Saturday night – 01/25/2014

I was looking through older menus for inspiration and found the reference to Milk Pork from a past holiday party. My notes from the party indicated it was good though I didn’t really remember it so I thought I’d give it a try. It was worth a second go.

Menu
Milk Pork
Risotto
Roasted Acorn Squash with cumin
Petite Peas with Mushrooms
Homemade Rolls

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip cookies

Notes under the cut

Shaved Carrot Salad with Spiced Pork

Our favorite winter farmer’s market has returned and with it a bounty of root vegetables. One of our favorites is rainbow carrots. They come in purple, yellow, white and the usual orange. They are a wee bit of color in the otherwise drabness of winter.

This recipe is inspired by one we saw Jamie Oliver make on Food Network (or maybe it was Cooking Channel).

Shaved Carrot Salad with Spiced Pork

Shaved Carrot Salad with Spiced Pork

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Our Standard Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette is one of the easiest recipes to master and are infinitely flexible. The homemade stuff is almost guaranteed to be better than any bottled dressing from the supermarket. You can adjust the taste on the fly until you hit upon the right combination for your taste buds.

Our typical vinaigrette uses lemon juice as the acid and extra virgin olive oil. Red wine or cider vinegar works great in place, or along with, lemon juice. Walnut oil is nice, particularly on a salad involving apples or beets. Finely chopped fresh herbs make a nice addition as well.

I came upon the shaken method years back when all the whisks were dirty and I was too lazy to wash one. 🙂

Our Standard Vinaigrette
Servings: about 1/2 cup of dressing
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 7 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, peedled and minced (or pressed)
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • equal amount of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. acid (vinegar or citrus juice)
  • 6 Tbsp. oil (olive, vegetable, nut, what have you)

Special Equipment:

  • a jelly jar with a screw-type lid

Directions:

  1. Combine everything except oil in jar, cover and shake until well combined.
  2. Add the oil to the jar, recover and shake vigorously until you have a well mixed dressing.
  3. Taste, adjust salt & pepper and serve.

Potato, Chicken and Paprika Bake

The addition of one ingredient doesn’t make a dish Ethnic with a capital letter. I came across this recipe in a copy of Food Network Magazine with the title “Spanish Chicken and Potato Roast”. That seemed like an overstatement so I’ve rebranded it and rewritten the recipe a bit to follow how I prepared it.

Potato, Chicken and Paprika Bake
Servings: 3-4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 fist sized yellow-fleshed potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs.), cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or other fat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 5 or 6 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. chopped chives
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into thin half-moons
  • 1 red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 450°F. Place a heavy casserole dish on the middle rack and allow the oven to preheat.
  2. Combine potatoes, garlic, olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave at full-power for 8 minutes.
  3. When oven is preheated transfer the partially cooked potatoes to the baking dish. Spread into an even layer and bake for 10 minutes. Be warned, you may get a bit of oil splatter or smoke when you add the potatoes to the dish.
  4. While the potatoes bake combine the paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper with the lemon juice and chives in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat.
  5. When potato baking time has elapsed use a spatula to toss the potatoes to allow another side to brown. Scatter the onions and peppers over the potatoes. Top with the chicken and any remaining paprika-lemon-chive-spice mixture. Return to the oven.
  6. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, rotating the dish half way through the cooking time. Temp the chicken; it should reach 160-165°F before removing. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note:
When I followed Food Networks recipe, which used the juice of a whole lemon, all other flavors were lost to the lemon. So I cut it back and adjusted a few other amounts to suit my tastes.

Any oil that can stand a high heat should work fine. We used some goose fat that we were given in place of the olive oil.

Onion & Fig Jam

While coming up with a menu for our holiday party I received an email recommending a book from The Splendid Table. The email included an excerpt page for Endive Spears with Fig-Onion Jam, which sounded like a fine addition. Alas, the excerpt didn’t include the recipe for fig-onion jam. After a bit of web-searching I had enough suggestions of recipes to put something together.

Onion & Fig Jam
Servings: about 3 cups
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 80 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large white onion, weighing ~13 oz., cut into 1/2 inch diced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 10 ounces mission figs, dried, halved
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce plan over high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the onions with oil and even out the onion layer across the bottom of the pan. Lower heat to low, or even lower if your stove does that, until the sizzle dies out. Leave the onions alone for 5 minutes. Stir, even out the onion layer across the bottom of the pan and leave alone for another 5 minutes. Repeat the stir, even, ignore process for a total of 30 minutes. In the end you should have lightly browned, very soft, kind of sweet onions.
  2. Add the red wine and scrap the bottom of the pan. If you cooked the onions low and slow there probably isn’t anything on the bottom of the pan but it’s worth a try. Add the dates. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove cover and cook onions & dates for another 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes mash the dates with a potato masher (or the back of the spoon if you a the patient sort).
  4. Add the sugar and stir until incorporated. Make a judgement call – is there enough liquid to simmer another 20 minutes? If yes then cover and cook for 10 minutes. If not add a 1/2 cup of water, stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Give the mixture another bashing with the potato masher. If you like the consistency then give it a taste, adjust salt if needed and allow to cool. If you want a finer texture then transfer mixture to a food processor and give it a whirl until you happy.
  6. Once cool transfer to a storage container. It’ll keep for at least 2 weeks in the fridge.

Notes:
You could replace the wine with a different liquid such as apple cider, broth or even water. Using a fruit juice will yield a sweeter end product.

In addition to The Splendid Table suggestion this recipe was heavily influenced by one from Everyday Gourmet.

Meringue Cookies

These cookies are based on a childhood memory of Christmas gatherings at my aunt’s house. It was a potluck affair and another aunt always brought a cookie assortment. There would always be 4 or 5 meringue cookies, usually with chocolate chips inside, in the box. I probably ate 95% of the meringues present because I thought they were just so good.

Meringue Cookies

Meringue Cookies
Servings: 5 dozen cookies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 135g egg whites (about 4 eggs)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of a mix of mini chocolate chips, mini cinnamon chips and raspberry jammy bits

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 4 baking sheet pans with Silpat or parchment.
  2. To the bowl of a stand mixer add the egg whites, salt, cream of tarter and vanilla. Beat on low for about 30 second to combine then incrase speed to medium or higher. Beat until the frothy egg whites turn into a thickening white meringue, about 2 minutes.
  3. With the mixer on medium-low gradually add the sugar. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whip until the meringue has gone from shiny to dull white.
  4. Carefully fold in the chips & bits with a spatula. Do not beat at the meringue or it will deflate.
  5. Using 2 teaspoons (the dining utensils, not the measuring spoons) scoop our a heaping spoonful of meringue and use the second spoon to transfer it to the baking sheet. You can fit 12-15 meringues per sheet.
  6. Bake two baking sheets at a time for a total of 30 minutes, swapping sheet locations and rotating the sheets 180 degrees half way through baking.
  7. Move the finished cookies to a cooling rack, leaving the cookies on the baking sheet to cool. Bake the second batch of cookies at this point.
  8. Meringues should cool completely in 30 minutes.

Notes:
While I used a mix of add-ins you could use all mini chocolate chips or just about any small morsel of tastiness.  I prefer the “mini” variety of chips.  These are small cookies and full-sized chocolate chips overtakes the meringue.

You can check that you’ve reached the desired stage by stopping the mixer and removing the beater. Invert the beater; if the meringue is at the correct stage it should stand up without moving.

I used two recipes as references in creating this recipe: the first is from gimme some oven and the second was from FoodTV.

Crab Cakes

My husband had to be near the computer for work on New Year’s Eve so we decided to stay home. I wanted to make something simple and tasty but kind of “fancy”. Crab cakes fit the bill and were a hit. I cooked up a bit of white rice with shallot and threw together a faux Remoulade sauce.
Crab Cakes with rice and faux Remoulade sauce

This recipe was emailed to me back in 2001 by a friend. I’ve replaced a couple of ingredients and adjusted the amounts to suit my preferences.

Crab Cakes
Servings: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 lb. lump crab meat (see note), drained and checked for shell bits
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped (about ~1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (divided)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl beat together the eggs, Worcestershire, mustard, salt and peppers. Add the crab, mayo, shallot and 1/2 cup of panko. Mix with a spatula until thoroughly combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Place the remaining panko in a shallow dish, such as a pie pan. Form the crab mixture into 8 patties and coat with panko. Place patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and, again, refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. In a large skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons oil over medium low heat. Add 4 crab cakes to the skillet and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet and stash in the oven while you cook the remaining crab cakes using the remaining butter and oil.
  5. Serve with a green salad or white rice. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Notes:
For the crab meat I used a 50/50 mix of Phillips Premium Crab “Jumbo” and Phillips Premium “Back fin Lump”. Using the back fin crab helped reduces the overall cost of the crab, the most expensive ingredients in the dish. I don’t feel that the crab cakes were any less delicious even though I didn’t use the Jumbo crab for the whole thing. Phillips Premium was America’s Test Kitchen’s top rated crab meat and for these you want to the best you can find. Thankfully the Phillips website has a “Where to Buy” feature which saved me from driving from store to store. I found it locally at Price Chopper.

I used 2 scoops from a #20 disher to portion out the patties.

You can make these a day in advance and refrigerate overnight. Just skip step 1 (preheating the oven), make the patties and cover completely with plastic wrap.

For the faux Remoulade sauce I mixed equal parts mayonnaise and store-bought chili sauce (think spicy ketchup) with prepared horseradish, Dijon mustard and a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce.

Cucumber with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

I made these for our holiday party this year. I was in search of a vegetable appetizer, something that was a single bit and savory. I found a recipe titled “Gluten Free Cucumber Slices Provençal” which fit the bill.

Cucumber with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Cucumber with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

I’m not sure why the title includes the words “gluten free”. It is gluten free however I can’t conceive of a way to make the dish that would include gluten. Anyway, I made a few changes to the recipe so it fit it to my taste.
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