Thursday, January 29, 2009

Seafood Au Gratin

I recently saw Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa show on Food Network make a scallop gratin which looked so amazing. In the past I have also seen her make a similar shrimp gratin so I decided to experiment with her recipes and combined the two and make my own rendition of a seafood gratin.

This was a splurge recipe as the cost of decent seafood is not cheap, despite the fact that we live only 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Off to my favorite seafood store, Fitts, I went and purchased 8 large prawns and 8 large scallops to make this glorious dish. One of things Ms. Garten calls for in her scallop dish was the liquor called Pernod, which has a anise flavor. I opted not to put that in and instead, added a bit more white wine in the topping. This dish would be showstopper at a company dinner and it will be forever in my recipe repertoire.Seafood Gratin

1/2 lb. large prawns (15-16 per lb)
1/2 lb. sea scallops
3 Tbsp butter
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 large shallot, minced
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Zest from 1/2 lemon
6 Tbsp. good white wine
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup Panko Japanese bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place gratin dishes on a baking sheet and put 1 Tbsp of white wine in each dish. Set aside.In a mixing bowl, beat butter until soft. Add the garlic, shallot, parsley, lemon juice and zest, 4 Tbsp white wine, salt, and pepper and mix together. Add the Panko bread crumbs and mix until well coated. Pat the seafood dry and place in the gratin dishes. Spoon the topping all over the top of the seafood. Bake the seafood 12-15 minutes then place under broiler until topping is golden brown. Serve with a green salad and a good french bread. This recipe serves 2 as a main course.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shrewsbury Biscuits

While thumbing through one of my English cookbooks I found an interesting sounding cookie recipe called Shrewsbury Biscuits. They originate from the area of Shrewsbury in England and like so many recipes from that wonderful country, they have a long history and there are many renditions for these cookies. As I investigated on the Internet further, I found some recipes had currants and various spices included. I liked the fact that in this recipe the ingredients were simple enough, flour, sugar, butter, lemon rind and egg yolks. The picture of them looked so delightful I just had to try my hand at making them.

They were very simple but the dough was less than malleable when first put together so I added about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice so that it would hold together while rolling out and it worked just fine. I think these will be wonderful with an afternoon cup of coffee or tea. They have a light texture with just a hint of lemon flavor.

The Husband thinks they are too plain and that they need an inch of frosting on top of them. I say that the next time he bakes some cookies, he can frost them any old way he would like!Shrewsbury Biscuits

3/4 cups sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
lemon rind from 1 lemon

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add flour and lemon rind and beat until batter holds together in a stiff dough. Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with 3 inch floured cookie cutter and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 - 11 minutes until just golden in color. Place on wire racks to cool completely. Makes 24 biscuits.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Humble Brussels Sprout

Is there a more maligned vegetable than the Brussels Sprout? It's a little homely and certainly has a bad reputation due to people cooking the life out of them. It was not a veggie often cooked in our house when I was growing up but I recall a couple of occasions when a package of Birds Eye Brussels Sprouts were served up. The plastic package was boiled in hot water for way too long and then it was cut open and out poured some horrid little balls of badness covered in a cloying cheese sauce.

For those of you who feel as I did, that there is no good way to fix a brussels sprout, I am here to prove you wrong. Roasting. That is the answer. It creates a wonderful, nicely browned, well cooked vegetable, full of flavor and nutrition. I learned a new technique while reading an article about roasting various vegetables and that is to cook them on parchment paper. I tried this today with the roasted vegetables I made for our Sunday roast beef dinner. The vegetables did not stick at all to the paper which is often the case when I have just put them on a baking sheet. I would lose half the veggie on the tray due to sticking. It makes clean up a breeze also.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. small to medium brussels sprouts (stems trimmed and outer leaves removed)
olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the brussels sprouts in half and toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and coat the sprouts. Lay the sprouts cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Put in a serving bowl and dust them with a grating of Parmesan cheese. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yorkshire Pudding

The Sunday beef roast would be naked, incomplete and downright boring in my book without a traditional Yorkshire Pudding. This is a dish I grew up eating both at my Yorkshire-born grandparents home as well as my own. It was a favorite amongst my family and still is. I don't believe The Husband had ever had it prior to our marriage and I have made a convert of him.

According to the BBC, Yorkshire pudding was used originally as a first course filler for people who couldn't afford much meat. Later, when roasts were cooked on a spit, the batter was put underneath so the drippings could fall into the batter. Now the dish is almost always served with a roast beef as a "traditional English dinner." The American version is the popover which is very similar but most often is served with jam or honey as opposed to the English habit of pouring gravy over them.

My mother would usually make hers in a baking pan and it would come out as one big, puffy, glorious pudding which would be cut into individual segments at the table. It was high drama when the pudding was ready and it would wait for no one, so everyone had to be ready for the big event of it coming to the table. I have found the individual muffin tins to be best in my home as we inevitably have leftovers and they are easy to save for the next day in this format.

Yorkshire Pudding is another one of my family's traditional English dishes that I am so happy I know how to make.
Yorkshire Pudding

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups whole milk
4 Tbsp fat (beef drippings, melted butter or vegetable oil)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the eggs and milk and beat until well mixed and smooth. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. If needed, add more milk. Cover the batter and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Put 1 tsp of fat in each of the muffin tins and put the tin in the oven. When the fat is very hot, portion the batter evenly among the cups; the batter should sizzle in the hot fat. Return the tin to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The puddings are done when they are puffed, browned and crisp. Serve immediately with roast beef, roasted vegetables and gravy. (Note: these are almost as good the second day if you heat them in the toaster oven at 250-300 degrees for fifteen minutes or so.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Beer Food

Sometimes The Husband and I feel like eating beer food so we head off to some local dive bar in town in search of the kind of food that goes well with a cold draft beer. You know what I mean. Onion rings, nachos, greasy hamburgers, 1000 island dressing drippy Reubens....all consumed in a dark, use to be smokey(thank you Oregonians for passing the no smoking in bars law effective 1/1/09) establishment where the voices of the patrons are a bit too loud and the decor well worn. None of the food offered has any nutritional value to speak of but it so hits the spot at times.

Today I decided to create my own beer food for dinner and opted for an all time favorite, potato skins along with Sloppy Joes. Let it be known that I have never consumed a sloppy joe in a bar but it just seems to me to be the type of food that should be served in such places. Below are my renditions.Sloppy Joes

1 medium onion finely chopped
1 clove of minced garlic
3/4 pounds of lean ground beef
1 10 oz. can of tomato puree
1/4 cup of catsup
2 Tbsp chili sauce (optional)
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Toasted hamburger bunsBrown ground beef in a saute pan until cooked through. Drain any excess fat from pan. Add onions and garlic and cook with beef for 5-7 minutes. Add tomato puree, catsup, chili sauce, mustard powder, vinegar, salt and pepper and let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Serve over toasted buns. (Makes 4)

Potato Skins
4 medium Idaho baking potatoes
vegetable oil
salt and pepper
cheddar cheese, shredded
4 strips of cooked bacon, diced
2 green onions, chopped
sour cream

Wash potatoes thoroughly and dry. Give them a light massage with oil to coat the skins then sprinkle with Kosher salt and ground pepper. Bake in a 450 degree oven until soft, approximately 1 hour. Let cool.
Cut cooled potatoes in half and scrape out insides leaving a 1/4 inch rim of potato inside the skins. Fill each jacket with cheddar cheese and put on cookie sheet and place under a broiler until cheese is melted. Add the rest of the toppings to the potato, pour yourself a cold brew and enjoy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lemon Pudding

Here is an easy, lemony dessert to make that is called a pudding but really is more like a pudding cake. Because of the small amount of flour in the batter, it forms a thin cake-like topping with a filling which resembles a souffle. The ingredients are simple and putting it together can be done in a few minutes. I think it is quite old fashioned and very homey.

I found this recipe in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook revised by Marion Cunningham. It is one of my favorite cookbooks and one that I refer to often when I want something basic, be it a dessert or a main course. The recipes are easy to follow and obviously well tested, as I have yet to have a failure when utilizing them.
Lemon Pudding

2 Tbsp softened butter
7/8 cup sugar (an odd measurement!)
3 eggs separated
1 cup milk
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 350 deg. Beat the butter until soft, then gradually add the sugar, beating until well incorporated. Beat in the egg yolks one by one until combined then beat in milk, flour, lemon juice and the rind and mix well. The mixture will have a curdled look to it. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks then gently incorporate them into the batter.
Turn into a 1 1/2 quart greased baking dish and set it in a pan of hot water that comes halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Let cool and serve either tepid or chilled with some whipped cream.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My First Blog Award

A special thanks to Julie at Sporadic Cook for presenting me with the blog award above. It is amazes me to think that there are people actually reading my fledgling blog. Very much appreciated indeed!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cooking Magazines

I have always had a love of cooking magazines. I have been a loyal subscriber to Bon Appetite since the year I graduated from college, in 1979. Since then the number of magazines I subscribe to has varied but the three standards, year after year, have been Gourmet, Bon Appetite and Martha Stewart Living. I look forward to checking the mail box and gleefully perusing through my magazines each month looking for ideas and inspirations. Since I began this food blog I have paid close attention to the food styling, amazed at detail of the shots taken. Like pictures of models though, there is a lot of magic that goes on when food is photographed professionally. It is far more difficult to make most food look like the "food porn" that is exhibited on the glossy pages of the magazines.

I saw a picture of a salad in Everyday Food from Martha Stewart in the January 2009 edition that I thought looked beautiful and even better yet, sounded quite healthy. It incorporates the whole grain bulgur, which I have never tried as well as tasty goat cheese and tomatoes and some greens. Below is my rendition.
Bulgur Salad
(Adapted to serve 2)

2/3 cup medium grind bulgur (I found mine in the bulk section of a health food store)
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 sprigs of green onion
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar ( I used 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar and 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 ounces fresh goat cheese crumbled (I used an herbed goat cheese)

In a heatproof bowl soak bulgur with 1/2 tsp salt and 2 cups boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes until grain is tender but slightly chewy.

Drain bulgur in a fine mesh sieve and squeeze out any liquid. Return to a bowl and add tomatoes, parsley, onion, cheese, oil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper, gently toss until well mixed. Chill before serving.