Saturday, December 26, 2015

Potage Crécy (Cream of Carrot Soup)

The reference of Crécy in the name of this cream soup (potage) is to Crécy-en-Ponthieu; a region in Northern France that is famous for growing, in their opinion,  the most tasteful carrots. The area is also know for a battle in the fourteenth century in which England kicked some French butt.  Anyhow, the French generally refer to cream of carrot soup as Postage Crécy.   

But that's not why I'm making this today.  I'm making it because my Papa inspired me to make it.

I've recently become a co-caregiver for my father-in-law; our Papa.  Papa is nearly 98 years old.  He has a hard time seeing due to macular degeneration, relies on  hearing aids to hear, and moves slowly but surely with his Harley walker but other than that Papa has 100% of his mental faculties which is such a blessing at his age.  He's also fortunate that he is still able to live in his home.

We were visiting the other night about the days when Lovey used to gallivant around France on a regular basis searching for antiques.  Papa shared a little story about a time Lovey took him along on one of his buying trips.

At the end of a long day, and fairly late in the evening, they checked in to a small inn in Beaune.  They were tired and hungry.  The woman who ran the inn apologetically let them know that the only thing she had left in the kitchen was cream of carrot soup.

Two men from west Texas weren't overly excited about this but they were hungry.  So they conveyed to her that soup sounded great.  She brought out two bowls of this extremely hot, creamy, orange soup and a loaf of crusty bread.  They ordered two more bowls each and with each order and praise of how wonderful the soup was the lady became more endeared to them.  French people (especially those out in the country) love it when you love them and their food.

So, with that pleasant recollection that Papa shared with me I thought I would place cream of carrot soup on the menu for Christmas dinner.

I don't have a saved clipping for cream of carrot soup but I do have a clipping for a cream of pea soup that I have posted here in the past.  This is such a basic French technique to make any cream vegetable soup, or potage.  In France a "soup" usually means the dish has chunks of vegetables in it; a potage means it is pureéd.

There's not much to it.  You sauté / simmer what ever vegetable you are going for in a broth.  You can add other vegetables that lend flavor and/or color.  So, this is what I did for the carrot soup.  I don't have any idea how their potage looked or tasted at that little inn so I'm just making this up.

I diced up carrots, yellow onion, a little potato, garlic and added a little dried thyme, ground cardamom (I wanted to use grated nutmeg instead of the cardamom but I was left to use what resources were in Papa's pantry) and lemon juice.  All of these were simmered in chicken broth until the vegetables were tender.

This is a really un-appetizing photo, I know.  I failed to snap a photo once I had pureéd the know how hectic it gets at that moment when everything is coming together for Christmas dinner and everything gets crazy (after 4 hours of very calm preparation).  After the vegetables are pureéd the cream is added, mixed well with the pureé and re-heated.

Papa does not have a blender so I had Lovey bring me my immersion blender.  If you prefer, as I do, a really smooth potage use a blender.  Using an immersion blender or a food processor  will give you a rougher pureé.  But the taste is not compromised.

The soup was a hit but most important to me (even though he didn't say it was just like his bowl of soup in Beaune) was that Papa loved it.   Mission accomplished.

Potage Crécy (Cream of Carrot Soup)
Serves 6 - 8

5 to 6 carrots
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1-1/4 tsp. fresh)
1/4 ground nutmeg (or cardamom)
1/2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup cream

Mise en Place:
  • dice carrots
  • dice onion
  • mince garlic
  • measure out herbs
  • squeeze lemon juice
  • measure chicken broth
  • measure cream
 Place carrots, onion, garlic, herbs, lemon juice and chicken broth in a medium stock pot.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender.  Pureé vegetables and broth in a blender, in batches, until smooth.  Return pureé to pot and add cream.  Re-heat and serve hot.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Classic Southern Squash Casserole


There are many, many squash casseroles out there; and I've probably tried most of them.  There is something about squash casserole that I love.  I don't know if it is the soft, creamy texture or simply the taste of the squash.  Most squash casserole recipes I've made over the years have been very good.  This particular one has found its way to the top of the ladder and is the only squash casserole recipe I use any more.

Paula Deen says that no southern cook is worth her salt without a good squash casserole recipe.  Well, all you southern cooks, this is it!  Put it in your repertoire.  It's creamy and souffle-like.  The ingredients are few and simple and it's truly southern. 

What sets this recipe apart from the others Ive made is that the squash is peeled.  I truly think that makes a difference; especially if you are stuck with thick-skinned squash.

The onion and squash slices will simmer in water until tender.  After you drain the squash you will mash it up with a fork.

In the same pan combine the mashed squash and onions, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the mayonnaise and the crackers.  You can make this recipe gluten free by using gluten free crackers.

Stir in the egg and the butter.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Turn into a prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and squash is bubbling.'s so creamy and good.

  Classic Southern Squash Casserole
Adapted from Paula Deen's Paula Deen & Friends, Living It Up, Southern Style
Yields 8 to 10 servings

6 medium yellow summer squash (approximately)
1 small yellow onion
1-1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar Cheese (about 6 ounces) - divided
1/2 cup Hellmanns Mayonnaise
10 soda crackers (saltines) - To make this a gluten free recipe use gluten free crackers
1 egg
2 Tbsp. salted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mise en place:
  • preheat oven to 350°F..
  • spray an 8-inch square baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray
  • peel the squash and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • chop onion
  • grate cheese
  • measure out mayonnaise
  • place crackers in a plastic baggie and crush
  • crack egg and lightly beat
  • melt butter
Place the squash and onion in about 2 inches of salted water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Drain the squash.

In the same pot, mash the squash and onion with a fork; you should have about 2 cups of cooked squash.  Add 1/2 cup of the cheese, the mayonnaise, and the crumbled soda crackers.  Stir in the egg and butter.  Taste; add salt and pepper as needed.  Pour into the prepared baking dish.  Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbly.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Festive Cranberry Torte

It's been a very long time since I've posted a recipe; but, you know, life happens and it certainly has been happening to me lately.  Not complaining, just going with the flow.

It's the Christmas season and since life has been hectic lately I've had few opportunities to enjoy the Christmas season to the extent I usually do.  This is an oldie in my clipping files.  I have had this for a very long time.  When I originally cut it out I only cut out the photo from the magazine and I wrote down the recipe so I have no recollection what magazine it came from.  I actually remember the very first time I made it which was for a Christmas party in 1982 or 1983.  

I like to give credit where credit is due so I thought I would Google the desert (guessing the name was the original) in order to see if I could find the original source.  I found several links that posted the recipe with the exact same name and the exact same recipe (ingredients and wording of the directions and all) and photos that looked like the magazine photo I had cut out. 

So, with confidence, I can say that this recipe was a clipping from a 1979 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  That mystery solved, let me share this recipe that is not only a tasty treat but it has lots of "curb appeal" on a Christmas buffet.

Start with making the crust.  It's a graham cracker crust with finely chopped pecans in it.  The recipe doesn't call for the crust to be baked but I think you could.  Once it's pressed into an 8 inch springform pan the crust is refrigerated while you prepare the rest of the torte.

One time I didn't have enough graham cracker crumbs so I combined them with ginger snap crumbs.  

 The cranberries get roughly chopped in the food processor.

The cranberries are then mixed with the sugar and left for 5 minutes to macerate.  They'll get nice and juicy.

 Add the egg whites, orange juice concentrate, vanilla and salt to the cranberry mixture.

Mix on low until frothy,

then, mix on high for about 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture is really, really stiff.

 In a separate bowl, whip the cream until you have soft peaks that flop over,

then fold the cream into the cranberry mixture.

Transfer to the springform pan and place in the freezer.  What is nice about this recipe is that you can prepare it the night before.  

 Your glaze starts out looking like this.

 This is what it looks like when it's finished.  

I like to cook the glaze slowly to allow the cranberries to lend their color to it.  Once it's thickened and the cranberries have popped and are squishy (there's a nice culinary term for you), I just slide the saucepan to the back of the range top and let it cool completely.  Don't refrigerate the glaze.

 When you are ready to serve your torte remove it from the springform pan and spread the glaze on top of the torte.  I normally, as the recipe recommends, decorate the top with thin slices of orange, quartered. 
Festive Cranberry Torte
From a 1979 issue of Better Homes and Gardens
Yields 8 to 10 servings

1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, melted

1-1/2 cups ground fresh cranberries (2 cups whole)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup whole fresh cranberries
2/3 cup water
1 orange

In a mixing bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, pecans, 1/4 cup sugar, and the melted butter.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of an 8 inch springform pan.  Chill.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the ground cranberries and 1 cup sugar.  Let sit for 5 minutes to macerate.  Add the unbeaten egg whites, orange juice concentrate, vanilla, and salt.  Beat on low speed until frothy.  Then, beat at high speed 6 to 8 minutes or till stiff peaks form (tips stand straight up).

In a small bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the cream to soft peaks (tips curl over); fold into cranberry mixture.  Turn into the chilled crust.  Freeze until firm.

An hour or two prior to serving make the Cranberry Glaze.  In saucepan stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch.  Stir in the cranberries and water.  Cook and stir till bubbly.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberry skins pop.  Cool to room temperature.  Do not chill

To serve, remove the torte from pan.  Place on a serving plate.  Spoon the Cranberry Glaze in the center of the torte. Slice the orange into several 1/4" slices then quarter.  Place the orange quarters around the edges of the torte.

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.