From Burg to Bisque

The soup formerly known as Mushroom Burg (short for Bourguignon) has now become Mushroom Bisque.  Adam, the funny and talented Amateur Gourmet posted a recipe at his site last week (which he, in turn, credits to Deb Perelman of Smiten Kitchen) for Mushroom Bourguignon.  And, it was perfect for a vegetarian dinner guest.  Actually, we all enjoyed it very much, excepting only Bob, who valiantly struggled through, confining  himself to just one remark about mushrooms tasting of mold.  He thinks they are an utterly useless food.  Which just goes to prove, you can't please everyone. Though, I do sometimes try.

With the addition of dry Sherry, some white wine, cream and a bit of water, more cream (can you have too much cream?), the blender, in its inimitable way, transformed our leftovers to a lovely bisque.  Garnished with chives and more cream on top, bread and salad, voila.  Dinner.

I love a good mushroom soup.  A favorite restaurant in town, occasionally serves an excellent version.  OK, all right, I'll tell you, it's Cafe Pesto.  Guess what, folks??  Yes, I think we've more than matched them here.  Check out Adam's recipe and make that hearty stew, (which I altered by using half portobellos and the rest a mixture of other mushrooms) and then, with anything left, you too can create a quick, easy dinner for two.


Cook the Books Club - Meatballs in Lemon Sauce

Finally, an 11th hour arrival of the long-awaited book, A Taste For Adventure, by Anik See.  After 4 or 5 mistrials at Amazon, books supposed to be in stock, then later cancelled, due to "out of stock".  Thank you jfbook!  It was the December/January selection for our online, Cook the Books Club, hosted this time by Rachel, the Crispy Cook.

Ms. See is a terrific writer, and would almost inspire me to do all that again.  Lug around a backpack, check into a town not knowing where we'd be sleeping (hoping it wouldn't be on a bench somewhere). But, now older and semi-wiser?, plus it's a different world for travelers now, and the thought of parading naked before airport screeners?  Yikes.  Don't know if I'm ready for it.  Her train trips in Malaysia and Indonesia especially brought back memories.  With children and adults running alongside, selling their food to passengers, as well as up and down the aisles, while we sat exhausted, on hard, wooden seats, amazed at the spectacle of it all.

To me, one of the best things about traveling is trying new, wonderful foods.  And, I'm looking forward to trying many of the delicious sounding recipes Anik included with her adventures in this book. I especially enjoyed her Georgian experience.  What a resilient, hospitable, marvelous people.  If I were to travel again, perhaps it would be to Georgia, and also Moldovia, where my husband's family came from, before emigrating to Germany many years ago.  Or, Istanbul and Armenia.  I narrowly missed going there three years ago, but as we were traveling in Greece, that was discouraged.  By Turkey, anyway.

For my recipe I decided on a dish inspired by the flavors of Armenia, a traditional  preparation which uses either lamb or beef -  Meatballs in Lemon Sauce, from The Silk Road Gourmet by Laura Kelley.  I've usually only had meatballs fried, for either Sauerbraten or Spaghetti.  This called for simmering a spicy meatball preparation in broth, then reducing and thickening the broth, which becomes an amazingly creamy, rich lemon-flavored sauce - with no added cream. 

Meatballs in Lemon Sauce
1 lb. ground lamb or beef
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
zest from 2 medium lomons
2 hot, dried, red chili peppers
1 egg
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 small bunch fresh cilantro (15-20 sprigs)
1 teaspoon dried (I used fresh) oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
11/2 cups vegetable broth (I had duck stock and used that)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. In a food processor, combine onion, chili peppers, lemon zest, egg, tomato sauce, cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Add meat and blend again until well mixed.  Refrigerate 1 hour before rolling.  Shape into 2-inch meatballs.  Refrigerate for 1 hour before cooking.
  2. In a large saute pan, bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat.  Melt butter in the broth.  Add meatballs and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook covered, until meatballs are tender, about 30 minutes.  Spoon broth over meatballs several times during cooking and turn them over after about 15 minutes.  It may be necessary to lower the heat to low to keep them cooking only gently.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Add 1/2 cup hot broth and mix well.  When meatballs are done, remove from the broth and reduce the sauce, then add the egg-lemon mixture, stirring or whisking steadily as you dribble the mixture in.  Cook until the sauce thickens and add meatballs back into the sauce.  Cook to warm them again and serve.  
  Great over some basmati rice or a traditional Armenian Pilaf.  We both thought this dish was just fabulous.  A definite do again and again, addition to my meal repertoire. Thanks for all the inspiration, Anik See, and Laura Kelley too for a super recipe.

P.S. Here is a video link to some wonderful footage and discussion of the hospitality of the peoples along the "Silk Road".


Turkey Tales

He's letting that skull dry on top of the bread oven.
Our intrepid grandson has been out hunting with a family friend over the holidays.  He comes home with carcasses of various sorts, sheep-goat (apparently there is such a creature), pig, erkel, turkey, quail, etc.(thankfully cleaned and gutted), puts said meat into plastic supermarket shopping bags, then throws it in the freezer.  I have only just noticed this practice, as it was not occurring at my house.  Offering to deal with a turkey was what brought me into contact with a freezer burnt, sad looking bird.  Probably should just have chucked the poor, wild thing.  But, fixed as I was on brining something, figured maybe this would be an appropriate test.   For more information, and the science of why it works, than you probably want or need on brining, check here.

First off, I let the bird thaw in its shopping bags, then got out Michael Ruhlman's Ratio book, for the brine formula, to which I added a few herbs and some cracked pepper, as he also suggests.  Here's the recipe if you want to give it a try:

Basic Brine
80 ounces water (10 cups) - I used 8 cups and the remainder in ice to cool it down
4 ounces kosher salt (about 1/2 cup Morton's)
And, my additions:
about 10 bruised peppercorns
2 sprigs rosemary
bunch of sage leaves
1 bruised clove garlic

Combine the ingredients in a pan over high heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved.  Remove from the heat, and let it cool to room temperature (at which point I added my ice), then refrigerate until cold.  When completely chilled, put  your rinsed bird in a 2 gal. freezer bag (set in a large bowl for support) and pour in the brine solution, removing as much air as possible.  Seal the bag, then refrigerate 8 to 12 hours, or until needed.

The brine not only results in meat that's juicier, it carries the flavors of your aromatics into the muscle, and since it is also a preservative, the meat will keep fresh longer.  All this per Mr. Ruhlman.  The only question I had was, will this at all help a slightly freezer burnt turkey?  If you are a vegetarian (and even if you're not) you may want to skip this next photo.

OK.  It was at this point (I'm a tad unobservant I guess) that it occurred to me, this is the scrawniest, turkey I've ever seen.  And, some major parts seemed to be missing??  I weighed the guy and he came to a total of 3 lbs., as you can see, mostly skin and bones.  I asked Isaiah, "Did Mike take the breasts home for dinner and leave the rest for you?"  He just laughed and said, "No, they got blown off."  He aimed a bit low, apparently.  Bless his heart.  So, turkey soup.  And, his mother can do it.  You don't need another recipe for turkey soup here.


Yorkshire Mini Puddings

Yes folks, it is exactly what you think it is -  the now close to indispensable aebleskiver pan. This has become a series. Today used  for Mini Yorkshire Puddings.  And, if I do say so myself, we have found the perfect implement for that traditional standby of a British Sunday dinner.  A good source of information on which may be found here.

An Aebleskiver pan is heavy and holds heat well for making mini puds.  Also, an unniappan pan could be used, a very intriguing utensil indeed!  Check that link.

I have to say the prime rib, so-called, was a bit disappointing, however we all loved the little popover like, biscuit substitutes (if you're American), Yorkshire puddings (not anything like what I would consider a pudding), light, puffy, slightly crispy on the outside, soft middles, and wanted more of them.  I served this combination for New Year's dinner and will definitely be doing it lots more.  Hopefully with a better cut of meat.  Sorry Safeway, but what can I say?

First step (before your roast is done) is to whip up the very simple batter and chill for an hour at least.  They puff up better when a cold batter is poured into a sizzling hot pan. After removing your roast from the oven, let it rest on a carving board or plate, covered with foil.  Pour the meat drippings into a glass measuring cup.  Drop in some ice cubes if you like, and while the fat is separating, put your aebleskiver pan into the oven, heated up to 450F.  Now, remove the pan and pour some of the separated beef fat (a tablespoon or less) into each well.  Heat this fat to smoking on a top burner or in the oven.  Immediately fill them almost to the tops with cold batter and replace pan in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.

I received the new Gourmet Today cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl, for Christmas, from my wonderful daughter.  Thank you Sunny!  The recipe is from that lovely, and gnormous tome.

Yorkshire Pudding Recipe  

Serves 8
1 1/2 cups all-purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces  –  or you can use the more traditional fat drippings from your  roast, which is what I did.

Combine flour, salt, eggs and milk in a blender and blend (or just use a wire whisk in a bowl), scraping down sides occasionally, until just smooth.  Really, why dirty up an extra appliance if it's not necessary?  You can do it in a glass measuring bowl, which fits better in the refrigerator as well.  Refrigerate batter, covered, for at least 30 minutes (til cold).

Heat the fat in your cooking pan until spitting hot. Can be one large tin square, rectangular, round or, of course, the aeblskiver pan. When the fat is smoking hot, pour in the batter almost to the tops. Cook at 450F, 230C or gas mark 8. Large tins for about 30 minutes, small aebleskiver or muffin tins, 15 – 20 minutes,

or until puddings are puffed and center is golden brown.

I cut the recipe in half (which I shouldn't have done) and it made 10 muffin sized puffs.  As  mentioned above, we could have easily eaten more.


Recipes to Rival: Olive Straws

Here is a recipe for which you do not need an aebleskiver pan. Guaranteed.  My "series" on uses for that pan will continue later.  Our challenge this month for Recipes to Rival was Olive Straws, one of three choices we had, actually, and they looked so cute and tasty I couldn't resist.   As an added bonus, you can watch Martha and Michel Roux make these little appetizers (Pupus if you're being Hawaiian).  They seemed to be having a good time with them, and Martha's demonstration can be found here: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/olive-straws.

Hosting RTR this time is Lori of Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness.  I enlisted my granddaughter, Kealani, as sous chef on this project, as it is always more fun cooking with her.

 Olive Straws

* All-purpose flour, for work surface
* 13 ounces Puff Pastry
* 15 large green pimento stuffed olives, about 1 1/4 inches long
* 1 medium egg yolk
* 1 tablespoon milk

1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out puff pastry to a 12 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. Using a large sharp knife, cut the rectangle into a 5 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle and a 7-by-6-inch rectangle. Place both rectangles on a baking sheet and transfer to refrigerator; let chill 20 minutes.
2. Place the 5 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle on a baking sheet. Place 5 olives, end-to-end, in a straight line along the short side of the rectangle, leaving about a 5/8-inch border. Repeat process two more times to make three lines of olives.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and milk. Brush egg mixture on all exposed spaces between olives. Cover with the 7-by-6-inch rectangle of puff pastry, pressing the whole surface of the dough between the olives firmly with your fingertips. Transfer to refrigerator; let chill 20 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a very sharp knife, trim edges of dough; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide straws. Lay flat-side down on a baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until pastry is golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer straws to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm

Well, they don't look like Martha's.  The mistakes we made or things we would do differently, were as follows  (even after watching the video several times, we evidently didn't pay enough attention to directions):
 1. Drain the olives better
 2. Freeze and refrigerate longer - til very firm.
 3. Lie the straws flat on pan rather than upright.
 4. Have the oven hotter.

But, and this is the good news, they tasted delicious, crispy and olive tangy.  Perfect with a glass of white wine.  Since I have another sheet of that puff pastry, we will definitely be making these again soon.