Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cod Baked in a Yogurt Sauce

It has taken me several weeks to get off high center about I Heart Cooking Clubs' selection for chef and cookbook author being highlighted for the next 6 months.  Quite frankly I am not a big fan of Indian cuisine.  Chalk that up to eating a lot of really bad Indian food in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Some has been disgusting and other, though it may taste OK, has been extremely visually unappealing. 

But....if I really want to learn something about Indian cooking Madhur Jaffrey is the one person I would want to learn from; like gravitating to Marcella Hazan for Italian, Rick Bayless for Mexican or Julia Child for French.

So, off the couch I come to cook outside my normal realm of comfort.  This week's theme is yogurt and I selected a fish dish baked in a yogurt sauce; a recipe from Indian Cooking.

Everything was easily combined in a baking dish, covered and baked.

sliced onions

fish - I used cod instead of the suggested haddock.  Halibut was another suggestion that would work here.

Topped off with a yogurt sauce flavored with ginger, cumin and coriander.  The sauce was a little bland but only due to the fact that I left out the cayenne and garam masala (which is a blend of cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns and nutmeg).

The fish turned out delightfully light and healthy.  We served it with brown rice and sliced tomatoes.  The recipe halved well and surprised me as being the first Indian food that I actually liked.  Lovey was too!  But I didn't tell him what I was making him until he ate it.
Let's go see what they have for us to do next week (now that I have my feet wet).

Cod Baked in a Yogurt Sauce or Dahi wali macchi
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking (as Haddock Baked in a Yogurt Sauce)
Serves 4 to 6

2 medium onion, peeled
2 pounds (900 g) 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick fresh cod fillets (or haddock or halibut)
2 cups (450 ml) plain yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2  to 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp unsalted cold butter, cut into pieces

Mise en place:
  • rinse and dry fish fillets; cut the fillets into 3 inch (7.5 cm) pieces and set aside to dry
  • slice onions 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick slices and line a large baking dish with them.
  • place the dried, cut fillets onto the onions in a single layer
  • pour yogurt into small mixing bowl
  • squeeze lemon juice and grate the ginger and add to yogurt
  • measure out the spices and add to yogurt
  • measure vegetable oil and add to yogurt mixture
  • cut cold butter in small pieces and hold in the refrigerator until ready to use
Preheat the oven to 350°F /190°C
With a whisk mix the yogurt mixture and pour over the fish, making sure some of the sauce goes under the pieces of fish.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the upper third of the oven for 30 minutes or until the fish is just done.

Remove fish to a plate and keep covered in warm oven.  Meanwhile, pour all of the liquids from the baking dish into a small saucepan.  It will seem very thin and separated.  Bring the sauce to a boil and boil rapidly until there is about 1-1/2 cups (350 ml) of the sauce left, about 5 minutes  Take the saucepan off the heat.  Put in the cold butter and beat in with a fork or small whisk.  As soon as it has melted, pour the sauce over the fish and serve.

NOTE:  you may also serve the dish cold, after it has been refrigerated overnight, with a green salad.

I'm sharing this post at IHCC - go on over and see if there's anything you like

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pecan Squares

Several years ago I was performing some Saturday morning cleaning chores.  Ina Garten was keeping me company in the form of her Barefoot Contessa television show on The Food Network.  When I heard "...pecan bars..." I dropped my cleaning cloth, tripped over my cleaning bucket and found a seat in front of the TV.

I had about 30 pounds of pecan halves in the freezer and I was getting ready to learn how to use 2 of them.

Before I resumed my cleaning I looked through my copy of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook  and bingo....the recipe was in there.  I have been making her recipe ever since.'s a fattening recipe, it is an expensive recipe; you want to invest in a good quality unsweetened butter and pecans are expensive these days (in Texas anyway).  Another important item to invest in is a good quality, professional half sheet baking pan (about 18" x 12" x 1").

It all begins with a shortbread crust

With so much butter, I cut mine up a little to begin the creaming process

Once the butter and sugar are nice and creamy add the eggs and vanilla

After you incorporate the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) you have this fluffy blob.

The shortbread dough will be sticky as you press into the pan.  Use a little flour on your hands and the dough.  Try to make a nice edge up the sides of the pan as well as making the bottom fairly thin.  You will need all the room you can muster up for the filling.

While the shortbread cools you can create magic with this stuff.

Place everything but the cream and pecans into a large, heavy saucepan.

Butter, honey, brown sugar, and citrus zest, boiling into that which will coat my arteries bind the pecans together; nom-nom-nom-nom-nom.

 After boiling for 3 minutes, remove the filling from the heat and stir in the cream. Don't overcook the filling.  You don't want it to get to a hard candy stage.

Then fold in the nuts

Pour your filling into the cooled shortbread crust.  Hopefully the nice edges you made will keep as much of the filling as possible from seeping underneath the crust.

It is a given that this will boil over so I would suggest to cover the lower rack in the oven with foil to catch the drips.

Bake until set, allow to cool and feel happy knowing that






Notes and  Comments: 
Baking sheet - for this whole recipe, please go out and purchase a half sheet professional baking sheet.  It is definitely deeper and a little wider than the normal jelly roll pan you may have in your cabinet.  Don't ask me why I know this is important; it was not a pretty sight.  On the other hand, the recipe does half well to use a smaller pan.

It looks like Ina Garten cuts her bars into 2" x 3" pieces.  I don't have a super sweet tooth and these are so rich that this size is way too large for me.  I cut them half that size.

Be sure your honey is of good quality, 100% raw and not a 'honey blend'.

Pecan Squares
From Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Makes 20 squares

For the Shortbread Crust
For the Crust:
1-1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra large eggs
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Mise en place:
  • set butter on counter to reach room temperature
  • measure sugar
  • crack 3 eggs in a small bowl
  • measure vanilla
  • measure and combine flour, baking powder and salt into bowl and sift together
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the crust, beast the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well.  Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside.  It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned.  Allow to cool.

For the Filling
1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup good honey
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped

Mise en place:
  • Place butter in large saucepan
  • measure out honey and place in pan
  • measure out brown sugar and add to pan
  • zest the lemon and the orange and add to pan
  • measure cream and set aside
  • roughly chop pecans and set aside
Melt contents of saucepan over low heat until everything is melded, using a wooden spoon to stir.  Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the cream and pecans.  Pour  over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.  Cut into bars and serve.

If you want to be fancy and wrap individual bars for a gift you can dip one end of each bar in melted chocolate for a nice presentation.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beef Stew 101

Cool, gloomy, damp weather brings out the beef stew in me.  I love that this is one of those dishes that fills your house with the most wonderful, homey aroma.

The basis of my stew recipe evolves from a recipe published in 'A Skillet Full of Traditional Southern Lodge Cast Iron Recipes & Memories'.  This is a cookbook that is compiled by the South Pittsburg, Tennessee Historic Preservation Society.  South Pittsburg is the hometown of Lodge Manufacturing Company

 Season the meat with salt and pepper.  I like to use a chuck roast cut into stew-sized pieces.

Toss the seasoned meat with flour.

 Cooking starts out on the range top with browning the meat

then adding the onions to the pot.  After breaking up the onions you'll add half of the beef broth and bring to a boil to de-glaze the pot. The browned beef is then added back to the pot. Place the pot in the oven to cook slowly for an hour and a half.

Add the vegetables and return to the oven for another hour, or until the vegetables are tender.

Once the stew comes out of the oven you polish it off with tomato paste and a little red wine. 

This is the tomato paste I prefer.  It has a rich tomato taste and smooth texture.  Sometimes the paste in the little can has a metal taste to it and very rarely do I need to use the whole can so most of it goes to waste.

Beef Stew
Serves 8

3 Tbsp. + canola oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
1-1/2 to 2 pounds beef stew meat (I prefer using stew meat cut up from a chuck roast)
4 cups + beef broth, divided
1 large yellow onion
7-8 medium carrots
4 russet potatoes (2-1/2 to 3 pounds)
1 large rib of celery
2 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
splash red wine

Mise en place:
  • rinse and dry stew meat
  • measure flour
  • measure beef broth, divided 2 cups and 2 cups
  • have a dish ready to hold the stew meat once browned
  • slice onion (see note below on slicing onion)
  • peel and slice carrots into bite-size pieces
  • dice celery
  • peel and dice potatoes into bite-size pieces
  • measure tomato paste
  • open bottle of red wine and drink, leaving at least a splash for the stew
NOTE:  Slice onion 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 the onion.

Preheat oven to 325° F.  In a large mixing bowl toss stew meat with salt and pepper, then flour to coat.  Heat a 5-1/2 quart Dutch oven over medium heat until very hot.  Add 3 Tbsp. oil to hot Dutch oven.  When oil shimmers, add just enough pieces of stew meat so that they are not touching.  Allow to brown and turn to brown on other side.  Place in a holding dish.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of meat.  Browning the meat in this way may take longer but if you try to brown the meat all at once you will only be steaming the meat and will not put a nice seared crust on the pieces of meat.

After all meat is browned and in the holding dish, add onion slices to pot and stir just enough to separate.  Add 2 cups of the broth.  Bring to a boil and de-glaze the fond from the bottom of the pot.  Return meat and any accumulated juices to the pot.  Stir to combine.  Cover pot and place in oven for 1-1/2 hours.   Half way through cooking time check pot for liquid level, making sure it has not cooked down too far.  If you find you need to add a little more broth, heat the broth in the microwave first.

Prior to end of the 1-1/2 hours cooking time, heat the remaining 2 cups beef broth in the microwave so you are not adding cold broth to the pot.

Add the carrots, celery, potatoes and remaining hot broth to pot.  Stir to combine. 

Cook for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until potatoes and carrots are tender but not mushy.

Remove the pot from the oven & stir the tomato paste and wine into the stew (for my splash of wine I pour it from the bottle counting one thousand one, one thousand two)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brie and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

I can't tell you how many breakfast casseroles I have made in my lifetime.  I really don't remember any of them being bad but for the past 8 years or so this is the best I've come across and this is what I make when there is a pot luck breakfast at the office.

I clipped the recipe from the February 2003 issue of Southern Living.  Then, sometime later I also ran across the exact same recipe on the Bed & Breakfast Inns website in their recipes section.

It's a great place to find recipes by the way.  All of the different B&B's contribute recipes and this one had been submitted by Rock Cottage Gardens, a B&B in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

As with most breakfast casseroles, they're easy and some, as this one is, can be assembled the night before and finished off with the baking the next morning.

 I use an Italian loaf but you can use white sandwich bread if you like.

The word 'Brie' in the name of the recipe is what caught my eye

I like to buy a hot Italian sausage.  A breakfast sausage works well too.  Either way you go, drain the fat, drain the fat, drain the fat.

 Topped off with freshly grated Parmesan

Let her soak overnight in a cream, milk, egg mixture.  The original recipe suggests using 2 cups of fat-free milk but in a recipe where you are already using 3 cups of heavy cream I don't see the point in going fat-free do you?  Use what you have in the 'fridge.  I used 2%.

The next morning christen it with the rest of the cream and eggs and bake for almost an hour.

You will be rewarded with the creamiest, soufflé-like concoction so velvety smooth it will melt in your mouth. 
Brie and Sausage Breakfast Casserole
Adapted from Southern Living
Serves 8 to 10

1 - 8 ounce round of Brie
1 pound ground hot Italian sausage (remove from casing if it is in links)
6 to 8 slices Italian bread (enough to make one layer in your pan)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
7 large eggs, divided
3 cups whipping cream, divided
2 cups milk
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
Garnishes optional:  chopped green onions, or shaved Parmesan cheese

Mise en place:
  • cook sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain well and set aside
  • trim rind from Brie and discard; cut cheese into cubes and set aside
  • grate Parmesan
  • crack 5 of the eggs into a large mixing bowl
  • measure 2 cups of the whipping cream and add to eggs
  • measure the cups of milk, sage, salt & mustard into the eggs and cream bowl
  • slice bread (if not already) and trim crusts, saving crusts
Lightly butter the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Place crusts evenly in the bottom of the baking dish.  Layer evenly with the bread slices, then Brie, then sausage and finally the Parmesan cheese.

Whisk the egg/cream mixture well and pour evenly and gently over the layers in the baking dish.

Cover and chill mixture for 8 hours.

The following morning pre-heat the oven to 350°F.  Whisk together the remaining 1 cup of whipping cream and the remaining 2 eggs; pour evenly over the chilled mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until casserole is set (making sure not to let the top get too brown).  Garnish, if desired.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Crêpes Suzette

In the seventies I was charmed by The Magic Pan restaurants.  I ate there at every opportunity.  After visiting the original in San Francisco I bought this pan to make my very own, just like they did at The Magic Pan.  This pan is also why I am so intimidated at the thought of making crêpes.  I've tried many a time since the seventies but it never produced anything but frustration.  After each attempt I was only left with a lack of self confidence.

There is a blog called The Bitten Word that is on my daily reading list.   Zach and Clay (the creators) threw out a fun challenge a couple of weeks ago.  The challenge is to cook every recipe in the October issue of six food magazines.

From the list of people who signed up to participate, teams were created for each magazine.  They assigned me to Team Saveur.  Then they assigned each team member a recipe from that magazine and they assigned me with the task of making Crêpes Suzette.  I immediately thought "holy crap they're going to make me face my fear".

And I did face it.  And I pulled out that inverted crêpe pan again.  And I ruined the first two crêpes.  And I tossed that pan aside and pulled out our little omelette pan.  And I proceeded to create Crêpes Suzette for the first time.  And it was good.

I halved the recipe for the crêpe batter because it's just Lovey and myself and we don't need to eat six crêpes apiece and I can't see these being good as left overs.   The crêpe batter is simply whisked by hand in a mixing bowl and left in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.

I did, however, make a full recipe of the sauce because I figure you can't go wrong with extra sauce.  As you can tell by the ingredients it's a buttery, orange-y, boozy sauce; butter, sugar, orange rind, orange juice, kirsch, Cointreau

and orange flower water.  I'll be proud of myself the day I remember to put all of the ingredients in one photo.

Cream the butter and sugar then add the rind.  Slowly add the juice and spirits and beat to incorporate.

Although my pan was a nonstick I spread an eensy bit of butter in the pan anyway.  Quickly swirl the batter to cover the bottom of the pan.  I also kept it swirling to make sure it wasn't going to stick.

Place all the crêpes on a plate and set to the side while you make the sauce.

The orange butter is melted in a skillet, the crêpes dipped and folded then you get to become a pyromaniac and toss a little more sugar and booze in the pan and set her on fire.

Sadly, my flame lasted for such a short time I didn't get a snapshot of it.  It was a wimpy, faint flame; not the big explosion I was hoping it to be.  I have no idea why my crêpes didn't Suzette well.

But they were delectable just the same. 

Thoughts and Notes:
  • Crêpes are not intimidating made in a small omelette pan.
  • Most of the work for these can be done the day prior to your making them which is a good thing if you are making them for a dinner party
  • I ended up using only half of the orange butter mixture and I believe it would have been plenty had I made the twelve crêpes.
  • My 3 oranges produced 1 cup of juice (and they weren't large oranges); which I thought was too much; it would not all incorporate into the butter so I ended up only adding 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup
  • It will be forever embedded among the folds of my brain that 'alt-136' produces the circumflex ê
Crêpes Suzette
Adapted from the October 2012 issue of 'Saveur'
Makes 12 crêpes, serving 6

For the crêpes -
6 Tbsp. flour
6 eggs
6 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
Unsalted butter, as needed

For the sauce - 
3 oranges
16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
10 Tbsp. sugar, divided
7 Tbsp. Cointreau, divided
1 Tbsp. Kirsch
1 tsp. orange flower water
5 Tbsp. cognac

Mise en place:
  • measure the flour into a medium mixing bowl
  • crack eggs in small bowl and set aside
  • measure milk & heavy cream into a liquid measuring cup
  • wash and dry the oranges
  • peel rind from 2 of the oranges with a vegetable peeler, avoiding pith
  • mince rind and set aside
  • juice the oranges
  • place the butter into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer to let soften
  • measure the sugar, divided 1/2 cup and 2 Tbsp.
  • measure the Cointreau, divided 2 Tbsp. and 5 Tbsp.
  • measure the kirsch, orange flower water and cognac

For the crêpes:  Whisk together the flour and eggs in the medium mixing bowl.  Add milk and cream, and whisk until smooth.  Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

For the orange butter:  Beat the butter and the 1/2 cup sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add minced rind to butter and beat for 1 minute.  Gradually drizzle in juice, the 2 Tbsp. of Cointreau, the kirsch, and the orange flower water, beating constantly until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Heat a seasoned crêpe pan or small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Grease pan with a little butter, then pour in 1/4 cup batter.  Working quickly, swirl batter to just coat pan, and cook until edges brown, about 1 minute.  Turn with a spatula and brown other side for about 30 seconds.  Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan only as needed.

Melt orange butter sauce in a 12" skillet over medium heat until bubbling.  Dip both sides of one crêpe in sauce, then, with best side facing down, fold in half, then in half again.  Repeat process with remaining crêpes, arranging and overlapping them around the perimeter of the pan.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbsp. of sugar.  Remove pan from heat, pour the remaining 5 Tbsp. of Cointreau and the cognac over crêpes, and carefully ignite with a match.  Spoon sauce over crêpes until flame dies out, and then serve immediately.