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Saturday, December 27, 2008

horseradish crusted roast beef

horseradish roast beef

This isn't what I had for Christmas dinner this year, but if I wasn't busy having the world's most perfect Christmas dinner (an updated version of the classic Italian 7 Fishes dinner - instead of smelts and octopus and other dried salted versions of fish, try broiled lobster tails, crab cakes, crab legs, fried prawns... more on this later), I would have made this. Well, I did make this, but a few days before Christmas. It would make a beautiful special occasion centerpiece kind of meal. I looked at many versions online, but finally settled on this one from Food & Wine, for the horseradish crust. I made a side of extra horseradish sauce as well (just sour cream and horseradish), and it was perfect.

Grocery list: (note the original recipe is for a 6 pound roast; I only made a 3 pound roast so all the ingredients listed here are half of their original amounts) 1/4 cup horseradish, 1 T kosher salt, 1 T dijon mustard, 1 T chopped parsley, 1/2 T pepper, 1/2 T sugar, 1/2 T sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar), 3 pound sirloin roast, tied.

horseradish sauce for roast

Make the paste by combining all the ingredients together (horseradish, salt, pepper, sugar, parsley, vinegar).

covering roast with horseradish sauce

Set a rack over the roasting pan so your roast can cook on all sides. Cover the roast with the sauce, including the sides and bottom.

horseradish crusted roast beef

Roast for 2 hours at 375 degrees, in the lower half of the oven. The meat should register 125 degrees on a meat thermometer. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing, across the grain. Serve with extra horseradish (mixed with enough sour cream to tone it down to your liking) on the side.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

butternut squash risotto

butternut squash risotto

For regular readers of AHB, you may know there are a few things that I don't really follow a recipe for (meatloaf, meatballs, bolognese, lasagna, etc), and that includes risotto. Once you know the main base, you don't really pay attention to the full recipes. You start reading a recipe to see the combination of "filler" ingredients, and get ideas, and think about how that might fit in with versions you've already tried and liked. This always makes me feel like a "real" cook, since I can think about how different ingredients play off each other without feeling the need to blindly follow a recipe I have no clue about. But it leaves me with the tiny problem of crediting all the various ideas that go into a new risotto back to all the possible articles that may have contributed to it.

For this one, I had seen lots of risottos and pastas (and even a chili) that included butternut squash, since it's that time of year. There seems to be a consensus on adding some sort of salty complement to the sweetness of the squash (for example, adding squash to a beef brisket based chili, which I haven't tried yet but will). So what about using bacon, and the resulting bacon grease, as the starter for a risotto? I won't take credit for the idea, since I may have seen it multiple places, but I can't find anything exact. Anyway, here's what I did.

Grocery list: 1 cup arborio (risotto) rice, 1 cup white wine, 3 cups chicken stock, 3-4 slices bacon, 1/2 butternut squash (roasted and cut into cubes), 2 T minced fresh sage, 1 T minced fresh thyme, 1 small yellow onion, 2 cloves garlic.

saute bacon to start risotto

Chop 3 slices of bacon into small pieces, and add to a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Depending on the fat content of the bacon, you might want to add a touch more olive oil to the pan (I did).

onion garlic bacon thyme for risotto

After the bacon has cooked for a few minutes and started to crisp, continue with your risotto base. For me, that means adding a finely chopped onion (and a couple minced garlic cloves, which is different than most risottos where I use shallots) and about a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves. Because butternut squash tastes better with sage, I added 2 T minced fresh sage leaves here too. Stir and cook until the onions are translucent.

add rice to risotto

Add 1 cup of arborio rice and stir well. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, then add a glass of white wine (between 1/2 and 1 cup). Keep stirring until all the liquid is absorbed.

mixing broth into risotto

Heat 3-3.5 cups of chicken broth until it's steaming (either in the microwave or in a pot next to the risotto). The key is to have 4 total cups of liquid for every 1 cup of rice, so 1 cup white wine + 3 cups broth, etc. Stir in the broth 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the liquid is absorbed. This will take about 15-20 minutes of cooking, stirring, adding broth, repeating.

Finally, stir in the cooked butternut squash pieces and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, December 22, 2008

crispy pork chops with sage cream gravy

crispy pork chops with sage cream

I've had this old Rachel Ray recipe on file for a long time now, and it keeps getting put to good use. I was never a fan of pork chops (from childhood, if you asked "do you want pork chops for dinner?", all I heard was "do you want bricks of glue and sawdust charred for 45 minutes on an open flame, with a minuscule side of ketchup to try and swallow it down with?"). But I do understand it's a good source of protein, and the boneless center cut loin has about the same stats as a chicken breast. And there's nothing like a little bit of crispy panko to help you get over a food phobia, right? This is actually not as unhealthy as it sounds - the gravy is made with whole milk (not cream), thickened up with an olive oil and flour roux, and the pork is pan-fried and then baked. I didn't even need the ketchup.

Grocery list: 4 boneless center cut pork loins, whole milk, egg, panko, sage, parsley, flour, parmesan.

panko parmesan sage parsley

Mix the panko, parmesan, some of the parsley and sage in a shallow bowl (big enough to fit the pork chops one at a time).

assembly line for pork chops and panko

To bread the pork, dip first into the egg (whisked first of course), then press into the panko mixture.

frying pork chops 2

Add 2 T of olive oil to a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and fry the pork chops for 5 minutes per side.

panko and herb fried pork chops

Move the pork chops to a wire rack set over a baking sheet (this will keep them from getting soggy on the bottom while they cook in the oven). Bake at 400 degrees for 10 more minutes, while you whip up the cream sauce.

flour and oil for sage cream

Add another 1 T oil to the same pan, and whisk in 3 T of flour.

mixing milk into roux for sage cream

Slowly whisk in 1 cup of milk.

mixing herbs into sage cream

Mix the remaining parsley and sage into the cream sauce, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately over the pork chops.

Friday, December 19, 2008

leftovers for breakfast: turkey bacon and kale scramble

turkey bacon kale scramble

The kale with roasted onion rings was made for this purpose: to try and recreate The Flying Biscuit's bacon-collard scramble. It might not look that appealing (no offense to The Flying Biscuit, but neither does their version - greens scrambled in eggs have a beauty in the eye of the beholder), but it was delicious. Using (mostly) egg whites and turkey bacon made this a healthy option for any day of the week.

Grocery list: leftover kale or collards, eggs, turkey bacon, grated cheddar cheese.

turkey bacon

Chop 3-4 slices of turkey bacon, and saute in just a teaspoon of oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

turkey bacon leftover kale

Add about 1 cup of leftover kale (you might want to run a knife through it to chop it a little more finely) and cook for 1 minute. Whisk 1 egg + 7 egg whites together with a tablespoon of half-and-half, then add to the skillet. Scramble until eggs are cooked, then sprinkle a handful of sharp cheddar cheese over top.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

garlicky kale with roasted onion rings

kale with roasted onion rings

There's a popular breakfast spot in Atlanta called the Flying Biscuit, and one of their signature plates is a turkey bacon and collard green scramble. For whatever reason, I started craving this the other day. But who's going to get up and start cooking greens at 6am? I needed leftovers for this... So instead of making old school fat-back collards (more bacon grease than greens, mmm), I tried this recipe from March 2008 F&W that I'd set aside. It was perfect: the kale wasn't greasy and still had bite (unlike southern collards), and the onion rings were a sweet contrast to the salt and garlic. I'll blog about the scramble tomorrow morning.

Grocery list: 2 pounds kale (washed, trimmed, cut crosswise into strips), 2 shallots, 3 (or 5!) garlic cloves, 1 large sweet onion, olive oil.

prepped onions ready to roast

Start by cutting the onion into thick rounds (about 1/3 inch), like you're making onion rings. Separate the rings and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a large baking sheet at 425 for about 20 minutes, turning several times, until the rings are golden. Set aside.

steaming kale

Next, boil a large pot of water and add the kale. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then drain. This pre-cooking will help so the garlic won't burn in the next step, so don't skip it.

saute kale and garlic

Mince the shallot and garlic and saute in olive oil over medium high heat. After a couple minutes, add the drained kale and stir well. I added a pinch of crushed red pepper at this stage too, deviating from the recipe just a little.

roasted onion rings and kale

After about 5-7 minutes, add the onion rings to the kale. You might need to drizzle a little more olive oil over them too, and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, December 15, 2008

our little secret: easy but impressive leek & ham quiche

ham and leek quiche

If you're having dinner guests on fairly short notice, or want to prepare an easy make-ahead brunch that won't require a lot of fuss while you visit with your out of town guests, let me tell you about this quiche. Growing up, it was always my mom's staple "fancy" food - we made it for Christmas Eve, New Year's, and other festive occasions. Precisely because it can be made ahead (even baked the day before), you never have to follow the recipe exactly, it uses up odds and ends of cheese left over from other recipes in your cheese drawer, and it's impressive enough on a plate. The basic premise is some meat (optional), some vegetable (optional) plus some cheese(s), and several eggs mixed with half-and-half. I made a double batch of leek confit (remember how good it was in Molly Wizenberg's leek tart?), and used up a little fresh mozzarella, fontina & gruyere I had on hand, with a few slices of ham. Perfect.

Grocery list: one pre-made pie crust - the kind you can roll out, not frozen in a tin (or, make your own), 4 eggs, 3/4 cup half-and-half, 3 cups total shredded cheese (I used about one cup each gruyere, fontina and mozzarella), 3 ounces sliced ham, 1-2 cups leek confit. You could also saute mushrooms and/or onions to use in place of the leeks - cook them for about 10 minutes until tender, then allow to cool to room temperature before assembling quiche.

leek confit ham cheese

Roll out the crush into a pie dish. Spread 1 cup of cheese on the bottom, followed by diced ham. Evenly distribute leeks (or the mushroom/onion mixture).

ham leek gruyere fontina

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the ham and leeks. Whisk eggs and half-and-half with salt and pepper, then pour over the filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-75 minutes, or longer.

ham and leek quiche baked

Quiche is done when you can gently shake the sides of the pan and the inside giggles without appearing liquid-y. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before you slice it. The eggs will continue to cook during this period, and the inside will firm up, so don't cut too early or your quiche slices will look messy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

grilled steak with arugula, fennel and orange salad

steak with arugula fennel salad

This recipe ended up only being "inspired by" the original in Food & Wine magazine. I fully intended to try it unadulterated, but ended up finding a good deal on NY strip (as opposed to skirt steak) while at the same time NOT being able to find fregola. (Side note: while I couldn't find fregola at whole foods, I discovered they finally started carrying farro, which I've wanted to try in a risotto for a long time, so I consider it a wash.) For the original, you can read it online here, but I'll cover my variations on the recipe below. It would probably feed 4 normal non-bear appetites.

Grocery list: one pound strip steak, 1 T ancho chile powder, 1 red onion, 1 lemon, 1 fennel bulb, 1 navel orange, 2 radishes, 5oz baby arugula, black olive tapenade (fresh at the olive bar at our local WF).

fennel radishes arugula lemon orange

Allow the steak to rest on the counter to bring it to room temperature while you prep the vegetables. Cut the stems off the fennel bulb, cut it in half, core it, then thinly slice. Peel the orange, quarter it to remove the center pith, then thinly slice crosswise. Wash and thinly slice the radishes. Juice the lemon.

seasoned steak for grilling

Sprinkle the chile powder on both sides of the steak (pressing to adhere the seasoning).

red onion slices for grilling

Peel the onion and cut into 1/4 inch slabs. Grill both the steak and the onion slabs over direct heat. For the steak, it's a matter of preference and steak thickness to determine how long to cook (this one was thick, and took 12-14 minutes to get to medium). The onions should become tender and charred in spots - I put down a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil first so the onions couldn't fall through the grates, and they still achieved that charred effect.

grilled steak and red onions

When the steak is done, allow it to rest under a tent of aluminum foil while you assemble the salad.

arugula fennel orange salad

Toss the arugula with several tablespoons of good quality olive oil and the lemon juice. Let the onions cool, then chop them. Add the onions, fennel, orange and radishes to the salad and toss well.

grilled steak with olive tapenade

Spread about 1/4 cup of tapenade across the steak, and slice on the diagonal. Mound the salad on each plate, then serve several steak slices on the top.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

gift this: best ever nut brittle

nut brittle

Like a lot of people, I'm going to try and cut back on Christmas gift spending this year. One of the best ways to show people you love them without spending a fortune is to cook treats for them (you know, you don't really love someone unless you fatten them up a little - one more proof point that I'm of Italian descent). My dad used to bring home the best nut brittle about a week before Christmas, from some vendor who gave out tins of it to all their clients. This stuff was like eating a heath bar - if you hadn't seen food in a week. I'll work on a chocolate-sided version next time, but for now, my research led me to this recipe by Tina Ujlaki (adapted from famous pastry chef Karen DeMasco). I adapted it further by trying a combination of almonds and pine nuts. I knew it was a winner when my dad said he'd gladly eat 2 pounds of it in one sitting.

Grocery list: 2 cups sugar, 1 stick butter, 1/3 cup light corn syrup, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 12 ounces nuts (slivered almonds and pine nuts were my choice, but you could use roasted salted cashews, peanuts, pistachios, pecans, or any combination), sea salt.

butter sugar corn syrup for brittle

Mix the sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.

boiling sugar for brittle

Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At first, it will be very light colored, but as the heat rises it will start to turn caramel-y. Using a candy thermometer is absolutely critical, because if you don't boil the caramel long enough (i.e. get it up to 300 degrees exactly), it will be chewy when it cools instead of snapping apart into pieces.

brittle will be chewy unless 300 degrees

When it is finally 300 degrees (the original recipe said to boil for 10 minutes, but I think it took me at least 15 minutes to get the caramel to 300 degrees), turn off the heat and quickly stir in the 1/2 tsp baking soda.

brittle caramel boiling steady

Carefully stir in the baking soda; it will bubble for a few seconds.

12 ounces almonds and pine nuts

I finally got to use my new kitchen scale - measure out 12 ounces of some combination of nuts.

adding nuts to caramel

Stir the nuts into the caramel mixture.

nut brittle spreading

Spread the brittle onto a large rimmed nonstick baking sheet. This takes some muscle, since the mixture is thick and cooling quickly. Once it's evenly distributed, sprinkle sea salt over the top. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes, then break into big pieces. The original recipe notes that this brittle can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month - although I can't imagine this lasting for longer than 3 days once you've tasted a bite.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

yogurt crepes with raspberry sauce

yogurt crepes with raspberry sauce

I've been looking for something new for the breakfast rotation lately. I mean, the buttermilk pancakes and french toast are fantastic, and I'm all over the eggs and grits with texas pete, but sometimes you just want something different. So I was excited to see an entire article dedicated to fresh breakfast ideas in December's Food & Wine - including one AHB will actually eat (sorry, salmon hash is *totally* out of the running here). Don't be intimidated by having to cook each crepe one at a time; if 8 minutes is really too long, get 2 fry pans going simultaneously.

Grocery list: 3 eggs, 1 1/4 cup milk, 1 cup AP flour, 3 T melted butter, 1/4 cup apricot preserves (I used orange marmalade), 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, 1 T fresh lemon juice, 1.5 cups plain greek yogurt, 3 T brown sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

ingredients for yogurt crepes

Since the batter has to rest for 20 minutes prior to cooking, start the batter first, then make the filling. Whisk 3 eggs with 1/4 cup of the milk and a pinch of salt, then add the flour and whisk until smooth.

crepe batter step 2

The batter will be thick - almost a dough-like consistency. Carefully whisk in the remaining one cup of milk and 1 T of melted butter until smooth. Allow to rest for 20 minutes on the counter (do not refrigerate).

raspberries orange marmalade

Add the marmalade, lemon juice and frozen raspberries to a small saucepan.

raspberry sauce

Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes - as you stir it, the raspberries will kind of melt, so the entire mixture takes on the consistency of thick syrup.

yogurt brown sugar filling for crepes

For the crepe filling, mix the greek yogurt with brown sugar and vanilla extract. (This tastes almost exactly like vanilla yogurt, so I'm not sure why you couldn't substitute. I guess it depends what you keep around the house - vanilla yogurt is always "stocked" here, but not greek yogurt...)

cooking crepes

To cook the crepes, brush a 10 inch skillet with a little of the melted butter, and heat the pan over medium heat. Pour 1/3 cup crepe batter into the middle of the pan, swirling it around quickly so the batter fills up the bottom of the pan in a very thin layer. Cook for 45 seconds or until it's lightly browned on the bottom. Flip and cook until the other side starts to brown (15-30 seconds more). Move to a parchment lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven (stack cooked crepes between layers of parchment paper to prevent sticking). Brush the pan with melted butter in between each batch.

assembling yogurt crepes

When all the crepes are done, assemble them to serve. Spoon a little of the filling in the middle, roll up the crepe, and top with a bit of raspberry sauce.