Monday, November 23, 2009

Kick The Can-Try Real Cranberry Sauce

Don't get me wrong, I have no qualms about canned cranberry sauce. It is tart, tangy, sweet, has a cool canned shaped appearance and such a wonderful squishy texture in your mouth. Don't get me wrong its pretty good but I love the real deal so much better.

So for those of you who are part of the canned coalition, I urge you to take 15 minutes out of your busy holiday schedule and make real cranberry sauce. It may become a holiday staple once you find out how simple it is.

Real Cranberry Sauce
originally posted 11.15.08 The Seven Million Wonders of The World
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen cranberries, thawed
  • 2 oranges, juiced (enough for 1 cup of liquid) and 1 orange zested
  • 1/2 c.-1 c. light brown sugar (depends on how sweet you want it)
  • dash of salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the cranberries just begin to burst, about 15 minutes. Transfer to serving dish and chill.

Monday, November 16, 2009

One Box of Puff Pastry, Dinner and Dessert for Six

The holiday season is upon us and that means a lot of guests will be knocking at our doors...whether we expect them or not! It seems that my pantry and freezer is amply stocked during the last quarter of the year. Some years I've needed it and others, well, not so much.

I do enjoy having guests in my home. In fact, I wish I would host more often. For the most part every guest has been a joy to have over, but I have had a doozy or two as well.

And speaking of doozies, let me introduce you to "Guest". Guest arrived at my door two days early (unannounced.) I was very glad to see Guest but was somewhat irked that I had not been forewarned. The guest room still needed to be tidied, food needed to be bought and the house needed to be picked up. Believe it or not, Guest was offended that dinner was not piping hot out of the oven upon their arrival. We took Guest out to dinner and rather than asking me if they could sit by the window, they grabbed the hood of my jacket as I was sitting down and yanked me out of the booth. I was mortified, other diners had witnessed...strike one.

As days passed we had a great time enjoying each others company. I did however cringe at the sight of unflushed toilets and fingernails spit across my living room floor (strike two and three.) What was even worse, Guest did not have plans to leave. I simply was told, "Just tell me when you want me to go." How awkward is that??? Guest left a day earlier than expected (really not on good terms...OK, hubby coaxed Guest out), but we still talk every now and then. I noticed I mentioned dirty toilets and fingernails spit upon a floor in a food blog. How appealing is that? Nevertheless I have two great recipes that will knock your guests socks off (invited and uninvited.) Frozen puff pastry is a staple in my freezer and with a box you can create a rustic tart and a steamy, comforting and inviting chicken pot pie.

Chicken Pot Pie
  • One sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • One 3-4 pound rotisserie chicken, meat shredded into bite size pieces
  • 9 oz. red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 5 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 6 oz. cremini mushrooms
  • 5 T. flour
  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 2 T. thyme
  • 2 T. parsley
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 T. heavy cream
  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes begin to turn golden, 4-5 minutes. Add leek, carrots, mushrooms, then cook 4-5 minutes more. Add flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  2. Stir milk and chicken stock into pot; bring to a simmer. Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken meat, thyme and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Transfer filling to a deep 10-inch glass pie dish. ***Steps 1 &2 can be made one day ahead; let cool completely, then cover pie dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and cream; set aside. Unfold thawed pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough to a 10-inch square. Cut out a steam vent in the center of the pastry using a small coolie cutter. Lay pastry over the pie dish, and press onto filling. Brush dough with egg wash, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Freeze until firm, 30 minutes.
  4. Place pie dish on a rimmed cookie sheet; bake 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit; continue baking until crust is puffed and golden brown and juices are bubbling, 15-20 minutes more. Let cool 5 minutes.
Rustic Apple Tart

  • One sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • Flour, for work surface
  • 3 granny smith apples
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • pinch of each; cloves and nutmeg
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp. of heavy cream, set aside
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 T. apple jelly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out pastry sheet to a 10-by-10-inch square. Trim 3/4 of an inch off the edge with a pizza cutter or sharp paring knife, creating strips for the tart shell. Transfer to a baking sheet; place in freezer. Peel, core, and slice apples 1/4 inch thick. Toss in a large bowl with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  2. Brush outer border of tart base with egg wash and adhere the trimmed strips to the tart. Place apples inside border, and dot with butter. Brush the exposed pastry border with egg wash. Bake until pastry is golden and apples are tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat jelly with 1 tablespoon water until melted. Brush apples with glaze. Serve tart warm or at room temperature, cutting into pieces with a serrated knife

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday Fruit Salad

I can honestly say that I have never prepared a Thanksgiving turkey! Can you believe it! I suppose it is because I have never hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner and am always a guest. So what to bring, what to bring when you are one's guest???

The homes I usually travel to never assign a dish (green veggie, starch, dessert, salad, etc.) Sometimes I think it would be easier if they did. That way, when you approach the buffet you are not greeted with a myriad of green bean casseroles!

Lately, I've been bringing salad and fresh vegetables to potlucks. Though these are staple dishes at my home, they seem not to be at my friend's and family's kitchens. A simple saute of blanched green beans and garlic has been the star of the buffet table at many functions-the "recipe" has been requested by many. I was somewhat taken aback because it is so simple.

Last year as I was poaching pears I thought about making a poached fruit salad. I simply added my poaching spices to simple syrup, poured it over acidulated sliced apples and the lone pear left in my refrigerator, raided my staple of dried fruit and voila! A handful of pomegranate seeds (dried cranberries looked too wrinkly-if that's the word I'm going for) thrown over the top of the salad and a star was born.

Holiday Fruit Salad
1 cup of sugar
4 cups of water
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half
1 cinnamon stick
3 peppercorns
3 cloves
1 bayleaf
4 2-inch long pieces of lemon and/or orange zest
Juice of one lemon
8 dried apricots, quartered
6 dried figs, quartered
3 firm Granny Smith Apples
1 firm Bosc Pear
pomegranate seeds for garnish
  1. Fill saucepan with 4 cups of water. Add the sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, cloves, bayleaf and zest. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar has dissolved. Let sugar syrup cool for 5-10 minutes and add dried apricots and figs to the warm syrup. Let it cool completely.
  2. Peel, slice and core apples and pear. Slice thinly and place in a large bowl, toss with lemon juice.
  3. Pour cooled syrup over apples and pears. (you can strain syrup to remove poaching spices-I only kept the zest and vanilla bean for decoration) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, ladle fruit into a serving bowl, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'Wich Craft

Once people find out my ties to food (baker, pastry chef, amateur food blogger) I'm often asked what is my favorite thing to eat. I always end up drawing a blank and my answer seems to be very broad...general...and yes, boring. The answer that usually is to follow is: I don't have a favorite.

What a LIE! It isn't until several hours later that a light clicks on in my head and the answer is revealed (and I am reminded)-the sandwich. I LOVE sandwiches.

I think for many, the appeal of food is the combination of flavors, layers and different textures. Well, isn't that a sandwich?

The perfect sandwich, for me, has to be toasted. It has to have buttery Havarti and turkey, preferably smoked turkey breast and a combination of sweet and savory-something along the lines of cranberry. Of course, color is important too!

My husband and I often frequented a sandwich shop across from the university where he worked. I always ordered #22, turkey with cream cheese and avocado. I really liked it, but it needed a kick. Here is my version of #22, which is perfect for using those Thanksgiving leftovers.

My Favorite: Turkey Sandwich
  1. Start out with two slices of good bread (crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside). I use a French loaf. Lightly drizzle one side of each slice with olive oil. Lay slices oiled side down. Lets start building our sandwich!!!

  2. Spread room temperature cream cream over the slices of bread. Top cream cheese with slices of Havarti cheese.

  3. Add a layer of sliced, smoked turkey breast to the top of one of the slices of bread. Add slices of avocado on top of the turkey.

  4. Slather a layer of cranberry sauce on the other slice of bread. Combine slices together and press down slightly.

  5. Place in a preheated sandwich/panini press and press and cook for about 7 minutes or until heated through and cheese has melted.