Sunday, July 22, 2012

Poblano Cauliflower Gratin

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that is either loved or hated.  Myself, I love it.  I usually toss some in a steam basket then toss with butter, salt and pepper and I'm happy.  So, when I come across a recipe for cauliflower that lets me take it a little further I'm all over it.

I found the recipe on Rick Bayless' website and selected it to share for I Heart Cooking Clubs July Potluck.  I really liked the ingredients in this recipe.

Cauliflower, poblanos, cream, cheese, butter, and shallots.

I would put the recipe in the easy category.  You'll get to practice some basic kitchen techniques like blanching the cauliflower and roasting peppers.  I like to roast mine right over an open flame on the range top.  Get them nice and blistered on all sides.

Once they are nice and charred, I put them in a plastic bag, close it and let them be for about 10 to 15 minutes.  They'll steam which will make them easier to peel.  The skin should slide right off.

Once peeled and seeded (please wear food gloves for this) you'll pureé in the food processor until it's smooth.  This is going to be a great part of the sauce and it's such a beautiful green!

To get the sauce started you sauté the shallots

Make a roux by adding the flour.  Be sure to cook the flour for a couple of minutes so the sauce doesn't have a doughy flavor.

You'll slowly add the cream (I like to warm my cream first) and whisk it in until it's smooth.  Then, stir in your cheese.  This recipe called for a Mexican queso anejo but I could not find that specific cheese.  Rick mentions that you can substitute with Romano or Parmesan.  I used Parmesan.

Lastly, stir in your Poblano pureé.

Slowly let it return to a boil and continue stirring until the sauce thickens.  Remove it from the heat and add the salt.

Gently fold the sauce into the blanched, cooled and dried cauliflower florets.

Pour all into a lightly greased casserole and sprinkle with a topping made of chopped almonds (I used blanched), panko crumbs and a little olive oil.

Bake in a 400° F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes until bubbly and the topping has browned nicely.  When you take it out of the oven you get to sprinkle the top with extra grated cheese.  Yum.

The gratin turned out to be creamy with a crunchy topping thanks to the panko and almonds.  The hint of poblano put it over the top. 

Rick suggests, and I would agree, that this would make a great dish to take to a potluck dinner because you can make it ahead of time and it only takes 20 minutes in the oven.

A couple of added notes here...
I had a bit of this for lunch today and it does great as a leftover!  The cauliflower stayed nice and firm; not mushy.  Also, I think I might very lightly roast my almonds before chopping them; not too much because I don't want them to get too brown during baking.

Cauliflower Gratin
Adapted from Rick Bayless' Test Kitchen
Serves 8

3 pounds cauliflower
2 large (8 ounces) poblano peppers
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup diced shallots
1 Tbsp. flour
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Mexican queso anejo or other garnishing cheese such as Romano or Parmesan + 3 Tbsp cheese for final topping
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 Tbsp olive oil

Mise en place:
  • Lightly oil and 11 x 7 casserole dish
  • rinse and cut cauliflower into bite-size florets
  • roast poblanos and place in plastic bag
  • dice shallots
  • grate cheese
  • chop almonds (by hand or food processor)
  • measure out butter, flour, cream, salt, panko crumbs and olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and scoop in the cauliflower florets.  Blanch for 4-5 minutes until just tender.  Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.  Spread onto towels and let the florets dry completely.

Remove the poblanos from the plastic bag and, wearing food gloves, peel and seed the peppers.  Pureé in a food processor until smooth.

In a 4 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted, add the shallots and cook for several minutes or until the shallots have softened.  Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 2 minutes to make sure that the flour has cooked.  Whisk in the heavy cream slowly so you don't get lumps in your sauce.  Then stir in the queso anejo (or other cheese) and the poblano pureé.  Bring the mixture back to a boil and continue stirring until the sauce has thickened.  Remove it from the heat, season with 1 tsp salt.

Place the cauliflower florets into a large mixing bowl.  Pour the sauce over and gently toss to coat.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

For the topping:
In a small mixing bowl, mix together 1/2 cup panko crumbs, 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil.

Spread evenly over top of casserole and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle top with remaining 3 Tbsp grated cheese.

I'm sharing this recipe at IHCC

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Margarita Clasica

Salud!  That's what everyone is saying over at I Heart Cooking Clubs!  Hop on over there and try the fun libations everyone mixed up.  Selecting Rick Bayless' classic margarita was a no brainer for me.  I like 'em on the rocks or neat, like these.

And, in Rick's words, "Just remember:  They're strong."

Here's what you start with.  A good tequila, Cointreau (or other orange liqueur), fresh limes, a little sugar, and optional salt for rimming your glass.  Oh yes, and ice.

Allow me to say a little something about the tequila you select.  Make sure it is 100% Agave.  I can't tell you how many years it took for me to realize that the reason I had headaches after drinking tequila was because the cheapos I always used were half grain alcohol.  Select a nice quality tequila to keep in your liquor cabinet.

Prepare your glass if you like it rimmed with salt.  It's also nice to start out with a chilled glass.  Use a 6 ounce martini glass or if you have some of those cute cactus glasses those are fun too.  Run a slice of lime around the rim of the glass.

Dip the rim in salt.

Put ice, tequila-Cointreau-lime juice mixture and sugar i(if needed) in a cocktail shaker.  Put lid on and shake away.

Pour into your prepared glass and enjoy!  Sister Mary Margarita these are good!

Margarita Clasica
From Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen
Makes 4 generous drinks

1 cup tequila
1/2 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice, plus a wedge for moistening the rims of glasses
A little sugar if necessary
1/3 cup coarse (kosher) salt for crushing the rims of the glasses
About 3 cups medium ice cubes

Mise en place:
  • measure out tequila and Cointreau
  • squeeze juice from fresh limes
  • spread salt onto a plate that is large enough to accommodate the rim of your glass
  • have some sugar on hand in case you would like to sweeten your drink
  • measure out ice cubes then set in freezer
In a small pitcher, combine the tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice.  Taste and add more lime or a touch of sugar if desired (keep in mind that it will taste a little tangier once it's been shaken).

Moisten the rims of four 6-ounce martini glasses with a little lime juice (if you have a cut lime, even an already-squeezed one, just moisten the rims by running it around them).  Dip the rim of each glass in the salt, creating a thin, even crust all around the rim.

Pour half of the margarita mixture into a cocktail shaker, add half of the ice cubes and shake vigorously for about 15 seconds (this is important to achieve the perfect strength -- some of the ice needs to melt into the margarita -- and the right degree of frostiness).  Strain into two of the prepared glasses, then repeat with the remaining margarita mixture.

I'm sharing this recipe at IHCC

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fruit Filled Angel Food Cake

With the 4th of July falling in the middle of the week this year, Lovey and I didn't do much but hang around the house.  However, we still felt the need to celebrate our country's birth with some all American food. 

Got to have deviled eggs!  I'm not a big fan of piping the filling with a decorative tip.  That makes me feel like I'm eating the eggs you get at Luby's and Furr's.

And, of course, fried chicken.  Looks like I'm losing a leg there on the right.

And for dessert; well, I ask you...can you get much more American than Jell-O?   A recipe that many of our mothers and grandmothers made, you just can't go wrong with Angel Food Cake and Jell-O.  I found a fruit-filled angel food cake recipe in an old booklet, so that's what I made for our dessert.

I picked up this little brochure-booklet at an estate sale several years ago.  Published by the Jell-O people (aka General Foods) circa 1962, this little gem is actually full of everything you need to know about gelatin.  I actually keep this one handy because it gives you much more information on how to unmold your masterpiece than just "dipping the mold in warm water to loosen".  It contains some extremely informative facts between its pages about cooking with gelatin.

So, first, you have to have an angel food cake.  If you have no desire to make your own, you can purchase one at your local store/bakery.  But I encourage you to make your own.  Go ahead and pull out that oft neglected pan that you got as a wedding shower gift and put it to use.  Don't be intimidated by it!

Maybe the reason making your own angel food cake is intimidating is because the words gentle, gently, careful and carefully appear in practically every step of the recipe.  Heed them yet don't let them get to you.

You start with egg whites.  Lots of egg whites.  Lots of egg whites that are room temperature.  Then you beat them until they are foamy.

 Add your Cream of Tartar and whip until you have soft peaks when the beater if raised.

Now add half of the sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form when you lift the beater slowly.  Use superfine, or castor sugar when making an angel food cake.

Gently fold in the flour/sugar/salt mixture, 1/4 cup at a time.  After that, gently fold in the vanilla.

Spoon the batter into a tube pan and run a small knife or metal spatula around the batter.  This will remove any air pockets.  Place in an oven that has been pre-heated to 350°F.

After 40 minutes, test doneness (is that a word?) by sticking a skewer all the way to the bottom.  It should come out clean.  The surface will have a deep crack in it, like a soufflé.

To cool your angel food cake, invert the pan placing the hole in the center tube over the neck of a wine bottle.  Let the cake cool completely like this.  Just walk away, sit down and have a cocktail and feel proud that you've made an angel food cake.  It may take an hour and a half to two hours to completely cool.

Take a rubber spatula and run around the outer edge of the pan to loosen.   Run a cake tester around the center tube.  Remove the cake from the pan.

By the time my cake was finished it was 10:00 at night, so I wrapped the cake up with plastic wrap then continued on the next morning.

Now, to transform my plain Jane angel food cake into a nostalgic dessert from my childhood I'm going to make a Jell-O filling.  I'm using strawberry and frozen strawberry's because that's what my Mom and Grandma always used to make.

In a bowl, prepare the Jell-O according to package instructions and add a 1 pound bag of frozen strawberries.  I prefer sliced strawberries for better distribution.  The bag I found had beautiful large whole berries, so I sliced mine into 1/4 - inch slices before folding them into the Jello-O (they were easy to slice when frozen).  Put the bowl of Jello-O into the refrigerator to let it congeal slightly.

While the Jell-O is firming up a bit, I am going to make a shell in the angel food cake.  With a serrated knife slice a 1/2 - inch slice off the top of the cake and carefully set this "cap" aside.

Then carefully hollow out the remainder of the cake, leaving a 1/2 - inch wall on the bottom and the sides.  The pieces you have left over from hollowing the cake out can be thrown in a baggy and used for something else later.  Place your shell of a cake onto a serving platter.

Remove the fruit and gelatin mixture from the refrigerator.  It should be gelled but not runny or completely set.

Spoon the Jell-O/fruit mixture into the hollow of the cake. 

Place the reserved "cap" back on top of the cake and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Before serving, I whipped up some heavy cream to cover the top and sides of the cake.

When I need whipped cream to last for a day or two, I like using this to stabilize my whipped cream.  I didn't have any on hand so I made my own bloomed gelatin.

Bloomed gelatin is simply powdered gelatin (such as Knox) sprinkled into a liquid and letting it soften for about 5 minutes.  Then, you slowly heat the gelatin up so that it melts.

After the gelatin is melted (bloomed), it's added to the heavy cream and whisked just enough to combine it with the cream (don't beat it at this point).  You will put this in the refrigerator for at least an hour before you whip it up.

Notes and Thoughts:
If you use a store bought angel food cake (there are some very good ones out there) you can dive right in with making the Jell-O mixture and hollowing out the angel food cake.

The recipe from the Jell-O book instructs to fold some whipped cream into the Jell-O mixture, as well as using the bits of cake removed from the hollow to layer alternately with this Jell-O mixture.  I opted out on that thinking it too much to fit in that little tunnel.

The Angel Food Cake
This recipe for the angel food cake is adapted from Rose Levy's "Cake Bible" cookbook.  She's my hero when it comes to cakes and baking.

15 - 16 egg whites at room temperature
1 tsp cream of tartar
1-3/4 cups superfine sugar Divided
1 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mise en place:
  • set eggs out so they are at room temperature
  • separate eggs whites into a mixing bowl
  • combine cake flour, salt and 1 cup of the sugar and sift
  • measure out the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and set aside
  • measure out the cream of tartar
  • measure out the vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350°

In mixing bowl of a heavy duty large mixer, beat egg whites until frothy.  Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when beater is raised.  Gradually beat in 3/4 cup of the sugar, beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the whites and fold in gently, 1/4 cup at a time.  Add the vanilla and fold in gently.

Pour into a tube pan and and smooth the top.  Run a small knife or metal spatula around the batter to prevent air pockets.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out completely clean (the surface will have a deep crack like a soufflé).

Invert the pan placing the tube opening over the neck of a wine bottle.  Let cool completely hanging upside down, about an hour and a half.

To remove the cake from the pan, run a small spatula around the outside edge of the pan and a cake tester around the center tube.  Wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap until ready to use.

Jell-O & Fruit Filling

1-3 ounce pkg strawberry Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
1 - 16 ounce package frozen strawberries (sliced if you can find them)

Empty the Jell-O packet into a medium mixing bowl.  Pour the 1 cup of boiling water over the gelatin and let soften for a couple of minutes, then whisk around until the powder is dissolved.  Add the 1 cup of cold water and mix well.  Stir in the frozen strawberries.  Place in the refrigerator while you hollow out the angel food cake.

When the Jell-O filling is slightly congealed, spoon into the hollow of the angel food cake.

Cover the cake and platter with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

The Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tsp Knox gelatin
4 Tbsp cold water
4 Tbsp confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Soften gelatin in the cold water in small saucepan for 5 minutes.  Heat gently until gelatin melts.  Add the bloomed gelatin to the cream in a medium mixing bowl, beating only to combine (with a whisk) not whip.  Chill in the refrigerator at least one hour.

Whip cream and add confectioners sugar and vanilla.  Whip until cream holds its shape.  The cream will stiffen further after being refrigerated.

Remove cake from refrigerator and spread whipped cream on top and sides of cake.