Monday, November 24, 2014

Cognac and Honey Roasted Spicy Carrots

This time of year everyone is very busy in the kitchen. What do you need when you're busy all week getting a family feast together? You need a quick side dish that you can dress, toss in the oven and forget about. Something that converts even cooked carrot haters into carrot lovers. This incredibly easy to put together vegetarian side dish is sure to wow your guests at Thanksgiving. Even more so if you are as lucky as I was and can find a bag of rainbow carrots. The garnish in the photo is chopped cilantro and crumbled cotija cheese.

Cognac and Honey Roasted Spicy Carrots

2 lbs. carrots (preferably rainbow carrots), scrubbed and sliced into 1/2" pieces
3 Tablespoons spiced cognac (such as benedictine)
1 Tablespoon dark honey (such as wildflower or buckwheat honey)
2 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 Teaspoon sriracha or other chili sauce
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a saucepan over medium low heat, melt butter. Add cognac and stir to incorporate.
3. Add honey and when honey has completely melted take sauce off heat. Add sriracha and stir to combine.
5. Toss carrots with sauce, add salt and pepper to taste, then lay out in a single layer on a baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove smallest pieces of carrot and flip larger pieces. Bake for another 10 minutes.
6. Serve warm and toss with minced fresh herbs (optional).

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Homemade Cranberry Sauce and Perfect Mashed Potatoes

It's that time of year again when most everyone in America is called upon to cook. On this occasion I have the opportunity to use this blog for the greater good. Hopefully I can. This post features tips on two dishes that are ubiquitous on Thanksgiving tables. I'll give recipes for each, but think of them as sort of rough guides. For example, my cranberry sauce is on the sweet side, so feel free to use less sugar. Also, the amount of milk to add to your mashed potatoes is highly subjective; use whatever amount you need to get yours to the consistency you like.
As for creating really fluffy mashed potatoes: russet, which are highly starchy are in my opinion the best potato for mashing. They're also large, so less potatoes to scrub equals less work. Cut your potatoes up into very large pieces to boil them. Salt the water. Boil until a little more tender than you would prefer to have them if you were just eating boiled potatoes or making potato salad. Don't skimp on the butter. You'll need slightly less than 1 Tablespoon of butter per medium to large sized russet. When the potatoes are cooked through drain the water, but don't shake the excess water from the bottom. It will help you create fluffier mashed potatoes. When you mash leave the in the boiling pot and push your masher straight down along the outside of the pot circling in toward the center, to loosely break up the potato pieces. Then mash butter in in the same pattern and motion. Then fold milk in as gently as possible to avoid overworking your potatoes. I like to leave the skin on because I like the taste and the mouth feel. Also, I read an article that said the skin is where all the vitamins are.

Next blog post is going to feature another side dish, this one easy yet impressive.

Cranberry Sauce

Serves 4 - 6

1 1/2 cups (by volume) cleaned, picked through cranberries
juice of 1/2 large orange or whole small orange
zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
(optional) 2 - 3 Tablespoons orange marmalade*
(optional garnish) 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

1. In a saucepan over medium heat combine cranberries, water and sugar and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
2. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the cranberries soften enough to split open.
3. Add orange zest, orange juice and (optional) marmalade and cook for 2 - 3 minutes more.
4. Remove from heat and serve topped with chopped toasted walnuts

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4 - 6

4 medium to large russet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped roughly (max 6 pieces per potato)
3 1/2 - 4 Tablespoons of butter, separated (cut into Tablespoon pieces)
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk, depending on preference

1. Drop potatoes into boiling, salted water and cook for about 30 minutes, or until slightly more than fork tender.
2. Mash potatoes using the method described above.
3. Add butter and continue to mash until incorporated.
4. Slowly fold in milk parts at a time until desired consistency is reached.
5. Adjust for salt and add desired amount of pepper. Fold until just incorporated.

*This will create a thicker sauce, so if that is your preference I highly recommend it

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Roasted Kobocha Squash and Ginger Autumn Bisque

This dish was inspired by the kobocha squash my coworker gave me to take home. Kobocha is a very sweet Japanese pumpkin. If you prefer the regular pumpkin variety or butternut squash this recipe will work just as well for those. It is a classic flavors of fall recipe. Sweet, but not overly so it is very filling and a perfect way to utilize the vegetables in season.

Roasted Kobocha Squash and Ginger Autumn Bisque

Puree of 1 kobocha squash*
2 apples, cored, chopped and evenly divided into two piles
1 cup apple cider
4 Tablespoons butter
2 cups low sodium organic chicken
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
3 stalks celery, cleaned and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, julienned
pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
7 small sages leaves, roughly chopped
1/2" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 Teaspoon olive oil

1. Melt 2 1/2 Tablespoons of the butter in a heavy bottomed stock or pasta pot over medium heat. Add celery, leeks, onions, sage, salt, pepper, 1/2 the apples. Saute until softened, about 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Take mixture off heat and allow to cool. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and puree until smooth.
3. Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in the stockpot and saute the other half of the apples over medium heat, stirring frequently.
4. When the apples are starting to soften add remaining chicken stock, pureed veggies, pureed pumpkin, ginger and cider.
5. Bring mixture to a boil and cover. Turn heat down to low and simmer for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to marry.
6. Turn off heat, taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Add cream. Allow soup to sit for 5 minutes to heat cream.
7. Serve, garnished with fried sage and a drizzle of heavy cream.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

*I quartered my squash, trimmed the ends off, scooped out the seeds and goop then brushed melted butter all over the skin. I roasted the quarters in an oven preheated to 375 for about 40 minutes.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Crisp Topped Baked Apples

Sometimes I feel the need to explain why I am posting a certain recipe; why I've combined the flavors the way I have. Today's post features a dish that need no explanation. It's the perfect time of year for apples, and even pie haters have united in their love of crisp. Serve it a la mode and you'll have one unbelievably decadent dessert. Does it ease the richness of the combo that you'll bake the apple whole, with just a little caramel spice syrup in the center to flavor it?

My syrup bubbled over the sides of my apples and created a burnt, crunchy layer at the bottom of my pan during the part where I turned the heat up to bake the crisps, so I'd suggest covering the bottom of the pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. That being said, this dessert was fairly easy to throw together, the hardest part being carving the core mostly out of the apples without cutting all the way through (leaving the bottom intact to keep the juices in). My favorite part of the recipe is the vanilla and spice clove caramel syrup. I didn't think to reserve some caramel to drizzle over the plate, but I've fixed that in the recipe directions. Also, I deliberately included more crisp topping in the recipe than can fit in the apples. I found that baking it up in a muffin tin, breaking it into large pieces and sprinkling it over the ice cream created the perfect crisp to fruit to ice cream ratio.

Baked Apples w/ Crisp Topping

Makes 4 servings

4 apples
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons butter
6 spice clove heads, crumbled
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
tiny pinch of salt
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Teaspoon maple syrup
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 Tablespoons cold butter, chopped into small pieces
(optional) 1 Tablespoon whiskey (or cognac or bourbon)

1. Preheat oven to 325 (for smaller apples or hotter ovens, 300)
2. Cut a cone shaped wedge into the center of the apple, mostly removing the core, but not cutting all the way through to the bottom of the apple; this is to keep all of the juices from flowing out during cooking. The widest part of the wedge shape will go towards the top.
3. In a pan over low heat melt butter and add salt, crushed clove bulbs and cinnamon. Cook for 5 minutes to toast the spices. Add maple syrup, vanilla and sugar and allow to melt, stirring gently and occasionally. This will take about 7 to 10 minutes. Add optional whiskey and stir to incorporate.
4. Grease a baking dish and set apples into it, cut side up. Pour approximately 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the spiced vanilla sauce into the cone cut into each apple. You want to fill the cavities to about 1/2 centimeter to the top. Try to reserve some sauce to drizzle over top.
5. Bake the apples for about 20 minutes, basting the apples with their juices every ten minutes.
6. Assemble the topping: mix together flour, brown sugar and oats until thoroughly combined. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, incorporate chopped butter until the mixture forms loose, medium sized crumbs.
7. Remove apples from oven and turn heat up to 400. Stuff each apple cavity with crisp mixture. Loosely pack the remaining topping into a muffin tin and fill each cup only about 1/2" high, to allow mixture to get properly crunchy.
8. Bake apples and muffin tin full of crisp topping in the oven for 15 minutes.
9. Serve topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Garnish with extra crisp topping and drizzled with sauce.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!