Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mulled Apple Cider

This was a wonderful, warming drink to serve my family during Thanksgiving afternoon.  Paired great with the Baked Brie, appetizers and, of course, football.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large oranges, quartered (keep peel on)
1 gallon high quality apple cider
Optional: Spiced Rum

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Bring to a simmer, turn heat down to med/low and heat for 20-30 minutes before serving.  The longer is heats, the more intense the flavor becomes (tastes even better reheated the next day).

Use a a ladel to dish cider into mugs (as you get to the end of the pot, strain the remants through a sieve to get the last little bit of cider).  As an option, add 1 shot of rum.  Curl up by the fire and share with someone you love.

Tiffany's Baked Brie

I apparently suck at Fillo Dough, so my brie square burst open while baking making more of a Brie Soup; ugly as this looks, it still tasted delicious!

Mike and I first tasted this appetizer at a dinner party hosted by our friend, Vanessa.  The recipe came originally from her sister, Tiffany.  The Perkin's sisters were born and raised in Louisiana, so you can't go wrong with any recipe they pass along, but this one in particular has a special place in my heart (and my stomach).  Served with butter, brown sugar and pecans, it's an amazing southern take on a simple appetizer.  Pairs beautifully with Mulled Apple Cider.

2 Brie Wedges
4 Sheets Fillo dough
1 Stick Butter (plus extra for sealing dough)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup Brown Sugar (plus 1-2 Tbsp extra)
Crackers for Serving (I like Breton Crackers, but you can use anything you like)

Follow instructions on fillo dough box to bring dough to room temperature (for frozen dough, this usually means letting the box sit out for 2 hours, or in the fridge overnight.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lay out about 4 sheets of fillo dough.

Take the outer white layer off the brie, then put two wedges together to form a square (this step is much harder then it sounds.  I recommend keeping each piece of brie in the fridge until right before use; my second piece had sat out a bit and was melting and sticking to everything as I tried to get off the coating.)

Sort of a square...

The remnants of brie coating

In a separate bowl, melt one stick of butter, and pour in 1 cup of chopped pecans.  Add brown sugar until the butter is no longer runny (approx. 1 cup).  

Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the brie, then wrap the fillo dough around the brie, covering completely.  You might have to add more dough around on top to make it a perfect square.  Additional melted butter on top can help seal the dough and make it nice and brown when it cooks.

The sticky brie tore away an interior piece of dough, and therefore did not properly seal

Put in the oven for around 20 minutes, then add the rest of the butter/brown sugar mixture.  

Put it in the oven again for an extra 10 minutes, or until the butter/brown sugar mxture begins to caramelize.

Serve with crackers and enjoy!

The Easiest Cranberry Sauce Ever

I am hardly a tradtionalist in ANY aspect of my life, but certain things just don't need a spin.  Cranberry sauce is one of them.  When I decided to make my sauce from scratch this year (mainly because we were hosting Thanksgiving and I wanted to do everything from scratch.) I found a million variations on cranberry sauce that included blackberries, vodka...all kinds of wacky stuff.

The bottom line is that most often simple works best.  Good ingredients and few of them.  This recipe was a big hit (especially with my father-in-law who loves crandberry sauce).  Whip it up next year for your Thanksgiving.  You won't be disappointed.

1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup water

*Optional: save your extra zest and use as garnish when you serve you sauce.

 In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, lemon zest and water; bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer; cook until cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl, and let cool to room temperature.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tyler Florence's Roasted Pork Shoulder (Pernil Al Horno)

After making Papparadelle with Meat Ragu I had a large piece of pork shoulder I had to use up.  I found this recipe doing an online search (thank you Food Network!).   Pork shoulder is a fatty, inexpensive piece of meat that is surprisingly tender, moist and flavorful.  It also freezes easily, (so buy a large piece for the Ragu recipe; freeze the rest and defrost the day before you feel like making this Pernil al Horno). This recipe is deceptively simple - how could something this easy taste so good?  The flavorful crust is fantastic and the salt in the recipe acts like a brine to make the interior moist and rich.

Total Time: 7hr
Prep 30 min
Inactive 3 hr 30 min
Cook 3 hr 

1 boneless pork shoulder (about 4 pounds), skin on
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 handful fresh oregano
4 tablespoons Kosher salt (1 tablespoon for every pound of meat)*
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetabl oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

*Especially with Kosher salt, be very careful to follow this rule of 1-tablespoon-per-pound.  The right amount of salt is heaven, too much can kill your meal.

Place the pork, fat-side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack insert, and using a sharp knife, score the surface of the meat with small slits.  Mash the garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper into a paste on a cutting board with the flat side of a knife (this paste is called adobo); place the adobo in a bowl and stir in the oil and vinegar.  Rub the garlic paste all over the pork, being sure to get into the incisions so the salt can penetrate the meat and pull out the moisture - this will help form a crust on the outside when cooked.  Cover the pork with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Roast the pork for 3 hours, uncovered, until the skin is crispy brown.  Let the meat rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing.

Vamos a comer!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Iced Hermits

After making Gingerbread Cake, I had leftover molasses.  The recipe below if from Martha Stewart.  Hermits are not an appealing name, but these little bars are delicious, spicy, gingery treats (apparently originating in colonial New England, named Hermits because the cookie improves after being stowed away for a few days).  Martha calls for candied ginger, which would make them even more amazing but, as I'm cooking on a budget, I just used extra raisins.  Instead of ginger you can also add 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

(For the cookies)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking sheet
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 cup chopped candied ginger, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I omitted these)
3/4 cup raisins (I used 1 cup raisins)

(For the icing)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, plus more if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 10 by 15-inch* rimmed baking sheet.  Line bottom with parchement paper and butter parchment.

Make cookies: Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and cloves in bowl.

Put butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed until smooth.  Add brown sugar; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 

 Mix in whole egg and yolk, and molasses.  Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.  Mix in 1/2 cup candied ginger and raisins.

Spread dough evenly onto prepared baking sheet.  Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until firm, 18 to 22 minutes.  Cool completely in baking sheet on a wire rack.

*I had a hard time finding a 10x15" pan, so I used a larger one and left room on each edge.

Make icing: Put brown sugar, milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved.  

Remove from heat; whisk in vanilla and confectioners' sugar.  If icing is too thick to drizzle, stir in more milk, a teaspoon at a time.  If icing is too thin, stir in more confectioners' sugar, a teaspoon at a time.  Let cool slightly.

Drizzle bars with icing; sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup candied ginger.  Let stand until icing has set, about 15 minutes.  Cut into 2-inch squares. 

Bars can be stored in single layers in airtight containgers at room temperature up to 5 days.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gingerbread Cake with Fresh Whipped Cream

I love Daily Candy and find a lot of fun, seasonal recipes on their website...including this one for "Grandmother's Soft Gingerbread Cake."  It's not too sweet and incredibly moist.  The fresh whipped cream and ground nutmeg give a light, airy and sharp flavor.  I made this for football and wings party and it was a big hit.  The leftovers are also great with a cup of coffee for brunch.

For the Cake
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark molasses
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 cup boiling water

For the Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg

For the Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch-round springform pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, ginger and cinnamon.

In a mixing bowl with electric beaters (or by hand with a whisk), beat together the sugar, molasses, oil, and eggs until well blended and smooth, 1-2 minutes.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended, scraping the bowl once or twice.

Add the boiling water and beat until smooth.  The batter should be thin.  Don't overmix or the cake will be tough.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and place on a baking sheet to catch drips.

Bake in the center of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

Let cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before removing the pan sides.

For the Whipped Cream
In a mixing bowl, with electric beaters (or by hand with a whisk...if you really want to work on your arm strength), whip together the cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.

Cut the cake into wedges.  Transfer to dessert plates and put a dollop of whipped cream and a few sprinkles of nutmeg on top.

Dig in!!