Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Week 31: Classic Bolognese Sauce

My love-affair with pasta continues. This one is definitely time consuming, but it's worth every last minute.

Taken from Cooks Illustrated, January 1999

Makes 6 C, enough to sauce 2 pounds pasta

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours, 45 minutes

6 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 Tbsp minced onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
4 Tbsp minced carrot (about 2 carrots)
4 Tbsp minced celery (about 3 stalks)
1/2 lb ground beef chuck
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1 tsp salt
2 C whole milk
2 C dry white wine
2 cans (28 oz EACH) whole tomatoes, packed in juice

Heat butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, carrot, and celery and saute until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes.

Add ground meat and salt. Crumble meat with the edge of a wooden spoon to break apart into tiny pieces. Cook, continuing to crumble, just until it loses its raw color but has not yet browned, about 6 minutes.

Add milk and bring to a simmer; continue to simmer until milk evaporates and only clear fat remains, about 30 minutes.

Add wine and bring to a simmer; continue to simmer until wine evaporates, 30 minutes longer.

Just after the wine was added.

After 30 minutes of simmering.

Finely chop tomatoes. Add tomatoes and juice and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low so that sauce continues to simmer just barely, with an occasional bubble or two at the surface, until liquid has evaporated, about 4 hours.

Beginning of the four hours.

Middle of the four hours.

Adjust seasonings with extra salt to taste and serve.

End of the four hours.

Can be refrigerated in airtight container for several days or frozen for several months. Warm over low heat before serving.

To make half batch:
Reduce cooking time for meat to 3 minutes. Reduce cooking time for milk and wine to 15 minutes each. Reduce cooking time for finished sauce to 3 hours.

My notes:

It took lots of hunting to find ground veal. I normally just substitute pork to avoid the hunting. I'm glad I held out for the veal, though. The flavors of the three meats really balanced each other out.

I'm definitely adding this to my list of Sunday meal possibilities. It made enough for us to eat and freeze two meals.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Week 30: Horseradish-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

I won't lie. I love steak. I'm sort of a snob about it, though. I really only like beef tenderloin. It is actually one of the few things that I would rather eat at home than at a restaurant, and it is something I crave.

Generally, I'd season it up and send Brad out to grill it. But, I live in WI. It's winter - not exactly ideal grilling weather.

Enter a recipe for horseradish-crusted beef tenderloin - made in the oven.

It's a great Sunday recipe.

Horseradish-Crusted Beef Tenderloin
Taken from:
Cook's Illustrated, November 2009

1 beef tenderloin (about 2 pounds) trimmed of fat and silver skin
Kosher salt
3 Tbsp Panko bread crumbs
1 C plus 2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 1/2 Tbsp)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed (about 2 tsp)
1/4 C well-drained prepared horseradish
2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 small russet potato (about 6 oz) peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
1 1/2 tsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp powdered gelatin

Sprinkle roast with 1 Tbsp salt, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss bread crumbs with 2 tsp oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in 10" non-stick skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and cool to room temperature. Once cool, toss bread crumbs with shallot, garlic, 2 Tbsp horseradish, parsley, and thyme.

Rinse grated potato under cold water, then squeeze dry in kitchen towel. Transfer potatoes and remaining cup oil to 10" nonstick skillet. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until potatoes are golden brown and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to paper towel-lined plate and season lightly with salt; let cool for 5 minutes. Reserve 1 Tbsp oil from skillet and discard remainder. Once potatoes are cool, transfer to quart-sized zipper-lock bag and crush until coarsely ground. Transfer potatoes to baking sheet with bread-crumb mixture and toss to combine.

Pat exterior of tenderloin dry with paper towels and sprinkle evenly with remaining teaspoon pepper. Heat reserve tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Sear tenderloin until well browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let rest 10 minutes.

Combine remaining 2 Tbsp horseradish, mayonnaise, and mustard in small bowl. Just before coating tenderloin, add gelatin and stir to combine. Spread horseradish paste on top and sides of meat, leaving bottom and ends bare. Roll coated sides of tenderloin in bread-crumb mixture, pressing gently so crumbs adhere in even layers that just cover horseradish paste; pat off any excess.

Return tenderloin to wire rack. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of roast registers 120 to 125 degrees for medium-rare, 25 to 30 minutes.

Transfer roast to carving board and let stand for 20 minutes. Carefully cut meat crosswise into 1/2" thick slices and serve.

My notes:
I only used a one-pound tenderloin but did not cut the ingredients for the horseradish-crust in half. I should have. The final taste was a little over-powering.

I had a tough time with the potato part of the breading. The potatoes mashed together in the pan and ended up not being crispy enough to crush and use as breading. After cooking them for about 10 minutes, I ended up putting them back in the pan to get crispier.

Also, I cooked the tenderloin to about 140 degrees and let it sit for 20 minutes. I'd still say it was medium-rare.

I will make this again. It would be a good dish for company. It looks fancy but isn't really that complicated. And, it doesn't take all that long to cook.

(This time around, I served the tenderloin with Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes. YUM.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Week 29: Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I'm bad at side-dishes. I have a few stand-byes that we enjoy again and again but really need to learn to switch-it-up to keep boring things like broiled chicken and a dinner salad a little more interesting.

from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers (p. 197)

Serves 4
Hand-on time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 15 minutes

2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into rounds about 1/2" thick. If the potatoes are large, cut them in half lengthwise and then into half-rounds. (You should have 7 or 8 cups.) In a bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the oil, salt, and a dash of pepper.

Spread the sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 10 minutes. Stir, and return to the oven until they are tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

I sliced the potatoes really, really thin (far thinner than the 1/2" called for in the recipe). My goal was something like sweet potato chips. And, I actually cooked the potatoes for more like 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.

The end result was great! There was tons of flavor and a little bit of crisp here and there. We will definitely make this again as a quick side dish.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Week 29: Mocha Silk Pie

Coffee. Yum. Kahlua. Yum. Pecans. Yum. Chocolate. Yum.
That's why I made this.

And, it's Wednesday. Things get stressful around Wednesday. . . even if you've carefully planned out the week.

Stolen (shamelessly) from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Prep Time: 35 Minutes
Chilling Time: 2 Hours
Servings: 10

1 C pecans, finely chopped
1/2 C packed brown sugar
2 oz (weight) semi-sweet chocolate, grated
2 Tbsp Kahlua
Dash of salt


2 sticks butter (salted)
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tsp Kahlua
3 oz (weight) semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 whole large eggs

To make the crust, combine chopped pecans, brown sugar, grated chocolate, and salt. Stir with a fork to combine, then drizzle in Kahlua, stirring until combined. Press mixture into a pie pan, bringing it up the sides a bit. Set aside or refrigerate until needed; do not bake.

In small microwave safe bowl, melt 3 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate until stirrable. (I started with 45 seconds.) Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter, sugar, 2 teaspoons instant coffee, and 1 teaspoon Kahlua until fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. When melted chocolate is cooled, drizzle it into the butter/sugar mixture as it beats on medium speed; use a rubber spatula to get it all out. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat the mixture thoroughly until combined, scraping the sides if necessary.

On medium speed, add the four eggs, one at a time, over a period of 20 minutes; leave about 5 minutes between each egg addition. Scrape sides of bowl halfway through this process. Pour filling into the pie crust.

Place pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours (preferably longer).

Serve with whipped cream and more grated chocolate.

Oh. My. Sweet. Lord. This was amazing. Brad declared it to be the best dessert I've ever made and may even have moaned a little while he ate it.

I will make this again!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week 29: Italian Beef

I'm working hard to learn how to use my crock pot. This was a success. . . twice. So, I thought I'd share it.

It was a great Sunday meal the first time and a great week night meal the second time.

Italian Beef
Taken from Pioneer Woman

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 6 Hours
Servings: 10

1 beef chuck roast (2 1/2 to 4 pounds)
1 can (14.5 oz) beef broth
3 Tbsp (heaping) Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/4 C water
1/2 jar (16 Oz) pepperoncini peppers, with juice
buttered, toasted deli rolls
Provolone Cheese, sliced

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Stir lightly to combine seasoning with the liquid.

Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, or until meat is fork-tender and falling apart.

Remove from crock pot. With two forks, completely shred all meat, leaving no large chunks behind. Serve immediately, or keep warm over a simmer on the stove.

Serve on buttered, toasted rolls. Top with cheese and melt under the broiler if desired. Serve with juices from the pot.

Apologies for the hideous picture.

My notes:
Loved this! It made enough for two dinners and froze really well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Week 28: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

I made the family Christmas letter the first year I dated Brad. His grandma included me and described me as "a nice Irish girl." I'm definitely not Irish (and just how nice I am is debatable), nevertheless it seems right to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

I present Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Icing.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from:
Cupcakes Take the Cake
The Cupcakery
Makes 24 cupcakes

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 cup stout
3 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two muffin tins (for 24 cupcakes) with paper liners.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to combine melted butter, sugar, and stout. Add the eggs, one at a time. Stir in sour cream and vanilla. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until incorporated.

Divide batter evenly into paper-lined muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating pans once, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and turn onto a wire rack. Let cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Ganache

12 ounce package Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips (or milk chocolate)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine both ingredients in a double boiler.

Continue to mix thoroughly over boiling water until ingredients are smooth and chocolate is completely melted.

Layer this ganache on completely cooled cupcakes and allow to harden.

Bailey's Buttercream

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. whole milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 (2 1/2 Tbsp. Bailey's Irish Cream)

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and salt for about 30 seconds.

Add half of the powdered sugar and the milk to the butter and beat again until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the remainder of the powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice. Beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl again.

Add Bailey's Irish Cream and beat on high speed for 5-6 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy.

My notes:
The cupcake batter made WAY MORE than 24 cupcakes. I stopped at 24 and threw the rest of the batter away. The ganache would have frosted 100+ cupcakes. I should definitely have only made a half batch. The frosting was just about perfect for 24 cupcakes.

The cupcakes themselves were really flavorful but a little dry. I think I may have made then too small and over-baked them.

The ganache and the Bailey's buttercream were a delicious combination.

I'd imagine these would taste great washed down with a Shamrock Shake.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Week 28: Caesar Club Sandwich

I've become a big Ina Garten fan. If I get home from work on time I can catch an episode, and my DVR is programmed to tape the new episodes on Saturday.

I recently found the Barefoot Bloggers and decided to cook along with their Ina Garten choices for March.

Caesar Club Sandwich
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
And inspired by Barefoot Bloggers

2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts (bone in and skin on)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
4 oz thinly sliced pancetta
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tsp dried flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 large ciabatta bread
2 oz hearts of romaine, washed and spun dry
2 to 3 oz Parmesan, shaved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the pancetta on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Place the garlic and the parsley in a food processor and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the Caesar dressing. Place half the romaine on the bottom piece of the bread and layer in order: shaved Parmesan, crispy pancetta, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of romaine.

Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in third crosswise. Serve at room temperature.

My notes:
The original recipe used arugula. I replaced it with romaine because it is what I had. The original recipe also included sundried tomatoes. I'm not really a fan and meant to replace them with fresh tomatoes but completely forgot once it was time to actually assemble and eat the sandwich.

This also marks my first experimentation with cooking chicken with skin and bones. I survived and the chicken tasted great - much juicier and more flavorful than the boneless, skinless chicken breasts I normally use.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Week 27: Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions

I have a thing for pasta - in case you haven't realized that. This caught my eye. And, we all know that a week with two pasta recipes is a good week!

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions

Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking
Posted on Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4 (coats 1 pound spaghetti)
Prep time: less than 5 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serve with spaghetti, with or without grated Parmesan cheese to pass.

My notes:
AMAZING! I wasn't so sure about the $5 can of San Marzano tomatoes, but they were worth every penny.

And, in case you were wondering. . . the suspicious looking thing on the plate of spaghetti is a totally delicious spicy chicken Italian sausage. It looks gross, but is/was delicious. Trust me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week 27: Shrimp Scampi

I've got a thing for shrimp scampi. Really, what's there not to love? Shrimp. Yum. Butter. Yum. Garlic. Yum. Wine. Yum.

I'm on a quest to find a recipe I really love. I tried two different Ina Garten recipes (this one and this one), and the quest continues with this endeavor.

The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper (p. 230 - 231)
Serves 3 to 4 (or 2 hungry adults)
Prep: 10 minutes
Marinating time: 24 hours
Cook time: 4 minutes

1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 or 7 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 lb raw extra-large or jumbo shrimp, shelled

Cooking the shrimp:
3 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
1/4 C dry white wine
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
2 tsp dried parsley leaves

The night before:
Gently combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and shrimp. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

At supper time:

About 15 minutes before serving, set a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. In the skillet melt 2 Tbsp of the butter with a little salt and pepper. Add the shrimp with its marinade, stir once or twice, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the skillet, and cook the shrimp for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are barely firm. With tongs, transfer them to a heated serving platter. Taste a shrimp for seasoning.

Turn the heat under the skillet up to medium high. Stir the wine into the pan juice and boil it for 1 minute, or until it has evaporated and the pan juices are rich-tasting. Off the heat, stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Scrape the contents of the skillet over the shrimp. Drizzle the lemon juice over them, and scatter with the chopped parsley. Serve hot.

My notes:
I like my scampi to have a thick, buttery, garlicky sauce. This sauce was definitely buttery and garlicky (not in an over-powering way, either), but it wasn't the consistency I hoped for. The amount of lemon and parsley were just right, though.

I should have adjusted the cooking times. I didn't use jumbo shrimp (not in the budget) or fresh shrimp (maybe the extra moisture from the frozen shrimp impacted the consistency of the sauce?). I should have cooked the shrimp for far less than 3 to 4 minutes.

I served it with some fresh chili fettuccine and broccoli. It would have also been good with some gnocchi.

It doesn't even begin to compare to the baked scampi, though.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Week 26: WI Risotto

Risotto. It makes me think of wine and fancy vegetables and deliciousness. It doesn't make me think of beer and cheddar and broccoli. But, this was absolutely amazing - in a WI bar kind of way.

"Rarebit Risotto"
taken from Moosewood Restaurant: Simple Suppers (p. 90)

Serves 4
Prep and Cook time: 40 minutes

1 quart (32 oz) vegetable broth
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 C arborio rice
12 oz (1 1/2 C) beer
3 C chopped broccoli
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
4 C loosely packed grated Cheddar cheese (about 10 oz)
2 C chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
Sprinkling of black pepper

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan on medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the rice and stir until well coated with oil. Add the beer and stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid, a couple of minutes. Ladle in the simmering broth a cup at a time, stirring often. Let the rice absorb most of the broth before adding the next cup, usually about 5 minutes between additions.

While the risotto is cooking, steam the broccoli until bright green and just tender. Set aside.

When the last of the broth is absorbed, the kernels of rice should be al dente and the risotto moist. Add the mustard and cheese to the risotto and stir until the cheese is melted. Stir in the broccoli and tomatoes, season with black pepper, and serve hot.

My notes:

I used more than 3 C of broccoli. I like lots of stuff in my risotto. I did use the whole 4 C of cheese (2 C of sharp, white cheddar and 2 C of a cheddar blend). It was really cheesy. Some of the cheese could be cut if you aren't up for 4 C of cheese.

I will make this again. It's great as a main dish but would also make a nice side dish for some grilled food. . . like brats.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 26: Little French Fudgecakes

A quick tour of the Cook. Eat. Repeat? archives revealed that we don't make nearly enough desserts around here.

There's not enough dessert.

And, it's been a stressful day. The kind of day where you chuck all your dinner plans and go out for pizza and beer.

The kind of day where you need chocolately goodness.

The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper (p. 312 - 314)
Makes 6 cupcakes (or 8 small cupcakes)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Cooling time: 5 - 15 minutes

1 (3.5 or 4 oz) bittersweet chocolate bar, broken up
1.5 oz unsweetened chocolate, broken up
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs + 1 yolk
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 (3.5 or 4 oz) bittersweet chocolate bar, broken up

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a dark metal cupcake tin.

Combine the broken-up bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates with the butter in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl. Melt them for 2 to 3 minutes at medium-low power. Check by stirring, as chocolate holds its shape when microwaved.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, vanilla, eggs and yolk, sugar, and salt until creamy. Stir in the flour to blend thoroughly. Then stir in the chocolate / butter mixture until smooth. Finally, blend in the bite-sized pieces of chocolate. Pour the batter into the cupcake pan, filling each three-quarters full.

Bake the cupcakes for 18 minutes. Insert a knife into the center of a cupcake. It should come out clean with some streaks of thick batter. If you have any doubt about doneness, press the top of a cupcake to see if it is nearly firm. Remove them from the oven.

Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes to serve warm or 20 minutes to serve at room temperature.

My notes:

I used Lindt Excellence 70% bittersweet chocolate bar and an organic milk chocolate bar (both in the candy aisle of my grocery store). The recipe made a big deal out of what kind of chocolate to use for the recipe, so I thought I should share what my choices were.

I imagined these little lovelies would be gooey in the middle. They weren't. I think I should have adjusted the baking time (reduce by just a few minutes) to adjust for the size of my cupcake tins. Also, the tops got really crispy. This added some great texture, but the crispy tops fell off when I tried to get the little bits of delicious-ness out of the cupcake pan.

I served these with whipping cream flavored with Bailey's. I beat 1 C whipping cream (for about 5 minutes) and added about 1 Tbsp of Bailey's. A fabulous touch, if I do say so myself. It would have been equally fabulous with pistachio or cherry ice cream or gelato.

And, I love that the recipe didn't make many cupcakes. These just aren't something that Brad or I could bring ourselves to sit, uneaten anywhere in our house.