Friday, November 20, 2009

An Interruption in Regularly Scheduled Programming

Dear Friends,

I'm sorry to announce that I don't have a recipe for you today. In fact, it may be a while before I can offer you much of anything. You see, it appears that I may have gallstones. Either that, or some other malady is plaguing my stomach and surrounding parts. It's very unfortunate, since my favorite thing to do is eat. Not that I do it constantly. It's just what I look forward to most in my day. So gang, it looks as though you'll be eating that asparagus gratin without me.

Who knows, by the time I recover, I may become a health and exercise nut, and this blog will have changed direction! Would you like that? No, neither would I. I'm pretty sure that won't be happening. As a respite from a constant stream of herbal teas and Netflix movies, I promise to stop in from time to share some kind of recipe with you. Most likely, it will be gallbladder friendly, so we'll all win. That sounds nice.

Take care,


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Delightfully Crispy, Buttery, Creamy, and Cheesy...All in One Dish

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I've said before that Easter is a great holiday for food, and Thanksgiving is more set in stone when it comes to the menu, but there is something so cozy and comforting about a feast with family and friends in the fall. The sentiment surrounding the holiday--giving thanks for all that we have-- is just right, and it's never really been marred by rampant commercialism. I look forward to Thanksgiving every year, though it seems to have crept up on me this time. But I've still got two weeks left, so that gives me plenty of time to think about what I'm going to bring this year.

Usually, my Mom asks that I make a side with butternut squash. I'm considering keeping it simple this year, and serving my squash mashed, with an additional offering. We'll have to see what the second dish is. Something that's a bit less expected would be ideal, as long as it's not totally out of place. I'm not really one for flagrantly non-traditional dishes at Thanksgiving; it needs to adhere to the idea of a traditional harvest-time feast. Whatever tradition it follows is up to you, but I like an "honest American" type of cuisine.

Regardless of your tastes, the possibilities are endless. I'm heavily leaning on making these biscuits, which, as I've mentioned before, are ridiculously good. But, as there are a lot of conflicting needs in my family (two vegetarians, one turkey hater, two vegetable haters, and three people who will pretty much eat it all--I'm a member of the last group), maybe a vegetable dish that everyone--except for one person--will enjoy could be just thing (maybe he'll try it, too). It's more of a spring dish, but it's very special and oh-so-good. It would also make a great Christmas dinner dish, as it's rich, cheesy, and something that should be eaten once, maybe twice a year, tops. But you'll want it more often. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Asparagus Gratin
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens' Easy Menus for Dining Inn
Feel free to insert your favorite vegetable in place of the asparagus, maybe something that's in season for Thanksgiving. I'd recommend artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or turnips for fall. However, my version was inspired by another recipe for a gratin using leeks. I tried it this way, but the leeks were a little stringy. With the asparagus, it's got a pleasant crunch.

2 bunches tender asparagus, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dried marjoram, or 3 tablespoons fresh, snipped
2 slices French or Italian bread, or 1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for the dish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Run two or three slices of bread through a food processor to make larger-sized breadcrumbs that will crisp wonderfully in the oven.

Generously butter a 2 quart rectangular baking dish or gratin dish (something you can bring from the oven to the holiday table is ideal). Arrange the asparagus in the bottom of the dish, overlapping if necessary.

In a small bowl, combine the whipping cream and broth, pour over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt pepper, and half of the marjoram. Carefully cover the dish with foil, and bake for 15 minutes. About halfway through, check the asparagus to make sure it is not cooking too quickly, as asparagus can vary greatly in thickness.

While the asparagus is baking, combine the remaining marjoram, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter in a small bowl. Remove the asparagus from the oven and remove the foil. The asparagus should be fork-tender, but not limp. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the asparagus. Bake the gratin uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, checking halfway through. The cream will have thickened, and the bread crumbs and cheese will be browned.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chicken or Beef?

Happy Halloween! I guess I can still get away with saying that, since today is El Dia de los Muertos.

Anyway, what I really wanted to show you is a picture of our Halloween pumpkin. It's supposed to be cat. I like the cartoonish quality of the cat (and the twinkle in its mouth).

Right now, I've got a few recipes in the works, so please bear with me during this slow period, so to speak. For this week, I am going to share with you two of my favorite marinades, which could be used for chicken or beef. Both marinades can be made the day before and poured over your choice of meat (or maybe even vegetables or tofu), and placed in the refrigerator over night (overnight might make the vegetables limp). You'll have a delicious and simple meal to come home to the next day. And with early evenings approaching, I think that will be a huge help.


Reprinted with notations from the New York Times Cookbook

1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger, or 1/2 tablespoon powdered ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar (raw/demerara/turbinado sugar recommended
1 cup of low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup sherry or white wine, even good quality Marsala can work in a pinch

Combine the ginger, garlic, onion, sugar, soy sauce and sherry. Pour the mixture over 2 pounds of chicken or sirloin beef that has been thinly sliced or cut into bite sized pieces. Let stand one to two hours or overnight. Grill or broil, on skewers and serve hot. This marinade is especially good for beef.

Indonesian Ginger Marinade

Adapted with notations from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and the Food Network

1 cup of honey (orange blossom preferred, rather than lavender, etc)
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
8-12 cloves of garlic, minced (1/4 cup)
1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root (go with fresh ginger, as it really makes the dish in this case)

Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Arrange four or five bone-in chicken breasts or 2 1/2 pounds of sirloin or flank steak in a baking pan. Chicken should be placed skin-side down. Pour the sauce over the meat, cover with foil and marinate overnight.

The following day, beef can be grilled or broiled. For chicken, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for thirty minutes, then uncover the pan. Turn the breasts over, then continue to bake for 30 minutes longer.

This recipe is especially good with chicken, and I imagine that it would be delicious with salmon or a delicate white fish, too.