Friday, December 12, 2014

FFwD: Beef and Dried Apricot Dutch Oven

Okay, so today's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is supposed to be Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine. I knew I wasn't going to find the cut of lamb Dorie specifies, but I thought I could get my hands on some ground lamb, and use all the same ingredients, but treat it like Indian keema recipes that I've made. However, I couldn't find lamb. I grabbed ground beef, because I've made the aforementioned keema recipe with beef before, and it turned out fine. Not as good as lamb, but not bad. I had no idea if beef would work with the predominant flavors of this recipe--coriander and apricot. I'd planned to get back to the store this week to try and find some pork or veal to stew instead, but it didn't happen, so I returned to my ground beef plan.

It worked out fine. I'm 100% certain that it would be better as a lamb stew, per the recipe, but I really wanted to do something, to stick to the schedule. Once I fall behind, I stay behind.
I have no strong feelings about this recipe. Its biggest draw is that CHARLIE ATE IT. Well, he ate the meat and the rice. Good enough for me. I was shocked. After dinner, he found a stray coriander seed on my counter. He has a thing about seeds. He'll spit out an entire piece of fruit if he gets a seed in his mouth, and refuse to take another bite. I don't get it. He asked why I had a  seed on the counter. I told him it was in the meat--the meat that he liked. He said, "Oh, so you took this disgusting thing and made it yummy." Sure. I guess. Kid brains are weird. Ha!

My one gripe was that I could have broken up the coriander seeds more. I would prefer a rough grind, rather than "broken", in the future. I don't like chewing on the seeds. Maybe Charlie's on to something after all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pioneer Woman: Turkey Tetrazzini

I landed on Turkey Tetrazzini, one of Ree's suggestions for your Thanksgiving leftovers, because I had a little bit of turkey left. I bought a rotisserie chicken to supplement it. Good thing I did, because when I opened the bag of turkey, it didn't smell quite right. We'd been working on it for over a week, so I guess it hit its boundary. Tossed it and used the chicken. Crisis averted.

Butter and garlic and mushrooms and wine, cream cheese and olives and bacon and cheese, all mixed with pasta. While I cooked, I'd periodically hear Matt yell, "That smells SO good," from the living room, where he was watching Rudolph with Charlie. He was right. It did smell so good.

I tasted it before I popped it in the oven, and started to laugh. It tasted like my Grandma's "tuna slop", only with chicken instead of tuna, and with ingredients I can pronounce and identify. I don't say that as a criticism. I love Tuna Slop. I much prefer to make a version that doesn't involve Velveeta or a can of cream of mushroom soup, if I can help it, though. I also added finely chopped broccoli, just to give it a bit more veg.
This is worth making, whether you have leftover turkey or not. It was cozy and comforting and delicious. Even Charlie ate it! He picked all the peas out, but I expected that, as he has never in his life eaten a pea. He ate the chicken, mushrooms, and broccoli without seeming to notice them, though. Woohoo!

This makes a massive amount of food. Once again, I forgot that Ree says it serves 12. I probably could have cut the recipe in half. We'll finish up the leftovers for dinner tonight. I'm not sick of it yet, though Matt may be, because he's also been bringing portions to work for lunch. I'll give him a breather before I make it again. 

Conclusion: Liked it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

FFwD: Tartine de Viande des Grisons

Tartine de Viande des Grisons is a long and mysterious name for a simple tartine that the French Fridays with Dorie crew made this week. Bread? Check! Butter? Check! Bresaola? Check! Walnuts (or in my case, toasted almond slices)? Check! Olive oil? Check! That's it.

The deep red color of bresaola has often caught my attention at the supermarket here in Napoli, but I was never really tempted to buy it. I find the color off-putting. It's just SO red. I'm happy to have found this recipe, though, because it turns out to be delicious!

This is one of those recipes that tastes better than its individual parts seem to warrant. The butter, oil, and toasted nuts really pull the toast and meat together into one delicious bite of food.
Matt got home late from work the other day, so I put a tartine together for him while his soup re-heated. Instead of eating any soup, he turned the rest of the (sizeable) loaf of sourdough bread into tartines and devoured them all. Needless to say, we loved this. I thought it would be good, but I didn't anticipate how good!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving with Pioneer Woman

I've made a bunch of recipes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays. Most of them are from the Thanksgiving section, but not all of them are.

First up, Drop Biscuits (pg 346, the Christmas section). I brought these over to a friend's house a few week's ago. She made soup and mulled wine. I made biscuits and dessert. I've had a hit-or-miss relationship with biscuits in the past. I always blame my failures on my Yankee-dom. These Drop Biscuits are simple to make (put the ingredients in the food processor. Whir. Scoop spoonfuls on to a baking sheet. Bake.) and turned out to be delicious. I need to make biscuits more often.
Conclusion: Loved them.

Matt and I haven't been overly impressed with our Thanksgiving stuffing for the past few years, so we decided to mix it up this year and use Ree's Basic Thanksgiving Dressing (pg 258). This uses three types of bread: cornbread, Italian bread, and ciabatta, and a host of standard stuffing flavors: celery, onion, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and basil. She uses dried herbs. In the future, I'd like to try it with fresh herbs. I think this was a good starting point. I felt it needed a bit more flavor, but I'm not totally sure what to do to it. I liked that the cornbread practically turned to breadcrumbs and coated all the other breads. There was a lot of different texture.

Conclusion: Liked it, but it needs some fiddling. We didn't salt it enough this time. Needs more oomph.

For the dressing, I made Ree's recipe for Skillet Cornbread (pg 268). This was easy to make, and it worked fine in the dressing, but I don't like it on its own. The cornbread is VERY salty and gritty. This may be why Matt undersalted the dressing--I warned him that the cornbread was salty. I like sweet, wet cornbread. This was the opposite. Different strokes for different folks.
Conclusion: Disliked, but it worked fine for the dressing.

I almost forgot about the Giblet Gravy. Matt is the Bird-meister, so he made the gravy. I was uninvolved, so I have no input regarding the process. All I can say is that it was deeeeeeelicious. I can never be without it again.

Conclusion: Loved it. 

I'm roasting a chicken tonight to use up our leftover dressing. For a side, I decided to try Ree's Cranberry Sauce (pg 256). This was a last-minute decision, and so I don't have the orange zest and juice that I'm supposed to. I threw in a splash of mandarinetto instead. Figured it couldn't hurt. I normally make a basic cranberry sauce with sugar, orange zest, and juice. The difference here is that, instead of sugar, Ree uses a cup of maple syrup.

I'm torn about what to think. I love the smokey maple flavor that the syrup gives to the sauce, but it's too sweet. It's possible that the orange zest and juice might have cut the sweetness a bit. I'm not sure. I may continue to play with this, cutting back on the amount of syrup used until the balance tips over a bit in favor of cranberry tartness. It's cranberry sauce. I want to taste the cranberry!

Conclusion: Liked it, but it needs tweaking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

FFwD: Butternut Squash and Chestnut Soup

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Beatrix's Red Kuri Soup. I had to google red kuri squash, because I had no idea what it was. After seeing pictures of it, I knew I was going to have to come up with an alternate plan, because I'd never seen that squash here in Napoli. They have other squashes, but nothing that looks like red kuri.

Fortunately, Dorie provides a bonne idee in the sidebar that butternut squash and chestnuts can mimic the flavor of red kuri. Weird. Weird, and convenient. I already had a butternut squash in the house, and I currently own more roasted, peeled chestnuts than I will ever know what to do with. I still have to catch up on the Pear and Chestnut Soup, so I ordered the vacuum-sealed chestnuts on amazon. I could only get a 4-pack, and I didn't realize that 20 oz bags are huge.

This would be a good spot for me to request all of your favorite chestnut recipes. Really. What am I going to do with all of these???

Unfortunately, my digital scale ran out of batteries. I eyeballed what I thought 7 ounces might be. I think I added way too many chestnuts.
No, grazie.
I wanted to like this soup, so that I could use up the rest of my chestnut supply on it, but I really don't. There's no strong flavor, apart from the sort of muddy taste of the chestnuts. If you blindfolded me, I'd never guess there was butternut squash in there.

Not much else to say. It's better with the chopped apples that she suggests as a topping, but that's only because the apples provide a bit of texture and much-needed flavor.

I'm not a fan.

I'm posting this early, because we're heading to Vienna on Thursday. Yahooo! 

Baking, Chez Moi: Cranberry Crackle Tart

Keeping Thanksgiving timeliness in mind, the Tuesdays with Dorie crew selected Cranberry Crackle Tart (pg 135, Baking, Chez Moi) for this week's recipe.

I was excited when I read through the recipe, because it sounded like a version of a pavlova. I have a friend from New Zealand who makes me "a pav" every few years when I manage to swing a visit , because I love it so. Tart cranberries mixed into what looks like a pav-ish meringue topping? Yes, please!

The Sweet Tart Dough was easy to handle. I love Dorie's suggestion to roll out pie dough while it's still soft, and then refrigerate or freeze it. I used this method on her galette dough recipe for my Thanksgiving pies (we celebrated last weekend), and it worked beautifully. Unfortunately, I didn't love the actual flavor of the crust as much as my standard pie dough, which comes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. His dough is a BEAST to work with, and absolutely was too crumbly to cooperate with Dorie's rolling-while-soft technique. We preferred the flavor and texture of the crust of the one pie that got the Bittman treatment, which made me sad, because I'd make pies a lot more often if a recipe that's as easy to use as Dorie's galette recipe produced my perfect crust. I've wandered off on a tangent. Where was I? Oh yeah...

Pre-baked sweet tart dough crust, then a layer of strawberry jam, topped with the cranberry-jeweled meringue. I was afraid that my meringue wasn't going to cover the surface area, but it turned out to be the exact right amount. Bake it for an hour until it's peaks turn beautifully golden, and voila! Fairly easy for an impressive looking dessert.
I brought this tart to a friend's house, and we inhaled it. Everyone was impressed that the meringue was sweet enough to keep the cranberries from being unpleasantly tart, but not so sweet that it tasted like candy. The overall effect was of a really light dessert that you could easily eat multiple slices of without wanting to explode.

I loved it. This one has definitely earned a spot in our Fall/Winter holiday repertoire.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Baking Chez Moi: Palets de Dames, Lilles Style, Take 2

I am super duper excited that Dorie's new book, Baking Chez Moi, has finally been published, and I'm thrilled to bake through it from the start with the Tuesdays with Dorie group. One of these days, I'll even get to hold the book in my hands and look at it. It is currently sitting in the military mail system.

What was a little less exciting to me was that the very first recipe chosen was for Palets de Dames, Lilles Style, which I baked two weeks ago when the French Fridays with Dorie gang celebrated Dorie's birthday. I understand and appreciate that TWD chose a recipe that was available online so that people who don't have a book yet (ahem, me) could bake along, but it did make my first foray into the book a bit less exciting.

It's week 1 of the new group! First recipe from the book! There's no way I was going to sit this one out, just because I posted about these so recently.
Last time, I stuck to the recipe. This time, I decided to play with flavor a bit. I replaced the vanilla in the batter with almond extract, and replaced the icing's lemon juice with orange zest and juice. Charlie had just as much fun decorating on Round 2 as he did the first time.
The cookie and the icing were separately delicious, but the flavors competed when eaten together. Don't get me wrong, they're not bad. Next time--and these are so easy to make that there will be a next time--I'll either do a vanilla cookie with the orange icing, or an almond cookie with a vanilla icing. I'm pretty sure I'll work my way through all my extracts on these cookies. Hmmm...peppermint icing for the holidays? Yes, please.