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.