Monday, December 28, 2009

Roasted Nut Crusted Fried Brie with Red Bell Pepper & Ancho Chili Jam

Roasted Nut Crusted Fried Brie is one of the easiest and tastiest hors d'œuvres - I guarantee it will be devoured at your next cocktail, dinner, New Year's Eve or Super Bowl party.  I first tasted Chef Deborah Scott's creation at Kemo Sabe.  It's also featured on the menus of Indigo Grill and Island Prime, two of her other San Diego restaurants.

Warm, gooey brie; crispy, nutty crust; sweet and spicy pepper jelly or jam.  Oh my, it's soooo good!

Fried Brie with Nut Crust
Bon Appetit, November 1999 and Epicurious


4 2-ounce wedges Brie
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup almonds
1/3 cup pecans
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whipping cream
Peanut oil (for frying)
Purchased jalapeño jelly
French-bread baguette, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (or crackers)


Freeze brie for 30 minutes.  Finely chop all nuts and sesame seeds in food processor. Transfer to medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk eggs and cream to blend. Remove cheese from freezer. Dip each wedge into egg mixture and then into nut mixture, turning to coat and pressing gently to adhere. Transfer to plate; cover with plastic and refrigerate until very cold, at least 45 minutes. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Pour enough peanut oil into heavy large skillet to reach depth of 1 1/2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat to 350°F. Working in 2 batches, fry Brie until deep golden brown, turning occasionally with metal spatula, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve with purchased jalapeño jelly and baguette slices.

Start by freezing the brie for 30 minutes

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and cream to blend

Use any combination of nuts you prefer  (I used almonds, pecans and pepitas, with sesame seeds)

Finely chop all nuts and sesame seeds in food processor. Transfer to medium bowl.

Dip brie in egg and cream mixture, then into nuts, and refrigerate until ready to fry. 
Fry brie until deep golden brown.

Serve with purchased jalapeño jelly and baguette slices or crackers.
I served ours with Red Bell Pepper and Ancho Chile Jam, and crackers.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers' December Challenge: Home for the Holidays & Gingerbread Houses

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

The December Daring Bakers' Challenge was announced just as we completed our gingerbread entry for the San Diego Epilepsy Foundation's Gingerbread City 2009. The theme for this year's competition was The Greatest Stories Ever Told.  We chose The Wizard of Oz and named our entry "Fondant the Yellow Brick Road."

I had every intention to create a smaller gingerbread structure for the Daring Bakers' Challenge.  I baked all my gingerbread pieces and started texturing the stone pattern I imprinted on the dough, with a textured fondant sheet, prior to cooking. 

At first, I did attempt Y's dough.  However, I found it very dry, difficult to roll, and prone to shrinkage.  The Daring Bakers' Challenge dough recipes and instructions can be found here.   I resorted to the recipe we used for the Epilepsy Foundation competition, which is very easy to work with, and very tasty!  Our journey down the Yellow Brick road started back in October, with this post.  Several other posts followed and you can check them out by going to the gingerbread label on my sidebar.

Here's my Daring Bakers' gingerbread inspiration photo of a beautiful, stone, Tuscan farmhouse

Ingredients for Y's dough recipe:  Flour, brown sugar, spices, baking soda and butter (plus 1/2 cup boiling water)

Mixing the dough

Wrapped and ready to rest in the refrigerator

Unfortunately, I was unable to assemble and complete my little Tuscan farmhouse, due to a case of gingerbread burnout (after spending close to two months on Fondant the Yellow Brick Road), and last-minute holiday shopping and cooking.

Therefore, although it was completed just prior to the announcement of the Daring Bakers' Challenge, I am submitting my Tin Woodsman's Cabin from our Fondant the Yellow Brick Road.

Using a template makes cutting the gingerbread pieces easy.  We made our template pieces from foam core poster board

Four walls, chimney piece and two roof pieces

Gingerbread logs, rolled and textured prior to baking

All the pieces ready to be assembled with Royal Icing "glue." I used a serrated knife to cut the logs to fit.

The chimney is covered with chocolate candy rocks

The windows are covered with edible frosting and gelatin sheets

The tin roof and window trim is made of fondant

The pine trees are made with fondant pieces, cut out with snowflake cookie cutters, textured with a rubber stamp cube with various leaf patterns, stacked and glued togethe with Royal Icing

Fondant the Yellow Brick Road, on display at the Epilepsy Foundation Holiday Gala, Grand Del Mar Resort & Spa, Del Mar, CA

After three years of gingerbread competitions, John and I are hooked on this holiday tradition.  It was a great idea for the Daring Bakers' Challenge and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we do each year.  Thank you Anna and Y!

Please visit The Daring Kitchen and the Daring Bakers' blogroll for more gingerbread houses, and inspiration for next year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Creature Comforts: Barefoot Contessa's Chicken Pot Pie

Wonderful and comforting displays of affection often greet me as I walk through the door after work...a kiss and hug from my man, a nice warm house, glass of wine already poured, and the aroma of Barefoot Contessa's Chicken Pot Pie.  Girls, it doesn't get much better than this!

John often doubles this recipe so we can freeze portions of the filling for those evenings when we want to prepare something quick and delicious.  You can make the pastry from scratch, or use frozen puff pastry or pie dough.

Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa's recipe
3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons course mustard
2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

For the pastry:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock (if using canned chicken broth, we add some chopped carrot, celery, onion, a few sprigs of thyme, and the chicken bones, to the stock and let it simmer for about an hour).  In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, heavy cream, and mustard. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, thyme and parsley. Mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

This is a homemade short crust pastry dough, with a little chopped thyme added

This one is made with frozen puff pastry, with some Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top

Especially comforting and satisfying on a cold winter night

Monday, December 21, 2009

Recreating a Favorite Restaurant Dish at Home: Not Your Momma's Lamb Meatloaf, from Urban Solace

Urban Solace, located in the heart of the North Park community of San Diego, offers New American Comfort Food. We've dined at the restaurant twice, and I absolutely love Chef Gordon's Not Your Momma's Lamb Meatloaf, made with ground lamb, figs, pine nuts, and feta cheese, drizzled with fig jus, served with sweet potato mash, and garnished with crispy onions.

During our last visit, I inquired about the recipe and was told it had been featured as one of the winners of San Diego Home & Garden Magazine's 2009 Silver Fork Awards. I immediately searched the web, located the recipe, and added it to my "must try at home and blog about" list.

Yesterday, while enjoying a crackling fire, our beautiful Christmas tree, and Bocelli playing in the background, I spent a relaxing Sunday afternoon in the kitchen recreating this dish.

The published recipe states it makes one loaf, but with close to 4 lbs. of ground lamb, and all of the other ingredients, that would be one mighty large meatloaf! I made the full recipe, and used two, regular-sized loaf pans. I guess you could cut the recipe in half if you're not feeding the neighborhood, but I think freezing the extra uncooked meatloaf would work well.

The list of ingredients seems quite long, but it really doesn't take that long to prepare (30-40 minutes) plus cooking time of 1 hour and 15 minutes. It's definitely worth the effort for the incredible and unique flavors. I love the chewiness of the figs, crunch of the pine nuts, slight kick from the cayenne, and sweetness of the jus.

Not Your Momma's Lamb Meatloaf
Chef Matt Gordon, Urban Solace, San Diego


1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1/4 cup celery, finely diced
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/4 cup sherry wine
3 3/4 lb. ground lamb
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups chopped dried black figs (soak for a few minutes and chop them wet)
1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup steak sauce (A-1 or Heinz 57)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon plain paprika
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 strips bacon for molding loaf pans

All the ingredients, with the exception of the bacon, are mixed together in a mixer bowl with the hook attachment. As you prepare the ingredients, just start adding them to the bowl.

Start by toasting 1 cup of pine nuts.

Sauté onion and celery in olive oil, until softened. Deglaze the pan with sherry or dry white wine and let reduce. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool.

Soak dried black figs (I used another splash of white wine) and then coarsely chop them. Measure 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese.

Chop the fresh herbs: Basil, mint and marjoram (I was unable to find fresh marjoram and substituted about 2 tablespoons dried)

Add Worcestershire sauce, A-1 steak sauce, and Pomegranate Molasses.

Ground Lamb

Mix all ingredients, with the exception of the bacon, in a mixer bowl with the dough hook, until combined.

Prepare the loaf pans by lining, lengthwise, with three strips of bacon

Press half of the meatloaf mixture into each pan and lay the remaining strips of bacon lengthwise over the tops of the loaves.

Invert the pans onto a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.

Remove from oven and lift off the pans. Return to the oven to brown the outsides and remove when internal temperature is 130 to 135 degrees F. Let rest about 15-20 minutes, slice, and serve.

The published recipe does not include the fig jus, which really does add nice flavor. For the jus, I sautéed a large minced shallot in a little olive oil, and then added 1/4 cup chopped figs, 1 cup red wine and 1/2 cup port. I reduced this by about half, added 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, and reduced until slightly thick. I then added a tablespoon of cold butter and strained the jus. I sautéed some sliced shallots, until crispy, for garnish on top of the mashed potatoes.

Jim (head of the table) and Melinda arrived in town and joined us for dinner. Meatloaf is one of Jim's favorites and they both loved it! Melinda, really, cooking is fun!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Daring Cooks' December Challenge: Salmon en Croûte

The 2009 Daring Cooks Challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en croûte (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en croute) from Good Food Online.

Salmon en croûte (salmon wrapped in pastry and baked) is a relatively simple, but elegant, entrée for the holiday season.  We enjoyed it twice this past week (practice makes perfect), and we may try the Beef Wellington for Christmas Eve.

Beef Wellington...beef tenderloin coated with pâté de foie gras, and duxelles, wrapped in puff pastry and baked...yes, I do believe Santa will leave me a little something extra after he relaxes on the couch, by our Christmas Tree, with a plate of Beef Wellington...

You can find the recipes for Salmon en croûte and Beef Wellington, provided for the Challenge, here.  Since the only manadatory requirement for the Challenge was to wrap the salmon, or beef tenderloin filet, in pastry (shortcrust pastry or puff pastry), I strayed and experimented a little on my own.  My version was adapted to serve two; I used a dry rub on the salmon and seared it before wrapping in the pastry; and I combined a few different recipes for my filling.

Salmon Salmon en Croûte:

Shortcrust Pastry (recipe follows)
3/4 lb. - 1 lb. fresh Salmon filet
Filling (recipe follows)
1 egg, whisked, for egg wash

Shortcrust Pastry
225g (8oz) Flour
50g (2oz) Lard
50g (2oz) Butter
½ teaspoon Salt
2 -3 Tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, combine flour and salt with a few pulses.  Add lard and butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add 2 tablespoons of ice water and pulse until dough just starts to clump together. You may need to add another tablespoon of water.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare Salmon
A 3/4 lb. piece of fresh, Atlantic Salmon is a nice portion for two

Rinse and dry salmon.  Liberally sprinkle with Pacifica Del Mar Sugar Spice Rub and gently rub all over salmon until coated on all sides.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick skillet and briefly sear salmon on both sides.  Remove salmon and set aside to cool while you prepare the Leek & Spinach filling.

Leek & Spinach Filling

1 Tablespoon Butter 
1 Leek, white and light green part, thinly sliced and rinsed well
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
4 oz. fresh Spinach
1/4 cup white wine
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauté leek in butter in a medium skillet, over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.  Add spinach and cook for another minute, until wilted.  Add wine and cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon zest and salt and pepper.

Roll out the pastry dough to about 1/8 inch thick.  Spread the Leek/Spinach filling in the middle of the pastry and place the salmon filet on top. 

Fold the long sides of the pastry over the salmon first and then fold the short sides up, completely enclosing the salmon.  Gordon Ramsay's training video, Make the Perfect Salmon en croute,  demonstrates how to wrap the salmon properly, and his turns out much prettier than mine! 

Gently turn over and place  on a lightly greased baking sheet (hiding the not-so-perfect seams).  Make 3 small slits in top of dough with knife and top with decorative cut outs, if desired.  Lightly brush with egg wash.

Bake at 400 degrees F for approximately 25 minutes.

Slice, serve and enjoy with roasted red pototoes and a glass of Pinot Noir!

Thank you, Simone, for ths special, Holiday Challenge!  Please visit The Daring Cooks blogroll for more inspiration from our members around the world.  Happy Holidays!

San Diego Bay Holiday Parade of Lights, view from Coronado Island