Saturday, November 30, 2013

Green Bean Casserole - volume turned up a tidge

Sorry the pic isn't perfect, but folks were digging into the food as fast as I pulled it out of the oven on Thanksgiving Day.  This is seriously good stuff.  Loved the classic but I'm also always on the look outs to keep the flavors there just amp it up.

For this I added in a bunch of fresh cremini mushrooms, sauteed them in butter with some garlic. After they were browning a bit I added a pinch or two of salt to get them to release all their moisture and make them less spongy.

I used fresh green beans, blanched and chilled to keep them bright green.

I used cream, good old heavy whipping cream, to give you an even better mouth feel and taste. I thought about going the roux routine...but then I thought why do what when a can of cream of mushroom soup gives you good consistent  results.

Green Bean Casserole

  • 1 1/2 lbs green beans
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 3 T butter
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 t worchestershire sauce
  • 1 8oz can french fried onions
  • 3/4 c cream
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

Trim ends of green beans and cut them in half.  Bring 2 quarts water to a boil.  Add 1 T salt. Add beans and cook 5-6 minutes.  Immediately remove from boiling water and put into a bowl of ice water.  Drain and set aside.

Over medium heat add butter and sliced mushrooms.  Sautee for 5-6 minutes until starting to brown.  Add a pinch or two of salt and the black pepper, cook another 2-3 minutes until liquid in pan is avaporated out.  Add garlic and cook 1 minutes longer.  Reduce heat and add worchestershire sauce, soup and cream.  Gently stir to combine. Fold in green beans to coat.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.  Pour in 1/2 of the green bean mixture.  Sprinkle 1/2 can of french fried onions over the beans.  Add remaining bean mixture, smooth out.  Cover and bake 50-55 minutes until bubbly.  Remove lid, sprinkle remaining french fried onions over the top.  Return to oven and bake another 5 minutes until the french fried onions are browned.  Serve hot.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Butterscotch Bread Pudding...with butterscotch caramel sauce

This was one of those rare home runs with everyone. The bread pudding alone would probably been pretty terrific, but the addition of this caramel sauce, based on brown sugar so it picked up the butterscotch notes that took it from special to spectacular.

A trick I picked up over the years is that dry bread cubes soak up the custard for the bread pudding better than fresh cut cubes.  For that reason I cube the bread the night before and put it in the warm (170f) oven for an hour or so and then let it cool in there over night.

Butterscotch Bread Pudding

  • 1 16 oz loaf French or Italian Bread, cubed
  • 2 c cream
  • 2 c milk
  • 1/2 c melted butter
  • 1 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 c butterscotch chips.

Butter insides of a 13X9 baking dish.

Cube bread into roughly 1 inch cubes.  Place cubes on baking sheet in a warm, 170F oven for 1 hour.  Turn off heat and allow to sit overnight.

Combine cream,  milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and salt.  Put dried bread cubes  and 1/2 c butterscotch chips in a large bowl. Pour custard mixture over the bread and toss to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 - 3 hours to allow custard to soak into bread.  Toss occasionally.  

Preheat oven to 350F.  Pour bread pudding mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 c butterscotch chips over top.  Bake 1 hour until puffed and golden brown and the and the edges are set.  Its OK if the center has a little jiggle.  Cool to set and serve at room temp.

Cut into squares and serve with warmed caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce

  • 6 T butter
  • 3/4 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 T dark corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 t vanilla

Put butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in heavy bottom pan.  Over medium low heat gently stir with metal spoon or wire whisk until smooth.  Slowly bring to boil and boil 2 - 3 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.  Slow add cream and stir constantly.  It will bubble vigorously.  Stir until smooth and cook 1-2 minutes longer until smooth and shiny.  Off heat stir in vanilla.  Pour into a serving container, or glass jar if making head.  If making ahead, zap in in the microwave for 1 minute to warm it a bit for serving.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Best Margarita EVER!

I learned to mix Margaritas from my friend Geri Castron years ago when my wife and I were dating and she had a place just south of Rosarito Beach.  (Las Gaviotas if you know the area to be precise).  We'd go down and visit, she'd mix up the best kick ass margaritas EVER.  We've all moved forward but still stay in touch.  I still remember her margarita recipe as it was so smooth going down they snuck up on you.

Some 15 years ago, maybe longer, I discovered the Bacardi Margarita Mix in the freezer section of my local grocery store.  Tried it and loved it.  Its not your typical mix of reconstituted lime juice, or worse lime flavored sugar water.  Its the perfect blend of lime juice with just enough simple syrup so its tart but not so tart your throat seizes as you drink it like those nasty premades on the liquor store shelves.  If your grocer doesn't carry the mixer, implore them to order you a case.  You won't go wrong.

The real secret to this recipe is the Cointreau.  Cointreau is a pretty awesome orange liqueur that adds a subtle orange hit that mellows the tartness of the lime juice.  Don't skip it.  You don't use much of this pricey booze, but what it brings to the party of the perfect Margarita its worth it.

You can increase the tequila from 1/2 can which makes for perfect sippin' 'ritas to 3/4 can for those that will kick your ass.  I prefer the sippin' variety as they are thirst quenching and you can have several during the course of the afternoon.  I used to make them by the gallons for our neighborhood July 4th block parties, both versions, and a good time was had by all.  There were several April 4 babies attributed to my Margaritas...they were that good.

Best Margarita EVER

  • 1 can Bacardi Margarita Mix, partially thawed
  • 1/2 can Tequila
  • 1/4 can Cointreau
  • 4 c ice

Fill blender with ice. Add Bacardi Mix, tequila and Cointreau.  Blend on liquefy or whatever your highest speed is until its smooth and slushy. Serve with salted or unsalted rims as desired.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thai Chicken Green Curry

Here we go again...I've seen it used and called for in lots of recipes but I could never find the stuff.  Curry Paste, that is.  Then, suddenly an Asian market opened up and there it was in the colors and flavors of the rainbow.  Lucky me.

The brand I used is Maesri Green Curry paste and can be found on Amazon if you can't find it at a local market.  Do buy it online as a last resort as its pricey, I paid only $1.29 at my local Asian Market.   That tiny 4 oz can may seem like such a little bit, but it is potent and goes a long way.

The stuff is really tasty.  Its a paste as the name implies and the green version has lemon grass, thai chili, curry leaf and a host of other goodies in it.  It is FLAMING HOT so use it sparingly and taste often to get the right amount of heat.  You can always add more but you can't take it away once in.
Thai Chicken Green Curry

  • 1 1/2 lb chicken, cubed
  • 1 bunch green onion thinly sliced, 1/2 c green tops reserved
  • 1 T garlic
  • 1 14 oz coconut milk (not the low fat variety)
  • 1 14 oz can baby corn, cubed
  • 1 14 oz can bamboo shoot sticks
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 T minced cilantro
  • water
  • cooked rice

In a large wok add a tablespoon or two of oil.  Heat to shimmering over medium high heat.  Add chicken and stir fry until browned and cooked through.  Add onion and garlic and stir fry 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat to medium add coconut milk, baby corn, bamboo shoots and fish sauce.  Heat to boiling.  Add water as needed if the coconut milk starts to thicken to keep it at the consistency of light cream.  Cook just a couple of minutes until veggies are warmed through.  Top with chopped cilantro.

Serve hot over rice and garnish with reserved green onion tops.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pasta fagioli, fazool or minestrone?

Maybe I should call it Italian Left Over soup.  Whatever you call it I am certain there is an Italian grandmother somewhere rolling in her grave by what I did or what I call it.

I started off raiding my fridge and pantry this cool damp L.A. day.  Found was a leftover porchetta that I needed to do something with and re-purposing made more sense than just reheating and serving it up that way.

I also had the tops of a bunch of beets I had the other day.  The beet greens actually make for very tasty greens sauteed on their own or in soup.  If you don't have beet greens, kale, collards, mustard or any other greens you have around would be a reasonable substitution.

I also used both dried and fresh basil in this recipe.  The former in the soup itself for the simmer and the latter as garnish torn and served on the individual servings.  Each bring a slightly different flavor to the party, I really like the fresh green flavor of the raw basil on top the soup.

Italian Style Left Over Soup

  • 1 1/2 lb roast pork/porchetta
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 large carrots sliced
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 t fresh ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 32 oz can chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 c tiny macaroni noodles
  • 4 c beet greens coarse chopped
  • fresh basil
  • parmesan

In large stock pot over medium heat add a couple of tablespoons olive oil.  Add onion, carrots and garlic, cook until onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Cut pork roast to small dice, about 1/2 inch square.  Add pork to stock pot and stir in cooking a couple of minutes until it is warmed up.

Add undrained tomatoes, beans, oregano, dried basil, bay leaf, fresh ground black pepper and chicken stock.  Stir and taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed.  Simmer over low heat for an hour until flavors are combined.  Add macaroni and greens.  Simmer 10 minutes longer.

Serve hot with a couple of tablespoons fresh grated parmesan and a few basil leaves torn on top.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Savory Stilton Souffle

Souffle's are really easy. Exact measurements and temperatures is all it takes. This Savory Stilton Souffle is  just another iteration of the Stilton Souffle I posted a bit over a year ago.  What makes it more savory?  Simple addition of 1/4 c thinly sliced green tops of a scallion or baby onion.  Same amount of chives would have done the same thing...a slight hint of onion to the souffle taking it up a notch with that little extra layer of flavor.

A secret to good release of your souffle and guarantee it climbs right up the sides without sticking as it rises is the use of a cooking spray with flour already in it.  First found the stuff years ago at Smart and Final, now even my local Pavilions (a Safeway store) has their own version.  Works magic and you don't have to worry about the butter scorching during baking.  You also don't have to worry about it being over floured and getting gummy.  It also makes for a very easy clean up.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

Pure pumpkin flavor and you control the salt level.  Its also making the most of  your pumpkins after you carve them for jack-o-lanterns.  Quite easy and very nutritious. All the fiber and no fillers (some brands use cheap squash to keep the cost of their puree down) or nasty additives.  This puree can be used interchangeably with the canned stuff cup for cup. Sounds like a win to me.

As this is a low acid, low salt recipe you do need to do a water bath to ensure your puree is safe to store and consume down the road.

Roast Pumpkin Puree

  • 3 medium (3 lb +/-) cinderella pumpkins
  • cooking oil spray
  • salt
  • Boiling water

Cut pumpkin in to 1-2" wide strips along the circumference.  Trim off the outer shell leaving only the pulp. Cut into 1' cubes.  Spritz your baking sheet with cooking oil spray, add pumpkin in a single layer.

Heat oven to 350F, use convection cycle if you have it for more even roasting.  Roast 45-60 minutes until the largest pieces are fork tender and break easily when pierced with a fork.

In large blender jar add 4-5 c roasted pumpkin.  Add 1/2C boiling water and 1/2t salt.  Blitz on puree until smooth, add more water if needed to get the right consistency so it all blends.  Pour into sterile canning jars, filling to within 1/2" of top of jar.  Loosely place on lid and sealing ring.  Repeat until all pumpkin has been pureed.

Place jars in water bath and simmer in boiling water that comes within an inch of the top of the jars.  Treat for 60 minutes.  Remove jars from boiling water bath and screw lids down tight.  Make sure the lids "pop" to guarantee a good safe seal  Cool completely. Store in fridge for up to a year, 6 months in a cool dark place.