11.27.2009

Shrimp Remoulade

Christmas Eve never got officially underway in our family until my mother arrived with her Shrimp Remoulade. I think everyone wished we could have it on other holidays as well, but it was understood, if unspoken, we'd only have it Christmas Eve. Mother served the remoulade in a particularly hideous plastic clam shell. It was huge. God it was a frightful thing......can't imagine where she got it. Anyway, when Mother got older and cooking anything at all got beyond her (it happens) I took over the responsibility. And although the clam shell was passed on to me, it mysteriously disappeared.

I don't make the remoulade as often as I used to which is strange because my boys especially love it. This year though, they are going to be surprised: we are going to a friend's home for Christmas Eve and the hostess is going to make it. Mother's recipe was included in a family cookbook I did a couple years ago and she has a copy.

Because I made the remoulade for a cocktail party last week, I took photos as I went along (The blogger's ongoing obsession with photos!) so I could eventually post it. It's always a big hit and while I suppose you could eat it right away, it really needs to sit in the fridge for 24 hours so the flavors can meld. We never serve it with crackers, just some pretty party picks placed nearby.

Mother's Shrimp Remoulade




Ingredients:

3 pounds cooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 1/4 cups salad oil

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons red hot pepper sauce
2 chopped hard boiled eggs, chopped fine
1 cup celery, small dice
1/4 cup parsley, minced
2 tablespoons scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon green pepper, small dice

Method:

Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, paprika and hot pepper sauce in a bowl. Whisk briskly and then add remaining ingredients.



Add shrimp. Mix well. 


Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir often. We never served this with crackers, just had some pretty toothpicks alongside.

11.20.2009

Ina's Pumpkin Mousse

Still need something for Thanksgiving dessert?

Well you might want to mull this one over. Ina Garten has a bunch of pumpkin mousse recipes in her repertoire. Some have a banana in it, some dark rum, some are made with a graham cracker crust. I prefer the one with dark rum. Quelle surprise.

You make it a day (or two) before Thanksgiving and stick it in the fridge. And flavorful? Oh yes. No last minute fussing on Thanksgiving day either. You just stick a whole gingersnap in the top and serve. Only takes about 15 minutes to make too. Can't beat that. And you can really play around with nice glasses to serve it in. I like the wine glass best (although I filled it too full). I've also made it in small ice tea glasses, highball glasses and once in some pretty glass bowls. Ya gotta have glass so you can see the layers.

If you can't use it this year, copy it and save it for next year. I have a whole file like that!
 
Pumpkin Mousse
(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home)
 
 
Ingredients:
 
1/4 cup dark rum
1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin powder
1  15 ounce can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
2 extra-large egg yolks
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 chopped gingersnaps
8-10 whole gingersnaps

1 1/2 cups whipping cream, whipped and sweetened lightly

Method:

Place the rum in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set aside for 10 minutes or so.
In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Melt the gelatin over hot water until it is clear. Immediately whisk the gelatin into the pumpkin mixture.
Whip the heavy cream with the vanilla until soft peaks form. Mix into the pumpkin mixture.
In another bowl, whip the last 1 1/2 cups whipping cream and sweeten it with sugar slightly.

To assemble: spoon some of the pumpkin mixture into glasses. Add a layer of whipped cream, some broken gingersnaps and repeat the layers, ending with a layer of pumpkin. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.


Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
To serve, place a whole gingersnap into whipped cream.
Serves 8-10 depending on glass size.

11.17.2009

Port Wine Gelée

Years ago when we lived in Michigan we went to a dinner party hosted by Peter, a bachelor friend. It's been a while, but what's remained in my memory is the excellence of the meal. Not one of us had a clue our old friend was such a talented chef. We were served a perfectly dressed tossed salad, individual filet mignons, a lovely spoon bread and Port Wine Gelée for dessert. And he did all the cooking, no help. Very impressive. Who knew? After all, he could have taken the easy way out and done his entertaining at a restaurant; most single guys did back then...we were a pretty big group.

Of course I just had to have the spoonbread and gelée recipes. Wasn't easy. Peter didn't want to part with the gelée recipe... turned out it was a very old family recipe, handed down from his grandmother. In the end he relented - I pestered him unmercifully. He had get an OK from his mother and sister too. There are lots of recipes that use port wine, but I've never found one like this.

For some reason it's very much a recipe for the holidays. Special. Festive. Unusual. Light. It seems to me that Christmas would be the ideal time to try this. You have to make it ahead - just whip the cream at the last minute. It serves a lot of people and your biggest problem will be finding a pretty tray on which to unmold it and some lovely fruit for decorating or perhaps even some holly. I used the biggest (unfortunately also the most boring) mold I own. Why I have never purchased a prettier one I can't imagine.

A couple times I have cut the recipe in half when I didn't need quite so much. At a guess I would say this recipe easily serves 12-16 people.

Peter's Port Wine Gelée




Ingredients:

5 envelopes Knox gelatin (approximately 12 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 lemons, rinds and juice
1 orange, rind and juice
4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
2 cups good quality tawny port wine
2 jiggers whiskey
2 oranges, sections only
4 grapefruit, sections only
1 bunch of any small seedless grapes, halved
1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups whipping cream, whipped and lighly sweetened
candied ginger cut in bits, to taste

Method:

Soften the gelatin in the 1 1/2 cups of cold water for 5 minutes. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Sliver the rinds of the lemons and orange, add to the boiling water along with juices, cinnamon, gelatin mixture and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat, let the mixture steep for 5 minutes. Strain and then add the wine and whiskey. Set this mixture aside to cool to room temperature and then place it in the refrigerator. You want it to begin to get thick. If you add the fruit when it is thin, the fruit will sink to the bottom.


Section the 2 oranges and the 4 grapefruit. Halve the grapes. When the port wine mixture is very thick and syrupy, add the fruit sections, grapes and almonds. Pour into your favorite mold and refrigerate overnight.

Whip the cream, add a little sugar and then dice some candied ginger into the whipped cream. Unmold the gelée, surround it with fruit or holly and serve with the whipped cream.

11.13.2009

Cookies For Christmas



♪♪ I'ts beginning to look a lot like Christmas....♪♪




I couldn't resist making these this week....I've been saving the recipe since last year. Such fun. Even unfrosted the chocolate cookies are delicious. Boring looking, but really good. I wasn't certain about the peppermint extract- worried about the amount and that it might be too strong a flavor for the cookies- but it wasn't. Very mild and just the right touch. (Frankly, leaving enough cookies to dip in the white chocolate will be your main problem!)

Are you thinking Girl Scout Mint Cookies here?


So. I thought it might be clever to arrange the cookies and candy the way it was done in the magazine photo. Never had so much fun alone in the kitchen. Choked. Up. With. Laughter. First: take a hammer to the candies. Then: trying to balance uneven peppermint candies in a tall pile is a simply absurd idea. There was even supposed to be one standing upright on top of the tall pile of candies (which in my photo resembles the leaning tower of Pisa). Cute idea to balance the candy on top, but it won't work. Short of using super glue anyway. The pile fell a dozen times before I finally threw in the towel. No doubt the magazine hot-glue-gunned it all together. In the end I licked 'em and hoped they'd stick together. So you are seeing the real thing here- no glue, all imperfections of the amateur (understatement of the week) food designer showing. It was still fun.
The contortions we go through to get decent photos!

Now for a couple practical notes: You can melt your chocolate in the microwave. Carefully. In 20 second increments, stirring after each 20 seconds. Stop before it is completely melted and stir until it's all melted. Then spoon the chocolate over the cookies while they are on a rack...forget the dipping by hand experience. Messy. You may need to give it a quick zap to reheat your chocolate a couple times to keep it as thin as possible-which isn't easy with white chocolate. No real need to cover the bottom of the cookie with the chocolate anyway unless you are an extreme chocoholic OR taking a photograph.


Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, December 2008)


Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour plus more for surface
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
8 large candy canes or 30 peppermint candies, crushed
2 pounds white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Method:

Preheat oven to 325°. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer for 1 minute. Add egg, then yolk, beating well after each addition. Beat in peppermint extract. Slowly add flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Mold dough into 1 large disk and cut in half. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour (or up to two days).
Roll out 1 disk on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Use a 2" cookie cutter to cut out circles and place them on parchment paper. Freeze until firm, at least 15 minutes.
Repeat with remaining disk.




Bake until cookies are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer parchment, with cookies, to wire racks and allow to cool. Try not to eat all the cookies at this point. (Undecorated cookies will keep up to 3 days, covered.)

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water. Remove from heat and dunk cookies into the melted chocoate. Turn cookies using a fork; let excess drip off and gently scrape the bottom of the cookies against the edge of the bowl. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the crushed candy.


Refrigerate until set, up to 3 hours. Decorated cookies are best served the same day.

11.10.2009

Little Pockets of Squash

This looks complicated.
Totally not.
All you need is a bit of time and then you can freeze these babies and use them whenever you want.

Here's the thing:
When I look at a butternut squash (or any large squash for that matter) I'm dead certain I'm going to chop off a finger while cutting it in half. It wouldn't be the first time I cut myself badly in the kitchen, but let's not discuss that. (shiver) Then one day I read  about a safe method for cutting any large squash in half. You get a nice long, sharp knife and a hammer. That's what I said: a hammer. Set the knife where you want to cut the squash, hold on to the handle of the knife with your left hand and tap the knife firmly with the hammer along its length until it works on through the squash. Try it, it works like a charm. On any squash. No appendages lost. No ER.

These squash pockets are another of Giada ("The Rack") De Laurentis's recipes but I changed a few things. I'm at a loss to explain why she added amaretti cookies to the filling- not my taste at all. Texture? A touch of sweet? Sometimes I think Giada adds something "Italian" merely to make the recipe different without much thought to flavor. It doesn't always work. I've seen her do it several times and without even tasting it I thought to myself: she just ruined that recipe.

My opinion.

Anyway-I put some dried sage in for more flavor. I think this dish is better as a savory- not a sweet. And while I like acorn squash with brown sugar this seems better with just the dried fruit and nuts to give it a touch of sweetness. As for the brown butter sauce, if you put the fruit and nuts in when she says to, you end up with tasteless dark brown pebbles. So I browned the butter, then added the sage, nuts and fruit at the end.

As for the scrumptious filling, I scarfed down the leftovers for dinner. 

Butternut Squash Tortellini in Brown Butter Sauce
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian)


Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds, peeled, cubed (about 3 cups)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
4 small amaretti cookies, crushed (I omitted these, add if you like)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package small wonton wrappers

For the Brown Butter Sauce:
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)

2 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (I used pecans)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or chopped dried cherries, or mixture of both
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375°. On a foil-lined baking sheet toss together the butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven until soft and golden, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots and garlic until lightly golden, about 3 minutes.


In a food processor, combine the butternut squash mixture, the shallot mixture, and the ricotta cheese and pulse a few times to blend. Add the crushed amaretti cookies (which I omitted and instead added 1/2 teaspoon dried sage), the nutmeg, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until smooth. The tortellini filling can be made one day ahead.

To make the tortellini, lay out 6 wonton skins, (I used a silpat) keeping the remaining skins inside the package or under a very lightly dampened paper towel. Place 1 large teaspoon of squash mixture in the middle of each skin.

Dip a pastry brush in a little water and wet the edges of the skin all the way around. Gently fold the square wrapper into a triangle, making sure the edges are securely closed and there are no air pockets inside.


Dampen the two bottom corners of the longest side of the triangle and gently bring them together, pressing lightly to secure.


Place the formed tortellini on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Before laying out another 6 wonton sheets, be careful to dry the work surface.  Continue until all the butternut squash mixture is used. There should be approximately 36 tortellini. (The tortellini can be formed, frozen on the baking sheet, transferred to a tightly sealed plastic bag or container and stored for up to six months. To cook, simply toss the frozen ravioli into the salted boiling water and cook for 4 minutes.)

To cook the tortellini, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Allow the butter to foam and then begin to turn golden. Watch carefully because it only takes seconds to go from a lovely brown to burned. Add the sage, walnuts and cranberries and let everything warm through. Turn the heat off and season with salt, and pepper.


Place the tortellini in the boiling water and gently stir. When they begin to float they are done, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon,  spoon the tortellini onto a serving platter, Top with the brown butter sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.


11.05.2009

Persimmons and Patience

It's that time of year. At long last persimmons are making their appearance in the markets around here. It's such a short season too- you've only got two months to buy them and work magic with them. You'll find two kinds to choose from: fuyu, the kind you can eat right away and hachiya, the kind you can't. The latter has to ripen. A lot. It takes time so you gotta be patient.

Fuyu persimmons look rather like a yellow tomato and you can eat them right away like an apple or a pear. A squeeze of lime perks up their flavor even more and they're wonderful with vanilla yogurt. Use them in fruit salads, cobblers, or crisps; they don't darken when cut, so they can be sliced and made part of a vegetable or fruit tray. Fuyu persimmons represent almost 80 % of the persimmon market.


 Fuyu Persimmons

Then we have the hachiya...the one you want to bake with. They need to be bright orange and very ripe, mushy even. If you bite into an unripe hachiya, it's like you just drank six cups of extra strong tea. Mouth-puckering. It's the result of the high level of tannin in the fruit. So don't even try to taste an unripe hachiya- it'll ruin them for you. Wait. It's worth it. Like most unripe fruit, you can hasten the ripening by placing them in a paper bag with an apple or banana and keep checking.

But the best strategy is to be patient.


Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya persimmons are very stubborn and a bunch of them will often refuse to ripen at the same time. But the good news is you can freeze their pulp as each one ripens to make a stash of purée. You can also pop whole ripe persimmons into the freezer to deal with at your leisure. A fully ripe hachiya persimmon is supple and yielding, like a breast and the skin takes on a translucent hue. This is the time to get into the marmalade-like pulp inside. The nature of the hachiya persimmon is such that it is almost always used as a purée, in cookies, cakes, brownies, breads, puddings, flans, and sauces.

After I patiently ripened my persimmons (I still have 3 firm ones left), I cut them in half and scooped the pulp out and into my food processor. There was a seed in two, but not in the others. The seed was thin, black and rather like a small date pit. According to weather folklore, the seeds can be used to predict the severity of winter weather. When cut into two pieces, the persimmon seed will display one of three symbols. A knife shape indicates a cold icy winter (where wind will cut through you like a knife). A fork shape means a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out of the snow. Can't be any more or less accurate than a groundhog can it?

This bread is addictive- and no, not just because it has booze in it! The flavor is unusual and delightful. Persimmons don't taste like any other fruit so I really have nothing to compare it with....maybe mango? Anyway- I used cranberries (love the color of them in the bread) and pecans but you can use any dried fruit and try any kind of nut. There are so many recipes using persimmon pulp; check out just a few:

Persimmon Blondies from Vanilla Garlic
Persimmon Flan from Christine Cooks
Persimmon Cookies from Pinch My Salt
Persimmon Madeleines from Cook and Eat

Persimmon Bread
(Adapted from from Beard on Bread by James Beard)




Ingredients:

3½ cups sifted flour

1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 ½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup cognac, bourbon or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4-5 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

Method:

(This recipe makes two 9" loaves or 4 mini loaves)

Butter your loaf pans and sprinkle with fine bread crumbs. Tap out excess.
Preheat your oven to 350°.
To make persimmon puree: scoop the pulp out of very mushy persimmons and puree in your processor.



Sift the first 5 ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the remaining ingredients in order and mix well. Pour into your loaf pans and bake for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The persimmon bread takes well to being frozen, too. I keep mine in the fridge- makes it easier to cut.

11.01.2009

Savory Sides

I've never met a mushroom I didn't love- but especially morels. This mushroom in particular reminds me of many fun days during my Michigan childhood. When we were young, dad knew exactly where to find morels in the spring- under some apple trees in a V E R Y secret location across the St. Clair River and down a canal. We'd take a boat over and forage to our heart's delight. I've heard that morels change location from year to year, but we never failed to find them in this special orchard. If you've never tasted one, wild morels have a great flavor complexity- meaty, nutty, smokey but it is the earth that gives the depth of flavor to morels. When we arrived home with a basketful Mother used to lightly flour them and fry them in butter. A lunch to dream for... and I have- often. If you're  traveling some back roads in Michigan, you might see morels at a few roadside stands in the spring. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. If you are really lucky, you have an aunt and uncle who live near Charlevoix and they will save you a small basket when they return from foraging!


When my daughter lived in Paris, there was a market near her apartment called marché rue de Buci and in the spring they sold the most enormous morels I've ever laid eyes on. I was in shroom heaven.
Now that I live in Florida, the days of fresh morels are as good as over. If my market ever gets them in the spring (and sometimes they do) they are prohibitive in price. All that's left of morel foraging are wonderful memories...rarely do I ever visit Michigan in the spring.  If you want to splurge you can buy them dried but you'll still have to shell out some bucks. I can't resist so I usually have some dried morels stashed in the pantry; they are ambrosial in a simple omelet. I also love to make this mushroom bread pudding dish for the holidays and while YOU don't need morels in this dish, I do.

You'll find this dish a great main-course option for vegetarians at the Thanksgiving table and I serve it as a side dish with my turkey or chicken- or anything I happen to be serving. It's almost like a stuffing, except a little more custardy. It's also another of my make-ahead dishes: it has to sit overnight in the fridge. Love that! If you want it to taste a little more like stuffing, you can add onion instead of shallots, celery and some sage. Personally I prefer the milder flavor of the shallot so as not to overpower the mushrooms. I usually don't sprinkle parmesan on it either, but had a small piece left in the fridge so I grated it on top. I liked this addition but it's your choice.

For my mushroom assortment I combined reconstituted morels, fresh chanterelles, cremini, shiitake (no stems) and some button mushrooms. (Use the woody stems of the shiitake when you make the mushroom broth)


 In making the broth I used some button mushrooms, some stems of the chanterelles, cremini and shiitake. With most breads I take the crust off but if I'm using brioche bread,  I leave it on. I usually make this in a round glass casserole dish but here I made it in a 9" by 13" by 2" baking dish. Resulting in a lot of crunchy topping!

Mushroom Bread Pudding



Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups mushroom stock
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2  cups half and half or whole milk
6  eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup shallots, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
4 heaping cups shiitake, morel or chantarelle mushrooms
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1 loaf challah (or any bread of your choice)

Method:

Make the mushroom stock:
Boil some chopped button mushrooms in 3 or 4 cups of water to make a stock- include the stems of the shiitake and any leftover mushrooms. Simmer them for about an hour. Remove the mushrooms and discard. Reduce this stock until it measures 3/4 cup. You may freeze the stock at this point.

When ready to make the dish, add heavy cream to the stock and reduce again until you have 1 1/2 cups total.

Whisk half and half, eggs,  salt to taste and add the stock mixture; set aside. Melt butter, add shallots, garlic and thyme and saute 5 minutes.  If you're adding celery, add it here. Add sliced mushrooms and saute 10 minutes. Season with  salt and pepper to taste. 



If your bread has a firm crust, cut the crusts off. Tear the bread into large pieces and place in a 350° oven until lightly browned.



Line the bottom of baking dish with chunks or slices of challah, put in half the mushroom mixture, then layer more bread, then mushrooms, ending with bread. Pour stock mixture evenly over everything. Press down slightly so that all the bread gets covered with the stock. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, if using. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.


Cover with foil and bake in a 350° oven for 2 hours.  Uncover the last 3/4 hour to get a crunchy crust.


Serves about 10 as a side dish.

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