Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkey Wild Rice Soup

With the last little tidbits of turkey left from Thanksgiving it was time to make soup, and what a satisfying soup it was.  A few years ago I read about making turkey stock prior to turkey day and freezing  it so it is on hand for the gravy, which is what I do each year.

This exercise entails buying a few turkey wings, which I find out Whole Foods or a local grocery store, if I'm lucking.  I roast those for 45 minutes to an hour until they are nice a browned then throw them in a stock pot with the usual soup makings including water, celery, carrots, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and a bay leaf.  This is left to simmer for a couple hours, strained, then refrigerated overnight.  In the morning, the fat is skimmed off the top and the stock is ready for the freezer. 
I had a leftover quart of stock which made the perfect base for my turkey wild rice soup.  This rice is something I buy at our local farmers market and it is a really nice blend of a variety of rices including, wild, red, brown and white rice.  The rest of the soup consisted of celery, carrots, some onion, frozen peas and the leftover turkey.  Serve with rolls or as I did, hot popovers and you have a great meal.
Thanksgiving 2010-The End!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Appetizers

I have been having the time of my life planning and cooking for Thanksgiving dinner this year.  It will be traditional in every sense of the word.  Personally, I don't think Thanksgiving is the time to try out new recipes.  People (and I mean me) like the old standards: turkey, dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, veggies, gravy, pie.  Oh sure, go ahead and throw in another pie besides pumpkin or shake it up a bit and add some garlic to the mashed potatoes but leave the rest alone.

Now here is where you can deviate a little bit.  The appetizers.  Of course you don't want to serve anything very filling as there will be much to contend with during the main feast.  But a few tasty tidbits to whet peoples appetite is just fine.

I read this recipe for Parmesan Cream Crackers from the New York Times "The Minimalist" column written by Mark Bittman and it sounded like the perfect bite, served with a variety of olives and a sparkling wine or cider.  Let me tell you, once you've tried these delicate, flavorful morsels you will never want to eat a Goldfish  cracker again!  They are cheesy, flaky, easy to make and sooooo good! 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Parmesan Cream Crackers

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes or grated (a very good way to do it)
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed

Coarse salt, pepper, sesame or poppy seeds, minced garlic or whatever you like for sprinkling (optional).
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit; continue to add liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky.  I actually combined everything by hand and it turned out just fine and very easy to roll and cut.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/2-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. Cut with 1-2 inch biscuit cutter or transfer sheet of dough to prepared baking sheet (drape it over rolling pin to make it easier). Score lightly with a sharp knife, pizza cutter or a pastry wheel if you want to break crackers into squares or rectangles later on. Sprinkle with salt or other topping if you like.

Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store in a tin for a few days.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beef Barley Soup

These damp Fall days always make me want to bring out my favorite soup kettle and spend an hour or two in the kitchen cutting, chopping and stirring up a pot full of goodness.  This weekend beef barley soup was on the agenda.  My BFF Patti was talking about her husband's delicious vegetable barley soup he had made earlier in the week and it inspired me. 
This was a great recipe to make as I had everything I needed in the cupboard and freezer except for carrots.  I always like to cut up my own stew meat from a chuck roast. You know what you're getting that way.  Also, I just love the process of chopping up all of the veggies even though I have a fancy food processor that would do all that work in half the time.  It's such a therapeutic thing for me to do.  I get the radio on NPR and listen to the entertaining Saturday morning shows and before I know it, the soup is simmering away.

Serve this wonderful beef soup with a crusty piece of bread and a hearty glass of red wine for a delicious meal.  There will be plenty for leftovers throughout the week too!

Beef Barley Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 pounds beef chuck stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks and patted dry
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts beef stock or broth
1/4 pound medium pearled barley, rinsed in cool water and drained (NOT THE QUICK COOK!)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch slices
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, drained (I cut these up before adding)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a 10- to 12-inch skillet. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the garlic. Working in batches, add a single layer of beef cubes to the skillet and sear on all sides. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon, and sprinkle with black pepper. Leave the remaining oil in the skillet, and set it aside.

In a 5-quart soup pot, bring the stock or broth to a simmer. Add the browned beef and rinsed barley, cover, and return to a full simmer. Reduce heat and cook gently for about 1 1/2 hours.
Return the skillet to medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat and add the onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes. Stir in the oregano and thyme. Cover the skillet and cook over very low heat for about 15 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables to the simmering soup, then add the chopped tomatoes, peas and corn. Simmer for 15 minutes and add chopped fresh parsley before serving. Yield: about 10 servings

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

420 Miles in 24 Hours

The Husband and I got in our car on Sunday morning with our goal being a relaxing 24 hour mini-vacation and indeed, we got exactly that. I thought I'd share a few pictures from our great excursion to Bend via the Columbia Gorge and then home through the Cascades. I never tire of the beauty that is Oregon! No recipes this week. I'm taking a respite from the kitchen.

There were little creeks and mighty rivers.

There were spectacular waterfalls and towers up to the clouds.

There were salmon fighting the current to go home upriver and The Husband fighting the snow through the mountains to deliver us home safely!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Butterscotch Pie O My

Here is a pie made from two different sources.  The pie crust is from Cooks Illustrated, the group that takes a recipe and using science, comes up with foolproof ways to make them the best they can be.  I saw their show one Saturday where they used this vodka pie crust recipe and thought I would give it a "shot"(pardon the pun).  It certainly worked fine, but I think I will stick to the Dorie Greenspan foolproof recipe I last tried for pie crusts as my go-to method.

The butterscotch pudding recipe is from a Better Homes and Gardens Holiday magazine I recently purchased.  It is actually from a Butterscotch Meringue Pie but the sound of the meringue part didn't thrill me so I just made the filling and it was by far, the best butterscotch pudding I have ever tasted.

One note:  This pie does not travel well as noted by the Tupperware of mush we ended up delivering to my mother-in-law and brother-in-law.  Though it wasn't very pretty, I hope it tasted fine.
Vodka Pie Crust
(this makes a single crust)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
2 Tbsp cold vodka
2 Tbsp cup cold water

Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.  Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
Once chilled, roll out the pie crust using quite a bit of flour on your board, as it is a sticky dough. Place in 9 inch pie pan gently and turn under 1 inch overlay of dough and crimp edges. Or you can do as I did and make a decorative pattern and applique them on to the edges of the pie using egg white as your glue.

Place crust in the fridge while preheating the oven to 425 degrees. Place a vegetable oil sprayed piece of foil pressed into the crust and fill with pie weights or beans and bake for 15 minutes.  Take from oven, carefully remove foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes until crust is golden brown.  Cool on a rack.  Once cooled, it is ready for a pre-cooked filling.
Butterscotch Filling

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
3 egg yolks
1 cup milk (I used non fat and it worked fine)
3 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the evaporated milk.  Whisk in the egg yolks until combined.  Whisk in the remaining milks. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Put a piece of plastic wrap on the surface so a skin doesn't form while mixture cools.

Put in cooked pie crust and refrigerate 4-5 hours.  I decorated mine with whipped cream and shards of hardened caramelized sugar.  To do this I just cooked 1/2 cup of granulated sugar over high heat in a shallow pan, swirling pan constantly until sugar was melted completed and a medium amber color. Be very careful as once the sugar starts to turn amber it can get too dark and bitter quickly.  I then poured this onto a greased piece of foil, let it cool completely, then broke it into small pieces.  It was a nice addition to the butterscotch flavored pie.