Thursday, October 30, 2014

Choconanatini - a chocolate and banana rum cocktail

A while ago, my friends at Blue Chair Bay Rum sent me a recipe for a cocktail that sounded interesting. The more I thought about it, though, the more I wanted to change things.

The cocktail was created for National Peanut Butter Month and included banana rum, coconut rum, vanilla ice cream, and peanut butter.

Okay, so I'm not a huge coconut fan, so that went straight out the window. The more I thought about the vanilla ice cream, the more I thought that I wanted something a little lighter. And maybe not quite as cold. So, I didn't get rid of dairy entirely, but I changed the ice cream to milk.

So that left me with banana rum and peanut butter from the original recipe. Okay, we can agree that peanut butter and banana is a classic. But it's not my classic. It's ... okay ... but ... well ...

How about chocolate?

So I dumped the peanut butter and added chocolate. So much for peanut butter month.

On the other hand, this is a killer cocktail. If you want something richer, sure, go ahead and use vanilla ice cream or heavy cream or half-and-half. But if you don't want to get quite that full, you might want to use milk.


1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 ounce Blue Chair Bay banana rum
4 ounces milk

Combine all the ingredients. Stir and serve.

If you want a colder cocktail, you can pour this into a shaker with ice, then shake and serve.

Interested in the original cocktail? 
Here you go:


1 1/2 oz. Blue Chair Bay Banana Rum
1 oz. Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum
1 cup vanilla ice cream
1 tsp. peanut butter

Blend in a blender and serve in tall glass. Garnish with whipped cream and a cherry.

Blue Chair Bay Rum has provided me with rum in the past; they did not provide it for this post - I just thought it would be fun.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cheddar Potato Leek Soup

This soup really doesn't need a story. It's potato-leek soup with a good helping of cheddar cheese. It's rib-sticking good.

Warning: I tend to like hearty soups. The joke used to be that if a spoon didn't stand straight up in the bowl on its own, then I needed to add noodles.

This soup isn't thick enough to hold a spoon up, but it's definitely not a broth. If you prefer a thinner soup, feel free to add more stock, milk, or water, to thin it to your desired consistency. Then taste for seasoning, because when you water it down, you might find that you need a bit more flavoring.

When you refrigerate the leftovers, they'll thicken considerably, but it will loosen as it warms up.

If you've never worked with leeks before, be warned. They can have grit and dirt between the layers, and much further down that you'd expect. You can cut them in half lengthwise and rinse between the layers, or you can slice them then wash the slices as you would spinach or lettuce, to remove the dirt.

Cheddar Potato Leek Soup

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 leeks, white and tender green, well cleaned and sliced
2 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons bacon fat (optional)
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, shredded or cut into small pieces

Put the potatoes, leeks, chicken stock, and bacon fat (if using) into a heavy-bottomed large saucepan. If the liquid doesn't cover the potatoes, add water, just to cover the potatoes.

If you're using a low-sodium chicken broth, add 1 teaspoon of salt now. Otherwise, wait to season until later. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the potatoes are falling-apart tender.

Add the milk and use a stick blender to puree the mixture. Add the pepper.

Add the cheese, a small hand full at a time, stirring to melt it into the soup. Add more cheese as the previous addition is just about melted.

When all the cheese is added, decide if you like the thickness, and add more liquid, if desired. You can add milk, stock or water.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper, if desired.

Serve hot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Mousseline ~~ Recipe from The Baking Bible

You want to make these cupcakes. Trust me, you do!
For more information about Rose Levy Berembaum's new cookbook The Baking Bible, see THIS POST.

This recipe is directly from the cookbook, used with permission. All rights reserved.


White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Mousseline

I've been a fan of Rose Levy Berenbaum's books for quite a while. I have quite a few of them, and I was looking forward to the release of her new book, The Baking Bible. So when I was offered an early release copy of the book, I was pretty excited.

AND!!! I have goodies to give away! Check the end of this post!

Not only did I get a book, I also got one of Rose's products to use - a collapsible silicone bowl from Harold Import Company. Sweet!

The recipe I made from the book was the White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Mousseline.

I love cupcakes because they're easy single servings, and if I want to give some away, it's a neater presentation to give someone a few cupcakes than to give them a few slices of cake.

And of course cupcakes are better for quality control. If you cut a slice out of a cake, it's obvious. But if you eat one (or, um ...two) out of a whole herd of cupcakes, no one ever knows.

I'll admit that my cupcakes weren't as picture-perfect as I hoped for, but that's common up here at high altitude. Not everything works perfectly on the first try - or even the second.

As usual, the cupcakes wanted to rise and spread rather than rise and stay, so the best tip I can give you if you're at high altitude is to fill the cupcakes a little less full. The recipe is supposed to make 16 cupcakes, but I got the best result when I made 22 cupcakes.

They weren't tall and domed, but they weren't sunken, either, which is often the case up here. So I'll count that as a win.

The cupcakes were really good and the texture was pretty amazing. Up here, cakes tend to grow large holes and be a little coarse-textured, but these were very fine-textured, and soft and fluffy, and pretty darned good.

I plan on tweaking the recipe a bit to get them to behave perfectly at high altitude. But I'd make them just like this again, no problem.

But let's talk about this mousseline.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The recipe looked pretty complicated. Several steps, including a raspberry sauce that needed to be made ahead of time. And a meringue. And some beaten butter. And the need for checking temperatures to make sure everything is correct.

It sounded like a lot of work, but really it wasn't that bad when I followed the recipe step by step. None of it was really complicated, and it was very well explained.

And it was totally worth it. Totally!

I'm not usually a fan of frosting. Most of them are too sweet for me. Some buttercreams are okay, and I like a good cream cheese frosting when it's appropriate. But I'm the person who usually peels the excess frosting off of a cake and sets it aside.

But this frosting was amazing! It was a little bit tart from the raspberry sauce, and a little bit sweet. It was fluffy and buttery and smooth and creamy and perfectly delightful.

I, the person who doesn't really care for frosting, might have sucked the last dollop of frosting out of the piping bag when I was all done decorating the cupcakes. It really was that good. And I might have scraped the last little bits out of the bowl, too. But I'm not admitting anything. Nope.

Speaking of raspberry sauce, the recipe makes a bit more sauce than you need, but it's pretty great stuff all on its own. It would be great on top of ice cream or pancakes or mixed into a cocktail or lemonade or a smoothie. Or brushed onto chicken or pork. So many uses.

Mousseline is apparently another name for Italian Buttercream. I suggest you try it whenever you have a chance. Together, the cupcakes and frosting were a perfect combination. Way good.

The recipe is quite long, so I've created a separate post for it right here.

One thing I really like about this book is that the recipes include both weights and volume measures. While the weight-to-volume conversion for things like water or granulated sugar are pretty precise, flour weights vary a lot depending on how loose or packed the flour is in the measuring cup.

So, it's nice to have weights for flour, and convenient to have it for other things.

This book isn't a lightweight - it's over 500 pages, with lots of recipes to ogle over and to bake. I've got a whole lot of them bookmarked and I've seen the results of some of them on other blogs. If you're looking for a baking book, this one covers everything from bread to cake to pastry, along with frostings, fillings, and other goodies. Check it out when you have a chance.

I received a copy of the book at no cost to me.

Want to see more recipes from this book? Check out these blog posts!

Turtle Pie from Mad Rantings of Andrew's Mom
Sour Cherry Pie from Cindy's Writings and Recipes
The Ischler (cookies) from Foodhunter's Guide

Monday, October 27, 2014

Unbury the undead ... it's all about chocolate cutout cookies!

The great thing about decorating Halloween foods is that it's perfectly fine to be a little messy. If you're decorating angels and elves for Christmas, you want them to look pretty.

But it doesn't matter if your Halloween ghosts and gremlins are a little lop-sided.

I had a lot of fun assembling these coffin cookies. Since I didn't want bright white "mortar" holding the coffins together, I tinted the royal icing with food coloring (and a little bit of cocoa, too) for the portion I used to build the coffins. For the hands, I left some of the icing plain white. Spooooky.

The nice thing about the coffin cookies is that you can fill them with even more goodies. How about some chocolate mousse? I attached the lids, but it would be fine if it was un-attached, too.

I use black cocoa quite often, and it's what I used in these cookies. It's sold under quite a few names, depending on the seller, but it's a distinctive and very dark cocoa. If you don't have it, you can use regular cocoa. The cookies won't be quite as dark, but they'll still be good.

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies

3 ounces chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened black cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Royal icing (recipe here)

Put the chips in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until they're melted. They don't need to be hot - just softened and melted and smooth. Set aside until it has cooled to room temperature.

Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk or stir until they're well combined. Set aside.

Here;s the cutter I used,
In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or with an electric mixer, beat the butter until it's smooth. Add the sugar, and beat until it's light. Add the egg and beat until it's incorporated. Add the melted chocolate chips and the vanilla. Beat until they are incorporated.

Add the flour mixture (you might want to add in several additions to keep it from flying around when you start the mixer) until the flour is incorporated. You don't need to beat it any further once it's mixed together.

Place the dough in a zip-top bag and flatten it. Refrigerate for at least four hours, or up to a few days.

When you're ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it warm up just a little bit. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into several pieces to make it easier to work with. Flour your work space lightlyt - you don't want to add too much flour to the cookies, so be gentle. Roll the dough to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick - smaller cookies are best if they're rolled thinner, while larger cookies are easier to work with if they're a little thicker.

Cut the cookies with cookie cutters as desired. I used a 3D coffin cookie cutter.

Transfer the cookies to your prepared baking sheets, leaving a little space between them. These don't spread a lot, but they do grow a little.

If you're baking cooking that are different sizes - like the 3D cookies I made that has smaller pieces for the sides and larger pieces for the top and bottom - put the smaller pieces in the center of the baking sheet and the larger pieces along the edges of the sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees until the cookies are firm on top and slightly darker around the edges. Since these are pretty dark to begin with, it's sort of hard to see browning, but if you look, you'll see a slight difference - about 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for a minute or two on the baking sheets before moving them to a rack to cool completely.

Decorate the cookies as desired.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Browned Butter and Apple Bread #ThreeLoaves

Fall is here - and seems like it showed up early this year. And fall always makes me think of apples.

I'm guessing that when you start talking about apples, the next things that most people think of are pie and cinnamon. Or apple pie with cinnamon. Or maybe applesauce ... with cinnamon.

I know that cinnamon is the perfect companion to apples, but they don't always have to be paired. One of the best apple pies I ever made didn't have a single speck of cinnamon. The flavor of the apples was predominant, and there was just a hint of vanilla to add warmth.

So, when I agreed to make a seasonal bread recipe for #ThreeLoaves, I decided to use apples without cinnamon.

This bread isn't sweet - in fact, it's a little tart because of the apples. It's great for toast, fantastic for French toast, and amazing as a breakfast or brunch bread. But because it's not sweet, it's also perfect for sandwiches, particularly ham or roast pork. Or chicken or turkey or bacon.

Browned Butter and Apple Bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg
1/4 cup dry milk
3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour

Melt the butter in a saute pan and let it bubble up a bit. Let it cook until it begins to brown a bit, then add the diced apples.

Note: You can dice the apples any size that pleases you, but I suggest 1/4 inch or smaller, so they distribute throughout the bread and you'll have some in each slice.

Cook the apples, stirring as needed, until the apples are cooked through, but not soft - you want them to hold their shape in the bread. Turn the heat off, add the vanilla, and set aside to cool.

Put the bread ingredients in the bowl of your food processor, or into a large bowl if you intend on mixing and kneading by hand. If you're using an active dry yeast brand other than Red Star, and it has large granules, you'll want to let it soften for a minute or so in the water before you mix; if you're using Red Star, you can toss it all together without pausing.

Knead the dough with the dough hook until it becomes elastic. Or, mix in a large bowl, then knead by hand.

Once the dough is elastic, add the apples and all of the butter. Knead until the butter is completely incorporated into the dough. Cover the bowl and set aside until the dough has doubled in size - about an hour.

Spray a 9x5 bread pan with baking spray and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Knead briefly, then form the dough into a tight log about 8 inches long, to fit into the bread pan. Cover the pan and set aside to rise until the dough rises slightly above the top of the bread pan - about 30 minutes.

Uncover the pan and slash the dough as desired. Bake at 350 degrees until the dough is nicely browned and the interior of the loaf reaches at least 195 degrees on an instant-read thermometer - about 45 minutes.

Removed the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chicken-Fried Chicken

I absolutely love chicken. Fried, baked, braised, stewed. Hot or cold. Breaded or not. It's all good.

So when I got some boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Frontiere Natural Meats, I had a whole lot of options, But I decided that chicken-fried chicken needed to be made.

If that name sounds confusing, chicken-fried chicken is a riff off of chicken-fried steak. Which is a riff off of fried chicken.

But chicken-fried chicken isn't just chicken. It's flattened and then breaded (or battered or crumbed) and then fried.

Since the chicken pieces are an even thickness and they're also thin, they cook quickly and evenly, So there's less risk of having the chicken dry out.

Although these are fried, you can use a healthy oil, like olive oil, and you don't need a lot of oil.

When it comes to coatings, you have endless options. I like the idea of double-dipping the chicken - first in flour, then in eggs, and then one more dip. Flour is one option for that second coating, but you can also get more creative. Bread crumbs are nice, but my favorite coating is potato chips.

Have you ever bought a new brand of chips and then thought they were too salty, or the flavor was a little too in-your-face for snacking? Those are perfect for crusting this chicken-fried chicken.

If you don't like potato chips, the process is the same whether you're using cornflakes, bread crumbs, or any other crust-worthy crunchy stuff.

This is also the perfect way to use up the last bits from a variety of chips and crumbs, mixing them together. Or use seasoned flour. Have fun with it!

Because the chicken is pounded thin, it looks a lot bigger than it really is, and because it's an even thickness, it makes really pretty slices. And those slices are nice for topping salads or for tacos. Its also great served with a gravy - I suggest a mushroom cream gravy, if you're looking for something particularly decadent.

And then one flattened chicken breast is enough for two.

Of course, it depends on the size of that chicken breast, but the ones from Frontiere were a nice size for two, along with some sides.

Chicken Fried Chicken

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup (seasoned or plain) flour, or more, as needed
1 egg, beaten with a splash of water, in a shallow bowl
2 tablespoons olive oil (or as needed)
1/4 cup second coating of your choice

First, choose what you'll use for your second coating. If you're using potato chips or similar products, crush them to fine crumbs.

If you don't have potato chips or other products to make crunchy crumbs, use flour. For more flavor, season the flour with with salt, pepper, and your favorite herb mix.

Put the chicken breast in a plastic bag, and use a meat mallet, a small frying pan or other suitable item to flatten it to an even thickness. You're looking for about 1/4 inch, but you want to stop smacking before the chicken starts to shred, fall apart, or get holes in it. Thickness is a personal preference - a thinner piece will cook faster, while a thicker one will take a little longer. But either way, it's fine.

Sprinkle in the flour. You're looking to coat the chicken evenly. If you need a little more flour, add it. Take the chicken out of the bag and shake off the extra flour.

Dip the chicken in the egg, coating both sides. and let the excess drip off.

Coat the chicken with your chosen crunchy breading, pressing it onto the chicken to make sure it sticks. Let the chicken rest on a rack while you heat the oil in a heavy frying pan on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, cook the chicken on one side until the coating is golden brown, then flip and cook on the second side. Continue cooking, turning as needed, until the chicken is cooked through and the crust is golden brown. How long it will take depends on how thick the chicken is and how hot the frying pan is, but it's just a matter of minutes.

Let the chicken rest if you plan on slicing it for serving.

Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or ... yes, it's good chilled, too.

Disclaimer: I receive meat products from Frontiere Natural Meats for the purpose of creating recipes for my blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bonfire Wines

White wine pouch is skinny because it's mostly gone.
Hint: If someone offers me samples of wine or booze, there's a really good chance I'm going to take it. It's not that I'm a lush, but I like the occasional nip in the evening, and I like trying different brands and flavors.

I also like cooking with boozy things. Wine is good in tomato sauce, chili, and stews, among other things. If I don't care for the wine, I use it to make vinegar. Hard liquor works well in baked goods, ice cream, marinades, and more.

So when the nice folks at Bonfire Wines offered to send me wine, I said, sure, I'll take some.

The first interesting thing about the wine is the packaging. It comes in stand-up pouches with a spigot for dispensing the wine.

Since there's no oxygen - or very little - getting into the container, the wine stays fresh. It's a really neat idea, and the carbon footprint of this packaging is supposed to be a lot less than when glass is used.

When I was looking up places to buy the wine locally, I found a few websites that talked specifically about the packaging design so I guess it's pretty unique. I've seen plenty of boxed and bottled wines, but I'll admit I've never seen any quite like this before.

One thing I wondered about the packaging was how efficient it would be at getting all the wine out of the pouch, Would I need to cut it open to get the last 1/2 glass?

I needn't have worried, The bag was completely flat and and empty when I was done with it, and it emptied easily, with no need for scissors.

But, for me, it's all about the flavor. I received two different wines - a white wine called Ignite, and a red wine called Ember.

The white wine disappeared first. It was slightly sweet, but not as sweet as something like a moscato. I liked it a lot. I'm not enough of a wine snob to talk about intricate details, but it was a light, drinkable, happy wine.

I needed a little bit of red wine for a recipe, so I opened the Ember and sampled it. I'm usually not a red wine drinker because it tends to give me headaches, but I had no adverse reaction to this one at all, so that's a huuuuuge bonus.

Each pouch holds the equivalent of 2 normal bottles of wine, and since the pouch is so thin, it cools faster that a bottle. The really nice thing about the pouch is that since it's not an open bottle full of wine, you can use some wine for drinking or cooking and not have to fret about using it all as fast as possible. I really didn't notice any flavor change over the several days it took me to finish each pouch.

The other really nice thing about the pouch is that as you drink the wine, it gets smaller, so it doesn't take as much space in the refrigerator. I actually rolled up the top of the white wine pouch to make it fit in a less-tall space. You can't do that with a bottle, that's for sure.

I found one of these wine varieties locally for $15-18 for a pouch. So far, it's just available in a few states, but I have a feeling you'll be seeing it expanding into other markets.

So ... do you like the pouch idea? Or do you prefer bottles?

Disclaimer: I received this wine from the company for a review. I might be buying some for use in recipes as well. We'll see...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meatloaf! File this one under "not Mom's"

Some of the best inventions came about by accident. And by inventions, I mean food inventions, too.

The microwave oven wasn't intended for cooking food, for example, and the first instance of cooking food probably had more to do with something accidentally burning rather than some primitive ancestor deciding that mammoth tartare was getting boring.

Cornflakes were an accident, and nachos happened because a desperate cook threw together what he had on hand when some late customers wanted something to eat. Caesar salad allegedly was invented in the same way. Cookies were small amounts of cake batter that were cooked to test the cake.

And, allegedly, chocolate chip cookies were an accident as well, although some sources say that's a bit of a fiction.

Yes some good things happen when we step out of our comfort zone, reach into the fridge, and accidentally grab the wrong spice.

This meatloaf isn't quite that accidental, but it wasn't really deliberate, either. I was cooking a recipe from a cookbook, and I used 1/4 pound each of ground beef and pork. But I had bought 1-pound packages. So I had 3/4 pound each of the ground beef and pork.

So ... what could I use that meat for? The weather said, "meatloaf" and I obliged.

My usual meatloaf is all-beef, so the half-and-half pork and beef mix was different. And I usually add cubed or torn bread. But ... I ended up using bread crumbs, because that's what I had.

The bread crumbs themselves were a little unusual. I had made a loaf of bread that included cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and oregano, so that's what the crumbs were made from.

So the bread was definitely different, since I normally use a plain white bread. The tomatoes added specs of red to the meatloaf, and the cheese and oregano added some subtle flavor.

The biggest difference between this loaf and my usual was the texture. My meatloaf is usually fairly chunky and ... not exactly crumbly, but coarsely grained. This one was a lot smoother - more like the lunchmeat style meatloaf that you'd find in the deli.

Definitely a success, and I'm sure I'll make this again. But I'm not going to abandon my mom's old fashioned meatloaf, either. There's room for both.

Not-Mom's Meatloaf

3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 egg
1/2 onions, diced
1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs*, or as needed
Splash of heavy cream (or milk)
Salt and pepper, to taste (1/2 teaspoon each, if you're unsure)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have a suitable baking pan standing by.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Your hands are the best tool for this, since the feel of the meatloaf is important. You want a loaf that's not particularly wet or dry. It shouldn't be mushy or sloppy, but it also shouldn't be as dense as ground meat. The texture going into the oven is similar to what you'll get coming out - more cohesive, but similar.

If your meatloaf is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it's too dry and dense, add a splash more cream or milk.

Form meat into a loaf. It should hold together well and not sag or collapse.

Place this on a baking pan or lipped baking sheet. I used a glass casserole (reviewed here).

Bake at 350 degrees until the internal temperature reaches at least 180 degrees - this took about 2 hours, but the shape of your loaf, the pan, and your oven will make a difference. Check after an hour to see how far you have to go.

Let the meatloaf rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.

*I used flavored bread crumbs, but plain crumbs are fine. If you're using plain crumbs, you can opt to add some herbs, spices, or other flavorings to the loaf.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Peanut Butter Madeleines

I have madeleine pans, but I seldom use them. Most of the recipes I've seen are for basic vanilla madeleines, or maybe there's some citrus zest.

That's fine once in a while, but when there are so many other recipe for cookies, cakes, and cupcakes with great flavors ... well, madeleines don't need to be made all that often around here.

When I received the book Madeleines by Barbara Feldman Morse, I was curious how many variations I'd find.

Wow. First I wanted to make the dark chocolate espresso madeleines, then I boggled at the savory ones. Now that's what I talking about.

Then I saw a recipe for peanut butter madeleines dipped in chocolate. And that's where I stopped.

Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Madeleines
Adapted from Madeleines by Barbara Feldman Morse

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
For the topping:
2 cups dark or semisweet chocolate chips or 8 ounces chopped semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups peanuts, chopped medium or fine

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray two 12-shell pans with baking spray.

Put the butter and sugar in a microwavable bowl and heat on low for 2 minutes. Stir with a whixk until smooth. If the butter didn't melt continue heating 30 seconds at a time until it melts, stirring in between heating.

Note: mine never really got smooth, even though I beat the heck out of it with an electric mixer as suggested in the front-of-the-book instructions. It was supposed to fall off the beaters in ribbons. That never happened. I'm not sure if I heated it too much or too little but in the end, these were really good, so I guess it doesn't matter all that much.

Let the mixture cool for 3-4 minutes before adding the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Whisk in the peanut butter until well blended.

Add the vanilla, salt, and flour. and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.

Fill each shell with batter until it's almost full, pressing the batter gently to distribute it evenly in the shells.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the madeleines puff up and there are no shiny spots. The edges should be slightly browned, and there might be some cracks on the top. Do not overbake,

Remove the pans from the oven and let them cool on racks for a minute or two, then flip the madeleines out of the pans on the racks. If the stick a little, just give then a little push on the edges and they'll release. let them cool completely.

Melt the chocolate 30 seconds at a time in the microwave, stirring after each heating, until the chocolate is completely melted.

Now, you can dip the madeleines into the chocolate, or drizzle it over the top. I went with the Jackson Pollack effect.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts onto the chocolate. I decided to skip the chopped nuts, but they would be good with the dipped chocolate version.

Allow the chocolate to set before serving or storing. If you're in a hurry to get the chocolate to set, you can refrigerate the cookies for a short time.

This book was supplied to me by the publisher at no cost to me.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Neil Anderson's Bolognese of August from Adventures in Comfort Food

When I agreed to participate in a blog tour for a book with "comfort food" in the title, a number of things came to mind. Pasta with a tomato sauce was high on the list. So when I saw this recipe for bolognese, I knew I had to try it.

This isn't typically how I make tomato sauce for pasta, but then again, I'm not Italian. When I went to the store for supplies, there was no veal to be found except for some tiny chops that cost more than my mortgage. The butcher said they stopped carrying the ground veal because of quality issues.

There was also a celery shortage, but I averted that disaster by buying celery sticks that were cleverly hidden in the prepped-foods area, along with must-haves like pineapple chunks and asparagus packed with lemon slices.

As for the veal, there was nothing I could do except buy something else. I briefly pondered using ground turkey or chicken, but then decided to use beef. So that's what I used here. If you can find veal, then by all means, use it. But beef worked just fine, if that's holding you back.

The one thing I quibble with here is the serving size. This might feed 3-4 people if they're all teenagers or athletes, but around here a half-pound box of dry pasta is good for 4-6 servings. Then again, we probably don't eat as much as the average person. So take my thoughts with a grain or two of salt.

The intro to the recipe said:
Neil Anderson was the second chef I ever hired. He came into the restaurant one day, turned to the waitress and said, “I want to work here.” We took him on. During Neil’s first summer, I told him we were going to make Bolognese sauce.

“Right," said Neil. "We are making Bolognese, and you are going to go sweat over it." He was not incorrect that heavy, long-cooked meat sauces are not entirely appropriate for the dog days, but I am contrary. Neil is now a professor of languages somewhere, and every summer we make this out of season in his honor.

This is our version of a traditional Bolognese: a meat sauce flavored with a bit of  tomato. It is not the red sauce with meat that sometimes gets called by the same name. Through long cooking, the meats gain a velvety texture and a flavor so addictive that you won’t be able to stop eating it, no matter what the weather.

Look for more bloggers posting more recipes from the book, including: FAB Bowl of Meet, Steak Bomb, Wontons from Space  Deconstructed Nachos,  Woo-Tang Clam, Fish Hash,  Vacation in your Mouth, Jerry Fries, and Steak House.

Did I mention that some of the recipe names are quirky? Why, yes they are.

Neil Anderson’s Bolognese of August
Recipe from Adventures in Comfort Food: Incredible, Delicious and New Recipes
Used with permission. All rights reserved.Serves 3 to 4

1/2 cup/120 ml olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/8 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 onion, sliced
1 rib celery, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup/60 g carrot, cut into medium dice
4 oz/113 g ground veal
4 oz/113 g ground pork
1 (28 oz/794 g) can tomatoes
2 tbsp/33 g tomato paste
1/2 cup/118 ml heavy cream
1 lb/454 g dried rigatoni pasta, cooked

Place a 4-quart/4 L nonreactive pot over medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil and add the garlic; fry until the cloves are almost golden, 4 minutes. Add the fennel seeds, count to 3, and drop in the onion, celery and carrot. Sweat the vegetables in the olive oil until they are sweet and the garlic is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the veal and pork, breaking up with a spoon to distribute the meat and vegetables as evenly as you can (you’ll mash it later).

When the meat is cooked (it should take 10 to 12 minutes) add the tomatoes, tomato paste and 1/2 cup/118 ml of water. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for at least an hour, preferably 2. Mash with a potato masher to break everything up until it looks like a sauce.

Add the cream. If you’ll be storing the sauce, wait to add the cream until reheating.

For this dish, I prefer boxed rigatoni (not homemade noodles). Add the cooked noodles to the pot of sauce and stir carefully so that you don’t break any noodles.

Distribute onto plates, pour some red wine and eat.

Chef’s Tip: For foolproof seasoning: Remove a small amount of the sauce and add some salt and pepper until it tastes perfect. Using this as a guide, add salt and pepper by small amounts to the pot until it matches the sample.

Recipe by Kerry Altiero and Katherine Gaudet from Adventures in Comfort Food: Incredible, Delicious and New Recipes from a Unique, Small-Town Restaurant. Printed with permission of Page St. Publishing.

I received the book from the publisher for the purpose of this book tour.

A couple notes on this recipe:

This recipe has a lot of oil - there's 1/2 cup at the beginning, along with the fat from the meats you use. If you're bothered by that amount of fat, the easy way to get rid of it is to refrigerate the finished sauce. The fat will rise to the top and harden a bit, so you can remove as much as you like. Leave at least a little - there's flavor in fat. I left it as is, and once the cream and pasta were added, it just sort of disappeared.

I was a little concerned about the whole garlic cloves - I didn't like the idea of someone eating a whole clove with their pasta, so I hunted them down in the finished sauce and made sure they were smashed. If I make this again, I might dice or slice the garlic thinly rather than leaving it whole. Maybe.

The admonishment about not adding the cream if you're going to reheat has to do with the possibility that the cream could curdle. I have the same problem with a tomato soup I make. The solution is to heat the sauce slowly and gently, and never let it boil. If it does boil, you're doomed. The cream is probably going to curdle. It's still edible, but it's not pretty and it the texture is grainy.

So, if you make the sauce ahead, or if you have leftovers, heat gently to warm it, but don't boil it, and you should be fine.