Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bacon Pancakes with Nutella and Bourbon Bananas Foster Sauce

OMG OMG OMG... we had the most amazing dinner tonight.  Emma, Mary, Doug and I are watching the returns from the Republican Michigan and Arizona primaries (as native Michiganders, both  Doug and I want to see which incredible loser our home state picks!). We are very excited.  Emma and Mary are visiting and we didn't want to cook a big meal so we decided we wanted to have "breakfast for dinner".  Not just breakfast, but fabulous breakfast...

After a brainstorming session we came up with our favorite three flavors:  Bacon, Nutella and Bananas.  And so these pancakes were born.

These are incredibly quick and easy to make and would be incredible for brunch, dessert or dinner.  The sweetness and saltiness and chocolate fuse to make an out of this world flavor party in your mouth!

Is this a healthy dish? NO.  Eat it.  It will make you believe in God (but not in that creepy Santorum way)!

Bacon Pancakes with Nutella and Bourbon Bananas Foster Sauce
Makes 10-12 pancakes
serves 4-5

Bacon Pancakes:
2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 lb bacon, fried crisp

In a large bowl combine self-rising flour and sugar, whisk to mix.  In a separate small bowl combine buttermilk, butter, vanilla and eggs.  Whisk to combine.

Combine wet and dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Pour 1/4 cup pancake batter on a non-stick griddle and sprinkle tops generously with crumbled bacon until golden. Keep warm in a 200 F oven.

Bourbon Bananas Fosters Sauce:
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
 4 bananas, peeled and sliced

In a large skillet melt butter.  Add sea salt and brown sugar and cook over high heat until brown sugar mix begins to foam.  Add bourbon and stir in.  Light with a match to flame off alcohol.  Add bananas and toss to coat.  Remove from heat.

1 small jar, Nutella Chocolate Spread

Spread pancakes generously with Nutella.  Stack two pancakes and top with Bananas Foster sauce.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Seafood Lasagne

As part of Heidi's big fun surprise birthday weekend, Emma and Rachel came into town and after an afternoon of cocktails and shopping, we had dinner and cake at the Tiki.

I whipped up this seafood lasagne the night before and kept it in the refrigerator until an hour before we were ready to eat.  This is a perfect dinner party entree.  It is luxurious and flavorful but not heavy.  It is based on an old recipe from the Silver Palate.  Since the original recipe called for clams and mussels, and Heidi doesn't care for them, I substituted lobster and extra crabmeat... simply amazing!

The trick to not overcooking the seafood in this dish is to poach the seafood briefly in the pasta water before boiling the pasta.  Then the seafood is cut into chunks and mixed with a Tomato and Tarragon cream sauce.  YUM.

Poached seafood ready for chopping...

I love to serve this with hot buttery garlic bread and a simple green salad on the side.

Seafood Lasagne
Serves 8-10

For the Seafood Filling:
16 oz. ricotta cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 10z. package chopped frozen spinach thawed, and squeezed dry.
1 egg
1 cup diced red pepper
3 scallions chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 lb lump crab meat
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine all ingredients except crab, mix together with a wooden spoon.  Gently fold in crabmeat, season with salt and pepper.

For the Seafood Sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb. scallops
1/2 lb shrimp peeled and deveined
1/2 lb lobster tail
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high.  Add onion and cook until tender.  Add fennel and tarragon and cook 30 seconds.  Deglaze skillet with sherry.  Add tomatoes and garlic.  Cok 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick.  Add cream and season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, poach the shrimp and scallops for 1 minute, remove from water and drain.  Add Lobster and cook for 4 minutes.  Remove shell from lobster.  Cut all seafood into large chunks. Add to tomato sauce and stir in fresh basil.

1 Tbsp butter
8 sheets dried lasagne
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly.
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350F

Generously butter a 9x13 rectangular lasagne pan.  Boil pasta in hot seafood poaching liquid until al dente.  Drain and rinse under cold water until cooled.

Spread 1/4 cup seafood sauce (without seafood) in bottom of prepared pan.  Cover with a layer of pasta, then spread half of the seafood filling, top with 1/2 seafood sauce.  Top with 1/2 lb sliced fresh mozzarella.  Repeat layering.  Do not put a layer of pasta on top (it becomes too dry and tough in the oven).  Sprinkle 1/2 cup parmesan cheese over top seafood sauce layer and mozarella.  Bake 30-40 minutes until bubbling.  Allow lasagne to rest 15 minutes before serving.

 Before Baking..

And bubbling hot from the oven!

Lemon, Walnut and Chocolate Torte

This weekend we had a surprise birthday party for Heidi!  Its a unique occasion because Heidi only gets a birthday every four years, since her birthday is February 29th.  This year she will be 13... finally a teenager!

The kids came into town and we had planned to surprise her by going to see the Oscar-nominated movie, The Artist. Heidi had no idea that Emma and Rachel and Mary would be there!  Unfortunately the theater pulled the film two days before the Oscars (dumb move Southoint Cinemas), so we spent the afternoon having cocktails at Maggiano's and then shopping at Nordstrom's.


Cocktails and the Duke game...

And tipsy shopping at Nordstrom's!

Afterwards we returned to the Tiki for Seafood Lasagne and some birthday cake.

After a rich meal, this is the perfect dessert.  It's not too sweet and is very light.

This is an old recipe from Williams Sonoma.  I really love the flavor of this torte, light and delicate walnut cake spread with tangy lemon curd and robed in a dark chocolate ganache.  Very unusual and very elegant.

The cake uses flour that has been cut with cornstarch.  This is an old baker's trick to keep cakes very light and delicate.

This is not a difficult recipe, but does use a lot of bowls.  It's totally worth the effort if you want something special.

Happy Birthday Heidi!

Lemon, Walnut and Chocolate Torte
Serves 8

1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp cold water

Pre heat oven to 375F.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.  Grease the sides of the pan and also the parchment paper.

Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and walnuts in a bowl and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl combine egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla.  Whisk until light and cream-colored.

In another bowl combine egg whites and water and with an electric mixer beat until frothy and light.  Slowly add remaining 1/4 cup sugar while beaters are running.  Beat until the whites form stiff peaks.

Layer the egg whites on top of the egg yolks, then sprinkle dry ingredients over top.  Gently fold ingredients together until well-combined.  Be careful not to deflate batter.  Batter should be very fluffy.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake 20-22 minutes until golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake or cake will be dry.

Let cake rest 1 minute before inverting onto a cooling rack.  Cool cake completely.

Lemon Curd:
1/3 cup sugar
grated peel of 1 lemon
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

Combine all ingredients in a glass microwave-proof bowl, whisk to combine.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Whisk to distribute heat and microwave again for 30 seconds.  Continue heating and whisking alternatively until curd thickens (about 3- 4 minutes total).  Cool curd completely in refrigerator before spreading on cake.

3/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp orange liqueur

In a small saucepan heat cream over medium high heat until the cream just begins to boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate, whisking gently until chocolate is melted and ganache is glossy.  Whisk in orange liqueur.

Split cake into two layers with a sharp knife. Spread inside with cooled lemon curd.  Stack cakes atop one another.  Place cake, flat side up, on a large wire rack over a large bowl.  Pour ganache evenly over cake, allowing excess to collect in the bowl.  Refrigerate cake until ganache is firm.  Chill ganache drippings until firm, then pipe decoratively on top of cake.  Garnish with walnut halves.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Toad in the Hole

Keeping up with our Anglophile menu in honor of the Downton Abbey marathon today, I decided to make Toad in the Hole.

I had to laugh this morning as we were eating breakfast.  Rick Santorum was on Face the Nation and I could only imagine what he would have to say about something called "toad in the hole".  It seems Senator Santorum thinks more about perverted sexual acts more than anyone else in our nation.  I can't WAIT until he is president.  Not.

Anyway, Toad in The Hole is basically Yorkshire Pudding with sausage and bacon.  Its very easy to prepare and is incredibly dramatic when it comes out of the oven.  It puffs up and rises out of the pan almost like a popover.  A delicious, sausage popover.  Sorry Senator Santorum, sausage popover isn't a euphemism for anything.

This is wonderful for brunch or even for dinner.  Serve it with some coarse grained mustard for added deliciousness!

One last thing:  Google Santorum.   LOL

Toad in the Hole
serves 4-6

5 slices bacon
1 lb pork breakfast sausage links (I used Johnsonville maple sausage)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan and reserve.  Add sausage links to pan and cook until well-browned.

Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine.  Add Milk and eggs and whisk until smooth.

Pour cooked sausages and any pan drippings into a 10x6 baking pan.  Pour egg batter over sausage and top with bacon.

This unappealing pan of glop will be transformed in the oven

Bake 30-35 minutes until puffed and golden.  Serve immediately.

Cheddar Apple Scones with Cinnamon

Yesterday Doug was working on trying to finish the cedar shingles on the Tiki rennovation project.  Things are starting to look great and we cant wait to unveil the new Tiki Lounge this summer.

Sure it's not Grantham Hall, but the Tiki Lounge is looking good!

Unfortunately Doug kind of over did it yesterday and now is flat on his back with a heating pad.  I have forbidden him to do anything but watch TV and eat (OK and maybe a couple bathroom breaks).  Luckily for us, WUNC, our local PBS station, is running an all-day marathon of Downton Abbey!  The weather today is cold and grey and rainy so I am cooking all English food today.  I have decided that today Doug has to play the role of wheelchair-bound Matthew Crawley, the semi-invalid heir to the Earl of Grantham, and the role of Mrs. Patmore, the bossy opinionated cook on Downton Abbey, will be played by Mama Ozzy.


For breakfast this morning I made "Toad in the Hole" and these cheddar apple scones.  I love the sharpness of English white cheddar paired with sweet apple chunks in a cinnamon spiced scone.  Serve the warm from the oven slathered with sweet cream butter and a mug of Earl Grey tea.  YUM!  Mrs. Patmore would be proud.

Cheddar Apple Scones with Cinnamon
makes 8 large wedge-shaped scones

2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 lb. extra sharp white cheddar, grated
3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 additional egg, beaten for egg wash
coarse granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425 F.  In bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and butter.  Pulse until butter is incorporated.  Transfer flour to a large bowl.

Add cheese and apples and toss to coat well.  Combine milk and one egg in a small bowl and mix with a fork,  Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir until just moistened.  Do not overmix.

Pat scone dough onto a greased baking sheet forming a 12-inch disc.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  With a sharp knife score into 8 wedges.

Before Baking...

Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven, cool 10 minutes before re-cutting wedges.  Serve with lots of butter!

Piping hot from the oven!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken Spaetzle Soup

Happy Valentine's day!  Unfortunately I have to work this evening, and even though I won't be here when he gets home, I still want Doug to be greeted by something that smells wonderful when he walks through the door (not that I smell particularly wonderful)... but you know what I mean.

Recently we stopped at a local bagel shop for lunch and they had a chicken spaetzle soup on the menu.  Now I LOVE spaetzle, little homemade noodles/dumplings dropped into boiling water and usually served as a side dish.  Of course I had to try it.  The soup at the bagel shop was disappointing, but had clear potential to be wonderful.  I decided then and there I would recreate it!

As with any soup, the quality of stock you use vastly affects the final product.  Luckily, I have a freezer full of homemade chicken stock just waiting to be thawed.  You can do the same!  Whenever you pick up a rotisserie chicken from the market, simply toss the carcass and any drippings in a large pot with some carrots, onion and celery, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for a couple hours.  Then let it cool, and pack it away in your freezer for days you want to make soup!  So easy, so economical and so incredibly delicious.

A word about making spaetzle.  It's a messy process.  A sticky dough must be forced through a colander with holes about the size of the diameter of a pencil.  This must be done over a pot of hot soup so the spaetzle fall directly into the hot liquid.  I find that a flexible rubber spatula is the perfect tool to push the dough through the colander.  However, if you love spaetzle as much as I do then it might be worth investing in a spaetzle maker.

Spaetzle maker (click picture to buy online)

Yes I know its a uni-tasker, but this little beauty makes life so much easier.  They are not terribly expensive and can just be tossed into the dishwasher for clean up.

Chicken Spaetzle Soup
Serves 8

4 large chicken breasts, bone in, skin on.
4 large cloves garlic
salt and pepper

4 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion diced
3 stalks celery diced
1 cup chopped carrots
1 tsp dried Thyme
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup flour
12 cups chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 cups flour
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Place chicken breasts, skin side up in a 9x 13 baking pan.  Season skin with salt and pepper.  Tuck one garlic clove under each chicken breast.  Bake for one hour until browned.  Remove chicken from oven and cool completely.  Chop cooled chicken into bite sized pieces.

In a large pot melt butter.  Add onion, celery and carrot.  Cook over medium high heat 10 minutes until vegetables are soft.  Add sage and thyme and flour and stir to coat.  Add chicken stock and stir.

Remove garlic from roasting pan, it will be very soft.  Chop roasted garlic finely and add to pot with rosemary sprigs, honey salt and pepper.  Bring soup just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Cover pot and simmer one hour.

Meanwhile prepare spaetzle.  In a large bowl combine flour, parsley and salt.  In a separate bowl combine milk and eggs.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until combined.  Return soup to a boil and place a colander with large holes (or spaetzle maker) over the pot.  Press the sticky dough through the colander or spaetzle maker allowing dough to fall into boiling soup.  Spaetzle are done when they float to surface.  Add chicken to pot and heat for 10 minutes.  Serve hot.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pork Stew with Pearl Onions and Wine

Valentines day is coming!  Usually we have to work on Valentine's day and I HATE going out to eat on this "holiday".  Restaurants are packed, service is rushed and the entire experience is just...blech.  I ALWAYS prefer to cook at home for Valentine's day, and since this a holiday about romance that means one thing: French food.

We went to see a matinee of Martin Scorcese's Oscar-nominated film Hugo today and since it takes place in Paris, through the entire film I was craving french food.  So after the movie we ran to the grocery and grabbed the ingredients to make this hearty and fragrant pork stew.  To me it is the essence of Parisian bistro food.  Simple and elegant, yet still rustic and non-pretentious.  I love to eat this stew over steamed tiny baby potatoes and with a hunk of crispy french bread slathered with butter.

This stew comes together in a couple hours and is pretty easy to make.  It's the ideal thing for you and your sweetie to prepare together on Valentine's day, then cuddle up with a bowl of stew, a glass of wine in front of a romantic foreign film (may I suggest Amelie ?) and get to the business of romance.

Pork Stew with Pearl Onions and Wine
serves 8

1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 Tbsp butter
3 lbs pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup celery, finely diced
1 lb baby carrots
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup flour
3 cups white wine
4 cups water
1 lb pearl onions, peeled (I use frozen pearl onions)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Bay leaves
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 lb baby potatoes, unpeeled, steamed
1 cup Chopped fresh parsley

In a large heavy pot brown the bacon over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon with slotted spoon, reserve.  Add 4Tbsp butter to bacon fat and melt.  Increase heat to medium high, and brown pork in three batches until well-browned. Remove pork from pan after each addition is browned and reserve.

Add  remaining 4 Tbsp butter and melt.  Add celery and carrots to pot and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until celery is soft and carrots just begin to brown.  Add flour and thyme, and stir to coat vegetables.  Add wine and water and stir until well mixed.  Return pork and bacon to pot, add onions, garlic, bay leaves, salt, sugar and black pepper.  Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and cook covered for one hour.

Immediately before serving, stir 3/4 cup chopped parsley into the stew.

Serve stew over steamed potatoes and sprinkled with additional parsley.  A hunk of crusty french bread and butter is magical with this.