February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
There are some things in life which never change. Like snow days. Who doesn’t get a cozy nostalgic feeling with the thought of a day off from the real world? As a kid, this meant an escape from sitting at a desk all day listening to someone talk
to at you from the front of a packed room (for many adults this may still be the case). For me, a snow day means that my kitchen gets my full attention.
These past few weeks I have been slightly obsessed with the mere thought of a delicate crêpe wrapped pleasantly around a oozy gooey filling of nirvana. Oddly, in these past weeks I have had more opportunities to indulge in a simple fruit filled crêpe since living in France. But I found myself resisting, unconsiously holding out for what would be the perfect crêpe day.
By noon on this exceptionally wintery day I had a table full of steaming buckwheat crêpes, warm fig butter, lustrous onion jam and a perfect way to spend my snow day. I made two batches of batter, one made from solely buckwheat flour, which is completely nontraditional. But I had no warning, and authentic batter should really rest over night and I unwilling to compromise. I want to have my crêpes and eat them too. Consequentially we will be finding all sorts of fillers for the endless stacks of toasty savory galettes which will be gracing our plates for the next couple of days as I could not resist the urge to mix up some more traditional batter, courtesy of David Lebovitz and fry them up tomorrow for dinner.
The filling for my crêpes today are from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, and are unbelievable delicious. She has this ingenious section of her book dedicated to fruit and vegetable jams and spreads to accompany all of her treats. My favorite: fig butter. I was first introduced to the idea of her fig butter when Heidi Swanson unveiled Kim’s Figgy Buckwheat scones on 101cookbooks. Since then have been looking for the perfect time to bring the heavenly butter into my life. I must confess my disappointment; the time which I let pass without consuming this butter is completely unacceptable. I could, no lie, eat this everyday. Possibly at every meal. It has a velvety, rich, deep flavor from the figs, wine, and butter but doesn’t leave a feeling of piggishness behind. It requires little hands on work aside from chopping off stems, boiling sugar, and getting out the food processor, and yields a sufficient amount to last (an insatiable girl) just about two weeks.
Perfection. The second filling was even more simple and just as ingenious. Onion jam will be finding its way into nearly all of my sandwiches from here on out. When onions cook down they turn into a heap of savory caramelized luxury ready to make any meal a feast. There is a reason that they make you cry, and it is happiness for what is about to come. It is as if they are forcing us to pay for the magnificence which if hidden behind their bite.
(Nontraditional) Buckwheat Crêpe
This recipe is actually gluten free as buckwheat has no relation to wheat. It also requires only a 15 minute rest which was the appeal for me. These are also a bit thicker than I am used to but delicious nonetheless. I used a 7 inch cast iron pan for the crêpe cooking, if you desire larger crêpes simply use a larger pan. I found the recipe here and followed it pretty precisely but I used salted (Baily’s Dairy!) butter and less salt.
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot (a thickening agent)
dash of salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 3/4 cups water
To make the batter simply sift the dry ingredients together into a medium sized bowl. Now whisk the eggs with the water and add the butter. When the wet ingredients are well mixed pour half into the buckwheat flour and stir until incorporated and smooth. Then pour the rest of the egg mixture and finish stirring. The mixture will be a pretty dark purple color and quite runny. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Just enough time to prepare the pan and finish up the fillings. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and coat it with butter. Add just under 1/4 cup of the batter to the hot pan and swirl it around so that it fills the entire bottom. When the crêpe batter has started to dry out on top, after 2 or 3 minutes, flip it over to briefly cook the other side. I used my fingers to do this. A spatula is safer but less effective. The first crêpe is always, always, always, a disaster. Keep the crêpes warm in a 200 degree oven. This recipe will make 10-12 crêpes. I am planning on freezing some leftovers by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap then sealing in a freezer bag.
Kim Boyce’s Fig Butter
These recipes are not published on the internet and I technically have no right to publish them. Consequentially I am going to HIGHLY recommend you make the decision to own your own copy of Good to the Grain if this looks good to you. I will leave a basic description of the recipe.
A little bit of sugar and water are boiled with cloves and star anise for about 10 minutes. Then lots of red wine and port and black mission figs and cinnamon are added to to the syrup. This mixture simmers for about 3o minutes and becomes a beautiful viscous maroon liquid. The concoction needs to come to room temperature for another 30 minutes or so before removing the cloves and star anise. Then the figs and their syrup are pureed with some soft butter. It is possibly the most indecent thing I have ever eaten.
Kim Boyce’s Onion Jam
See the notes above regarding Kim’s book. You can figure this one out on your own without a recipe. This onion jam with some sauteed mushrooms, horseradish, and hearty slices of bread could hardly make me happier. Although slathered inside a hot crêpe with butter I was quite delighted all day.
Slice a lot of onions. I think I used about 10 yellow cooking onions from Barnard’s Orchards. In a medium dutch oven heat some olive oil on medium high heat for a minute or two. Add the sliced onions and salt and coat them in the oil. Cook them on high until they just begin to brown. Turn down the heat and cover until they get a nice consistent golden. Remove the lid and let them look until they break down into a mass of jam like consistency. This all take about two hours and makes about a cup of savory jam.
November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment
This past Wednesday night began with roasting a perfectly sweet, tart, and herby cranberry and hazelnut sauce for Thanksgiving. I got the inspiration here, and modified it until the recipe turned into my own.
Coat one pound of fresh cranberries in:
1 cup turbinado sugar
3 tablespoons walnut oil
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh sage
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Roast the cranberries on a rimmed baking sheet in a hot oven (425 degrees) for about 7 minutes until the berries around the edge begin to split. While the cranberries are in the oven heat 1/4 cup red wine with 2 tablespoons of water in a little sauce pan until it boils. When the berries begin to split take the pan out of the oven and mix in the hot wine then return everything to the hot oven for another 10 or 15 minutes. Stir the mixture a couple of times checking to see when the berries turn into a beautiful syrupy sauce. Leave the oven on to toast the hazelnuts. The method for the hazelnuts is essentially the same as the cranberries.
Mix 1 cup of hazelnuts with 1 teaspoon each fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage in a rimmed baking sheet. Then heat 3 tablespoons of red wine and 3 tablespoons of turbinado sugar until the sugar melts and mix with the herbed nuts. Now heat the coated nut for just under 10 minutes in the hot oven. Keep the saucy cranberries and the toasted nuts separate until just before devouring the mixture.
November 24, 2010 § 2 Comments
As I walked through my kitchen door this evening I felt like a shop-a-holic. The weight of my items were almost unbearable, and yet I found myself chuckling at the though of my spending habits. My products were not boots, jewelry, body products, or any sort of typical merchandise. The goods in my hands were mushrooms from the Mushroom Cap in Kennett Square; a fresh turkey with extra giblets and bacon on the side from the Country Butcher in Kennett Square; hazelnuts from Spring Run in Kennett; leeks, onions, sage, shallots, cider, and honey from Barnard’s. Nothing could have made me happier than hauling my shopping bags into the kitchen and unloading my purchases. I can completely understand how people become addicted to the feeling of new things. Luckily for me my valuables tend to edible, so I always need more.
My Thanksgiving menu has blossomed into something I feel quite proud of. Every flavor, from the woodsy mushrooms to the warm hazelnuts to the complexity of herbs, has meandered from one dish to the other. And most dishes will be a compilation of recipes taken from articles in various magazines and basic knowledge. I am a bit hesitant to be trying out new techniques and flavors with my usually quite traditionally palated family. Although when it comes down to it, who could oppose bread pudding baked inside a pumpkin and drizzled with whiskey sauce, or wild mushroom, hazelnut, and olive bread stuffing? And roasting cranberries in red wine has got to outshine canned cranberry sauce, especially when they are mixed with spiced hazelnuts. These are the dishes which I am fairly confident will be delicious; the bird is another story. I hardly cook meat and a 14 pound turkey commands some loving care. From all I have gathered, brining the gobbler will ensure a crackling layer atop a succulent frame, and just to go the extra mile I picked up some extra thick bacon to drape over the bird as he roasts provide some extra flavor and tenderness. I mean, if I am going to eat meat it better be tender, juicy, and rich.
So tonight I brine and give the salt time to suck the juice fromt the body out to the skin. The turkey will sit in a bath of citrusy salt for almost 36 hours and will be roasted Thursday morning.
Tomorrow I will roast the cranberries and toast the hazelnuts for the cranberry sauce as well as prepare the stock for the stuffing, basting, and gravy.
Thursday will be full of roasting, rotating, reducing. The turkey will cook in my oven while I prepare the mushroom stuffing and pumpkin stuffed bread pudding. Then everything will be transfered to my Grandmothers where the gravy will be made from the drippings from the turkey plus lots of extra innards, the stuffing will be baked, and the desert will be cooking while we indulge.
Recipes, regrets, and photos to come. Please help me with any suggestions or comments!
November 15, 2010 § Leave a comment
After halloween there seems to be an over abundance of pumpkins. My mind immediately thinks “eat as many pumpkins as you can”. Unfortunately not all pumpkins breakdown into the celebrated creamy texture which is baked into pies, scooped into batters, and sliced into casseroles. The pumpkins from my garden fall into the category of not the greatest eating type; their specific name is unknown.
All I know is that for my next pumpkin filling adventure (I have happily survived two in the past 24 hours) will be in a gorgeous cheese pumpkin i have had my eye on from Barnard’s Orchard. The long island cheese pumpkin is squatter, smoother, and a creamier color than the generic orange pumpkin found on doorsteps and porches as decoration and their flesh is less stringy than the flesh of my homegrown guys. Other pumpkin varieties I know are yummy are baby pam, peek a boo, small sugar/ new england, winter luxury, and trickster.
In any case, I have now figured out the basics of pumpkin stuffing and am happily formulating experimental stuffing possibilities. Last night we feasted on curried black rice with leaks, apple, and walnut filled into the pumpkin. The downside with rice in pumpkins is that the rice must be cooked first and then plopped into the pumpkin’s cavity. This defeats the whole novelty of cooking things in the hollowed out pumpkin. I want to use the pumpkin like a dutch oven, filling it with loads of delicious raw ingredients, giving it a stir and letting everything slowly cook together.
That is exactly what I did this morning. Essentially what I made was baked oatmeal; an Amish classic which combines oats, eggs, milk, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and apples and bakes to perfection. Of coarse I had to fool with the basic recipe and I fooled around so much that I created something completely different, but completely the same. Impossible? Find out.
Oatmeal Stuffed Pumpkin
1 5 pound pumpkin
2 cups whole oats
1 1/2 cups almond milk (or cow’s milk)
1/2 cup apple cider (or juice of your choice)
1 chopped apple
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt
Turn the oven to 375 degrees. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all of the seeds and gook. Save the seeds to roast. Now fill the hollow pumpkin with your dry ingredients and give everything a stir. Then add the honey, milk, and cider. Stir everything around again. Put the top on the pumpkin and place the pumpkin in a dutch oven or on a baking sheet. Leave in the hot oven for about an hour, this time will vary depending on the thickness of the flesh. I took the lid off for the second half of cooking. It is ready to be eaten when the skin and flesh feel like butter upon being pierced. In the last five minutes throw a handful of walnuts into the oven on a baking sheet to toast then sprinkle them on top of the goodness you just created.
October 16, 2010 § Leave a comment
Is there a saying about nothing being better than an apple picked straight from a tree? I don’t think there is. There should be. Because, there is nothing like eating an apple picked straight from a tree.
The apples I gathered from the orchard yesterday had the sweetest, crispest, most awakening flavor of any apple I have ever tasted. No, I am not exaggerating. They are that incredible.
I just wanted to share my enthusiasm, and some pictures. In fact, I am so excited about these apples from Barnard’s, that I plan on having an apple tasting party. More about flavor comparisons after the fact.
For now, I am still consuming at least two apples a day, mostly Empire, which are my current obsession. They are sweet and extraordinarily juicy, with a crisp smack.
October 10, 2010 § Leave a comment
Almonds have the greatest ability to be delicious in so many forms. Toasted almonds add the greatest nutty crunch to salads and soups. Whereas raw almonds are milky and smooth. The creamy texture of raw almonds has forced me to dream of making my own almond milk, and from what I gather, the process is not all that daunting. Before any other almond fantasies could come true, I assembled a peppercorn poached pear and almond tart with an almond crust. Unfortunately, my favorite part was the subtly spiced perfectly tender Bartlette Pears from Barnards Orchards.
And by no means is it an unfortunate thing to have discovered my new adoration and curiosity of pear poaching, though the tart itself was just not worth the hours of effort. But my tummy is telling me that there is still hope, and that the next variation will be magnificent. In any case, it was a gorgeous little experiment, and I am already planning my future pear poaching and almond pasting. No more canned almond paste. From now on I will listen to my gut and make the almond paste with butter and sugar, only the best for my tarts. For the pears I am envisioning the use of honey, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and maybe even some savory pears with thyme poached in a smoked sugar from Northbrook Marketplace. Only the future can tell.
4 cups water
1 1/4 cups Demerara Sugar
4 Bartlette Pears (Boscs were not ready yet, but are preferable) peeled, seeded, quartered
20 peppercorns (give or take)
1 Vanilla bean
Heat the water and sugar together in a large sauce pan until the sugar dissolves. Check on it every couple minutes and stir frequently. Once the sugar has dissolved add the peppercorns and vanilla or any flavorings suited to your taste buds. Add the pears in a layer. Keep the water boiling very lightly and try to be sure that they stay mostly submerged by pushing them down with the back of a wooden spoon every so often, or construct a pear poaching parchment paper tool found here. They will take about 20 minutes to become soft. Once they have become nice and delicate like butter they are poached. Remove them from the heat and allow them too cool until they are needed.