Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mushroom Paprikás (Paprikash)

Well hello!  Long time no see!

It has been a long time since I posted any recipes, and I do have a good reason for it.  I was ill in May and upon recovering, I was promoted to department head of Arts and Sciences at my college, which was quite a change for me.  I have been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest!  Now that things have calmed down a bit, I thought it might be time to pick up the pen and start blogging again. 

So... it is autumn and time when I crave hearty, simple and earthy foods like this dish.  Hungarian Paprikás (pronounced paprikash) is usually made with chicken, but I much prefer this vegetarian version.  I think the mushrooms have so much more flavor when slowly caramelized with onions, deglazed with brandy and are enrobed in a silky paprika sauce.

As you might imagine from the name, paprikás is all about paprika.  I like to use three kinds in this dish: Plain paprika is sweet and mildly peppery; smoked paprika is earthy and smoky; and hot paprika is spicy... really seriously spicy, so go easy with it, a little goes a long way.

3 kinds of paprika, thyme and brandy... just part of what makes this dish amazing!

I like to finish the dish with a few drops of black truffle oil, which seems really fancy, expensive and exotic, but really is not that bad.  A small bottle of white truffle oil will cost about $15.00, but since you only use about 3 drops in a dish (it is very very powerful) a small bottle lasts a very long time.  Try it, you will be amazed what it adds to a dish!
This little beauty was a stocking-stuffer from Doug.
  Excellent gift idea for the cooks on your list!

Mushroom Paprikás (Paprikash)
serves 6-8

1 /2 cup butter (or olive oil)
3 medium onions, diced
1- 1.5 lb fresh mushrooms thickly sliced
2 red bell peppers, seeded, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups water
1 cup sour cream
2 - 3 drops black truffle oil (optional)

1 lb wide egg noodles, prepared according to package directions
1/4 cup minced parsley

In a large deep skillet melt butter (or olive oil) over medium high heat.  once hot, Add onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes.

Add mushrooms and saute, until they have released their water and water has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

You'll need a deep skillet to hold all the mushrooms until they cook down...

Once the mushrooms have released their water and it has almost completely evaporated, 
the mushrooms will begin to caramelize...yum!

Add red bell peppers and garlic and cook until peppers are just tender.

Add all 3 paprikas, thyme, salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes.  Add brandy, and carefully burn off alcohol with a lit match.

Add 2 cups water and let mixture cook over medium high heat until a thick, stew like sauce is created (about 20 minutes).  Stir in sour cream and truffle oil.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over buttered egg noodles with parsley.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Strawberry Pavlova

This is what we served for dessert for Mother's Day.  Light and airy, melt-in-your-mouth pavlova with organic strawberries in balsamic vinegar and honey.  The perfect ending to any meal.

Pavlova was created in the 1920's by an Australian chef in honor of a visit by famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.  It is a meringue-based confection topped with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit.  The meringue is made with a small amount of vinegar which keeps the meringue soft like a marshmallow.

The combination of soft meringue fruit and cream is incredible.  It is incredibly light and incredibly delicious.  Best of all Pavlova has a very short shelf life and needs to be entirely consumed shortly after it is assembled or it will begin to disintegrate.  I have never had a problem with asking my guests to help finish the Pavlova, they are always happy to oblige!

Strawberry Pavlova
serves 8

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 Tsp corn starch
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp powdered sugar

3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 175F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer whip the egg whites until frothy.  With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar.  Continue to whip until a very stiff and glossy meringue is formed.

Sift cornstarch over meringue and fold in until well mixed.  Add vinegar and vanilla and fold until combined.

Trace an 8-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spread meringue into a disc on the parchment paper.

Bake for 2 hours, then turn off oven and let meringue set in oven for an additional hour.

Place meringue in an airtight container until ready to serve.

In a cold bowl combine heavy cream and powdered sugar and whip until fluffy and stiff.  Spread cream over meringue.

In a separate bowl combine berries, vinegar and honey and toss to combine.  Spoon berries over the cream.

Serve immediately.

Lemon and Artichoke Arancini

This year for mother's day we decided to make a light menu featuring some mediterranean favorites.  We served oven roasted red snapper with caponata on a bed of pancetta-flavored home-grown swiss chard , strawberry belinis and for an appetizer these beautiful little arancini.

I have to say that Italian food is probably my very favorite cuisine.  It can be rustic and yet sophisticated, light, yet hearty and always loaded with flavor.  This appetizer is the perfect example.

Arancini (little oranges) are balls of risotto that are stuffed with meat or cheese, rolled in bread crumbs and quickly fried.  They are the perfect way to use up left over risotto, though I find more times than not I end up making risotto only for the purpose of making arancini.  They are time-consuming to make and are truly a labor of love so I only make them about once a year for special occasions so I don't need to worry about the fact that they are deep fried!

You can make arancini with any kind of risotto you like, but I must admit this recipe is one of my all time favorites.  A delicate and fragrant artichoke and lemon risotto stuffed with marinated mozarella cheese.  The result is a crunchy ball of delicious risotto oozing with melted cheese.  YUM.  This is an indulgence so go ahead and enjoy in moderation!

Lemon and Artichoke Arancini
makes 12

For the Risotto:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock, brought to a simmer
2 - 15 oz. cans artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
finely grated zest of one large lemon

In a large non-stick skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add rice and toss over medium high heat to coat with oil until grains begin to turn opaque.  Add garlic and wine and stir until liquid is almost completely absorbed.

Add simmering vergetable stock, a ladle at a time to the rice, stirring constantly until mixture is almost dry before adding more stock.  Continue this process until all the stock is used and the rice is creamy and al dente.

Remove from heat.

Add artichokes, salt , pepper, butter, parmesan and lemon zest to rice and stir until mixed.  Transfer to a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and cool completely.  Can be prepared 2 days in advance and kept refrigerated.

For the Arancini :
12 small chunks of mozzarella cheese

1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 - 3 cups panko bread crumbs

Oil for deep frying

Scoop about 1/4 cup of cold risotto into the palm of your hand and flatten to a disc.

Place a piece of mozzarella cheese in the center of the rice and bring rice up around cheese, squeezing and rolling gently to encase cheese inside a ball of risotto.

Roll the ball in flour, then cover in beaten egg and lastly roll in panko bread crumbs.  Keep in an airtight container until ready to fry (can be prepared 1 day ahead and kept refrigerated).

Preheat oil to 375 F.  Fry arancini, a few at a time, until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes).  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter Menu 2013

What are you having for Easter this year?  Today is Palm Sunday, so you only have a week to prepare!  Mama Ozzy is making tried and true Easter favorites and I thought I would share a couple of them with you, perhaps as inspiration.

And as quid pro quo, please let me know if you make any of these recipes.  Did you like them?  Did you alter them? What cool things did you do in your kitchen?  I love to hear from you!

Easter Menu 2013

Shrimp Cocktail

Spiral-sliced Honey Ham

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mama Ozzy's Colcannon

Today I am making Irish comfort food.  And for me that means Colcannon.

Colcannon is very simple to make.  It's basically mashed potatoes, sauteed cabbage and bacon.  Stick to your ribs comfort food happy goodness.

How can you go wrong when a dish starts out by doing this?!

 Beautiful blanched Savoy cabbage...

 Have a bowl and be prepared to take a nap!  Which is exactly what I am doing this afternoon while Doug is watching the Carolina Tarheels [hopefully] win the 2013 ACC tournament.

Happy St. Patty's y'all!

Mama Ozzy's Colcannon

2.5 lbs russet potatoes
2.5 lbs Savoy cabbage, cored and cut into quarters
1 lb bacon
1 large onion, chopped
4 green onions
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup milk, hot
salt and pepper

Place unpeeled whole potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife (about 30 minutes).

Remove potatoes from water and add cabbage to boiling water.  Bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes.  Drain cabbage into a colander.

Fry bacon in a large skillet, and drain on paper towels, reserving bacon fat.

Add onion to bacon fat and saute until translucent.  Coarsely chop cabbage and add to skillet, cover and cook until cabbage is very tender.  Season with salt and pepper.

Peel potatoes and run them through a ricer into a large bowl. Add butter and hot milk and mix until smooth, adding more milk if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fold cabbage and reserved crumbled bacon into potatoes until well mixed.  Serve hot.

Black Pepper,Rosemary and Walnut Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day.  This morning I decided to throw together this quick soda bread for breakfast.  A soda bread doesn't use yeast for leavening, so it is one of those things you can decide to make at the last minute.  This savory bread is excellent slathered with butter and a good jam.  It is also a great accompaniment for Colcannon or any hearty Irish fare.

Black Pepper,Rosemary and Walnut Soda Bread
makes two small loaves

3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 cup melted butter
1 3/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 egg white beaten (for glaze)

Pre heat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients and mix well. In a small bowl combine melted butter, milk and vinegar.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.  DO NOT OVER MIX.

Turn sticky dough out onto lightly floured work surface, sprinkle with flour and knead 7 times.

Divide dough into two round loaves, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush with beaten egg white.  Slash top of loaves to make an "X".

Bake 45 minutes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Blarney Stones

When I was a little kid, my mother would always make these little cake/cookies for St. Patrick's day.  I highly doubt that there is anything Irish about them, but for me they became forever associated with the holiday.

These are not quite a cookie and not quite a cake.  I think they are closest to a petit four. They are cubes of spongecake frosted with butter cream, then rolled in chopped salted peanuts.  They are salty and sweet and crunchy and tender and unbelievably delicious and incredibly addictive. I don't care if they are Irish or not, they are one of my all time favorite childhood memories.

The technique of making them is a bit unusual, but trust me, it results in a really delicious end result.  Frosting the frozen cake cubes is a bit tedious, but if you can find a helper or two who is detail-oriented (like my partner Doug) then frosting them is a snap! While one person is frosting the squares, the other rolls them in chopped peanuts.

I have no earthly idea how long these beauties keep before spoiling because they never last more than a few hours before they are completely devoured! I have heard they can be kept in an airtight container in the freezer for several weeks.  Sounds true enough to me, I have no intention of finding out.

Blarney Stones
makes 2 dozen

4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup boiling water
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla

Pre heat oven to 350F.

Line the bottom of a jelly roll pan (10 x 15) with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder and cream of tartar in a bowl and mix well.

In the work bowl of a standing mixer combine eggs and sugar and beat with the whisk attachment until very light and fluffy, about 7 minutes.

With mixer running, pour the boiling water into the eggs in a slow steady stream.

Add half of the dry ingredients and slowly mix in.  Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until a batter forms. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into prepared jelly roll pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Let cake cool completely before cutting into 24 squares.  Place cakes in an airtight container and freeze for at least one hour (this makes frosting much easier).

Let the sheet cake cool before cutting into squares and freezing

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter room temperature
2 2/3 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons milk
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
24 oz salted peanuts, finely chopped

Combine butter and powdered sugar in the work bowl of a standing mixer and cream until well blended.  Add milk, vinegar and vanilla and cream until a light and smooth icing is formed.

place chopped peanuts in a shallow plate or pie pan.

Frost all sides of each square (except the bottom) with a thin coat of icing.  Gently roll frosted squares in peanuts and place on a rack to allow icing to set for 30 minutes.

Beef, Carrots and Pearl Onions in Guinness Stout with Horseradish Dumplings

It is St. Patricks day and I was looking to make something using Irish stout when I stumbled across a recipe from British food writer Diana Henry in one of my cookbooks for a beef stew with Guinness.  Perfect!  I made a few modifications to suit my personal taste and hurried into the kitchen.

The result is a rich, deep and chocolatey beef stew perfect for a cool spring evening.  I particularly love the spicy horseradish dumplings which are the perfect replacement for potatoes in this dish.

I served this with buttered savoy cabbage for a wonderfully different Irish meal!

Beef, Carrots and Pearl Onions in Guinness Stout with Horseradish Dumplings
Serves 8

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3lbs beef stew meat cut into 1-inch cubes
1  lb baby carrots
12 oz. frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup dried barley
2 cups Guinness stout
3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 325 F

In a large heavy oven-proof pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over high heat.  Add the beef, 1 lb at a  time and brown well.  Remove beef to a bowl between batches.

Add carrots and onions to pan and cook until lightly charred, about 5 minutes.  Add barley, stout, water, salt, pepper and sugar and stir until mixed.  Return beef to pan and bring just to a boil.

Cover pan with lid and transfer to oven.  Bake 2 hours. If your lid to your baking dish is not heavy and tight fitting, check after one hour to see if you need to add a little water to prevent the stew from drying out.

Drop dumplings into stew and bake, covered for 20 minutes, then remove lid and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and gently stir to mix dumplings into stew.

Serve hot with buttered savoy cabbage.

Horseradish Dumplings
1 small onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 3/4 cups dried breadcrumbs
1 egg
3 Tbsp creamed horseradish

Saute the onion in butter until tender.  In a bowl combine onion and remaining ingredients and mix until well mixed.  Form into walnut sized balls.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Late Winter Birthday Lunch Menu

We recently celebrated my dear Heidi's birthday with a lunch of family and close friends.  Heidi gave me free reign to create a menu for her lunch with her only request being "I don't want food that bites me back!" (meaning nothing too spicy!).

So knowing that Heidi adores potatoes, mushrooms, seafood, asparagus and all berries we created a menu inspired by the fusion of French, Asian and Pacific North West American cuisine.

The result was fantastic with no one cuisine overpowering the other and a truly delightful afternoon of food, fun and frivolity!

Happy Birthday Heidi!

Late Winter Birthday Lunch for 7

Signature Cocktail: Black Berry Sake-tini

Appetizer: Roasted Parsnip Vichyssoise with Mirin-Glazed Shiitake Mushrooms and a Savory Parmesan Hazelnut Lace Cookie

Entree:  Miso-Glazed Scallops with Asparagus Salad and Sesame-Ginger-Miso Dressing

Dessert: Lemon and Chai Spice Financiers with Raspberry Merlot Sorbet

Blackberry Sake-Tini

For Heidi's birthday we created a menu inspired by the flavors of the Pacific Northwest, Asia and France.  Naturally we had to have a fabulous cocktail that reflected the flavors of these three regions, and so the blackberry sake-tini was born,

These babies are delicious but be warned, they pack a punch!

Blackberry Sake-Tini

1 cup blackberries
1/4 cup sugar

1 part sake
1 part Chambord
2 Parts Absolut Grapvine Vodka (white grape, dragonfruit, papaya)
1 part fresh lime juice

Zest of two limes
1/2 cup sugar

Combine blackberries in a bowl with the sugar and microwave on high for 45 seconds until the blackberries begin to sweat.  Gently mix to create a syrup.

In a small food processor combine lime zest and sugar. Process until sugar is a pale green color.

Moisten the side of a martini glass with a wedge of lime.  Dip the glass edge onto a plate containing the lime sugar.

Place a macerated blackberry in the bottom of the glass and add 1 Tbsp of the blackberry juice.

Combine sake, chambord, vodka and lime juice over ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake until chilled.  Strain into prepared glass.

Roasted Parsnip Vichyssoise with Mirin Glazed Shiitake Mushrooms and Savory Parmesan Hazelnut Lace Cookies

It's early spring and yesterday was the first nice day we have had in a very long time.  The sun was shining and the temperatures crept into the low 60's.  Perfect weather for an outdoor luncheon for Heidi's birthday!

This time of year can be tricky when trying to choose seasonal food.  It's a little early for much of the spring produce that will explode onto the grocery stands in about a month, and there is still a bit of winter chill in the air.  So I was thinking about making a dish that straddles that winter/spring line and thought Vichyssoise!

Vichyssoise (vee- shee- swahz) is the classic leek and potato soup, often served chilled, but it is also very good served warm.  But here is the sad thing about this delicious soup.  It is made with leeks.  Now I love leeks, but they don't like me.  They give me, ...well, there is no polite way to say this, they give me gas.

So since I was playing around with the idea of French-Pacific-Northwest- Asian fusion I made up this version of vichyssoise without leeks.  I substituted half the potatoes with Parsnip, substituted the leeks with garlic, and roasted all the vegetables in the oven to bring out their natural sweetness.  The result is fantastic.  The earthy flavors of the soup paired wonderfully with the shiitake mushrooms which were quickly sauteed in butter and deglazed with sweet mirin rice wine.  And the crispy thin savory lace cookie was fantastic!

Best of all this soup was really quick and easy to prepare!

Roasted Parsnip Vichyssoise with Mirin Glazed Shiitake Mushrooms and Savory Parmesan Hazelnut Lace Cookies
serves 8

For the Soup
14 oz parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
14 oz yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
5 large cloves of garlic. peeled
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place the parsnip, potato and garlic cloves in a medium glass baking pan, season with thyme and sea salt.  Toss with olive oil and honey and bake for one hour.

Place hot roasted vegetables in a large pot and add chicken (or vegetable ) stock and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes to soften vegetables.

Puree stock and vegetables with an immersion blender.  Add cream and stir until well mixed.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve hot or cold  garnished with a spoonful of Mirin-glazed Shiitake mushrooms.

For the Mirin-glazed Shiitake mushrooms
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
12 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed caps sliced thinly
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsp Mirin (Japanese sweetened rice wine)
2-3 drops black truffle oil (optional)

Melt butter in a skillet.  Add mushrooms and saute over medium heat until caramelized (about 20 minutes).  Add salt and Mirin and cook until liquid is reduced to a glaze (about 3 minutes). Add truffle oil and toss to mix.

For the savory parmesan hazelnut lace cookies
1 1/4 cups coarsely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine cheese and hazelnuts in a large bowl and toss to combine well. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sprinkle about 1 1/2 Tbsp of the cheese nut mixture into 3-inch cookies.  Bake until cheese is melted and golden, about 5 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

These savory cookiescan be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.  Then just reheat on parchment at 350 for about 2 minutes to re-crisp.

Miso-Glazed Scallops with Asparagus Salad and Sesame-Ginger-Miso Dressing

This is the perfect entree salad.  It is substantial, yet light.  It is both fresh and verdant but also earthy and loaded with umami flavor.  The combination of scallops and asparagus is mingles beautifully with the japanese miso glaze.  YUM.

Miso is a paste made from fermented rice and soybeans.  It is then aged and comes in a variety of colors, the colors getting deeper with increasing age.  I prefer red miso which is medium in it's intensity.  You can find miso in the refrigerated section of any Asian grocery.

When making this dish, prepare the dressing and toss with baby greens, then grill the asparagus before the scallops.  The scallops will only take a few miutes.

Miso-Glazed Scallops with Asparagus Salad and Sesame-Ginger-Miso Dressing
serves 8

For the Scallops
2 lbs sea scallops
1/3 cup sake
1/3 cup mirin
1/3 cup red miso paste
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
bamboo skewers soaked in cold water

Combine sake, mirin, miso, brown sugar and soy sauce in a bowl an whisk to combine.  Place scallops in a large sealable plastic bag, add glaze and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Place two bamboo skewers side by side and slide about 5 or 6 scallops onto the skewers.  Grill over high heat until the scallops are just opaque and beginning to caramelize.  Serve hot with Asparagus salad.

For the Asparagus Salad
2 lbs Asparagus
4 quarts water
4 Tbsp salt
4 cups ice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb mixed baby greens
1 cup toasted sliced almonds

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.  Add salt and return to a boil.  Add asparagus.  and cook until the water just begins to boil again.  Immediately drain the asparagus and plunge them into a large bowl of ice water.

When asparagus are cold, drain and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Grill the asaparagus over high heat until they just begin to char.  Place hot asparagus on a bed of baby greens tosses with sesame-ginger-miso dressing.  Top with additional dressing and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Sesame Ginger Miso Dressing
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp red miso paste
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into chunks
1 large clove garlic.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Lemon and Chai Spice Financiers

Financiers.  The term literally translates to "bankers".  In this day and age the word "banker" may leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but these divine little cakes will not.

The Parisian bakery that first made these delicate little cakes was located in the financial district of Paris, and they are traditionally baked in a small rectangular loaf giving them the appearance of bars of gold (or so the story goes).  They have been a staple of the French patisserie ever since.

Financiers are delicate almond cakes made with brown butter (beurre noisette) and almond flour.  They are not too sweet and are a brilliant companion to any and all ice creams and sorbets.  Here I have added lemon zest and chai spices to add to their incredible fragrance.  They are very light, chewy on the interior and crunchy on the outside.  Best of all the batter can (and should) be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated until right before serving.  The financiers should be served warm from the oven and lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

I served these cakes as part of a Pacific-Northwest-French-Asian fusion menu and accompanied them with my raspberry-merlot sorbet. YUM.

Lemon and Chai Spice Financiers
makes 2 dozen small cakes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz.)
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pastry flour (I like White Lilly all purpose flour)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
grated zest of two lemons
5 egg whites

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Continue to cook the butter until it foams and the milk solids precipitate to the bottom of the pan and the butter is lightly browned.  Immediately remove from heat and strain the brown butter through cheesecloth into a small bowl.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

In a food processor combine powdered sugar, flour, almonds, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, pepper, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest.  Process until almonds are very finely ground.

In a large clean bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Fold in the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time, being careful not to deflate the batter.  Add half of the brown butter and fold, then fold in the remaining butter, carefully folding until batter is well combined, but not deflated.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (this can be made one day ahead of time).

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Butter and flour a mini muffin pan.  evenly distribute the chilled batter between cups.  Bake 5-10 minutes until cakes are puffed and just set.  Let cool 2 minutes before removing from pan.

Serve warm, dusted with powdered sugar and Raspberry-Merlot Sorbet.

Raspberry-Merlot Sorbet

Raspberries have a natural affinity for red wine.  There is just something synergistic about the combination.  The raspberries bring their bright exuberance and sweetness, the red wine adds depth and mystery, the combination is incredible.

This sorbet is wonderful on its own, but also pairs incredibly well with any chocolate or lemon dessert.  The red wine causes the sorbet to be soft even after it has been frozen for days, which makes it a dream for scooping, something I am always happy for when I am stealing a spoonful at 1:00am in my PJ's.

The formula for sorbet is incredibly simple.  Equal parts fruit and simple syrup.  Perfect every time.  Magic!

Raspberry-Merlot Sorbet
makes 4 cups

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
12 oz. frozen (or fresh) raspberries
1/4 cup red wine (merlot, pinot noir or port)

In a medium sauce pan combine sugar and water.  Heat over medium high heat stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Add raspberries and wine.  Puree with an immersion blender.

Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.  Chill mixture completely before freezing according to manufacturer directions of your ice cream maker.  Allow sorbet to "ripen" in the freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mama Ozzy's Chicken 'n' Waffles with Jalapeno Cranberry Schmear

Earlier this week, my daughter Emma sent me a text message at 11:00pm that read: I am craving chicken and waffles.  I had to laugh.  Since Emma lives in southern Virginia and is a two hour drive away, there's not much I could do to remedy her craving, but I completely understood it.  Chicken and Waffles is very crave-able, and even though it is a Southern tradition, it is still a little difficult to find restaurants who serve it.

I am not sure where the tradition began, some say in Georgia, others credit late night diners in Harlem.  I do know this, while it may sound strange at first, the combination of fried chicken and waffles with syrup makes for some top drawer comfort food.

We are lucky here in Durham, NC because we have a restaurant dedicated to this comfort food, Dames Chicken and Waffles.  There is almost always a line at Dames and for good reason.  At Dames they serve something called a schmear with their waffles.  A schmear is basically a compound butter flavored with jam or pralines.  While it may sound fancy, it is incredibly easy to prepare.  As the compound butter melts on your hot waffle it bathes everything with its flavor.  YUM.

So anyway, since Emma is in town for a long weekend, I decided to whip up a batch of Chicken and Waffles complete with a homemade schmear.  I like to serve the dish with some hot sauce on the side.  The spicy acidity of the hot sauce is the perfect counter to the rich buttery sweet waffles.

Mama Ozzy's Chicken 'n' Waffles with Jalapeno Cranberry Schmear
serves 6-8

Spread a hot waffle with a generous amount of the schmear, top with maple syrup and a piece of chicken.  Serve with your favorite hot sauce.

For the Chicken:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 quarts water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp dried Thyme
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika

Peanut oil for frying

In a large plastic container, combine the water, salt and molasses and stir until dissolved.  Add the chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to overnight.

Preheat deep fryer to 375 F.

In a large bowl combine the remaining  dry ingredients and whisk to combine.  remove chicken from the brine and place directly in the seasoned flour, one piece at a time, turning to completely coat.  Allow dredged chicken pieces to rest on wax paper for 15 minutes before frying (this helps form the coating).

Deep fry the chicken 3 pieces at a time until crisp and golden brown (about 5 minutes).  Place on a paper towel-lined tray and keep warm in a 200F oven while you make the waffles.

2 cups self rising flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups milk
6 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine self rising flour and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they are just forming peaks, but still liquid.

In a third bowl combine egg yolks, milk, butter and vanilla and whisk to combine.  Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.  Gently fold egg whites into batter.

Cook on a lightly greased waffle iron.

Jalapeno Cranberry Schmear
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup Jalapeno Cranberry Jelly

Combine everything in a food processor and process until smooth.
A schmear can be made with any kind of jam you prefer.  I happened to have Mama Ozzy's Jalapeno Cranberry Jelly on hand so I used that, but peach preserves, or strawberry jam would be equally delicious.  Get creative!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

King Cake

Happy Fat Tuesday! Today marks the last day of the Carnival season (which begins on Twelfth Night [January 6th; epiphany]) and continues to the beginning of lent.  In New Orleans the last day of Mardis Gras is traditionally celebrated with an obscenely rich pastry known as King Cake.  Even if you aren't in New Orleans, you can still celebrate the season by making your own.

King Cake is more of a sweet yeast bread than a cake.  In fact the yeast dough is really a rich brioche dough scented with citrus peel, nutmeg and cinnamon.  King cakes are sometimes filled and sometimes not, depending on what you prefer.  Fillings range from sweetened cream cheese to fruit pie filling to pralined pecans.  The entire cake is traditionally glazed and decorated with sugar tinted in the traditional mardi gras colors: green (faith), gold (power) and purple (justice).

The recipe I have always used comes from renowned New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse.  I think it is probably the perfect King cake.  It is moist and airy and buttery and is enrobed in a citrus glaze.  I like to add a praline filling to my variation of Emeril's excellent cake.

I know in some circles it is absolute sacrilege to make brioche dough any other way but by hand, but I have always used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer  fitted with the dough hook to perform the task with wonderful results. I'm such a renegade...

This makes a BIG cake.  I usually prepare it the day before Fat Tuesday and bring it in to work to feed my grateful hungry colleagues because I think there is nothing like seeding a little positive karma into the work environment before we enter 40 days of self-deprivation and pennance!

King Cake

1/2 cup warm water
2 packages dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
4-5 cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and very soft 2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 Tbsp water

Praline filling (recipe follows)
Citrus Glaze (recipe follows)
green, gold and purple tinted sugar

In the work bowl of a stand mixer dissolve 2 tsp sugar in 1/2 cup warm water.  Sprinkle yeast over water and allow to proof for 10 minutes until foamy.

Add 3-4 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, nutmeg, salt, orange zest, milk and egg yolks to the bowl.  Using the dough hook, mix everything together on low speed until a smooth and sticky dough is formed (about 7-8 minutes).

With the machine running, add the softened butter, 1 Tbsp at a time slowly and gently incorporating the butter into the dough.  Do not increase the speed of the mixer as this will generate too much heat and will melt the butter.  Melted butter = Disaster.  Be patient.

Once the butter in incorporated you will have a smooth and extremely sticky dough that is lightly glossy.  Sprinkle 1 cup additional flour onto a work surface and turn out the dough onto the surface.  Knead dough by hand, incorporating the additional flour into the dough until it is much less sticky, and very smooth.

Place the doughinto a large, well-buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let dough rise for 2 hours until doubled in bulk.

Ounch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Gently roll the dough into a 16 x 20 inch rectangle.  Sprinkle ground cinnamon over the dough and spread evenly with your hands.

Along one long side of the dough, about an inch from the edge, spoon the praline filling. Roll the dough up, jelly-roll style, encasing the praline filling.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment, from the dough into a large ring, gently pinching together the two ends.  Cover with a dry kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1-2 hurs until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 350F. 

Combine egg yolk and water for egg glaze and brush onto dough.  Bake for 30 minutes until a deep mahogany color. 

Brushed with egg glaze and ready for the oven...

...and fresh from the oven... let this cool for one hour before glazing!

Using parchment paper, pull cake onto a wire rack and allow to cool for 1 hour before glazing and decorating.

Praline Filling

1 cup chopped pecans
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine everythng in a bowl and mix well.


2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 Tbsp water

Combine everything in a medium sized bowl.  Spread over cooled cake.