Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stuffed Biscuits

These are great as snacks, breakfast, or picnic treats.  They taste kind of like Hot Pockets, but are made out of biscuit dough.  They do require a little bit of work, but you can make them in quantity and freeze them for later.  Best of all, they are easily customized for whatever mood you're in.  The bbq beef and cheddar just sounded good at the time.

1 batch buttermilk biscuit dough
4 oz sliced or shredded roast beef, chopped
2 Tb barbecue sauce
3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Prepare biscuit dough and preheat oven to 450º.  Roll out dough very thin, like you were making cookies.  Using a 2" cookie cutter, cut out biscuits.  Set the rounds aside, push together the scraps, and cut another set.  Put those in a separate pile, and add any more rounds from subsequent rollings to that second pile.

3.  Lay circles from the second pile on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or foil (in case they leak during baking).  If that does not equal half, add or remove from the other pile as necessary.  These later rounds are tougher from reworking the dough and will not rise well anyway, so they might as well go on the bottom.  In a bowl, combine chopped up roast beef and barbecue sauce.  Place about a tablespoon of meat in the center of each biscuit.  Top with a tablespoon of cheddar.

4.  With a damp finger or brush, moisten the edges of each circle.  Top with a biscuit from the first rolling and gently press edges together to seal.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.  Remove to a rack to cool.  Serve hot or room temperature.

Makes about 12

Difficulty rating :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Setting a Table

I've been a little short on recipes lately, as you've probably noticed from the longer gaps between posts. Then I realized that it wasn't simply because I'm not baking for the holidays.  It's because I forgot to do section-themed lessons.

So, what is the correct way to set a table?  It depends entirely upon what you're serving and the style of service.  Buffet or sit-down?  Multi-course or family style?  Will there be cocktails and snacks?  Barbecue or picnic?

Ultimately, you need to make sure there are enough plates, cups, napkins, and utensils for everyone.  At a buffet, I plan on 1-1/2 times the number of people.  Guests drop utensils or throw away plates before realizing they want seconds.  At a sit-down, there ought to be utensils for every course.  Set it so the guests work from the outside in.  Traditionally, dessert spoons and forks go at the top of the plate, so they are out of the way until you need them.  I'm not a fan of charger plates; all they do is help you space the utensils and keep guests from dropping things on the actual dinner plates before the food arrives.  I would only use them for a very formal dinner, when you plate everything in the kitchen.

For fun, I looked at the two etiquette books in my cookbook cabinet.  I should read them for real; 1950's etiquette is hysterically antiquated, but at least you don't have to deal with people checking Facebook during a proper dinner party.  The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette is the classic book of manners.  A lot of it is outdated, even with the 1978 revisions, but it has some great sketches of how to set a table and the proper way to honor guests through seating arrangements.  The Random House Book of Etiquette wasn't quite as useful, but does address basic pleasantries and how to be a good host and guest.  There are dozens of books on napkin folding; this is the one I happen to own, titled Napkin Folds: Beautifully Styled Napkins for Every Occasion.

Of course, there is always this more recent etiquette lesson:

I have always erred on the side of formality when preparing a table, except that I'm not terribly fond of centerpieces.  I like Amy Vanderbilt's idea of investing in a glass, silk, or beaded arrangement that works with everything, rather than struggling to create a new piece for every party.  Of course, there's still that folded-up football crepe centerpiece that makes it out once a year for Superbowl.  It's all about knowing your guests.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Baked Potato Skins

Honestly, I can't go through the Sunday coupons without deciding to make something decadent.  It's especially bad during the run-up to Superbowl.  (I can use the word because I don't make money from this site.)  One page gave me two ideas.  This is the one I've had before; the stuffed biscuits I'm going to make later are simply something I have to try, like the bacon pie.

I did balk at the amount of oil used, but it makes sense.  If you're going to cook potatoes at such a high temperature, they're going to dry out.  The oil is necessary.  Besides, it's healthier than deep-frying and they still come out crispier than any I've had at a restaurant.

As for the scooped-out insides of the potatoes, you can freeze them if you don't have an immediate use.  Just make sure they have cooled to refrigerator temperature first, and get as much air out of the bag as possible.

This is based on a version from Simply Recipes.  The changes I made are to the filling.  Potato skins are like pizza.  You can fill them with whatever you want.  Because I chose to make today's vegetarian, they get the Passover label.  There's no reason you couldn't use barbecued chicken or pork in the filling, or some fancy cheese like brie or gorgonzola.  Bacon and cheddar is merely the traditional version.  Feel free to experiment.

Oh, and ignore the salad.  It was the only way I could justify eating them as a main course.

6 small to medium russet potatoes (the ones that come in the 5-lb bag)
Olive oil
Canola or peanut oil
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Other appropriate seasonings
About 2 C of filling of choice
1 C shredded or crumbled cheese
Sour cream or salad dressing for garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 400º.  Scrub potatoes clean and pat dry.  Rub outsides with olive oil.  Place on a raised rack in a roasting pan.  I highly recommend lining the pan with aluminum foil now, so you don't forget to do it later.  Bake 45 min to 1 hour, until potatoes are soft but not mushy.  Allow to cool for up to half an hour, until cool enough to handle.

2.  Turn up oven to 450º.  Slice each potato in half lengthwise.  Most potatoes have one way that's wider than the other; cut along that.  Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out insides, leaving about 1/4" all the way around.  Keep the insides for another use, like mashed potatoes.  Rub potatoes inside and out with the canola oil (don't use olive because it has a lower smoke point and will break down).  Place skins back on rack in roasting pan and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn over and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and get the fillings ready.

3.  Place all potatoes skin-side down on rack.  Fill each hollow with your filling, which may include a sauce or spices.  Top each with 1 Tb or so of cheese.  Return to oven for 2-5 minutes, until cheese is melted and toasty.  Serve hot, either garnished with sour cream or with a dressing on the side.

Difficulty rating :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Galettes de Bretagne

After graduating high school, I spent a month as a foreign exchange student in Brittany, France.  One of the first nights, we went out for galettes.  I didn't realize that they were a specialty of the region; they were just crepes to me.  After having a very difficult time finding a decent crepe in the South of France years later, I realized how special they are.  The buckwheat lends a savory earthiness to the filling that you don't get in all-white flour crepes.

Another misconception that Americans have about crepes is that they must be drenched in sauce.  A number of crepe restaurants have sprung up in recent years, and many of them offer variations with very little or no sauce, or sauce on the side.  It gives the ingredients a chance to shine.  And a lot of the fillings are more like salads than the casseroles-in-a-pancake that used to be served in French restaurants in the 1980's.

This recipe is from the L.A. Times a few years back.  It uses half white and half buckwheat flour, which means there is some gluten in it and you don't have to use as many eggs to keep them from falling apart.  The galette recipe used all buckwheat flour and sounded rather heavy.  I'm scaling down the recipe for four servings of two crepes each.  I know that most recipes allow you enough batter to ruin a couple.  I solved the problem by cooking bacon in the pan first.  That takes about ten minutes, leaving the pan hot and ready, plus already somewhat lubricated.

1/2 C buckwheat flour
1/2 C All-Purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 C milk
water as needed
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tb butter, melted (if margarine, omit salt)
more butter for pan

1.  Place flours, eggs, milk, salt, melted butter, and 1/2 C water in blender and run for 1 minute.  Scrape down sides and run for another minute.  Transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate for at least an hour, or even overnight.

2.  Before using, stir batter.  It will be too thick.  Add water one tablespoon at a time until the consistency is like heavy cream.  Preheat an 8" round skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat.  Non-stick is a plus.

3.  Place a glob of butter on a paper towel and wipe over surface of hot pan, making sure not to leave any clumps of butter.  Save the towel to use between crepes.

4.  With one hand, hold the skillet by the handle.  With the other, pour about 1/4 C batter out of the pitcher.  Immediately start to swirl the pan, lifting it off the heat so you can tilt better.  (It's ok to put down the pitcher.)  Once the batter sets, replace pan on burner and let crepe cook until edges are lacy, browned, and curl up slightly from the surface of the pan.  The first one will take about two minutes, subsequent galettes a little less.

5.  To flip the first crepe, you will probably need the help of a spatula.  Once you get the hang of it, you can use your fingers.  Cook the other side for about a minute.  If you like, you can place the fillings on the galette now, or make a stack of them between pieces of waxed paper to fill later.  Remember to wipe pan surface with the buttered paper towel between crepes.

6.  To close crepes:  I have seen many ways of folding them.  You can fold it in half like a soft taco, roll it like the photo on top, fold in quarters if the filling is something flat like cheese, roll up like a sushi hand-roll, or fold in the four sides to make a kind of box, which you then turn over to serve.  It all depends on your filling and folding skills.

Difficulty rating :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Calamari Udon

This is a variation on Spice Soup.  I'm not sick, just paranoid that I'll get the flu.  Finally got a flu shot, but decided to toss in all sorts of virus-fighting ingredients.  Forgot to use turmeric, which turns everything yellow but is supposed to be good for you.

6 C chicken broth, fish stock, or water
4 oz dried udon noodles
1 Tb minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 lb snow peas
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 C diced green onions
3 sheets nori seaweed
1 Tb chia seeds
8 oz calamari, cut in 1/4" rings
salt and pepper to taste
soy sauce to finish

1.  Bring broth to a boil.  Add onions, ginger, and garlic and simmer for 20 minutes.

2.  Add peas, mushrooms, chia seeds, and seaweed and continue to simmer.

3.  In a separate saucepan, prepare udon noodles according to package directions.  Drain.

4.  Add calamari to soup pot.  After one minute, taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

5.  Divide noodles between 4 bowls.  Ladle soup on top and serve hot, with soy sauce as an option.

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, January 14, 2013

Makloubeh (Upside-down Meat Pie)

This one has a lot of steps, takes over 2 hours, and uses more pans than I was expecting.  None of it is really that difficult, but only this blog made me attempt the recipe out of Rose Dosti's book.  What it comes down to is that you can't go wrong with lamb stewed in cumin and cinnamon.  It smells wonderful and tastes yummy.  I also loved the fried eggplant layer, and will probably do fried eggplant slices as a side dish at some point.  I found myself wishing I had dipped them in tempura batter.  But that's a different recipe altogether.

I'm going to try to simplify the instructions and help you to find ways to lessen the number of pans and bowls.  The recipe itself does not appear to have a fault, except it took me longer to get the rice steamed at the end than the 30 minutes suggested.  I think it was because the lid didn't fit on the frying pan that well.

And if you don't have rosewater at home, don't stress it.  I didn't have that or the cardamom, and it was still complex and flavorful.  The saffron is nice because it gives the rice a little depth, but I understand that most casual cooks don't have it in the pantry.

2 Tb olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1/4 C slivered almonds or pine nuts
1-1/2 lbs lamb stew meat
*1/4 tsp ground cumin
*1/8 tsp ground allspice
*pinch of cinnamon
*pinch of cloves
pinch of cardamom
salt & pepper to taste
1-1/2 C beef broth (or water)
1 small eggplant, unpeeled, cut lengthwise into 1/4" slices (get out the mandoline)
vegetable or peanut oil for frying
1 C rice
boiling water
1/4 tsp saffron threads soaked in 1/4 C warm water
dash of rosewater

1.  Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add onions, garlic, and nuts.  Sauté until onions are tender.  Add meat and cook until browned.  Add cumin, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, salt, and pepper.  Add broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat; cover and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.

2.  As the end of the hour approaches. Slice the eggplant and sprinkle slices with salt to draw out the excess water and bitterness.  In a 10" skillet, heat 1/4" of vegetable oil for frying.  Pat dry the eggplant slices and fry in the oil, turning once, until a golden brown color.  Drain on paper towels.

3.  Place rice in a bowl.  Pour in boiling water to cover and let stand 5 minutes, then drain.  Strain saffron strands out of their water, season with the rosewater, and add the liquid to the rice.  Toss to coat.

4.  Drain off the oil from the eggplant skillet until there are only traces left.  Then drain off and keep the liquid from the lamb.  Place the lamb at the bottom of the skillet.  Layer the eggplant slices over the lamb.  Spread the rice over that, all the way to the edges of the skillet.  (In some photos I found, the eggplant went in the pan first.  You can create tart-like patterns with it that way.)  Pour 1-1/2 C of the reserved liquid from the stew over the rice slowly, so it doesn't displace the rice.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until rice is done and most of the liquid is absorbed.

5.  Loosen the rice from the edges of the skillet with a spatula.  Get a serving platter that is at least an inch larger than the skillet.  Place it upside-down over the skillet, then flip everything over and hope for the best.  Serve immediately.
Upside-Down in pan
Flipped for Serving

Serves about 6

Difficulty rating :-0

Friday, January 11, 2013

Champagne Roast

Ok, so there's always champagne left after the New Year has been toasted.  (At least with my friends.)  It seems a shame to pour it down the drain, so I went looking for another use.

Most of this recipe follows the Cranberry Brisket model.  The differences are that I used a chuck roast (pot roast) and you could easily sub in almost any jam for the cranberry sauce.  I used that because I had it in the pantry and I'm not terribly fond of raspberries.   Raspberry or apricot jam would probably complement the champagne quite nicely.

1 2 lb Chuck Roast
10 oz raspberry or apricot jam
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tsp whole peppercorns
1 C champagne (fizz not necessary)

1.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Double-line a roasting pan with aluminum foil.  Lay meat in pan.

2.  Smear meat with jam.  Scatter peppercorns and garlic on top.  Spread onion slices to cover the meat. Pour the champagne over all.  Top with another pieces of foil, and crimp edges to seal.  If the pan has a lid, use it.  Place in oven and roast for 2 hours.

3.  Remove lid and foil and allow meat to cool until easily handled, about 20 minutes, and turn down oven to 300º.  Remove meat to cutting board, leaving juices in pan.  Slice against the grain into 1/2"-thick slices.  Return slices to pan.  Add a little water if the sauce does not cover the bottom.  Reseal foil and cook meat another hour.  Serve hot.

Serves about 6

Difficulty rating :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Buckwheat Pancakes

I had the Bible open to the Waffles page, and this was on the opposite page.  "Hey, I have buckwheat flour," and these got made a few days later.

Buckwheat is supposed to be healthy for you, but the introduction of butter and syrup kind of negates most of that.  Still, they're better for you than all-white flour pancakes, and take the same amount of time to make.

The Bible said you could get a dozen pancakes out of this mix by using 1/4 C batter per pancake.  I made silver-dollar ones for easier portion control and got over two dozen.  The yield will depend upon how large you like your pancakes, but it should serve the same number of people.

And my computer is completely dead now.  I didn't realize it was six years old.  In computer years, that's positively ancient.  After a year of being on life-support anyway, I spilled liquid on the keyboard.  Never do that.  It kills computers.  Once I get a new one, I'll upload the photo of the pancakes.  They look like every other pancake, just a bit darker.  You can figure it out.

3/4 C AP flour
1/2 C buckwheat flour
2 Tb sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1-1/3 C milk
2 Tb oil, plus more for pan

1.  Whisk together both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Separately, beat together egg, milk, and oil.

2.  Introduce wet ingredients to dry and whisk until mostly wet.  At this point, a few lumps are okay.  Allow batter to rest while pre-heating pan.

3.  Heat a large frying pan or griddle over medium heat.  When water drops dance, lightly brush with oil.

4.  Break up any remaining large lumps in the batter.  Pour out batter onto griddle to make desired size of pancakes.  Cook until bubbles break on surface and it appears set, about 2 minutes.  Flip pancakes and cook other side until golden, about another minute.  Remove to serving plate and continue with remaining batter.  Re-oil pan as needed.

Serves 4-6

Difficulty rating  π
See, just pancakes

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pulled-Pork Nachos

These are game-day worthy.  I'm not calling it a dip, even though you use chips to scoop it up.  You could put it in a tortilla shell with shredded lettuce as a tostada.  The real point is that the pork turned out how I was expecting.

I used my own home-made tortillas, but feel free to get the soft corn tortillas at the market and fry them.

1 lb pork for stew
*1 tsp chili powder
*1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
4 corn tortillas
oil for frying
2 Roma tomatoes
1/4 C chopped red onion
1 C shredded cheddar or "mexican blend" cheese
sour cream for garnish

1.  Place pork in small saucepan.  Sprinkle with chili powder, paprika, pepper, and salt.  Add water to cover.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer.  Cover and cook until very tender, about 1-1/2 hours.  Drain and cool slightly.  Using two forks, pull apart meat at the grain to make shreds.  Set aside.

2.  Heat 1" of oil in a saucepan until water drops dance, or use a deep-fryer set to 375º.  Cut tortillas into chip-sized pieces and drop into oil.  Fry until crisp.  Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain for a few minutes.

3.  Place chips on serving platter.  Add pork, tomatoes, onions, and cheese.  Top with sour cream and serve hot.

Difficulty rating :-0