Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turkey Dumpling Stew

Well, the big day is over. I am sure we will all eat enough leftover turkey over the next few days to insure we won't touch it again until next Thanksgiving. We had a very busy day, taking family pictures and preparing for our annual holiday boutique, but it was great and we all had a good time.
My crazy brother
I think it is funny how Thanksgiving is absolutely a traditional holiday. Nobody wants to try anything new or different (around here, anyway) and nobody really likes variations on the traditional. Example: I made cornbread stuffing this year, from my grandmothers absolutely delicious recipe , and while it was perfectly wonderful, flavorful, etc, everybody said they prefer the usual. I even made it the same way that I usually do, with sausage, apples, and dried cranberries. Oh well, c'est la vie, right?
There will be plenty of other occasions where I can experiment to my heart's desire. Whether they are traditional holidays or simply gatherings between friends. I am going to have to start incorporating my sister's boyfriend into these gatherings. That boy hasn't tried anything!
I wanted to post an article about this turkey stew. I absolutely love this stew, because it is innovative, delicious, and uses my leftover turkey parts perfectly. Not only does it use leftover turkey, but it also uses other items you may have laying around: green beans, carrots, celery, onions, mixed herbs, buttermilk, and pumpkin puree. If you don't have any of these items, simply take them out and swap them if you wish.
Also, if you already threw out your turkey carcass, you can build a very flavorful base with the turkey stock recipe and the addition of chicken bouillon.

Turkey Dumpling Stew
1 leftover roasted turkey carcass, plus 3 to 4 cups shredded turkey meat
1 onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered crosswise (save the leaves for the dumplings)
1 lb carrots, (3 quartered crosswise; thinly sliced)
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs thyme

Dumpling Dough (recipe below)

4 Tbsp. butter
1 shallot bulb, minced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 to 1 cup of leftover pumpkin puree
salt and freshly ground pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
shredded cheddar cheese for serving

Make the stock: Pull the turkey carcass apart into smaller pieces, set the meat aside. Put the bones in a large, deep pot and add cold water to cover, 4 to 5 quarts. Add the onion, celery, the 3 quartered carrots and the bay leaf. Tie the parsley and thyme together with twine and add to the pot, then cover and bring to s a simmer over medium heat. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium low and cook 3 to 4 hours. Remove the bones and vegetables with a skimmer and discard, then strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer. Return the stock to the pot and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced by half, 30-40 minutes (you will have about 8 cups of stock).
About 45 minutes before serving, prepare the dumplings. Keep covered with plastic wrap while you make the stew.
3 cups flour
3/4 cup minced mixed fresh herbs and celery leaves
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk

Whisk the flour, herb mixture, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until sandy. Stir in buttermilk.
Turn out onto a floured piece of parchment paper. Pat into a 3/4-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into rough 2-inch squares with a large knife. Cover with plastic wrap.
Make the stew: Melt the butter in a large, wide pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Gradually add the stock, stirring, and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and add the pumpkin. Add the sliced carrots, cover and cook 5 minutes.
Stir in the turkey meat, lemon juice and green beans. Add the dumplings in a single layer (leave as squares or pat into rounds). Cover and simmer until the dumplings are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls; top with grated cheese.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

I absolutely love this weather! I am so glad a chill has settled in the evenings to usher in the week of Thanksgiving. Traditionally, this week, for me, is filled with baking and preparing treats and prepping food for the big day.
Also, two years ago this week our little baby was born the day after Thanksgiving, five weeks early. I love these heavy clouds, promising rain and cooler weather, which means I get to heat up the house with the oven!
I was thinking through the recipes I have posted here and one Thanksgiving Day treat is nowhere to be found, and that is pumpkin pie. I know a lot of people just use the recipe off the back of the can of pumpkin, but in case you long for something different, I wanted to include this recipe. I have had people comment that it is the best pumpkin pie they have had, and I believe it is one of the best. I can say this because it came from one of my favorite cookbooks, with a few minor alterations. The custard filling is perfect, and if you are up to making pie crust, try my recipe here. I always make the crust a day or two early, and then just mix up the filling on Tuesday or Wednesday. I never bake pies the day of, because I don't want the extra work. I am always of the mind to do what I can early, if possible.
I wouldn't use the flesh of carving pumpkins that I have cooked down, since they are not the same breed of pumpkin you would use to make a custard filling for a pie. If you can find the breed of cooking pumpkins, go right ahead, but I have yet to find anyone that even knows what I am talking about. Sugar pumpkins, custard pumpkins, and other small breeds are much better than the large, stringy pumpkins that are bred for carving and fall decor.

I will post a picture after I make mine this week.

Pumpkin Pie

1 disc pie crust (1/2 a recipe) homemade or store bought

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out pie crust and place in the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish. Prick the bottom and bake blind (with weights if necessary) for 17 minutes. Remove from oven and raise heat to 425. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven.

For the filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

1 egg, plus 1 Tablespoon water, beaten together

Stir together the sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin, cream, vanilla, and the sugar and spice mixture. Stir well.
Fill the shell with the prepare mixture and decorate the edge with leaves and/or pumpkins cut from the remaining pie crust. Bake a small sheet along side with anything you would like to put on the center, to add after the pie is fully cooked. (Otherwise it will me).
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350 and bake until the pie is set in the center 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Peanut Brittle

One thing that I would say I cannot make is candy. My mom is an excellent candy maker and she makes dozens of different types of candies, including knock-offs of popular items like twix bars, altoid mints, etc. I tried to make peanut brittle a couple of years ago. It was nasty. The first batch tasted like baking soda, and the second batch I burned.
I guess I am not very persistent when it comes to food. If I make something twice and it doesn't turn out it usually ends up on the back burner (figuratively). I may return to it later, but I usually don't keep trying. I don't like wasting food and I don't like eating things that didn't turn out so that sort of puts me in an awkward spot.
So, recently, I had a change of heart and decided to try peanut brittle again. It turned out perfect. I made another batch. This too, was perfect. I made a third batch. I burned it. Ah, well....what can you do?

This peanut brittle recipe was from my mother, who, in turn, got it from her mother. I made a few alterations (doubled the salt, reduced the peanuts, and rewrote the recipe so I could better follow it) and voila-there you have it.
Also, you can use this recipe to make any single nut brittle, or combine leftover raw nuts you have on hand to create your own mixture. Feel free to sprinkle chocolate chips on the top after the brittle has cooled for just a minute or two, and spread them around. You can top with chopped nuts or dried fruits, coconut, etc. You get the idea.

Peanut Brittle
2 cups sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups blanched raw peanuts
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Spray one large or two medium size baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large pot heat sugar, corn syrup, and water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring. Add nuts and salt and continue to cook until mixture reaches 300 degrees (hard-crack stage). This will take about 15 minutes, so be patient and keep stirring to keep the peanuts from burning. (Once it begins to brown test it in a cup of ice water until it reaches the hard-crack stage). Remove from heat and add the butter, baking soda, and vanilla, vigorously whisking while adding. Be sure to thoroughly mix.
Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet(s). After it cools, lift off of pan and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. Tightly stored brittle will keep for at least one month.

Note: for candy making, neither me nor my mom use a thermometer (gasp!) If you have a cup of ice water sitting next to the stove, and a small spoon to fish out the test results, you can have consistent results with candy. Simply drizzle a bit of the hot mixture into the ice water and fish it out as soon as it has cooled. Try it. Brittle is ready when it is brittle, or in the 'hard-crack' stage.

Pear and Cranberry Gingersnap Crumble

Today marks one week to the signal of the beginning of the Christmas season. Black Friday. Black Friday starts at midnight for some stores in my area. I, for one, have never been a fan of black Friday. I might have gone this year, with stores opening at midnight, because I can do late night shopping trips. I don't think I will ever, ever, get up at three or four in the morning to go shopping. I would get up at three or four in the morning to bake, or something along those lines, but never to shop. I am not much of a shopper. I am a 'get in there, get it, and get out of there' kind of girl. My dad, on the other hand, is a shopper. What ever shopping gene is out there he got double and I got none. It used to make me crazy. I felt like there was no sense in looking at all of said item, if a perfectly good one was sitting right in front of me.
That said, I am looking forward to the baking I will be doing next week, especially since my mom and I are hosting our annual holiday boutique starting on black Friday. I will be furnishing hungry shoppers with biscotti, scones, savory breads, pumpkin loaves, and apple turnovers. Now that gets me excited.
I wanted to share a little treat I discovered over at my new favorite blog. I have made a very few small changes in the recipe, here it is in its entirety.
I made this for a little get together we had a few weeks ago, after I read about it on her blog. I fell in love instantly, and a star was born. We had quite a bit left over, so I got to enjoy it again and again. I also had to hold the food for over an hour and it held up quite well. This is absolutley perfect for a potluck or any similar get together you have coming up over the next week, or just make one and bring it to a neighbor or friend who doesn't have family around for the holidays.
I served mine with vanilla bean ice cream, the author suggests using freshly whipped cream.

Topping1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 cup gingersnap crumbs ( about 16 storebought cookies)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon  salt
Pinch of  pepper
1/2 cup ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Filling2 pounds (about 4 to 5) large ripe pears (I used Anjou) peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cups dried sweetened cranberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Put cranberries in a bowl with 1 cup of water for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, gingersnap crumbs, ginger and salt. Stir in the melted butter until large crumbs form.
Drain the cranberries.
In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish, mix the pears, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together then toss it with the fruit mixture in the pan.
Sprinkle the gingersnap crumble over the fruit. Place in the oven and bake it for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is a shade darker and you see juices bubbling through the crumbs.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eat Here- Galletto Ristorante Modesto, CA

Last Friday night found me at a fascinating new restaurant. My husband had eaten there and immediately knew that I would love the food. He was right. I pretty much always love Italian, and this 1930s era ex-bank hit the spot. I apologize in advance. I have no pictures...silly me, I forgot my camera at home.
The restaurant was very busy, and even with our 7:45 reservation we had to wait a few to be seated. We were immediately greeted at the door by a mature host and hostess, instantly confirming for me that we were in the right place. We sat in the foyer on a lovely retro-styled couch, with accompanying chairs nearby. We were right next to the bank vault, which I have heard houses their immense wine collection.
Our cozy table for two was very close to the live pianist who entertained the diners with love songs. Elegant decor in rich, dark colors added to the wonderful ambiance, and fall decorations were tasteful and plenteous, something that I find very enjoyable.
We ordered coffee and coke. I believe the true measure of a restaurant is its coffee. And theirs was good. Although it wasn't hot. That could just be the traveling time, and the server didn't know the trick of putting boiling water in the cup before you put the coffee in to ensure that it arrives piping hot.
We ordered the carbonara, made with thick noodles in a cream sauce with crispy pancetta and a poached egg, and the gnocci with rock shrimp and chilies in a butter cream sauce. The carbonara was wonderful, but the gnocci was the best I have tasted. It was perfectly tender. The sauce was also delicious. Simple ingredients but together they were a masterpiece.
I would have sent my regards to the chef, but our waiter was far too busy with his other tables. My coffee sat empty for quite some time, as did my husbands drink. My only complaint, besides the inattentiveness of our waiter was that our bread arrived just before our dessert. Being absolutely starved I was a bit irritable when no bread arrived.
I ordered the tiramisu for dessert, again no refill on my coffee to go with my dessert, but I guess there were other patrons on this busy night. I suspect the tiramisu was previously frozen, but it was still delicious.
Overall, I can't wait to go back. I want to try a few of the other dishes on the menu, and I suspect they change seasonally, like the pumpkin ravioli with brown butter, sage, and shaved Parmesan. I will probably take my dad there for his birthday this week and hopefully we will get to try out a different waiter.

Galletto Ristorante 
1101 J Street, Modesto, CA 95354-0805
(209) 523-4500

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beef Burgundy, Beef Bourguignonne

I have a confession to make. A very long time ago (ok...maybe it wasn't that long ago) I was reading a cookbook, and I came across a word I didn't know. Mirepoix. I had just learned that haricots verts were fancy french green beans, so, after some careful deductions, I decided mirepoix must be a fancy pea. I thought that for quite some time. Several months probably. I am just glad I wasn't talking to someone who knew the truth. You know, one of those French chef's I know....
Just a random FYI. Mirepoix is a combination of carrots, celery, and onions, for those of you who don't know. What is usually found as the base of stock or soup. Good to know...right?

This recipe is great. Just perfect. It is a delicious stew that is just perfect for these cool days when its nice to have something bubbling away in the oven to keep the house warm. I love serving it with steamed potatoes and fresh bread. If you do not have or do not like mushrooms, just leave them out. I also frequently skip the pearl onions, traditional though they may be.
Happy Fall!

4 Bacon slices, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lbs boneless stew meat
8 oz cremini or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups red wine, such as burgundy (or use beef broth)
3 cups beef broth
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
fresh rosemary sprig (4 inches long)
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
5 carrots, cut into quarters, then halved
1 cup fresh pearl onion, peeled, or frozen petite whole onions, thawed
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnishing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Fry the bacon in an ovenproof heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until lightly browned and slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pot.
Set the pot over high heat. Add the meat and cook until browned on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms, onion, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the wine, broth, tomato paste, rosemary, bay leaf, brown sugar, and bacon. Add salt to taste. Stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pot from the oven and add the carrots and pearl onions. Bake, uncovered, until the carrots and meat are tender, about 30 minutes more. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy 100th! Macaroni and Cheese

Well, here it is. Post number 100. I have been thinking long and hard about what I should write about, and I have to say I am a bit nervous. I knew more than a week ago what I wanted to write about, but I vacillated. As I often do. When I write posts for my food blog, I sort of feel like they need to be completely my recipe, or at least that I have changed something. But in reality, there really are not a lot of new recipes. I mean, occasionally someone comes up with something that is really fun, it uses some unique spices and ingredients and it is really fun to make, but is that what you go back to again and again? I find that simple recipes are the ones that I return to. I like those things that I can make with the ingredients on hand, not those that need special ingredients and/or do not seem worth the extra effort.
But, that said, I still enjoy those tantalizing foods that are traditional works of art. Souffles, homemade flour tortillas, cookies, tarts, pies, etc. And macaroni and cheese. I really like real, homemade mac and cheese. Its traditional, its classic, its comfort. It is made with bechamel. It is so easy to make, yet it is so satisfying. It is also very easy to make your own. For this recipe I used aged white cheddar, but you could easily use Gruyere, or yellow cheddar, a mixture of cheeses, whatever you want. Also, bacon, tomatoes, canned chilies, spices, leftover grilled chicken or ground beef turn this into a main course. If you don't have seasoned bread crumbs, used crushed croutons, saltines or ritz crackers.
So, when you are not sure what to make, take some cavatelli or elbow macaroni, make some cheesy sauce and enjoy.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups milk
4 Tablespoons bacon grease or butter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 lb grated cheese (sharp cheddar or Gruyere cheese)
1 lb elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs

Makes 6 servings

Preheat the oven to 400. Butter a 9x13 in baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While you are waiting, make the bechamel.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Do not let the milk boil or develop a skin. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the bacon grease or butter. Add the flour and stir well until the mixture is pale and ivory, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle the warm milk in to the flour mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in the salt and pepper. Return the pan to medium heat and cook stirring constantly until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste the sauce and be sure there is no trace of flour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add nutmeg and about 3/4 of the cheese. Stir until melted.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook noodles for 6-8 minutes, until slightly undercooked. Drain and return to the warm pot. Add the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bread crumbs. Bake until bubbling around the edges, about 30 minutes.

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