Asparagus Soup {FFwD}

Asparagus Soup

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie just screams “Springtime!” It’s light, flavorful, and bursting with asparagus flavor.

The soup consists of asparagus (lots of it), onion, garlic, shallot, leeks, olive oil, butter, salt, and white pepper. I started by snapping the asparagus to remove the woody part at the base, then peeling the stalks (seriously, who does that?). I tied the peels and stems in a cheesecloth, then boiled the asparagus, stalks, and peels in boiling water. I removed the asparagus after about four minutes, reserving the water and discarding the stalks and peels.

Next, I heated olive oil in the pot. I was using a butter-infused olive oil, so I left out the butter called for in the recipe. I added the onion, garlic, shallot, and leeks, salted and peppered them, and cooked them low and slow until they were soft and glistening. I added back six cups of the asparagus water, simmered for a while, then dropped the asparagus back in.

After everything had cooked a bit more, I puréed the soup in two batches in my Vitamix. I thought the first batch looked a bit too watery, so I left most of the liquid out of the second batch. When I mixed it all together, it was a beautiful color and consistency.

The recipe says that the soup can be served hot or cold. I wanted to try it right away, so I served it hot with a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of olive oil. I found it slightly bland, but a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper solved that problem.

I’m interested to try this soup cold, but I really enjoyed it hot. It was smooth, silky, and brimming with Springtime flavors.

Hummus {FFwD}

Part of what I enjoy about French Fridays with Dorie is making something completely new and unfamiliar to me, like last week’s Endive, Apples, and Grapes. It’s fun exploring new flavors, trying new ingredients, and learning new techniques.

But there’s also something enjoyable about a trying a recipe that’s a new version of an old favorite. And that’s what this week’s offering was for me.

I love hummus, and I never go to a Middle Eastern restaurant without trying the house version. And I’ve made lots of hummus over the years. One of my favorite recipes is from the Moosewood Cookbook, but I’m always game to try a new one.

This was a good, solid hummus. Not remarkable in any way. But quite tasty. And it was especially good served on flatbread that I made with this recipe from King Arthur Flour.

I don’t know if I’ll make Dorie’s version of hummus again, but I’ll definitely make the KAF flatbread to use as a base for hummus and other dips and spreads.

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.

Roast Turkey with Truffle Butter {Recipe} {Thanksgiving Dinner Roundup}

When my family gets together for Thanksgiving, we often divide cooking duties, with each family providing one or two dishes. But the host always provides the turkey. So when I decided to host a virtual Thanksgiving Dinner, I signed up to provide the main dish.

I’ve been known to mix things up for Thanksgiving — replacing the typical candied yams with sweet potato soufflé; serving cranberry compote in place of relish; even (once) making oyster stuffing. And my family is (mostly) tolerant of my experiments and exploits.

But you don’t mess with the turkey. You season it. You roast it. You serve it.

So when I saw this recipe in Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That?, I decided I’d better test it out ahead of time to make sure it was “traditional” enough for the Thanksgiving table.

The unique thing about this recipe, and what immediately caught my eye, is the use of truffle butter to season the turkey and keep it moist. I checked several local stores but didn’t find it. I knew I could probably find some at Whole Paycheck, but the closest one is about 45 minutes away. So I did what I always do in these situations: I made my own truffle butter.

I made this turkey for dinner a couple of nights ago, along with a few other recipes I wanted to try out for possible inclusion on the Thanksgiving table (stuffed pumpkin with rice and peas; Indiana persimmon pudding; and stuffing made with buttermilk cottage dill bread). It was without question the best turkey I’ve ever had. The meat was moist and flavorful; the skin salty, crispy, and delicious.

Roast Turkey with Truffle Butter

Ingredients

  • 1 12- to 14-pound turkey, preferably fresh
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces truffle butter, at room temperature
  • Truffle salt
  • 1 yellow or white onion, unpeeled and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 large head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme (10 – 12 sprigs)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity, drain juices from turkey, and pat dry with paper towels. Generously sprinkle cavity with Kosher salt and pepper.
  2. Gently work your fingers (wear gloves if you’re squeamish) between turkey skin and breast meat. Loosen skin of breast, legs, and thighs. Rub about 3 ounces of the truffle butter under skin, covering breast, thighs, and legs. It’s easiest to do this by pushing butter under skin, then rubbing the top of skin to cover meat well.
  3. Place turkey, breast side up, in roasting pan. Stuff cavity of bird with onion, garlic, and 8 sprigs thyme. Tuck wings under body and tie legs with kitchen twine.
  4. Melt remaining truffle butter and brush generously over turkey (use it all). Sprinkle with truffle salt, freshly ground black pepper, and remaining thyme leaves, pulled from stems.
  5. Roast turkey for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until breast meat registers 160°F on a meat thermometer. Cover loosely with foil about halfway through roasting time to prevent skin from overbrowning.
  6. Remove from oven, cover tightly with heavy-duty foil, and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
  7. While the turkey is resting, skim grease from pan juices (there will be a lot of grease), and thicken the juices to make a delicious gravy.

This turkey is definitely making an appearance on my Thanksgiving table. And I suspect it will be making repeat appearances for years to come.

Stuffed Pumpkin {FFwD} {Pumpkin Dinner} {Recipe}

My love of all things pumpkin is well known, so I don’t think anyone was surprised when I suggested a pumpkin dinner roundup, where everyone would make a different pumpkin recipe and post them all on the same day.

My contribution was this side dish, which I adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe. I made it the other night for dinner.

Don’t think big jack-o’-lantern pumpkin when you go to make this dish. A 2 1/2 pound pumpkin is pretty small and can be found with the “baking pumpkins” at the grocery store.

Preparing it for baking, however, is a lot like carving a pumpkin.

Once the goop is removed, it’s just a matter of filling it with stuffing and pouring on some spiced cream.

Then you put the lid back on and slide it into the oven for a bit.

The skin will darken and toughen up while the insides get bubbly and delicious.

Stuffed Pumpkin

(adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan)

 Ingredients 

  • 2 1/2 pound pumpkin
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4-5 thin slices stale bread, crusts removed and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 ounces each Gruyère and Emmenthal cheeses, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Cut the top off the pumpkin jack-o’-lantern style and remove pulp and seeds. Discard seeds or save for roasting. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin in a round baking dish, preferably one that’s just slightly larger than the pumpkin.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine bread, cheeses, garlic, and thyme. Season with a little salt and lots of pepper and toss well. Spoon filling into pumpkin and pack lightly. The pumpkin should be filled to the top but not overflowing.
  4. Stir together cream and nutmeg, then pour over filling in pumpkin. Put the pumpkin top on the pumpkin.
  5. Bake for 1 hour. Remove lid and continue baking for about 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the top nicely toasted.
  6. To serve, carefully (it will be very hot) reach inside the pumpkin with a large spoon and scrape the cooked pumpkin meat free from the sides. Mix the pumpkin with the stuffing and replace the lid. Carry the pumpkin in the baking dish to the table. When ready to serve, remove the lid and spoon directly from the pumpkin.

 Yields 4-5 side dish servings

You’ll note that I sliced the pumpkin rather than mixing in the flesh like in the recipe. I didn’t care for it sliced as well. The skin was very dry and leathery, and it was difficult to cut, even with a good, sharp knife. And we were left to deal with it on the plate while eating. I made a note to mix it together inside the pumpkin next time.

This was such a delicious dish. I couldn’t wait to make it again. So, a few weeks later I decided to bake another pumpkin. My parents were in town, and I thought I would switch things up by replacing the bread cubes with rice and adding frozen peas.

We put the whole pumpkin on the table and served it by scooping out the filling, along with some of the pumpkin flesh. It was so good, we all agreed that we would add it to our Thanksgiving menu this year.

In addition to the pumpkin dinner roundup, this post is also part of French Fridays with Dorie.

Chicken Breasts Diable {AMFT}

If I’m ever tormented by a devil, I want it to be a French one. With a name like chicken breasts diable, I expected a firy dish with a spicy kick. In fact, I was afraid that I might have to tone it down a bit for the kids.

So I had to laugh when I read the recipe (on page 217 of Around My French Table) and realized that the “fire” in the dish came from Dijon mustard, and only 3 tablespoons for 4 servings, at that. In addition to the chicken breasts and Dijon, the recipe called for butter, olive oil, shallot, garlic, white wine, cream, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper.

This was a simple dish that came together quickly. My chicken breasts were quite thick, and even though I pounded them a bit, they took longer to cook than the recipe called for. After browning the chicken on both sides, I put them in a baking dish and slid them into the oven while I made the sauce in the pan. Then I poured the sauce over the chicken and finished baking it in the oven.

I served the chicken with Garlicky Crumb-coated Broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes.

This was an amazing dish. Spicy (not hot) and very flavorful. Even my Dad, who doesn’t like spicy food, loved it.

Maybe he was French in a previous life.

Garlicky Crumb-coated Broccoli {FFwD} {AMFT}

I’m not sure what I was doing back on April 8, 2011. Around that time I was finishing up the last of the savory tarts and pies for the Modern Baker Challenge and getting started on the sweet tarts and pies. And I was Twitterbaking recipes from Bake! with some friends.

What I wasn’t doing was making this recipe with the rest of the French Fridays with Dorie members.

So the other evening while I was making Dorie’s chicken breasts diable and looking for a side to serve with it, I thought I’d play a little catch up and make garlicky crumb-coated broccoli.

This was a very simple recipe. I put the broccoli in the rice steamer to cook while I prepared the crumb coating. I melted butter, and sautéed garlic in it. Then I added bread crumbs and toasted them for a few minutes. Finally, I stirred in lemon oil and parsley, then added the broccoli and tossed it all together.

This was a great side dish, as delicious as it was simple. As for how it went with the chicken breasts diable, well, you’ll have to check back next week.

Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach {FFwD}

OK, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: this is not risotto. Sure, it’s made with Arborio rice cooked in broth and it has aromatics, butter, cream, and cheese added to it. But it’s not risotto.

What makes it “not risotto” is the fact that the rice is put on the stove with all the broth added to it and allowed to cook, unattended, until the broth has mostly absorbed and the rice is tender. Risotto, by contrast, is made by adding the broth a little at a time and cooking until it is absorbed before adding more.

Dorie Greenspan goes to great lengths in Around My French Table to explain that this is not risotto. And I suppose that’s why she gave the recipe such a long, descriptive, non-risotto name. Personally, I would’ve just called it Creamy Rice. Whatever it’s called, it was this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie.

Because you don’t have to attend to the rice while it cooks, this recipe comes together pretty quickly. After putting the rice on the stove, I cooked some spinach with a little salt, until it wilted and lost most of its volume.

While the spinach cooled, I sautéed onions and garlic in butter.

Then it was just a matter of stirring the rice and spinach into the onion mixture and adding cheese and cream.

I served the creamy rice with turkey sausage for a simple, delicious dinner. Risotto purists might object to the texture of the rice, which was more gooey than risotto should be. But no one would complain about the flavor. The garlic and spinach complimented each other well and were the predominate flavors in the dish.

Why the French make their not-risotto this way, well, I suppose only the French know. But one thing I know is that, while it won’t replace traditional risotto in my kitchen, this is a dish that will make repeated appearances on my French table.

Eggplant Caviar {FFwD} — A Rewind, of Sorts

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie was actually a repeat for me. This was the first recipe I made from Around My French Table before French Fridays even started. The only change I made this time was to add some slow-roasted tomatoes.

You can read the original post that I wrote about getting Dorie’s book and this recipe in September, 2010, by clicking here. Rather than blogging about the recipe again, I’m excerpting part of the original post here:

This is really a simple recipe (which, in case you’re wondering, has no caviar in it). The first step is to roast the eggplants.

In a sidebar Dorie suggests slitting the eggplant and stuffing it with slivered garlic. I followed her suggestion, and the roasted garlic gave the eggplant great depth of flavor. I baked the eggplants for 45 minutes, until they were soft and wrinkly.

Once the eggplants had cooled, I halved each one and scooped out the meat. I think I should have baked the eggplants another 15 minutes or so, as some of it didn’t scoop out cleanly. I was able to get most of the meat into the bowl, where I mixed it with garlic and olive oil. (As a side note, if you stuff the eggplant with garlic, you might want to cut back a bit on the raw garlic.)  The recipe says to mash everything together with a fork, but I found it easier to squish it up with my fingers. [Note: the second time I made this recipe, I roasted the eggplants a bit longer, and the meat scooped out better and mashed beautifully with a fork.]

After the eggplant meat was sufficiently broken down, I added the remaining ingredients — lemon zest and juice, onion, basil, thyme, cilantro, cayenne, salt, and pepper [and the second time, roasted tomatoes marinated in olive oil].

The recipe doesn’t specify how much salt to add; I found that it needed quite a bit, about 2-3 teaspoons. I used black truffle salt, which gave the dish amazing flavor. I also added healthy amounts of black pepper and cayenne.

I was hooked on Dorie from the time I tried this recipe, and I went on to make about half a dozen others from AMFT before French Fridays started. 

When this recipe came up for French Fridays, I actually forgot I had made it before. I’m glad, because had I remembered I might have passed on making it again; and this is definitely one worth repeating.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes {FFwD}

French Fridays with Dorie is kicking off August with a delicious, simple recipe that is sure to become staple in many a kitchen.

I picked up some grape tomatoes at the farmer’s market over the weekend, and they were perfect for this recipe. To roast the tomatoes, I cut them in half and put them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. I sprinkled the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and a couple cranks of ground black pepper, drizzled them with olive oil, and nestled a few cloves of garlic and some fresh thyme around them.

I roasted the tomatoes at 225°F for three hours (yes, three hours!), until they were shriveled and looked a little dry.

Although they looked dry, the tomatoes were still juicy, and roasting intensified the tomato flavor. And the garlic, herb, oil, and spices added subtle notes to the flavor. I ate a few of the tomatoes, then packed the rest in olive oil to use later.

But not much later. Dorie says that the tomatoes will remain usable in the oil for several weeks. I suspect they would keep for longer than that. Mine, however, never got the chance, as I kept finding uses for them. And before I knew it, they were gone.

So the next time you’re at the market and see a pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, grab them and give this recipe a try. By slow roasting tomatoes, the flavor and color are intensified. And if you pack them in oil with garlic and herbs, you’ll find yourself adding them to all kinds of things.

Like eggplant caviar:

Or perhaps couscous salad:

Whatever you end up doing with them, they’re sure to go fast. Especially if you keep eating them out of the jar. Not that I know anyone who does that….

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