05 December 2013
Potato-Leek Soup, thick and creamy, is the classic winter soup of the British Isles. A lot of people in the US (like the grocery checker who asked me what they were) have never even had leeks. Probably one of the reasons is that any time you see them mentioned anywhere, such a fuss is made about how difficult they are to clean. Well, I'm here to tell you, that's just not true.
Nobody is more concerned about cleaning their produce properly than I am, and I've discovered the easiest way to do it is to slice them up first and then wash them. Just trim off the green part and the root end. Slice the leek in half the long way. Cut each half in half the long way and slice thinly. Then put them in a salad spinner and add water, swirl them around, lift out the strainer basket, pour the dirty water out of the outer bowl; repeat. If the leeks were particularly dirty, repeat again.
If you like a perfectly smooth, really thick and creamy soup, you can puree it with an immersion blender and use half and half or cream in place of some of the milk. But I like the little chunks I get with the potato masher. And I like to add the garnish at the last minute and watch the cheese melt into the steaming soup.
(Makes six 12-ounce servings)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white part only
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 quart lower sodium chicken broth
2 pounds potatoes, chopped in 1/2-inch dice (4 cups)
2 cups milk (I use Organic Valley 2%)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dill
Garnish: coarsely shredded cheddar (about 1/2 ounce per serving) and sliced leeks
1 In 4-quart pan (I use my 5.5-quart Le Creuset French oven), saute the leek and celery in butter over low heat until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.
2 Add broth and potatoes, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
3 Using potato masher, coarsely mash potatoes. Put back over heat. Add milk and seasonings. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and garnish each bowl just as it's served (so everyone can watch the cheese melt into the soup!).
28 November 2013
Indian pudding may not win any beauty contests; but, like your mama said, looks aren't everything.
Indian pudding, so named because the settlers called the corn meal introduced to them by the native people "Indian meal," is one of the first American foods to be documented. The earliest versions likely had nothing more than cornmeal, milk and molasses. Though refinements have been made over the past four centuries, they've been pretty minor. I like to make it in honor of my ancestors who came over from England on the Mayflower.
Every time I make it, I wonder why I don't make it more often. It's so easy and so good (if not pretty). In fact, if you need another dessert today, this should be it! You probably have all the simple ingredients on hand. Just whisk it on the stovetop for a few minutes (or get one of the kids to do it), pour it into a casserole dish, pop it into the oven and forget about it for 2 hours while it bakes and fills your house with its homey aromas.
(Makes 6 servings)
3 cups milk (I use organic 2%)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/3 cup yellow corn meal
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Butter a 1.5-quart baking dish (I use a CorningWare French White 1.5-Quart Round Casserole). Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In 2-quart saucepan, heat milk just to a simmer.
2 While oven and milk are heating, whisk together salt, baking powder and spices in a small bowl and get other ingredients ready.
3 When milk is hot, gradually whisk in the corn meal. Cook at a slow bubble, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes until slightly thickened (rather like pancake batter). Remove from heat.
4 Whisk in the molasses, sugar and butter. Whisk a little of the mixture into the egg, then add it to the pot, whisking well. Pour into buttered baking dish. Bake at 275 degrees for 2 hours. Cool for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
21 November 2013
Gluten-Free Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls that are as wonderfully fluffy as gluten-free gets! A festive meal must have dinner rolls! With so many people on gluten-free diets these days, I thought I better post these rolls today. If you're not gluten-free, here's my regular Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls recipe.
If dinner's not for a couple more hours, you've still got time to make these. They are so easy and come together quickly. If you haven't already stirred up a batch of my favorite gluten-free blend, do so just as soon as you get the ingredients. Adjustments would likely have to be made to this dinner roll recipe to work with another blend.
Jean's Favorite Gluten-Free Blend: I use Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flours and starches. If you use a different brand, the package sizes might be different, in which case you would need to use a scale to duplicate this formula. In large bowl, whisk together until thoroughly combined: a 24-ounce package potato starch, a 22-ounce package sorghum flour and a 20-ounce package tapioca flour. Pour into air-tight container and store in refrigerator or freezer, depending upon how often you use it.
If you don't have a scale, I would encourage you to get one. It doesn't cost that much and it will really improve your baking. Since I got the OXO Good Grips 11-Pound Digital Scale, I think I've used it every single day for one thing or another.
Why weigh? Everybody measures flour differently. Some spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off. Some dip the measuring cup into the flour and level it off. Try it and you'll see that the weight will be different every time. I've found the most consistent measure to be what I call a packed cup. It's sort of a dip-and-sweep with the added step of pushing the flour down a bit to eliminate any big air pockets. It's pretty much 5 ounces every time for a cup of unbleached all-purpose flour. But that isn't necessarily true of all the various gluten-free flours and starches. Since the weights of a given volume can vary substantially, weighing is the most accurate way of measuring flour.
Do you need a stand mixer? Yes, you really do need a stand mixer to make gluten-free yeast doughs. Since the doughs have no gluten and are not kneaded, they need to be beaten vigorously to develop structure. I don't think it can be done adequately by hand or with a hand mixer, at least not by me!
Gluten-Free Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 packed cups (15 ounces) Jean's favorite gluten-free blend
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm (105 to 115 degrees) water
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 Start the dough about 2 hours before serving time. Put a square of parchment paper in an 8x8x2-inch square glass baking dish; grease parchment and sides of dish with 1/2 tablespoon of the softened butter. In bowl of stand mixer with flat beater attached, mix together dry ingredients for about 30 seconds.
2 Put water and 3 tablespoons butter in 2-cup glass measure. Microwave on high power until water is warm (105 to 115 degrees), about 2 minutes, depending on your microwave oven. Stir until all the butter is melted. If the liquid is too hot it will kill the yeast, so I always check it with my Thermapen instant-read thermometer.
3 Add it, along with the egg and vinegar, to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl. Mix on medium to medium-high speed for 3 1/2 minutes to develop structure in the dough. It will be a sticky dough, somewhere between a regular bread dough and a batter.
4 Using an oiled or cooking sprayed size 12 disher/scoop or 1/3 cup measure, place 9 scoops of dough in the prepared pan. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and brush the tops with it, smoothing the tops as you go. Cover loosely with a square of oiled parchment paper and let rise until doubled (I don't bother to cover the pan when I can just set it in the microwave), about 1 1/4 hours, depending on the temperature of the room. During the last 15 minutes, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Note: While perhaps not exactly "doubled" when you're talking about gluten-free dough, the rolls will have expanded to the point of filling the pan and being nearly as high as the top of the pan and looking very puffy.
5 Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until well browned. Remove from oven and, keeping rolls together, turn them out of the pan and cool on wire rack a few minutes before serving. Serve promptly--gluten-free rolls never really reheat very well; but if you have leftovers you'd like to reheat the next day, wrap them in foil and heat at 350 degrees in a preheated oven.
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14 November 2013
Why am I blogging about pot roast when everyone else is talking turkey? Because my dad would not eat turkey more than once a year and other poultry, never; it had to be beef or pork for him every day. So I'm here with an alternative, you might say.
Besides, it's autumn, when we crave the comfort of hearty dishes like this comfort food classic. When you make this satisfying one-pot meal for people, they are transported back to their childhoods when mothers and grandmothers cooked things many people now feel they haven't the time to cook themselves.
Although this recipe takes time, most of it is unattended. There are no tricky techniques, but you'll find that careful browning brings out the fullest flavor of these subtly seasoned simple ingredients.
Though I feel an organic, mostly plant-based diet is more healthful and earth-friendly, I occasionally indulge in a little carefully sourced organic meat. Yes, it is more expensive than conventional supermarket meat, but here are some ways I've found to better afford it:
- By cutting our meat consumption in half. Most Americans eat more meat than is good for them, so I figure eating the good stuff in smaller portions or less frequently is better for us anyway!
- I don't buy many "empty calorie" snacks and convenience foods, so more of the grocery budget can go toward whole ingredients.
- I try very hard not to waste food and have gradually gotten to where I actually waste very little now. After all, the higher prices for organic and grass-fed and all that has been a powerful motivator!
(Serves 6 to 8)
1 3- to 4-pound boneless chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, quartered and separated
1 1/4 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1 pound baby carrots (or 6 carrots, quartered)
6 medium unpeeled potatoes, quartered (or 8 small, halved)
(I used 16 tiny Yukon golds that averaged 2 ounces each)
4 stalks celery, cut in 2-inch diagonal pieces
Optional: Turnips, rutabagas, parsnips in place of some of the potatoes
(I used a 12-ounce rutabaga*, cut into 8 equal pieces)
* Rutabagas are called swedes in England and neeps, I'm told, in Scotland.
* Rutabagas are called swedes in England and neeps, I'm told, in Scotland.
1 Heat 5.5-quart (or larger) Dutch oven; heat oil. Pat beef dry and coat beef with 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Brown well on all sides in hot oil, taking about 15 to 25 minutes; transfer to plate. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add the onions to the pan and cook until browned, about 15 minutes. Add broth, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, and marjoram; bring to a boil. Put the meat back in the pan.
2 Cover pan with foil and lid, and simmer in preheated oven for 2 hours.
3 Stir in 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and add vegetables. Cover and return to oven for 2 hours. Discard bay leaf. Remove meat and vegetables to serving platter; cover. Thicken the sauce with a little slurry of water and flour or by just reducing it (boiling it down) to your preferred thickness.
Rocky Mountain Organic Meats Giveaway
One winner will receive a 3- to 4-pound organic grass-fed beef chuck roast from Rocky Mountain Organic Meats. All continental US residents who leave a comment (one entry per person) on this post before 11:59 pm Eastern time Wednesday November 20 will be put into a random drawing. Winner will be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday November 21.
Note: Please include your email address in the body of your comment.
If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by noon Eastern time Sunday November 23, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline).
Disclosure: The product for this post and giveaway was provided by Rocky Mountain Organic Meats. Content of my reviews is never dictated by whether I bought a product or it was provided. I only work with brands I love and can recommend. All opinions shared are my own.
07 November 2013
It's Brussels Sprouts Season, and this recipe could change your mind about Brussels sprouts! They are traditional on festive autumn and winter tables, even though so many people don't like them. Even if you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, try this recipe. When I told my husband I was making Brussels sprouts for dinner, he began groaning and begging me not to. I told him to trust me. When dinner time rolled around, that man was loving the sprouts; he even had seconds!
Raw Brussels sprouts are completely different from cooked. So if you've tried boiled, steamed, stir fried and roasted to no avail, try uncooked. Slice them very thin. If you don't have a food processor, use your sharpest knife. They're easier to slice if you cut them in half, lengthwise through the stem end, so as to have a flat surface.
If you are vegetarian or just don't eat bacon, maybe throw in a handful of toasted nuts instead. You might need to add another splash of olive oil and wine vinegar just before serving, if the sprouts have absorbed all the dressing.
Brussels Sprouts Salad
(Makes 12 servings)
4 ounces bacon, diced (I use organic uncured bacon)
1 small shallot, minced
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved through the stem end and very thinly sliced
3 or 4 medium carrots, coarsely shredded
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons country Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 In small skillet, cook diced bacon until very crisp; remove bacon with slotted spoon. Pour clear bacon drippings into small bowl, leaving the little brown specks in the skillet. Wipe out the skillet, return 1 tablespoon of the drippings to the skillet and cook the minced shallot until soft; remove from heat. Whisk in vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
2 In 3-quart bowl, combine Brussels sprouts, carrots and bacon. Pour dressing over the salad and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning, also adding more vinegar and oil if you think it needs it. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
PS: Special traditional meals also need Perfect Mashed Potatoes!