Friday, April 24, 2015

Baked Apple Turnovers

These are nice little hand pies, the perfect size for tiny hands.  Big hands too; they pair nicely with Lovey's coffee in the morning.  They are simply apple pie filling inside puff pastry and baked.  You can also make with a regular pie dough crust and also fry them.

Lovey likes flaky and baked and that's how this recipe is made; adapted from Biltmore Estate Specialties of the House cookbook.  I bought this while living in North Carolina during the year of Biltmore's 100th Anniversary.

This particular recipe was used when the Vanderbilt's lived in the estate and was taken from The Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery which is a Victorian cookbook from the Biltmore Estate collection.

This is my favorite kitchen gadget when there are lots of apples to core, peel and slice.

To make the filling combine the 1st seven ingredients in a saucepan.

They'll cook, covered until the apples are almost tender.  With a slotted spoon remove the apples to a bowl. 

This is the liquid that the apples produced.  Different apples will produce different amounts of liquid.  Add the preserves to the liquid and mix well.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook down until it is thickened.  You don't want it too runny.  

If your liquid is not thickening up you can thicken it with a corn starch slurry.  Just measure your liquid.  A good rule of thumb is 1 Tbsp. of corn starch to 1 cup liquid.  Dissolve the corn starch in a small bowl or jar with a little water (or some of the liquid).  Bring the liquid to a boil and whisk in the slurry.  Keep whisking until the sauce thickens.

Set aside and allow to cool.  You do not want to put warm or hot filling onto the puff pastry.

I used these.  If you are industrious enough to make your own,  have at it.  Not me.

Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8" thickness.

Cut into rounds with a 4-1/2 inch round cutter.
Place 2 Tbsp. of the apples in the center of each pastry round.  Top with a little of the preserves sauce.

Moisten the edges of the round with water; fold pastry over and crimp edges with a fork to seal.  Place the hand pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush each pie with the egg and sprinkle each with sugar.

Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to insure the puff pastry is very cold.

Bake for 12 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Apple Turnovers
Adapted from Biltmore Estate Specialties of the House
Yields 1 dozen

4 small cooking apples (I used Honeycrisp)
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. bourbon (or water)
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
a few gratings of fresh nutmeg
Puff Pastry
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 large egg
granulated sugar

Mise en place
  • If your puff pastry is frozen, thaw out according to package (you may need to do this the night before)
  • peel apples, core and thinly slice
  • sift powdered sugar and measure
  • measure out butter, water & cinnamon & preserves
  • grate lemon rind
  • lightly beat the egg in a small bowl
  • have some granulated sugar on the side for sprinkling on top of the turnovers
Combine the first seven ingredients in a medium saucepan; cover and cook over medium heat until the apples are almost tender, stirring often.  Remove the apples to a bowl with a slotted spoon.  Add the preserves to the liquid that remains in the pan and mix well.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook down until it is thickened.  You don't want it too runny.  Set aside to cool.  see note below

Roll pastry to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut into rounds with a 4-1/2 -inch round cutter.  Place 2 Tbsp. apple mixture in center of each pastry round; top each with 1 tsp. preserves mixture.  Moisten edges of pastry rounds with water; fold pastry over apple mixture and crimp the edges.  Place turnovers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush with the egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to insure the puff pastry is very cold.  Otherwise, it may not puff very well.  Preheat oven to 425°F

Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE:  If your liquid is not thickening up you can thicken it with a corn starch slurry.  Just measure your liquid.  A good rule of thumb is 1 Tbsp. of corn starch to 1 cup liquid.  Dissolve the corn starch in a small bowl or jar with a little water (or some of the liquid).  Bring the liquid to a boil and whisk in the slurry.  Keep whisking until the sauce thickens.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Apples and Fennel

Tonight's dinner was inspired by a recipe from Betty Fussell's book Food in Good Season.  She is a good read on eating seasonally and on the history of foods.

Fennel is a vegetable I don't use often enough.  I don't know why.  It's crunchy raw and slightly sweet cooked.  As a bonus it's high in vitamin C and it's a really good source of fiber, folate and potassium.

The breast halves are rubbed with the softened butter then seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides.  You'll begin baking the breast halves skin-side down for 15 minutes

Then turn them over for another 15 minutes

Pile the fennel, apple and green onion mixture around the chicken

Pour the cream over the chicken then you'll cover the chicken with foil to roast for the remainder of the time.

 I wondered what in the world that little dab of cream would contribute.  Once the chicken, apples and fennel are removed from the pan you're left with a sauce that is both flavorful and light; and the cream was that ingredient that transformed the bland, ho-hum drippings to a smooth sauce that had been nicely flavored by the apples and fennel.

I initially considered the fennel and apples primarily as flavoring for this dish.  It turned out to be a really good side dish.  The recipe suggests that you can add lemon juice if you think the apples and fennel are too sweet.  I did not find that to be the case this time.

Chicken was moist and flavored nicely by the apples and fennel.  I put the sauce in individual small bowls to dip the chicken in.

Roast Chicken Breasts with Apples and Fennel
 Adapted from Food in Good Season by Betty Fussell
Serves 4


4 bone-in chicken breast halves
2 Tbsp. salted butter, softened
salt and pepper
2 tart apples - 4 if they are small
2 green onions

1 large head fennel
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 small lemon (optional)

Mise en place:
  • rinse chicken breasts and pat dry
  • core, pare and thickly slice apples
  • chop green onions
  • trim fennel of outer layers, cut in half from root to top then slice crosswise thinly

Preheat oven to 450°.

Rub chicken breast halves with the softened butter.  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts.  Place chicken breasts skin side down in a baking dish.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn the breast side up and roast for another 15 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss the apples, green onions and fennel.  Pile this mixture around and over the chicken breasts.  Pour the cream over the chicken.  Cover with foil and bake 35 to 40 minutes until interior temperature of chicken is at least 185°F.

If the apples seem too sweet, add a squeeze of the lemon.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Party Like a Mad Man With Betty Draper's Swedish Meatballs

I have been anxiously waiting for the new and final season of Mad Men; and it's here at last.  Tomorrow is the beginning of the end of, what has been for me, a trip back into my childhood.  The clothes, the hairdos, the furniture, the cocktails, the kitchens that were decked out in harvest gold and avocado green appliances.  Oh, and the food we grew up on in the 60's.

In celebration of all things Mad Men I'm gonna #PartyLikeAMadMan !!!!

Without a doubt these Swedish Meatballs would have made an appearance at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Christmas Party.  They would have been eaten as an appetizer with cocktail toothpicks.

Betty Draper offered these to Don in Season 3 as a dinner option, although he elected to go with the chicken salad.  When I was a youngster in the 60's they were prepared for dinner and served over egg noodles.

 They are easy and as yummy as they were when I ate them as a child.

Moisten fresh white bread crumbs in a little milk

 Mix your ground beef, grated onions, egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a mixing bowl, then mix in your moistened bread crumbs.

Form into 1-inch balls

Brown in a little butter

Remove browned meatballs to a holding dish and begin your sauce by adding the flour to make a roux.  Add the beef bouillon and whisk until smooth.

Add the cream and mix thoroughly.

 Return the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while.

If you are going to serve the meatballs as an appetizer, transfer sauce and meatballs to a chafing dish and pierce each meatball with a cocktail toothpick.

If you are going to serve as a main course, cook egg noodles while meatballs are simmering in the sauce.  You can also serve this over rice.

If serving as a main course, I would suggest doubling the sauce recipe given below.  The sauce is good and you'll want a lot of it for your noodles or rice.

Swedish Meatballs
Adapted from The Boston Globe Cookbook for Brides, 1963
Yields 24 to 36 meatballs

1 cup soft bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup finely grated onion
1 egg, beaten
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 beef bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water
1/2 cup light cream or half and half (I use cream)

Mise en place:
  • tear up bread crumbs in small bowl and add milk
  • grate onion
  • beat egg
  • measure out salt, pepper and nutmeg
  • place butter in large skillet
  • measure out flour
  • boil 1 cup water and dissolve bee bouillon cube
  • measure out cream
Place ground beef in medium mixing bowl.  Drain excess milk from bread crumbs and add bread crumbs to ground beef.  Add onion, egg, salt, pepper & nutmeg to the ground beef.  Mix up thoroughly with your hands.

Form into one-inch balls.  Melt butter in large skillet over medium low heat.  When butter stops foaming add meatballs and brown on all sides.  Remove meatballs to a holding dish.

Add flour to drippings in skillet and whisk until smooth.  Slowly add the beef bouillon and whisk until smooth.  Add cream and whisk until smooth.  Continue cooking for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Return meatballs to the sauce, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until sauce is of desired consistency.  Serve warm or over noodles or rice.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Potato Pancakes

These conjure up memories of my childhood.  Never wanting to waste anything, my mother always made potato pancakes out of any leftover mashed potatoes we might have had.  We would usually get them for dinner but every once in a while we would find them on our plates at breakfast; which personally, was my favorite time to eat them.

It doesn't take many ingredients to make these creamy patties.  You have your mashed potatoes, of course; onion and cheese for flavor; egg and flour for binding.

Mix all of the ingredients together, blending with a fork.  Definitely taste before adding any salt.  I usually don't need to add any salt because I've corrected the taste when I made the mashed potatoes and, depending on the cheese you choose, that can add to the saltiness as well.  I always add a grind or two of pepper.

Form into 2-1/2" to 3" patties and place on a platter or a piece of wax paper.  Stick in the refrigerator for a little bit to firm them up.

Sauté them in a little butter in a no-stick skillet.  Flip them over when golden brown.  Voila!  There you have a tasty treat and you've not wasted left over mashed potatoes.  And let's face it, re-heated left over mashed potatoes are n.e.v.e.r. as good as just-whipped.

 My favorite way to eat them....with an over-easy egg plopped on top of one.

Potato Pancakes
Makes 6 - 7 three-inch patties

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup grated cheese (I use Vermont cheddar)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg

Break up the potatoes with a fork.  Mince the onion; add to potatoes.  Grate the cheese; add to potatoes.  Combine the mixture with a fork.  Salt and pepper to taste

Add the flour to the mixture and mix thoroughly.  In a small bowl lightly break up the egg with a fork and add to potato mixture.  Mix the potato mixture until the egg is incorporated.

Place a piece of wax paper on a small cookie sheet.  Make 6 to 7 three-inch patties.  They will be very moist.  Place the patties in the refrigerator for about 10 to 15 minutes to allow them to firm up.

Melt a small amount of butter in a non-stick skillet.  When butter is bubbling, add patties to the skillet and let cook until brown.  Flip over and allow to brown on the other side.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Quiche Florentine

Lovey and I adore spinach quiche.  The only downside to my spinach quiche was always the amount of liquid the spinach produced which gave us a watery quiche with a soggy crust.

I took two approaches that might solve the problem.  One was to steam the spinach first (I used to just throw it raw into the pie shell before adding the egg mixture).  Chop it up, and then drain, drain, drain.  This means that I have to plan a little further ahead for the draining time.

The other thought was to blind bake the bottom crust with a light layer of the shredded Gruyère on it.  I use a deep dish pie plate for the quiche.

Once the crust had cooled the cheese firmed up, providing somewhat of a barrier between the custard and the crust.  This is also a step that you'll need to perform prior to making your custard.

Next, I sautéed some onion until golden brown.  These were set aside until time to assemble the quiche.

 This fond from the onions is pure flavor.  I used this same saucepan to prepare the custard.

 In that saucepan, beat your eggs seasoned with a good pinch of salt, and a light grating of nutmeg.

Slowly add the hot milk (I heat the milk up in the microwave) beating constantly with a whisk.  Continue beating over low heat until the custard begins to thicken.

 The saucepan is removed from the heat and the chopped spinach is folded in along with 1/2 of the remaining cheese.

 Assemble the quiche by spreading the onions on the bottom of the crust then gently pour the custard into the pie shell.  Sprinkle with the remaining grated Gruyère.

 Bake in a moderately hot oven for about 30 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top is golden.

I was very pleased and even more so, Lovey was pleased.  This resulted in very little liquid after baking.  Serve with a tossed salad and you have a nice meal for brunch or dinner.

Quiche Florentine
Serves 8

1 - 16 ounce package baby spinach
Pie crust for single crust pie (I usually use boxed Pillsbury)
3/4 pound Gruyère cheese, divided
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small yellow onion
6 large eggs
pinch salt
pinch ground nutmeg or several grates of fresh
2-1/2 cups milk

Rinse the spinach and place in a saucepan with a little water and sweat over low heat until it is all limp.  Drain and chop.  Place chopped spinach in a colander over a bowl.  From time to time toss and press liquids out (any time you pass by).

Roll out crust and fit in a 9" deep dish pie plate.  Grate the cheese & spread enough cheese over the bottom of the pie crust to form a thin layer.  Set extra cheese aside.  Place pie plate in freezer to firm up the crust.

Preheat oven to 450°F.  
Pull crust out of freezer and bake for 10 - 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire rack.  Lower heat of oven to 375°F.

Peel onion and slice in half through the root.  Place one half, cut side down.  Instead of slicing on the root end begin slicing from the side of the half.  Slice them as thin as you can.  Repeat with the other half of onion.  Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Once butter has stopped foaming add onions and slowly sauté until golden brown.  Remove onions from pan and set aside.

In that same saucepan, off heat, beat the eggs with the pinch of salt and grated nutmeg.
Heat the milk up in the micro-wave.  Gradually add hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking until combined.  Continue to whisk over low heat until the custard thickens.  Remove from heat and add the spinach.  Fold in 1/2 of the remaining cheese.

Pour mixture into pie crust and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Bake in a 375°F. oven for 30 minutes or until the custard is set and top is golden.  A sharp knife inserted into the middle should come out clean.  You can serve immediately.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Dilly Bread

This bread was an extremely popular one in 60's.  Every mother was making it; it was all the rage.  It was a Pillsbury Bake-Off winner which catapulted it into millions of American homes.  Mine was one of those homes.  My mother made it all the time. She let me make it with her and it has remained one of my favorites.

The ingredients are easy to assemble:  yeast, cottage cheese, flour, sugar, butter, dill weed, egg, instant dried onion, baking soda, and salt.

It's a yeast bread

and a batter bread; so you don't have to knead it.

I love that it has cottage cheese in it.  I was one of those children who loved cottage cheese.

Once mixed up you'll have a heavy batter.  Cover the mixing bowl and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour.  

Stir down the batter and spoon it into a greased 1-1/2  to 2 quart casserole

Cover with wax paper and let rise until the batter doubles; about 45 minutes. I put mine in a non-heated oven because Lovey and I keep our house pretty cool in the winter.

When doubled, remove the wax paper and bake in oven preheated to 350°F for about 40 - 45 minutes.   My mother always made it in a small, round, enameled Dutch oven exactly like this one. 

I love that the minute the bread comes out of the oven it's finished off by brushing the top of the loaf with melted butter then sprinkled with salt.  

This is absolutely the best bread to serve with soups and stews.  Simply sliced and buttered, or

use it to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  Mmmmmm.

  Dilly Bread
Yield 1 loaf
Adapted from my mother's adaptation of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Recipe

1 cup small curd cottage cheese, room temp
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 - 3 Tbsp. dried minced onion
2 Tbsp. fresh or 1 Tbsp. dried dill weed **
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, room temp
1 pkg. active dry yeast
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. butter, melted
coarse Kosher salt

Mise en place:
  • measure cottage cheese and 1 Tbsp. butter into small saucepan
  • measure sugar, onion, dill, 1 tsp. salt, baking soda, eggs, and yeast into a large mixing bowl
  • Measure out flour
  • melt the 1/2 tsp. butter and set aside with Kosher salt
  • generously grease a 1-1/2 to 2 quart casserole
In a small saucepan, heat the cottage cheese and 1 Tbsp. of the butter until warm to the touch (110° to 120°F).  Turn the cottage cheese into the mixing bowl with the next 7 measured out ingredients.  Stir until mixed.

Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time to make a stiff batter, beating well after each addition with a wooden spoon, if by hand, or with a mixer using the flat paddle.  This is a heavy batter, not a dough, and will not be kneaded.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about one hour.  Remove the plastic wrap and stir down the batter with 20 strong strokes.  Spoon the batter into a generously greased 1-1/2 to 2 quart casserole.

Cover with wax paper and leave until the batter doubles in volume, about 45 minutes.  Keep the wax paper from touching the expanding batter or it may collapse when the paper is pulled away.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bake the loaf until it is deep brown and crusty, around 40 - 45 minutes.  A wooden skewer inserted in the center should come out clean and dry when the bread is done.  If moist particles cling to the probe, return the loaf to the oven for an additional 5 - 10 minutes.  Cover with foil if needed to prevent excessive browning.

Remove the bread from the oven and immediately brush with the 1/2 tsp. melted butter.  Sprinkle salt lightly over the crust.  allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the casserole and placing it on a metal rack to cool.

**The original recipe called for 2 tsp. dill seed.  I used dill seed for years, then when dill weed became regularly available in the markets I started playing around with using fresh dill weed.  It's wonderful either way so the choice is up to you.