Friday, December 31, 2010

ffwd - spiced butter-glazed carrots

I actually like carrots. In fact, they are one of my favorite non-green vegetables. Still, when this was first on the menu for December, I didn't get that excited about them. I ended up leaving this recipe for last - just worked out that way. I'm glad it did though! Because I made these last night when I was already wanting something simple and really yummy - but no more fuss, no more fancy. That was so last week!

what a simple list of ingredients: butter, onion, ginger, garlic, cardamom seeds, salt & white pepper,
carrots and chicken broth
finally - and opportunity to use my mortar and pestle!

with butter melting, ingredients into the pan for a quick saute

adding the carrots to get their coating of butter

then the chicken broth - this is where I started wondering...
is this going to work????

once they've simmered, though, the heat gets turned up, so the sauce
thickens, and makes a beautiful glaze
I have to say, these are very more-ish. I couldn't stop eating them. Would I have liked a little fresh rosemary or thyme in place of the cardamom? Yes. Would maybe some other herb or spice been nice? Sure. But these were really good carrots. The depth of flavor from the ingredients and the cooking technique made them more than the sum of their parts. This was such an easy, good recipe, that I think I might be hard-pressed to make carrots as a side dish any other way. And I think it could easily become something that I would serve more often. I thought they were great!

Friday, December 24, 2010

ffwd - my go-to beef daube

I made this for my Dad's 80th birthday (eve). My Mom, Dad and I had a nice, cozy evening before the next day's big festivities. Jillian's last Christmas Ballet, and then a Birthday Party with friends and family. So we needed something easy, but delicious and filling. It was a good kind of thing, when you want to be able to start something, and then not really mess with it.

Last year, I made Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon. It has many of the same techniques (though fussier), but here's the one that I tend to think about - dry the meat before you fry it! Which is excellent advice - but my mind wanders to - what did all of those French people do before there were paper towels? If you've ever seen an early video of Julia Child on TV, she'd practically use an entire roll when making a recipe!! So before paper - who did all of that laundry??? Certainly country cooks wouldn't want to do all of that! I will likely probably never know, but it makes me wonder - all of these old French techniques that I wouldn't dream of if I had to wash all of those towels (by hand!).

ingredients... I had never used parsnips before, so that was something fun and new
I also hadn't had brandy or cognac in a stew...

mmmm.... bacon frying
the first of about 4 sessions of browning the meat

nicely browned beef, nicely crisped bacon
my vegetables with their turn in the oil
I love using the halved heads of garlic - yum!
my stew ready for the oven
I started fearing for it, since the pot was so full - but no worries, it wasn't a problem
our finished dish
served simply with some crusty French rolls
I think that some mashed potatoes would have been nice, too
 This was a big hit. I have to admit, this kind of thing isn't my favorite, though I know that this was good. My folks actually liked it better than the Boeuf Bourguignon. I wished that I'd kept some of my leftovers (I sent some home with my folks, and over to my brother's since they were having a big weekend, and could use a meal that didn't involve anything other than heating something up) after reading how so many people enjoyed it more the next day. Oh well. Next time!

Friday, December 17, 2010

ffwd - speculoos!

I had a big cooking weekend last week! I made the speculoos, since I wanted some cookies to take to work, plus I had houseguests. So it was fun to try out this recipe, along with others, including another Dorie recipe (for my next post!). We'll stick to cookies for here. I was grateful for some other ffwd posts, so that I got some good ideas for rolling these out and handling the dough. Thanks!!

I'm posting this a little late because today's been a "cookie day" too. My niece Jillian arrived at 8:30 to start (she wanted to come at 7:00, but it's my day off!! nooooo!). We made dozens and dozens of cookies - some she took home as samples, but we've learned over the years that between my brother, sister-in-law and the two girls (and their friends), it's a better bet if I'm the keeper of the cookies!! They'll get more for Christmas Eve, plus I have to take some up north for Grandma & Grandpa (and the rest when they come up). It seems to work out. We tried some new cookies (red velvet shortbread dipped in white chocolate, and some oreo balls in chocolate - a theme going), as well as old favorites. So it was a lot of fun!!

On to Speculoos. I really liked these cookies a lot. A bit easier than I expected, and quite tasty. I do want to try them again and use a filling (I think I read about Nutella and Dulce de Leche... mmm). But here we go!

simple ingredients, including some of my favorite flavors

dry ingredients - look at those spices!
I took someone's advice and rolled the dough between sheets of parchment - it allowed it to be super thin
this is after the dough's frozen for a bit

because of the parchment and freezing, the cut-outs were a breeze
as long as I worked quickly
I decided that since everyone said they smelled like Christmas, I thought, why just make circles?
though they looked beautiful, who knows, these might be the only ones I cut out this year!!
I also read where people had difficulty with detailed shapes, but I found that with the frozen dough, they came out ok
I realize that not everyone would think a sheep was a "Christmas" shape, but for me - well, yes!

finished cookies... I think they look pretty cute! oh, see the little Westie in the corner...
 The reason I was baking cookies was that I had a group of co-workers (and friends!) from Puerto Rico coming for the week to my office to do some training - so I wanted to make sure that they were welcomed "properly". Of course, all people that love food and cooking, eventually end up talking about food. After the last time they were all here, they gifted me with a couple of Puerto Rican cookbooks. I've made some recipes already, but thought it would be fun to have some cookies out of one of the books to go along with the Speculoos. So I found a recipe for "Tasty Cookies"  or Mantecaditos. I might translate them as shortbread. Well, they were wonderful!! I kept a plate to share with my family (my Dad's 80th birthday!) on Sunday, and then brought the other plate to work. Needless to say, they were all gone quickly!!! (I see a trend here). Both definitely things I'll make again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

ffwd - leek and potato soup

For those of you who have been wondering... leek & potato, or potato & leek... well, correctly, Dorie's is called leek and potato, because all of us who have made it realize - there are a lot of leeks in there! But leeks are wonderful, so that's all good. I didn't look up Julia Child's recipe from MTOFC until just now, though I've made it before. She also calls it leek and potato - though to be fair, in French, it's Potage Parmentier which (as we learned when we made our hachis) really refers to potatoes. Of course, all of this is purely academic. As I mentioned last week, (almost) every year, my mom & I host a wreath-making party. She typically supplies the brains and creativity, and I supply the sustenance. It seems to work out, since as this year, we even had a friend's friend join us from the UK! It's a wonderful kick-off for the holidays, and is a no-stress, no-pressure day, that results in a lot of laughs, catching up, and something beautiful to take home!!

But I digress. I served the sweet & spicy nuts as a starter (yum!). And since I normally serve soup - I chose our leek & potato soup from our list of December recipes with french fridays with dorie. I decided to make it "hot and smooth" because that makes it easy to serve in mugs - quite handy. As I compare to Julia's recipe: no herbs, both leeks and onions (and many more leeks), no milk or broth (I suspect water is more classic). For those of you who either saw the movie or read the book, it's true that Potage Parmentier is the first recipe in MTOFC, and it was also the first one that I made after picking it up again. Interesting to see how both versions are done - and food for thought... and tinkering!

ingredients ready to go
I was happy that I still had some fresh thyme from the garden and sage
oh, and yes, I made a double-batch

couldn't decide whether to keep this picture or not - it's hard to see, but those are the little "germs:
that Dorie likes to remove from garlic
I suspect I'm more peasantish because I'm not sure I am able to distinguish, but sometimes
I still go ahead with it, since I'm "supposed to"

a lotta leeks!! (these were nice, totally clean, and quite white, so - perfect!)
I have to say, that looks really great - all ready for a nice simmer

now for the "smooth" part
I love using a hand-blender, it's so much easier (and let's face it, less dangerous!)
than transfering to a blender
since it could be chunky or smooth, I didn't think it would matter too much
I might try chunky next time

ready to serve
(oh, those are gluten-free cheese "puffs"? - they were a big hit)

yes, lunch break!
a little soup, a little bread, a little wine... what more can you ask for??

This was really good. Nice, simple, comforting. I think I will change it up a bit next time - maybe somewhere in between. But I get the impression that this is one of those recipes that is a great starting point too. So this was fun to make, and a terrific reminder that I should break this out again. Dorie had a couple of great suggestions... and I've seen others as well (croutons, bacon, spinach swirled in at the last...). Now I'm sorry I don't have any leftovers!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

ffwd - sweet and spicy nuts

I've been making different versions of spiced nuts for years - a tradition I picked up from my parents who had been making them starting some 25 years ago. My most recent favorites (though not everyone's - but, hey, I'm the one making them!) are a honey & fresh rosemary combination, that also have that "pinch of cayenne" that most of my favorite mixtures have. This is one of those things that I also love to package up as a little gift, particularly at Christmas - so I was excited when I first saw the recipe, and even more so when I saw the voting totals add up! Plus, it's a pretty do-able kind of recipe for a busy season.

I like to make batches of mixed nuts - it seems everyone has their favorite type, and it all works out in the end. I was originally going to make a single recipe, but one thing led to another...

my ingredients, ready to start
I wanted to use sea salt, and my favorite cinnamon - Penzey's Vietnamese
also used their chili powder, it's pretty good - I usually make my own spice blends, but this one is nice
almonds, pecans, walnuts and cashews

sugar, salt and spices ready to blend

after the egg whites cover the nuts, on goes the sugar & spice
before baking

and after...
I can't wait for these to cool off so that I can try some
the smell was amazing as they cooked for their half-hour

These turned out great!! I loved the combination of flavors. The spices come through, but also the flavor of the nuts - and I really like the texture! I'm going to be serving these to my friends tomorrow, who are coming over to make wreaths for the holiday, so this should be a nice treat. Since I always serve soup and bread at this party - I'm going to make Dorie's leek and potato soup (probably hot & smooth). Hopefully they'll like the latest Dorie recipes!