Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD ~ Creme Brulee

Tuesday with Dorie is here again and Mari of the blog Mevrouw Cupcake chose Creme Brulee; found on page 393 in Dorie Greenspan's cookbook: Baking From My home to Yours. I have always wanted to make creme brulee but learned that using a torch to melt sugar is not that easy. In fact, the recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of sugar sprinkled on top of each creme brulee and this makes a really thick and overly crunchy crust. I figured about a teaspoon and a half was an ample amount of sugar. I can't wait to see other fellow TWD bakers and their brulees to see if anyone else had dark spots on top when taken out of the oven?

The torch was definitely fun to use and I can see using this little torch on meringues in the future. I also can see I need practice. The recipe is simple to make and fast to put together. The biggest part of the recipe is the waiting time for the little creme brulees to chill. Next time, I would like to use only 4 ramekins so there is a deeper spoonful of the custard to scoop from. I didn't deviate from the recipe because I already LOVE vanilla flavor and wanted the original recipe to be my first try.

There are just a few ingredients needed to make this custard. Starting out by bringing heavy cream and whole milk to a boil is easy enough.

Whipping the 3 egg yolks, adding sugar (I used by vanilla bean flavored sugar), and the vanilla. Making sure not to add to much air so there are as few bubbles in the mixture as possible.

I used my gravy grease separator for pouring the liquid custard. By using this cup, very little bubbles on the surface poured into the little ramekin dishes.

I have had these little porcelain ramekins for a while now and finally was able to use them. The first ramekin, I poured the custard from a regular measuring cup and there were bubbles on the surface. After using the other cup, no bubbles.

I was worried about the brown spots on top of the custard. I do not remember ever ordering a creme brulee at a restaurant and seeing anything colored like this.

This one has a thinner crust of sugar but the coloring looks a little rough =).

This one had almost the whole tablespoon of sugar on top and I found the thick, caramelized sugar crust to be too much. Less sugar on top for us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crushed Blackberry Sundae with Toasted Pecans, HomeMade Caramel Sauce, and Whipped Cream

Thinking back, I do not recall ever making my own caramel sauce. I picked the last of our blackberries for this season and wanted to make something special but light. Looking through recipes and ideas, an ice cream sundae with a blackberry sauce sounded really tasty. Bobby Flay did this Blackberry Sundae with HomeMade Caramel Sauce that really sounded unforgettable. In fact, I read this recipe several days ago, along with many others, and this recipe is the only one that I kept thinking about, mainly because of the homemade caramel sauce. A vanilla bean is used in the caramel and the sauce itself sounded easy to make. No crucial timing, no worrying about overcooking, nothing but simplicity.

Today, I finally had the time to give the recipe a try. Besides, I was worried about losing my blackberries since they have been in the refrigerator for 3 days. I also looked for any chance to use my vanilla bean flavored sugar. I sprinkled this sugar on the berries with the Creme de Casis and I sprinkled the sugar on the whipped cream. I absolutely love vanilla bean flavored anything. I know so many other cooks are looking for the brilliant flavor combinations along with color but I really think that the vanilla beans gets overlooked at times. Whats wrong with loving this simple flavor?

The recipe? Simple, easy, and can definitely be used as a showstopping dessert for dinner guests. The flavor really pops with toasted pecans chopped into large pieces, homemade vanilla bean flavored caramel sauce, fresh blackberries, and homemade whipped cream. I believe that frozen blackberries, dethawed, would work just as well.

Crushed Blackberry Sundae with Toasted Pecans, Homemade Caramel Sauces, and Whipped Cream

1 cup pecans
1 quart premium vanilla bean ice cream
Caramel Sauce, recipe follows
Crushed Blackberries, recipe follows
Freshly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread the pecans evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8to 10 minutes. Remove and let cool before coarsely chopping.

Place a scoop of ice cream in a parfait glass and top with caramel sauce, crushed blackberries, and pecans.
Repeat 2 more times and then top with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split in 1/2 lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
Pinch salt

Place the heavy cream and vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the cream from the heat and let sit while making the caramel.

Whisk together the sugar and water in a medium non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Cook until dark golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.Remove the caramel from the heat and immediately add the cream slowly,stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture becomes smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and salt. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

Crushed Blackberries:
2 pints blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cassis liqueur

Combine the blackberries, sugar, and cassis in a medium bowl and stir well. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, use a fork to crush the blackberries.

These sundaes are so worth making again! Delicious =)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pinzgauer Beef For the Freezer

We live around a lot of farms and buying a half or quarter cow to have in the freezer over the winter is such a wonderful feeling. An abundance of hamburger, stew meat, and beef bones for flavorful stocks and soups is at my fingertips. I work with a plumber right now who raises Pinzgauer cows with his neighbor and best friend. Between the two farms in Centralia, WA, they have quite a few acres to raise their herd of cattle. This beef is suppose to be so much better then Black Angus for several reasons. One of which is that the meat is leaner. Less waste to fat when butchered and cooked. The butcher that Paul and Matt, the two cattle farmers/constructions workers, use has been butchering beef for years. In fact, Roger, the butcher, has been butchering beef for Paul and Matt's fathers, when the two were still toddlers. Roger stated that 2 Black Angus steer will fill a 55-gallon drum with waste of fat, etc., when butchering yet ALL 12 head of Pinzgauer beef butchered only filled (2) 55-gallon drums with waste! The meat is lean and tender. Graded at Choice, an excellent quality and marbling. The grades for beef are Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner. Quality grading is voluntary by packer and not all packers choose to grade the meat. Pinzgauer beef have increased wean weights, thrive in all climates, early maturing and disease resistant, with tender lean beef without losing "any" flavor.

The cows were grain fed and went to the Butcher in late August. This is a general time that most beef cattle go to the butcher in the Fall period. The meat was hung for 21 days and then cut into specifications of each person paying for their half or quarter. The butcher, Roger, is a wholesale butcher, not retail. This means he breaks the beef down into specific cuts and only offers "some" specialty cuts. I, of course, have to be a pain in the butt and ask for all the specialty cuts I can get away with, such as Porterhouse steaks, briskets, leftover tender roast after cutting the Porterhouse steak.

An interesting point I learned and want to share is this. My half cow weighed 428 pounds. After butchering and discarding large bones, and waste, the meat I received was around 300 pounds. I paid 3.50 per pound "before" cutting and packing. This is a great price compared to what I pay in the grocery store for my different cuts of beef throughout the year. BUT I had no idea when ordering a half cow ~ a person only receives 3 Porterhouse steaks per cow side. If I order a whole cow, a butcher can only get 6 Porterhouse steaks. The region for this tender and luxurious cut of beef is that small of an area on a cow. I was shocked. Here I am counting all my steaks before I knew the facts. I would like to also add that I printed out a diagram of the cow and all the sections, labeled all the cuts I could receive out of each section and gave an estimation of how much hamburger, stew meat, and soup bones I would get. The whole research and labeling took me about 3 hours. I was told to call the butcher directly. . .and boy did I get a wake-up call. That is when I found out that butchers cutting and packing cows in large numbers for farmers all over the area are wholesale butchers and Roger told me how my cow was going to be cut up, what I could expect for cuts of meat, what did I want for a general weight per roast (4 or 5 pounds each: I choose), did I want soup bones, (I asked for the brisket and Porterhouse: specialty cuts), what grade of hamburger did I want (He listed 2 percentages of fat content), (Oh, I also asked for a rib roast so I was given a choice of how many bones I wanted: 6 or 7) and did I want more steaks then roast? Holy SMOKES! This whole conversation lasted 5 MINUTES TOPS! The man was professional, nice and straight to the point. No holds barred! My little diagram and cuts got to go into a file for "gee, now I know what to look for in the grocery store when I want something to fit a specific recipe". Example, Skirt steaks. . .different then flank steaks. I use this cut quite often. I'm on my own here. Don't get me wrong, I have oodles of all the cuts I did recognize, like rib roasts, cross-cut rib roasts, tri-tip steaks, top-round steaks, tenderloin steaks, cubes steaks, and every roast I could possibly think of. It is just that, well, how many times does a person dissect a whole beef in 5 seconds. . .okay, an exaggeration. Now that I understand Roger AND I now have the beef in my freezer, I feel MUCH better. I didn't try the beef until the third night after receiving it because Larry and I would look at the freezer and go "What do you want to try first? Well, I don't know, what would you like to try first?" Then I would get frustrated and go fix something that we took out of our now organized freezers that became part of the "USE NOW" pile. We ended up BBQ'ing Rib Steaks. Even this was an ordeal for us. You see, I have a huge barrel BBQ'er for charcoal and smoking that is MINE and Larry has a HUGE gas grill with this fancy shmancy searer and there was a discussion on WHO was going to be the BBQ'er of choice for the first go around. Well, since I sneakily ordered this half cow and "then" told Larry after I committed us. . .I got caught up in the moment. . .I couldn't help myself. . .I LOVE a filled freezer because I feel like I am taking care of my family, and I had promised to work all the overtime I was given and that I could handle. . .hence my working 6 days a week, 10 hours a day for the last 2 months, (except for when we took off a week for San Francisco, which the overtime also helped on), I got to grill the first steaks!

I didn't put anything on the steaks except pepper and a little red pepper flakes. Salt goes on later because I feel salt pulls out to much moisture from the meat while cooking. After BBQ'ing to a medium rare, I let the steaks sit for 10 minutes to let the juice absorb back into the meat. The steaks were huge and the flavor was great! I was worried over all the talk about how lean the meat was and if I would loose out on flavor. . .you know, less fat content maybe less flavor? Well, restaurant quality flavor! Very good!

New problem: I organized the freezer, cataloged all the cuts of beef, and now I don't want to use them yet because I am still on my "high" for having a full freezer. I start using the beef, the freezer just won't be as full. I know, silly. . .but do you have any idea of what I went through inside (guilt wise) trying to get this beef? Yeesh! This next weekend, I am getting the "whole" weekend off. All 2 days!
P.S. I haven't defrosted my freezer yet. . .it was after work when I organized my freezer and I was already tired. Please forgive the ice built-up. . .I am a little embaressed! =)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chile Glazed Chicken Hoagies with Slaw

I have been cleaning my freezer out because we just purchased half a cow, all nicely wrapped pieces of meat, labeled, and ready for the freezer. I took everything out of my freezer, organized all the contents, took out what was getting to look a little old, cataloged everything on a list to be posted in the kitchen, and put everything back. What a great feeling and I have to say a first for me! I am hoping to get the whole beef story and pictures up this weekend; I also need the reference so there is a starting point to make notes for what I do and don't like this time around. The feeling of having a stocked freezer is very heady. I feel "almost" ready to go out and buy a whole farm. . .except hubby might have a slight heart failure over this idea =D.

Anyhoo, we ended up with a small pile of meat that really needs to get used up. Frozen chicken breasts are included in my pile of need to use "but" I don't want to just cook anything to use all this meat up. (All this meat includes 3 black Angus ribeye steaks; half a bag of Costco frozen, skinless, boneless chicken breasts reserved for when I was going to make all these chicken sandwiches ahead of time for lunches; ready made dinners I forgot about, like split pea soup, homemade pork and beans, and a chili rotini; a half bag of frozen shrimp; and some odd-and-ends pieces of chicken.) I decided I was making Mexican chile glazed chicken breast hoagie sandwiches. I found the recipe in a Bon Appetit magazine for last month and the meal takes about 45 minutes to make. I can handle that.

The sandwich is absolutely delicious. I would hold back on using quite so much chile sauce on the chicken breasts next time "or" use a little less pickled and sliced jalapenos. Yep, I said pickled jalapenos. This is a first for me and I loved them in the coleslaw. There is no pickled flavor that could be tasted. Just great crunch and a little heat. Awesome football Sunday food!

Chicken Hoagies with Chiles, Cheese, and Romaine Slaw

4 large dried New Mexico chilies, stemmed and seeded
5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
3 cups thinly sliced romaine hearts
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion "or" red onion
1 7-ounce can or jar of pickled sliced jalapenos, drained, 1/4 cup juice reserved
4 6- to 7- inch-long French baguettes or what ever hoagie rolls you prefer
8 ounces feta cheese. . .The cheese totally makes this sandwich too. . .YUM!


Place New Mexico chiles in a medium saucepan; add enough water to cover generously and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain; reserve cooking liquid. Place chiles in process; add 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid and 4 tablespoons oil and puree until smooth. (This takes a little bit of doing). Transfer chile sauce to bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Reserve 6 Tablespoons chile sauce for sandwiches. Brush remaining sauce all over chicken; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes per side. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then slice thinly crosswise.

Mix lettuce, onion, and jalapenos in medium bowl; add 1/4 cup reserved jalapeno juice to slaw and toss. Spread reserved chile sauce over cut sides of bread. Top bottom halves with chicken, then cheese, then some slaw. Cover with top halves of bread and serve with remaining slaw alongside hoagie.

Chicken breasts waiting to be fried up with the chile glaze spread on them. Salt and pepper have also been sprinkled over all.

Up close look before cooking. You can see the pretty chile pepper red coloring.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Barefoot Contessa Thursday ~ Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

It's Barefoot Contessa Thursday and we made a rich and creamy mushroom soup. I was worried the soup would taste like a basic mushroom soup indistinguishable from something coming from a soup can "but", Boy, I must have been on another planet for even considering this! We made our own stock for the base of this soup. How cool is that? The flavor is incredible and the mushrooms with leeks, cream, and a good share of chopped, flat leaf parsley were fabulous. I did forget my loaf of crusty French bread. That part was a bummer. I wish I had made this soup over the weekend because there were several steps that required time for simmering. The recipe took about 2 hours, start to finish. After getting home at 6 p.m. from work, dinner was late but the soup was well worth the wait. Thank you Chelle with the blog Brown Eyed Baker for picking this recipe out for us. Great choice!

The recipe for this wonderful mushroom soup was posted on the Food Network website and I am also posting the recipe here because I want a quick reference so as to make this again very soon. What a great way to start the Fall season!

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
by Barefoot Contessa

5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
5 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms
5 ounces fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

The stock's aroma smelled absolutely delicious! In fact, the rewarding feeling of knowing I had just made my own stock from scratch for this soup was pretty great too!

I love Riesling wines so I went with a flavor I would know.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday with Dorie. . .with Dimply Plum Cake

Michelle, thank you for choosing the Dimply Plum Cake out of Dorie Greenspan's cookbook (Baking from my home to yours) on page 41. Michelle, with our group Tuesday with Dorie, has a blog called Bake-en,
and you have just got to go see her dimply plum cake. She even put a glaze on hers and the cake looks bakery fabulous! Great job Michelle!

The plums available to me at the grocery store were gigantic and not overly ripe. I could only fit 2 1/2 plum halves across the batter. In fact, the cake never cooked all the way in the center. I know if the plums had been a lot smaller and a little more ripe, the cake would have been loved by all. As it is, the only part fully baked was the outside edges and the whole top. Underneath was gooey, even after I added on 15 more minutes. The top started to get to dried out so I just gave up. I would like to try this again but use peaches. The overall flavor from the part that is done was tasty =).

The batter definitely looked silky smooth. I didn't veer from the recipe at all. . .which is unusual for me.

My plums are HUGE and not overly ripe. I loved how the batter looked squished between the fruit.

A closer look at my mammoth plums.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Best Raspberry Bars

I have this recipe for raspberry bars that a person just can not keep fingers out of. The toasty struesel filled with old fashioned oats, crushed pecans, and brown sugar, to name a few of the ingredients, closely hugs seedless raspberry preserves mixed with ruby red, fresh raspberries. Soooo good!
Easy and fast to bake is another great asset to this recipe.
Frozen raspberries can be substituted for fresh, but you are using fresh raspberry, check for tartness. If the fresh raspberries are too tart, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to the filling. These bars are fabulous eaten the first day but can be stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container or with Saran wrap over the dish. I am telling you from experience ~ the bars do "not" last that long. Comfort food at its best and pretty to boot =).
The Best Raspberry Struesel Bars
2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (I am totally hooked on unbleached flour now)
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. salt
16 Tablespoons (2 sticks) plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened to a cool room temperature ~ you do not want overly mushy butter.
1/4 c. packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. pecans, chopped fine
3/4 c. raspberry preserves (I prefer seedless)
3/4 c. fresh raspberries (Frozen can be used; just make sure they are thawed all the way first)
1 Tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
Adjust the oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut an 18-inch length foil and and fit into length of 13 x 9-inch baking dish, pushing into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length of foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner.
Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, granulated sugar, and salt at low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine on low, add 16 tablespoons butter, 1 piece at a time; then continue mixing on low until mixture resembles damp sand, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer.
Measure 1 1/4 cups flour mixture into medium bowl and set aside; distribute remaining flour mixture evenly in bottom of prepared baking pan. Using hands or flat-bottomed measuring cup, press mixture into even layer to form bottom crust. Bake until edges begin to brown, 14 to 18 minutes.
While crust is baking, add brown sugar, oats and nuts to reserved flour mixture; toss to combine. Work in remaining 2 Tablespoons butter by rubbing mixture between fingers until butter is fully incorporated. Pinch mixture with fingers to create hazelnut-sized clumps; set streusel aside.
Combine preserves, raspberries, and lemon juice in small bowl; mash with fork until combined but some berry pieces remain.
Spread filling evenly over hot crust; sprinkle streusel topping evenly over filling. Return pan to oven and bake until topping is deep golden brown and fill in bubbling, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature on wire rack, 1 to 2 hours; remove from baking pan by lifting foil extensions. Cut into squares and nibble away. . .so good!