Mustard Gravy

Occasionally I plan to make a pan sauce after browning meat and find that the fond in the bottom of the skillet is just too blackened to make a good sauce. I came up with this “gravy” after a recent meal featuring skillet seared pork chops. The chops were nicely browned however the fond in the bottom of the pan was too far gone to use. Luckily pork and mustard have an affinity for one another so this recipe did the trick. It was also tasty on the roasted broccoli we served.

Mustard Gravy
Servings: 1 1/2 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 Tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1 cup hearvy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 Tbsp. rendered bacon fat (or other softened solid fat, such as butter)
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour and fat in a small bowl to form a paste. This is called a beurre manié and it will be used later to thicken the sauce. If you don’t have bacon fat then unsalted butter could also be used.
  2. Add the Worcestershire and water in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Add the mustards, whisk to combine and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. The mixture will reduce slightly in volume.
  3. Stir in the heavy cream. Allow the mixture to return to a simmer and add the burre manié you made in the first step. Whisk the sauce until it is fully melted and incorporated.
  4. Allow the sauce to simmer for another minute; it should thicken into a nice sauce.

Note:
Don’t be scared off by the beurre manié. You can use any softened solid fat, such as butter or even the odd tablespoon of Crisco. Use a fork, or the back of the spoon, to press the fat into the flour until it is well combined. The idea is that the fat-coated flour particles will melt and help thicken the sauce as it simmers. Additionally the fat added at the end will add a soft sheen, similar to the effect of finishing a sauce by whisking in cold butter.

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Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks

A while back I was lured in by a glossy picture of Parmesan and Herb Potato Stacks in an retailers Instagram post. The recipe seemed straight-forward, the image looked inticing and I’m always seeking a new way to present potatoes at Saturday night dinner.

While the result was good I thought of several ways to improve the recipe. Here’s the result with my update ingredient list and rewritten in my own words. Enjoy.

Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks
Servings: 8-12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, very thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch)
  • 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Place the sliced potatoes win a colander set over a bowl and set aside while you melt the butter. Transfer the butter to a large bowl and allow the butter to cool for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Add the Romano cheese, garlic, thyme and cream to the cooled butter and whisk together until combined.. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potato slices and gently toss to coat evenly.
  4. Divide the potato slices among the prepared muffin cups, stacking them in layers.
  5. If using them, arrange a sage leaf on top of each stack.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the potato stacks. Bake for another 10 minutes. The potatoes should be tender with crispy edges and the Parmesan should be fully melted. If not cook for another minute or two.
  7. Let cool slightly, then carefully remove the stacks from the pan and serve warm.

Notes:
Don’t be tempted by the cheese in a plastic jar which is found in the pasta aisle of your local megamart. You should find a wedge of Romano, and another of Parmesan, in the “fancy” cheese case near the deli counter. Yes, you’ll pay more than you will for that plastic jar however the flavor will far exceed the price difference.

Buttermilk Ice Cream

This ice cream was an excellent foil to the sweetness of the Cranberry-Pistachio Crumble we served on Christmas Eve. It has a lovely tang and rich taste.

Buttermilk Ice Cream
Servings: 1 quart
Prep time: 15 minutes plus 8 hours cooling
Total time: 24 hours

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup demerara or turbinado sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Whisk yolks in a medium bowl until slightly lightened in color.
  2. In a small saucepan, warm the cream over low heat with the sugar, honey and salt until the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let cream reach a boil; the sugar should be dissolved well before that. Remove pan from heat.
  3. Vigorously whisk the yolks while adding a ladle of hot cream in a slow stream. Repeat until about half of the cream has been mixed in. Return egg/cream mixture to sauce pan and combine. Return to low heat and cook for another 3-4 minutes; stirring regularly. The mixture should thicken slightly.
  4. Remove from heat, strain and cool for 20 minutes. Add the buttermilk, stir until fully incorporated. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until cold, at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
  5. When you are ready to churn the ice cream add the extract into the chilled sweetened cream.  Freeze according to your manufacturer’s ice cream maker instructions.  For me that is ~25 minutes. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze overnight.

Notes:
Step 3 is very important. You need to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs otherwise they will scramble. Slowly adding the hot cream while whisking the eggs will allow you to do this. Don’t trust the TV show host who pours a cup of hot liquid into their eggs and then picks up a whisk. Two good examples are Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode The Proof Is In The Pudding or any episode of America’s Test Kitchen that deals with ice cream or pudding.

Demerara, or turbinado sugar, is also referred to as raw sugar. At one time it was only available from higher end grocery emporiums or natural food stores. I found it next to the agave and sweeteners in the baking aisle at our local mega-mart.

You can substitute a tablespoon of bourbon, whiskey, etc. for the vanilla extract if you wish. You add it after the mixture is cool so that the heat of the liquid doesn’t dissipate the aromatic components.

I referred to several recipes when coming up with my version including ones from Joy the Baker, Smitten Kitchen and Bon Appétit.

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas

I had fresh tortellini, asparagus and a desire to use both up in one dish. It was rainy out, my shoes were off and I really didn’t want to put them back on to go outside to pick any of the fresh herbs we have growing hither and yon. I wasn’t in the mood for tomatoes either. The following recipe is the result and I’m pretty darn happy with how it came out. Enjoy!

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas
Servings: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes (plus however much longer it takes a pot of water to boil)
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, 1/8″ dice
  • 1 red pepper, julienne
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 Tbsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or see note)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. fresh tortellini
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Directions:

  1. Fill a pot with 6 quarts of cold water and set it over high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. When shimmering add the onions and peppers. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with oil and cook for 5 minutes. The veggies should be slightly softened.
  3. Add the garlic, stir to incorporate and cook until fragrant; 30 seconds to a minute should do it.
  4. Hopefully the pasta water is at a boil by now. If not turn off the heat under the skillet and wait until it is. When the pasta water is ready cook the tortellini per the instructions on the package. Mine took ~12 minutes, which was enough to finish the rest of the dish.
  5. Add the asparagus, peas and veggie broth. Stir and cook, uncovered, for around 5 minutes.
  6. Add the spice blend and heavy cream. Stir to incorporate. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until sauce has reduced. Check veggies for doneness. If you are happy with the texture then turn of the heat; if not then cook a little longer.
  7. Drain the tortellini, shake off excess water and return to the large pot. Add the sauce and veggies to the large pot along with the grated cheese. Stir until sauce has coated all the pasta and the cheese if well distributed.
  8. Enjoy with a bit of freshly ground black pepper (and more cheese, of course).

Notes:
If I didn’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend I’d cry. Then I’d mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Finally I’d make a trip to Penzey’s to get more of the spice blend; it is that good.

I used a ‘4 cheese tortellini’ in this dish. Anything you like will probably work fine. Well maybe not Gorgonzola and anchovies tortellini, that might be a bit strong.

Succotash

My parents introduced me to succotash in my early 30s. My dad was trying to come up with the “perfect” recipe to take to pot luck dinners they attended. I decided to give it a try one week when I was in want of something different. I turned to the recipe in the Joy of Cooking and liked the results.

Over the years I have developed my own recipe roughly based on that recipe from Joy of Cooking. It has become the default side dish we serve with pierogies.

Recipe under the cut