Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Squash and Gruyere Gratin

The ingredients that made me look twice at this recipe were the butternut squash, the leek, white wine, and the Gruyere.  Surely those four ingredients could produce something tasty.

The squash gets baked

the leek gets steamed

and the wine becomes the beginning of a creamy sauce

You are given the option of using evaporated skim milk (which is what I used) or whole milk.  I wasn't impressed with the evaporated milk.  I suggest you use whole or 2% milk.

Instead of the bread crumb/cheese mixture typical for a gratin, this recipe called for toasted slices of a baguette.

All of the ingredients waiting to be layered.  I could tell there was no way these ingredients were going to fit in the shallow traditional au gratin dish so I used an 8 cup casserole.

Start with half of the squash

Half the sauce

Half the toasted baguette slices

then the Gruyere

Repeat the layers, top with the Parmesan and bake.

Winter Squash and Gruyere Gratin
Adapted from Food and Wine October 1988
Serves 4 to 6

2 medium butternut squash (1-1/2 pounds each)
3/4 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, divided
1 medium leek
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup whole or 2% milk
1/2 tsp sugar
8 - 10 thin slices of a baguette
4 ounces Gruyere cheese
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
8 basil leaves, shredded (optional)

Mise en place
  • Slice squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds
  • clean leek and chop the white part only
  • measure olive oil into a medium saucepan
  • slice baguette and toast in oven until brown on both sides
  • measure seasonings, wine, chicken stock, milk, and sugar
  • grate cheeses
Pre-heat oven to 400°F.  Place halves, cut side up, in a baking dish.  Season with 1/2 tsp each of the salt and pepper and cover tightly with foil.  Bake until the squash are tender but not mushy, about 1 hour.  Set aside to cool slightly.  With a large spoon, scoop meat of the squash in pieces into a bowl and set aside.

While squash are baking, combine the leek, olive oil and 2 tsp water in a medium saucepan.  Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the leek is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and stir in the wine.  Increase the heat to high and boil until the liquid is reduced to approximately 3 Tbsp, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the stock, milk, sugar and remaining 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat.

To assemble the gratin, preheat the oven to 400°F.  Re-heat the leek mixture until hot but not so hot that the mixture separates.  Spoon half of the squash into a 6 to 8 cup ovenproof casserole.  Ladle half of the leek mixture over the top and cover with half of the toasted baguettes and half of the Gruyere.  Repeat the layers with the remaining squash, leek mixture, baguettes and Gruyere.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top.

Bake the gratin for 30 minutes, or until the top is browned and bubbly.  Garnish with the basil and serve (optional)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Garam Masala

An aromatic spice blend used in many Indian dishes, it's said that there are as many recipes for Garam Masala as there are dishes that it goes in.

It's pot luck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and I'm taking an easy path by preparing a small batch of this popular spice blend.

This simple recipe is by Madhur Jaffrey.  Her recipe makes about 3 Tablespoons, which is a nice small amount to keep on hand.  Its name translates literally as "warm spice mix."

I didn't have cardamom seeds on hand so I had to crack the pods I had in the spice drawer.  If you can't buy the seeds then buy cardamom pods and shell them yourself.  A bit tedious but by fingers smelled great afterwards.

I keep a small coffee grinder dedicated for spices alone.

Garam Masala
A recipe by Madhur Jaffrey
Yields approximately 3 Tbsp.

1 Tbsp cardamom seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp black cumin seeds (you can use regular cumin seeds if black aren't available)
1 tsp whole cloves
1/3 of a whole nutmeg (you can break a whole nutmeg by placing it on a cloth and bashing it with a meat mallet or rolling pin)
a medium sick of cinnamon, about 2 - 3 inches, broken up into 3/4 pieces.

Put all the ingredients in a clean coffee grinder or other spice grinder and grind as finely as possible.

Store in a tightly lidded jar, away from heat and sunlight and use as needed.

I'm sharing this recipe at IHCC

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Black-Eyed Peas and Ham

Happy New Year !!!!!  I wish for all of you a prosperous and blessed year to come! 

New Year's day in our household always means black-eyed peas and ham to bring luck through the upcoming year.  Here is my basic, go-to recipe.

I start with dried black-eyed peas, cover with water and soak them overnight.

In a large Dutch oven fry two to three slices of thick bacon that have been diced.  I find that bacon is much easier to chop or dice if it has been placed in the freezer for awhile.  Fry until crisp and remove the bacon from the pot and drain on paper towels.  You can add the bacon back to the pot later but I usually snack on them and eat them all.

 Sauté chopped onion and garlic for a couple of minutes.

 Add water, black-eyed peas (that have been drained and rinsed), the bay leaf and ham hock.

Bring to a boil then turn down heat to a simmer.  After about 20 minutes add the cubed ham.  Continue simmering until beans are tender.  Remove ham hock, allow to cool, remove meat from bone and add back to beans.

Black-eyed Peas and Ham
 Yields 6-8 Servings

1 package (one pound) dried black-eyed peas
2-3 slices thick smoked bacon
1 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
8 cups water divided
smoked ham hock
1 bay leaf
1/2" thick slice of ham (approx. 3/4 lb)
2 cubes Knorr beef bouillon

Mise en place:
  • place beans in a large mixing bowl and cover with water and soak 4 hours or overnight
  • chop bacon
  • chop onion
  • mince garlic
  • cube ham
In a large Dutch oven fry bacon pieces until crisp.  Remove bacon bits to drain on paper towel.  Remove all but 2 Tbsp. of the bacon fat.  Sauté onion and garlic in bacon fat for several minutes.  Add 1 cup water and bring to brisk boil.  Boil for a minute or two and scrape up fond from the bacon.  Add rest of the water. 

Drain and rinse black-eyed peas and add to pot.  Add ham hock and bay leaf.  Bring to boil, scraping off any foam that may appear.  Lower heat and simmer.  After 20 minutes add cubed ham and bouillon cubes.  Continue simmering until beans are tender but not mushy; about 20 minutes more.

Remove bay leaf and ham hock.  Remove meat from hock and return to pot.  Serve with corn bread.