Friday, January 29, 2010

Intense Lasagna

I forgot the photo showing a thick slice of this gorgeous lasagna with a ladled scoop of Grandma's sauce over the top, sprinkled with freshly grated Parmigiana and chopped parsley and basil. If taste buds could sing a thousand pictures!

This lasagna contains a mix on Bobby Flay's Bolognese Sauce, Ricotta Mixture, Grandma's Tomato Sauce, Bobby Flay's Mornay Sauce and Assembly Instructions. Takes about 3 hours total, including cooking the bolognese in the oven but once you sink your teeth into this heavenly lasagna, the time will mean nothing.

How many of us continue making the same ingredient combinations for certain comfort food dishes? Lasagna being one of those essential family comfort foods. I use too. Then I hooked up with a friend whose family is from Italy and my thinking on all things pasta changed. So happy to finally look outside the box for what I thought was everyday cooking. It was Not. My Mom use to cook what my parents were able to afford for a large family and she is my biggest influence for cooking today.
The Intense Lasagna has everything to do with layers BUT not piling the same layers over-and-over. Each layer is important on its' own. You will have multi cheese layers in a sauce form but your ricotta cheese layer will be 1 layer and your Bolognese sauce meat layer will also be 1 layer in this lasagna.
Intense Lasagna
Bolognese Sauce:
4 T. olive oil
2 ham hocks, preferably smoked
1 to 1 1/2 pounds bone-in beef rump roast
1 pound pancetta, diced
fresh ground black pepper
salt
1 1/2 c. finely diced sweet or yellow onion
1/2 c. finely diced carrot
1/2 c. finely diced celery
6 whole garlic cloves
1 c. dry red wine
3 cups homemade beef stock
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes and their juices
3 fresh sprigs rosemary
4 fresh sprigs thyme
5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 c. tomato sauce, recipe follows
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Chopped fresh basil leaves
Ricotta Mixture:
3 c. ricotta, strained in a cheesecloth lined strainer for at least 4 hours
2 large eggs
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 T. chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Grandma's Tomato Sauce
7 cans (16-oz) Tomato sauce, preferably Hunts
1 can Tomato paste, again Hunts preferable
2 cans 912-oz) Diced tomatoes
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiana cheese
3 T. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh Parsley chopped finely
1/3 cup fresh basil chopped finely
1 medium sweet onion finely chopped
2 celery stalks cleaned
1 whole carrot just peeled and cleaned
1 T. dried Oregano
2 Bay leaves, whole and dried
Mornay Sauce
2 T. unsalted butter
3 T. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole milk, heated
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 c. fontina cheese
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmigiana cheese
Assembly:
2 T. unsalted butter
Mornay Sauce
1 pound lasagna noodles, (cooked in boiling, salted water until slightly under al dente, about 5 minutes)
Ricotta Mixture
Grated Parmigiana cheese
Fresh Basil Leaves
Bolognese Sauce
Directions:
For the Bolognese Sauce:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the ham hocks and beef rump roast with salt and pepper, place in the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.
Remove the shanks to a plate. Remove fat from the pan. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook until golden brown. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.
Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the pan and cook until soft and lightly golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the red wine, scrape the bottom of the pan and cook until completely reduced. Add the beef stock, diced tomatoes thyme, rosemary and parsley and bring to a simmer. Add the ham hocks and 1/2 of the pancetta back to the pan, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 2 hours.
Remove the ham hocks to a cutting board and when cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl.
Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl. Place 3 cups of the cooking liquid into a large high-sided saute pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the liquid is reduced to about 1 c. Add the shredded meat and the remaining cooked pancetta to the pan along with 1 cup of the tomato sauce, parsley and basil and stir to combine and just heat through.
For the Ricotta Mixture:
Stir together the ricotta, eggs, parsley, basil, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to meld.
Directions for Grandma's Tomato Sauce:
Use a large pot. Heat olive oil on medium-low heat. Put garlic and onion in oil and heat until it is tender. Put parsley, basil, oregano and bay leaves in and continue to heat for 3 minutes.
Open all cans of tomato products, add in sauce pot. Raise heat to medium-high. Make sure to occasionally stir sauce. Cook and stir sauce until hot. Once sauce is hot, lower heat to a simmer.
Add celery stalk and whole carrot in sauce, continue to simmer 15 minutes.
Add 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiana cheese to sauce, continue to simmer 15 minutes.
Remove carrot and celery, cover sauce, continue to simmer. Make sure to occasionally stir sauce.
For the Mornay Sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and let cook for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in 3 cups of the hot milk and continue whisking until the sauce is thickened and loses its' raw flavor, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season the sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Whisk in the cheeses. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in some more milk.
For Assembly:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Ladle a thin layer of mornay evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top of the Mornay sauce and top the pasta with the ricotta mixture and spread evenly.
Spread a thin layer of Mornay over the ricotta, sprinkle with a few Tablespoons of Parmesan and some basil leaves. Top with another layer of pasta and spread the meat mixture evenly over the top.Ladle an even layer of Mornay over the Bolognese mixture, sprinkle with a few Tablespoons of Parmesan and some basil leaves. Place the final layer of pasta dough over the meat mixture and ladle the Mornay sauce over the top to completely cover the pasta and sprinkle with 3 Tablespoons of Parmesan.
Place the pan on a baking sheet and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees, remove the foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown and the filling bubbling, about 25 to 35 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before cutting.
CUT into slices and top with some of the tomato sauce, more grated cheese, chopped parsley and basil.
**NOTE**: Remaking this week and will add final picture then =)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TWD; Choco-Nana Bread

TWD and Chocolate banana bread, hhmm, interesting flavor combination. I read the recipe several times before starting because each flavor is a solid background taste. Now combine them. I really did not know what to think. When in doubt, make little servings. I did make the whole recipe BUT I baked in small serving sizes: Mini-loaves and muffins. Easy to freeze because we are trying to cut down on goodies lying about; you know, the kind easy to snag on the way to where ever one of us is going.

Steph of Obsessed with Baking chose this week's recipe and I am proud of her for going out on a limb and picking a controversial taste twist for our Tuesday blogging social. At first taste, no one in our home could say if the bread was liked or not. The bread had a wonderful texture and aroma with a deep, dark chocolate color. After a further nibbling review, we did like it but not as a family favorite.

The recipe went together quickly and now we know what the two flavors together creates; banana-ie chocolate. Maybe if I had added crushed pecans or something. I think this recipe needs to be examined from the eyes of each TWD baker to see how the recipe was accepted and/or altered. I am so curious!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

SMS ~ Black Bottom Brownies; So Good!

Cynthia of Baking Therapist picked this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe: Black Bottom Brownies. Cynthia, I thought I was brownie'd out! I have made 3 different batches of brownies in the last week BUT these brownies were even better then my last batch. My last batch is the post after this one with Reese's peanut butter cups. Need I say more? The Black Bottom Brownies are Divine, delicious, wonderful and worried. Worried because I followed Melissa's freezing directions and put over half of the batch in Saran wrap, then aluminum foil, then in a gallon size Ziploc bag. I am hoping the brownies will defrost and taste just as great later; meaning as a dessert with dinner guests.
I took a major finger swipe of chocolate batter, you know, to make sure the batter was tasty; it was.Aluminum foil lined my 9 x 13 pan; a huge no-no in my mind because what if a piece of aluminum gets cut in with the brownie and someone actually eats it? Have you ever gotten a piece of aluminum in your mouth? Usually you know immediately. Major chills! Parchment paper is hard to get squished down into the baking dish and I didn't want the grief SO I took the aluminum foil chance.
Alarmed at how FULL the 9 x 13 baking dish was!
Just like science class. Something cool happens and everyone has to stop and see IMMEDIATELY; followed by a lot of squealing for joy over this wondrous site. I knew the cheesecake was going to puff up but this is crazy.
The sinkage. Still feeling like a kid in the kitchen, a little deflated in excitement but curious.
Peeling the aluminum foil away and seeing the layers; whipping the camera out for more pictures. Poke, poke, crap I put a side-finger indent in the top edge and now the indent is in my picture.Cutting, not beautiful cuts but hurried, I can't believe how cool this looks, cutting. Everybody has to come Back into the kitchen to see.Ugh! More sugar, tons of brownies everywhere, running out of freezer bags, taking brownies to the gym BUT I saved 4 brownies for ME and a half-dozen squares for everyone else. The rest are frozen. I have only eaten one so far and the brownie was heaven. Thank you Cynthia for such a wonderful choice.
To see the rest of the SMS bakers yummy brownies, just click here and to get the recipe, click on Cynthia to go to her site or to see her gorgeous brownies.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reese's Chocolate Peanutbutter Cream Cheese Brownies with White Chocolate Frosting

The brownies are chalk full of peanut butter and chocolate flavor. Not the prettiest brownie I have cut but the taste is decadent! LOVE those Reese's Peanut butter Cups!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Base
4 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
1 c. butter
2 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 T. pure vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 Reese's Peanut butter Cups, chopped into lrg. chunks

Peanut Butter Filling and Topping:
1 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter, crunchy
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups chopped into lrg. chunks

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt unsweetened chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water (not boiling).
Remove from heat.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in sugar until mixed well.
Add eggs, vanilla and salt and beat well.
Fold in flour and mix just until smooth.
Mix in Reese's Peanut butter cup chunks.
Pour into prepared 13x9 in. pan. (Prepared=pan buttered)
Set aside.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Topping:
Whip cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
Add egg, vanilla and flour and beat well.
Place spoonfuls of peanut butter cream cheese batter on top of brownies.
Using a butter knife, swirl two layers together in a marbled pattern.
Sprinkle remaining 4 Reese's peanut butter cup chunks on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until cream cheese is lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean.
Cool and frost with White Chocolate Frosting.

White Chocolate Frosting:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. cream cheese, softened
1 c. chopped white chocolate or use white chocolate chips
1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 Reese's Peanut butter cups, cut into triangle chunks

Directions:
Melt and cool white chocolate, set aside.
Beat butter and cream cheese until creamy.
Add melted chocolate and beat until fluffy.
Slowly add powdered sugar until mixed through.
Frost cooled brownies and sprinkle with Reese's Peanut butter chunks.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Julia Child and I Make Stock and Cream of Sorrel Soup

Days Left: 253
Recipes to Go: 575
Julia Child (Volume I ~ Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

Cream of Sorrel Soup - p. 42
White Poultry Stock - p. 109
Brown Stock - p. 110

I am fighting Julia's soup section. Sorrel became the new dilemma. Googling sorrel, I found out the herb is used quite often in Europe and has a mildly tart flavor to it. Jamaica is known to use sorrel also. Sorrel leaves do not look unique in any way; the color of grass maybe. Kind of like a dandelion leaf without the ridges. How is that for a description? A cooking friend on Facebook said she can get sorrel juice in the South and Southerners actually use the sorrel juice for mixed drinks; usually mixed with Vodka or Rum. I am making no plans to travel South and try one.
So here we are with our sorrel, found at the local Fred Meyers in small herb packages. Thank goodness the packages were only .99 each.

Julia said to cut the leaves up in thin slices; chiffonade the leaves.
Cook 1/3 cup of minced onions with 3 T. butter slowly in a covered saucepan for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender and translucent but not browned.

Stir in 3 to 4 packed cups of fresh and thinly cut sorrel leaves with 1/2 t. salt, cover, and cook slowly for about 5 minutes or until the leaves are tender and wilted.
Sprinkle in 3 T. flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.
Off heat, beat in 5 1/2 cups boiling white stock (poultry). Simmer for 5 minutes.
Blend 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup heavy cream in a 3-quart mixing bowl. Beat a cupful of hot soup into them by driplets. Gradually beat in the rest of the soup in a thin stream.
Return soup to saucepan and stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to poach the egg yolks, but do not bring the soup to the simmer. Off heat, stir in the enrichment butter a tablespoon at a time.
The mild tart flavor caught me off guard on the first bite; I have no idea why since I read sorrel was slightly tart. After the initial bite, I really enjoyed the soup. Surprise, surprise.

For the Beef and white poultry stock, I will let you get the recipe from Julia's Volume I of her Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook. I feel terrible sitting her typing out Julia's recipes but I want to show how interesting Julia's techniques are and just how much I have already learned following her detailed instructions. The woman is simply Amazing!
The Brown Stock:
We bought half a cow several months back and soup bones were included with all the meat cuts so I was ready for this recipe. Julia asks for 3 pounds of beef shank meat (around the feet) and 3 to 4 pounds of cracked beef and veal bones. I used all beef because we have the worst time finding veal. Really, I have been searching for several months in the Seattle/Tacoma area. I had better find some soon because there are plenty of veal recipes coming up.
We have all this meat and bones with carrots and onions tossed in, set in the oven at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. You flip the meat half way through.
The roasted beef smells delicious now.
Put all pan contents in a huge kettle (mine is about 10-quart) along with herbs, celery sticks and salt. Cover everything with cold water by about 2 inches and simmer for 4 to 5 hours. I ended up with 5 quarts of brown stock.
White Poultry Stock:
White poultry stock uses a whole or parts of a stewing hen along with vegetables and herbs. The same herbs as for the brown stock, consisting of 1/4 t. thyme, 1 bay leaf, 6 parsley sprigs, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves and 2 whole cloves all wrapped in a piece of cheeseclothe; tied at the top. You cover all contents in stock pot by about 2 inches of water and simmer for about 4 hours. The chicken can be removed several hours into the simmering (when the meat is tender) to use the chicken meat for a dinner dish.
I skim the gooky stuff off the surface while the stock is simmering. When the stock is done, a large bowl of ice is waiting with another large bowl sitting on top of the ice. This is what the strained white brown pours in to for quick cooling. The cooled stock is then put into the refrigerator. The grease will gel at the surface and you can just peel or scoop the gunk off before measuring and putting into freezer bags. That simple!
I made around 4 quarts of chicken stock.

I fought making stock for several weeks. Now the stock is made, what the heck was the problem? Stock practically cooks itself =)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TWD ~ Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars was chosen by Lillian of Confectiona's Realm for this week's TWD. Dorie Greenspan's recipe is a delicious mixture of oatmeal, chocolate and crushed peanuts with a crunchy/chewy texture.The recipe also makes a 9 x 13 baking dish amount of thick bars, needing to be sliced in smaller pieces so the bar actually fits in your mouth.
I ended up with 2 Gallon size Ziploc bags full of Dorie's bars. The great part is the bars can be frozen and taken out, a few at a time, to be eaten in the next several months. The melted chocolate, crushed nuts and raisins do look yummy.
The oatmeal mixture on the bottom was nibbled on too before adding the chocolate layer.
Dorie's Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bar was nibbled on but I think being able to freeze the bars was a conscience relief because our home is still on a sweets cool-down. The bars seem to taste a little more like a granola bar then a candy bar to me; which I liked but was not expecting. I shouldn't have looked at the picture just before this recipe before tasting. The picture looked like ice cream sandwiched between 2 cookie layers and between the previous picture and the title to this recipe, my brain made its own assumption before trying, hence ~ Granola bar. Thank you Lillian for choosing this week's recipe. To get the recipe, you can go to Lillian's site and to see how the rest of the TWD bakers did, you can you here =) for the baker list.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

SMS - Lemon Walnut-Sour Cream Pound Cake

I thought my lemon pound cake was the best ever until Melissa's Lemon Walnut-Sour Cream Pound Cake recipe was chosen for this week's SMS. How do you describe perfection? Moist, sweet, tart, wonderful lemony aroma, dense and shiny (the lemon glaze adds a shiny outer surface). The lemon pound cake was sliced into thick pieces then cut in half to be arranged on plates. The slices did not make the plates =).
Raeann of Basically, Baby Boots chose this delicious recipe and a big thank you goes out to her and Melissa.

I did use pecans instead of walnuts (what was on hand) but the rest of the ingredients were followed per recipe. Half of the slices were boxed up and sent UPS to my Mother-in-law in Chicago. I am hoping the package gets to her home before the cake loses any moistness.

I think those of us who love to bake understand the necessity of fresh ingredients. We develop an appreciation for flavor and know when we taste the difference from taking a short-cut.
The lemon pound cake whipped together, filling the mixing bowl full of fluffy batter.

My lemon bread pan enhanced the outer surface to get darker then I would have preferred. Melissa's lemon glaze added an extra sweet/tart lemon flavor, putting this pound cake over the top. So Good!
Sharing was a must or I would have nibbled half of the loaf all by myself. Thank you Raeann for choosing a recipe that will forever be a part of my treasured recipes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake Brownies With Nutella Frosting And Pecans and Nutella Crisps With Caramel Surprise


Delicious but not bowl-you-over sweet. The cheesecake addition cuts the sweetness down. I am grabbing ingredients out of my pantry and using them up to gain more space. What a great way to go! =o)
Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake Brownies With Nutella Frosting And Pecans
4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate (Bakers is good)
1 c. butter
2 1/2 c. sugar... See More
4 eggs
1 T. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour

CHEESECAKE Ingredients:
1 (8-oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 lrg egg
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. all-purpose flour

Frosting:
1/2 of a 13-oz jar Nutella (stir oils up before spreading)
1/2 c. toasted and crushed pecans


Directions for Brownie Base:
Preheat oven to 350.
Melt Unsweeted chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water.
Take mixture off heat and stir in sugar until well mixed.
Add eggs, vanilla and salt and beat well.
Fold in flour and mix just until smooth.
Pour into prepared pan and set aside.

CHEESECAKE Directions:
Beat cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl.
Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Add flour; mix until just blended.
Place spoonfuls of cream cheese batter on brownies. Swirl cream cheese mixture into brownie base mixture, using a butter knife.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick or knive inserted in center comes out clean. NOW, while brownies are still warm BUT not hot; spread on the Nutella like a frosting And spread your crushed pecans overall. YUMMY! I chill mine in the refrigerator before cutting

Trying to finish up my jar of Nutella, started making this recipe and found out I had to open up a second jar of Nutella because I didn't have enough left over from the brownie recipe. I think my eye is twitching because I STILL have leftover Nutella.

Nutella Crisps With Caramel Surprise
1 1/2 c. unsalted butter - softened
1 1/4 c. Nutella
1 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. brown sugar - packed
4 eggs
4 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
10 oz box Milk Duds
1/2 c. granulated sugar for coating

Directions:
Cream together butter, Nutella, granulated and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to the butter and sugar mixture. Cover dough and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350.
Use Tablespoon of dough and make a ball. Insert a Milk Dud into center. Roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; bake for 9 to 10 minutes.
Refrigerate dough between baking periods or the dough will get to sticky to work with. Do NOT overbake. You want soft and chewy cookies.