Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits

Hands down, these are my favorite biscuit.  The recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens anniversary edition cookbook- if you can get your hands on a copy, I recommend it.  The method is something I've pieced together from too many sources to remember.

The pounding make lots of flaky layers

These rise up nice and tall and taste great.  I like to cut them small- maybe 2 inches?  I always use a tall glass we brought home from The Spaghetti Factory!

Buttermilk Biscuits
Based on BHG Biscuits Supreme

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup shortening (I never measure- just do 3 good scoops with a soup spoon.)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk*

*You can use 2 Tbsp of lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1 1/4 cups.  Let it sit for a few minutes to curdle.

Place all ingredients except buttermilk in bowl of food processor and pulse until mixture resembles corn meal, with some larger chunks remaining. Dump into a separate bowl and add the buttermilk all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined- dough will be sticky.

Dump dough onto a floured board and knead once or twice.  Pound flat with a wooden rolling pin or dowel.  Fold in half and pound out again.  Repeat once or twice more.  Lightly rub a little flour on top if these are sticking, but the less flour you add in now the better.  

On the final time, don't pound too flat, and lightly roll to even out top.  I leave these tall.  Taller than my first thumb knuckle.  Cut with a round cutter- press straight down and pull straight up.  (If you twist, you'll bind the sides and they won't raise as tall in the oven.)  Place on a cookie sheet (air-filled is best) just barely touching each other, so they rise up not out.  Pat together remaining dough and pound out and lightly roll again- cut. Repeat until dough is gone  Makes about 12 biscuits.

Bake 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden.

Ham and Cheddar Biscuit Pockets

I originally found a recipe for these way back when, in Readers Digest.  (I'm pretty sure I was in middle school at the time.)  The recipe said Grands "thwack" biscuits, and that's what I used.  Hey guess what?  Like most foods in this world, these taste better when you make them yourself!


Ham and Cheddar Biscuit Pockets

1 batch of biscuit dough
diced ham
shredded cheddar cheese

Roll your biscuit dough thin as you can, and cut large circles (I used a 4" round tupperware.) Really roll these thin- biscuit dough puffs a LOT.  Not paper thin, but definitely pie crust thin.  Place biscuit rounds on a cookie sheet and top with ham and cheese, and another biscuit round.  Pinch the edges shut- make sure there aren't any holes!  Top biscuits with a little more grated cheddar cheese- my husband really likes crunchy cheese, this is his addition.

Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden.

The kids and Daddy like to dip these in ketchup.  I prefer a mixture of honey mustard and plum jam.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aunt May's Quick French Bread

Two years of perseverance have finally paid off!!!! Two years ago, we passed New Years with my husband's family. On New Year's Eve, we all gathered at the home of his Aunt May and enjoyed a smorgasbord of soups and her homemade french bread. I'd never tasted anything like it - the insides were slightly tangy and chewy. The crust, though, was what hooked me - I'd never tried homemade french bread with a chewy crust. I'm not a huge fan of crunchy bread crusts...if I wanted to be covered in crumbs while I eat my dinner, I'd eat a bowl of confetti!

I begged her for the recipe, and to my joy, she agreed! She wrote out the recipe for me that night, and brought it along with her the next day when the whole family went bowling.

Only problem? I didn't go. I had a toddler with me, and said toddler needed a nap. Little did I know, that would be my only chance to get that piece of paper.

I tried writing to Aunt May's daughter, but that was no good - she'd been trying to get the recipe for quite a while as well, and had never found the recipe, her mother, a piece of paper and a pen in the same room. D'oh!

Fast forward to last night. We had Christmas dinner at Aunt May's house. It was delicious - turkey, sweet potatoes, funeral potatoes, salad, rolls and the most amazing short-ribs. (I asked - all of the recipes came from Aunt May's daughter...who I'll begin hounding shortly. Those ribs were amazing!) (Note - The turkey was sheer GENIUS. I've heard, of course, that you can make a more moist, flavorful bird by rubbing butter under the skin. This recipe expounded on that greasy goodness by replacing the butter with BACON. That's right - the entire bird was covered in bacon, under the skin. We decided to call it a "burkey". You're welcome.)

I hit Aunt May up for the French Bread recipe again...and finally hit the jackpot! While I was furiously scribbling it down, in case she changed her mind, she told me the background on the bread - it's the recipe she used in college. She used the recipe for years, but unfortunately...it was lost during one of her moves. Luckily, several years later, she met up with an old college friend for lunch and that friend gushed about how she still used the french bread recipe Aunt May had shared with her in college. Aunt May replied, "That's great! Now.....could you give it back to me?"

It's now carefully written on a neon orange notecard, taped into Aunt May's labrinthian recipe notebook.

And now...it's here, too. Enjoy!

(Note - Aunt May gave me a few pointers - she always uses exactly 6 cups of flour total...but she lives in Utah, and the climate doesn't change much. In my own home, in Connecticut, I imagine I'll need to experiment with the flour amounts as the seasons change. Also, when the recipe says to mix and rest, 5 times, using a spoon, she simply leaves the whole mixture in her Bosch mixer and turns it on every 10 minutes.)

Quick French Bread
(From Aunt May)

Mix and let stand to proof yeast, in the bowl of your mixer:
1/2 cup warm water
2 pkg yeast
1 pinch sugar

Mix and add to the yeast mixture:
2 cups hot water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup melted shortening

Add 3 cups of flour and mix well in mixer. Add another 3 cups of flour and mix with a spoon.
Rest 10 minutes. Mix again with a spoon. Rest 10 minutes. Repeat this process a total of five times.

Divide the dough in half and roll out on a floured board, making sure the bread is approximately as long as a cookie sheet. Roll it out so that the loaf is long as thin (again, long as a cookie sheet) and place your two loaves on a cookie sheet. Brush the sides and tops of your loaves with a beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Allow to rise, uncovered, for 60 minutes. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It should have been delicious...

...instead, it was bland and tasted vaguely of onions.

I attempted to make a breakfast casserole for a church breakfast. I used homemade bread, handfuls of dried cranberries, a few chopped (local) apples and eggnog for the creamy, creamy base. Salt was thrown in for some variety and contrast. I added a few fresh eggs to make it into a lovely custard, and baked it until the top was nice and golden.

I was so proud of my dish. I took it to the party, and placed it on the table. Takers were few, but I assumed that was because they couldn't know that it was an eggnog casserole. Had they known, it would have been devoured on the spot!

When I finally found my way to the table and tasted a bite...I knew I had created a Catastrophic Fail. How could the above mentioned ingredients be combined to create something so completely bland...and reminiscent of onions.

Could it be the onions I chopped on the board a few days prior? Had their evil vapors somehow made their way into the apples? Or the bread that was chopped on the same board as well? Did it simply suffer from a lack of salt?

Dear readers, help me out here. How did a lovely Eggnog Breakfast Casserole turn out tasting like...Bland Onion Catastrophe??
For the record, here's my recipe. Seriously - any idea why this wasn't delicious??! Maybe some lemon juice would have helped...or more eggnog spices, to make it more pronounced.
1 loaf stale bread, cubed (1 lb)
2 apples, chopped
1 cup Craisins
6 eggs
1 1/2 cup eggnog
1 tsp. salt
Bake at 350
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

POM Wonderful Sweet & Sour Shrimp

A little while ago, I was contacted by a blogger at POM Wonderful about accepting some of their product to try. I wasn't asked to review them, but it was suggested that I experiment with the product and give my feedback. (Doesn't that amount to a review? Well, then, I wasn't asked to blog about it. How's that?) However, I like to blog...so there you go.

When the package arrived, it was 8 bottles of POM Wonderful, each one 8 ounces. Bottle #1 was a taste test...and a surprising one. The juice tastes as though the entire seed was ground up and then strained. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the juice is a good deal more bitter and sour than...whatever it was I was expecting. (Apple juice? heh.)

Bottle #2 became...sweet and sour shrimp. This was a hit, with everyone. Even the baby loved the pineapples, drenched in sauce!

LoLo Pomegranate Sweet & Sour Shrimp

(Serves 6-8)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 pound shrimp, shells on
1 can pineapple, drained and juice reserved
8 oz. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
3 tsp. cornstarch

In a bowl or measuring cup, combine the pineapple juice, pomegranate juice and cornstarch. Stir to combine, and set aside.

In a wok, large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil, and then cook your onions until translucent - about 3-4 minutes. Add your shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, or until just cooked.

You want the shells to get a little browned, if that makes sense. The shells add a lovely nutty taste to the shrimp. My husband suggests that the cook clean the shrimp, reserve the shells, saute the shells with the shrimp in this step to get the flavor, and then remove them before continuing on to the next step. I think he just doesn't like getting his hands dirty at the dinner table. Moving on!

Add in the pineapple, and cook another minute. Give your juice/cornstarch slurry a little stir to combine, and add it in. Bring to a boil and cook for one more minute to thicken the sauce.

Serve with rice, steamed garlic broccoli and plenty of napkins. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spaghetti with Braised Kale

I was dismayed to find kale in our most recent CSA box- I've given kale a few tries, a few different ways, and all have been inedible (at least to our palates.)  This recipe has changed that!  It's not stellar in a "oh my goodness, can we make this again to tomorrow?" kind of way, but it's warm, comforting, and very good.  And for me, I've made my peace with kale.

A few recipe notes- I used a 1/2 pound of small shell pasta in place of the spaghetti, and threw in the greens attached to the turnips I also found in my CSA box.  Beet greens would probably be good too- any hearty greens.  The recipe calls to braise the greens for 20 minutes or more- it took away nearly all of the bitter taste I've always loathed in turnip greens and kale.  I used a red onion- I love how well they caramelize-- and threw in a handful of refrigerated bacon bits with the cheese, to satisfy our heartier eaters.  Finally, I used a bit more pasta water at the end and a few handfuls of cheese, to make my favorite kind of pasta sauce- let it melt together, while stirring over low heat, and you'll have something delicious!

Spaghetti with Braised Kale
Bon Appetit, October 2009

3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. kale, large center ribs and stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 pound spaghetti
finely grated Parmesan (I used 2 or 3 small handfuls)

Rinse kale, drain, and transfer to bowl with some water still clinging.  Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat (I used a cast iron dutch oven.)

Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.  Add sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add kale and remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes.  cover pot and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and ading water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in medium pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.  Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pot.  Add lemon juice and 2 Tbsp or reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry.  Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.