December 26, 2011

Corn Thing... You Make My Heart Sing

Corn Thing...  I think I love you.  I should be mortified that I'm putting this "recipe" here, but honestly it's so good I think I get a pass.

I dare say this barely qualifies as a recipe.  Anyone with even little to no cooking experience can dump out the contents of a box, mix it together, throw it in an oven and (hopefully) pull it out before it burns;  but let me reiterate- this thing is so yummy it makes up for its ridiculous simplicity and albeit slightly "white-trashiness".

This alongside a piece of glazed ham is divine.


Corn Thing
  • 16 ounces frozen corn
  • 1 can cream-style corn
  • 1 box corn muffin mix
  • 1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh black pepper

  1. Beat butter and eggs together. 
  2. Add sour cream and corn.  Stir to thoroughly combine.
  3. Add muffin mix and stir to combine again.
  4. Pour into a 9x9 glass baking dish and bake at 350 for 45 - 60 minutes. 
      **A knife inserted in the center should come out clean to test for doneness.

    December 23, 2011

    Praise the Braise...

    It's no secret that winter is my least favorite season, however it does get serious bonus points for the kind of cooking that it ushers in... the braise!  Culinary comfort, the only real benefit of freezing temperatures.

    Braises are perfect for winter.  It's a long, slow process (which is how winter feels to me) and it is usually comfort food cooking.   What is a "braise" exactly?   In its most basic definition, it's cooking something (usually meat) in a liquid (usually stock, wine or a combination thereof) for a long period of time on a low heat.  Most often, braises are tough cuts of meat that benefit from long, slow cooking turning them into the most succulent and flavorful of meals.

    Another benefit of braising is,  it's easy.  Many braises are one-pot meals, some with a side of starch (and we all know how I love that...) which means you aren't left with an entire sink of dirty dishes, something else I can really appreciate.

    I have a particular pot that I use for braises, it is a Le Creuset enameled cast-iron pot.  I have had this pot for almost 15 years.  It has made hundreds of meals and looks almost the same as the day I bought it.   This is one very good example of "you get what you pay for".   These are expensive, but it is something you only buy once.

    I wanted to do a post about braising and was searching for short ribs that would make the cut.  It took some time, but I found locally raised organic meat with beautiful marbling and so in went the ribs... deciding what to put with them was easy.  I had been craving rutabaga, which I know is not something you hear everyday, so once I had my veggies I was ready to get this braise going.

    Braised Short Ribs with Rutabaga Parsnip Puree
    • 6 beef short ribs
    • 1 large red onion, cut into large dice
    • 1 large Spanish onion, cut into large dice
    • 4 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
    • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
    • 3 tbsp tomato paste
    • 1/2 bottle red wine
    • 2 cups beef stock
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 2 bay leaves, fresh if possible
    • canola oil
    • all-purpose flour
    • kosher salt
    • black pepper
    • 1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
    • 1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
    • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
    • 4 tbsp butter
    • 3/4 - 1 cup milk

    1. In a heavy ovenproof pot,  add enough oil to your pot to reach 1/4 inch up the side and heat over high heat.

    2. Put about a cup of flour on a plate and add a little salt and pepper to it, mix it with your fingers and dredge the short ribs in the flour.  Shake off the excess flour and set aside.

    3.  When the oil is hot,  carefully add the ribs to the pot and brown on all sides.  You may have to do this in two batches; you don't want to crowd them or they won't brown properly.  Remove the ribs from the oil and set on a plate lined with paper towel.  (This can be done a day ahead if you are pressed for time; cover and refrigerate until ready to braise)

    4.  Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Pour out the oil and add the onions.  Saute on medium heat until softened and beginning to caramelize.  Add a big pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder and stir.  Add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 more minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook for another few minutes.

    5.  Put the ribs back into the pot.  Add the bay leaves, garlic, wine and stock.  Season with a few pinches of salt and a few more turns of the pepper grinder.  Bring the pot to a simmer, cover and slide into the oven for 4 hours.

    6.  Remove the pot from the oven and allow the ribs to cool slightly, uncovered.  Remove the ribs and set aside.  Remove bay leaves and discard.

    7.   Skim the fat from the surface, then puree the braising liquid and vegetables to make a gravy.  Put the short ribs back in and keep warm.

    8.  Bring water to a boil in a large pot.  Add rutabaga and boil for 5 minutes.  Add the potato and parsnips and continue boiling until tender.

    9. Drain and put back into pot on low flame to help remove some of the water from the vegetables.  Add milk and butter and beat with an electric mixer until consistency of mashed potato.  Season with salt and pepper.

    Braised Short Ribs on a puree of Rutabaga & Parsnip

    *It may not be the most beautiful of plates, but it is guaranteed to be delicious.

    December 18, 2011

    Move over Swiss Miss...

    No offense to Swiss Miss, but it pales in comparison to the real deal.  It will do in a pinch, but during the holidays it's nice to make something special. 

    I usually make this treat "to go"...  I put it in big travel mugs and we sip it as we stroll the neighborhood looking at the Christmas lights.

    The peppermint schapps in it is delicious, but you might want to skip it if you're making it for kids...

    Peppermint Hot Chocolate
    • 1 quart whole milk
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup good quality cocoa powder (I use Valrhona)
    • 2 shots peppermint schnapps
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • crushed candy canes

    1. Combine heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar.  Beat with electric mixer on highest speed until soft peaks form.  Set whipped cream aside.
    2. In a small pot, combine cocoa powder, sugar and milk.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, do not allow to boil.  Turn off heat and stir in schnapps.
    3. Pour hot chocolate into mugs, top with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle crushed cane on top.

    December 10, 2011

    My Darling Clementine...

    There is something inherently "Christmas-y" about clementines.  I suppose it has something to do with their season being around the holidays or perhaps because every Christmas for as long as I can remember my Mom put an orange in the toe of our stockings...

    The bright citrus aroma of this sweet little seedless fruit just makes the house smell festive and when the mercury drops and you are puttering around the house,  this is the perfect baking endeavor. 

    This cake really isn't much work at all; the food processor does all the chopping for you and all you are left with is a little stirring and let's be honest, that isn't very taxing at all.

    This recipe is basically Nigella Lawson's with a few slight changes, who got her inspiration for this cake from Claudia Roden.  I discovered this cake over a decade ago and I've made it every Christmas since then.  It is perfect with  coffee or tea, great as a light dessert or pretty much anytime you want a little sweet.  I find it gets even better the next day, if you can stand walking past it for 24 hours without diving into it.

    Clementine Cake
    • 4 - 5 clementines (1 pound total weight)
    • 6 eggs
    • 1 1/4 cups  sugar
    • 2 1/3 cups ground almonds (almond flour)
    • 1 heaping tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • powdered sugar

    1.  Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours. 

    2.  Drain clementines and when cool break in half and remove any seeds (if there are any) then put entire fruit into the bowl of your food processor and let it rip until the fruit is reduced to a pulp.

    3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour an 8-inch springform pan.  (You can use the ground almonds for this as well)

    beautiful blue heirloom eggs

    4.  Beat the eggs.  Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder.  Mix to combine and add the chopped clementines.  Stir until thoroughly combined.

    5.  Pour the cake mixture into prepared pan and bake for an hour, covering after 40 minutes or so to prevent the top from burning.  Pierce with a skewer or knife to check for doneness. (It should come out clean).  

    6.  Remove from oven and leave to cool in the pan.  When the cake is cold, remove from pan dust with powdered sugar.
    If you feel like channeling your inner domestic goddess, make a glaze for the top with powdered sugar and orange juice and lightly drizzle over the top in lieu of dusting.

    My Darling Clementine

    December 06, 2011

    ' Tis the Season...

    Christmas cookies are perhaps the very best part of the holiday season.  I get a bit overzealous when deciding how many varieties I can feasibly make.   Others try to be the voice of reason, but nevertheless I get swept up in a cookie frenzy wanting to bring out all the old favorites and at least a few new recipes that look promising.

    The one classic (besides gingerbread) that can't be left out are sugar cookies.  They are almost everyone's favorite and decorating them is something everyone can take part in.  I usually gather every last sprinkle, every kind of decoration and all of the luster dust I can find for this particular project, as I tend to get a little "Martha Stewart" during the whole process...

    Luster dust is an edible food color that comes in powdered form.  By mixing it with a drop or two of  vodka, it becomes a "paint" to color the frosting or the cookie itself.  It comes in every imaginable color and for snowflake cookies that are decorated white, the silver or iridescent luster dust looks beautiful.  It can deepen the colors of the frosting or just add a little shine or sparkle to give them an extra special look.  When using, make sure you use "non-toxic" or "food-grade" luster dust, as some are not meant for consumption.

    Sugar Cookies
    • 5 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
    • 4 sticks butter, room temp
    • 3 cups sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (optional)
    1. Combine flour and salt in a bowl, set aside.
    2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until fluffy and light in color, about 5 minutes.  If using a hand mixer about 7 - 8 minutes.
    3. Add the eggs and beat on medium high speed, then add the vanilla and lemon zest if using.
    4. Add flour in three batches and mix until just combined.
    5. Divide the dough in half,  form it into disks and wrap tightly in plastic.
    6. Chill for at least 2 hours before rolling out.
    7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    8. Dust surface with flour before rolling out.  
    9. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place on baking sheets.  If dough gets too warm, put cookie cutouts in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Put in oven, on middle rack and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
    10. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.
    *This recipe will yield a few dozen cookies.  Remember to bake cookies of the same size together.  If you have a large cookie cutter and a small one, bake them separately as they will not bake in the same amount of time.
      Royal Icing
      • 1 lb. powdered sugar
      • 1/2 cup water
      • 5 tbsp meringue powder

      • food coloring
      • assorted sanding sugars
      • sprinkles
      • nonpareils
      - Combine powdered sugar, meringue powder and water until smooth.

      - Icing sets up fairly quickly, do not mix icing until you are ready to frost the cookies.  Use assorted food coloring to dye the frosting.  I prefer to use gel or paste food coloring instead of liquid, a little goes a long way.

      - To pipe frosting, (if you don't own piping bags) put in re-sealable sandwich bag and clip a corner of the bag off and use as a piping bag.

      - Add sprinkles or sanding sugar to your cookies immediately after frosting.
      - Use luster dust after royal icing has set completely.

      Happy Baking!

      cookie from Shellco

      December 02, 2011

      Stir the Pot...

      Risotto is one of those foods that require demand a long, leisurely approach.  On a cold winter afternoon when the wind is blowing outside and the last thing I want to do is brave the cold, THIS is the kind of food that happily keeps me indoors and in front of the stove.

      This is comfort food on every conceivable level. On days when you need a bit of a mental break, I whole-heartedly recommend making risotto... 20 minutes of stirring while you lovingly watch the pot of rice in front transform into something ethereal you can be just what you need.

      The whole key to risotto is the slow process allowing the creaminess of the rice to come out and that can only be achieved by not rushing it.  Knowing this going into it makes the constant stirring a welcome change of pace from the frenzied dinner preparation most of us normally experience.

      Don't let the thought of the stirring deter you from making this,  it really isn't more than a bit of pouring in stock and stirring for the better part of the cooking.  Some people find it a bit off-putting to be tethered to a stove for a period of time,  but if you have children that are a little older have them do the stirring for you.  Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is the best way for them to learn.

      As always, having everything ready to go (or your mis-en-place) will make things go smoother so measure out the ingredients before you start the rice.

      Butternut Squash Risotto
      • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced small (1/4 inch pieces)
      • 2 tbsp olive oil
      • 6 cups chicken stock, homemade is best but if you buy it get the best quality you can find
      • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
      • 2 large shallots, minced
      • 10 ounces Arborio rice (1 1/2 cups)
      • 1/2 cup dry white wine
      • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
      • kosher salt
      • freshly ground black pepper
      • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped

      1. Before we get started,  a word about the wine...  When you cook with wine, it doesn't need to be expensive, but it does need to be good.  Always cook with something you would drink, the food will reflect it if you do otherwise.
      2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the diced butternut squash with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and a few turns of the mill of fresh black pepper.  Lay the butternut squash out on a sheet pan in a single layer and roast in the oven for about 20 - 25 minutes until very tender and slightly caramelized. Set aside.
      3. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan.  Leave it on low heat, it needs to stay warm as you add it to the rice.
      4. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and saute the shallots on low - medium heat for about 10 minutes until the shallots are translucent. Add the sage and let it perfume the butter.  Add the rice and stir to slick the grains of rice with the butter.
      5. Add the wine and cook for 2 -3 minutes, then add 2 ladles of simmering stock to the pot.  Season again with a little salt & pepper.   We're building flavor here, so we need to season as we go...  Give it a good stir, let it simmer and keep stirring until stock is absorbed, about 5 - 10 minutes.
      6. When stock has been absorbed, add in 2 more ladles and stir frequently until the stock is absorbed and rice is cooked through, but still al dente.  (about 30 minutes).
      7. Remove from heat, add Parmesan cheese and roasted squash.  Stir to combine and serve.