Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup and Pumpkin Spice Scones

Turkey day is less than a week away! Thanksgiving menu planning is in full swing, and everyone's focused on pulling off a memorable turkey feast. So in case you need some inspiration, here's a roundup of a few of my personal favorite Thanksgiving recipes. These are the dishes that are on my Thanksgiving dinner table year after year. Oh, and I've also thrown in a new recipe for some Pumpkin Spice Scones, because Thanksgiving breakfast should be special too.

Cranberry-Apricot Chutney – A twist on the traditional, flavored with ginger.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Pesto – So good, you may forget to leave room for the turkey. Seriously, it happened to me last year.

Traditional Sourdough Dressing – The quintessential. Nuff said.

Butternut Squash & Potato Gratin – Hello, heavy cream! If Thanksgiving isn't an excuse to use heavy cream with abandon, I don't know what is.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlées – Way better than pie.

Here's wishing you a happy and yummy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Spice Scones
Printable Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 ounces (¾ stick) cold unsalted butter, shredded
1 large egg
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoons Turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Blend together the egg, pumpkin puree, and 1/3 cup of the cream in a small bowl, add to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Transfer to a work surface and knead a few times until the dough just holds together. Pat the dough into a 6-inch wide, 1 ½-inch thick circle and cut into 8 wedges. Arrange the scones a couple of inches apart on a parchment-lined baking tray. Lightly brush the scones with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream and sprinkle with the Turbinado sugar. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 8 scones. Work quickly and with a light touch to prevent the butter in the pastry from melting. Serve warm, possibly with clotted cream. Scones keep for a day or two in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wonton Soup

Last weekend I taught a cooking class at Clark College entitled Soup Series: Chinese Favorites, and the Wonton Soup was a big hit. Students enjoyed learning how to fold wontons so much that I just had to share the lesson with you too.

But first, a little bragging…The Steaks with Chipotle Cream Sauce recipe from Seared to Perfection was featured in The Washington Post! And cooking classes are spotlighted in the latest issue of Clark College Connections, with a couple of quotes from, and pics of, yours truly (see pages 94 to 95).

Wonton Soup
Printable Recipe

4 quarts chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed, plus 2 cloves, minced
3 ¼-inch slices ginger, plus ½ teaspoon grated
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ pound ground pork
¼ pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and minced
3 tablespoons sliced green onions
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon dark sesame oil
Freshly ground white pepper
About 45 wonton wrappers
1 large head napa cabbage (about 1 ½ pounds), cut into 1-inch strips
Kosher salt

Combine the broth, crushed garlic, sliced ginger, and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until fragrant.

Meanwhile, mix together the ground pork, shrimp, minced garlic, grated ginger, green onions, 2 teaspoons of the cornstarch, sugar, sesame oil, a generous pinch of white pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce in a large bowl.

Whisk together the remaining 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Place 1 teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center of a wonton wrapper.

Using a fingertip, lightly moisten the edges of the wrapper with the cornstarch mixture. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling, forming a triangle, and eliminating any air pockets, firmly pinch the edges together to seal.

Lightly moisten the corners of the wrapper along the long side of the triangle with the cornstarch mixture. Fold the two corners together.

And firmly pinch to seal.

Make more wontons with the remaining wrappers and filling in the same manner. As you work, arrange the wontons in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray.

Discard the garlic and ginger from the broth. Add the cabbage, bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until tender. Add the wontons and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until just cooked through. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Ladle into individual bowls and serve immediately.

Serves 6 as a main course. Keep the wrappers and wontons covered with plastic wrap as you work so that they don't dry out. Avoid getting any filling on the edges of the wonton wrappers, or they won't seal. Uncooked wontons may be frozen in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray and transferred to a zip-top bag when frozen solid. Wontons keep for several weeks frozen. Add them to simmering broth while still frozen—there's no need to thaw them, just increase their cooking time by a couple of minutes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Peppercorns on the Vine and Steak au Poivre

And cue the impulse buy.

A rare and intriguing ingredient that I've never experimented with before can always get me to part with a few dollars without a second thought. This time it was a jar of intensely fragrant peppercorns on the vine.

Inspiration came even before I could put the peppercorns into the shopping basket, and I knew the perfect thing to make with them: the Steak au Poivre with Red Wine Sauce recipe from Seared to Perfection.

Just a couple of things before I get to the recipe…

Here's my interview on Savor Portland, in case you missed it. We chatted about everything from the release of my book to government cheese—good fun. The day after that appearance, Seared to Perfection was written up in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Also, registration for winter Clark College cooking classes is now open. I'm very excited to offer Spanish Paella Supper, Hands-On Fresh Pasta, Hands-On Asian Appetizers, Valentine's Seared to Perfection II, and Real Texas Chili classes and hope you can join me in the kitchen! Current class listings can always be found in the Cooking Classes, Book Signings & Appearances sidebar on the right.

And without further ado, may I present a glimpse of what's inside the pages of my book…

Steak au Poivre with Red Wine Sauce
Printable Recipe

4 1 to 1 ¼-inch thick rib-eye or strip steaks, weighing about 12 ounces each
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
½ cup red wine
½ cup beef broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 to 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

Season the steaks generously with salt and set aside at room temperature for about half an hour.

Coat the steaks with the pepper, pressing it gently into the meat. Heat a large, heavy sauté pan over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the steaks and cook without disturbing for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they release from the pan and are crusty and brown. Using tongs, turn the steaks and continue to cook over high heat another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the desired doneness. Moisture will just begin to accumulate on the surface of the steaks when they are medium-rare. Remove the steaks to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallot to the pan, and sauté for 30 seconds, or until translucent and fragrant. Add the wine and simmer for a minute or so, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a heat-proof spatula. Add the broth and thyme and simmer another 5 to 6 minutes, or until thickened and saucy. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the thyme, and let cool for a minute or two. Whisk in the butter quickly, stir in any accumulated juices from the steaks, and season to taste with salt.

Arrange the steaks on individual plates, divide the sauce among them, and serve immediately.

Serves 4. No bistro menu would be complete without steak au poivre, the classic French dish of tender steak encrusted with crushed black peppercorns. Although the recipe calls for what seems like an enormous amount of pepper, high heat works an amazing transformation on the pungent spice—the peppercorns become toasted and mellow. For this dish, the peppercorns should be coarsely crushed, not ground to a powder. Crack whole black peppercorns with a spice mill or in a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, place them in a zip-top bag and tap them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a small frying pan.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Behold, the Perfect Rib-Eye

Most steak connoisseurs agree, the rib-eye is the ultimate steak. It offers the perfect balance of flavor and tenderness, and it's ideal for grilling, broiling, and searing. No other cut of steak can satisfy carnivorous cravings in quite the same way. When you're selecting a rib-eye from the meat case, here's what to look for…

1. A relatively small eye. The eye meat is tasty, but even better is…

2. A relatively large cap (also known as lip, lifter, or deckle), which any rib-eye aficionado will tell you is the best part of the steak. The most perfect rib-eye has about as much cap meat as eye meat. If I could get a cap steak, I would. By the way, a large cap indicates that the steak came from the chuck end of the rib.

3. Only a small lump of fat. Every rib-eye steak has a fat mass that's situated between the cap and the eye. The smaller it is, the better. However, fat is desirable when it comes in the form of…

4. Ample marbling. These flecks of fat melt as the steak is cooked and keep the meat moist and succulent. Prime grade steaks have the most marbling and also the highest price tag. Choice grade steaks are relatively affordable and often have impressive amounts of marbling. Select grade steaks have little to no marbling and are hardly worth eating.

5. A thickness of approximately 1 ¼ inches so that each bite has a good ratio of seared surface to juicy, tender interior. Also, look for a steak that's cut evenly so that it cooks evenly.

6. Small overall size. Ideally one rib-eye steak should equal one serving, and each diner should get a steak of his or her very own so as to avoid sharing and the inevitable fisticuffs over who gets the cap end.

Incidentally, this particular rib-eye steak is grass fed, grain finished, ungraded (but looks like choice), and wet aged (dry aged would be even better). It's just less than 1 ½ inches thick and weighs in at about 12 ounces.
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