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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Inauguration Day Pizza

I know it's a little late to be posting about Inauguration Day, but I'm always a little late with everything, so a week late isn't so bad in my book!

As you know, my family and I are living in France this year. We're about 6 months into our one-year stint, and although we love it, we do miss some things about the US, and we've especially missed being in the US for the big events of the past year--election season, election day, and most recently, the Inauguration.

In honor of the special day, we did what I imagine lots of American families would have done if the Inauguration was happening right smack in the middle of dinner time--we ordered pizza and sat in front of the TV! We have a little pizza joint down the street from our apartment called Come a Roma, and you can order pizza by weight. They have a display case of the daily pizzas, and you tell them how big of a piece you'd like, they weigh it, and if appropriate, they heat it up for you. Most of their pizzas are really tasty, but my absolute favorite is the "Truffe Blanche" or the "White Truffle," and I do a little dance of joy in my heart when they have it.

It's a cold pizza with a foccacia-like base, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, shredded ricotta, and white and black truffle. Sometimes it comes with a drizzle of truffle oil and parmesan shavings.

I'm convinced I can make this at home, but with the price of truffles and truffle oil, it might just be cheaper to walk down the street and order myself a slice!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

What to do with Quail Eggs?

Get your thinking caps on!

I'm looking for ideas for cooking with quail eggs, so I'm throwing it out to you. I saw them in the local grocery store the other day and was tempted to buy them, but I have no clue what to do with them. Then I saw this post, and now I really want to try them--partially because I'll never find them again when I get back to Kentucky.

ChefE, I saw your comment that you have an idea for them...please share! And I'm looking forward to hearing about what other ideas you all have!

**I don't like seafood or fish, so the normal scallops/fish application won't work here. Also, I'm not really into raw eggs, although done right, I might be willing to try it.


How to Use a Whole Chicken Three Ways--Part III, Homemade Chicken Stock

So the last thing I made from the roast chicken was homemade chicken stock. I've made veggie stock before, but never a meat stock, but I decided to go out on a limb with the cooked carcass. I've only ever seen recipes for meat stocks with uncooked parts. The idea came at Thanksgiving when the French butchers thought they were doing me a favor by removing (and throwing away) all of the gizzards. When I went to make some extra turkey stock for the gravy, I didn't know what to do. As you may remember, I cooked the turkey the morning of Thanksgiving and my husband carved it hours before the masses arrived to free up oven and refrigerator space. While he was carving, I noticed all of the leftover bones, bits of meat and skin. Why not make a stock out of that? I did, and it turned out great! So I made a reproduction of that turkey stock with this chicken carcass.

I don't really have a recipe for this. I threw the carcass in a large pot and covered generously with water. (In retrospect, I probably would freeze this until I cooked another chicken and then use two carcasses for added chicken flavor.) I then added the leftover parts of veggies I had in a large ziplock bag in my freezer. I've started saving the inedible parts of vegetables (tops, stalks, etc.) just for something like this. This time, the frozen bits included mostly leeks, broccoli, and celery, but I added some fresh garlic, onion and carrots to the mix too. I also added a little salt, some peppercorns and a bouquet garni sachet. I took Alton Brown's suggestion of putting a steamer basket on top to hold the veggies down, skimmed the top for that gross frothy stuff every once in a while, and just let simmer for about six hours. I ended up adding a couple of cups of water throughout the simmering process because it started reducing too much. (Sorry, no pictures today...stock just isn't that photogenic!)

At the end of six hours, I submerged the pot in an ice bath in my sink until the stock was cooled down. Then I put it in muffin tins in 1/4-cup increments and froze them. Once frozen, I popped them out and put them in a plastic ziplock bag in the freezer to be used whenever I need stock!

The total use of the chicken (and even the bits of veggies I normally throw away) has made me feel very economical, and as my husband put it, very ecological too. Stock is really easy to make, even if time consuming, and I think it adds a much better flavor and is much healthier when homemade.


Friday, January 23, 2009

How to Use a Whole Chicken Three Ways--Part II, Curried Chicken Salad

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had about a week when I craved chicken and chicken skin. My husband thought I had gone crazy because I normally won't touch chicken skin with a ten-foot pole, but that craving only lasted a week and was followed by a bodily moratorium on poultry. I'd only ever heard of people craving food, not rejecting it, but I wasn't worried since I seemed sickened only by poultry (which made Thanksgiving and Christmas a lot of fun, by the way!). From about the 8th week until the day after I gave birth, not a bite of poultry passed my lips. The day after my daughter was born, I was fine with it again...almost. Nowadays, I just cannot eat microwaved chicken. I don't know what it is, but the microwave changes the taste for me.

Which leads me to chicken leftovers...what to do with them since a quick microwaved leftover meal is now out of the question? My solution? A chicken salad with a twist--curry powder. I found the recipe in a cookbook focusing on the busy parent I found for a few dollars somewhere. I can't remember the name of the book (sorry!), but I swear I'll look it up when I return to Kentucky and back to my cookbooks!

My husband loves this recipe and so do I. The garlicky, herbed chicken mixed with the curry mayo and the crunchiness of the apples and onions create a flavorful, moist combo that gets better after a day or so. It's also a very forgiving recipe. Don't have 2 cups of chicken? Make it with one. Don't have a green apple? Make it with a red one. (I had to use a Pink Lady for this go around, and it tasted great.) No mango chutney? Add a little apricot jam. Try different types of onions until you hit one that works for you. I normally put yellow onion in it because that's what I have on hand, but red tastes even better, and I think that green onions would add a mellower flavor and punch up the color.


Curried Chicken Salad with Green Apple

1/4 cup curried mayo (See below)
1 Tbl minced onion
2 cups diced chicken
1/2 tart green apple
2 Tbl mango chutney (optional--but it really does add great flavor!)
Baby salad greens or arugula

Mix all ingredients (except lettuce) and serve on bread as a sandwich or on a bed of greens as a salad.

Curried Mayo

1/4 cup mayo
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp curry powder

Combine ingredients and mix well.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

How to Use a Whole Chicken Three Ways--Part I, Roast Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

I discovered the beauty of a roasted chicken a couple of years ago when I came across the recipe for Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic in Wendy Stephens' The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook. I had never tried cooking a whole chicken before I found this recipe, and after seeing the look of bliss on my husband's face after eating it, I swore to make more. Whole chickens are inexpensive and surprisingly easy to roast. This easy chicken probably costs around $5-7 total to make and feeds about four people generously. We always have leftovers if it's just my husband, daughter and I...and I'll tell you tomorrow what I usually do with the leftover meat.

As for this recipe, the chicken always comes out moist and flavorful, and the garlic mellows in the roasting, making for a great little spread to eat with the chicken itself or on a piece of nice crusty bread on the side. I generally like to serve a potato (roasted, mashed, etc.) on the side because they taste so good in the garlicky chicken jus. This time I also served steamed green beans--they're so easy to make and balance out the brown and white of the chicken and potatoes.

Oh, and please don't judge me that the chicken is shown upside down! I realized what I had done once my husband started carving it...I still have a little to learn about the chicken, I guess!

Bon appétit!

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

10 g butter (1 Tbl)
1 Tbl olive oil
1 large (No. 20) free-range chicken
40 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 Tbl chopped fresh or dried rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry)
275 ml (9 fl oz) dry white wine
150 ml (5 fl oz) chicken stock
225 (7 oz) plain flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You will need a 4.5 litre lidded casserole dish.

Melt the butter and oil in the casserole and brown the chicken over med heat until golden all over. Remove the chicken and add the garlic cloves, rosemary and thyme and cook together for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the dish and add the wine and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, basting the chicken with the sauce.

Place the flour in a bowl and add up to 150 ml (5 fl oz) water to form a firm pliable paste. Divide into four and roll into cylinder shapes. Place around the rim of the casserole. Replace the lid, pressing down well to form a seal. **I've found I can skip this step if I use my heavy, cast iron Le Creuset pot, but if I'm using a lighter casserole or pan, I use the seal.

Bake for 1 ¼ hours. Remove the lid by cracking the paste. Return the chicken to the oven to brown for 15 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Reduce the juices to 1 cup over med heat. Carve the chicken, pierce the garlic skins and squeeze the garlic flesh onto the chicken. Serve with the jus.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Christmas Dinner Revisited--Choucroute Garnie

I'm back, after a ton of holiday house guests (which I absolutely loved having), lots of day trips, a trip to Paris for New Year's, and a two-week vacation in Spain with my husband and daughter (which included getting the flu during our last few days there). I am now recovered and ready to cook again!

Christmas dinner was a fun treat for us because we were able to cook a traditional Alsatian dish for our family--choucroute garnie. Choucroute garnie is an artery-clogger, alright, but since it's the dish of Strasbourg, we just had to make it. Basically, it's a variety of sausages and sauerkraut cooked in Alsatian white wine, and is yummmmmy.

Choucroute Garnie (from Bon Apétit)

1 3/4 pounds smoked meaty hamhocks
1 pound fully cooked bratwurst
8 ounces thick-sliced bacon strips, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
2 large onions, chopped
1 teaspoons juniper berries (optional)
1 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
8 whole allspice
3 bay leaves
3 Red Delicious apples, unpeeled, cored, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 2-pound jars sauerkraut, squeezed dry
2 pounds fully cooked kielbasa, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 pound fully cooked knockwurst--**I would suggest putting these in during the last 15 minutes of cooking, as mine started splitting and turned ugly, even if they tasted good.
2 cups Alsatian Pinot Blanc or other dry white wine (I used Alsatian Riesling...more flavor than Pinot Blanc.)
2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes
2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Assorted mustards

Place ham hocks in large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Transfer hocks to medium bowl. Boil broth until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Remove meat from bones; discard bones. Place hock meat in medium bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover hock meat and broth separately; chill.) **I've found that this makes much more than 2 cups of stock. I usually freeze the rest for other uses.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add bratwurst and bacon. Sauté until bacon is crisp and bratwurst is brown, about 10 minutes. Place in bowl with hock meat.

Add onions, spices and bay leaves to same pot. Sauté until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add apples; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in sauerkraut. Add all meats; press to submerge. Add reserved broth and wine. Boil 10 minutes. Cover choucroute and bake 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes in pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 18 minutes. Drain; cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Dip cut sides into parsley. Arrange sauerkraut and meats on platter. Surround with potatoes. Serve with mustards.

I didn't get any pictures of the spread, unfortunately. These are actually pictures that my mom took since my brother, who was transporting our new, lovely camera, was delayed until Christmas day, and his luggage was delayed until that night. We went for simplicity with the meal since the choucroute is such a heavy dish...some white asparagus with aioli and steamed green bean bundles wrapped and baked in bacon. Of course, wine was abundant, and we sampled our way through several Alsatian wines: Sylvaner, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and a local brandy called "eau-de-vie." Good thing none of us were driving that night! ;-)


Monday, January 12, 2009

Eating Out in Heidelberg, Germany

Because we have had so much company over the holidays and have done so much travel, I haven't cooked much, but have enjoyed some really wonderful meals all over Europe. We decided to take a day trip with some of our family to Heidelberg, and ended up eating in one of the best and most historical restaurants in the city--Die Ritterstube in the Hotel zum Ritter St. Georg. (I hope that some day I can stay in the hotel, as it looks absolutely charming and is located right in the heart of the city.)

I had the opportunity (but passed) to try some wild boar, deer ham, or wild hare, but it had been a chilly day, and I was looking for some comfort food. I ended up with an excellent pumpkin soup that I'd like to try to recreate and a rumpsteak with some of the best fried potatoes I've ever had. The rumpsteak came with a wonderful pepper sauce that I'd also like to try my hand at sometime soon.

Schaumsüppchen von Kürbis mit Kürbiskernöl und gerösteten Kürbiskernen (Pumpkin cream soup with pumpkin-seed oil and roasted pumpkin seeds):

Rumpsteak mit Pfefferrahmsauce, Bratkartoffeln und frischen Blattsalaten (Rumpsteak with pepper-cream-sauce, roasted potatoes and fresh salad greens):

After the wonderful meal, we all had coffee, but since I'm not a coffee drinker, I ordered tea. In this area of the country, all tea seems to be served in these beautifully delicate glass cups:

And we had our pick of sugars--everything on this tray was filled with different types:

Hmmm...now after blogging about this meal, I may just have to try to recreate it at home...it's making my mouth water just thinking about it again!


Monday, January 5, 2009

Adventures in Spain

So I thought I'd have time to blog while on a little family vacation in Spain, but I just haven't. We have two weeks to spend here, and we've tried to pack in as much as possible. Also, I'm the tour guide and driver since I'm the Spanish speaker of the family, so by the end of the day, I'm just plain exhausted.

We return on January 15th, and if I get a spare moment, I might blog before then, but if not, I'll try to pick up where I left off when we return.

And in the meantime, I'm savoring all of that wonderful Spanish cuisine!

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