Back to Basics and has her typical scrumptious fare plus gorgeous photos.  I thought I'd seen a salad I liked when I read the cookbook.  Right.  Not only was it there, it also has maple syrup in the dressing.  Perfect.

Glazed Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c maple syrup (shagbark hickory would work as well)
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
sprinkle of cayenne

I used the skillet in which I'd browned the bacon for the salad.  The fond undoubtedly added to the depth of flavor in the glaze.  Brown the breasts on both sides.  When they're within about 10 min of being done, pour the glaze over them.  Baste them with the glaze every minute or so. 

Butternut Squash stuffed with Cranberries

1 very small butternut squash
1/3 c chopped pecans
1/2 c chopped fresh cranberries
2 tbs brown sugar
1/4 c melted butter
1/4 c orange marmalade
sprinkle of cinnamon.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds.  Bake cut side down for 15 min at 350.  Turn the squash over and stuff them with the filling.  Bake for another 15 min.

Cooking on Cape Cod

After a LONG day of travel, we finally got back from Cape Cod last night.  I love going out there to see Greg and Matt and their girlfriends, Mary and Jessie.  But, cooking in Auntie Barbara's kitchen is a bit challenging.  Over the years I've added critical items like a grater.  But, there are still a LOT of items missing.  Like, knives that really cut.  And, soup spoons.  And a grabber that's not in two parts...  So, I consider it to be kind of like camping.  We started with the kids favorite meal - Chicken Caesar Lasagna.  It's easy to make and is a family favorite.

Chicken Caesar Lasagna
one rotisserie chicken
1 or 2 jars alfredo sauce
1 or 2 packages frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 jar roasted red peppers, chopped
1 tbs lemon juice
9 lasagna noodles
1 pkg grated 5 Italian cheese

Boil the lasagna noodles.  While they're boiling, pick the meat off the chicken.  Mix it with the sauce, spinach, roasted red peppers and lemon juice.  Schmear a bit of the sauce mix on the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish.  Lay 3 lasagna noodles over that.  Top with 1/3 of the sauce mix, followed by 3 more lasagna noodles, and so on until you have three layers.  Bake at 350 for 45 min.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake for another 15 min.

The next night we wound up at our favorite pub to watch our Colts and have dinner.  Captain Parker's has won all kinds of clam chowder cook-offs.  We started with cups of that, of course.  I had a little piece of the best prime rib I think I've ever had.  Tender, flavorful, juicy.  Perfect.  Turns out the Captain was there and wandered in to say hello.  He wound up giving us a couple of their mugs as mementos.

Friday, we wandered toward Sandwich (the quintessential New England town) stopping at various galleries and book stores and shops.  I was on the hunt for a couple more Christmas presents and some stocking stuffers.  Found them!  On the way we saw a sign for LOBSTERS.  So, we found it on the way back and meandered up the driveway.  Turns out the guy has a tank on his front porch packed with lobsters he caught that day.  YUM!  The "tree" in the front yard was a mountain of lobster pots strung with lights.

Saturday we had glop and roasted broccoli.  Another family favorite with a newbie - to them at least.  It's the 4th time we've made the roasted broccoli in a month!

What a name for a dish.  This started when I was in 8th grade cooking class.  We made a dish with macaroni, tomato juice, hamburger and cheese.  Over the years, I've tweaked the recipe more than a bit. 

1 lb ground round
1/4 c Andria's steak sauce (believe me - this is the best - order it online)
1 package Kraft mac and cheese, prepared according to directions
1 can diced tomatoes with their juice
2 tsp basil
10 oz Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar, grated

Brown the ground round with the Andria's.  Drain the liquid into a fat strainer and pour the good stuff back in.  Mix everything else in and enjoy!

Sunday was Lou's Barbecue Beef, Jane's rice and clean up the kitchen for five salad.  Lou's BBQ Beef was in the 10/26/09 post.  Jane's rice was what we always had as kids with fried chicken livers.  That was a huge treat - still is. But, now, I fix Jane's rice with lots of different things.  It's kind of a haphazard recipe - no specific instructions.  You'll wind up with about 3 cups of rice so you'll want to start with about a cup of uncooked rice.  Uncle Ben's converted is the best.  Take a measuring cup if you're more comfortable using that to determine the amount of liquid.  I've done this one so long that I just eyeball it.  Drain a 4oz can of mushrooms - pieces and stems - into the measuring cup.  Add white wine for another 1/3 -1/2 of the liquid.  Then, use water for the rest.  Dump the liquid, rice, a package of dry onion soup mix and the mushrooms in your saucepan and cook until the rice is done.  If it starts to get too dry, pour more wine or water in.  Chef's choice!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Elegant Dinner

When we prepare the beef tenderloins for the annual holiday party, there are always great trimmings.  We've never quite figured out what to call the piece that's about a pound or pound and a half that looks like a small roast.  We thought it was the chateaubriand but later read that that's a part of the big tenderloin.  At any rate, we had one of the pieces still frozen.  Since I'm still working on cleaning out the freezer, I decided the next three meals would be beef, swordfish and lamb chops.  Back in about 1984, I created a stuffing for lamb chops.  It's been my go-to recipe since then.  Last night, I decided to try stuffing the beef with the same.  Since I had a package of button mushrooms and another of portabellas - both of which needed to be used up - and since we're going to have lamb chops Monday night, it made sense to just make a big batch of stuffing.

Lamb Chop Stuffing
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped and sauteed
2 chicken livers, sauteed and chopped very finely
1/4 c chopped, cooked bacon
1 tsp thyme or tarragon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, very finely minced
1/2 c red wine, more if needed to keep the stuffing moist
2T shaved parmesan

Sautee the mushrooms until almost dry.  Add the onion and garlic and some of the wine if necessary.   Cook until the onion is softened.  Mix in the other ingredients and stir to combine.

Now, for those of you who run screaming from the room at the thought of liver, you can undoubtedly leave it out.  But, it really plays well with the other flavors and you cant' really tell it's there.  So, be brave, try the stuff.

Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce

1-2 lb piece of tenderloin
1 c stuffing (above)
2 T olive oil
1 T flour
2 t beef base
1 c red wine
1 T butter

Cut a pocket in the center of the tenderloin, leaving about an inch at either end.  Stuff the tenderloin with the stuffing and tie it in 3-4 places.  We use the cooking rubber bands.  They're so easy to use!  Heat your oven to 400.  Put the tenderloin in a baking dish or pan and roast it for 15 min.  Yes, I know you usually brown it first.  But, Cooks Illustrated just did an article on tenderloins and they found that it's better to brown it after roasting.  So, I tried it that way.  When the tenderloin comes out of the oven, start the olive oil.  Get it to the shimmering point in a heavy skillet.  Brown the tenderloin, being very careful not to cook it too long.  Remove the tenderloin from the skillet and put it aside to rest.  Tent aluminum foil over it to keep it warm.  Pour the pan drippings from roasting the beef into the olive oil.  There shouldn't be much  Add the flour to the olive oil and stir until the flour is cooked.  Pour in some red wine, stirring constantly.  Once that's thickened, add the beef base and the rest of the red wine.  Stir until it's thickened.  Add the butter last to give the sauce polish.  It'll change the color and texture and flavor.  Slice the tenderloin.  Put a puddle of sauce on each plate and lay a slice of tenderloin on the sauce.

Along with the beef, I made a variation of rosemary potatoes and Daddy's fried potatoes.  He always sliced the potatoes and fried them in bacon fat with salt and pepper as the seasoning.  I sliced them thinly and slowly cooked them in olive oil with salt, pepper, garlic and crushed rosemary to season.  They cooked for about an hour and a half and were perfect.  Some were crunchy, some were melt in your mouth soft.  YUM!

We also tried a mixture of cauliflower and asparagus roasted and drizzled with the lemon juice and soy sauce, then sprinkled with sesame seeds.  They were good but not as good as the broccoli was done the same way.

Last but not least, I made an onion herb focaccia bread.  New recipe and pretty easy.  Stretch refrigerated pizza dough out on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle some olive oil over it then rub it around to cover the entire surface.  Sprinkle it with sea salt (I grind mine,) crushed rosemary and a bit of red pepper flakes.  Set aside until puffy - about an hour.  Make dimples with your fingers.  Then sprinkle with very finely sliced red onion (about half of a medium one) and about 1/2 c shaved parmesan.    Bake for 17 min at 400.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Clean Out the Freezer for Two

We're trying to clean out the freezer so there's room for all the party food the first week of January. Gads, it's only a month away! Tonight I decided it was time to finish one of the last of the pork tenderloins. They'd been marinated in soy sauce, bourbon and brown sugar then grilled. I made the spicy cranberry sauce and warmed the tenderloins up in that. Then, made some couscous and tossed in a handful of dried cranberries as it was cooking. Alongside, I served broccoli with sesame seeds. That was fabulous. Absolutely a five! We gave the cranberry sauce and couscous a four. It was really good too, but could've used a bit more ginger flavor. Next time I'll try adding a bit of ground ginger.

Spicy Cranberry Sauce

One can jellied cranberry sauce
1 T country Dijon mustard
2 t soy sauce
1 T brown sugar
2 T finely minced crystallized ginger

Melt the cranberry sauce in a saucepan and add the other ingredients.

Roasted Broccoli with Sesame Seeds
Preheat oven to 450. Separate broccoli into florets. Put them in a baking dish that’s large enough to accommodate them without being crowded. Drizzle broccoli with olive oil. Roast until browned – about 20 minutes. Toss with a drizzle of soy sauce, a small splash of lemon juice and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

About a week ago I made some risotto. Trying to clean out the massive quantities of homemade chicken stock in the freezer... Since John Marvel doesn't get mushrooms at home and he was going to get to share the risotto, that was the flavoring. Now, risotto is one of those things I didn't even have until a few years ago. I loved it at first bite. It sounds pretty intimidating to make but is really quite easy. And, you can pretty much put in anything as long as you've got the wine, stock and onion.

Mushroom Risotto

Heat 5 cups of good quality chicken stock. Saute 8 oz of mixed mushrooms (button, cremini, shitake...) in 3T of unsalted butter. Set them aside. Saute one small onion, diced, in 2 T butter and 1T olive oil. Add 1 1/2 c Arborio rice and stir until slightly golden. Add 1/2 c dry white wine. Once it's absorbed, add the stock 1/2 c at a time, stirring frequently. Once the rice is creamy and the stock has been absorbed, add 1/2 c grated romano cheese, about 2t of white truffle oil (optional,) salt and pepper and the reserved mushrooms. Serve with more grated romano.