Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tranquil Thursdays...NOT so much!

John's favorite holiday is Halloween. I've never seen a grown man enjoy this time of year as much as he does. I've endured over a month of a scruffy mustache and beard he's been growing for his villain costume... he's even at the point of counting down the days until he can shave it off. I am rudely shaken out of deep sleep by the screeching sound of the vampire bat hanging outside our front door, being set off by the slightest motion. The neighborhood kids stop in front of our house nightly to admire the flying witch, plasma ball through the window, and laser making designs on the sidewalk. My favorites are the two skeletons, one perched in the bougainvillea and the other on the roof. Men will be boys.

Enjoy your Halloween weekend!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The New Doughnut Rage: Newfie Tongues!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes, including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Various doughnut incarnations are popular around the globe. Shapes include rings, balls, and flattened spheres, as well as ear shapes, twists and other forms. BEAVERTAILS® pastries, which have been referred to as a Canadian culinary icon, were my inspiration for this challenge.

According to BEAVERTAILS®, these deliciously addictive, traditional, whole-wheat pastries are stretched by hand to resemble the tail of a beaver, one of Canada’s best-known national symbols. The pastries are then float cooked on high quality canola oil and served piping hot, topped with butter and a choice of delectable flavors.

Source: Neatorama

Skating leisurely through the downtown core of Canada's capital, on Ottawa’s 7.8-km Rideau Canal Skateway, has become synonymous with enjoying BEAVERTAILS pastries.

Source:  Henry Ko, Flickr

“...BeaverTails, a...pastry served hot and sweet, most often topped with cinnamon, sugar and a squeeze of lemon: perfect for the return leg of an end-to-end canal skate.” - Sports Illustrated

Source:  Ottawa Tourism

Coronado, California just so happens to have its own winter ice skating experience, seaside at the Hotel Del Coronado. They have a coffee cart set up by the rink, but I envision There's a Newf in My Soup's rink-side doughnut cabana. I'm positive, after one season by the rink, it would become a permanent fixture year round, for the guests of the hotel, as well as the locals who walk and ride along the boardwalk in the mornings. Even the Navy boys, running by during their morning PT, would stop by for a little sugar lift!

Source:  Hotel Del Coronado

Of course, we'd have to come up with our own name and unique version of BeaverTails-style pastries. Since our Newfs have been referred to as Coronado icons, I'm thinking Newfie Tongues would be quite fitting. I know, it doesn't sound too appetizing, but eating a beaver's tail doesn't either! Stay with me here...I'm on to something big...this could be my ticket out of the law business...

Dooley, seaside at the Hotel Del Coronado, promoting Newfie Tongues 

Come to think of it, we do have connections in high places...the Mayor of Coronado reads this blog, and we've picnicked at Concert in the Park with the GM of the Hotel Del. We might be able to make this happen! Just look at these pillowy soft, fresh, warm, pastries, lightly coated in cinnamon sugar...

Newfie Tongues
Inspired by BeaverTails Pastries
Recipe adapted from various BeaverTails recipes online

1/2 cup warm water
4.5 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 envelopes)
Pinch of granulated sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2.5 cups whole wheat flour
2.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface and your hands
4 cups canola oil for frying
2 cups granulated sugar, tossed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon (reserve in a shallow bowl)

In a large bowl, stir together warm water, yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let stand until it is slightly foamy (about 5 minutes). Add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, milk, vanilla, eggs, oil and salt. Stir until smooth. Mix in about half of flour and continue stirring, with a wooden spoon, gradually adding the remaining flour until it all has been incorporated.

Flour your hands and turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky, but resist the temptation to add more flour. Transfer dough to a greased bowl and cover with a clean dish towel.

Let dough sit covered until it rises and doubles (about 45 minutes). Lightly deflate dough and pinch off a piece about the size of a golf ball. Gently form into a ball with your hand. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the small ball of dough into an oval shape, about 2 x 4 inches. Put it onto a lightly floured baking sheet and and cover it with a tea towel while you continue to do the same with remaining dough.

Heat about 4 inches of oil in a deep-fryer (375F/190C)) or Dutch oven. Before placing flattened dough into oil, gently stretch to enlarge the oval (I stretched mine to about 4 x 7 inches), to resemble a Newfie tongue. Carefully slip the dough ovals into oil (one or two at a time). Fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 30 seconds per side. Carefully remove from oil and let drain momentarily on paper towels. While still warm, toss lightly in cinnamon sugar.

This was one of my favorite Daring Bakers' Challenges thus far. You really can't beat fresh, hot doughnuts, especially if they're homemade. Thanks, Lori, for a challenge that allowed variety and creativity!

You can find the doughnut recipes provided for our challenge in the Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive, here, and you can visit some of the other Daring Bakers' blog posts via the Daring Bakers' Blogroll, here.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just in Time for Autumn and Thanksgiving! Bobby Flay's Winning Throwdown Pumpkin Pie

We were lucky enough to catch Bobby Flay at our local Williams Sonoma store during his book signing tour for Bobby Flay's Throwdown!: More Than 100 Recipes from Food Network's Ultimate Cooking Challenge. With my autographed copy in hand, I couldn't wait to get home and try one of the recipes.

During Season 7 of Throwdown, Bobby Flay challenged Michele Albano (Michele’s Pies, Norwalk, Connecticut) to a Pumpkin Pie Throwdown. The judges were James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan, and chef/co-owner of Metro Bis Restaurant, Christopher Prosperi. Bobby was victorious with his Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Crunch and Bourbon-Maple Whipped Cream.

Bobby’s strategy was to create a pie with an intensely flavored filling, using molasses, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. He wanted the filling to be luxuriously smooth and creamy, so he used extra egg yolks, heavy cream and milk, and strained it before baking. He also decided to keep it simple with canned pumpkin puree and a nontraditional graham cracker crust. To finish off the pie, he topped each slice with airy, boozed up whipped cream and crunchy cinnamon-oat streusel, providing a wonderful contrast of textures.

The cinnamon crunch calls for light muscovado sugar, and the filling calls for dark muscovado sugar. Muscovado is a type of unrefined brown sugar with a strong molasses flavor. It is slightly courser and stickier than most brown sugars, and is nutritionally richer, retaining most of the natural minerals inherent in the sugarcane juice, which also provides its rich flavor and color.

I quickly became frustrated in my quest to locate muscovado sugar at every store in San Diego. Having never tasted the difference before, I became obsessed with trying to find it. One gourmet-cooking store had a pound of light, but told me they are discontinuing it because it just doesn’t sell. Both are available through Amazon (India Tree Dark Muscovado Sugar, 1 Pound (Pack of 4); Billington's Natural Light Brown Muscovado Sugar, 16-Ounce Bags (Pack of 10)), but I wanted to make the pie over the weekend. I snapped up the remaining pound of light, and settled for using dark brown sugar in the recipe, and adding an extra tablespoon of molasses.

Nevertheless, this was one incredible pumpkin pie. I sent out an e-mail to some of our friends in the neighborhood, offering free pie, and we had 10 people stop by for a late afternoon slice!

Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Crunch and Bourbon-Maple Whipped Cream
Slightly modified from Bobby Flay's Throwdown!: More Than 100 Recipes from Food Network's Ultimate Cooking Challenge and Throwdown Pumpkin Pie

Cinnamon Crunch:
(Makes enough for 2-3 pies)

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup quick cooking rolled oats
½ cup light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, cold

Graham Cracker Crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, whisked (for brushing crust)

Pumpkin filling:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
¾ cup dark muscavado sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Bourbon-Maple Whipped Cream (for serving):

1 1/4 cups very cold heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon (to your taste)


For the Cinnamon Crunch:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, oats, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor, and pulse a few times. Add the butter and pulse until combined. Pour the mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet and pat it into a rectangle, approximately 4 x 6 inches. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Break up into small pieces and store in an airtight container.  Again, this makes enough crunch for 2-3 pies.  It would also be good sprinkled over ice cream.

For the Crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and cinnamon to a medium bowl and mix until combined. It should feel like wet sand, and just come together.

Spread the mixture evenly into a 10-inch pie plate, using your fingertips or the flat bottom of a glass. Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Brush with whisked egg.

Put the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the crust is light brown and firm to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the Filling:

Reduce the oven to 300 degrees F.

Whisk together the eggs, yolks, both sugars, and molasses in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the pumpkin puree, spices, salt, cream, milk, and vanilla seeds and continue whisking to combine. Strain the mixture through a coarse strainer into a bowl (this will provide the velvety smoothness). Whisk in the butter.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet, and pour the strained mixture into the baked shell. Bake until almost set, about 1 hour (the edges will be set and the center will be jiggle slightly when shaken). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled, if preferred.

Cut into slices, and top each with a large dollop of whipped cream and some of the cinnamon crunch.

For the Bourbon-Maple Whipped Cream:

Combine the cream, vanilla seeds, syrup and bourbon in a large chilled bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

Garnish each piece of pie with a dollop of the whipped cream and sprinkling of cinnamon crunch before serving.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spending a Rainy Evening at Home, with Tom, Making Parchment Lids and Savoring Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

Rain, rain, and more rain! Very unusual for San Diego in October, but it's always needed and makes everything so fresh and crisp.

We didn't get out for a Tranquil Thursdays photography shoot this past weekend, but we did meet Bobby Flay at his book signing of Bobby Flay's Throwdown!: More Than 100 Recipes from Food Network's Ultimate Cooking Challenge, and then we met Jimmy Webb at an intimate concert celebrating the release of his new CD, Just Across the River. Click here for the beautiful new version of The Highwayman featuring Mark Knopfler.

I'll be in the kitchen this weekend while John completes construction of the Halloween props for our party. In the meantime, for your tranquil and rainy Thursday, here's a wonderful and hearty autumn soup from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.  

Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup
from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home
Serves 6 (makes 10 cups)

8 ounces applewood-smoked slab bacon
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
¾ to 1 teaspoon Yellow Curry Powder or Madras curry powder
Kosher salt
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes
2 Sachets (1 bay leaf, 3 thyme sprigs, 10 black peppercorns, 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled - all wrapped and tied in cheesecloth)
2 cups (about 8 ounces) Spanish Pardina lentils or French de Puy lentils, small stones removed, rinsed
8 cups Chicken stock, or low sodium chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro leaves

Make a parchment lid (**see below)

Cut the bacon into lardons that are 1 inch long and ½ inch thick.

Heat the canola oil in an 8- to 10- quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon, reduce the heat to low, and render the fat for 20 to 25 minutes. The bacon should color but not crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside.

Add the carrots, leeks, onions, and curry powder to the pot and stir to coat in the bacon fat. Season with salt, reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid, and cook very slowly for 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard to the parchment lid.

Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes. Trim them and cut them into a ½-inch dice. Put the potatoes, one of the sachets, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and spread on a tray to cool; discard the sachet.

Add the lentils, second sachet, and stock to the vegetables, bring to a simmer, and simmer for the 30 to 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. (At this point, the soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 day.)

Spread the bacon in a small frying pan and crisp over medium-high heat.

Add the vinegar to taste to the soup, then add the potatoes and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup garnished with the bacon and cilantro leaves.

**Making a Parchment Lid: 

Fold a length of parchment paper in half to give you a piece larger than the pot to be covered. Place the crease to your right.  Folding away from you, fold in half again to make a crease in front of you. Fold this bottom crease up to make a narrow triangle. Continue to fold the triangle over until you have reached the opposite side of the parchment paper.

To gauge the size, place the tip over the center of the pot to be covered an mark the edges of the pot with your thumb, then cut the end off there. With a pair of scissors, cut 1/4 inch off the narrow tip of the triangle. Trim the pointed edges of the triangle to form a smooth rounded edge. Unfold the triangle. It will be a circle the size of your pot with a steam hole in the center. Put the paper lid in the pot so that it rests gently on the food you're cooking.

Friday, October 15, 2010

John's Pork Medallions in Mustard Sauce

This dish is one of John's specialties, one of his go-to recipes, and one of our favorite repeats since I've started blogging (with so many recipes to try and blog about, we seldom do repeats).

I'll never forget the first time we enjoyed this dish, during our first night at a rustic, remote cabin in Silver Gate, MT. We got off the plane in Billings, stocked up at a nearby grocery store for the week, and headed out through a terrible snow storm in a very small rental car. Hours later, safely in the cabin, with a fire roaring in the massive rock fireplace, and wine flowing freely, we made this together. Last night, my wonderful man-chef prepared it for me in the comfort of our home.

Pork Medallions with Mustard Sauce
Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking
Serves 4

2 pork tenderloins (silverskin trimmed)
1 cup flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus an additional 2 tablespoons
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 can low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup stone-ground mustard
3 tablespoons capers
Juice of half a lemon

Cut the pork tenderloins into one-inch thick medallions. Season the medallions with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.

Melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet, over medium-high heat, and allow the pan to heat up well. Add 6-8 pork medallions, but do not overcrowd the skillet (it will be necessary to sear the medallions in two or three batches). Sear the medallions, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 4-6 minutes total. Transfer the medallions to a plate and tent with foil. Repeat with remaining medallions, adding another tablespoon of oil to the pan between batches if necessary.

Add the wine, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Allow the wine to reduce by half, and then add the whipping cream, chicken broth, and mustard. Continue simmering until reduced to a sauce consistency, about 5-10 minutes. Add the capers and squeeze of lemon, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to low, return the pork medallions and any juices to the pan, turn to coat with the sauce, and allow to warm up in the sauce for a few minutes. Transfer the medallions to a serving platter and spoon the sauce over the top. As you can see, we enjoyed ours with mashed potatoes and sauteed asparagus.

Simple, comforting, and oh so good...and we didn't have to drive through this again!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chef Brian Malarkey's Screaming Shrimp N Dirty Grits

Over this past weekend, we were invited to attend The Gourmet Experience at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.  After wandering down the aisles of exhibitors and sampling a few gourmet goodies, we gravitated to the stage for Top Chef finalist Brian Malarkey's animated and entertaining cooking demonstration of his Screaming Shrimp N Dirty Grits.  Chef Brian recently opened Searsucker in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, but we have not yet stopped by to sample the New American Classic Cuisine.  

Unfortunately, we were trampled by the crowds on the way to the table where the samples were being served, and only managed to come home with a few photos.  A few days later, The Gourmet Experience posted the recipe and I couldn't wait to come home and make it myself!

Screaming Shrimp N Dirty Grits
Slightly adapted from Chef Brian Malarkey, Searsucker, San Diego (original recipe, here)
Serves 4 as a "Small Plate"

Dirty Grits:

1 cup Instant Grits
3 cups water
½ cup buttermilk
½ stick butter
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large saute pan, cook the diced bacon until slightly crispy. Transfer bacon with its grease into small bowl.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil, and add grits. Reduce heat to medium-high and whisk until the grits thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the bacon with its grease, and the remaining ingredients, and continue to whisk, intermittently, while you prepare the Screaming Shrimp, and until the grits are glorious and DIRTY GOOD!"

Screaming Shrimp:

1 pound shrimp (16/20) count) peeled, cleaned and butterflied
½ stick butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
¼ cup chopped garlic
4-6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh basil chiffonade
¼ cup lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In the same pan used to cook the bacon, and over high heat, add oil and butter. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp start to turn pink and curl slightly. Add the Cajun seasoning and garlic and continue cooking for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and basil, and the lemon juice, and saute for another 30 seconds. Turn off the heat. Spoon the grits into serving bowls and apportion the the Screaming Shrimp over the top of the grits. "Sit back and watch your friends lick their chops…"

We will be definitely be making our way downtown to Searsucker soon!