Thanksgiving 2010~

28 11 2010

Let me start out by saying my Gratitude List is long, but this is the short version! Without my Faith I wouldn’t get through…then my Family and my Friends…so very, very wonderful and precious!  Willow is my joy…Jasmine my bed-buddy…and the kitties are a constant source of entertainment!  For each and all, I am very grateful!  Now…on to the Feast!

We generally had fun… I started cooking the day before…I finally killed a saucepan.  %!@#*%!!  I was cooking cranberries down, and they were taking the longest time to boil…oops.  They boiled all right…to the point of hard gel!   Incredibly intense flavor…one ruined pan.  Oi.  Oh well…it’s making the most incredible cranberry aioli now…  You win some, you lose some, and you make something out of the leftovers…  The pan, however…will never quite be the same.  It’s pretty intensely burned.  We’ll see…replacement coming.

Here was some of our fun…  This was battle yam..

I had never noticed “asian” yams at the market before, and they were definitely marked “Asian Yam” with the darker red skin.  The color comparison made me wonder if that wasn’t what I usually bought…so I got them, even though the ones I usually buy were equally clearly marked.  As I put them into the oven, I noticed the pale flesh showing through the skin…not what I wanted.  I ran to the closest market and grabbed a couple “Garnet Yams” for dinner.  Whew!  Not wanting to waste anything, I threw them all in the oven to see what the differences might be.

Ok…fresh out of the oven with no additives of any kind, just as Mother Nature made them… The Garnet Yam on the left is a rich orange color and very moist, almost unctuous on the tongue.   However, it’s almost tasteless…only mildly sweet without a lot of flavor of any kind, but with that really great mouth-feel.  Now…the Asian Yam is almost white, and relatively dry yet this one has a really sweet flavor and lots of texture.  Hmmm!  So…we decided we wanted the texture of the Garnet yam…but…what would they be like mashed together??  Another time, perhaps.  The Asian Yam has excellent body for ravioli, excellent body for pie…and flavor!

I also had fun with bread.  While all of you are having fun with baking throughout the year, I’m paying attention and stocking up so when I can play, I CAN play!!

I think this is my first official loaf from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  What a recipe…what a keeper!  I forgot how much I love bread!  Not only making it…but working it, feeling it, feeling when it’s right, listening to it…and of course…eating it!  I mixed this up for Thanksgiving and pushed a pan of rolls out for dinner, then let this dough sit overnight and made a boulé out of it the next day.  Oh happy bread!  It’s been treated with an egg wash and dusted with amaranth seeds.

Yes, we had all the rest of the traditional stuff too…but how many pretty turkeys can you look at in a year?  We had the turkey, brined about 16-18 hours and roasted, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy that came out far too well…I basted the turkey with broth this year.  Rather than using any butter, I oiled the bird.  Alton Brown suggested not using butter because the milk solids would burn…so I took that into consideration.  I basted with the broth because it was handy on the stove and I may have seen AB do so…  It made for some absolutely fabulous pan drippings for gravy later…OH MY!!  It was like turkey demi-glace.  It was so wonderful to have later when we made gravy and soup!!  Yummm!

I apologize for the photo…the flash caught the fat on the top of the soup and turned it into stardust!  This was soup the first night past Thanksgiving…turkey noodle soup.  Kind of a tradition with us. *Ü*  I always bone the turkey before we go to bed the day it’s cooked.  This one simmered ever so low all night long, and that was fabulous.  The broth is rich and gels like Jello!  LOL!  Last night we opted for creamy turkey rice soup.  Lunch was an open faced roast turkey dinner sandwich…toasted bread spread with cranberry aioli layered with dark turkey meat, topped with hot turkey dressing, layered with turkey breast, and topped with turkey gravy…  It was pretty wonderful!  *Ü*

You know…we did have dessert…  I wish I’d thought to take a picture of it.  We had a Sunflower Seed pie…think Pecan pie, only using sunflower seeds instead of pecans.  It was tasty.  It didn’t last because it was tasty.

So…tell me about your dinner?  Did you burn anything?


Marx Iron Foodie 2010

28 11 2010

That pretty much says it all!  Indeed…there are goodies inside!  The eight mystery ingredients arrived safely, and weren’t quite spread as broadly as I’d hoped… The ingredients are all seasonings.  Nothing wrong with that!!

Starting at the far left side…we have bourbon soaked vanilla beans…up top in the upper left corner are dried aji panca chile pods, then dried porcini mushrooms, dulse seaweed flakes going down the right side, maple sugar at the bottom right corner, inside left is smoked seas salt, above that is the fennel pollen and just above that are tellicherry peppercorns.  So many interesting things…not quite enough of anything to commit you to one direction or another…  Hmmmm….what will we make out of three of these?

FFwD: Pommes Dauphinoise~

20 11 2010

This week I selected Pommes Dauphinoise, or Potatoes Au Gratin, as my French Fridays with Dorie dish.  I actually made it twice.  I made it earlier in the week to go with chicken breast I prepared according to a recipe we may get to try at some point…it sure was good!  So were the potatoes!  LOL!  Then, on Friday…when I was ready for a decent meal…and decided the only way THAT was going to happen was to do it myself…!  It was a long stretch between Sunday and Friday…!  Standing there with a package of stuffed pork chops in my hands, those potatoes called my name yet again…they seemed the perfect match to go with the chops.  So be it!  LOL!

Tasting Notes~
While the recipe from Le Cordon Bleu creates a dish with a firmer potato, this one doesn’t need as many dishes and comes out tasting good enough that it’s really not worth the extra work unless you need to put out a 4 star meal.  General French cooking for the average Bonne Femme…or Good Woman…is exactly what Dorie and Julia give us.  LCB has more exacting standards, and more exacting practices…using more pots and pans than Carter has little pills as we once said here in the States!  The only thing I could suggest that might bring any improvement would be to lightly, and I mean lightly… season each layer of potatoes as they are laid down.  Maybe even sprinkle a bit of cheese between some of the layers…which I’ll try next time around.  *Ü*  Because…after making this twice (and buying a special baker just for the two of us), I know I’ll be making it again.  Oh…  I suppose I should confess that I also sprinkle the potatoes with a dusting of nutmeg (freshly ground) before I added the cheese…  That little LCB thing…  *Ü*  A personal touch I guess!

If you’d like to join us, buy Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan, there’s a link on my sidebar, and follow the link to French Fridays with Dorie to the site to register.  That’s it…  Cook the recipes that you wish and post them.  That’s not very difficult.  No requirements other than registration and buying the book…which is worth the price!  We’ve already established that!!  Christmas is coming…  Surely Santa knows you’ve been good enough….!!

Thirty Minute Thursdays: Spaghetti Carbonara with Bacon~

20 11 2010

My selection for this week is Spaghetti Carbonara with bacon.  Pancetta is usually the protein of choice for this dish, but we didn’t have pancetta in the house, and we do have an abundance of eggs so there is bacon….therefore, we use what we have an abundance of in true Italian fashion.    I cooked the thinly sliced bacon  until almost crispy, drained off as much of the bacon grease as I could (into a clean jar for future use) and added the white wine to the bacon to soften it while it reduced.  I also had some fresh mozzarella in the fridge…while everything was coming together, I diced a bit of the fresh mozz to toss in with the hot bacon-wine mixture.

Tasting Notes~
One thing about Spaghetti Carbonara is that it is the suave adult equivalent to a child’s mac & cheese.  We have long, silky pasta rather than tubular pasta…rather than yellow cheese, we have yellow egg yolks and loads of sophisticated parmesano reggiano and romano instead…generous gratings of freshly cracked pepper only a dulled adult palate could stand…and herbs…mmmm!   This is serious comfort food in a bowl, and wonderful food for after being out on the town.  It’s also very comforting if you’ve just been burning the candle at both ends at bit much.  Do you know anyone who does that??  Yeah… I didn’t think so…  *giggle*   Seriously… I do love this when I’m particularly tired and it’s been a long day.  It’s kind of like breakfast and dinner in one…and I’m ready to tuck in almost immediately!  This one is a fall-back recipe I use a lot!  Thanks Giuliano…this one is wonderful!

FFwD: Roast Chicken and Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flans~

13 11 2010

I went with two recipes at virtually the same time this week…Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans were first up as they could stand the setting time far better than the roast chicken.  The Roast Chicken is for “lazy people” but I didn’t want it to set up to 45 minutes while the flans cooked.  I had a feeling that the flans would be more easily eaten if they cooled quite a bit first.

The flans go together with precious little fuss and could actually be whisked together without messing up the blender.  You just want to mix the egg in really well, like any custard.  Take care not to fill the ramekins too full…as they get done they will puff a bit.  That’s a sight cue that they’re just about done…they puff up like pumpkin pie does.

Tasting Notes on the flan~
This looks so good, and the pumpkin mixture was really yummy…but neither of us particularly cared for it once it was put together.  I served it warm, along with the roasted chicken, which it paired nicely with…but that still didn’t carry it far enough for us.  I actually liked it better cold the following day.  Oh well…you win some, you lose some.  While not a stellar winner, it was certainly different and could easily suit someone else nicely, as it was quite unique.   Now…on to the roasted chicken…

There’s been much discussion about the incredible bread from the bottom of the Dutch oven…well…here’s a picture of what we’re all drooling over.  I know it doesn’t look like much, but oh my goodness!  The flavor that lies within that crusty morsel!!  Most of the roasting liquid, as well as the wine, has been soaked up by a halved baguette laid on the bottom of the Dutch oven, the chicken placed on top of that, and roasted for 90 minutes.  The bread is crisp and crusty on what was its cut face, and where the crust had been, is soft and almost pudding-like.  Dorie recommends taking the liver which you’ve cooked inside the chicken and spreading it onto the bread…and she recommends saving that for yourself!  Not being terribly fond of liver, I presented that tasty tidbit to my beloved, and he was overjoyed.  He wouldn’t mind having THAT experience again!

I roasted my veggies separately…there simply wasn’t room in my Dutch oven for anything more.  I need a size in between the two I have.  Dear Santa…  Anyway… In order to achieve a similar flavor, I tossed the veggies with oil (rice bran rather than olive) and fresh herbs to match what we put in with the chicken.  I wish now that I’d sprinkled on a bit of white wine as well.  No big deal…it would just have been another layer of flavor.  Then I added a sprinkle of kosher salt and a twist of black pepper, and off to the oven with them.

Here’s our chicken…I needed to wrap the wing tips in foil the last 45 minutes to keep them from burning, but that was no problem.  I pulled the chicken from the oven to set before carving and left the veggies in a few minutes longer.  By the time I was ready to plate, the veggies were nicely roasted and ready.

Tasting Notes for the Roasted Chicken~
I’ve roasted a LOT of chickens in the past couple years, French, Italian, Food Network Chefs…  So far, I’m happiest with this one.  I do have to confess that I did brine it…  I mixed 3 Tbsp. kosher salt with 1 Tbsp. sugar in enough water to dissolve the sugar and salt, and poured that into a zippered gallon bag (in a bowl, always use a bowl), and added as much thyme, rosemary and oregano to the brine as I was going to use in the roasting process, along with a couple large cloves of garlic, smashed.  I left the chicken to brine for a few hour, then rinsed it before roasting the chicken, seasoning it just as the recipe required.  I could be happy making this chicken again without concern.  It was moist and flavorful, had that wonderful added bonus of the flavorful bread raft…  Seriously good stuff!  We were both thoroughly content with this meal, regardless of how we felt about the flans!   As there are only the two of us, we did have meat left over, that was easily converted to tasty Quesadillas the following day!  This, is a keeper!

Marx Iron Foodie 2010

12 11 2010

It’s official…the contestant list was published today.  My blog is there.  OMGosh.  This is going to be FUN!!  Like most of the contestants, I love the “think out of the box” cooking shows…Iron Chef, Chopped…that’s why I love the Royal Foodie Joust so much.   I  never know for sure what ingredients we’ll have to work with, but I know I’ve got a month to think about it and…mentally chew on it, if you will…   So, the curiosity is driving me c r a z y !!!

What might be in the secret box of ingredients from Marx Foods…  Let’s look at this logically…is there another way?  If the “ship” date was scheduled for Nov. 11th…yesterday was a National holiday.  Not a whole lot of shipping actually went on…so we know between that and the outside target date for food arrival of Nov. 22nd…whatever is in that box can be without refrigeration at least 11 days.  Eliminate all fresh products that require refrigeration.  Only 3 are required elements, the rest are “thank you for playing” gifts.  I would anticipate that to suggest perhaps not all items in the box are edible.   Now, let’s think like a businessman instead of a chef-in-training…  Actually, think like that chef…  What do I have that I need to move and find a good way to promote and market?  Enter one Iron Foodie contest, with 25 contestants extolling my company’s virtues, and working up 25 different recipes for some products people can’t quite get a grasp on…  Sheer genius.  Thanks guys!  Love the opportunity!

Having said all that…and knowing that the “ship by” date has passed, my best guesses for what might be hiding in the secret box are:
1)  A grain…I’m thinking Emmer flour or flakes.
2)  Beans, dried…I’m thinking Stuben Yellow Eye beans
3)  Spice…Saffron threads
4)  Dry pasta…perhaps a gluten free product?
5)  Sugar…Org. evaporated cane juice
6)  Salt…perhaps Black Sea salt?
7)  Oil…porcini oil perhaps…
8)  Dried mushrooms…how about wild black trumpet mushrooms?

I actually think there will be a package of palm leaf eco plates in place of one of my “guess” ingredients.  That’s what I think might be packed in the box.  Then…there are my fantasy ingredients…balsamic vinegar.  No question.  And it’s on my shopping list!  LOL!  I’d be so overjoyed if truffles were in the box…but I don’t know how well they ship and I don’t know…well, I admit I know nothing about truffles, but oh…how I’d like to learn!   I’m also sure that a dozen sweet little oysters won’t be part of the box, but…hey, talk about fantasy!  *grin*  I also didn’t include rice in my guesses…too heavy.  So, my fantasy box would contain some Himalayan red rice.    Chilies are another light-weight item that could be in the boxes…they wouldn’t be in my fantasy box.  They have their place…and I can access chilies without much difficulty…right now it’s a matter of going out to the garden.  Yes…I know it’s November.  Tell Mother Nature.  One plant is still blooming…the cascabel.   Another possibility is lentils…though I didn’t consider them due to their weight either.  So my fantasy box also contains black beluga lentils.

Oh…but what will the real box contain…and what will be the three mandatory ingredients?  The curiosity and suspense is delicious…  Hmmmm….  Well, that’s not what’s cookin’ in the kitchen tonight.  I’ll just have to continue with my usual routine until the mail runs again!

Happiness is….

11 11 2010

A double barreled load of foodie competition joy coming my way!! It’s official!! I’m a contestant in the Marx Foods 2010 Iron Foodie Competition!! I’m so jazzed! I’ve continually wondered what might be coming in the box from Marx… Who are the other competitors? I’m so honored, and excited!!  Thank you Marx Foods!!

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me: I think on my feet
I think out of the box
I am imaginative
I am competitive!
I am Iron and I am a FOODIE! -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

While that news is thoroughly exciting all by itself, the very same day, I received notification from the Foodie Joust that the photo of our Sweet Potato Capellacci was voted Best Photo at the Joust, so we won in that category!! And we’re currently in a run off, tie breaker for Best Overall Entry!! I’m truly humbled and overjoyed!! Ok…I confess… I feel a little affirmation that I’ve kind of got some of this cooking stuff down too!

I’m home for a 4 day weekend…Bless our Veterans!  The weather is lovely, and I’ve got time and momentum to get some things moving and done.  There’s a lot going on behind the scenes here…  I think I’m just going to let myself get sucked into the midst of it all and roll with the flow.  Baking, catching up on my cooking groups, doing research…cleaning…  Can’t cook without cleaning too…LOL!  I just need another cup of coffee…first.