Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rioja Beef

After taking many, many months off of entertaining friends at our house, I think I am ready to start again. A cookbook I got for Christmas from brother is going to help that a lot! Perfect One-Dish Dinners is full of manageable dinners to make with optional menu pairings and wine suggestions. My favorite thing about it so far though, is that it takes one dish to prepare the food in and the two recipes I've tried were almost completely hands-off the last 45 minutes of cooking, allowing me to visit with my friends. Fabulous.

The first recipe I tried, just for our family, because I am never quite sure whether or not to trust new cookbooks/cookbook authors, was Rioja Beef. One things I will say about this cookbook, it is very meat heavy. It doesn't have a lot of recipes laden with the produce I find in my CSA book. This recipe was feasible for a weeknight meal because of the 1/4 cow that is languishing in my freezer.

This will serve 6 - 8 people.

Rioja Beef
from Perfect One-Dish Dinners by Pam Anderson

3 lbs boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2 - 2" cubes and patted dry
3 T olive oil
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 6 pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 6 pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 lg garlic cloves, minced
2 T sweet paprika
1 T ground cumin
1/4 t saffron threads
3 T flour
1 c chicken broth
1/2 - 1 c dry red wine (rioja, if possible)
1 can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 cans (15 oz each) chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 t grade orange zest and juice from 1 large onion

Heat a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 T oil to the pot and heat. Add the meat and sear, turning once, until 2 sides are darkly browned. Repeat until all the meat is browned. Transfer to bowl and set aside. Add 1 T oil to the hot pot. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until softened 4 - 5 minutes. Add garlic, paprika, cumin, and saffron. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute. Whisk in the flour, then broth, wine, and tomatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Return beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Carefully place a sheet of heavy duty foil over the pot, pressing the foil down so that it touches the stew. Seal foil completely around the edges. Set pot in oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

While beef is in oven, add 1 T oil to a frying pan and heat over medium-high heat until oil starts to smoke (just wisps). Add the peppers and cook, stirring until peppers are lightly browned and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Set aside. (You can also do this in before browning the meat in the same pot you brown the meat in).

Remove pot from oven and set over low heat. Carefully remove foil. Stir in peppers, chickpeas, orange zest and juice, and a little water, if necessary, to make a gravy. Carefully re-cover the pot and simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Serve.

We loved this recipe. I really can't say much more about it than that. I made a couple of changes to the recipe, utilizing a second pan, but it made the flow seem better.

This recipe will serve 6- 8 people.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


New flash: There is still time to make these!! Do it now, find some very dear friends to share them with, and enjoy with a hot cup of coffee/tea/cocoa sitting around the fireplace Christmas eve (or in my case, frantically finishing wrapping my presents Christmas Eve after the church service). Either way, make these. Soon.

Granted, these won't be the most beautiful, elegant cookie you serve. In fact, they look rather sloppy and at times, ugly. That doesn't matter. Sometimes, beauty is more than skin deep and appearances don't matter.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that the name sounds like arugula, with the "ah" sound at the beginning. Thus, if tell someone that you are going to eat only rugelach for supper tonight, they'll be impressed with your desire to eat a salad for supper. You will want to eat just these for supper. Curtis has named these his favorite dessert that I make (his apple pie is his favorite dessert ever). For the record though, he has deemed several desserts as his favorite dessert.

This will make 32 cookies. If I know I am sharing these with anyone outside my family, I make a double batch, otherwise, Curtis starts to whine. When you make these, allow yourself time to let the dough refrigerate for 2 hours (or freeze it until you are ready to make it if it is going to be days or weeks).

adapted slightly from Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

4 oz cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 c cold butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 c flour
1/4 t salt

2/3 c raspberry jam (you want this to be a rather thick kind)
2 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 c pecans, chopped
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (2/3 c mini-chocolate chips)

1 large egg
1 t cold water
2 T sugar (preferably turninado or coarse decorating sugar

To make the dough: Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes so they are still cool, but a little softened. Put flour and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly to blend. Scatter the cream cheese and butter over top. Pulse the machine 6 - 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms large curds (you don't want it to become a ball on the blade). Put the dough on a lightly floured work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (you can also put the disks in the freezer and save it to finish much later).

To finish rugelach: Mix together 2 T sugar and 1/2 t cinnamon. Set aside. Remove one disk of dough from the fridge/freezer (if it's been the freezer, let it warm up on the counter for a little while). Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place between two sheets of parchment paper (this makes for much easier rolling--you can also just lightly flour a work surface, but I've had better results with parchment---unlike what is pictured). Do the following as quickly as possible so the dough doesn't get to warm. Roll the dough into a 11 - 12" circle. Put dough circle back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to make it easier to handle. Remove dough from fridge and brush or spoon a thin gloss of jam over the dough. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar over top. Scatter half of the pecans and half of the chocolate over jam/cinnamon sugar.

Using a pizza cutter (that's right, friends! Multi-tasking kitchen tools!!), divide the circle into 16 wedges (in half and in half again and so on). Starting at at the fat end of each wedge, carefully roll up the dough (like a cinnamon roll, kind of). Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silcone mats. Once the baking sheet is full, refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking.

To bake: Remove rugelach from the fridge. Combine egg and water in a small bowl. Brush each rugelach with egg and water. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven from 20 - 25 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer to rack and let cool to just warm or room temperature (so jam/chocolate doesn't burn your mouth).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chocolate Babka

Drat. I gifted the outcome of this recipe before I had a chance to photograph it. Curtis was slightly dismayed by the destination of this bread. He had to help finish them (as in, brush with egg glaze, slash the top, and bake) and thought one surely should have been left at home for him. Sadly enough for him, they went as Christmas gifts--one to M's teacher and one to the family we carpool with. As I was wrapping them this morning, I got a little forlorn myself and have now added them to my Christmas morning breakfast menu.

Despite the name and the delicious outcome, if you are comfortable baking bread, you will not find this recipe very difficult. It takes a chunk of time to make, but the hands on time is very short---lots and lots of rising with a little bit of work thrown in here and there.

If you would like to see the recipe step by step with fabulous pictures click here to be taken to the King Arthur Flour Baking Blog (and in case you haven't found it yet, King Arthur Flour website is wonderful!! resource). The recipe has been adapted just slightly to include generic ingredients instead of those products that King Arthur hawks. You don't need to use the espresso powder if you don't have it. However, it makes the chocolate flavor slightly stronger. I have a jar I keep in my freezer and pull out periodically for recipes. Click here for suggestions for substitutions, if you want them.

There's is still time---make this recipe, gift one loaf and enjoy the other.

Chocolate Babka
adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour baking blog: Baking Banter

2 lg eggs
6 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/3 c dry milk powder
2 T instant yeast
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 t salt
10 T butter, at room temperature
1 T vanilla
1 - 1 1/4 c water (depending on humidity and season of where you live. I use 1 1/4 c in the winter)

1/2 c sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 t espresso powder (also called instant espresso)
1/4 c melted butter
1 c chocolate chips
1 c chopped pecans (walnuts are fine too--I'm just a pecan type of girl)

Combine eggs, flour, dry milk, yeast, cinnamon, sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and water in a large bowl using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle (basic attachment) until just moistened. Cover with a towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes, this will make the dough easier to knead. Put the dough hook on the mixer and knead for about 7 minutes (if you prefer, you can do all this by hand), until dough is smooth and soft. The dough will still be very sticky. Transfer to large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough onto a lightly greased work surface (some surfaces are fine without grease--I didn't need to anything to my counters and it was fine). Divide the dough into two equal pieces, cover with a towel and let rest. While dough rests, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso powder in small bowl. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture will look very oily and rather stiff. Shape each half of the dough into 9 x 18" rectangle (the 18" is approximate, it doesn't need to be exact). Smear each piece of dough with half of the cocoa/butter mixture, coming within an inch of the edge. Sprinkle each half with 1/2 c pecans and 1/2 c chocolate chips. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough gently into a log. Seal the bottom seams and tuck the ends under. Place each log in a greased 9 x 5" loaf pan. Tent with plastic wrap and let rise until they've crowned an inch over the rim of the pan, 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

Just before baking, brush each loaf with an egg glaze (1 egg, beaten). If there are large air bubbles, pop them gently a toothpick. Taking a sharp knife, cut one long vertical slash through the middle of each loaf, cutting through at least 3 layers. This will let the loaf expand straight up instead of blowing out at the sides. Leave the beautiful domed bread just as it is--no cutting necessary.  (It comes out perfectly and presentable uncut).  Bake in an oven preheated to 300 for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, tent the loaves lightly with foil and bake and additional 15 - 25 minutes (mine only took an extra 15 minutes). To check for doneness, use a meat thermometer to take the internal temp--it should be around 190 degrees. Remove the loaves from the oven, and let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and allow to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nutella Mini-Cupcakes

After my disastrous kohlrabi meal, I needed fast redemption. After the kids were in bed, we queued up How to Train a Dragon and I made Nutella Mini-Cupcakes for Curtis and I.

All was better in the world. These couldn't be easier and are great for an after-the-kids-are-in-bed-and-I-desperately-need-chocolate snack. If you are short on time, skip the hazelnuts on top.

This makes 12 itsy bitsy cupcakes which will serve 2 - 4, depending on how much self-restraint you have.

Nutella Mini-Cupcakes
from Fine Cooking Cookies Special Holiday Edition

1/2 c Nutella spread
1 large egg
5 T flour
1/4 c hazelnuts, roasted and chopped (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk the Nutella and egg until smooth. Add the flour and stir until blended. Spoon batter into a 12-cup mini muffin pan lined with paper liners. Sprinkle with roasted, chopped hazelnuts if desired. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 11 - 12 minutes or until a pick comes out with wet, gooey crumbs (be careful not to overbake). Wait until they are cool enough to handle and enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

German Style Stuffed Kohlrabi--Don't make this!!

Only on rare, rare occasions do I post about a meal I don't want to repeat. That is what today's post is about. The only reason I am posting is because it turns out that I have made this dish twice and it's been disastrous both times. Curtis made everyone peanut butter and jelly (or honey) sandwiches when I made this last week.

If some serious tweaking took, place I may attempt to make this again. I would make this more like stuffed peppers. After scooping out the insides of the kohlrabi (and possibly even before, to make scooping much easier), I would boil the kohlrabi in a pot of water until they were mostly tender. I would saute the (hamburger) meat with the onion, kohlrabi leaves, and other seasonings. After stuffing the kohlrabi, I would bake it at 350 until everything was hot.

I don't know exactly why we disliked this so much. I think it was a combination of the texture and the seasonings. Sauteing the meat is a good way to start fixing the texture thing.

Sorry. This is post is most obviously for me, to keep me from making the same recipe, exactly the same the third time around (next year when I have 8 kohlrabi in my fridge again).

German-Style Stuffed Kohlrabi, from Epicurious (click on title to see the disastrous recipe). The saddest part is, I even managed to take a bunch of pictures that I am not posting because I don't plan on making this meal ever again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Char Siu Pulled Pork Bahn Mi

As you know by now (if you've been reading for a couple months), I am fascinated by Asian food this winter. Bahn Mi is my new favorite sandwich (so inexpensive at one of our favorite Vietnamese restaurant---seriously, McDonald's priced but so much tastier!!). I stumbled across this recipe on the blogosphere and decided it would make the perfect for serving my family the evening they got to Texas for Thanksgiving (which is my excuse for no pictures--being busy with my family and the craziness of having to feed and house 11 people for 3 days).

This wasn't quite the bahn mi (which is just a Vietnamese sandwich---meat with a cabbage slaw served on french bread/baguette) I had in mind, but it was pretty good. The original recipe had links to make your own char siu sauce (Chinese BBQ sauce) and nuoc mam cham (fish sauce), but I opted to buy both of those ingredients. Char siu sauce can be found at Asian markets. The nuoc mam, I picked up at a Vietnamese restaurant a couple of hours before super. Nuoc Mam is perishable, the char siu sauce, not so much if it isn't opened. The owners of the Vietnamese restaurant looked at me as if I were crazy, but obliged me anyway.

The hardest part about the recipe is procuring the ingredients. Once that is done, the slow cooker does most of the work for you.

This recipe will serve 4 - 6 people.
Char Siu Pulled Pork Bahn Mi
from the Ravenous Couple

Pulled Pork
3 lb pork shoulder (bone in)
kosher salt
black pepper
1 lg yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1/4" rings
1 (8.5-oz) jar char siu sauce

1/2 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
1/2 c red cabbage, thinly shredded
1/2 c cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 c mint, coarsely chopped
1/2 c fresh basil (thai basil is preferable), coarsely chopped
1/4 c nuoc mam cham

For the sandwiches:
additional nuoc mam cham

For the pulled pork: Put the sliced onions in slow cooler. Lightly rub pork with small amount of salt and pepper and put in slow cooker on top of onion bed. Brush on a generous layer of char siu sauce, turning pork to coat all sides evenly. Turn the slow cooker on low and leave on overnight (8 - 12 hours) or on high for 4 - 5 hours.

For the slaw: An hour before serving, combine cabbages, cilantro, mint, and basil and toss well. Season with nuoc mam cham to taste (we love nuoc mam cham so we used 1/4 cup). Stir and allow slow to marinate at least 30 minutes before serving (and up to a day before serving).

To assemble the sandwiches: Remove cooked pork from the crockpot. The pork should easily fall apart with gentle pressure. Put pork in a large bowl and pull apart with fork or tongs, discarding fat and bones. Add additional char siu sauce--1 T at a time until pulled pork is well coated (don't overdo it, you can always add more char siu sauce to the sandwiches).

Place pork in a baguette and top with slaw. Garnish with cilantro and drizzle extra nuoc mam cham over top if desired.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pollo Enchiladas Rojos

For some reason, I think the name of this recipe sounds better in Spanish, so I've renamed it. :) Over the years, I've done lots of experimenting with chicken enchiladas. I started out with my mom's rich, wonderful enchiladas which were drenched in a sour cream sauce. I've tried plain chicken enchiladas, chicken enchiladas with green sauce, and chicken enchiladas with some chard mixed in. My experimenting with new recipes for chicken enchiladas is officially over. I love this recipe. It's not terribly difficult to make and it tastes fabulous!

I needed to make some significant modifications to this recipe, because according to M, this recipe would be TOO SPICY. (You would not believe what foods she complains about being too spicy--things that have no spice at all!) Thankfully, even with most of the spice taken out, it didn't taste bland and was full of flavor. Everyone really enjoyed this, even M. Curtis, bless his heart, told me this was his favorite chicken enchilada recipe I've made.

This recipe makes a lot of enchiladas--two shallow baking dishes worth. I split the chicken mixture and the sauce mixture in half. Half I used to I make one pan of enchiladas. The other half went in the freezer and made for a fabulously easy new baby meal for a friend.

Pollo Enchiladas Rojos
adapted from Food and Wine

Optional spicy addition to sauce
3 each of guajillo chiles and ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 c hot water

1 medium onion, quartered
3 lg garlic cloves
1 T ground cumin
1 1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 t ground oregano
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 c tomato sauce (20 oz)
1 c water

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lg onion, thinly sliced (3 c)
1/2 c chicken broth or water
4 c shredded cooked chicken (or turkey if you are looking to get rid of T'giving leftovers)
1 t cumin
1/4 c cilantro
3 c Monterey Jack cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
16 flour, whole wheat, or corn tortillas (not burrito-sized)

For the chiles: Cover the chiles in hot water in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, until softened. Transfer chiles to a food processor or blender. Add 1 c of soaking liquid. Proceed with rest of recipe.

For the sauce: Place onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, and oregano in a food processor. Add 1 c of water (if you didn't use the chiles above). Puree until smooth. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large saucepan. Add the tomato sauce and water. Add the pureed onion mixture (if using the chiles as well, press the onion mixture through a sieve before adding to the tomato sauce to remove any stray chile seeds and skins). Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and cook, until the onions are very soft and the broth has evaporated, about 10 more minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Stir in cumin, cilantro, and 1 1/2 c of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the tortillas, Spoon 3/4 c of sauce into the bottom of two shallow baking dishes (I used 2 9x13" pans. Neither pan was full, but held 8 tortillas comfortably). Soften the tortillas (I heat 4 flour tortillas at a time in the microwave for 15 seconds). Spoon 1/4 c filling into each tortilla, roll up, and place in pan. Repeat. Spoon remaining sauce over top (dividing between 2 pans) and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover pan with foil (or oven safe lid).

Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil/lid and bake an additional 20 minutes. Serve hot, topped with sour cream or salsa, if desired.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Salted Roast Turkey with Orange and Asian Spices

Over the years, I've posted several good Thanksgiving Day type meals (which in my family also translated to good Christmas day meals because the food served at the two meals seem to be amazingly similar. Maybe that has to do with free turkey my parents manage to procure every year for Christmas). However, I don't think I have many turkey recipes floating around out there.

My husband doesn't like turkey. There, I've said it. In fact, the year we hosted Thanksgiving and I was pregnant with my middle child, we ate beef tenderloin with chimichurri sauce because I couldn't stand poultry. My husband was thrilled and thought that was probably our best Thanksgiving meal ever.

However, I insist on turkey. I don't love eating turkey--I love the leftover products that come from turkey. I am always left with several cups of leftover turkey, which is perfect for pot pies on a cold winters' evening (ok, cold in Texas terms) or enchiladas. The real bonus for me though is the turkey stock. Because it is from the turkey I roasted (instead of just boiling some chicken expressly for that purpose), the flavor is INCREDIBLE. I got over 5 quarts of stock off of this turkey which will make wonderful soups all winter long. Turkey truly is the gift that keeps on giving, to sound cliche.

Given the above two opinions, I try to find flavorful recipes that will keep a turkey moist. The past two years, I have made this recipe. Curtis hasn't complained too loudly, which I take as an compliment given the meal. The flavors make a superb stock. I allowed myself 4 hours for the turkey to roast and sit before serving, which was plenty of time, making a noon Thanksgiving lunch very feasible.

Salted Roast Turkey with Orange and Asian Spices
adapted just slightly from Bon Appetit

Spiced Salt
2 whole star anise
2 t Szechuan peppercorns
1 t whole cloves
1 t whole coriander seeds
1 t fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
1/3 c plus 1 T coarse kosher salt
1 large orange, peel removed in long strips and finely chopped (about 2 T) (reserve orange for another use, like eating plain!)

1 14 - 16 lb turkey, reserve neck, heart, and gizzard for roasting
5 large green onions, chopped
1 whole large orange, coarsely chopped with peel
1/4 c fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
2 T soy sauce
2 T light molasses
1/2 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c or more of water

Coarsely grind first five ingredients of spiced salt in a spice mill (or pulverize in a food processor---it won't be very fine in the food processor, but I had more success with that than a hand-held mortar and pestle). Transfer to a small bowl. Coarsely grind cinnamon stick and add to spices. Mix in coarse salt. Stir in orange peel.

Rinse turkey, inside and out, but do not pat dry. Pull any fat pads away from main cavity and neck cavity of turkey, wrap, chill, and reserve for roasting. Place turkey in a roasting bag. Sprinkle inside and out with spiced salt. Close bag. Place on baking sheet and refrigerate 18 - 24 hours.

On day of roasting, mix green onions, orange, ginger, star anise, and cinnamon stick in a medium bowl. Mix soy sauce and molasses in a small bowl, reserve for glaze at end of roasting. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat very dry this time. Divide chopped onion mixture between main and neck cavities. Fold neck skin under and secure with skewer(s). Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely if that has not already been done (my turkey's legs came already tied together). Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Spread butter all over turkey. Place reserved fat pads, heart, neck, and gizzard in roasting pan. Pour in 2 c water.

Roast turkey minutes on a rack set at the lowest position of preheated 325 degrees oven. After 45 minutes, baste with pan juices. Continue to roast until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh registers 156 - 170 degrees. Every 45 minutes of roasting, baste turkey. If turkey starts too brown, tent with foil. Add water to the pan by cupfuls if the pan starts looking dry. Brush turkey with soy sauce glaze twice during the last 30 minutes of baking. The turkey should bake 3 3/4 hours to 4 1/4 hours total. Transfer roasted turkey to platter and tent loosely with foil until you are ready to carve and serve, at least 30 - 45 minutes. Reserve roasting pan juices for gravy.

Timeline for turkey roasting (I wish the recipe I had followed had laid it out this way, so I am)

0 minutes: Turkey enters preheated 325 degrees oven.
45 minutes: Baste turkey.
1 1/2 hours: Baste turkey
2 1/4 hours: Baste turkey
3 hours: Baste turkey
3 1/4 hours - 3 3/4 hours (take temp of turkey at 3 hours, if you are getting close to 165, start glazing): Brush glaze over top of turkey
3 1/2 hours- 4 hours: Brush glaze over top turkey again
3 3/4 hours- 4 1/4 hours: Remove turkey from oven and tent with foil to keep heat in
as early as 4 1/4 hours or as late as 5 hours: Serve and eat the turkey.