Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year...And to All A Good Night!

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If you find yourself alone at the stroke of midnight tonight,  here's some entertainment.  I caution you though, the first will get you a bit misty eyed, but the second will snap you right out of it!  They are courtesy of two of the blogs I follow, An Eye for Detail (funny) and A Perfect Bite. (misty eyed)






If that gets you too teary eyed and unable to sleep, this one will snap you right out of it!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Champagne With Brandied Apricots

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I'm not one for mixed cocktails.  Vodka on the rocks with a twist is my drink and, ocassionally, (and when I can afford it) a glass of Veuve Clicquot.  Notice I didn't just say Champagne.... Sometimes, though, when I'm in a festive mood, this cocktail can be a lot of fun to serve your guests, particularly on New Year's Eve.  You don't need the best Champagne in the world but be reasonable!

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to serve a large crowd.


Yield: about 6 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup apricot brandy

1/4 cup vodka

1 cup dried apricots

1 (750-milliliter) bottle Brüt Champagne, chilled

Directions


1.Mix sugar, brandy, and vodka in a large jar with a tight-fitting lid. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the dried apricots, making sure they are completely covered with the brandy mixture. Close lid tightly, turn jar over, and shake well; let stand overnight. Brandy mixture can be made ahead and chilled for up to a month.

2.To serve, place one apricot and 2 tablespoons brandy mixture in the bottom of each Champagne flute. Top with chilled Champagne. Serve immediately.


This is an old recipe from Southern Accents

Cuban New Year's Traditions...Champagne With Grapes

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Looking for ideas to post as part of a New Year's post, I came across this simple and beautiful way to serve grapes at the stroke of midnight. 

In Spain and Latin America  revelers mark the new year by quickly eating a dozen grapes at the stroke of midnight. The fruit is said to be a predictor of the year ahead.  Each sweet grape represents a good month, each sour grape a less-than-lucky one. I personally detest the idea and refuse to eat them.  I always get nothing but sour grapes, or maybe they just taste that way when accompanied by Champagne.   Perhaps they would taste better with the sparkling dry Spanish cider which is the traditional drink of Spain for New Year's and slightly sweeter.




On the other hand, I love the Cuban tradition of throwing a bucket of water out the back door to clear the evil spirits that have accumulated over the year.  This is a lot of fun, particularly when my children were young or when I entertain my American or foreign friends. It is symbolic of throwing out the bad things accumulated over the past year and starting fresh and clean.  It is said that in old Havana nobody dared take a stroll at midnight on New Year's Eve for fear of being hit with a splash of water coming out of windows and doors.

These are simple and fun traditions and it only takes a bucket of water and a bunch of grapes.  So, if you are having a party, even if you are not Cuban or Spanish, make them a part of the celebrations and give everyone a good laugh at the stroke of midnight.   All you need to do is  thread 12 grapes onto each skewer and serve in a glass of Champagne just before the countdown.  You know what to do with the bucket of water!

FELIZ ANO NUEVO! 





Champagne/grape Idea courtesy of Martha Stewart Holidays
Bottom image Google

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One Easy Cream Puff Dough Recipe...3 Delicious Appetizers

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This is one of the easiest and most versatile of all pastry dough recipes. To this recipe, you can make savory (add 1 teaspoon kosher/sea salt) puffs for appetizers or sweet (add 2 teaspoons sugar) for desserts. 

The following three appetizers are divine with Champagne!

Servings: 20 medium pastries



Ingredients:

1 cup water

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 good pinch of salt

1 cup eggs (4 large eggs)


Directions:

Preheat oven 425F.

1. In a medium pot, bring the water and butter to a simmer on medium heat. Add the flour and with a wooden spoon or spatula, stir very quickly in one direction. Carefully watch and you'll see that the flour starts absorbing the liquid -- and a dough will form. Keep stirring to continue cooking the flour and cook off some of the water, another minute or two.

2. You can do the next step one of two ways:

•Transfer the paste to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a bowl if you're using a hand mixer.

•If you want to mix the eggs directly into the dough in the pot, let it cool slightly, 4 or 5 minutes, or cool off the pan itself by running cold water over its base if you will be mixing the eggs in that pot. You don’t want to cook the eggs too quickly.

3. Add the salt and the eggs one at a time mixing rapidly until each is combined into the paste. The paste will go from shiny to slippery to sticky as the egg is incorporated. The pâte a choux can be cooked immediately at this point or refrigerated for up to a day until ready to use.

4. Spoon the dough into a large gallon-sized plastic bag (or piping bag.) Use your hands to squeeze dough towards the bottom corner. With kitchen shears, snip off just the tippy tip of the bag, about 1/4" of the tip. Pipe onto a baking sheet into little puffs, keeping the puffs 2-inches apart. With your finger, press down the peaks (as they can burn.) Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then 350F for 18-30 minutes, depending on the size of your puffs.

Here are three easy recipes!

To make gougeres


Stir in 1/2 cup finely grated gruyere cheese (or other grated hard cheese of your choice) + 1 teaspoon kosher/sea salt (1/2 teaspoon fine table salt) - I used a rasp/microplane grater to get ultra-light snowflakes of cheese so as not to weigh down the dough with heavy cheese. You can also sprinkle a bit of the cheese on top of the puffs after you've piped them.

To Make Mini Foie Gras Puffs

Blend 4 oz. foie gras with 6 TB heavy cream; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the filling to a piping bag and set aside in the refrigerator.

Once the puffs are cooked, remove them from the oven and let cool slightly, then slice them horizontally about two-thirds of the way up.

Place a little fig jam into the bottoms of the puffs, to taste, then fill with the foie gras cream; replace the tops.

Serve immediately.

To make the Easy Mushroom Pate click on the link

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What To Do With Leftover Champagne...Chicken And Chanterelles in Champagne Sauce

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There's nothing worse than spending money on a good bottle of champagne and not being able to finish it.  .  Last week I was given a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, my favorite champagne.  The unfortunate thing was that although I opened the bottle with every intention of drinking it all by myself,  I just couldn't do it.  My daughter is not like her mother in that respect.  She will have a glass or two but after that she looses interest. Well, I wasn't about to throw out a quarter of a bottle of good and expensive champagne!

I learned a long time ago, that the best way to keep champagne is to stick it back in the refrigerator, uncovered, and it will keep until the next day.  Well, as luck would have it, I wasn't able to finish it the next day either so by the second day I still had a about a cup's worth,  but not bubbly enough to drink straight or mix  with orange juice for mimosas. It was good enough, though, for cooking,  for champagne doesn't have to be bubbly to add to a dish.  In that case, the choice was clear,  risotto OR chicken in a champagne sauce.  This time, the latter won hands down.

Whether you use breasts or thighs in this recipe, please buy them with the bone and skin.  This helps keep the chicken tender and moist.  You can remove the skin when you are served.  You can also substitute the chanterelles for shitaakes or a mushroom of your choice.

Keep this recipe handy for the chances are good that with New Year's coming up you will have some leftover Champagne.  If you still have guests around for New Year's Day lunch, there's nothing like a risotto with champagne substituted for the white wine. For dinner, though, I prefer to have this chicken.

This recipe is for two but you can adjust if you have guests.

I wasn't planning to share this recipe so I never thought of taking a picture.  The photo below is from Hungry Cravings and is as close as I could find to the way mine came out .  It is for a similar recipe but without the champagne.





Chicken And Chanterelles In Champagne Sauce

Serves 2
 

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs or 2- 3 chicken breasts, with bone and skin

3 garlic cloves mashed

3 tb olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 cup dried chanterelles

3/4 to 1 cup of Champagne

1 tsp tarragon dried or 1 TB fresh

1 tsp. tomato paste

1/4 Cup heavy cream (optional)

Parsley for garnish


Directions

Put the chanterelles in a cup and add water to cover.  Let seep about 10-15 minutes. Drain in a colander but save the water.  Dry the chanterelles well and set aside.

Saute the mashed garlic in the olive oil until golden.  Take out and discard.

Sautee the reconsituted chanterelles about 3 minutes to brown and get rid of the excess water. Add more olive oil if needed. When done,  take them out and and save them on a clean plate next to the stove.

Sautee the chicken until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove to the plate.  Sautee the chopped shallots for 2-3 minutes, add the dried or fresh tarragon and sautee another minute.  Return the chicken and shallots to the pan.  Season well with salt and pepper. Add the champagne and boil down to half the original quantity. 

Add the water from the mushrooms and the tomato paste.  Stir to mix well.  Bring to a boil and immediately lower the ttemperature on the stove to medium low.  Cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes*. When the chicken is done, add the chanterelles back and if you want, about 1/4 cup of the heavy cream.  Sprinkle parley on top and serve with yellow rice.


*depending on your stove and the size of the chicken parts, they may be done in as little as 20 minutes so check!

Top photo: Google Images

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas!

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This second Christmas at Lindaraxa's Garden has been, by far, the most joyful one since I started this blog.  When I first started Lindaraxa, I read somewhere that it takes at least three years for a blog to become successful.  Little did I know that after a year and 8 months and over 300 recipes, I would still be here and that the time spent sharing all these dishes and anecdotes with my friends and virtual friends would be one of the most rewarding in my life.  The last time I felt such accomplishment was when I finished making all those Christmas balls you see in that photo, 36 years ago!

It is interesting to me that whenever I tell a friend or a stranger that I have a blog I still get this quirky little smile that in my mind  translates into "boy, you must be odd."  Nothing comes out of their mouths after that look.  Nope, it's a case closed and a I won't talk about it if you won't kind of an attitude.  In spite of this "quirkiness" in myself,  I am still amazed that I have had the perseverance to continue on this path whose only reward is the number of people who subscribe to your blog and seeing your name appear on someone else's Blogroll.   For those of you who are new to this world,  a blogroll is the select group of blogs that a blogger follows, meaning, those that they actually read and endorse.  If you get on a popular blogger's blogroll that is almost like winning the Derby!  You can't imagine the pride and joy that someone feels when one's little blog appears on the sidebar of a well known blog.  This year I had that "endorsement" from some of the most popular bloggers around.  So to those wonderful people I want to extend my most heartfelt thanks:

Reggie Darling  This is what every blog should be.  Witty, informative, risky, beautifully written posts about everything from antiques to entertaining, etiquette, the decorative arts, travel and RD's continuing restoration of his home, Darlington Hall.  It is one blog where the comments are as much fun as the host! A pleasure to have as a friend.

Little Augury-  She's ecclectic all right and one of the most read, prolific and influential blogs around.  You never know what she's going to come up with next! Another generous and great friend.

Slim Paley- Her pictures of her beautiful homes, and her posts on fashion, travel and entertaining are second only to my idol, Carolyne Roehm.  She keeps me abreast of everything that is chic and fashionable. And her photography.... I am dying to meet this woman!

Lines From Linderhof - I love opening Martha's blog.  It's like stepping into a favorite relative's home.  And her recipes, well...you can always count on them.  Everyone should have a friend like her.

The Corinthian Column - My favorite virtual friend from the Far East.  Born in Singapore to British parents and a real connoisseur of art and antiques.  If you want to keep up with the auction markets, follow him! Makes a splendid souffle too!

The Blue Remembered Hills, my newest friend and fellow Atlantan whom I'm looking forward to meet. 

You will note that none of these six blogs have anything to do with cooking, except of course, Lines from Linderhof who posts wonderful recipes from time to time.   I made the decision a few months ago that the food blogging space was a bit crowded and that what I really enjoyed was following smart and talented people in areas where I wasn't as well versed and with whom I could interact at all levels.  I contacted Mrs. Blandings, the doyenne of the space, and asked for some advice.  She wrote back and encouraged me to comment on those blogs that appealed to me and that is how I got to know all these wonderful people. Not that there aren't wonderful food bloggers out there, I follow some and also comment on many when something strikes my fancy.  But living so far out in the country means I don't have the intellectual and artistic stimulation I used to have when I lived in New York and I sorely miss that.  These people are my lifeline to that former world and fill an empty little place that is sorely lacking in my life right now.  So to them, thank you for keeping me au courrant, stimulated and revived and for making me feel a part of your world.

As you all know, I also publish a country blog, My Kitchen by the Lake, and there I also have wonderful friends who live in the country or by a lake such as ours.  They are part of my new life and one to which I am slowly adapting.  I have a following from all places, The Netherlands!  I wish a very merry Xmas to my loyal  friends  A Southerner's Notebook, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen, An Eye For Detail,  Worth the Whisk and Honeysuckle And Hissy Fits, my most loyal commenter. If I am missing anyone a thousand pardons! It's hard to keep track of this stuff.

Last but not least, my readers, followers and subscribers, thank you for your support.

I know, I know...my time is up!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Lindaraxa's Garden (all 2 of us!)



...and don't forget to feed the dogs!



Sunday, December 19, 2010

An English Christmas Menu

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This year I am taking a radical turn from my usual Christmas Eve menu.  I will skip my beloved leg of lamb and we will be having a roast with Yorkshire pudding.  Very, very British.  My former bosses would be very proud of me.  There simply won't be as big of a crowd as in past years so making a leg of lamb just doesn't make any sense.  I will not skip the smoked salmon.  This will be served in the living room with a bottle of champagne for those who like it and drinks for those who don't.  I always try to buy extra so I can have leftovers and serve them with scrambled eggs the next morning.

I have given you a choice for a first course depending where you live and when you will be serving the meal.  The oysters can also be served in small plates with cocktails in the living room instead of the smoked salmon.  With this menu, you can really play around with it and simplify it if you want less of a fuss. 

The cheese course is optional, of course, but it goes so well with this menu it is a shame not to include it.  I understand it's already on order at Darlington Hall.

Now, don't get after me about the spiced pecans.  I know they are not British but Georgia was once a colony and let's just leave it at that.  They do go well with champagne! You can also sneak in some cheese wafers and I'm sure no one will complain.







Christmas Eve Menu 2010


Scottish Smoked Salmon on Buttered Thin Toasts
 capers, lemon,  red onions, sour cream 


 Veuve Clicquot Champagne, Cocktails 

******

Chestnut Soup With Creme Fraiche
or
Scalloped Oysters

A Muscadet or Sancerre with the Oysters, a hearty Burgundy with the soup

******


French Cut Green Beans With Slivered Almonds

Chateau Leoville Las Cases 1990

******

Stilton with English Cream Crackers
 and Port

******


Photos: Architectural Digest (top) Carolyne Roehm (bottom)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

English Trifle With Pears And Cherries

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English trifle is one of those desserts that looks like you have spent hours making it when in reality it is a very simple dessert to put together.  In this recipe all you will be actually making is the creme anglaise which takes about 10 minutes to make.  The rest is assembling ready made ingredients and waiting for them to get really cold. 

This recipe calls for pears and cherries, a great and festive combination, but you can really substitute any fruit you want.  If you have a good bakery near you, get their pound cake or sponge cake there.  If not, Sara Lee is pretty good. You can even use lady fingers if you want.

Sherry is the traditional wine for this dessert, but you can use rum, madeira or anything else that is similar.  As to the whipped cream, you can make it a couple of hours before serving, cover the top of the dish and stick it in the refrigerator.  It will keep.  Now, if you choose to cheat with ready made, fine, but I guarantee you it won't be the same!

You can cut this recipe down by making only two layers which should serve 6 to 8 people.  If you have extra sauce anglaise cover and refrigerate.  It should be good for 2-3 days and can be enjoyed with other fruits or meringues!

Serves 10 - 12

Ingredients:


1 cup dried tart cherries

3 Bartlett pears

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cups raspberry jam

1⁄4 cup warm water

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (see Note)

1  9-by-5-inch bakery pound cake (I recommend Sara Lee)

1 cup sherry (preferably amontillado or oloroso),
   Madeira or sweet Marsala

2 recipes crème anglaise*

For the whipped cream:

1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream

1 1⁄2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Make the Creme Anglaise first, as it will take 2-3 hours to cool

2.  Put the dried cherries in a small bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to plump the cherries. Drain. Reserve about 2 Tbs. of the cherries for garnish.

3 Peel the pears, halve lengthwise, core and cut the pears crosswise into thin slices. Put them in a bowl, add the lemon juice and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the jam with the warm water and stir. Reserve about 2 Tbs. of the almonds for garnish.

4. Cut the cake into slices 1/2 inch thick. In a 2 1/2-quart trifle dish or deep glass bowl, make a layer of one-third of the cake slices, cutting and fitting them together as necessary. Sprinkle the cake layer with one-third of the sherry. Dollop one-third of the jam mixture over the cake. Sprinkle the jam with one-third each of the pears, cherries and almonds, in that order. Pour 1 1/3 cups of the crème anglaise over the top. Repeat to make 2 more layers.

5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the trifle for at least 2 hours or up to overnight

6. About 30 minutes before serving, make the whipped cream: In a deep bowl, using a balloon whisk, beat the cream, confectioners¿ sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon the cream over the top of the trifle. Garnish with the reserved cherries and almonds. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. To serve, scoop out large spoonfuls, going down to the bottom layer. Serves 10 to 12.

Note: To toast the slivered almonds, in a small, dry fry pan over medium-low heat, stir the almonds frequently until they are fragrant and begin to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Creme Anglaise*

Ingredients:


2 cups milk

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1⁄4 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract


Directions:

Rinse the inside of a nonaluminum saucepan with water and shake out the excess water. Pour in the milk, place over medium-low heat and cook until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolk and sugar and whisk just until blended. Gradually whisk in half of the hot milk, then pour the egg mixture into the pan. Set over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not allow it to boil.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and let cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days.

Makes about 2 cups.


Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Christmas, by Carolyn Miller (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Gifts For The Cook In Your Life

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Here are some of the cookware and cooking utensils that I find every cook should have in his or her arsenal.  Granted, some of them are a bit expensive but that is why they are on the list as they would bring tears of joy and appreciation to any cook's Christmas morning.  Others make for great stocking stuffers.


Le Creuset Oval Dutch Oven

I use this for stews, roasts, beans, fabadas, you name it..couldn't live without one.  The best investment.
 

Grill Tray

I have been hinting at one of these forever.  You can make so many things with this on the grill!


Shun Dual Density Utility Knife


The Japanese knives are to die for. If you only have one knife make it one of these!




Breville Panini Press

 Great for sandwiches, especially Cuban sandwiches and Panini.  Use it all the time!
 


Pizza Stone

Pizza is not difficult to make, it's the crust that you have to get right!
 


Honeycomb Silicone Pot Holders

The best!



Salt Keeper


Practical and Pretty!



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Strip Loin Roast With Yorkshire Pudding

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This year I will be making a big shift from my usual Christmas dinner...I will be serving beef instead of lamb. For the time I lived in Miami  I used to entertain my entire family on my mother's side (THE COOKS!) on Christmas Eve.  It was a splendid evening..champagne, foie gras, smoked salmon and a nice leg of lamb for the main course.

This year it will only be a very small group for dinner that night and then the grandchildren for brunch on Christmas Day.  So, things have changed and so must I.  Besides, I saw this recipe from Williams Sonoma and decided to take the plunge.

A classic Sunday dinner in England, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding makes an impressive meal for a festive gathering. The pudding, which is prepared in the same pan that was used to roast the meat, is baked until puffy and golden brown.

I will be posting this year's full menu in a couple of days.  In the meantime, you can check out my traditional Christmas menu as well as the traditional Cuban Nochebuena


Serves 6 to 8.


Ingredients:

For the Yorkshire pudding:
2 cups milk
6 whole eggs
2 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt

1 boneless New York strip loin, about 4 1/2 lb., tied
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 to 8 fresh rosemary sprigs, each 3 to 4 inches long
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Horseradish

Directions:

To make the Yorkshire pudding batter, in a blender, combine the milk, whole eggs and egg whites and blend on high speed for 1 minute. Add the flour and salt and blend for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. Cover the batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Generously season the strip loin with salt and pepper. Carefully tuck the rosemary sprigs underneath the twine. Place the roast on a wire rack set over a roasting pan and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 450°F.

Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 130°F for medium-rare, 50 minutes to 1 1/4 hours more, or until done to your liking. If you want rar3e meat, do not cook past 120F. Transfer the roast to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for about 20 minutes before carving.

Increase the oven temperature to 425ºF.

Remove the rack from the roasting pan. Add enough vegetable oil to the drippings in the pan to form a thin layer. Return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes to heat the oil. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and pour the pudding batter into the pan. Bake until the pudding has risen and is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Don’t open the oven door during baking as this will cause the pudding to deflate.

Just before the pudding is ready, carve the roast and arrange on a warmed platter. Serve the pudding immediately with the roast.  Serve the horseradish on the side.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Aunt Martha's Caramel Flan

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With a maternal grandmother who was famous for her culinary abilities, I inherited two aunts and a mother who are also great cooks.  It doesn't stop at that...my first cousins are wonderful cooks too and everybody is extremely competitive.   Each of us has developed an expertise and in this case, it it my mother's middle sister who shines in the flan category.  Now keep in mind that once your recipe is  decreed as "best of breed", nobody else in the family should invade that turf.  Your flan is the one everyone makes and when we get together, if it is flan we are having, that person gets to bring it! No, you cannot make that person's recipe for them and if you do so, you must be a glutton for punishment for there is no way yours will turn out as good and all that trouble will be for nothing.

My mother's best of breed recipe is her black beans and my other aunt's a Spanish dessert called Brazo Gitano that even I wouldn't think of tackling.  I tremble every time I have to make my mother's black beans recipe for the family group in this neck of the woods.  But just as I have passed the making of the Christmas tree to my daughter, I am hoping the black bean nod of approval will soon be passed on to me.  Get the picture?

I am making this flan for my son's in laws who will be a great group to serve as judges as they are Southeners and definitely have never had the anointed one's flan.

This is the classic Cuban flan, which is as light and delicious as it is timeless. In this recipe, though, it has more egg yolks than normal which makes it slightly richer but just as light. This basic flan recipe is also used to make flans of different flavors by substituting another liquid for part or all of the milk. For example, the best sweet oranges in Spain come from Valencia and Murcia, and an orange flan, made from freshly squeezed juice, is popular there.  My Aunt Martha also makes a knock your socks off Coconut flan.  That also is part of her turf and nobody has come close to even trying...hmmm, stay tuned!

Because flan takes a while to cool, it is usually prepared the day before.  That way it also absorbs some of the caramel at the bottom of the pan. When making it for a large group, it is practical to prepare a single large flan in a tube pan.  In the summertime, I sometimes fill the hole with strawberries or blueberries and it is very refreshing.





Makes 12 servings


Ingredients

For the flan:

4 cups whole milk

1 strip lime zest

1 cinnamon stick

6 whole eggs

6 egg yolks

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of salt

For the caramelized sugar coating:

1 1/2 cup sugar

You will need a tube pan


Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

To prepare the caramelized sugar coating, spread the sugar evenly in the bottom of a heavy saucepan and place over medium-low heat. It may take several minutes before the sugar begins to melt. Without stirring, watch the sugar closely as it begins to liquefy at the edges. All of it will slowly turn first into a yellowish and then golden syrup and finally into a brown caramel sauce.

When the liquefied sugar is turning from golden to brown, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat. (If you miss this point, the sugar will quickly turn too dark and taste bitter and you will need to discard it and begin again.)

Working swiftly, pour the liquid caramel into a tube pan and tilt to cover the bottom, the sides of the cone and the sides of the dish evenly. It is important to do this transfer quickly, as the change in temperature causes the caramel to solidify rapidly. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, lime zest, pinch of salt and cinnamon stick over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately decrease the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the milk with the flavor of the seasonings. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a bowl, combine the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and granulated sugar and whisk to blend well. Pour the cooled milk through a fine-mesh sieve held over the egg mixture and whisk until well blended. Pour the mixture into the coated tube pan.

Arrange the pan in a large, deep baking pan or roasting pan. Pull out the oven rack, put the baking pan on it, and pour boiling water to a depth of about 1 1/2 inch into the pan to create a water bath. Bake for about 1  hour, or until set when tested with a thin-bladed knife in the center. Take out of the oven and let the flan cool in the water bath.

You can cover and refrigerate the cooled flan in the tube pan overnight.  The next morning, run a knife around the inside of the mold and the sides of the cone to loosen the edges of the custard and then invert the flan onto a dessert plate.  Pour all of the caramel that is left on the mold over the flan.  Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Popovers For Christmas Eve

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These are going to go over well with my Christmas Eve menu this year.  There's nothing to them and they sure make a splash!  For some reason, they always remind me of Neiman Marcus.  Ever had them there?

Yield: 12 popovers.


Ingredients


5 tablespoons melted butter

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried), optional.


Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle a teaspoon or so of melted butter in each cup of a 12-cup muffin pan or a popover tin and put it in oven while you make batter.

2. Beat together the eggs, milk, 1 tablespoon butter, sugar and salt. Beat in the flour a little bit at a time and add thyme if using; mixture should be smooth.

3. Carefully remove muffin tin from oven and fill each cup about halfway. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 15 minutes more, or until popovers are puffed and browned. Do not check popovers until they have baked for a total of 30 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and serve hot.

Just to show you how easy they arem here;s a video!

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/11/16/dining/1248069335305/popovers.html?scp=1&sq=popovers&st=cse


The Minimalist NYTimes

Friday, December 10, 2010

Butter Bean Soup With Duck And Chorizo...Fabada Con Pato Y Chorizo

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Butter beans, or lima beans are the main ingredient of a very popular Spanish dish called Fabada Asturiana.  The Spanish name is fabas and you can get them either dried or canned.  In this recipe, they are combined with leftover duck confit and chorizo for my take on a hearty winter soup.  You can substitute a ham bone or pork for the duck.

Plan to make the roasted duck legs on Saturday night so you can enjoy this hearty soup for lunch the next day!


6 meal size servings:

Directions

 
1 pound dried lima beans, soaked over night

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 onions, finely chopped

1/2 large green pepper

3 mashed garlic cloves

2 roasted duck thighs shredded

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 TB tomato paste

1 bay leaf

2 small chorizos sliced in 1/4 inch rounds

1 tsp Pimenton de la Vera

2 cups chicken stock, plus 1 qt water (or use all water)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 Cup Sherry

½ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)


Directions


Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté garlic, green pepper, onions and carrots until softened. Add bay leaf.

Add chorizo and cook to brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the pimenton, mixing thoroughly and the tomato paste.  (you might need to add a little water to mix paste with rest of ingredients.

Add shredded duck only to heat through, about another minute or two.  Remove from heat.

Drain and rinse beans and add enough chicken stock to cover plus and inch.  Stir

Add the duck and rest of ingredients from the skillet to the beans and mix.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and cook on medium for about 45 minutes.  The first 30 minutes I cooked uncovered to concentrate the liquid, the last 15 covered.   Add the sherry and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let rest at least an hour.  Warm before serving and sprinkle chopped parsley on top before serving.

Serve with crusty bread and a Spanish Rioja o Ribera del Duero.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Roast Duck Legs With Honey, Vinegar And Caramelized Apples

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I bought four duck legs with the best intentions of turning them into duck confit for pates and cassoulets in the future;  but I got lazy and decided instead to roast them and serve them with a sauce.  After glancing through a few cookbooks I came upon this recipe from Marie Blanche de Brouglie, Princess de Brouglie, and decided to give it a try.  Her cookbook, The Cuisine of Normandy, unfortunately, is out of print but I promise to post more of her fabulous recipes at a later date.. The original recipe is for Magrets de Canard Saint-Wandrille,  the latter being a Benedictine monastery founded by Count Wandrille in 649. 

I have substituted duck legs for duck breast, so feel free to use either.  The recipe has three parts, all of them terribly easy.  The first is making the sauce, then searing and roasting the duck and finally caramelizing the apples.  With all due to respect to Princess de Brouglie, after making the recipe, I think it makes more sense to do the apples first, then the sauce and finally roasting the duck, so this is what I would suggest for next time.

By the way, this is a strong candidate for this year's New Year's Eve dinner, so plan ahead.

...and, stay tuned, wait 'til you see what we are going to do with the leftover duck!


After searing and before they went into the oven


The sauce


Out of the oven
 Serves 4*

Ingredients

6 duck legs (whole with thighs) or 4 boneless duck breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 Tb honey
2 Cups duck stock or rich brown chicken stock
6 TB butter
4 apples
Lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
about 1/3 cup tap water
3/4 cup ice water

Preheat oven 425.

Season duck with salt and pepper.  In a heavy iron skillet brown the legs or breasts over medium high heat starting with the skin side down to render fat.  The meat should be cooked rare, 3 to 4 minutes on each side.  Remove the duck to a heated plate and cover it with foil to keep warm.

Pour the fat out of the skillet (but save it for later use!) and deglaze pan with the vinegar.  Add the honey and stock and reduce the liquid to about 1 cup.  Whisk the butter into the sauce, a tablespoon at a time. Pour sauce into a bowl and wipe the pan with a paper towel.   You will be using the iron skillet later.

Peel, core and quarter the apples.  Trim the quarters into football shapes and rub them with the lemon juice.

In a saucepan,  combine the sugar with enough tap water to moisten it.  Cook over low heat until it reaches a deep golden color.  Quickly add the ice water, but be careful to stand back from the saucepan as it will spatter.  Add the apples and cook them in this caramel until tender.  (if you don't want to go through this, cook the apples in brown sugar and water...a little Calvados or brandy wouldn't hurt!)

Return duck legs to skillet and roast in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.  (Her recipe doesn't call for this but I cannot stand rare duck, and roasting crisps up the skin.  You might want to do less time if you are using breasts)

To serve, arrange duck legs, or breasts, on platter, pour sauce over them and surround with caramelized apples.

Note

If you cannot buy individual legs or breasts, cut up a couple of ducks, cook what you want and save the rest for later use.  Don't forget to keep the liver for pate!

I suggest 6 legs for four people as they can sometimes be quite small.  The worst that can happen is you will have one or two for the leftovers I will be posting next!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pate de Campagne

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Just about this time of the year I start thinking about making and freezing pate to serve later during the holidays or give away as gifts.  For years I was lucky enough to live in places with well known specialty stores that sold great French pates at reasonable prices;  but now,where I live,  there isn't a country pate to be had for at least 20 miles... and the prices!  There will come a time again when the dollar will rebound and we will be able to buy pates and champagne at acceptable prices.  Until then...well you are just going to have to make it...the pate, not the champagne!

I have been looking for a simple recipe for country pate for a long time.  Most of the ones I came across usually required ingredients that were hard to find or were just not authentic enough to go through the trouble.   This recipe from an old Bon Appetit finally fit the bill.

Serve the pate at room temperature with a sprinkling of salt, cornichons, Dijon, and a baguette.



Ingredients


3/4 cup Cognac

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup minced onion

2 1/2 pounds ground pork

12 ounces bacon (8 to 10 slices), finely chopped, plus 14 bacon slices (for lining pan)

3 garlic cloves, pressed

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 6-ounce piece ham steak, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips

Coarse sea salt

Cornichons*

Dijon mustard


Preparation

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 350°F.

Boil Cognac until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 1 1/2 minutes. Cool.

Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saut&é until soft and translucent but not brown, about 8 minutes.

Combine ground pork and chopped bacon in large bowl. Using fork or fingertips, mix together until well blended.

Add sautéed onion, garlic, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, thyme, allspice, and pepper to bowl with pork mixture and stir until incorporated. Add eggs, cream, and reduced Cognac. Stir until well blended.

Line 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with bacon slices, arranging 8 slices across width of pan and 3 slices on each short side of pan and overlapping pan on all sides. Using hands, lightly and evenly press half of meat mixture (about 3 1/4 cups) onto bottom of pan atop bacon slices. Arrange ham strips over in single layer. Top with remaining meat mixture.

Fold bacon slices over, covering pâté. Cover pan tightly with foil. Place pan in 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan and transfer to oven. Pour boiling water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of loaf pan. Bake pâté until a thermometer inserted through foil into center registers 155°F, about 2 hours 15 minutes.

Remove loaf pan from baking pan and transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Place heavy skillet or 2 to 3 heavy cans atop pâté to weigh down. Chill overnight.

Do Ahead : Can be made 4 days ahead up to here.

Place loaf pan with pâté in larger pan of hot water for about 3 minutes. Invert pâté onto platter; discard fat from platter and wipe clean. Cut pâté crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.



* Tiny French pickles; available at specialty foods stores.

Photo: Bon Appetit

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pappardelle With Pancetta, Chestnuts And Sage

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This is by far the best pasta I have had in a long, long time.  Perhaps it is the combination of the sweetness of the chestnuts with the pancetta and sage.  I really don't know, but it works.  It is an easy and elegant main course for a weeknight dinner or a beautiful lunch.   All it needs to go with it is a leafy salad.  Have extra Parmesan cheese to pass around after you serve.

You can substitute the pancetta, if you must, with bacon;  but make sure you cut it first in 1/2 inch pieces and boil it in about 2 inches of water for about 5 minutes to get rid of the fat.  Then proceed with the recipe.




Bottled chestnuts might now be on sale at your local Williams Sonoma.  I am lucky enough to live about 10 minutes from their outlet and got them this weekend half price.  I have been hoarding bottles for 2 weeks, saving three for my chestnut soup on Christmas Eve.  You will also find them at specialty stores but try to get this brand, they are superb, although a bit pricey.  If you go the long route, try to steam instead of  boiling or roasting.





Serves 4 as a main course or 6 for a first course

Ingredients

3 ounces Pancetta chopped
1 TB Olive Oil
1 small Onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
2 TB finely chopped sage
1/2 lbs ( 1 1/2 cups) bottled, peeled and cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 lbs Pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettuccine
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 TB butter
3 TB Heavy cream (optional)*
Salt & Pepper
1 Tb finely chopped parsley

Directions

Cook pancetta in oil in a 12 inch skillet until it begins to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add onions and cook another 3 to 4 minutes.  Add garlic and 1 Tb sage.  Cook for another minute.  Add chestnuts and remove from heat.

Cook pasta until al dente and drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Add pasta to the pancetta mixture, plus 1 cup of reserved water, the cheese and butter and stir constantly over high heat until thoroughly coated, about 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper, add the remaining sage and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve immediately and pass some extra cheese.

* I added the heavy cream after adding about 1/2 cup of the water.  Reduced water by 1/4 cup.  This is optional but yummy.  You can skip and just add the water.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cauliflower Mousse

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If you are having a dinner party and need an elegant and easy side dish to complement quail, duck or a hearty stew, this is it. The recipe was featured many years ago in Bouquet de France, a Gourmet magazine column written by Samuel Chamberlain.  It makes an appearance in Gourmet Today, the new cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl.

Although this dish is called a mousse, it is meant to be served hot. It is very easy to make, just make sure that you pour water that has come to a boil in the pan or it will throw your timing off.  That's it! I also may have added slightly more than the 1/4 cup of parmesan on top before I broiled it and was glad I did.  Make sure, also, it is properly salted or it will be bland and we don't want that!

I could not find my small souffle dish so I used  a small Corning casserole that was perfect. 

This is definitely something you can make early in the afternoon and warm at a low temperature right before you serve.  It holds well enough to be able to transfer to a silver platter for serving.  A sprig of  parsley on  the side should make for a nice presentation.

 

Yield: Makes 6 servings


Ingredients

5 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower (1/2 medium head)

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 cup)

Special equipment: a 1-qt soufflé dish

Preparation

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter soufflé dish, then line bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper and butter paper. Chill dish until ready to fill.

Cook cauliflower with 2 teaspoons salt in a 3- to 4-quart pot of boiling water, uncovered, until tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Drain cauliflower well in a colander, then puré in a food processor until smooth.

Melt butter in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add white pepper, nutmeg, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool béchamel, 5 minutes.

Whisk cauliflower puré into béchamel, then add beaten eggs, whisking until combined well. Transfer mixture to soufflé dish and put dish in a 13- by 9-inch roasting pan, then add enough boiling-hot water to pan to reach halfway up side of soufflé dish. Bake until center of mousse is firm to the touch and mousse begins to pull away from side of dish, 35 to 40 minutes.















Remove mousse from oven and water bath. Position oven rack so that top of mousse will be 4 to 6 inches from broiler, then preheat broiler.

Run a knife around edge of soufflé dish, then place an ovenproof platter on top of soufflé dish and invert mousse onto platter. Sprinkle cheese evenly over top of mousse and broil until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 2 minutes.











All Photos by Lindaraxa


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