Thought I’d post a Halloween themed dessert … chocolate panna cotta garnished with chocolate meringue “bones”.
Presented by my friendly, home made witch. Who really deserves a name.
I went a little overboard this year and bought a pre-cooked 5 kg honey-glazed spiral cut ham for my Thanksgiving meal. It cost me $22 CDN and I figure I’ll get at least ten meals out of it so it was definitely a good purchase, price wise.
I had a wonderful lie in this morning, and hadn’t done the math needed to figure out how long it would take to re-heat this monster, ahead of time. It turned out to be almost THREE HOURS, with the enclosed glaze being brushed on for the last half hour. Next time I’d up the temperature to AT LEAST 300 deg or even 325 deg, from the 275 deg F written on the wrappings, because, even after the maximum roasting time recommended, it was still only lukewarm inside. So I sliced off and reheated the portion I ate in the microwave. By this point, it was 6 pm. And I was VERY hungry.
The ham was tasty and moist, but the potato and onion gratin was the star of the show, in my opinion. I started out with this recipe, and then made some changes. Because I was starved, I served myself about one quarter of the dish and by the time I was finished, I was so full, that I almost didn’t have room for dessert.
Cause this was a great looking dessert.
I wanted to make some sort of seasonal fruit dessert for Thanksgiving, but all I had in the house were three apples (Red Delicious) in the crisper drawer, and some blueberries in the freezer. I decided on an apple crumble (with sliced almonds in the crust because I didn’t have any rolled oats in the pantry) with a couple of tablespoons of the blueberries added for a bit of colour. I’ll post my recipe for an individual apple crumble in a future post. As well as for an individual blueberry pudding cake I made.
Potato and Onion Gratin
Potato and Onion Gratin – serves 6-8
1 medium (~300 gm) sweet potato, peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick *
1 medium white/yellow (~100 gm) Russet potato, peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick*
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced (1/8-1/4 inch thick)
~4 oz (125 gm) cream cheese, cubed
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
4 strips of cooked bacon, thinly sliced (about 1/4 inch thick)
* Use all sweet potatoes or white potatoes, if preferred, or if that’s all that you have available.
1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup fried onions
Combine topping ingredients in a shallow dish.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg Fahrenheit.
Lightly oil a medium sized baking dish with a neutral oil like canola. (Spray with a cooking spray if you prefer.)
Cover the base of the baking dish evenly with about 1/3 of your sliced potatoes. Scatter about half of the sliced onions over the potatoes. Make another layer of potatoes, and then scatter the remaining onions over the top. Finish with the last of the potatoes.
Place the cubed cream cheese in a medium sized, microwave safe bowl, and warm just long enough to soften the cheese. Whisk/stir in the flour and the dried thyme. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, a bit at a time, until it’s smoothly combined with the cheese and flour mixture. Whisk in the milk.
Pour the cream cheese/broth/milk mixture over the layered potatoes and onions. Scatter the bacon over the top. Put the lid on the casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes.
Take the lid off the casserole dish, scatter the topping evenly over the casserole and return to the oven. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread crumbs are golden brown.
Let rest for 10-15 minutes, then serve.
Making perogies from scratch isn’t as challenging as you’d think.
I’ve made them … once.
And they were delicious.
But sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to make them so you buy a bag of the frozen ones, especially when they’re on sale.
The default way to serve perogies is boiled, sauteed in butter/olive oil until golden brown
… and then topped with sauteed onions, crispy bacon and sour cream. A sprinkling of thinly sliced green onion for colour (and so you can pretend there’s something fresh and healthy on your plate).
But, you may want to switch things up every once in a while.
Home made or canned chili is a great topping.
Or bolognese. Or a duck ragu. How do you serve YOUR perogies?
And, because my strawberries were getting past the peak of their freshness … I pureed the remainder and made a fresh strawberry margarita. (If my blender was able to grind up ice, I’d have the slushy version of this delicious drink which I first had at the Regal Constellation in Toronto at a Toronto Trek convention.)
Coincidentally, it’s a nice Cinco de Mayo drink if you want something sweet.
Fresh Strawberry Margarita – serves 1
125-150 gm fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 cup tequila
2 tbsp Cointreau, Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
fresh strawberry and/or lime wedge
coarse salt for rimming glass
coarse sugar for rimming glass
Run a lime wedge around the rim of a tall glass, or a champagne coupe glass. Dip the glass into a shallow bowl with coarse salt (or sugar), to create a decorative rim. Set aside the glass.
Add all of the above ingredients, excepting the garnishes, to a blender and puree. Taste and add more lime juice or honey, to taste. Strain through a coarse strainer to make sure any chunks are gone.
Add a few ice cubes to a shaker, pour the margarita over the top, shake for a minute or two and then strain into the salt rimmed glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry that you’ve cut a slit into from the base, and/or a lime wedge.
I haven’t made this drink in ages but, with a week to go until Cinco de Mayo, it seems appropriate to repost this Mexican version of the vodka based Bloody Mary. Besides, I needed to crack open the can of tomato juice I had in the basement, to make gravy with. I didn’t have any horseradish but seafood sauce is a great substitute. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol so you can double the amount of tequila.
Bloody Maria – serves 1
1 oz tequila
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes hot sauce ie. Cholula, Tapatio or Frank’s Hot Sauce
1/2 tbsp seafood sauce (or 1/2 tsp horseradish)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
6 oz tomato juice
Lime wedge or wheel
Coarse salt for rimming the glass
Decorate the rim of a tall glass with salt by rubbing the edge with a lime wedge and then dip into salt.
In a shaker filled with ice, combine all the ingredients except the garnishes, and shake until well chilled.
Strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.
This Italian Easter ‘pie’ has many names and several variations as to crust and fillings. This is the version that I decided to make, but if you want to look for others, here are some names to look for: Italian Easter Ham pie, pizzagaina (or chiena,chena,cena), pizza rustica, pizza ripiena, pizza piena.
Italian Easter Ham Pie for Two – makes 2 4-inch diameter mini deep dish pies
pastry for a pie crust bottom only
140 gm dry curd cheese or cottage cheese or ricotta**
40-50 gm grated Mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten, 1 tbsp removed for egg wash
1/2 tsp dry parsley
1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6-8 slices diced deli meat (pepperoni, Genoa salami, capocollo or smoked ham)
Egg wash – 1 tbsp beaten egg and a splash of cream or milk
** Home made paneer cheese (an Indian dry curd cheese) was used. I got 290 gm (10.44 oz) of drained cheese from 2 liters (8 cups) of milk and 1/4 cups of white vinegar.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roll out two bases (8 inches in diameter) and two tops (5 inches in diameter) and line two deep dish disposable aluminum pie tins with the bases. Set aside the tops.
Mix together the filling ingredients and fill the pie tins. Press down a bit on the filling to compact it.
Moisten the edges of the bases, put on the tops, seal and, with the tines of a fork, seal again. Place the pie tins on a baking sheet for convenient transfer to the oven.
Brush the top of the pies with the egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the two pie tins to a cooling rack. Cool for 30 minutes to set the filling.
The pies may be eaten warm, room temperature or cold with a salad for a complete meal or on their own for a snack.
Cheddar cheese sourdough loaf
Creamy broccoli and potato soup
Lamb shoulder chops, potato wedges and carrots drizzled with duck fat and sprinkled with dry rosemary before being roasted
Creamed spinach served with above
Cream puff filled with sweetened vanilla bean whipped cream and trimmings from an Easter fudge
Easter Fudge – 1 pound of chocolate fudge topped by half a pound of pink vanilla fudge, with jelly beans and sprinkles over the top
Lots of pictures but I think the results are worth it.
First, I want to say that I HATE blind baking.
I know how to do it. I HAVE done it. I have a jar of chickpeas set aside for the purpose. A single layer of the chickpeas over a round of parchment paper works pretty well.
But I don’t LIKE the concept.
I’ve attempted the alternative … DOCKING.
Here’s what I started with. Now, using the tines of a fork, prick the pie crust all over. The base AND the sides. (Sorry, I didn’t take a picture.) And then bake as long as your recipe calls for. Then cool and fill.
And here’s the result … shrinking and bubbling up of the pie crust resulting in a shriveled up pie shell. NOT pretty.
But there’s a THIRD option. I found the technique on the King Arthur Flour website.
Blind baking using a second pie pan of the same size and laying it over the pie crust.
Then you FLIP THE TWO PANS OVER and bake.
Here’s a picture of a mini aluminum pie plate and a regular sized metal pie plate ready to go into the oven.
After your chosen bake time, flip the two pans back over, remove the pie plate on top and THEN dock. (I forgot to do this in this case.) And complete baking. I covered the full sized pie crust with a round of parchment paper to prevent sticking to the pie plate on top
I probably baked this a bit too long but I forgot that it continues cooking when you take it out of the oven.
Flip/dock or just docking … which would YOU use?
Even though I have a whole turkey in my freezer, I decided on a comfort meal this year. Something that needs little work and for which leftovers are not a hassle to deal with. I’ll post pictures later.
Whether you call it cozonac, kalacs/beigli, or babka, this sweet bread filled with ground nuts (usually walnuts), poppy seeds, raisins or even rahat/lokum (a gummy middle eastern candy known in the west as ‘Turkish delight’) is served at Easter and Christmas in many eastern European countries. I can’t remember my mom ever making this though, knowing her difficulties with yeast based baking, it’s unlikely. However, I HAVE eaten it at Romanian and Hungarian church and community center bake sales.
Poppy seed isn’t a filling I’ve used often so I thought I’d give it a try for a change of pace. I bought a fresh, one pound bag at the grocery store, even though I’ve got a couple pounds, at least, in the freezer downstairs. I’m not quite sure how long it’s been there. Several years at least, I think, so I didn’t want to take a chance that the poppy seeds were stale.
I followed the shaping instructions on one of the web sites I researched which said to fold in the ends of the roll but I wasn’t happy with the ‘knobs’. Next time, I’ll risk the filling oozing out and leave them open.
The end piece … dough is nice and fluffy, or as they say in Romanian, pufos.
Cozonac cu Mac (Cozonac Filled with Poppy Seed) – 1.14 kg (2 1/2 lb) of dough, makes 2 11 by 14 inch rolls
For the Filling
200 gm ground poppy seeds
100 gm of sugar
150 ml of milk
1 tsp butter
1 pkt vanilla sugar
1 tbsp of lemon zest (reduce to 1 tsp)
For the Dough
4-5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk, warmed to 80 deg F
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 eggs, 1 egg divided
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest (optional)
1 tsp salt
NOTE (12/10/2017): used ~2 tsp grated lemon zest, increased butter to 4 tbsp, used close to 5 cups of flour
Making the Filling
Mix the ground poppy seeds, milk, butter and sugar and bring to the boil over medium heat. Cook until a creamy composition is obtained, about 5 min, while stirring constantly. Add vanilla and lemon peel and leave to cool.
Making the Dough
In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cup of flour, warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Cover the mixture and place it in a warm place for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.
Separate ONE of the eggs, placing the white in a separate bowl and setting it aside. (White is whisked until frothy and used later to brush the bread before it goes into the oven.)
Once the flour and yeast mixture is nice and bubbly, mix in the 2 eggs and one egg yolk.
Add 2 1/2 cups of flour, the soft butter, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Then, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes, adding only as much of the remaining 1 cup of flour as is necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands.
(Alternately, you can mix the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook for 2-3 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the sides of the bowl.)
Place the dough into a clean, well greased bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft free place until it has roughly tripled in bulk, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times. Divide the dough in half.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured working surface and roll out into a rectangle about 11 inches by 14 inches. Spread with half the poppy seed filling to 1/2 an inch from the edge.
Roll the dough and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the second portion of dough and filling.
Cover with a lightly oiled sheet of food wrap or a damp towel and let rise until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.
Beat the reserved egg white and brush over each of the two loaves. Bake for 45-50 minutes until set and the top is golden brown. Check after 15-20 minutes and if the top seems to be browning too quickly, cover with a large sheet of aluminum foil and continue baking. Rotate the baking sheet half way through the bake.
Let cool completely before cutting.
And, of course, dessert … cream puffs. I didn’t bother with any icing sugar etc. Just dived in.
PS: I made cranberry sauce but forgot to serve it with the meal. I’ll show you what I’m going to do with the rest of it later.
Turkey is something that I only cook a couple of times a year. Not because I don’t like it but because I buy a frozen 12-14 lb turkey, when it’s on sale, and for a single person, using up leftovers is even more challenging than for small families since I have to cook it all at once.
Turkey thawed and ready for butchering
Spatch-cocking is a good way to cut down on uneven turkey roasting. And removing the legs means when the breast is done, you can take it out of the oven, cover with foil and continue roasting the legs until they’re done.
Turkey Breast – nice and moist, 2 hrs at 350 deg F
Turkey Thighs – skinned, de-boned, cut into big chunks and ground up in a food processor while still slightly frozen … or at least chilly
Turkey Tacos – Half a diced onion was sauteed in oil and/or schmaltz (chicken fat), then the ground turkey meat (~710 gm) was added and cooked until no longer pink. I added 1 tbsp of taco seasoning for every 454 g of meat and cooked it all for a few more minutes. The cooked meat mixture can be used for taco bowls or lettuce wraps.