Thursday, December 29, 2011

Braised Bourgignon-Style Short Ribs

There is nothing cozier on a cold winter night than a big bowl of this... 

A bottle of great red wine and a fire in the fireplace... That is exactly how John and I kicked off Christmas weekend last Thursday night.  Like most inexpensive cuts of beef, short ribs require a low-slow (3 hrs) cooking method but the result is fall-right-off-the-bone tenderness and a gravy that will make you lick your bowl clean.

Ingredients:   Serves 4 with leftovers

3 1/2 pounds bone in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 of a 750 ml bottle of dry red wine
8 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
3 cups of beef stock (low salt)

3 slices of bacon
1 large shallot- chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 package cremini or baby bella mushrooms, halved/quartered
2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
2 tablespoons of brandy or dry vermouth
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a large cast iron dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over medium-high/high heat.  Season the ribs generously with kosher salt and black pepper.  In two batches, brown the meat on all sides - roughly 2 minutes per side.    Don't disturb them except for to rotate after 2 minutes.  This allows them to develop a nice crust.  Remove and drain on a papertowel.

Pour the fat out of the pan (do not rinse) and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil back to the pot.  Lower heat to medium.  Add the onion, celery and carrots.  Cook for 4 minutes, stirring often.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees at this point.

Add the flour to the pot, toss to coat the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes before adding the wine.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen all of the bits with the help of the wine.  Add the ribs back to the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the wine has reduced a bit.

Add the beef stock, garlic and fresh herbs (whole on the stems is fine).  Cover the pot and place in the oven.  Cook for nearly 3 hours or until the bone can be easily pulled out of the meat.

While the ribs are in the oven- prepare the vegetables for the garnish.  This is where the bourgignon style bit comes in... Render the bacon in a saute pan over medium heat.  Remove the bacon once crispy.  Add one teaspoon of olive oil, the shallot, carrot and mushrooms to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown.  Add the thyme leaves for the last minute.

Add the vermouth/brandy and cook (or flambe if you like drama of a flame) until the liquid has evaporated.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Now back to the ribs... remove the ribs from the pot and set in a separate dish.  Strain the gravy through a sieve to remove the remaining vegetables, herbs, etc.  Return the ribs to the pan and pour the gravy over.  Gently fold in the garnish mixture and fresh parsley.

Serve over your favorite whipped potatoes (I like to whip half boiled potatoes and half boiled parsnips with butter and thyme and garlic infused cream) or buttered egg noodles with crusty bread for dipping.  You can crumble the bacon over the top as well.  I served a baby kale salad with balsamic vinaigrette, parmesan and pomegranate seeds on the side. 

While the recipe has numerous steps and takes 4 hours total, I assure you it is simple and the active time is minimal-  perfect for a Sunday or Saturday afternoon.  These are great for entertaining too as the short ribs can be made up to a day ahead of time and reheated before serving.  Add the parsley at the very last minute.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Qunioa with Fennel and Pomegranate Seeds

If your Christmas week was half as decadent as mine was (and I have a few more recipes along those lines coming)- you're probably looking for a couple of healthy meals in this lull before New Year's Eve parties.  I personally struggle with making the transition from the decadence back to nutritious because the taste buds are still amped so I try to pack the flavor in where ever possible.   Lemon, tangy vinaigrette and fresh herbs are a great way to do so.

Inspired by a recipe in the January issue of Bon Appetite magazine (not yet published to this quinoa dish is great warm or at room temperature - as a side dish or a standalone meatless dinner or lunch.  You can make a big batch and enjoy it for a couple of days...


1 cup quinoa
1 medium fennel bulb- diced
1 small onion- diced
3 cloves of garlic- minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
generous 1/2 cup freshly chopped herbs (I used parsley, dill and mint)
zest and juice of 1lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
pomegranate seeds for garnish

Saute the fennel and onion in a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat until just starting to caramelize, 10-12 minutes.  Season with a pinch of kosher salt and some black pepper.  Add the garlic and cumin and cook one minute more.  Add the balsamic vinegar and cook until the liquid is evaporated, 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let sit while you prepare the quinoa.

Cook 1 cup of raw quinoa according to package instructions.  This typically requires rinsing the grain, simmering in boiling water for 10 minutes and draining.  Make sure you strain any left over cooking liquid.  While the quinoa cooks- chop your herbs and juice/zest the lemon...

Combine the cooked quinoa with the vegetable mixture, the herbs, lemon zest, juice and olive oil.  Toss gently to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish the dish with pomegranate seeds.  Look for these at your grocery store by the grapefruit segments in the refrigerated produce section- Pom brand is selling them now.   You can remove the seeds by hand from the whole fruit if you can't find them.

The tiny hint of cumin gives the dish a nice warmth in contrast to the tang of the reduced balsamic and lemon.  The herbs and pomegranate seeds pack in more flavor and freshness.  Don't be afraid of the fennel- if you cook it down this way, it loses virtually all of the licorice/anise taste.  However you could add any combination of sauteed or roasted veggies to this as well.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Butterfinger Truffles

While we're on the subject of Holiday sweet treats- I wanted to share a super simple recipe for homemade chocolate truffles.  These are extremely rich little nuggets of punch you in the tongue chocolate-ness.  Truffles are really quite easy to make but they look elegant and sophisticated- perfect to set out at a holiday cocktail party as I did or to wrap in festive packaging for hostess or office gifts.

I saw this recipe in the December issue of Bon Appetit and decided to give it a try because John is gaga for butterfingers...

10 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of butter
1 1/2 cups chopped butterfinger candy bars (about 8 ounces)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
peanuts for garnish (optional)

I used semisweet chocolate- honestly I might consider using a portion of milk chocolate in here next time.  As is, they are for the darker chocolate lover for sure..

Place the chocolate (not the butterfinger yet) and the butter in a glass bowl.  Bring the cream to a gentle boil in a saucepan and then immediately pour over the chocolate.  Let sit one minute and then whisk until smooth.  Mix in the butterfingers, cover, and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to roll (ha, get it?!)  put the cocoa powder in a shallow bowl and line an airtight container with parchment paper.  I used a 3/4 inch ice cream/cookie scoop to portion the chocolate and rolled in into balls by hand.  I recommend spraying your hands with nonstick spray to prevent excess sticking. 

Roll the balls lightly in cocoa powder and place in the storage container.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

You could probably roll them in powdered sugar if you prefer a different look or sweeter flavor.  Bon Appetit suggested garnishing them with peanut halves or pecans which would be cute but I'm not quite sure how you'd made them stick??

What's not to love?!   The rich smooth chocolate ganache melts in your mouth yet you have a subtle peanutbuttery crunch factor as well.  Will definitely be making these again soon...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cherry Pecan Shortbread Cookies

For seven years running- I look forward to an annual Christmas Cookie Exchange party with girlfriends.  This tradition started back in Charleston with a great group of women from my work.  When we moved to Kentucky - I decided to bring the tradition with me.  This year I had about 20 ladies and 100+ dozen cookies crowded in my dining room for sampling and swapping of our favorite holiday baked goodness.

I like to try a new recipe every year.  This year I went with a Martha Stewart classic shortbread recipe.  The simple recipe of essentially just butter, sugar and flour is fool proof and the combinations of flavors and mixins makes for an infinite number of variations.  I was also looking for a "no fuss" recipe as I was busy making appetizers and preparing to host- so the concept of having the dough waiting for me in the freezer- no rolling, scooping or shaping of dough required- was appealing.

I found some DELICIOUS dried Michigan tart cherries at Sam's club recently so I chopped some of those as well as some pecans to add to the mix.  I also dipped the ends in melted white chocolate to turn up the fancy a little bit.

Here is the basic recipe:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup dried cherries- chopped
8 oz good white or semi-sweet chocolate- chopped **don’t use chips, they don’t melt as well

1. Make the dough: In a mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, almond and vanilla extracts, and salt until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour; mix just until a dough forms. Lastly, mix in pecans and cherries.

2. Freeze the dough: On a piece of waxed paper, form dough into a rectangular log, 12 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. Wrap log in the paper, and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours (and up to 3 months.) If freezing longer than 1 day, wrap log again, in plastic wrap.

3. Bake the shortbread: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove dough from freezer. (If dough has been in freezer a long time and is frozen solid, let it sit at room temperature 20 minutes so it slices without crumbling.)

4. With a sharp knife, cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheet at least 1 inch apart. (Keep them as close to the same thickness as possible to ensure they all cook evenly.)  Bake until edges just BARELY begin to turn golden, 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet; transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.

Note: I doubled the recipe above to make two logs of dough.

I dare you not to eat at least one raw cookie while you're slicing.... yummy!

5. Dip in white chocolate: put the chopped chocolate in a glass bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each one, until melted and smooth. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Dip the ends of each cookie into the chocolate and place on the parchment. Let sit until the chocolate dries (put in the fridge to speed up the process). Store in an airtight container.

Crispy, crumbly buttery deliciousness, I tell you.  Studded with a little chewy tang from the cherries and a toasty richness from the pecans- these are anything but boring .  The white chocolate adds another layer of creamy sweetness without overpowering the taste of the cookie. 

My ONLY complaint is that I was hoping the cookies would maintain their rectangular shape.  The definitely spread a little bit in the oven so they were more oval shaped in the end.  Also- once they begin to turn golden, they brown fast so keep a close eye and rotate your pans half way through if your oven bakes unevenly like mine.

Other flavor combinations to try:
*Orange zest and chopped almonds
*Lemon zest and chopped pistachios
*Hazelnut shortbread sandwiched together with nutella or jam
*Plain vanilla shortbread dipped in your favorite dark chocolate

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pork Tenderloin with Arugula, Endive and Walnut Vinaigrette

Much like I'm trying to squeeze a few healthy/lighter meals in between the holiday parties, sweet treats and other indulgences- I figured I'd offer up a quick and easy weeknight dinner salad before I post more of the goodies I have on deck for you...

This salad was hearty, winter-esque AND uber nutritional.  As I've said before, John's not a huge dinner salad kind of guy but even he was a fan.

Ingredients:     serves 2 with leftovers

1 pork tenderloin
2 Belgian endives, cut crosswise into bite sized pieces
4 cups of baby arugula
1 cup of walnuts, toasted (divided)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon of water
1/4 cup sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
goat cheese for crumbling
optional:2 oven roasted tomatoes (could substitute 2 oil packed sun dried tomatoes)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Salt and pepper the pork tenderloin and heat a tablespoon of olive oil in an ovenproof skillet.  Sear the pork for approximately 2 minutes on all sides-  transfer the pork to the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

While the pork is cooking/resting, make the dressing...  in a food processor, combine 2/3 cup of the toasted walnuts, garlic, oven roasted or sun dried tomatoes (again you can leave these out, the original recipe did not call of them), vinegar, and water.  Pulse into a paste forms.  Then with the blade running, pour the olive oil in slowly until it comes together to a smooth consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the greens with 2/3 of the dressing and plate.  Garnish with additional toasted walnuts and goat cheese crumbles.  Finally lay the sliced pork over the top and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.

The endive and arugula is a great combination of crunch and peppery.  The walnuts give the vinaigrette a warm toasty flavor while also adding richness (and heart healthy omega 3's!).   The tomatoes don't add a tomato flavor per se- its really more a depth of flavor and tangy sweetness which works well.  You could omit them and toss some apples and dried cranberries to the salad as well.

Quick- easy- healthy- yummy!  Now back to the holiday indulgences...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lemon Glazed Gingerbread

Holiday baking season is here and the AS kitchen is a-bustle cooking up all kinds of Christmas cheer!  I have a huge backlog of posts for you so check back soon.  A women's group here in Lexington hosts an annual Christmas bake sale for a local charity and this year I made my mother's gingerbread recipe - a long standing favorite around the Holidays.  It is always perfectly moist with all of the soul-warming spicy gingerbread flavors.  Typically a bundt cake- she serves it as a plated dessert with a warm lemon sauce but to make it more bake-sale friendly, I opted for an easy lemon glaze to give my loaf version of the cake a hit of lemony fresh flavor.

Recipe makes 1 bundt cake, two medium size loaves or three small loaves.

1 cup of sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the sugar, molasses, butter and eggs.  (By hand, with a handmixer or standing mixer is fine.) 

Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the boiling water, to the sugar-egg mixture until combined.

Pour the batter into greased and floured pan(s).  Bake for 25/30/40 minutes (depending on pan size) until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before loosening the cakes with a knife around the edge to remove.

Lemon Glaze:
3 cups of powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk the lemon juice into the sugar.  Start with 4 tablespoons and add more gradually until the icing is just loose enough to pour.  Place the cake(s) on a wire rack over a cookie sheet and spoon the icing over the cakes so that it runs off all sides.  Let the icing dry completely before wrapping with plastic wrap.

Packaging of course is everything if you are gifting goodies for the Holidays (or selling them at a bake sale.)  I wrapped each loaf first in plastic wrap so that the the extra plastic was at the bottom.  I then tied a piece of burlap ribbon and a few pieces of red raffia lengthwise around the loaf so that the raffia was on top of the burlap.  I then tied it all together in a bow on top.  I found adorable hand made holiday gift tags that I tied to each of them as well.

If you want to go the plated dessert route- here is the Warm Lemon Sauce Recipe:

4 teaspoons of cornstarch
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons of butter
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Combine cornstarch through the water in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Cover and cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Serve warm. Can be made ahead and reheated before serving.  Spoon over the individual gingerbread slices once on the plate.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Claudia's Pecan Pie

Well it was an action packed Thanksgiving Holiday here in Kentucky this year!  The final headcount at our Windy Hill Farm Thanksgiving feast was 44 people which  means the AS kitchen has been cooking up a storm.  (Hence the lack of posting activity.) We had family from all sides and all over the country in town and there was spectacular food, drink and merriment shared by all.  My mother-in-law and I contributed the majority of the desserts this year- the spread ranging from her unbeatable Pecan Pie to my Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake to my grandmother's Apple Strudel.  (and lots more in between)  As we merged the Lacys with the Cobetto/Cunningham clan for the first ever holiday celebration- I thought I'd share a Lacy recipe that got rave reviews from the rest of the family.
Pecan Pie Filling:  makes 1 pie

1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup dark Karo corn syrup
1/2 stick of butter, melted
3 eggs
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and fill an unbaked 9 inch pie crust.  Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and set.

Pastry for Pies:  also Claudia's recipe

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (she likes Lily brand)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
4-5 tablespoons of cold water

Mix salt with flour and cut in the shortening with a pastry blender.  Add the cold water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms a ball.  Roll out to fit pie pan. 

A few other great scenes from the day...

my parents' barn decked out for the party

carving one of six turkeys fried for the occaison

mid-feast with Johnboy, "the littles" and my cousins

a beautiful ending to the perfect Turkey Day

 photography courtesy of my extremely talented "boy little", Nate Lacy and my cousin Sarah

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Prosciutto wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Otherwise knows as Saltimbocca or "jump in the mouth" translated from Italian, the concept of wrapping veal or chicken in prosciutto with sage leaves is not a new one.  I happen to LOVE this flavor combination- especially for fall- and my experimental method of wrapping the whole tenderloin turned out very well if I do say so myself. 

This was a quick, relatively fuss free (and healthy) weeknight dinner but the presentation would certainly impress company too. 

Serves 2 with leftovers

1 pork tenderloin
6 thin slices of prosciutto
10-12 fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First rinse the pork and pat it dry with papertowels.  Trim off any big fat pieces or silver skin and season well with salt and pepper.  Next lay 4 slices of the prosciutto out on a large cutting board.  You want them to be at a slight diagonal and overlapping about half an inch.  (This should be the entire length of the pork.)

Lay the sage leaves down the middle of the prosciutto per the picture below.  You want the outer part of the leaf to be down on the prosciutto.  Depending on the size of the leaves, you might use two to be sure you get the sage flavor all the way around the pork. 

Lay the pork in the middle and starting on the end where you first layed the prosciutto, wrap it up around the pork.  My prosciutto wasn't long enough to get all the way around the pork  so I layed two more sage leaves and two slices of prosciutto (horizontally this time) to cover the seam.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sear the pork on all sides- rotating every 2 minutes until the prosciutto is golden brown.  If your skillet is oven proof you can throw the whole thing in the oven.  (I transferred the pork to a baking sheet lined with tin foil.)  Roast the pork in the oven for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature at the thickest part reaches 145/150 degrees for medium.

Let the pork rest for 10 minutes before slicing on an angle.  (Use a very sharp knife to cut 1.5 -2 inch slices so as to not pull all of the prosciutto off while you slice.)

As far as sides for this- I sauteed some fresh asparagus right in the same skillet while the pork was in the oven. I wanted to take advantage of the yummy salty flavor that the pork fat and prosciutto left behind.  (I tossed in one minced garlic clove too.)

I also had a balsamic fig jam in the fridge that I made from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc Cookbook.  (Book and jam both amazing- you'll see much more from that soon.)  I put a little spoonful next to the pork and the sweetness was a great accompaniment with the saltiness of the prosciutto.

 If you are entertaining, the pork would be amazing with a butternut squash risotto or ravioli on the side.  (Whole Foods has a great butternut squash ravioli in the freezer section.  I boil per the package instructions and then toss it with some butter browned slightly in a skillet with some sliced fresh sage.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tart)

I still can't kick my infatuation of all things French since our recent Paris trip so when looking for a light and elegant dessert to take to a dinner party, I tested my patisserie skills on an authentic tarte au citron.  I researched a number of recipes before landing on a hybrid of a french sabayon lemon filling courtesy of Thomas Keller and a simple pastry crust from Ina Garten.  Ina's lemon meringue tart also looked divine however I was looking for the proper french method and I wasn't up for fussing with meringue. 

I can say with confidence that I will not be deviating from this lemon tart filling. Ever.  It was perfection as far as I'm concerned.  The lemon was bright and fresh without being overwhelmingly tangy and the texture was light, I'm talking cloud-like, yet creamy at the same time. 

So anyway.. here it is.  I did one and one half times recipe to fill a 10 inch tart shell, I had a little more than I needed but trust me it didn't go to waste.  I poured the extra into a ramekin and enjoyed it straight up- almost like a mousse- the next day. It would be lovely served this way too, maybe with a handful of fresh raspberries in the bottom.

Lemon Sabayon:

3 large eggs, cold
2 large egg yolks, cold
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice (I used 2 meyer lemons* and 1 regular lemon)
zest of one meyer lemon
9 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into 9 pieces

*Meyer lemons are a splurge but worth it if you can find them.  They have a delicate lemon flavor with almost a hint of orange.  They have an orange hue to them as well as you'll see compared to a regular lemon.

I'm giving you the instructions verbatim because it worked beautifully for me and I don't want anything to get lost in translation...

"Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl you will be using for the sabayon. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.

Set the bowl over the pot and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl (for even heating). After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add one-third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and, when the mixture thickens again, add another one-third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened and light in color and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be 8 to 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. The sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart crust and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color; this will take only a few seconds, so do not leave the oven. Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold."  (I refrigerated mine for 24 hours.  Let the tart sit out 20 minutes before serving.)

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The tart shell can be made a few hours in advance.  I have to say this was yummy but not remarkable.  Mostly likely because the lemon filling stole the show.
Tart Shell:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 stick of cold unsalted butter, diced
4-5 tablespoons of ice water

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse one or two times.  Next add the butter chunks (which I also freeze for 10 minutes or so) and pulse until the mixture has only small clumps.  Lastly, add the ice water (starting with 4 tablespoons and adding if needed) and process until the mixture just forms a ball of dough.  Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour before rolling it out as you would a pie crust.

Lay the dough gently into a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. (Next time I would do 1.5 times the recipe if I were using a 10 inch tart pan.)   If you try to stretch the dough, it will shrink back up while baking.  Roll a rolling pin over the top to cut off any extra dough.  Line the crust with a piece of tin foil coated with nonstick spray and then fill with dried beans, rice or pie weights.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Carefully lift the pie weights/beans out using the tin foil and prick the pastry all over with a fork.  Return to the oven and bake 10-15 minutes more until lightly golden brown.

Cool before filling.

I served the tart with a few fresh raspberries on the side.  I neglected to get any pictures as I served it so you'll have to trust me that it was beautiful AND delicious.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bourbon Ginger Peach Cocktail

This cocktail desperately needs a cool name... I can't seem to think of a good one at the moment but I wanted to post this before the sun sets on peach season. 

This is the perfect for SEC football beverage as its a lovely concoction of Kentucky Bourbon and either South Carolina or Georgia peaches (depending on who we're playing.)  John found this recipe on Garden & Gun's website and it is right up my alley.

Muddled fresh peaches (or pears as we get further into fall), a warm and spicy fresh ginger simple syrup and your favorite Kentucky Bourbon... how can you go wrong?

Ginger Simple Syrup:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to boil over medium high heat.  As soon as the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat and let steep for one hour before straining the syrup. (Keeps in the fridge for a week or two.)

To make the cocktail,  muddle two fresh peach slices (peeled) in the bottom of an old fashioned glass with 1 tablespoon of the syrup.  Top with lots of ice, 3 ounces of bourbon and a splash of soda.  (I tried a splash of ginger beer which was also excellent.)  Garnish with another peach slice, find a comfy spot on the back deck and enjoy.  Warning: these go down rather easy so pace yourself! 

Double Chocolate Torte

I recently hosted a super girly surprise 30th Birthday party for a friend that happens to have... we'll call it an affinity for chocolate.  I was searching for something elegant AND decadent to start her third decade off right and stumbled upon this double chocolate torte recipe from Bon Appetit magazine also featured on a fave food blog of mine, Smitten Kitchen.

The torte consists of a rich, fudgey cake/brownie layer and a light and smooth, yet equally chocolaty, mousse layer.  A simple garnish of fresh raspberries gives it a "grown up" look while balancing out the richness of the chocolate.   The Birthday Girl is also pregnant with twins so I had to improvise on the chocolate mousse layer to avoid the raw eggs.  My whipped cream version worked quite nicely if I do say so myself...

This recipe does require a few hours of chilling time however it can be made a day or two ahead which makes it great for entertaining.  It serves 8-10 people easily. 

Cake Layer:

8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
4 extra large eggs (or 5 large)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour

For cake:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan; dust with sugar.

Melt chocolate and butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.

Cool to lukewarm. Whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and salt, then flour. Pour batter into pan. Bake until cake just rises in center (tester inserted into center will not come out clean), about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cover; chill while making mousse..

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Mousse Layer:

8 ounces of semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups of whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon of Cointreau/Grand Marnier, Kahlua or Vanilla extract

1 cup of fresh raspberries for garnish

Let the cake layer cool COMPLETELY before topping it with the mousse layer.  If its warm at all it will melt the whipped cream into a soggy mess.  Note: leave it in the springform pan until ready to serve.

Melt the chocolate with 2 tablespoons of the whipping cream in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until smooth. 

Let cool to room temperature.  (You can put the chocolate in the fridge for 30 minutes to speed the process along.) 

Whip the cream (ice cold is optimal) in a standing mixer until it just starts to thicken.  Add the sugar and liqueor and whip until peaks form.  It should be thick but not clumpy. 

Add a large scoop of the whipped cream to the bowl of chocolate and gently fold to lighten the chocolate a bit.  Then add the rest of the cream and gently fold with a spatula until the mixture is  no longer has streaks of chocolate. 

Spread the mousse over the cake layer while still in the springform pan.  I used a metal spatula warmed in a mug of hot water to smooth the top before placing the raspberries along the edge of the cake.  Chill for a minimum of 4 hours before serving. 

When ready to serve, warm a sharp knife in a mug of hot water first.  This will help you make neater slices.

Decadent for sure- a tiny slice will do ya- and absolutely delicious.  This one will definitely be a go-to Special Occaison cake from here on out.  You could fancy it up it even more with piped florettes of whipped cream along the edge or some extra shaved chocolate over the top.   Either way, I'd highly reccomend a glass of port, bubbly or red wine with this one.    

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Individual Apple Tarts

We're back from an AMAZING week in London and Paris and the food was definitely a highlight of the adventure.  As I re acclimate to real life this week, I find myself at a loss without a perfectly flaky croissant and cafe for breakfast, a pint of ale alongside lunch and the glimmering Eiffel Tour in the backdrop of a leisurely two+ hour dinner.  Therefore I decided to make some Parisian inspired apple tarts my very first day home to make the transition a bit smoother.  I figure a tapered withdrawal from the pastries would be far better for morale than quitting cold turkey.

Apple Tarts      makes 8 individual servings

1 package (large sheet) of Dufour Puff Pastry
2 extra large (or 3 medium) fuji, gala or honeycrisp apples
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of grated orange zest
juice of half an orange
2 tablespoons of apple jelly (apricot would work as well)
1 teaspoon of water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw the frozen puff pastry according to the package directions.  You can find Dufour Pastry in the freezer section at your Whole Foods or specialty market.  It is heads above your average grocery store brand- largely because it is made with 100% butter- and while its a splurge ($9 per package), it is worth every penny, I assure you.  (If you need help with a justification, remind yourself the total cost of the remaining ingredients is barely $3 - and therefore $12 for 8 generously portioned tarts is a steal, especially by Paris standards!

You want to keep the pastry dough chilled as long as possible while you assemble the tarts, so have the apples ready to go before you start rolling.  Peel, core and halve the apples before slicing them super thin.  Then toss them gently in a bowl with the brown sugar, spices, salt, orange juice and zest.  Let them set for a few minutes and the sugar dissolves into a glaze that will coat all of the apples.

Next put the jelly or jam in a small bowl with a teaspoon of water and microwave for 40 seconds or so until melted enough to stir into a glaze.  *I was lucky enough to have my mother-in-laws homemade apple jelly which is probably why this batch was particularly blissful.

Now you're ready to assemble the tarts...  Roll the pastry dough out slightly on a board.  It should increase in size by roughly an inch in both directions.  Try to maintain the rectangle shape.  Using a pairing knife, portion the dough into 8 smaller rectangles.  Divide and place them on two baking sheets sprayed lightly with nonstick spray (and/or lined with parchment paper).

Arrange a line of apple slices in an overlapping fashion down each rectangle so that they are covering all but a tiny edge of the dough.   Drizzle with the remaining sugary syrup from the bottom of the apple bowl and bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown along the edges.  Switch racks half way through.

With about 5 minutes of cooking time left, take one baking sheet out at a time to brush with the jam glaze and return to the oven.

WARNING:  The cinnamon sugar oozes a bit and bakes on to the baking sheet. You want to remove the tarts from the pans with a spatula as soon as you take them out of the oven before the glaze hardens and glues them to the pan.  The nonstick spray should help with clean up.  Otherwise a soak in some soapy water will eventually break the sugar loose from the pans.

Enjoy at room temperature as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for dessert.  They are FANTASTIC for breakfast with a cup of coffee the next day as well.  WARNING:  Husbands, do not leave your wives home with the leftovers or they will disappear.  Sorry, babe.  I owe you another batch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Croque Madame

T minus 4 days, 2 hours and 33 minutes until John and I take off for vacation!  We've been meticulously planning our London-Paris adventure for months and its almost here... I've spent the past week researching restaurants in both cities and my taste buds have been dreaming of all things Gastropub and Brasserie.  So it will come as no surprise to you that even my mid-work lunch today is Euro-inspired...

A croque madame is traditional, simple French bistro fare that just about anyone can throw together in 10 minutes.  All you need is the following:

1 thick slice of French bread
Some sliced or shredded Gruyere or Baby Swiss cheese
1-2 slices of ham
1 teaspoon of whole grain or dijon mustard
1 egg

I have a countertop toaster oven however you can do this under the broiler in your oven as well...

Toast the bread on a baking sheet to golden brown on one side.  Take it out, flip it over, and spread the mustard on the untoasted side.  Lay the ham slices over the toast, followed the cheese.  Put back under the broiler or toast until the cheese is melted, barely golden and dripping down the toast.

Meanwhile fry your egg to your liking with some salt and pepper- perfect over medium for me (No runny white but lots of runny yolk.)  Top the toast with your fried egg e voila!

A small salad of baby mixed greens drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette makes this into a rather gourmet-like lunch.  A week from now I'll get to enjoy a glass of Sancerre along with lunch at a sidewalk cafe a Paris.. but for today, a Diet Root Beer will have to do as I have a conference call coming up shortly...  Bon Appetit!