Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas 2008

This year I wanted to do something other than turkey and no one much cared what I chose to cook.  I searched my recipes and came up with one for daube de boeuf photocopied from an unknown cookbook as a base.  I decided to serve it with a polenta recipe that was in the January Gourmet magazine.

Daube de Boeuf
4 1/2 lbs beef cut in chunks (I used chuck roast from grass feed beef)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 celery rib, sliced
3 medium onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, diced
1 small bunch parsley
3 imported bay leaves
several sprigs fresh thyme
1 bottle (750 ml) sturdy red wine
1/4 cup cognac (I forgot it)
olive oil
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
zest and juice of 1 orange
salt and pepper
Brown beef on all sides in olive oil in heavy deep pan.  Don't crowd.  Remove from pan, add butter and when melted cook onions until translucent, add carrots and celery, and cook until soft.  Return beef to pan, add wine and herbs, orange zest and juice, cognac, salt and pepper. Bring to simmer and cook covered 3 1/2 to 4 hours until meat is tender.  Sauté mushrooms in butter and add when meat is cooked.  This is best cooked a day ahead.  Serve over mashed potatoes, polenta, or noodles.

Polenta with Teleme Jack Cheese
6 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups polenta (not quick cooking)
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 lb teleme jack cheese, or 3/4 cup mascarpone and 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Stir together water, polenta, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan, then bring to a boil, covered.  Simmer, uncovered, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until smooth and creamy, about 20 minutes.  If mixture starts to tighten and get dry, add more water (up to 1/2 cup).  Remove from heat and stir in butter.  Pull cheese into pieces and stir into polenta until incorporated.  I did not have the teleme and used mascarpone and parmesan.  The polenta stayed soft when refrigerated and reheated well.

While we were waiting for dinner Eeva cooked Karelian pastries for us to keep us from starving.  They were delicious.  I would love it if Eeva would post the recipe for us.

Monday, December 15, 2008


About a week before the dreaded party I stumbled across a reference to gravlax and had an a-ha moment.  It would be the perfect addition to my menu.  All I needed to do was find the perfect recipe and so of course I turned to the web for research.  My main source of inspiration was a site called "Cooking for Engineers" which had a very detailed recipe with lots of comments, some of which were very useful.  The site explained that salmon contains parasites and since gravlax is not cooked, it is wise to use salmon that has been commercially frozen.  The freezing kills the parasites and home freezers are not cold enough to do this.  This gave me permission to save money by buying my fish at Trader Joes.  There were comments from our guests on how good the fish tasted, questions as to where I had bought it, and surprise as to the source.

Gravlax:  For each pound of salmon use a cure made of a combined total of 4 tblsp coarse salt and white sugar, and 2 tsp white peppercorns cracked and roughly ground in a mortar and pestle.  The original recipe used equal parts sugar and salt.  I used about 60% sugar and 40% salt because of comments that equal parts was too salty.  Use salmon fillets, covering all sides with the cure mixture and then sandwich a bunch of fresh dill between two pieces, skin side out.  Wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap and place under a heavy weight such as a brick.  Of course the gravlax should be in a dish with another dish containing the weight on top. Turn the gravlax every 12 hours and let cure 2 or 3 days.  Wash the gravlax under cold water scrapping off the cure.  Pat dry and slice thinly.  Serve on pumperknickel bread.  Mustard dill sauce is traditional with gravlax, but I served it with creme fraiche.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Well I went looking for the recipe that I used for the creme brulee so that I could add it to the blog.  It seems to have disappeared in the floating piles of paper on the counter and so I will attempt to recreate it.  I started with an Emeril recipe that I found online and spiced up at bit.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

2 cups cream
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
8 lg egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon 
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves
1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin
raw sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 328.
Combine cream, white and brown sugar in heavy pan and bring to a bare simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat.
In medium bowl whisk yolks until frothy and lemon-colored.  Slowly add 3/4 cup of hot cream mixture, whisking constantly.  Add egg mixture to remaining hot cream and whisk. Add, vanilla, spices, and pumpkin, whisk until smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer and divide among 8 half cup ramekins.  Place ramekins in a large metal baking pan lined with a towel. Add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the ramekins.  Bake until the custards are just set in the center but not stiff, 45 to 55 minutes.  Remove from oven and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Sprinkle each custard with 1/2 tsp of raw sugar.  Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar. Chill 30 or 45 minutes (no more) and Serve.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving and the birth of a blog

The time has come to try to keep track of my cooking experiments and adventures so that I can find what I have done.  This will be my go to place for recipe sources and reminders of what I liked and what I didn't like, what worked and what didn't work.
First off the fantastic Cranberry Sauce from sophistimom (thank you, it is just as good as you said)
                                 Cranberry Sauce with Maple and Orange Zest
1 12 oz. pkg of cranberries
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c maple syrup ( I used grade b for more flavor)

Put all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 min.  Cool and then refrigerate.
This year I cooked a heritage turkey for the first time.  I butterflied it (actually Len did) and roasted it at high heat (425 degrees) using convection, on top of the stuffing.  The turkey was very good, though the white meat was a little drier than I like.  The stuffing was not only crisp, but some what charred.  The stuffing was still great when eaten with the turkey and cranberry sauce.  Next time I should lower the heat a bit, maybe 25 degrees, and shorten the roasting time.  I roasted the bird only about an hour, so this is a really quick way to cook a turkey.  This was a combination of the Cook's Illustrated (Best Recipe) cookbook and Mark Bittmen and a convection turkey roasting post I found.
I based my stuffing on a Mark Bittman recipe, and used 12 cups of bread cubes (Gayle's sourdough bread), a couple of chopped onions and 5 or 6 celery spears, chopped, browned in butter with about 1/2 cup pine nuts added to the veggies to brown also near the end.  I used about a cup of butter total.  I might reduce the butter next time because there was plenty of fat in the turkey drippings.  The stuffing was delicious as it was, but we needed more of it.  We didn't have as much left over as we would have liked.
I roasted sweet potatoes in olive oil with a sprinkling of cinnamon (Jordan's idea, very good) and Jordan steamed some green beans and added almonds, pan toasted in olive oil, at the end.
Desert was pumpkin creme brulee.  I made them a day ahead and then added the sugar coating after Thanksgiving dinner.  They were very good, but I missed the leftover pumpkin pie.  They are definitely worth repeating as not only are they good, they are lighter than the pie.
I'll add the pumpkin creme brulee in my next post.