Sunday, March 20, 2011

Salmon en Croute...special stuff for special people

My neighbors are going through a major remodel and have been without a kitchen for nearly a month. We decided to treat them to a home cooked meal last night. Of course, as always I want to give my guests the best I can produce. A little wow factor is nice too.

Salmon en Croute..literally salmon in crust was the option I went for tonight. Its really simple, a little laborious but worth the results. Its actually pretty easy to do...wrap a par-cooked salmon portion in puff pastry much like one would wrap a Christmas gift using a little egg wash as glue to hold the seams together.

Presentation is everything and its the little things that elevate the wow factor of the final product. In this case not only did I glaze it with an egg wash, but I cut out little fish from the pastry scraps to make decorations for the top of the package to give a little visual interest as well as hint of what is inside.

When working with puff pastry dough one does need to keep it cool so you don't melt the butter separating the layers within the pastry. Working with one sheet at a time does help you keep from getting your dough to soft and ruining the layers. Simply put the sheet you don't need at the moment in the fridge to keep it cool while working with the other. Also, its very important that the dough be cool when put in the oven for maximum puff during baking so the resting period in the refrigerator is really important, but that's a good thing as it means you can have assembled in the afternoon before you even have to worry about your guests arriving. Do aheads are a good thing.

The puff pastry though loaded with butter can stick to a baking sheet. I use a silpat to prevent sticking and tearing of the salmon en Croute when removing it from the pan. If you don't have a silpat then do get yourself some parchment paper to put down on your baking sheet to prevent sticking. Nothing is worse than working hard to make a pretty looking dish only to have it ruined because of sticking. Easy fix.

Salmon en Croute
  • 1 pkg Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry
  • 4 4-6oz salmon fillets
  • onion salt
  • pepper
  • whole grain mustard
  • dill weed
  • Sea salt
  • 1 egg beaten

Trim salmon fillets into neat squared off edge pieces. Season both sides with onion salt and pepper. Add to microwave safe baking dish. Microwave on high for 4minutes. Let cool to room temp. Very important to cool to room temp as if its too warm it will melt the pastry and you will have a mess on your hands.

Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry. Cut in half. Take 1 salmon fillet. Sprinkle both sides with the dill weed to taste. On one side spread 1 t grainy mustard (I use grey poupon whole grain mustard) on one side of the salmon. Brush edges of puff pastry with egg wash. Place the fillet on a piece of puff pastry. Bring up one side and then the other, trimming off extra for making a surface a fish maybe? Take the open ends of the puff pastry and fold as if gift wrapping on a package, pressing lightly to seal. Make decoration with scrap and attach with egg wash to top of bundle. Repeat with remaining dough portions and fillets.

Place bundles in fridge and let rest a minimum of 1 hour.

Place salmon packages on a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush egg wash all over the bundles and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 425F for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown all over.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cherry Almond Crumble

What does one do when one has guests and they don't eat chocolate? Out goes most of my recipes and I find out what they do like, in tonights case Bill really likes fruit cobblers and crumbles so off to the test kitchen I went for this recipe.

ITs not a complete test as the topping is pretty generic and all I had to do was get some backs of fresh frozen fruit from the grocery. I knew going into this that cherry and almond play together really well so it wasn't a giant leap into the unknown with this one. Turned out quite tasty.

Cherry Almond Crumble
  • 2 lbs frozen pitted dark cherries
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1 t almond extract.
  • Topping:
  • 1 1/2 old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 c slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 c butter melted

Lightly spray 13X9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Combine cherries, sugar, corn starch and almond extract. Toss lightly until evenly coated. Pour into a single layer into the baking dish.

In stand mixer add oats, flour, brown sugar and almonds. Turn mixer onto low speed and slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Mix until butter is well distributed and the mix resembles coarse sand. Sprinkle topping mixture over the fruit.

Bake 350F for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Swampberry Pie - not as bad as you think

Blueberry's and cranberry's love the swamp, grow in swamps, hence the name swampberry pie.

In this lovely little pie I use frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joe's. Well worth the extra buck over the domestic kind. You get a much more intense blueberry flavor with none of that gritty seed action when you opt for the wild blueberry. Of course I got spoiled on the real wild blueberry as a kid traipsing about the swamps around Ely, MN picking them for pies, muffins and pancakes with my grandmother.

Unlike my grandmother, I don't have a decent pie hand. But I do quite well with building the guts of a pie. Marie Calender's pie shells are the best by far that I have seen, and guess dough to have to get mad at and toss in the trash in a fit of anger when it starts shredding and falling apart. A total win for me. If you can make the pie dough from scratch and have it not fall apart when trying to get into the pie plate more power to you!

Swampberry Pie
  • 1 deep dish pie shell
  • 12 oz bag frozen wild blueberries
  • 2/3 C dried sweetened cranberries (I use craisans brand)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C butter - cubed
  • 1/2 t cinnamon

In bowl gently toss blueberry, cranberry, lemon juice, lemon zest and corn starch until blended. Pour into the prepared pie shell.

Pour flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a blow and stir to blend up evenly. Add cubed butter and with a pastry cutter or stand mixer with a whisk attachment blend in the butter to the flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand. Pour over fruit mixture in pie pan.

Bake 400F for 50-60 minutes until topping is golden brown.

Shell all nicely loaded waiting for topping

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Asian Pepper Steak

Wow...sorry for the delay in posting here, but I've been so busy with life and other blogs that I haven't had much time to devote to this one. Bad me.

During this hiatus I didn't stop cooking nor did I stop eating and living in a healthy way hasn't stopped.

Last night I made a favorite of mine that hits all the right Asian style cooking notes to make it a hit with a few around here. I love Asian for a lot of reasons, mostly because of all the stir fried crispy-ish veggies that go into it. I've made variations of this one dish over the years. Satisfies the urge for Asian as well as being nutritious.

It is really important for the flavor that you include the sesame oil. It imparts a lot of flavor to your stir fry and is one of the usual secret ingredients that make Asian taste so good. Its worth the splurge.

Asian Pepper Steak
  • 1 lb thin sliced sirloin or top round
  • 1/4 c + 2T low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1 onion
  • 2 T vegetable oil - divided
  • 2 T sesame oil - divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 t better than beef bullion (or a cube if you can't find this stuff)
  • 2 T corn starch.
  • Crispy Chow Mein Noodles (optional)

A couple of hours prior to making cut your beef into bite sized pieces, add to bowl. Add in 2T soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Marinate in fridge at least 2 hours.

Coarse chop onion and peppers. In large skillet over medium high heat add 1T each of vegetable and sesame oil. Heat until shimmering, add veggies. Stir fry until tender crisp, 4-5 minutes. Remove veggies from pan and put aside.

Add 1T each of the vegetable oil and sesame oil. Heat until shimmering and add beef mixture. Stir fry 5-6 minutes until browned and done. Add 1/3 cup soy sauce and reduce heat to simmer. Dissolve bullion and corn starch in the water. Add vegies back into the pan with the meat. Add the corn starch mixture and bring to boil. When thickened and clear remove from heat. Serve over rice with crispy chow mein noodles as garnish.

Veggies getting stir fried all on the own...