Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fast Fettucini with Ham and Jarlsburg

Printable Recipe
What to do with that left over spiral cut ham? Turn it into this quick and creamy luscious treat and you'll be wishing for left over ham more often. After the holidays, finding myself with the end bits of the ham that will no longer give up a decent slice for sandwiching, I thought about this dish we had in Florence, Italy a few years ago and how quickly the chef made it up in his small open kitchen where everyone in the place could watch. This is my replica. Not many ingredients here so it's essential that each one is of best quality.
And here ya go: you'll need 1 Tbs each of butter and flour and about 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. The cheeses are Jarlsburg and Parmigiano Reggiano, a cup of the first and just a spoonful or so of the second.
Ham, of course. For the photo I had to throw some Boar's head ham slices from the butcher on here because, why? I forgot to photograph the ingredients when I actually made the dish and that won't do for my faithful readers. Sigh, that meant recreating the ingredient plate after the fact. This is going to be a photo-intensive post because I want you to see exactly what the sauce needs to look like every minute along the way so it will turn out perfect for you.

And start some fettuccini or spaghetti cooking with a good tablespoon or more of salt. For four servings you'll need less than half a pound of dry noodles. Whatever time the box lists, set your timer for 2 minutes less so you can test it and be sure to get out of the bath while it's truly al dente and not soft and mushy.

We're getting everything ready before starting the sauce which will go really fast and has to be stirred continuously, no leaving the stove to grate cheese after the fact. You'll need about a cup of the Jarlsburg (or Gruyere would be really good here too, also nutty and richly flavored) and the ham should be chopped up to equal about a cupful also.

Put the 1 cup of cream into the microwave for 1 minute only to warm it. And yes I have written a message on the turntable of my microwave. A demand (or plea) for my lovely twins girls to PLEASE COVER IT! so I will not have crusty stallagtites on the ceiling of my oven from exploded dinnersnacks.

 And now we are ready to commence saucing! Melt the butter over medium low heat until it just begins to foam. Sprinkle in the spoon of flour and immediately stir it in with a whisk. It will really foam up at first; keep it moving quickly to blend and lean in for the fragance to tell you when to add the hot cream, usually within just a minute or so, when the scent changes from a raw floury smell to slightly nutty but it has not browned at all (toss it and start again on lower heat if it browns).

Add the liquid in a steady stream, whisking all the while. The butter/flour mixture will still look thin before the liquid comes in but will quickly thicken as you keep whisking.

As it bubbles along add the red pepper flakes and cheese and finally the ham.

The pasta should be ready now. Before you drain it dip out about a cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce. This will not thin the sauce as much you'd think, just enough to make it coat the noodles better. This also adds some seasoning and starch to the sauce to make it better.

Add this in gradually, still whisking of course. The heat should be high enough for the sauce to bubble steadily and easily incorporate the pasta water completely. If it seems too thin, bubble it just another minute or two to rethicken. All in all, this sauce is ready in less than 10 minutes from start to finish.  And it's ready for the pasta.

I start by adding 2 cups and folding it in with a rubber spatula to see if more is needed. 3 cups at most is all you'll need.  (You can serve the left over pasta tomorrow with a little browned butter and a sprinkle of toasted almonds or pine nuts.)

 Powerful shake or two or three of black pepper.
 Finally, the last touch is that perfect parmigianno. Mmmmm. This one is hardly more than a rind which I saved to add some marvelous flavor to a soup. But that's another blog for another day when I make use of that spiral cut hambone. Don't throw it out! Freeze it if you have to. Stay tuned and we'll make soup in a few days!

Back to our Fettucini - gild it with a hearty spoonful of finely grated parm and serve it up! Give it a taste first to be sure you're willing to share.

1/2 lb Spaghetti
8 oz heavy cream
8 oz jarlsburg cheese
8 oz honeybaked ham or similar good ham
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yummy Little Sandwiches

Printable Recipe
Spicy Italian Roast Beef layered with creamy, nutty cheese on a just-sweet-enough mini bun. You'll make these to take for a party, a pitch-in, a luncheon (do people have luncheon anymore?). And you'll keep making them for yourself...midnight snack, Saturday lunch, Sunday brunch, oh, anything at all. They're a bit hard to resist. And quick and easy. You've practically got the recipe already, but here's a visual:

Open the 12 pack of Hawaiian rolls and do not separate into individual pieces. Steady them with your palm in the middle of the whole thing and use a long serrated knife to cut them horizontally into a top and bottom. Open them up like a big bread clamshell. On the underside of the top half slather on a goodly layer of Miracle Whip. As much as I love mayonnaise, the real thing, I believe this sandwich needs the tangy goodness of MW to make it just right. 
Now, for the other half o' the bread layer on all of this: 8 oz cream cheese, 2-4 oz blue cheese, handful of smoked almonds. 

Rough chop those almonds with a big sturdy knife. I mean just lay a handful on a chopping block and chop through a few times to at least halve them. Chunkier is better here. NOTE: Everything will mix together better and spread nicely if you give the cream cheese just 10-20 seconds in the microwave till barely warm and very soft.  

Now, layer your very thinly sliced pound of Italian roast beef over all and close that breadclam right up. It's easiest to cut through everything with the long serrated knife just before you arrange on the platter. These will fit nicely back into the "tray" and bag they came in to transport for your event. And they hold quite well for 2-3 days in the fridge!  Incidentally, I find Italian roast beef in the bigger groceries or from my butcher who carries Boar's Head which is my favorite brand. Any Italian roast beef greatly trumps plain old roast beef; so much more flavorful. If you're really tired, go ahead and make this with whatever you've got. It will definitely still be irresistible.
12 Hawaiian Rolls
1 lb Italian Roast Beef
8 oz Cream Cheese
2-4 oz Blue Cheese
1/2 cup Smoked Almonds
Miracle Whip

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Festive Green Salad with Red Poms

Printable Recipe

A perfect salad anytime but especially pretty for the Christmas table. Pomegranate arils dot the bright green romaine lettuce like lovely little holly berries. So pretty without the deadly poison of the holly. Truly, don't get those two mixed up. And drizzled over all, a pink poppyseed salad dressing that's just a bit sweet, just a bit tangy. So, let's whip up a healthy, completely poison free salad!

The assemblage: a pomegranate, dried cherries, romaine heart, and toasty sliced almonds.  For each salad you'll need 1 cup of chopped lettuce and 1 tablespoon each of almonds and dried cherries and 2 tsp pomegranate arils.  Top with 2 Tablespoons dressing which we'll make in a minute. First things first though: how to get the goods out of that pomegranate and a quick way to take the romaine down to easy bite size pieces. My mom used to say that a piece of salad lettuce should always be small enough to bite without cutting up at the table. I do the lettuce cutting ahead of time with that in mind. One Note: Dried Cranberries work just as well in this salad and are just as pretty and red.
A quick way to cut the romaine hearts (which I came up with after doing romaine salads for 80 one day) is like this: Cut a wedge out to remove the core, as pictured here, then slice the whole thing from end to end, flip it over a half turn, and make a second cut the long way. Now you can slice across in narrow strips and get nice bite size pieces quickly.

How to Seed a Pomegranate

Well, you can bash it smartly with a wooden spoon which I've seen Nigella Lawson do on her cooking show with great success. I find that some seeds fly out while lots of splatters ruin everything within two feet of the bowl. 

The better solution is to submerge the pom half in a bowl and sort of flip it inside out. Work the little arils out underwater so that any released juice stays in the water and the waxy membranes float away.

Now the waxy insides can be skimmed off the top and the little red jewels retrieved with a mesh strainer. There will be more than enough for 6-8 salads, maybe more.

Pink Poppyseed Dressing

Mix together in a jar with lid and shake furiously or whisk until all is emulsified:

1 Cup Canola Oil
Less than 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
    (about 2-1/2 Tbs)
2 Tbs Honey
1/2 teaspoon honey mustard
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
pinch of salt

THE SHOPPING LIST: (for 6-8 salads)
2 Hearts of Romaine
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup Dried Cherries or Craisins
1 Pomegranate
1 cup Canola Oil
1/4 C Red Wine Vinegar
Honey Mustard
Poppy Seeds

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cherry Topped Cream-Drop Cookies

Printable Recipe
Creamy rich and dense with a soft cake-like texture, these cookies are the same cherry drops my Aunt Essie was making in the 40's and which my mom made in later years for us. I've never tasted another one like these.As a matter of fact it's hard to put them in a category - they're not shortbread, much too soft for that; they're not sugar cookies, too rich in flavor. And they're too sticky to be cut with a cookie cutter, even when refrigerated. But I'm not inclined to go to the trouble of cutting out a cookie most days, anyway. Just give me a dough that tastes fabulous and is intended to be baked as a little blob and my needs are met.

So start this little blob with a stick of butter and a cup of sugar and paddle that till it starts looking creamy.

Here's the rest of the line-up to assemble:
1 egg
2 Tbs Cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Maraschino Cherry halves, drained and patted dry

So, now that the butter-sugar mixture has been creamed, add the egg and 2 Tbs. Cream and 1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp lemon extract and blend it in on low untill smooth. Careful with that lemon extract - it's a powerful force and a little goes a loooong way.

Next, the dry ingredients need to be blended well before adding to the dough. I'm of the scoop-and-scrape school of flour measurement because I'm not worried about compacting the flour by scooping it (a very real fear amongst professional flour scoopers) because I scoop it gently and I don't pack it down like it's brown sugar, y'all. Just a gentle scoop and scrape the excess off into a nice big orange bowl. And yes, I have a restaurant server's table crumber that is my favorite scraping device because I'm just that geeky. And because I love to shop in restaurant supply houses because you never know what on earth you'll find in there that you just can't live without .

Where on earth was I? Oh, yeah, the dry ingredients: 2-1/4 cups of flour in a bowl with 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk slowly to blend well and prevent the danger of an evil tasting bit of baking powder in any of the cookies your favorite, sweet mother-in-law might bite into later. Now add to the dough and mix on low, gradually speeding up to medium as the flour incorporates. Maybe throw a kitchen towel over the whole shebang until that powdery mess blends in so you don't flour the walls on the mixer side of the kitchen. Just sayin'.
This is how the dough will look when ready. No need to beat it beyond the point when the flour is completely mixed in. It will be creamy but fairly stiff.
I like to use a small mechanical scoop like a mini ice cream scoop. This one dispenses about a tablespoon of dough. I have them in 2 or 3 sizes because they are the quickest, easiest way to make cookies. So much better than spoons and fingers and rolling dough balls in your buttered hands. Although that butter is really good for dry hands if you just rub in the left overs and then wash up at the sink. You may think I'm joking...
 Press 1/2 Cherry into each of these, slightly flattening the balls as you go. Give them about 8-10 minutes in a 350 oven. Really keep an eye on the first batch to determine time for your particular oven. To keep them tender and moist, they should be baked until just done and not brown at all. They will still have just a little "give" when you poke one with a finger. I often take one out and break it open to see that the dough is cooked through and consistently colored all the way through. If so, and it holds together without crumbling, they're ready!  

1 Stick of Butter
1 Cup of Sugar
1 egg
2 Tbs Cream
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Lemon Extract
1/2 tsp Salt
2-1/4 Cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
Maraschino Cherry halves

We're celebrating the holidays with the Food Network by bringing our cookies to a Virtual Cookie Swap. Just look at these delicious recipes for all the holiday sweets that will be there!

Jones Is Hungry: A Cookie for Chocolate Lovers
From My Corner of Saratoga: Gooey Butter Cookies
The Sensitive Epicure: Speculaas Dutch Windmill Cookies
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Salted Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Fudge
Virtually Homemade: Chocolate Mint Snowballs
Sweet Life Bake: Polvorones de Chocolate
FN Dish: Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies
Thursday Night Dinner: Peppermint Bark Cookies
Mooshu Jenne: Biscotti
Cooking With Elise: Sweet and Salty White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carrot Cake Hawaiian Style

Printable Recipe

Carrot Cake from Hawaii? Nah, not really. I just dubbed it that because it is loaded with pineapple and coconut which is just the way I imagine Carrot Cake on Kauai might be. Lots of people who love this cake and think they don't like coconut don't even realize there's coconut in it since its texture mimics the shredded carrot. The pineapple sweetens this cake without making it sugary and makes it extremely moist. Best of all, it comes together almost as fast as a cake mix except it doesn't taste like Play-doh. Yes, that's the flavor I always think of when I taste carrot cakes not-made-from-scratch. And, no, I haven't eaten Play-doh (that I remember), I'm just guessing at flavor based on scent.

Before we start to make cake, get a stick of butter and a block of cream cheese out and set them aside for later. They need to come up to room temp. But, for the cake: Let's start with the dry ingredients and we're going to whisk them together by hand right in the mixer bowl. We'll move it over to the stand mixer to add the wet ingredients in a few minutes. Here's the list of dry:
2 teaspoons vanilla 2-1/4 cups flour,  2 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt.   Whisking everything together breaks up any lumps and incorporates the spices, soda, and salt smoothly into the flour so nobody gets a bitter bite of any of that in their cake later.

Now move the mixing bowl to the stand mixer and line up the wet ingredients to add in alternating bunches to the dry mix. Here's that list:  1-1/2 cups oil, 3 eggs, 1 Tbs Vanilla, 2 cups shredded carrot, 2 cups coconut, 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained.  I know this picture just shows 2 carrots, but it will take probably 4 carrots at least to equal two cups finely shredded. I do them with the fine shredder of the food processor and they're ready in about 30 seconds. Drain pineapple well.

Drain pineapple well in a colander.
Start by adding the eggs and oil and vanilla to dry ingredients, then follow with pineapple, carrots, coconut, and lastly the nuts. Just mix those in briefly so they don't start getting ground up by the beater. And ready to pour into a Pam-sprayed 9x13 for the oven! Bake at 350 for around 30 minutes and check it. As soon as a pick comes out clean and it's no longer liquidy in the middle, remove from oven. This is a very moist cake if not over cooked and you can't judge by the color when done. Test with a toothpick and remove at first sign of a crumb even if the crumb is damp.                                               
Ready for the oven.

Ok, before you clean up that wretched kitchen mess let's get the icing done while the cake bakes and. Um. Walk away and think about it later.  If the 1 stick butter and 8 oz cream cheese is at all cold then give each just A FEW SECONDS in the microwave and check till you have nice soft, but not melted, ingredients. Beat them together in the mixer with 1 tsp vanilla and a pinch of salt until nice and smooth. Reduce to lowest speed and add the first cup of confectioners sugar until it blends in, then another cup, and finally a third cup, mixing slowly each time. When it has blended in enough for the powdery mess to die down, then kick the speed up and really let it go. It should be nice and smooth and thick, not runny. I think it really tastes best if you can avoid adding the 4th cup of sugar.
Here' a little hint - toss a kitchen towel over the mixer when something powdery is in there and you'll cut the risk of flour coating your kitchen like a frying chicken.

So, E ʻai kākou, ya'll! (That's Hawaiian for, Let's Eat! which is about as close as we can get to Bon Appetit! island style.)
2-1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
3 eggs
1 Tbs Vanilla
2 cups shredded carrot
2 cups coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 Tbs Vanilla Extract
Pinch salt
3-4 cups confectioners' sugar

FallFest is continuing at the Food Network website through December! Every week we'll be sharing great recipes for fall and early winter vegetables. For now, check out all kinds of other recipes for Carrots: 

Thursday Night Dinner: Pickled Carrots
Virtually Homemade: Roasted Red Onions and Carrots With Pomegranate Gremolata
Haute Apple Pie: Carrot, Apple and Radicchio Slaw
What's Gaby Cooking: Thyme and Honey Roasted Carrots
Glory Foods: Honey-Carrot Bread
FN Dish: Quick Carrot Sides for Thanksgiving
Cooking With Elise: Spiced Carrot Marmalade
Dishin and Dishes: Roasted Honey Balsamic Glazed Carrots
Daydreamer Desserts: Carrot Cheesecake
Mooshu Jenne: Apple and Carrot Hearts Salad
The Sensitive Epicure: Maple Bourbon Glazed and Braised Carrots
Daydreamer Desserts: Carrot Martini

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes Supreme

Printable Recipe
Whether your house is the gathering place or you're traveling with food to join the gathering table, this dish is your solution to great mashed potatoes that can be made well ahead of time and they travel well. And this is what I'm bringing to the table this year, joining my huge clan in Tennessee for some so-good southern cooking. Now, get ready, these are not just your average mashed potatoes, but if you've read my blog at least once you already know what to expect from me. That means get out some butter, for one thing.

 About half a stick for every 3-5 lbs of potatoes and 8 oz of cream cheese, that is. Go ahead and get these out now to soften. I often make this recipe with 10 lbs of potatoes for a crowd and that means at least a full stick of butter and a full lb of cream cheese. My Nanny Hall used to say, "Let your conscience be your guide," where butter was concerned, and then she would go ahead and drop in a whole stick. Try to keep your conscience from interfering at this moment and go ahead and follow the ratios prescribed above. This is holiday cooking, after all.

Now put on some potatoes. Let's just give them a rinse and toss them in there whole and unpeeled to make our lives a little easier. I love to use Yukon golds because they're so buttery yellow to begin with and are not dry and crumbly like the Idaho white. Bring to a boil and start checking at about  10 minutes because we want them out of the bath when they are just done and not verging toward that dangerous moment when the starches will turn to sticky goo in the mixer. To figure out about that perfect moment to cut the heat, here's the test.

Impale one or two potatoes with a paring knife and if it slips in fairly easily then lift one of the potatoes out. It should hang on for just a second and then slide back into the water. Not done enough if it doesn't slide off. Probably need to get them out quicker next time if they're so soft you can't lift one out on the knife. If you've ever left potatoes boiling for too long and then tried to mash them, you know why this step matters. You could hang wall paper with the paste that results from overdone potatoes which will turn even stickier when beaten.
I like to go off and leave these cooling in a colander until they're just cool enough to hold for peeling, though don't let them get cold or again there's the risk of sticky end product. Today I was in too much of a hurry to wait for the heat to subside a bit and couldn't find the industrial strength rubber gloves so I'm using a clean dishcloth to keep from screaming. But this step goes fast with Yukon golds since they have such thin skin it will all pull off in a single piece of two with a little scrape of the knife. Forget the vegetable peeler; it's useless here.

Give these a good sprinkle of salt, say a tablespoon or so and nearly as much pepper. Set the beater to medium and let it turn just enough to break everything up. Don't walk away! We're not beating the living daylights out of these.

You can see these are still plenty lumpy when we throw in the butter and cream cheese. If the potatoes are stil hot they will melt everything  down easily. If you've let them completely cool, then give both butter and cr cheese about 30 seconds or so in the microwave to be sure they're softened and then mix all together at medium speed until just incorporated. Doesn't take long.

I only beat these until all is mixed together and than stop because I like some some pieces of potatoes still intact. Of course it's fine to beat them smooth, too. Next we're going to bake them at 350 for 30-45 mintues. OK to do ahead of time so they're completely done when you arrive at your destination. If your table is the gathering place and you want to bake them at the last minute, they will hold in the fridge just like this for several days.

Butter one large dish (9x13 or bigger) and layer in the potatoes; keeping them 3" deep or less is best. Then rub a little soft butter over the top. I've used two dishes small enough to fit into the microwave for last minute reheating so that I can bake ahead and store in the fridge overnight to take to the feast.

3-5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Food Network is getting the entire food community together to celebrate a huge Virtual Thanksgiving called The Communal Table. Want to join us? Check out these fantastic ideas for a memorable Thanksgiving table from our other great bloggers!

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Sweet Life Bake: Pumpkin Margarita
Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bruschetta With Sage Pesto
Mooshu Jenne: Green Salad
Two Peas and Their Pod: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Salad
Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad
Purple Cook: Pasta and Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
From My Corner of Saratoga: Curried Pumpkin Soup
CIA Dropout: Turkey and Stuffles Roulades With Squash Mash
FN Dish: Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey
My Angel's Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens
Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing
Virtually Homemade: Twice-Baked Cheddar and Chive Potatoes
Easy Eats Magazine: Sausage and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
The Sensitive Epicure: Oyster Dressing and Gravy
What's Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing
Family Fresh Cooking: Coconut Brown-Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Silvana's Kitchen: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mushroom-Rye Stuffing
The Cultural Dish: Cranberry Sauce
I Am Baker: Pumpkin Cake
Heather Christo: Pumpkin Vanilla Ice Cream Pie
And Love It Too: Pumpkin Custard (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Double Pumpkin Mini Pies With Candied Pecans
Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie
Daydreamer Desserts: Cuban Diplomatic Pudding
Thursday Night Dinner: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Caramel Apple Pie
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