Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daring Baker's Chocolate Valentino

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.
Chocolate Valentino
This was quite a fun challenge for me because the cake was super easy to make & it gave me another excuse to use the new ice cream maker attachment I got for the Kitchen Aid. Typically a Valentino is made in a heart-shaped pan. I don't have one so I decided to make two small cakes in my 4 1/2-inch springform pans. Half of the original recipe filled these pans perfectly. I used half bittersweet & half semisweet chocolate because we prefer a darker chocolate. I'll make this cake again, the flavor & texture are amazing!
Chocolate Valentino
For the ice cream (we could make any kind we wanted), I decided to make Raspberry Buttermilk Ice Cream because I love the flavor of raspberries with chocolate. The buttermilk makes this lower in fat than normal ice cream. It's wonderfully creamy thanks to the addition of the banana. You can substitute the raspberries for any other fruit you like. The cake was so rich that it really needed the ice cream with it.
Chocolate Valentino
Chocolate Valentino
from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan (adapted to make 1/2 the size)
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I used half bittersweet, half semisweet)
5 T of unsalted butter
3 large eggs separated, with 1 T removed from the both the whites & the yolks.

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. (In the smaller pans mine only took 20 minutes)
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Raspberry Buttermilk Ice Cream
(from The Ice Cream Bible)

1 c fresh or frozen raspberries without syrup
1 c buttermilk
2/3 c simple syrup*
1 ripe banana

Place everything in a blender or food processor & blend until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a airtight container to remove any raspberry seeds. Refrigerate until cold.

Freeze according to the directions on your ice cream maker, ours took about 20 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

*Make simple syrup by simmering 2 cups water with 1 cup white sugar for 5 minutes while stirring. Any leftover syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 months.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pomegranate Cupcakes with Chinese Five Spice Buttercream

I got it in my head I wanted to use Chinese Five Spice Powder in my cupcakes this week, not sure why as I hadn't used it in forever. I figured it would be a good flavoring for a buttercream with an unusual anise flavor. But what flavor for the cake to go with it?
Pomegranate Cupcake
My original thought was a fruit flavored cake, maybe cherry or apricot. Then on the morning I'm about to do my baking this little package shows up from POM.
Morning 57 - The perks
Well, that settled it the cupcakes would be flavored with pomegranate. I was a little worried about texture of the cake since the batter seemed a little thinner than most but it made a nice moist cupcake. The flavor is sweet & a little tart.

Pomegranate Cupcakes with Chinese Five Spice Buttercream

Pomegranate Cupcake

2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c + 2 T sugar
1 large egg yoke
1/4 c pomegranate juice
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 c plain yogurt
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/8 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/8 t salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 4 muffin tins.

Cream the butter & sugar together. Beat in the egg, pomegranate juice, vanilla, & yogurt. Mix in the flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt.

Divide between the muffin tins, filling them 2/3 full. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a rack.

Chinese Five Spice Buttercream

4 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 t Chinese Five Spice Powder
1/2 - 3/4 c powdered sugar

Beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the Five Spice Powder & 1/4 cup sugar until completely incorporated. Add another 1/4 cup of the powder & completely incorporate. Add the remaining powdered sugar as needed to reach desired consistency.

Makes 4 cupcakes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cooking A Go-Go

This past Saturday Matt and I, along with 15 other cooks, were lucky enough to get to spend the morning cooking a lunch in the kitchen of the Corner Table with the chef Scott Pampuch. This Cooking A Go-Go event was put together by the Cookin' Minnesota group & we were lucky to get two of the spots. Chef Pampuch, one of this year's James Beard nominees, is known for his farm to table philosophy & we were given pretty much free run to his fabulous walk-in.
#52 - I like good cooking
When we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted with mimosas & coffee. After a few minutes to settle in we were given the rules of working in a professional kitchen & then split into teams, egg, meat, vegetable, starch and dessert. Matt was on team starch & I was part of team dessert.
Thoughts on steadying a cutting board This is how you strip an onion
Each team was taken into the walk-in cooler by Scott to discuss their ideas for their dish based on what was seasonal & on hand. Matt's group decided on a mushroom risotto & roasted root vegetables. My team decided to make a bread pudding with apple, dried fig and golden raisins that we would top with brown butter sauce & vanilla whipped cream.
Waiting for the chef's opinion Lessons on how to cut the duck for serving
As you can imagine the kitchen was a fury of activity with 17 people cooking at once. But thanks to Scott's patience & humor all the dishes finished on time & we had an amazing lunch.
Team Egg prepares an amazing appetizer
Team Egg served us an egg crostini topped with mushrooms. I think this was my favorite dish of the day. It seems so simple but the flavor was so deep & wonderful.
Part of the feast
Team Vegetable made a cream of vegetable soup that was garnished with sautéed kale and a salad that was full of fennel, apples, olives and almonds.
Soup's on
Team Starch's mushroom risotto, made with the mushroom stems the restaurant had leftover, was also full of deep flavor & a perfect accompaniment to the meat. Unfortunately, their roasted vegetables did not cook through on time, no problem though as Scott planned on turning them into a roasted vegetable soup for that night's dinner service.
Mushroom Risotto from Team Starch
Team Meat treated us to two duck dishes. One was duck breast with a golden curry sauce. The other was duck confit on a bed of potatoes & onion. Both we fabulous!
Duck confit Risotto, Duck & Salad
As for my Team Dessert, we had a little problem with our bread pudding as it was huge & didn't cook completely evenly but we did manage to cut out enough good bits for everyone, though at that point we were all so full we almost could have skipped dessert.
Everyone digs in Everyone enjoys the fruits of their labor
We love to eat at Corner Table but getting to cook there, what a treat!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Hot Pockets

No, we haven't resorted to blogging about processed, frozen, microwaved food. But I guess you would say those were our inspiration for this dish.
We loved the flaky crispness of the puff pastry with the creamy, cheesy center. These aren't anything fancy but really some darn good comfort food. If you've got leftover cooked chicken these come together in just minutes. Matt is already listing the different fillings he wants to try; chicken curry, meatballs & sauce, & on & on. Now that I think of it, when we have leftovers from other meals like that this will be the perfect use for them. Next time we'll make at least a double batch & freezer them for when we want a hot lunch or quick dinner.

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Hot Pockets

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
3/4 c broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
1/2 T unsalted butter
1 T all-purpose flour
3/4 c half & half
2 oz white cheddar, grated
big pinch of dried mustard
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves chopped (or 1/4 t dried)
salt & pepper
1/2 c cooked chicken, chopped
1 well beaten egg

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain & set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Cook the flour while stirring for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the half & half. Cook while stirring until thick & bubbly. Turn the heat to low & whisk in the cheese. Once the cheese is melted in, stir in the mustard & thyme. Season with salt & pepper. Stir the broccoli & chicken into the sauce.

Using a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry dough out to make it into a little bigger rectangle. Cut into 4 rectangles. Brush a little beaten egg onto two sides of each triangle. Put 1/4 of the sauce into the middle of each rectangle. Fold over to make a triangle & press the edges together to seal (you may need to stretch the dough a little). Place on a baking sheet, I used a silicone pad on mine. Brush each turnover with beaten egg. Use a sharp knife to poke 2 slits in the top of each.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 F and bake another 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool a few minutes before serving as the filling will be really hot.

Makes 4 turnovers. (We each ate 2 as our dinner)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New England Clam Chowder with Thyme Crackers

I can't think of a better way to end a busy week than with a bowl of rich, creamy soup & lots of crunchy homemade crackers.
Clam Chowder & Thyme Crackers
We decided to make a classic version of clam chowder so we went to our source for so many things, Joy of Cooking. Joy has you make your own stock from fresh clams but we've changed the recipe to make it Friday night easy by using clam stock in a box & clams in a can. I don't think we lost any flavor with these shortcuts especially since Kitchen Basic stocks are so good. We both thought the soup tasted really, really good but Matt would have liked it to be a little thicker & would have added some flour in with the butter to achieve that. I, on the other hand, thought it was just creamy enough & needed no thickening at all.
#51 - Crackers
To go with the soup I made some Thyme Crackers. I used the Lavish Cracker recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice which was the Daring Bakers challenge last September. I made half a batch of the dough & added 1 T of fresh thyme to the dough as it was mixed. Once the dough was rolled out for crackers I sprinkled kosher salt on top. These crackers are really easy to make, especially if you have a mixer with a dough hook. I need to remember to make them more often we like them so much & the flavoring possibilities are endless. They were the perfect accompaniment for the chowder.

New England Clam Chowder
(adapted from Joy of Cooking)

2 strips bacon, diced
1 medium onion, peeled & chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 T fresh thyme
1 T unsalted butter
8 oz clam stock
1 large russet potato, peeled & cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 c heavy cream
6.5 oz canned clams, chopped
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper

Cook the bacon until just beginning to crisp over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, bay leaf, thyme & butter. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the clam stock & potato & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer & cook until the potato is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add cream & clams and simmer 5 more minutes. Stir in parsley and pepper to taste.

2 main course servings

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dark Chocolate & Orange Cupcakes

My idea behind these cupcakes was those chocolate oranges you see in stores especially around Christmas.
Dark Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
I went with dark chocolate because I figured its flavor would stand up better to that of the orange. I was right this flavor combination was just right without either overpowering the other. I was originally going to do a chocolate frosting when it was suggested in Twitter that I do orange & then someone else suggested cream cheese, so I went with orange cream cheese. I think that was a good choice otherwise the chocolate flavor might have been too much. Plus I like that tanginess the cream cheese adds.
Dark Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
I used a little food coloring to dye part of the frosting orange for a decoration.

Dark Chocolate & Orange Cupcakes

4 T unsalted butter
2 T unsweetened dark cocoa (I use Hershey's Special Dark)
3 T water
1/2 t orange extract
1/2 c sugar
2 T buttermilk or yogurt
2 T beaten egg
1/8 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 5-6 muffin tins.

In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Whisk in the cocoa until smooth. Whisk in water. Remove from heat & whisk in the orange extract, sugar, buttermilk & egg. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Its ok if the batter is a little lumpy.

Fill the muffin tins 1/2 - 3/4 full depending on how big you want your cupcakes (I did mine 3/4 full & they were very rounded on top.)

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 5 - 6 cupcakes.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 t orange extract
zest from one small orange
3/4 - 1 c powdered sugar

Beat the butter & cream cheese together until fluffy. Beat in the orange extract & zest. Beat in sugar 1/4 c at a time until you get the desired consistency.

Makes enough to frost 6 - 8 cupcakes

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Crockpot Shredded Beef

Its 17 degrees outside so we certainly aren't pulling out the grill to do any slow cooking right now. But we still crave the fork tender meat you get from cooking that way. Matt's answer was to grab the crockpot, throw in a beef roast & a tangy bbq sauce & let the whole thing cook all day.
Shredded Beef Sandwiches
The smell that filled our house was so incredible I couldn't help but go steal some pieces from the pot as the beef got tender. And boy did the beef ever get tender.
Shredding the Beef
We really liked the tanginess of the sauce. It reminded me quite a bit of the tang of Carolina Mop we made this summer for pork. We served the beef on sweet onion rolls & Matt said they were his grown-up sloppy joes.

Crockpot Shredded Beef

1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c bbq sauce (We use Wee Willy's. Minnesotans who know how to make bbq sauce!)
1 T red wine vinegar
6 oz beer (we used a pilsner)
1 1/4 lb boneless beef roast (we used a beef round tip roast)

Mix the dijon, bbq sauce & red wine vinegar in your crockpot. Cut the roast in half so it fills the whole bottom of the crockpot.
Put the roast into the crockpot & flip to coat both sides. Pour the beer over the top. Set crockpot to low & cook for 6 - 8 hours, until the beef pulls apart easily with a fork.
I can't resist nibbling
Remove the beef from the crockpot, leaving the sauce, & shred with a fork. Strain any fat from the top of the sauce. Mix as much sauce as you'd like into the shredded beef.

4 servings

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shrimp & Grits

Matt keeps a list next to his computer of dinner ideas which comes in handy when I'm making the weekly menu. Shrimp & grits was one of those ideas & maybe because I was down South last week it sounded good to me. Well, not only did it sound good but it ended up tasting great!
Shrimp & Grits
Neither of us had ever made made shrimp & grits before but I knew it was a favorite of my mom & dad in Memphis. So I called my mom & she said it was super easy, just cook up the grits, add shrimp, cheese & bacon & you're done. I didn't have any grits in the house but my mom said not to worry she actually just uses corn meal.

Ok, ok I know yellow corn meal is not actually the hominy grits you'd get down South but from everything I read online its certainly close enough for a couple Minnesotans like us. Really, we have no idea how close our finished dish was to the traditional at all. What we do know is that this dish had a wonderful creamy, cheesy texture, the perfect saltiness that is bacon, a little bite from the onions, sweetness from the shrimp & just a touch of heat from the cayenne. And we know we'll be making it this way again.

Shrimp & Grits (Minnesota-style)

1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1/2 c yellow onion, diced
2 c water, divided
1/2 c corn meal (I think you can use yellow or white)
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cayennne pepper
3 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
20 - 30 cooked, peeled shrimp
1 oz sharp Cheddar, grated (Use a good cheese as it really flavors the dish. We used Faribault Dairy Fini Cheddar from Faribault, MN)
2 scallions , chopped

In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onion & cook until translucent. Add 1 1/2 cups of the water & bring to a boil. Mix the corn meal with the remaining 1/2 cup water. Stir slowly into the boiling water & turn the heat to low. Stir in the salt & cayenne. Continue to stir while cooking for about 5 minutes, it should thicken to the consistency of cream of wheat.

Meanwhile in a small skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Heat the shrimp quickly until just hot in the bacon fat.

Once the corn meal has reached the desired consistency, add the cheese & stir until melted.

Plate the grits & top with the bacon & shrimp. Sprinkle with scallions.

2 servings

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Winter Vegetable Soup

Oh, did we eat badly this weekend, ok maybe not badly but big...lunch at Blackbird, cocktails at The Bank, tasting dinner at Porter & Frye, breakfast at The Bank, popcorn at the movies for lunch, dinner at The Local & finally breakfast at Hell's Kitchen. Believe me we weren't ordering salads! When we got back home Monday night I said dinner had to be light & with lots of vegetables.
Winter Vegetable Soup
The tomato paste & beet add a beautiful color as well as flavor to this soup. We had saved some gruyere rinds & decided to throw them in this soup like people do with parmesan rinds in minestrone. I think they gave off a subtle flavor but added richness. If you don't have any cheese rinds you can just leave them out.

Winter Vegetable Soup

1 T olive oil
1/2 large onion, peeled & chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled & sliced
1 potato, peeled & diced, about 1/2-inch cubes
1 large parsnip, peeled & sliced
1 large beet, peeled & diced, about 1/2-inch cubes
1 T tomato paste
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
3 c chicken or vegetable stock
rind from a piece of gruyere (optional)
2 c kale, roughly chopped or torn
1/2 c orzo

In a large soup pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions & garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, potato, parsnip, & beets. Stir for a minute or two. Add the tomato paste, thyme, oregano, marjoram & bay leaf & stir. Stir in the stock then season with salt & pepper. Throw in the cheese rind if using. Bring to a boil. Cover & reduce heat to low & let simmer 30 minutes.

Remove cheese rind. Stir in kale & orzo. Cook for 9 more minutes or until orzo is tender. Remove bay leaf.

4 servings

Monday, February 16, 2009

Weekly Menu 1/16 - 1/20 plus Porter & Frye

We had a fabulous Valentine's Day dinner this year at a relatively new restaurant in downtown Minneapolis called Porter & Frye. We knew they were serving a tasting menu but really had no idea what to expect. Oh, did we enjoy this meal. Each dish was so tasty & in someways I guess you could say whimsical. It was a meal that gave us a lot to talk about while we were eating it (not that we have any trouble coming up with things to talk about). Here's what we had (excuse the pictures as it was romantically lit in the restaurant)
Valentine's Day Dinner
Amuse Bouche - Razor Clam with Parmesan Pudding
Valentine's Day Dinner
Monte Cristo - Ham & Gruyere on Brioche with Black Truffles and Apricot Jam - This was Matt's favorite.
Valentine's Day Dinner Valentine's Day Dinner
Foie Gras Capsule filled with Passion Fruit Semi Freddo - I loved this, the saltiness of the foie gras was amazing with the passion fruit.
Valentine's Day Dinner
Smoked Scallops with Cider, Quince & King trumpet Mushroom - The smoked flavor was perfect.
Valentine's Day Dinner
Lamb Crops with Merguez Sausage, Tomato, Cilantro, Orange & Mashed Potatoes - Probably the most straight forward dish but Matt couldn't get enough of the tomato jam.
Valentine's Day Dinner
Blood Orange Ice over Coconut with White Chocolate Sauce
Valentine's Day Dinner Valentine's Day Dinner
Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Ice Cream - This was probably the least successful dish to us. I love red velvet cake & this was more like an ice cream torte with layers of praline, chocolate mousse, pink cherry flavored cake & white cake all covered in chocolate ganache. It tasted wonderful but was not red velvet or even a take on it. If it had a different name I probably would have liked it better. The chocolate martini is was served with was amazingly good.
Valentine's Day Dinner
Finally we were given a little box of treats to take home. We ate them the next morning & the chocolate was perfectly melt in your mouth.

This was a meal like none we've ever had before. I'm so glad we splurged for it & the wine pairing that went with it. We've been to a lot of good restaurants in Minneapolis but I don't believe any that are doing what Porter & Frye is with their food.

Back to the real world & Menu Planning Monday...

Vegetable Soup - After a week at my parents & then a weekend eating out I need this!

Shrimp, Grits & Bacon

BBQ Beef Sandwich - We'll be using the crockpot to cook the beef until fork tender

Clam Chowder with Homemade Crackers

Thursday we'll be eating out at The Red Stag & Saturday we'll be in an Iron Chef style cooking challenge at The Corner Table.

This week's cupcake will be Chocolate Orange.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

He Holds My Heart
We are off for an unplugged weekend in a nice hotel. See you next week with new recipes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Who needs cake?!

Just a quick post as I get ready to fly back to Minneapolis from Memphis. We had some big lobster to celebrate my mom's birthday on Wednesday.
#42 - Birthday Lobster
She said she didn't want a cake but she still needed to blow out a candle & get a wish, right?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pasta with Beets, Shrimp & Kale

A couple weeks ago I got it into my head that shrimp & beets would be good together. I thought the sweetness of the beets would compliment the shrimp really well. Matt, on the other hand, was quite skeptical but I went ahead with this dish anyway.
Pasta with Beets, Shrimp & Kale
There was a split decision on this dish at chez Good Appetite. I loved it. As I suspected the beets went perfectly with the shrimp & the tiny touch of heat from the red pepper gave it the perfect amount of zing. Matt was not wowed though & I put that down to the fact that he is not as big a fan of beets as I am.

Our dish ended up having a golden yellow color because we used golden beets. If you use red beets the end result will be pink.

Pasta with Beets, Shrimp & Kale

1/2 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
1 - 1 1/2 c golden beets, peeled & cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 c white wine
1/4 c chicken broth
2 shallots, peeled & minced
1 large kale leaf (about 2 cups), stem removed & roughly chopped
4 oz angel hair pasta
16 shrimp, peeled (I used precooked shrimp but you can also use fresh)
1/8 - 1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil & butter over high heat. Add the beets & cook until beginning to caramelize. Add the wine, broth, shallots & kale. Bring to a boil & reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the directions. Drain & return to the pot.

Remove the lid from the pot with the beets & stir in the shrimp & red pepper. Cook until the shrimp is warm if using cooked shrimp or cooked if using fresh. Season with salt. Stir this whole mixture into the pasta. Sprinkle each serving with cheese.

2 servings

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Something not food related

Some of you may know that cooking is not my only love, I also spend a good deal of my time on different crafts. I think for two years now I've been talking about opening an Etsy store & I've finally taken the plunge with The Snuggery. I hope to keep a good supply of new items coming out of my little craft room.
Right now I have some cute throw pillows available.
Gnome in the Flowers Pillow Embroidered Leaves Pillow
Plus a bunch of paper collage framed wall hangings I've been making lately.
Squirrel A Gnome for All Seasons - Winter
And one little knit gnome
#21 - Gnome Photoshoot
It's always a little nerve-wracking putting the things you made up for sale so I hope you all like them.
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