Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanks!


It's that time of year again, Thanksgiving... time to give some thanks. I’d like to say thanks to all of my readers, family, and friends who support my blog, read my stories, and eat my food—you’re awesome, every one of you. I’d like to thank my coworker Mandy for taking me to the Seattle Magazine Best of 2010 Bash last week (and my company for paying for it), where I (over)indulged in amazing food from local chefs, and had glass after glass (after glass) of local wine. Thank you, Tom Douglas, for serving that amazing crispy duck with hoisin sauce in a steamed bun—I’ve been dreaming about it. While we’re on the subject of duck, thank you to Ben and V for that wonderful dinner at Poppy where I got up the nerve to try duck again (the first time, years ago, was NOT good)…now all I want is duck! Thank you to Evan for ordering the Chicken and Waffles with unbelievable maple brown butter sauce the other night at Ventana (and to Chelsea for having her birthday party there)—now I’m inspired…be on the lookout for chicken and waffles gracing a blog near you sometime very soon! Thanks to Brit for serving up the first turkey of the season at a lovely dinner party. Thank you to Amanda for, well…everything…but especially for the two days’ worth of meals I had thanks to your condo-anniversary party leftovers (rosemary meatballs, pumpkin and walnut lasagna, tomato and parm flatbread). Thank you Mel and John for saying we can make this chicken liver paté at Thanksgiving this year…and sorry to Amanda for that…hopefully you won’t read this. And, thanks to all the food bloggers and recipe writers for your constant inspiration and motivation.

Also, thanks to Brian and Allie for the idea behind this super delicious stromboli.


Sweet caramelized onions, earthy sautéed mushrooms, and nutty butternut squash are rolled up, amongst layers of cheese and dough… trust me, once you make this, you’ll be thanking me (and Brian and Allie). And, if you choose to serve this at the appetizer table this Thanksgiving, your guests will be thanking you. Pay if forward folks, pay it forward.

Butternut, Caramelized Onion, and Mushroom Stromboli

Makes 2 Strombolis

Dough:

1 .25 ounce packet of active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
2.5 cups flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

Filling:

1/2 of 1 large butternut squash- peeled and cubed in small pieces
1 medium yellow or white onion, sliced
1.5 cups chopped mushrooms (I used chanterelles)
2 cloves chopped garlic
1.5 cups grated jack cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (plus 2 tablespoons)
olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
salt
rosemary
pepper
cayenne
nutmeg

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a sheet pan, toss squash with a splash of olive oil to coat, and top with a hearty pinch of rosemary, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg. Roast until tender--around 15 minutes.

In a skillet heat about 1.5-2 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, add onions and cook until just starting to caramelize, then add mushrooms, and finish cooking through until desired state of deliciousness. Salt and pepper lightly. Combine squash and onion mixture, and season to taste (if needed). Let cool.

For dough: In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, herbs, and oil. Beat until smooth. Roll into a ball and let rest until ready to assemble. Punch down the dough and divide in half.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the dough to a large rectangle. Spread half of the squash mixture across the dough leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle half the cheese (jack and parm) over the top. Starting with the long end, roll up the dough into a roll, pinching the edges to seal. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Let the dough rise 10-15 minutes.

Bake (in 450 degree oven) until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle each stromboli with additional Parmesan cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Boozin’ It Up

I like dessert. And I like booze. And I really like boozy desserts. For the record, I also really like saying “boozy desserts,” but I suppose “drunken desserts” also has a ring to it. I don’t know about you, but for me, the holidays are made for boozing, and for dessert. Last year I gave you the ooey, gooey, alcohol infused chocolate Kahlua cake. This year, just in time for Thanksgiving and family boozin’ (wait, you don’t booze with your fam at Thanksgiving?) I present to you…


Spiced custard. Nuts. Rum. What more do you need, people!? The answer is nothing…or whipped cream. Either of those answers is correct.

I made this dessert as a substitute for pumpkin pie. Ok, now people hate me… but it’s true: I could care less about pumpkin pie. It has a funny texture, it tastes boring, and it’s just not that exciting. Our Thanksgiving table will have pecan pie for sure (the best of all pies, in my opinion), pumpkin loaf—a delicious pumpkin-cake and cream cheese filling roll of delight (see, we’ll still have a pumpkin item on show)—and now… deliciously boozy little custards. Hey, I put pumpkin pie spice in them…doesn’t that count?


I suppose you could call this dessert pots de crème, because technically, that’s what it is. Little pots of cream, or custard, baked in a water bath, and chilled prior to serving. But when a big family Thanksgiving rolls around and you’re feeding a crowd that consists of teenage boys that like to hunt and play sports (and dads that like to hunt and watch sports) pots de crème (aka poh duh KREHM) might not be the most popular choice at the dessert table. That’s why I will be serving Spiced Custard Cups with Drunken Pecan Sauce. Sure, that name doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but at least you know what you’re getting. And everyone likes to hear that there’s booze in their dessert…right?

Spiced Custard Cups with Drunken Pecan Sauce
Serves 6-8

For the Custard Cups:

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cinnamon stick
A generous pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
3 egg yolks
2 whole eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Combine both milks in a saucepan and gently heat until slightly frothy. Turn to low and add cinnamon stick, pie spice, and nutmeg--steep for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and continue steeping for about 10 minutes, until milk is lukewarm. Remove cinnamon stick. Whisk together the eggs and yolks then whisk this into the milk mixture. Pour mixture into ramekins and place ramekins in a baking dish. Fill baking dish with water (be careful not to get water in ramekins) halfway up side of ramekin. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until solid but still slightly jiggly. Cool until set (overnight is best).

For the Pecan Rum Sauce:

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 cups toasted pecans (whole and pieces)

Combine water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Boil for 5 minutes, remove from heat. Remove cinnamon stick, and stir in rum. Add pecans. Cool and pour over cool custard cups. Chill overnight and serve with a dollop of whipped cream (if you're feelin' fancy).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Last of Summer’s Bounty

Country folk know a thing or two about food. Like putting stuff up for winter…a necessary thing in the country when you don’t want to waste your summer crops, and you need food stored up for the long, cold days ahead. I grew up on home canned goods and foraged then frozen edibles—I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a jar of pickles or jam from the store, and every freezer I’ve ever had in Seattle has been stocked with freezer bags of huckleberries or mushrooms that the fam picked.


Right now, eating seasonally and DIY cooking are all the rage in the food world—20-something bloggers are writing about canning jams and jellies in their cramped city apartments, fancy restaurants are serving local produce straight out of the dirt, and pickling has become hip and trendy among gourmands. I guess my parents were ahead of the trend.


Every year, Mel makes several batches of preserves—huckleberry, peach, apple butter, cherry. She makes sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickled asparagus, and spicy pickles with habanero peppers. She makes jars and jars of the best red salsa ever using tomatoes from the garden. They smoke salmon and they can tuna. And, within the last couple years, they’ve started making and freezing huge batches of tangy salsa verde.


When I was a kid we didn’t grow tomatillos, because John was allergic. Well, we all though he was—when my parents were just dating, my dad had an allergic reaction that sent him to the hospital and tomatillos were always the suspected culprit. We all feared them. I don’t know when or why he decided to give them a go again, but turns it out that he can handle them just fine. Last summer he had a similar trip to the ER after snacking on peanuts, but he went back to his daily PBJ after about a month, with no retuning symptoms. Allergies are tricky I suppose… I’m just glad that the ‘rents finally got around to growing tomatillos…oh, and that my dad survived them, of course.


Since we had been an anti-tomatillo family for so long, none of us really knew what to do with them…until Amanda found the best salsa verde recipe ever in Bon Appetit. The recipe makes a decent sized batch, enough for one or two meals. However, since my family has that ‘put it up for winter’ mentality, we always make several batches and freeze it… and by several, I mean that my parents have about 5 gallon size freezer bags of the stuff, and Amanda and I each have about 5 quart-size bags in our own freezers.


Evan and I went to see my parents for Mel’s birthday last month, and we brought back pounds and pounds of tomatillos and peppers—the last big harvest of their garden. Then Amanda and I spent an afternoon grilling tomatillos, peppers, and onions for salsa verde. Then, for the inaugural batch, we made chili verde with browned cubes of pork, simmered in the smoky, spicy, tangy salsa. Lucky for us, we have many more chili verde nights ahead of us this winter.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

'Ello Mr. Todd

For Halloween this year, Evan was Sweeney Todd and I was Mrs. Lovett—baker of the worst pies in London… but definitely the best pies in Seattle on Halloween night.


It was kind of weird…upon seeing my costume, everyone guessed that I was Helena Bonham Carter, but they couldn’t guess my character. I guess that’s why I had to hand out mini meat pies (is that squire on the fire? Mercy no sire, if you look closer, you’ll notice it’s a grocer). Don’t worry, it was just ground beef...


I threw together the pies on a really tight deadline (deadline, get it? Dead..line), so they’re semi-homemade and super simple. With more time, a homemade pie crust , puff pastry, or savory shortbread dough would be ideal, but 2 store bought 9-inchs pie dough rounds worked perfectly, and made 24 mini pies (made in a mini cupcake pan). I didn’t write down exactly went into the pies (ahem, that will be Todd and Lovett’s secret), but any delish ground meat mixture will do—like mushrooms, onions, beef, tomato paste, and a little red wine.

Simply roll the dough out a little thinner than it came, cut 24 circles (larger than the circumference of mini cupcake pan cups), and pat them into greased cups. Then fill each one with a little cooked and cooled meat mixture, and top with a smaller dough round with a hole punched in the middle to let it steam. Into a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown, and there you have it—mini meat pies.

Straight from Sweeney Todd’s barber shop, to Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop, to your home kitchen.