Friday, December 28, 2007

French Onion Baked Potato

French Onion Baked Potato. It's not pretty, being somewhat bland in color, but I literally moaned when I bit into it.

You will need (per potato)
1 large potato
1 sweet onion
Malbec wine
summer savory
a bay leaf
salt and pepper
beef broth (I used some leftover homemade beef stock in which had earlier cooked a garlic studded roast beast, but canned will work)
extra virgin olive oil

To Start: Rub your scrubbed and clean potato with olive oil. I use one that is made of olives that taste like butter, from Artesano's in Indianapolis.

After your potato is oiled, poke a few holes in it so it doesn't blow up in your oven, resulting in potato residue on your clothing that will likely get you secondary screening by Security Canine Barkley. Then place directly on the rack of a 400 degree F. oven and set the timer for 60 minutes.

Next, get one sweet onion, fairly large but not a Jabba the Hut sized one, and chop it into fairly thin slivers or pieces. .

SNIFF. No, it wasn't the onions I was thinking about my last grouping before bow season.

The onions, when chopped, will look to be almost the same mass as the potato, but they cook down quite a bit.

Put the onions in a pan with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and a couple pinches of salt (which help caramelize it) and cook on low/medium heat. Stir every few minutes, for at least 30 minutes. The onions should be VERY soft and caramelized, starting to turn golden. In the last five minutes raise the heat to medium, and cook until very light golden brown, stirring constantly, if needed. You want soft, not crunchy onions, so watch they don't burn, adding a teaspoon more olive oil as needed.

Remove the onions, putting them in a little saucepan and keep warm. Do not rinse fry pan. Remove it from heat, let cool a minute and then put in a healthy splash of Malbec wine (if you don't have a dry red wine, a splash of Chardonnay and Vermouth would work.)

With the wine in the pan, stir up the little bits of onion left with a spatula. Return to low heat and add 1/3 to 1/2 cup beef broth. Add a heaping half teaspoon of Summer Savory (if you can't find, use thyme), a bay leaf, 1/4 heaping teaspoon fresh ground pepper and a dash of salt. Simmer on low to medium low until reduced to 1/4 cup of liquid (by the time the potato is done, it should be ready).

While this simmers, shred just shy of a half cup of Gruyere cheese and also cut 4 thin slices (about an inch by 4 inches) of cheese for the top of the potato. Add the shredded cheese to the onion mixture. Reserve the strips. I used a really good quality Swiss Gruyere.

At an hour, remove potato from oven and turn oven to broil, positioning the top rack two rungs down. Cut off a thin wedge off the top of the potato and then scoop the potato flesh out of the potato as well as the little bit of flesh from the top piece, which you won't need. Mix the potato flesh with the broth over low heat (bay leaf removed and any extra broth removed with a spoon if you think after simmering it's more than 1/4 cup). Add onion mixture to wine infused broth and potato mixture. Mix with a spoon until combined and creamy with the cheese starting to melt. You can add additional salt and pepper to taste (I didn't think it needed it). Spoon the mixture back into the potato carefully. It will be more than the potato will hold, so you end up with a nice little Mt. McKinley of potato goodness on the top.

That potato summit then will be conquered by the strips of cheese which you will lay across the top of the potato in a small baking dish. Place the dish in the oven under the broiler and broil the potato until the cheese is melted and starting to brown (watch carefully, better light gold than burnt). Top with a sprig of fresh thyme and serve with a green salad.

Try not to make those little noises when you eat it. It makes the neighbors wonder.

click to enlarge


Monday, December 24, 2007

Pavlova - A Perfect Summer Dessert

This recipe may be doubled to make an 18 inch dessert, cooking time remaining pretty much the same.

4 egg white (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 teaspoons corn starch
15 fluid ounces whipped cream, whipped
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
soft fruit.

Mark a 9 or 18 inch (if doubling) circle on a large sheet of parchment paper.

Place on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. F.

When preparing a Pavlova recipe, the most important thing is to have scrupulously clean utensils, free of grease or egg shell. The success of the meringue depends on it. It is also important that the egg whites are at room temperature before beating them.

Whisk  egg whites til shiny.

Continuously whisk in sugar, a Tablespoon at a time, until glossy and thick.

Carefully fold in the vanilla, vinegar and corn starch.

Spoon mixture inside the circle and make well in center.  Bake one hour, and when cool carefully transfer to serving platter.  Top with whipped cream to which you've added the vanilla pod seeds and fruit.

If the room is fairly cool, open the oven door, after turning the heat off, letting the shell cool a little more gradually, removing  from the oven when cool.  Cracks will form either way, and are not noticeable with the whipped cream.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pretzel Rolls

Common in Chicago, Pretzel Rolls are buns for sandwiches, hot dogs or hamburgers, borrowing their name for that famous Bavarian Creation.  The chewy, slightly salted surface and soft interior is something unique.

They're a little bit of time to make, but once you've had them, plain bread for ham and cheese sandwiches, bratwurst or burgers is going to seem rather boring. They're wonderful freshly made, heated on a griddle or cold with lunch meats, but do freeze well, thawing quickly.

Pretzel Rolls

1 3/4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 and a generous 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups King Arthur's bread flour
3/4 teaspoon plus one pinch salt (just slightly less than 1 full teaspoon)
Coarse salt for sprinkling

Water Bath
7-8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons baking soda

Warm the milk to 110 degrees. F.  (bathwater warm). Do NOT scald. Stir in the yeast.  Remove from heat and let the mixture stand until it starts to foam (means the yeast is working) 5-8 minutes. Add in the olive oil, stir, and add three cups of the flour and the salt.

Kneed the dough in a big clean bowl with a dough hook for 5 minutes, adding the additional 1/2 cup flour as needed.  It should remain a bit tacky, but clean the sides of the bowl.  Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface and kneed lightly by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic (another minute).

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and turn it over so that both sides are oiled. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise where it's neither cold or drafty (an oven is idea) until it's double in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how cold it is in the work area. 

If the bread is in the oven, remove and preheat it to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down and  drop it on down to a clean floured surface, dividing into 8 pieces. Form each piece of dough into a ball, slightly flattened. Place the dough balls on the lined baking pan, cover and allow to rise for an additional 20 minutes.

While the buns rise, prepare a water bath.  Not for you, for the buns.  It's not hard. and if you've made bagels you've already done this before.  In a large, deep cooking pot, bring water, salt and baking soda to a rolling boil.  The dough at this point is a little sticky, so put a little flour on clean hands to help in handling them. Gently drop the buns (I use a large slotted spoon so not to splash) into the boiling water, a couple at a time, and let them boil for about half a minute on each side.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the lined baking pan.  Using a serrated bread knife, cut a couple lines across each bun and sprinkle with course salt.  When all the buns are "poached" and on the pan, bake for 25-30 minutes until the buns are a deep brown color.  Cool on a wire rack.

You may never eat a regular hamburger bun again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

Adapted from a recipe in Cooks Illustrated.

Serves 6 generously

1 cup milk (I used skim).
1 cup mayo (don't skimp here, use the leaded stuff)
1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 pound salad macaroni (1/2 of most boxes)
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
2 generous Tablespoons grated onion
1 carrot peeled and finely diced
1 small celery rib, chopped

Make the dressing by whisking 3/4 cup of the milk with 3/4 cup of the mayo, the pepper and brown sugar.  Set aside.  Cook the macaroni in salted water for 15 minutes, no more, no less.  Drain and toss with the Apple Cider Vinegar in a large bowl.  Let cool 10 minutes, and then add the dressing.  Just before serving, chop the veggies (or have them set aside and ready) and stir in with another 1/4 cup mayo and 1/4 cup milk and a generous dash or two of salt.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Baked Peaches with Maple Bacon Crumble

Recipe and photo (c) Home on the Range

Baked Peaches with Maple Bacon Crumble.

This recipe serves two, but easily doubles.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray 8 ounce oven-safe ramekins with non stick spray.

Drain one 15 ounce can of  "packed in fruit juice" peaches (or use fresh/frozen fruit) and toss with 1 Tablespoon of sugar and 1 Tablespoon of flour.

Divide into the two ramekins.  In a small bowl mix -

4 Tablespoons steel cut oats (not quick cooking oatmeal)
1 Tablespoon flour
3 shakes of Vietnamese Cinnamon (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 slice of smoked bacon, cooked and chopped fine
3 and 1/2 teaspoons of salted butter - melted

Mix and sprinkle over fruit.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.  Let cool two minutes (it will be VERY hot),  then top with a couple big spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream.