Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Puff Pastry Palmiers

I've written before about the wonders of frozen puff pastry and today I made yet another great recipe using this versatile ingredient.  I needed to make some quick appetizers for a gathering and had a sheet of puff pastry in the freezer that I put to good use. 

This recipe can be altered in many different ways.  It is for palmiers, which is a French pastry that is often served as a sweet cookie. They have a distinctive heart shape and have a delicate crunch to them due to all of the layers in the puff pastry.  I chose to make them savory with a coat of delicious basil pesto and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  Other varieties might include a sun dried tomato spread or olive tapenade.  Let your imagination go wild!

Puff Pastry Palmiers

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/3 cup basil pesto
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it's  an approximately 1/8 inch thick rectangle.  Spread the pesto thinly over the pastry to all four edges.  Sprinkle the cheese over the entire thing. 

Roll up one of the long sides of the rectangle 2-3 times until you reach the center, then repeat with the other side.  Don't roll too tight.  Cut the roll into approximately 1/3 inch wheels and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes until palmiers are golden brown.  Cool on rack until room temperature.  Makes 24 palmiers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chocolate Covered Cherries

Have I ever mentioned that The Husband is a candy fiend.  He loves his candy and one of his favorites is chocolate covered cherries.  This is a treat that he usually only gets once a year at Christmas.  I noted after we got home from our holiday travels and all of the unpacking of Christmas presents had taken place that there were no cherries amongst his loot.

Now I could have run down to the nearest Walgreens (there's one on practically every block in my town) and picked up a box for him.  Instead, I decided to try my hand at making them.  It turned out to be a fun cooking experiment though I will admit that I cheated and used chocolate confectioners coating.  This can be found at any cooking/candy making store and it is so much easier to deal with than tempering real chocolate.  Of course, the taste is not a pure chocolate flavor, but it's not too bad. 

From start to finish this project took me about an hour and made two dozens cordials.  The trickiest part of this whole business was to find a good hiding place in a cool location where The Husband wouldn't find them as they have to sit for 1-2 weeks to cure.  This time is needed so the fondant breaks down and turns into that delicious liquid that bursts out all over your face when you bite into one.  What a gloriously fun candy!  (P.S. After trying them, The Husband stated they were "the best thing I ever ate!"  I'm tickled pink.)

Chocolate Covered Cherries

24 marachino cherries with stems
1 1/2 Tbsp softened butter
1 1/2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 cup sifted confectioners sugar
1/2 to 3/4 lb. chocolate confectioners coating

Drain cherries and set on a paper towel to dry.

In a medium bowl, combine the butter, corn syrup and confectioners sugar and knead to form a dough.  Chill to stiffen if necessary.

Wrap each cherry in about 1 tsp. of dough.  Chill until firm.

In a deep medium size microwavable bowl, slowly melt the chocolate, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.  Dip each cherry in by its stem and place on waxed paper.  Chill until completely set. 

Store in airtight container for 1-2 weeks in a cool place.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Of Cabbages and Kings

One of the most unappreciated vegetables out there is the cabbage, in my opinion.  Much like brussel sprouts, cabbage is misunderstood and unduly maligned. Granted when not cooked properly, it can often taste strong and certainly stink up a kitchen quickly.  Most often it is served boiled along with a big hunk of meat, i.e. brisket on St. Patrick's Day or with a pot roast and a bunch of other overcooked veggies.  Mind you, a boiled hunk of cabbage isn't bad if you drown it in enough butter and then wash it down with some good, strong Guinness stout, while toasting the Irish.

Cabbage can be quite delicious though with just a few added ingredients and a proper cooking technique.  Today I braised a small head of cabbage that had been chopped into nice bite size pieces along with a couple of slices of bacon,diced onion and some seasoning.  When served with a splash of balsamic vinegar, it truly could have been a meal in itself.  Give cabbage another try and treat it with some respect and you too could be pleasantly surprised.

Braised Cabbage

1 small head of cabbage
3 strips of bacon, cooked and cut into bite size pieces (reserve 1-2 Tbsp bacon fat)
1/2 white onion, diced
salt and pepper

Chop cabbage into bite sized pieces, set aside.  Cook bacon and cut into bite size pieces and set aside.  Heat 2-3 Tbsp. bacon fat in a large skillet.  Cook onion until golden brown.  Add cabbage and combine well with onion.  Put heat on medium and put on pan lid.  Let cabbage braise for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add bacon bits, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie-O-My

A perfect comfort food kind of meal for me is a chicken pot pie. It has everything good - chunks of well cooked chicken, lots of vegetables and hopefully, a well made, tasty crust. After making a roast chicken, I cut the leftover meat off the carcass and stashed it in the freezer for another time.

That other time came today after reading a recipe for chicken pot pie in a Caprial Pence cookbook called Cooking with Caprial-American Bistro Fare. Chicken pot pie is a dish that can be broken down into three components: the filling, the sauce and the crust. For my pot pie, I used the recipe for the crust from Caprial's cookbook and the rest was improvisation. The crust is magnificent. It is so easy to roll out and very flavorful, what with the cheese in it and all. I microwaved my veggies until they were just tender, thus decreasing the time the pie had to cook in the oven. Also, I used leftover chicken that was already cooked and cubed. Another time saver would to use deli whole roasted chickens from the store. This would be so good using leftover turkey too.
Chicken Pot Pie

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup finely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shortening (I used 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup lard)
1 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold water

Place the flour, cheeses, shortening and salt into a medium bowl and with your fingertips rub in the shortening until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add water and mix with a fork just until the mixture comes together. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling out.Filling
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup frozen peas

Microwave all of the vegetables together for about 5-6 minutes until they are just tender. Set aside.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried tarragon

Melt butter in medium sauce pan. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and tarragon and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Whisk in chicken broth and let cook, stirring frequently until mixture thickens and comes to a full boil. Add vegetables and cooked chicken.Assembly
Roll out crust to fit the top of a 9 inch deep dish pie pan. Add filling mixture to pan. Top with pie crust and flute edges. Brush the entire crust with an egg wash of 1 beaten egg and a little water or cream. Place pie pan on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes until crust is a deep golden brown.