Monday, December 29, 2014

Banana Pecan Buttermilk Waffles

I have been away from blogging during the holidays to focus on feeding my visiting in-laws. I wanted their first Christmas as my new Ma and Pa to be special, so I devoted lots of time to the menu. And its preparation. I made Ina Garten's Company Pot Roast--a center cut chuck roast in a rich sauce of plum tomato, burgandy and cognac. I also improvised a recipe for gratin dauphinois that turned out tasty. To start the meal I served a warm salad of roasted brussels sprouts tossed with goat cheese crumbles and toasted pecans and dressed in an orange-thyme vinaigrette. The recipe for the salad will be the subject of my next post. Before I get to sharing the particulars of that dish I want to talk about the waffles we had on Christmas morning. I sat next to the waffle maker as my father in law cooked them up and the smell issuing from them was heavenly! This recipe is similar to my pumpkin waffle recipe, the main difference being the included chopped bananas, toasted pecans and a change to my wet ingredient. Because bananas hold a lot of water you want to overfill your waffle iron to get them as fluffy as regular buttermilk waffles. These would also make lovely mini donuts, perhaps with a vanilla and brown sugar caramel glaze? That's a post for another day. If you don't have a waffle maker or a mini donut pan this batter makes lovely pancakes.

Banana Pecan Buttermilk Waffles

Makes 4 large waffles

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3 bananas
3/4 cup well shaken buttermilk
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons whole milk
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

1. Preheat the waffle iron to the lowest setting.
2. Sift together dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon.
3. Mash 2 of the bananas together in a small bowl and add 2 Tablespoons of the milk, Stir to incorporate.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, buttermilk, vanilla and mashed bananas.
5. Chop remaining banana into small cubes and mix into wet ingredients. Gradually introduce dry ingredients. Add pecans, then mix in melted butter.
6. Brush waffle iron and fill generously with batter. Cook each waffle individually and enjoy topped with butter and maple syrup.

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Impressive Holiday Recipes: Salmon En Croute w/ Mustard Beurre Blanc

I try not to make your lives any harder dear foodies--truly, I do. But around the holidays is when even the most timid cooks will search for complicated, impressive recipes to wow your guests and feed your loved ones decadently. Salmon En Croute, a traditional French dish is basically puff pastry covered salmon fillets with par-cooked vegetables. There are many different takes on this dish. Here is mine. For the sake of presentation I used rainbow carrots and julienned my mirepoix mixture, which I par-sauteed with fresh thyme in a small amount of butter. This was the top layer of my puff pastry packet. On the other side of the salmon was my shallot and leek paste, along with several very thinly sliced pats of butter. The sauce was a bit tart, but absolutely transcendent. I used a lot less butter, so it didn't thicken like a proper beurre blanc, but at least it wasn't as rich.

The salmon can be folded into puff pastry packets several hours before cooking.

Stone Ground Mustard Beurre Blanc

7 Tablespoons cold butter, separated
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 Tablespoons sherry
1 Cup dry white wine (I used Gallo's Chardonnay)
1 shallot clove, diced
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
3 Tablespoons heavy cream

1. In a heavy bottom saucepan add wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, sherry and shallots and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer to reduce liquid for about 30 - 40 minutes. Wine should reduce to just 3 or so Tablespoons.
2. Reduce heat to lowest setting and whisk in cream. Puree mixture, then return to saucepan.
3. Whisk in butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, allowing it to just melt before you add more. You want to be careful not to allow that butter to heat too much and melt instead of emulsifying.
4. Whisk in mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm over your en creute salmon fillets.

Salmon En Creute

Makes 4 servings
1 sheet puff pastry
4 salmon fillets, approx 5.6 ounces each (I cut a 1.3 lb piece of salmon belly into 4 fillets)
1 purple carrot (or regular carrot), scrubbed and julienned
1/2 medium yellow onion, julienned
2 stalks celery julienned
1 shallot clove, diced
1/2 large leek, chopped
1 Tablespoon sherry
3 small sprigs thyme, leaves only
3 Tablespoon cold, unsalted butter
1 Teaspoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1 egg, beaten (for wash)

1. Over medium heat, melt 1/2 Tablespoon butter and combine with 1/2 teaspoon oil. Add julienned onions and a little salt. Cook for 2 minutes. Add julienned celery and carrots and thyme leaves and saute for another 3 minutes. Season with pepper and set it aside to cool.
2. Over medium heat, melt 1/2 Tablespoon butter and combine with 1/2 teaspoon oil. Saute leeks and shallots until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Stir frequently. When the sugars from the leeks and shallots starts to brown the bottom of the pan, deglaze with the sherry. Allow the sherry to cook into the leeks and shallots. Set aside to cool, then puree.
3. Dust a clean surface with flour and roll your puff pastry out gently until it is 18" x 18". Cut it into four equal squares.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Assemble the en croute fillets: place a layer of 1/4 of the leek and shallot paste across the center of each square, attempting to cover as much area as the salmon will take up. Cover with a paper thin layer of butter pats, then cover with salmon fillet, skin side down. Top non-skin side of salmon with julienned vegetables and fold edges of puff pastry over everything to seal. Use egg wash along the edges to be sure and get a snug seal.
5. Bake for 20 - 22 minutes, or until puff pastry begins to turn golden.
6. Drizzle with mustard beurre blanc and serve.

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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spicy Beef Mac and Cheese Casserole with Roasted Zucchini and Pasilla Peppers

I've been excited about doing a mac and cheese with my own special twist since I got a lovely handmade clay casserole dish as a wedding gift from my Aunt Stacy. As soon as I would think of what to put in it to make the dish my own (something was almost always something seasonal) I would get too busy to bring it all together and more than a few times the seasonal ingredients I was thinking of incorporating went out of season. I realized that was no excuse. Especially when I tasted this Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Spicy Beef and Roasted Zucchini and Pasilla Peppers. Fatty, spicy beef sauteed in caramelized onions helped offset the tanginess of extra sharp cheddar, which I prefer to use in abundance. The sweet caramelization on the zucchini and onions sweetened the casserole a bit and helped to harmonize the flavors. And because this casserole was heavily inspired by dishes of Mexico the "breadcrumb" topping is crushed tortilla chips. It was the casserole dish that got me started, but in the end I didn't use it. After eyeing the amount of each ingredient I wanted to use I realized it would never fit into my adorably small clay casserole dish. When we tasted the final product we did not mind in the least that we had made more than we thought we would. This is a great once in a while indulgence and is sure to keep you warm on these cold winter nights. :)

Mexican Inspired Mac and Cheese with Spicy Beef and Roasted Pasilla Peppers and Zucchini

1 1/2 - 2 cups grated cheddar cheese*
3/4 pound ground organic beef 85/15 lean
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 Teaspoon hot sauce of choice (we prefer sriracha)
4 Tablespoons Unsalted butter plus 1/2 Tablespoon
4 Tablespoons all purpose flour
salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 large pasilla or poblano (also called ancho chilies), diced (excluding the seeds and ribs)**
3 medium white zucchinis, roasted in thick lengthwise slices in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes per side and sliced vertically into 1/4" strips
3/4 pound macaroni
1 pinch of nutmeg (less than 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon, plus a pinch of cumin powder
1 pinch cayenne (less than 1/4 teaspoon)
1 ounce tortilla chips, pulverized into breadcrumb consistency
3 cups whole milk

1. In a large pan over medium heat melt butter and saute onions for 2 - 3 minutes. Add cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder and a very small amount of salt and saute for 30 - 90 seconds more.
2. Add ground beef and break it up into little crumbles in the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is brown all the way through.
3. As the beef cooks toss macaroni noodles into salted boiling water and cook according to the package directions.
4. When the beef is cooked combine beef, noodles, diced peppers and chopped zucchinis into the dish you will be baking your macaroni and cheese in. I used a deep 9 x 13" lasagna baking dish.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a saucepan melt butter. When butter is entirely melted add nutmeg and a pinch of cumin powder and toast the spices in the butter for approximately one minute. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking somewhat lazily, until the flour begins to turn darker brown.
6. When the flour has turned brown immediately start to add milk, at first a tablespoon at a time until the mixture goes from rough to shiny. Then start to add the milk in much larger quantities, like 1/3 to 1/2 cup at a time.
7. With heat at medium low cook the mixture until in begins to thicken into a gravy, about 10 minutes. Whisk about every 60 to 90 seconds and be sure to reincorporate the yummy roux that collects along the sides.
8. Pour gravy into baking dish with the other ingredients. Mix in cheese and top with pulverized tortilla chips.
9. Bake in oven until the tortilla crumbs begin to brown, about 20 - 30 minutes.
10. Serve hot and enjoy!

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

*the pre grated stuff has potato starch on it, so I recommend grating it freshly yourself

**To roast the peppers: cook for 8 - 10 minutes under a broiler preheated to 400 degrees, turn them over and broil for anoter 7 minutes; steam skins off by putting still hot peppers in a large, sturdy ziploc and sealing them loosely to allow the steam inside the peppers to slough the skin off. Leave them in the ziploc for about 20 minutes, then remove them and the skin will peel easily off. Remove all skin, then slit the peppers open to easily scrape the seeds and ribs out with a spoon.