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Friday, July 22, 2011

TTFN My Dear TERP Muffins!

It's been a crazy week here in the (dis)Ordered kitchen, or actually, the kitchen is the only sane place.

After that lovely birthday dinner, I returned to work on Monday only to be told that the mega-corporation I work for has decided to consolidate all of its customer service operations next year and I will be out of a job in the spring. 

Nice birthday present, huh?

So I did some cooking this week, but my brain has been elsewhere, so I have been neglecting to blog about it.

I made these nice chicken tequila lime tacos.  They were inspired by a free sample I got at Whole Foods last week.  They had this jar out of a tequila lime salsa that I tried.  My first thought was, "I want another taste."  My second thought was, "I could make one just as good." 

Did I remember to write down the recipe?  Of course not!  These had chicken thighs, and tomato puree, and, of course, tequila and lime juice.  I also added some chile powder.  They were good.  Not much else to say.


Then I made these lamb chops.  I just sprinkled them with salt and pepper, cooked them in a cast iron pan, and covered them with a pesto sauce I made from basil, mint, pistachios, and pecorino.  The sauce was very good.  It worked well on the shrimp I served to SPP that night as well.


I also have to say that there have been some good reasons why I have been distracted from my blog.  For one thing, my dear husband, seeing how depressed I was, finally took the plunge and booked that trip to Italy for our anniversary that I have been bugging him about.  How can one concentrate on anything when there is a trip to Italy in the future?

Also, this is the last week before I take my annual pilgramage to the Chincoteague Pony Penning.  I leave on Sunday.  My body is still home, but my brain is definitely swimming in the ocean, watching ponies, and eating hot fudge sundaes from the Island Creamery.

So that's why I must say TTFN.  I will be gone all next week.  Unfortunately I have no guest posters while I'm gone.  My brother will be joining the family in Chincoteague this summer, so I can't cajole him into writing a blog post for me.

Hope everyone has a wondeful week! I'll be back with more recipes soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Birthday Dinner at The Bedford Post Inn

It isn't easy staying 29.  Since as of yesterday I have now been 29 for 12 years, we needed some serious celebration. 

When it came time to choose a restaurant this year, SPP gave me free rein over the choices.  I was growing tired of the options in my immediate neighborhood.  This town and the towns that immediately surround it are not exactly chock full of occasion restaurnts and we have eaten at the few that exist 10 times over.  It was time to stop being lazy and actually do some driving and explore the surrounding areas a bit.

I knew what some of the popular occasion restaurants are, but I had no concept of just how popular they are.  Nearly two weeks ago I started calling around for reservations, only to find that not many restaurants had reasonable times available. I was tempted to call the French restaurant down the end of my block and call it a day, but I persevered and got a table at the Bedford Post Inn Farmhouse.

The Bedford Post is a restored historic complex in the tony town of Bedford and owned by Richard Gere (we have friends who live in Bedford are friendly with Richard Gere, Kevin suggested at one point we use that connection to get us a good table - fortunately, we didn't need to).  It's a beautiful building with gorgeous landscaping all around.  There are two restaurants: the more casual Barn, and the upscale Farmhouse.  These are farm-to-table restaurants.  The property also contains a yoga studio and a B&B.



Inside the decor is kind of understated.  It doesn't go for that all-out country kitsch, but goes for something a bit more modern.  Colors are neutral without too many patterns.  This little sitting area was right behind our table.


When the hostess saw me snapping photos, she offered to take a photo of the entire family at the table.  Our server was kind enough to pose with us!


Time to get down to the business of eating.  They brought us an amuse bouche of eggplant marinated in olive oil.  Not bad considering I don't have much love for eggplant.



I have to apologize for some of these photos.  The light was never quite right whether I used the flash or not.

Not all of us had appetizers, and those of us who did, stuck to the veggie ones.  I had this wonderful salad of very fresh mozzarella topped with plums, pistachio, and basil oil..  The plums were a bit underripe and the tartness of it went well with the sweetness of the cheese and the basil.  Truly a brilliant dish. I could eat this for lunch every day.

(I think I had a slightly better photo than this, but accidentally deleted it).

My main course was a giant pork chop on a bed of corn puree with mushrooms, pecorino, arugula and more corn.  I wish I could describe how good this chop smelled when they put it down in front of me.  It was cooked nicely (no dried-out, overcooked pork) and so delicious.  The rest of the family ate branzino or halibut.  The presentation of the branzino was gorgeous.  I wish I had taken a photo.  My mother's boyfriend thought the portion of halibut was too small though. 

We ordered a side of asparagus.  They cook this on their woodburning grill outside on the patio.  You could taste it.



Then of course we had to have dessert.  I chose a gianduja semifreddo.  The chocolate coating encased a super-rich and creamy hazelnut filling inside that sat on a thin bed of chocolate cake.  The cake was a bit dry, which was the only flaw in the dessert, and in the meal really.  See the nice presentation!

Most of the rest of the table went with this rather unusual presentation of strawberry short cake.

We found that Bedford Post is like a tonier and more local version of our beloved Iron Forge Inn.  After dinner Kevin remarked that it will definitely be on our rotation of special occasion restaurants. We will be back when the occasion calls for it (and I want the same server).  It definitely must remain a special occasion restaurant though.   I freaked when I saw the bill.  We were definitely not their typical clientele.  As we left the restaurant and waited for the valet to get our car, we observed all of the cars in parking lot.  Kevin remarked that his car was most certinaly the only Hyundai!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

So What Have I Been Cooking? A Roundup

Summer is a time I think of as leisurely where I have ample time to bake (remember Sweet Treat of the Week) as well as dream up new recipes and blog about them to my heart's content, while reading everyone else's blog and stealing borrowing their ideas.

This summer has been different.  It's flying by without a chance for me to stop and breathe.  Yes, I've been cooking, but I haven't had much time to talk about it.  I haven't had much time to read all of the wonderful blogs that inspire me so much either.

Rather than center a blog around one recipe as I often do, I'm going to share everything I have cooked recently.  Most of it is simple. 

First I made a "quiche" with a pototo crust.  I started by making a crust of shredded potatoes, an egg, and some olive oil.  I piled it into a pie pan and baked it partially.


I cooked some bits of smoked turkey tails (bacon, ham, pancetta, or no meat at all would be just fine) until well-rendered.


I cooked some onions, mushrooms, and peppers in the grease.
 
Next I mixed eggs with some cream and the veggies and baked it all up.


This was somewhat inspired by Heather's post about an Egg and Tater Tot casserole.  I wanted to play with egg dishes beyond my usual Friday Night Frittata.  Since the hubby loves potoates, I thought I would find fun ways to incorporate.



This tasted more like a kugel than a quiche since it was very heavy on the potatoes.  Still pretty good though.  A winner on the husband's side anyway.

Potato-Crusted Quiche

Crust
  • 3 cups shredded potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I like my potatoes salty)
Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together and mound carefully into a pie plate in a piecrust-like shape with the sides mounded higher.

Cook 20 minutes or until golden.  Set aside.

Filling
  • 1 smoked turkey tail cut into small pieces (or your preferred amounts of bacon, ham, sausage, pancetta, etc.) (Optional if you're vegetarian)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 10 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Oil for sauteeting (If you're not using a meat that will render out some cooking fat)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • Few grates nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
Reduce oven temp to 350 degrees.

Cook turkey meat until crisp and fat is rendered out.  Set aside.

Cook onions until soft.  Add mushrooms until they are soft and giving up their liquid.  Then add peppers and cook until just beginning to soften.  Set aside.

Mix together eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Add the veggie mixture and the smoked turkey.  Blend well and pour into crust. 

Bake about 25 minutes or until eggs are set.

Next...

I bought a chicken at the farm market, but it was so small.  It wasn't the kind of chicken I felt would satisfy me if I just roasted it as is.  I decided to cook it so it was richer and more substanial.

I hacked it up (and I do mean hack - talk about not honoring the protein) and cooked it in a sauce of cream, leeks and wine.  It was a very simple dish, but sometimes simple flavors are the best ones.

Chicken in Creamy Leek Sauce

  • 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 leek, cleaned and cut into 1" slices
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Saute chicken in olive oil until browned well on both sides, about 5-7 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add leeks to pan and cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.

Add chicken to the pan, skin side down.  Pour in wine and stock.  Simmer gentle about 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove chicken from pan.  Add cream and cook another two minutes until reduced a bit more.  Pour sauce over chicken and serve.



Next...

I always thought this blog was all about chicken.  Do I present too many chicken recipes?

I went through my labels and found I have cooked way more pork dishes on this blog than chicken dishes.  Keeping that in mind, I don't feel so bad that I'm bringing up so many chicken dishes in one post.  This was me making a simple meal out of what I had growing in the garden mixed with one of my favorite cuts of meat - chicken thighs.

I still had a lot of potatoes left over from the big bag I bought when I made the quiche.  That's why mashed potatoes were my accompaniment.  I suppose roasted potatoes would have been more appropriate, but these potatoes were starchy ones and starchy potatoes need to be mashed or fried in my opinion. 

Basil, Mint, and Lemon Chicken Thighs
  • 8 leaves chopped, fresh basil
  • 6 leaves chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tbl fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Two pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Mix together all ingredients except for chicken. 

Marinate chicken in this mixture for about an hour. 

Cook chicken in your preferred method.  Grill would be great, but if you, like me, can't grill, saute`about 8 minutes per side in a frying pan.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

Actually, what I got was a lovely bunch of coconut flour from my friends at Duo Dishes.  If you're not reading  their blog, you should be.  They are an adventurous pair of cooking pals who will tackle just about any cuisine you want to throw at them.


 
Since I've been experimenting with gluten-free baking, coconut flour has been one of the ones I've been working with.  It's a pretty cool product.  It's high in fiber (how many other flours can boast that), gluten-free, and low carb (if you're into those sorts of things).  Definitely worth experimenting with to obtain a few health benefits from your baking.

 
It has its disadvantages though.  It's not the easiest flour in the world in the sense that you can't just automatically substiute it in a recipe and keep everything else the same.  You will need to adjust your liquids and your eggs for the perfect texture in your baked goods. (My somewhat chewy chocolate coconut waffles are a testament to that!)  Coconut flour absorbs way more liquid than wheat or rice or bean flour.  It can become a stiff ball of dough within seconds.

 
Fortunately there are some folks out there with the foresight to figure it out for you and give you a recipe with all measurements listed out for you for the perfect baked goods.

 
However, my first recent experiment I didn't do that.

 
I had a bumper crop of wild blackberries at the barn this year, so I decided to make some coconut-blackberry muffins.  I used a mixture of coconut and almond flour and added my berries and plenty of shredded coconut.

 
My problem was I needed some more milk and another egg to get the right consistency and level of cohesiveness in the muffins.  One I added my wet ingredients to the dry, I saw that I still had a stiff dough.  I didn't want to add more liquid for fear of overmixing.

 
My resulting muffins were kind of crumbly, but tasty.  They weren't tough at all.  With a few adjustments they would be better.  I'm not going to share the recipe I came up with, because it clearly needs to be perfected.  I think I'm in the right direction though.  Definitely a couple more eggs will be in the next batch.

 
Next up was coconut flour brownies.  I found a recipe on the internet a long time ago and printed it up.  Then I stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it.  Thank goodness I found it again when I received my new bag of flour.

These use a lot of eggs, which makes sense considering the use of coconut flour.  They are cocoa brownies rather than ones made with solid chocolate.  I have come to accept that cocoa brownies can be good, so I wasn't hesitant to try this recipe.  I have since managed to find a recipe that also includes solid chocolate.


These were really very very good.  I think they could have been a tad more chocolately (I would add more cocoa the next time) but the texture was delicious.  They were soft, fluffy, and cakey, but still quite moist.  I brought them to an impromptu gathering at a friend's house and they were quickly gobbled up.  They take no time to make, so they're great if you need a quick dessert.

Coconut Flour Brownies

Ingredients
  • 5Tlb butter
  • 1/2 cup cocoat powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
Heat over the 350.  Grease an 8"x8" square cake pan.

Melt butter together with cocoa in a small saucepan.  Set aside.

Whisk together all remaining ingredients except coconut flour until smooth.  Slowly whisk in the flour.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's Always Time for Pie!

One of the first pies I ever baked was a black bottom pie. I can even remember the recipe. I found it in Young Miss magazine (which later became YM, which later came to stand for Young and Modern, which later ceased publication entirely). The recipe required that I make one custard then add chocolate to half of it, then place the chocolate layer at the bottom of the pie crust and spread the remaining layer of custard over it.

Over the years I lost the recipe, and I have occasionally been interested in making black bottom pie again but have not found the same recipe. I have seen many variations on black bottom pie. Some are topped with meringue. One was just chocolate custard topped with whipped cream (which is not black bottom to me, but is just chocolate cream pie). I even decided to try my own variation where the vanilla layer was panna cotta (a disaster). Why was no one making a double-custard pie?

Pie is always on my mind, and with the lazy days of summer upon us, I have much more time for baking (even though it's not baking weather, which just shows I'm nuts). One of my most exciting inspirations for baking has been the homemade dulce de leche I had made recently. I had plenty left over and so many ideas of how to use it. A pie seemed like the perfect idea.

One day I had the coolest idea ever. I was going to make a black bottom pie, but instead of having the top layer of custard be vanilla, it would be dulce de leche flavored! How is that for an original pie idea?

Once I had the idea in my head, I had a dilemma. To make the custard, you have to split one recipe in half and flavor one with chocolate. I would have to flavor the other half with dulce de leche. My dulce de leche was quite thin despite three hours of cooking. I was afraid if I added it to an already-thickened custard, I would thin the custard out too much. I thought about simply making the dulce de leche part of the custard itself. The only problem with that is I still would have to use half of the custard for the chocolate layer and I wanted two distinct flavors. Could I cut a custard recipe in half? Considering most pastry cream recipes use an odd number of egg yolks, that seemed unlikely.

I finally decided to make two recipes of pastry cream. Why not? Will the pastry cream I don’t use in the pie go to waste? I think not.

I started with a basic pastry dough.  After baking, I lined the bottom of the crust with melted chocolate.  It makes the pie easier to cut, keeps the bottom from becoming soggy, and makes it taste even more delicious.


The chocolate pastry cream was easy.  It came together quickly and was perfectly thick and rich.  I started with a basic cream and melted semisweet chocolate in it. 

The dulce de leche custard was more problematic.  It did not tighten nearly as much or as quickly as the one made with just milk.  I didn't have as much left over because I had to cook it so long that much of it had reduced.  My top layer was definitely looser than the bottom.

Cover it with whipped cream. Who can tell?  My cream was flavored with kahlua and cinnamon.


Cut it and you can see the layers - until the top layer runs down a bit.



Overall I'd say this would be one of my best pies ever if it weren't for the loose custard on top.  Very tasty.  I brought it to work and surprisingly had few takers, although I received some compliments from those who tried it.  Sir Pickypants certainly didn't complain.

My recipe will come with a few caveats in that you will have to make your own recipe adjustments for the dulce de leche pastry cream.  My DDL was quite thin, so I used a half cup and made it part of the custard. If your DDL is more like it should be, you might want to adjust your amounts of milk and DDL.

Dulce De Leche Black Bottom Pie

Chocolate Pastry Cream

Ingredients
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
Prepare an ice bath.  Set a bowl in a larger bowl full of ice water.

In a small bowl combine egg, egg yolk, and corn starch with 1/2 cup of the milk.  Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan combine milk and sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.  Add some of the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking quickly  Then whisk the tempered yolks to the mixture in the saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook whisking constantly until thick with a good pudding-like consistency.  This can take anywhere from 3-10 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Add butter, vanilla and chocolate.  Stir until butter and chocolate are melted.  Strain into the bowl in the ice water.  Allow to cool about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Refrigerate with a piece of plastic wrap on top until ready to use.

Dulce De Leche Pastry Cream

Ingredients
  •  1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • Pinch cinnamon
Prepare an ice bath. Set a bowl in a larger bowl full of ice water.

In a small bowl combine egg, egg yolk, and corn starch with 1/2 cup of the milk. Set aside.

In a small heavy saucepan combine remaining milk, dulce de leche and sugar. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add some of the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking quickly.  Then whisk the tempered yolks to the mixture in the saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook whisking constantly until thick with a good pudding-like consistency.   Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook whisking constantly until thick with a good pudding-like consistency.  This can take anywhere from 3-10 minutes

Remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla and cinnamon.  Stir until butter is melted. Strain into the bowl in the ice water. Allow to cool about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate with a piece of plastic wrap on top until ready to use.

Pie Assemblage
  • 1 baked pie crust
  • 1 oz semi-sweet chocloate, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbl Kahlua
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Chocolate pastry cream
  • Dulce De Leche patry cream
Spread melted chocolate in the bottom of the pie crust and allow to cool and harden.

 Pour chocolate pastry cream into the crust, filling it about halfway.  Pour the dulce de leche cream over the top to cover it.  If you have more cream than you need to fill the crust, simply enjoy the extra pudding snacks!

Mix cream with cinnamon and and Kahlua.  Beat to stuff peaks.

Top custard layers with cream and serve!