Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs {FFwD}

AMFT Cover

Although I haven’t been participating in French Fridays with Dorie (or any other bake- or cook-along group) recently, I happened by the website the other day, and this recipe was enough to pull me back in. Mushrooms, cream, and poached eggs (singing: these are a few of my favorite things) on top of toasted brioche — I mean, what’s not to love?

This recipe was as simple as it was delicious. Cleaning the mushroom caps and chopping the mushrooms, shallot, rosemary, and mint were the most time-consuming parts of the whole process. After that, it was just a matter of adding everything to the pan in the right order while Mom poached some eggs.

Once I had my mise en place, I began by heating olive oil and melting butter in a sauté pan. I dropped in the shallot and sautéed it for a few minutes, then added the mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Once the mushrooms had given up their liquid and begun to soften, I added cream and let it simmer away for a few minutes while I sliced up the brioche and started toasting it. Finally, I removed the pan from the heat and stirred in rosemary and mint.

By that time, Mom was finished poaching the eggs (perfectly, I might add), and we plated everything. We put a slice of brioche on the plate, topped it with a nice spoonful of mushrooms and the poached egg, and then finished it off by spooning the mushroom cream over the top.

Everyone agreed that this was a perfect Sunday supper — simple, homey, filling, and insanely delicious.

I’m glad to be back cooking with my friends for French Fridays. I can’t say for sure how many recipes I will make, or if I’ll post many or any of them. But I have already made next week’s Coupetade. And I love both asparagus and avocado. So there’s a good chance I’ll be around at least for the month of May.

Bon appetite!

Mardi Gras Caramel Corn {Recipe}

With Fat Tuesday just around the corner, I thought I’d try something new this year in addition to my traditional King Cake. I had the idea to make something with the traditional Mardi Gras colors of gold, green, and purple, and I wanted it to resemble beads.

And then it hit me: caramel corn! It’s sweet and decadent, perfect for Fat Tuesday. And with a few drops of food coloring, the caramel turns the popcorn into little sweet salty bead-like nuggets of love.

I searched the ‘net for a caramel corn recipe to use as a base, and ended up taking ingredients, amounts, and techniques from several recipes, which I combined to come up with my own version.

Here are some hints, tips, and tricks to make things easier:

  • 2 regular sized bags of microwave popcorn make just the right amount of popcorn. You could also use about 6 quarts of popped regular popcorn.

  • Keeping the popcorn warm before adding the caramel will keep the caramel from seizing up and will make it easier to mix.
  • If you want more uniformly coated caramel corn, put the popcorn in bowls before adding the caramel. This will allow you to mix it more thoroughly (but will also result in three unnecessary dirty dishes). Using roasting pans or other pans with high sides will also make it easier to stir the caramel corn.
  • The caramel has to be used as soon as it’s ready, or it will start to cool and harden, so mise en place it key to this recipe. Having all of your ingredients and equipment set out and at hand will enable you to manage making three separate batches of caramel corn all at once.

  • If you want to make an insanely large batch of caramel corn for a party or to give away, you could make three separate batches, one of each color. In that case, you could bake each batch of caramel corn on two pans.
  • Spraying the measuring cup before measuring the corn syrup will make the sticky syrup slide right out of the cup.
  • I like the mixture of light and dark brown sugars, as it gives the caramel corn a nice color and depth of flavor; but you could use 2 cups of either.
  • When adding the food coloring, remember — less is more. Start with just a few drops and mix it in well before adding more. You can always add more food coloring, but you can’t take it out. I used a bit too much in my purple batch, as the caramel was a deep golden color, and I thought it would take quite a bit to color it. It really doesn’t take much at all.
  • If you like nuts in your caramel corn, add 2 cups peanuts, pecans, or mixed nuts to the popcorn in the pans before adding the caramel.
  • Run the saucepans and spoons under hot water as soon as you’re finished with them. The caramel will scrape off easily.

Mardi Gras Caramel Corn

Ingredients

  • 2 bags Natural microwave popcorn
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • purple and green food coloring

Directions

  1. Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 200°F. Line three roasting or jellyroll pans with foil and grease with cooking spray.
  2. Pop popcorn and divide evenly among the three pans. Place pans in oven to keep popcorn warm.
  3. Measure vanilla and baking soda into small prep bowls and set near stove. Fill small saucepan with hot water and set aside.
  4. Place butter, brown sugars, corn syrup, and salt in large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter and sugars melt and mixture comes to a boil. As soon as it boils, stop stirring and set a timer for 4 minutes. While the caramel is cooking, empty and dry the small saucepan, setting on the stovetop to stay warm, and take one pan of popcorn out of the oven. When the timer goes off, remove the saucepan from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. The mixture will foam up a bit at first.
  5. Pour 1/3 of the caramel over the first pan of popcorn and immediately return the pan to the oven (don’t stir the popcorn). Pour another 1/3 of the caramel into the small sauce pan. Set the large saucepan aside.
  6. Add a few drops of purple food coloring to the caramel in the small pan and mix well, adding more food coloring if necessary to get the desired color. Remove a second pan of popcorn from the oven, pour the purple caramel over the popcorn, and return the pan immediately to the oven (don’t stir the popcorn).
  7. Add a few drops of green food coloring to the caramel in the large pan and mix well with a clean spoon, adding more food coloring if necessary to get the desired color. Remove the third pan of popcorn from the oven, pour the green caramel over the popcorn, and stir the popcorn to coat with caramel. Return the pan to the oven, then take the other pans out one at a time and mix well, using a different spoon for each pan.
  8. Bake the caramel corn for 60 minutes, taking the pans out to stir well every 15 minutes.
  9. Dump the caramel corn out onto waxed paper and use a wooden spoon to break up any big chunks. Allow to cool, then mix all three colors together and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 22 cups.

Spiced Squash, Fennel, and Pear Soup {FFwD}

When I posted the Twenty-minute Honey-glazed Duck Breasts this morning, I wasn’t planning on writing this week’s French Fridays post until next week. In fact, I hadn’t even made the soup yet, so posting it today seemed out of the question. But with the girls at school, J resting on the couch, Bailey napping wherever he could find a comfortable spot, and me off work for the day, it just seemed like a great time for some cooking. Add to that the fact that we got our first snow overnight, and soup was the perfect choice for the afternoon.

I started out by roasting a pumpkin.

It was only a 3-pounder, so I was surprised by how much meat I got from it.

Next, I did my mise en place. I’m a big proponent of using mise en place for cooking and baking, and I always employ it for soups, which tend to require a lot of measuring, peeling, and chopping but come together quickly once you start cooking. With all your ingredients in front of you, most of the work is behind you.

I sautéed onions in olive oil over low heat, then added fennel, celery, and garlic and cooked until the vegetables softened.

I added spices, the roasted pumpkin, homemade chicken stock, pear, and orange peel to the pot, brought it to a boil, then simmered for about 20 minutes, until the pear was mashably soft.

I pureed the soup with my immersion blender, then adjusted the salt and pepper. Most soups are oversalted for my tastes, so I had used very little salt while preparing the soup. I stirred in a little at a time until the balance was perfect. As I tasted the soup, I thought it might benefit from a little honey to help bolster the sweetness of the pears, so I stirred in about 2 tablespoons of clover honey.

I served the soup with a squeeze of lemon juice and crème fraîche.

The soup was creamy, savory, a little sweet, and spiced just right. The acid from the lemon juice gave it great balance, and the crème fraîche added a nice tang. I could just barely taste the orange peel, and it seemed like the soup would be really good with just a bit more orange flavor, maybe from some zest or a bit of juice.

But it was pretty close to perfect just the way it was.

Truffle Butter {Recipe}

We’re having Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year, so I’m responsible for the turkey. And I’m hosting a virtual Thanksgiving Dinner Roundup for some of my friends this weekend, so I needed to try out a turkey recipe that would fit into the Roundup and, hopefully, be worth repeating on Thanksgiving Day.

I found a recipe by Ina Garten that looked really delicious. In fact, I probably would have tried this recipe even if I didn’t need it for the Roundup and Thanksgiving. You’ll have to wait until Sunday to see my turkey post, but I can tell you that one of the key ingredients is truffle butter.

I’m sure truffle butter is easy to find in the Hamptons, where Ina lives. In Stow, Ohio — not so much. I checked several stores before I decided to try making my own. After surfing the ‘Net and finding a number of different methods for making it, I came up with this recipe. It’s simple, and the results are wonderful.

Truffle Butter (makes 4 ounces)

Ingredients

  • One stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons white truffle oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon truffle salt, or Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Mix butter, oil, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Taste for salt, adding up to another 1/2 teaspoon, if needed.
  3. Cover and leave at room temperature if you are going to use within a day or two. Refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.

A word of warning: when you taste the butter, you may find yourself wanting to eat it by the spoonful. It’s that good.

Once you discover how easy and delicious this butter is, you’re sure to find many uses for it. And if you do, I’d love to read about them in the Comments section below.

Spinach & Feta Turnovers {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for Modern Baker Mondays is another savory offering. And as excited as I was about making the Caramelized Onion & Gorgonzola Tart last week, I was kind of so-so about these Spinach & Feta Turnovers. I love turnovers; I could live on spinach (I’ve loved it since I was a child); and anything made with puff pasty is OK in my book.

So I wasn’t sure what exactly was holding me back. Then it occurred to me: I don’t really like feta. There, I said it. Call me a rube, call me a blasphemer. I’m just not that crazy about the stuff. I don’t hate it, and I even make things with it from time to time. But I often find it so bitingly acidic that it overpowers every other flavor and texture in the dish.

I even thought about substituting goat cheese or blue cheese in this recipe, but I decided to make it as Nick intended. I found a somewhat mild feta, and I hoped that baking it into the turnover would tone it down even more.

After rolling out the puff pastry and putting it in the fridge to chill, I began assembling the filling. I started by mixing dill, green onions, feta, and pepper in a bowl (no salt, as the feta is plenty salty on its own).

I set the feta mixture aside while I sautéed spinach in olive oil until it had wilted and cooked down considerably. It wasn’t until I was finished cooking the spinach that I read the part of the recipe that says to chop the spinach before you sauté it. No matter: I grabbed my kitchen shears and chopped it in the pan before adding it to the feta mixture and stirring in an egg.

Now it was time to assemble the turnovers. I got the dough out of the refrigerator, lined a baking sheet with Silpat, and made an egg wash with beaten egg and a pinch of salt.

I cut the edges of the dough straight, then divided the dough into six squares (I made a half batch).

To make each turnover, I brushed the edges of a square of dough with egg wash, then put a dollop of filling near one of the corners.

I folded the corner over, then sealed the edges by pressing the dough together with my fingertips.

I was surprised by how much filling I had left after making all 6 turnovers. I thought about saving it for something else, but in the end I just pitched it.

I baked the turnovers at 375˚F for 15 minutes, then turned the pan around and baked for another 10 minutes.

Feta or no, the turnovers smelled really good baking, and I could hardly wait to try them.

And I was delighted and surprised by the taste. The puff pastry was, of course, buttery and flaky. And the filling tasted of spinach and onions and only a bit cheesy, but not in a bitingly acidic way.

I had two turnovers for dinner. My 7 year old asked if she could try one, so I plated one for her and set it on the dining room table. I didn’t expect her to like it, as she isn’t a big fan of spinach, at least not by itself. But I was barely back in the kitchen when she appeared, plate in hand, asking for another one! (My kids are adventurous eaters, but even they surprise me from time to time.)

If it hadn’t been part of the puff pastry section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I doubt that I would have made this recipe. But having tasted these delicious turnovers, I’m sure I’ll be making them again.

Savory Elephant Ears {ModBak}

Having made Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Elephant Ears several times, always to rave reviews, I recently thought I would mix things up a bit. Rather than the sweet elephant ears, made simply with puff pastry and sugar, I decided to make the savory version in The Modern Baker.

The savory elephant ears were made with cheese and paprika. I decided to use two kinds of cheese — Pecorino Romano and Gruyère.

Cheese en Place

 I began by rolling the puff pastry (using flour instead of sugar) into a rectangle.

I brushed the surface with egg wash,…

…then spread the dough with cheese…

…and sprinkled on some paprika.

I shaped the dough as with the sweet elephant ears by rolling the sides in about halfway, then folding a second time, and finally folding one side over the other.

First roll

Second roll

Final roll

I flattened the roll slightly, then refrigerated the dough for an hour or so before slicing and baking.

These elephant ears were puffy, buttery, and cheesy. They reminded me in a way of mustard batons. And even though they were really tasty, calling them “elephant ears” distracted from the experience, as I couldn’t help but compare them to their sweet, sticky, caramelized namesakes. Maybe next time, I’ll just call them cheese puffs.

Instant Puff Pastry {ModBak}

The first recipe in the Puff Pastry section of The Modern Baker is the basis of all the recipes that follow. Sure, you could make these recipes with store bought puff pastry, but why would you? Especially since, like so many of Nick Malgieri’s recipes, the recipe for Instant Puff Pastry is so easy to put together.

The puff pastry has only four ingredients — flour, butter, salt, and water — and comes together quickly in the food processor. And unlike the typical puff pastry recipe, which requires multiple “turns” to fold and roll chilled butter into the dough, Nick’s recipe incorporates the butter into the dough from the beginning.

After combining the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor, I added the butter (chilled and cut into pieces). I pulsed mixture, then added the water and finished mixing the dough. Then I turned the dough out onto a floured board, where I pressed and rolled it into a rectangle. 

I rolled and turned the dough, making sure it was well-floured on the top and underneath, until I had an 18-inch square. I cut the square in half, then rolled one half out to a 12 x 18-inch rectangle. I folded the rectangle in thirds, then rolled it into a cylinder and flattened it under my palm. I did the same thing with the other half of the dough. When I cut the dough in half, it exhibited the layers you expect to see in puff pastry.

 

 It took less than half an hour to put the dough together, and Nick says that it can be frozen for several months, so I decided that while I had the ingredients out and the food pro already messed up, I might as well make all the dough I would need for this section of the Modern Baker Challenge. I figured that I would need five recipes of instant puff pastry. Each batch came together faster than the one before, and I had all five of them finished, divided, bagged, and the kitchen cleaned in just over two hours.

I put them in the fridge while I cleaned, then moved all but the ones I was planning to use right away to the freezer.

If you’ve ever made puff pastry using a traditional recipe, you’ll understand how simple this recipe really is. And once you try it, you’ll wonder why you ever went to all that work before.

And whether you’ve made puff pastry before or not, I guarantee that once you try this recipe, you’ll never go back to store bought again.

Raspberry Almond Tartlets {ModBak}

Talk about saving the best for last. This is the final recipe I made from the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker, and what a way to finish! I would have to put this recipe in the top 3 for this section, right up there with the Pumpkin Pecan and Bourbon-scented Pecan Tarts.

I put this one off until the end, not just because it’s near the end of the section (I tend to make the recipes roughly in order), but also because tartlets always seem a bit fussy to me. I tend to favor full-size tarts and pies, as their miniature counterparts tend to be tedious to assemble. I needn’t have worried with this recipe, however, as it came together really quickly.

Having made the crust the day before to use for lemon lime tartlets, all I had to do was roll it out, cut it, and fit it into the mini muffin pans.

I had planned to make a half recipe of the lemon lime and raspberry almond tartlets, so I divided a single batch of sweet tart dough and set aside half for each recipe. There was a small chunk of dough leftover when I made the lemon lime tartlets, and I had stuck that in the fridge after I made the crusts for those the day before. As I rolled out the dough for the raspberry tartlets, I realized there was enough dough to make more than just 12 tartlets. To my surprise, between the leftovers from the day before and the raspberry tartlet dough, I was able to make 24 tartlet shells.

While the dough chilled in the fridge, I put together the filling, which consisted of almond paste, sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter, and flour, all whirred together in the food processor. Then I gathered my ingredients to assemble the tartlets.

I began by putting a dab of seedless raspberry preserves in each shell, then topping that with either one large raspberry or two small blackberries.

Then I spooned in the filling to cover the berries. Nick says to spread the filling evenly with an offset spatula, but mine seemed to even itself out nicely. I sprinkled the top of each tartlet with sliced almonds, and they were ready to bake.

I baked the tartlets at 350°F for 20 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the filling was puffy and set.

Allowing the tartlets to cool was no easy task, but I left them alone for about 25 minutes, until the pan was cool enough to handle, then I removed each tartlet to a rack to finish cooling. Well, all except for those destined for the dessert plate.

In case you’re wondering, that wasn’t all for me. My wife and I split the tartlets on the plate. But I did sneak another one every time I walked past the table. And I found lots of excuses to pass through the dining room.

I really enjoyed these tartlets. The almond paste gave the filling a wonderfully rich and warm flavor, while the berries provided a juicy, tart contrast. I liked the blackberry ones the best, although I wouldn’t say no to either of them. Which is why I eventually had to wrap them and put them away.

So that’s it for the sweet tarts and pies. On to Puff Pastries. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Sour Cream Apple Pie {ModBak}

This recipe, the last of three apple pie recipes in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker, is the only one that really seems like pie. The other two — Breton apple pie and Maida’s Big Apple Pie – are more of a cake and tart, respectively. Each one is delicious in its own right, but none, including this one, reminds me of a classic apple pie. When I think of apple pie, I picture a double-crusted pie (although I don’t have anything against crumb topping, either) with a filling made of apples, sugar, cinnamon, butter, maybe a splash of lemon juice, and not much else.

The twist in this recipe is the addition of sour cream, which makes a custard-style pie. To make the pie, I began by cooking down some apples in butter and sugar. While the apples were cooking, I whisked together flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Then I made the crumb topping, which consisted of flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and butter. Finally, I rolled out and panned a single crust sweet pie dough.

Once the apples had cooled, I combined them with the sour cream custard mixture.

As soon as I put the filling into the pie, I knew I had a bit too much. Fortunately, I had placed the pie pan on a parchment-lined jelly roll pan, so it caught the overflow.

After topping the pie with the crumbs, I baked it at 350°F for about 55 minutes, until the filling was set and the topping nicely browned.

I cooled the pie (more or less), then sliced and served it for a late-evening snack.

The recipe says that the pie needs no accompaniment, and it was certainly good on its own.

Don’t tell Nick, but it was also awesome with ice cream and whipped cream!

Pimm’s No. 1 Ice Cream Cup — Sundae Sunday {Recipe}

When Di announced that she was going to host a virtual ice cream social, I knew I would contribute this post. The only trouble was, I hadn’t written it yet. And I was planning to write four posts leading up to this one, none of which I had written, either. Nothing like a little motivation to get things done!

So here’s my Sundae Sunday contribution. Thanks to Di for hosting!

A few weeks ago, I decided to try coming up with a few curd recipes — first lemon, then lime. I wanted the citrus curds to use in ice cream — again developing my own recipes for lemon and lime ice creams. 

And all of this was done with one ultimate goal in mind: to make a Pimm’s ice cream recipe. I recently discovered Pimm’s No. 1, thanks in large part to Steve Buscemi and Boardwalk Empire. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the classics.

Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based liquor made in England from dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices, and spices. The formula is a well-kept secret. It is reported that only six people in the world know how it’s made. The taste is hard to describe. It’s light, fruity, a little spicy, with a hint of cucumber (yes, cucumber). You definitely don’t have to be a gin drinker to enjoy Pimm’s.

The classic Pimm’s drink, the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, is commonly associated with Wimbledon. As with most classic (i.e., old) cocktail recipes, there are dozens of ways to make a Pimm’s cup. The “official” recipe, from the Pimm’s website, is 1 part Pimm’s No. 1 and 3 parts chilled lemonade, stirred together over ice, and garnished with one or more of mint, cucumber, orange, and strawberry. However, because British lemonade is carbonated and lemonade in the States is not, many recipes call for a 1:2:1 ratio of Pimm’s, lemonade, and lemon-lime soda or seltzer.

As I was enjoying the occasional Pimm’s cup during the recent heatwave,  I realized that the classic Pimm’s  No. 1 Cup would be the perfect platform on which to build a lemon-lime ice cream recipe.

I gathered the ingredients, including homemade lemon curd, lime curd, and Pimm’s syrup, and I was ready to go.

I brought milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, I whisked egg yolks and sugar for about 1 minute, until the went from this…

…to this…

I tempered the eggs with the milk, then cooked the custard until it thickened to the consistency of pudding.

I stirred in the remaining ingredients, chilled the custard base overnight, then froze it in my Kitchen Aid freezer bowl.

I served the ice cream with a little drizzle of Pimm’s syrup. It was exactly as I had envisioned it. The lemon and lime flavors predominated, with the Pimm’s adding a subtle spiciness. It was sweet, but not overly so, and perfectly satisfying as a summery dessert. Even my mom, who never touches alcohol, really enjoyed it.

Pimm’s No. 1 Ice Cream Cup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon curd
  • 1/4 cup lime curd
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime, combined
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime, combined
  • 1/2 cup Pimm’s syrup (recipe below)

Directions

  1. Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until thick and light lemon colored, about 1 minute.
  2. Pour the milk into the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, to temper the egg yolks.
  3. Pour the mixture into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon curd, lime curd, lemon and lime zest, cream, lemon and lime juice, and Pimm’s syrup, in order, mixing well between each addition.
  5. For best results, refrigerate overnight before churning in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Pimm’s Syrup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup Pimm’s No. 1

Directions

  1. Place sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar.
  2. Add Pimm’s No. 1, stir, and return to boil.
  3. Boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup in volume.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use.

The syrup is great on ice cream. It will keep for several weeks in the fridge, and a little goes a long way.

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