Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Tis the Season

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging...

After too long a hiatus, my new year's resolution is to recommit myself to this blog and post more wonderful recipes and photos than I have been over the past few months. Between a crazy work schedule and little things like getting married, I just have not had the time lately. But I heard from so many of you after my New Zealand post telling me how excited you were to see me post again and how much you've missed the blog, that you have all really inspired me to get back to it. Thank you all so much for supporting me. I plan to give you more delicious treats in 2010.

But first, a recap of the holiday season! This Christmas came at us fast and furious, descending as soon as we got off the plane from our trip in the form of a huge snow storm. And this was just the beginning, as we got dumped with another foot the following weekend. But being trapped in the house for the weekend was the perfect excuse to spend it cooking and baking!

Cranberries seemed to be my inspiration and theme this year. Cranberries and eggnog! I started the weekend with our Saturday morning tradition of pancakes. But I mixed it up a bit and made them with eggnog.

I also added a handful of chopped, toasted pecans.

I topped the pancakes off with cranberry maple syrup. Festive fuel to get us ready for battling the crowds and tackle our last minute Christmas shopping.

Eggnog Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup
serves 2
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbl sugar or sucanat
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups eggnog
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 to 1/2 cup lightly toasted pecans, chopped
butter, for griddle
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade b)

  • Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  • Slowly pour in eggnog and whisk until just combined. Add beaten egg and whisk until combined, but batter should still be lumpy. Stir in chopped pecans.
  • Heat griddle or non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Grease pan with a bit of butter. Add ladle-fulls of batter to hot pan, and cook until bubbles on the top start to burst. Flip pancakes and cook 1 - 2 more minutes. Keep cooked pancakes warm in 150º oven cover in foil.
  • While pancakes cook, heat cranberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until cranberries just begin to burst. Let cool slightly and pour over warm pancakes.
Dinner that night came from a great article in January's Food & Wine. Gail Simmons went through each season of Top Chef, and fixed all worst dish disasters. We're big Top Chef fans - although we're still not caught up on last season! Our DVR misses us. I was totally won over by Gail's recipe for Carla's roquefort souffle that curdled in the oven and was never served to the judges in the season 5 finals. I've been on a major blue cheese kick lately, and found a great hunk of really creamy, stinky cheese at Lionette's Market that was perfect for this recipe. Lionette's is one of my new obsessions. Its a little shop in the South End that sells local produce, eggs, dairy, cheese, bread and meat. This will definitely be the place I'll be sourcing meat from if I ever decide to cook it. The staff knows all the farmers and can tell you exactly where the meat came from and how it was raised. No mystery meat here.

The individual souffles rose beautifully in the oven, and were a nice golden brown.

They did sink a bit by the time they made it to the table! It was a perfect light meal served with a salad of arugula and shaved fennel and some grilled bread.

I adapted the recipe for 2 - but ended up having enough batter for a third little souffle. You could probably make 2 with slightly bigger ramekins.

Blue Cheese Souffles
adapted from Gail Simmons for Food & Wine Magazine
serves 2
1 Tbl unsalted butter, plus more for buttering ramekins
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 Tbl all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 ounces good quality blue cheese
3 eggs, seperated
1 Tbl snipped chives

  • Preheat oven to 375º. Butter 2 or 3 1 cup ramekins and coat the inside with 1 Tbl of parmesan each.
  • In a small saucepan, melt 1 Tbl butter. Sprinkle flour over butter and cook for about 1 minute, whisking constantly. Pour in milk, salt and cayenne and cook until very thick and bubbly, whisking frequently.
  • Scrape milk mixture into a large bowl. Stir in crumbled blue cheese and remaining parmesan. Whisk in egg yolks and snipped chives.
  • In a large bowl, beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whites into the milk and cheese mixture until no white streaks remain. Pour mixture into ramekins, filling about 3/4 of the way full. Place ramekins on baking sheet and back until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

We woke up Sunday morning buried in snow. Perfect baking weather! I started with these Eggnog Cranberry Muffins from Annie's Eats.

I brought these to work and everyone loved the crumb topping.

I also made mini black and white cookies. I've never made these before and they are one of my favorite cookies. I like the chocolate side the best, and this icing was really chocolaty. I used a toothpick to divide the frosting and smooth it out.

Delicious alongside LA Burdick's Dark Hot Chocolate.

For dinner I made another recipe from January's Food & Wine. There was a feature on the best vegetarian recipes. This one was very hearty and seasonal - Baked Butternut Squash and Cheese Polenta.

The polenta is mixed with roasted and mashed butternut squash, smoked gouda and pine nuts, then baked until the top and sides get golden and crispy. I served it topped with tomato sauce mixed with sauteed mushrooms.

Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms
2 Tbls olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
salt and pepper to taste
1 - 2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl unsalted butter

  • Empty tomatoes with juices into a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or squeeze with hands (its messy but fun!). In a large pot, heat 2 Tbl olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until lightly softened. Add garlic and saute until just beginning to brown. And crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer until bubbling. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in balsamic vinegar and simmer a few minutes. Stir in red wine and simmer for about 10 - 20 more minutes, adjusting seasoning as needed.
  • While sauce is simmering, heat 1 Tbl olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 Tbl butter and stir until melted. add mushrooms and saute until all the liquid is released, about 10 minutes. Continue to saute until lightly browned on edges. Stir mushrooms in tomato sauce.

I roasted a huge butternut squash for the polenta, and used the leftovers for the Butternut Squash and Kale Bread Pudding I made for Christmas dinner. I also made a batch of brussel sprouts with buttered pecans.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Buttered Pecans
serves 10 - 12
4 pounds brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cups sliced pecans
6 Tbls unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt

  • Preheat oven to 400º. Spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until one shade darker and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Pour pecans into small bowl and mix with softened butter and salt. Set aside.
  • Spread brussel sprouts in a large pan. Toss with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and browned, 20 - 30 minutes. Toss with buttered pecans and serve.
My holiday sides were delicious, my father was the true star chef on Christmas day. He roasted a goose and made a rich port gravy, and he made beef wellington.

I had tastes of both of them and they were very good! He did an amazing job.

The holidays are almost over and we are going on yet another vacation! Our good friends Lisa and Marc invited us to join them in Bimini for New Year's. We can't wait to escape the cold and snow with a little island sunshine. See you in 2010 with a tan!

1 comment:

  1. amazing dishes! Welcome back! Now can I go in your suitcase to Bimini????