Friday, April 29, 2016

Cheddar Potato Gratin

After the success of my first potato gratin, I decided to invent one using what I had learned and what was on hand.  Passover is the only time of year I buy that five-pound bag of potatoes.  While it is inexpensive at any time of the year, I'm not a huge potato eater and don't want it to go bad because I hate wasting food, no matter how much money I saved.  If this didn't work, I still had about a quarter of the bag left.

I went light with this one, mainly because I'm saving the cream to make ice cream and didn't think to pick up more.  Regular milk won't leave the potatoes as creamy, but I did have some leftover Alfredo sauce to use up that I tossed over it after the photo.  The gratin itself is cheddar potatoes, which I have no problem with.

1 lb russet potatoes
*1 C milk
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 C fresh parsley, chopped
1 C shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Grease an 8"x8" casserole and preheat the oven to 375º.  Thinly slice potatoes.  Arrange half on bottom of casserole.

2.  Sprinkle potatoes with paprika, parsley, half of the cheese, and a light sprinkling of salt.  Top with remaining potatoes and the rest of the cheese.

3.  Pour milk over all.  Cover casserole with foil tight enough to make the dish steam itself.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes to crisp up the top.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

German Corned Beef and Cabbage

Going through the freezer before Passover, I found the last pound of corned beef.  I used mustard in the brine, so it isn't KLP.  Deciding what to do with it, I suddenly realized the problem with my mom's annual torture session for St. Patrick's Day.  We're German and Russian stock, and she was forcing an Irish dish on us.  What this really needed was vinegar, mustard, and a beer.  This came to me as I was reading a post my cousin put on her blog about finding a jar of pickled cabbage and apples in her pantry.  I'm not brave enough to ferment sauerkraut from scratch, but cooking down a cabbage with apple cider vinegar could make a quick substitute in 20 minutes.

I had this as it was on a plate with a side of potatoes.  You could put it on rye for a sandwich, on a pretzel bun like a hot dog, or stuff it into a baked potato.  It could also work as the basis for a soup, and a carrot in the mix wouldn't be questioned.

1 medium cabbage
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
1 cooking apple like Gala
*1 lb corned beef
salt to taste
*1 tsp horseradish (optional)
mustard for serving

1.  Thinly slice cabbage, avoiding the core, and place the shreds in a large pot.  Sprinkle lightly with salt, add the cider vinegar, and cover with a lid.  Put it over medium heat and stir it periodically until it has cooked down to about half of its original volume.  This takes 10 to 15 minutes.

2.  While the cabbage is cooking, dice the apple and cut the corned beef strips into bite-sized pieces.  Toss them into the pot and cook until apples are soft and beef is heated through, about 5 minutes.  Serve hot with a side of some interesting mustard and maybe a beer for the adults.

Difficulty rating  π

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Bread with Butter Substitute

Let's see, why haven't I been posting?  It started with a lot of meals out for my birthday, and their leftovers.  I also wanted to get my laundry room repainted before the new washer & dryer arrived.  Then I was cleaning for Passover and was too tired to do any elaborate cooking, or to write about it.  Then I was just making random stuff to use up the chometz and kitniyot so I wouldn't have to stash as much of it, most of it on greens from the garden as a cobbled together salad.

But I did find the last of the can of prune filling from the hamantaschen, which contains corn syrup.  For the heck of it, and because I'm out of molasses, I decided to make some bread using it as a substitute for both butter and sugar.  What resulted was slightly sweet, yet somewhat savory from the buckwheat, and actually did taste slightly of the prune.  The touch of fruity aroma made this a good bread to have with a mild white cheese like brie, or slathered with real butter (totally defeating the butter-free aspect).

*1/2 C milk
*2 Tb prune butter substitute
1 tsp yeast
*1/2 C buckwheat or whole wheat flour
*1 to 1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

1.  Warm milk and prune purée to 100º.  Stir in yeast and allow to sit until foamy, about five minutes.

2.  In mixer, combine buckwheat flour and 1/2 C white flour.  Pour in milk mixture and beat into a batter on medium for 2 minutes.  Add salt and another half cup of flour and beat again into a thick batter or light dough.

3.  Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface.  Knead until smooth, adding as little flour as possible.  Because of the purée and buckwheat, it's going to be sticky longer than usual.  The dough almost behaves as though it had egg in it.  Place into a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides.  Set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

4.  Punch down dough and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Either form into a round loaf or cut into pieces for rolls.  Place on baking sheet and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

5.  Preheat oven to 350º.  If desired, brush tops with butter.  I misted the rolls with water to delay crust formation.  Bake until hollow when tapped, about 15 minutes for rolls and 20 to 25 minutes for a loaf.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pineapple Chicken

This is proof that you can make something special with almost no effort.  I chose to use a fresh pineapple because they were cheaper than canned, and got lucky with a very ripe, sweet, juicy one.  Since chicken takes at least 45 minutes to cook, you'll get about the same consistency whether you use fresh or canned pineapple.  This takes less than 5 minutes to prep if you use a can, maybe 10 if you're cutting up a fresh piece of fruit.  It produces a juice-braised chicken with just a few interesting spices.

1 whole cut-up chicken, or 8 assorted pieces
1 medium pineapple or 2 large cans pineapple chunks
*2 stalks green onion, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes or sriracha if you want some kick
1 Tb cornstarch

1.  Start preheating oven to 350º.  Arrange chicken in a 9x13 (or larger, if necessary) baking dish.

2.  Peel and cut pineapple into chewable chunks, discarding woody core, or open cans.  Place in a bowl, including the juice.  Toss with onion, cornstarch, and any hot spices you choose.  Pour the juicy mess over the chicken.

3.  Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until juices run clear and a thermometer in the thickest piece registers 160º to 165º.  Let rest until the juices stop boiling and serve pieces topped with the pineapples and syrup.

Serves 4 to 6

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hot Cross Buns

This isn't just a leap year on the Gregorian calendar.  It's a leap year on the Jewish one too, which means that there is an extra month.  I don't understand why, but it also means that Easter did not fall during Passover.  Some weird lunar-calendar thing.  And it means I could have hot cross buns for Easter breakfast.

Yes, of course I can make them any time I want, but it's like having a whole roasted turkey not in November.  There are some things that seem proper at their holiday.

These start with a half-batch of the Bible's standard sweet bread dough.  It's just a rich yeast dough with an egg and raisins in it.  The result is similar to a Hawaiian roll with icing.  These are a lot lighter than the Stollen, despite being similar in construction.  And they're kind of addictive.

1/2 C sugar
1 Tb (1-1/2 packages) yeast
4 C flour
1 C milk
1/2 C butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C raisins, currants, or similar dried fruit
1 tsp orange zest
egg wash or cream for brushing

1.  Warm milk, butter, and sugar to 100º (about 1 minute in the microwave).  The butter does not need to melt.  Stir in yeast and allow to sit until foamy, five minutes.

2.  In a stand mixer, combine 1-1/2 C flour and the salt.  Stir in milk mixture and beat into a batter for two minutes.  Add egg and 1 C flour and beat again until smooth.  Add raisins, orange zest, and enough flour to make the dough stable and stir to combine.

3.  Turn dough out onto a well-floured board and knead until smooth, adding just enough flour to get there.  An egg dough will absorb a lot more flour than is good for it.  Turn over in an oiled bowl to coat all sides and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

4.  Grease a 9x13 baking pan.  Punch down dough and separate into 12 pieces (mine were just under 3 oz each).  Roll into balls and arrange in pan in 3x4 rows.  Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate overnight and let rise in the morning for 30 minutes.

5.  Preheat oven to 350º.  With a sharp, floured knife, cut crosses in the tops of the rolls.  Brush tops with cream or an egg yolk beaten with a tablespoon of milk.  Both will make them dark, but egg will make them shiny.  If you're making your own royal icing for the decoration, do the egg yolk so you have a white left over.  Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on the tops, but still visibly soft where the rolls meet.

6.  For the icing, I just used leftover cream cheese icing out of the can.  You can make a simple fondant icing with powdered sugar, milk, and a touch of lemon juice.  Substitute egg white for the milk to make royal icing.  I never pay attention to quantities of the powdered sugar; I just start at 1/2 cup and keep going until it's the consistency I want.  Drizzle or pipe icing following the crosses you already cut in the rolls.  Serve hot.

Makes 1 dozen

Difficulty rating :)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Meyer Lemon and Lavender Jam

I made this recipe from Marisa of Food in Jars the day after she posted it.  I didn't make as much as she did, but I easily could have.  I have a lot of lemons, and the recent weather made the Meyer and Valencia branches bloom up a storm.

What piqued my interest, other than having all the ingredients on hand, was that it isn't marmalade.  You put the whole lemon, minus the seeds, in the blender.  You still get the pectin properties of the rind, but in a puréed form.

I did process these for the pantry, but I'm scaling it down here for a batch that's both cheaper and something you can go through in a few weeks for refrigerator storage.

*1 lb Meyer lemons
*scant 1 tsp dried culinary lavender
1 C sugar

1.  Thoroughly wash lemons and trim off the stem and bottom ends.  Place in a saucepan in one layer and just cover with water.  Place lavender in a cheesecloth or tea ball and dangle into the water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to medium and cook until lemons are soft to the touch but not mushy, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool until easy to handle.
2.  Remove tea ball, but don't throw out the water.  Set a sieve over a shallow skillet.  In the sieve, cut the lemons in half and discard the seeds.  Dump contents of sieve and anything that ran out into the pan into a blender.  Add 1-1/2 C of the cooking liquid and purée until fairly smooth.  A few chunky bits are ok for character.  Pour everything back into the skillet.  It's going to look foamy from all the air whipped into it.  That settles out as it cooks.

3.  If you're going to process the jam, now is the time to start boiling water for it and sterilizing the jars. Bring jam to a boil over high heat.  Lower heat to medium-high and continue to boil until thick, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching and skimming off any scum spots.  It will take at least 20 minutes.  When you get hit by a lava spit, it's probably done.  Check to see that it coats the back of a spoon.

4.  If processing, fill jars, wipe rims, set lids, and tighten bands finger-tight.  Process in boiling water bath for ten minutes.  If not, allow to cool to room temperature, place in a sealable container, and refrigerate.

Makes about 1 pint to 3 cups, depending how far you let it boil down

Difficulty rating  π