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Friday, October 31, 2008

scalloped potato and herb gratin

potato and sweet potato gratin

From Bon Appetit's Thanksgiving 2008 issue, this is a rich, flavorful, impressive yet easy to make side. I made exactly half (original recipe is below - serves 12), and it was a perfectly indulgent accompaniment to steak - go figure.

Grocery list: 1.5 lbs medium Yukon Gold potatoes, 1.5 lbs medium sweet potatoes, 2 c heavy whipping cream, 1/2 stick butter, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 T *each* minced fresh parsley, rosemary, sage & thyme, 4-5 oz grated gruyere cheese (a little over a cup).

potatoes herbs fontina

Peel all the potatoes and slice into thin (1/4 inch) rounds. Place immediately in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from turning color. Mince the herbs and garlic.

cream and butter for gratin

Heat the garlic, cream and butter over medium heat until just simmering, then turn off the burner.

first layer of potatoes sweet potatoes herbs fontina

In a greased 9x13 pan, layer half of both types of potatoes, then half of all the herbs, season with salt and pepper, and half of the grated gruyere.

potato and sweet potato gratin assembled

Finish with a second layer of all remaining ingredients, then pour over the cream mixture. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes; remove foil and continue baking until bubbly and golden on top, another 25 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. (The original recipe says this can be made ahead - as in up to 6 hours, not the day before or anything - just refrigerate until ready to bake.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

leek tart with goat cheese

leek goat cheese tart

I really am loving Molly Wizenberg's (AKA Orangette) "Cooking Life" column in Bon Appetit. She is such an incredible food writer - she's so over the top with her descriptions (I can relate). Her column in the October 2008 issue was probably my favorite, featuring 2 recipes in 1, for leek confit and a leek and goat cheese tart. Based on her recommendation, I was putting leftover leek confit on everything for days (including scrambled eggs - who would have guessed?). The tart was perfect, even though I used fresh goat cheese instead of aged.

Grocery list: (for the leek confit) 1/2 stick butter, 4 large leeks; (for the crust) 3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1.5 cups AP four, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 stick butter plus 1 T; (filling) 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 crumbled goat cheese (original recipe calls for aged goat cheese, such as Bucheron).

pie crust for leek tart ready to bake

Make the crust by pulsing the flour and salt with butter (cold, and cut up into small cubes) in a food processor, until it has the consistency of coarse meal. Mix 4 T ice water with the cider vinegar in separate bowl, then add this slowly to the machine while it's running. The dough should start to make clumps (if not, add another T or 2 of ice water). Remove from the processor, shape into a ball, wrap with saran wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Roll it out on a floured surface, and transfer to a tart pan. As you can see, I only had a pie pan, so this technically was a leek pie...

baked crust for leek tart

Cover your crust with foil, and fill it with dried beans or rice (to weigh down the crust). Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes; remove the foil and weights and continue to bake until it's golden - another 20 minutes or so. Allow to cool while you work on the filling.

leek confit

To make 2 cups of leek confit (you'll only need 1.5 cups for the tart - the leftovers are great with scrambled eggs!), chop the leeks in half lengthwise, then into 1/4 inch slices. Wash thoroughly. Put 1/2 stick of butter in a dutch oven and melt over medium-low heat. Add the leeks (about 5 cups washed and chopped), plus 2T water and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook on low, stirring every few minutes, for 25 minutes. Uncover and allow any excess water to cook out - about 3-5 more minutes of cooking time.

ingredients for leek tart

Whisk the egg + 1 yolk with the milk, cream, and a pinch of salt.

layering leeks and goat cheese in tart

Spread 1/4 cup crumbled cheese over the bottom of the tart, then pour 1.5 cups of leek confit over. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese over the top, then pour the milk and egg mixture over top. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 375 degrees. You'll know it's done when you shake the pan and the middle of the tart is jiggly but firm (not liquid-y) - yes, these are scientific terms. I also had a bit of crust around the rim that I worried would burn, so I covered the edges of the pan carefully with foil, like you do with an apple pie. It turned out great this way.

Friday, October 24, 2008

herb-crusted roast leg of lamb

herb roasted lamb leg

Lamb is one of those less expensive cuts of meat I'm trying to use more often, and especially since you can throw a roast in the oven and dinner is ready a couple hours later. This one was so easy, and I suppose it's a technique you could use for almost any roast cut.

Grocery list: 2-4+ pound leg of lamb (or other roast cut), 1 lemon, 1 large gallon-size ziploc bag, olive oil, and herbs (mix of dried or fresh - rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint - really, whatever you have, just a lot of it).

herb crust for lamb leg

Trim any excess fat or silver-skin from the lamb leg, then drop it in the ziploc bag. Add a good drizzling of olive oil, then throw in excess amounts of herbs - you're trying to cover the entire surface of the roast. Salt and pepper it generously, then cut your lemon in half, squeeze the juice into the bag (you can throw the lemon halves in the bag for good measure). Let it marinate for at least a couple hours, or set it up at night for roasting the next day. It can sit in the bag for 1-2 days.

Roast at 350 degrees for 1.5-2 hours, or until the internal temperature measures 150 degrees for medium. Remove from the oven and tent with foil; the temperature will continue to rise to about 160 (now it'll be medium to medium well). Adjust if you prefer more or less done - just remember that the roast continues to "cook up" another 10 degrees when you remove it from the oven! Carve and serve - I made this with the spaghetti squash & ricotta dish.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

spaghetti squash with ricotta, sage & toasted pine nuts

herb roasted lamb ricotta squash and chard

I found this awesome recipe for spaghetti squash on The Kitchn (Apartment Therapy's cooking blog). It's so true - parmesan is good and all, but is that the *only* way to make spaghetti squash? This is definitely going in the rotation. I made it with a roast leg of lamb and some rainbow chard with garlic, the perfect autumnal dinner.

Grocery list: 2lb spaghetti squash, 2 cloves garlic, olive oil, 3/4 cup ricotta, handful of pinenuts (about half a cup), about 10 fresh sage leaves.

roasting squash

Start by cutting your squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 375 degrees for about an hour (obviously bigger squash take longer; you know it's done when a fork can pierce it easily). I also roasted some butternut squash while the oven was on - to be featured soon, promise :)

fried sage leaves

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a small fry pan over medium-high heat. Fry the sage leaves for about a minute - they'll start to brown. When you remove them from the pan to a paper-lined plate, they actually get crispy. If you wait till they're crispy in the pan, they are actually burned on the plate (learned the hard way).

ricotta smashed garlic sage

Smash a couple of garlic cloves, and mix in a large bowl with the ricotta. Toast the pinenuts over medium heat in a small fry pan, moving constantly so they don't burn in spots. Chop the crispy sage and stir it, along with the pine nuts, into the squash.

spaghetti squash with sage ricotta and pine nuts

When the squash is done, hold each half down with tongs and, using your other hand, drag a fork across the inside of the squash. It will come up easily, looking like little spaghetti noodles. Transfer to the bowl with ricotta and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, October 20, 2008

football food: creamy spinach artichoke dip

spinach artichoke dip

A and I don't really have "date night" since he's in grad school, but we do have "date football" on Sunday afternoons. If both our teams (Panthers & Steelers) are on at the same time, we bring the second TV down from the bedroom and set both up side by side. We'll make dips, chicken wings, ribs, and get some new microbrew to try. It's quite a production. This spinach dip is the most often repeated football food around my house; and if you're serving it for guests, it gives you maximum impressiveness while requiring the least amount of effort. The base is the same, but you can play around with different cheeses, different amounts of pepper/garlic, etc.

Grocery list: 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach (thawed), 1 8-oz package cream or neufchatel cheese - softened to room temperature, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup mayo, 1.5 cups grated cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, even a little parmesan thrown in can't hurt), sriricha hot sauce, worcestershire, dijon mustard, 1 jalapeno or serrano, 1-2 garlic cloves, 1 small jar artichoke hearts, salt & pepper.

cheesy base for spinach dip

This isn't a very appetizing picture is it? Mix your softened cream cheese with the sour cream, mayo, and about 1 T worcestershire, 1-2 T sriricha hot sauce and 1 tsp dijon mustard. Stir until smooth, then fold in the grated cheese.

artichokes jalapeno garlic mixed into cheesy base

Drain and chop the artichokes, and mince your jalepeno or serrano pepper, and mince 1-2 cloves of garlic.

mixing spinach into base

Squeeze as much liquid out of the defrosted spinach as possible, then stir it into the base. Pour into a baking dish (I use one that can go straight to the table), and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, until bubbling and starting to brown in spots. Serve with chips, pita crisps or crackers.

Friday, October 17, 2008

steak with parmesan butter, balsamic glaze & arugula

steak arugula salad with parmesan butter and balsamic glaze

A lot of food blogs have had posts lately about "the last cookout of the year," but we're fortunate in Atlanta that grilling is not limited to any season. If I've had a bad day and need to feel better, or if I've had a great day and want to celebrate it, a steak is my go-to meal. This recipe from October's Bon Appetit is perfect for any occasion. They describe the steak salad as "simple and sophisticated" - and I can't say it any better.

Grocery list (for 2 entree salad): 1 or 2 rib-eye steaks, 1 package arugula, grated parmesan + parmesan shavings, 1.5 T butter, olive oil, 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, 1/4 c chopped shallots, pinch dark brown sugar, 1 lemon.

parmesan butter

Soften the butter to room temperature, then mix in 2 T grated parmesan, and salt & pepper to taste.

grilled ribeyes

Season steak with salt and pepper, then grill over medium high heat. (Note, the recipe calls for sauteing steak, and then finishing off the glaze in the same pan - I opted for the outdoor grill.) Cook to medium rare, transfer to plate, and allow to rest under foil.

ingredients for balsamic glaze

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan (or the same pan you cooked the steaks in, if you go that route), then add vinegar, shallots and sugar.

balsamic glaze

Boil until reduced to glaze - I found it took about 5 minutes. Divide arugula and parmesan shavings between 2 plates, squeeze lemon juice over the top.

steak with parmesan butter

Slice the steak and top with the butter, then serve the steak over the arugula. Drizzle the glaze over top.

Monday, October 13, 2008

cheesy baked penne with cauliflower and creme fraiche

cheesy baked penne with cauliflower and creme fraiche

The full page photo of this dish in October's Bon Appetit sucked me in - I'm always a sucker for a new mac-and-cheese recipe. This proved to be the most complicated m&c dish I've ever attempted, but also the richest and most flavorful. The different cheeses are all pricey though, so it won't be something I make all the time. (Yes, I do realize how contradictory this is with my last post about choosing cheaper cuts of meat. There's a reason I don't work in finance...)

Grocery list: 1 head of cauliflower, 2 large heirloom tomatoes, 5 T butter, 1 bunch green onions, 2 T AP flour, 1c heavy cream, 3 c grated Comte cheese (half Fontina & half Gruyere is listed as the substitute if you can't find Comte - approx 9oz), 3/4 c grated Parmesan, 1 c creme fraiche, 1T whole grain Dijon mustard, 3.5 (10oz) penne, 1 cup breadcrumbs (I substituted panko).

blanched cauliflower

Bring a large stockpot of salted water to boil. Wash and chop the cauliflower into 1 inch florets, then cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon, then drop in both whole tomatoes and boil for 1 minute.

blanching heirloom tomatoes

Carefully remove them from the water and turn off the heat. Set the hot water aside though, so you can reuse it for cooking the pasta.

ingredients for creme fraiche penne

Blanching the tomatoes will help you peel them, as the skin should almost fall off. Chop the tomatoes. At this point you should grate the Comte, chop the green onions, and get everything set up for making the cheese sauce.

sauteing cauliflower tomatoes and green onions

Melt 2T of butter in a large skillet over med-high heat, then cook the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and the chopped green onions and cook for another minute.

cauliflower green onion and tomato filling for penne

Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

flour and butter for creme fraiche sauce

Melt 2T of butter in a saucepan over med-low heat, then add flour and stir for 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream slowly.

heavy cream and butter sauce

Now, this was different than most white sauces, since the cream has such a higher fat content. I kept whisking it, but the fat started separating out and I thought the whole thing was ruined. But I turned down the heat and kept whisking and it reconstituted once I added the cheese in, but wanted to point this out in case the same thing happens.

comte dijon creme fraiche sauce

Add 2 cups of the grated Comte, and whisk until melted. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, then the creme fraiche and 1 T Dijon. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Bring the large pot of water back to a boil and cook the penne for 10 minutes. Drain and immediately return to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and the cauliflower mixture.

layering cheesy cauliflower penne with comte

Spoon half the pasta mixture into a baking dish, then sprinkle 1/2 cup Comte. Layer the rest of the pasta and the Comte on top.

cheesy penne ready to bake

The recipe calls for melting 1 T of butter and toasting the breadcrumbs at this point, but I skipped this step. I mixed the rest (1/4 cup) of the Parmesan with a cup of panko and spread across the top of the casserole.

cheesy penne with cauliflower

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top.

Friday, October 10, 2008

salt and pepper crusted rib roast

pepper crusted rib roast

With the economic downturn, a lot of little luxuries are being cut, and those businesses trading in little luxuries are figuring out how to adapt. WF has done a great job of this, with all the "real value" campaigns, new $15 family dinners, etc. I also really enjoyed Gourmet's October issue, where they featured different cuts of meat (and what they can replace, how to cook them, and a few great recipes). My favorite was this Salt & Pepper crusted rib roast. I only had one little rib (still, 2 pounds!) instead of the gorgeous 10-pounder in the cover photo, so obviously a meat thermometer is important. This isn't exactly pinching pennies, but a nice splurge without blowing your weekly grocery budget.

Grocery list: beef rib roast, peppercorns, salt, olive oil.

crushing peppercorns 2
Place a handful of peppercorns on a kitchen towel (not a microfiber or terry one, or the pepper will stick to it!), fold over the edges, and pound with a meat pounder.

crusting rib roast with pepper

Brush the roast with oil and press coarse salt and the crushed peppercorns on all sides.

pepper crusted rib roast 2

Roast at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then at 350 degrees until internal temperature registers 110 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes, in the same pan, with a lid or foil tent over top. (Temperature will continue to rise until it reaches 130 degrees for medium rare. I left the roast in the oven until the temperature was 120, because I wanted it medium - just keep in mind that it will continue to cook after it leaves the oven).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

pan roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta

pancetta brussel sprouts roasted

I fell in love with brussel sprouts because of Food 101 in Atlanta. Why am I surprised though? If you put bacon on it, it will be good right? I decided to try and replicate at home, and it was as simple as it was tasty. You just have to get over the knee-jerk reaction to brussel sprouts (most people who hate them have never tried them).

Grocery list: brussel sprouts, a couple of thick slices of pancetta (3 oz would be plenty for a pound of sprouts - serves 4-6?), olive oil, salt.

pancetta brussel sprouts

Wash the sprouts and cut in half. Chop the pancetta into 1/4- 1/2 inch cubes. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet (single layer), and roast at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turning once or twice, or until the sprouts are brown and a little crispy on the outside.

Monday, October 6, 2008

back to basics: mashed potatoes

meat loaf garlic mashed potatoes pancetta brussel sprouts

If you're a regular reader of AHB, you already know that underneath it all, I'm just a meat and potatoes kind of girl. Okay, really great filet and pommes frites sometimes, but still, nothing makes me happier than red meat and some kind of potato. It occurred to me the other day, as I was making meat loaf for dinner (better than my usual too, leftover stale bread is MUCH better than canned breadcrumbs), that I've never blogged about mashed potatoes. I guess I assumed that everyone has their own recipe already, and there are so many opinions about them too - skins on or off, smooth or chunky, herbs or plain butter, etc. But just in case you (a) don't have a recipe you like AND (b) you prefer red skins-on potatoes with texture, then here you go.

Grocery list: small red potatoes (at least a couple pounds for 4 people), salt, cream or whole milk, sour cream, chives, butter. More butter.

garlic mashed potatoes chives

Scrub the potatoes, and cut any big ones in half so they are all about the same size. Put in a big pot, cover with cold water, dump a handful of salt in, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook for about 12-15 minutes. You'll know they're done when you break one apart with a fork and the center is all a uniform color (if they are darker in the middle they still need more time). Drain and return to pot. Stir in at least half a stick of butter, more salt, some cream, a big dollop of sour cream, and mash with a potato masher. Cut fresh chives over the top.

I'll blog the brussel sprouts shortly - they deserve their own post.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

crispy goat cheese over arugula salad with prosciutto and figs

fried goat cheese prosciutto fig arugula salad

What could possibly be better than crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-melted-inside goat cheese rounds? Why, putting it on top of a salad to excuse it as "healthy", that's what. This recipe from October's Bon Appetit is just pure happiness.

Grocery list (this makes 8 goat cheese rounds, which they suggest is enough for 8 salads): quart fresh figs, 1 lemon, balsamic, white wine vinegar, fresh basil, sugar, olive oil, 1 log goat cheese (11 oz), 1 c panko, 1 egg, arugula, 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, honey.

fig vinaigrette ingredients

Don't be intimidated by the vinaigrette; it only takes a few minutes. If you don't want the hassle of cooking the figs, you can get fig paste or jam that would probably work. Stem and quarter 6 large figs, and heat in a small saucepan along with 1/2 cup water.

fig puree

Simmer over med-low heat for about 5 minutes, mashing with a potato masher until you have a puree. Remove from heat. The recipe says to drain over a strainer, but I didn't have any excess liquid. I just let it cool for a few minutes then picked out the skins - the remaining paste was perfect.

fig vinaigrette

Stir in 1 T fresh lemon juice, 1 T balsamic, 1 T white wine vinegar, 2 T olive oil, pinch of sugar, and 2 tsp chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper.

goat cheese coated with panko

After trying this recipe, next time I will put the goat cheese in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before slicing - it was messy. Dip each piece of goat cheese in beaten egg first, then coat with panko. Chill on plate for 10 minutes in fridge before frying.

crispy fried goat cheese

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over med-high heat, then cook goat cheese for 1-2 minutes per side, till golden. Arrange arugula on plates and lay prosciutto slices over. Quarter the remaining figs and divide over the plates. Place goat cheese on top, drizzle with honey and the vinaigrette.