I made a cake today. Just an average, ordinary cake. I promise, nothing weird, nothing out of the ordinary. OK, so maybe not everyone goes for mashed potato frosting. And chive sprinkles might be a little unconventional. But it all makes sense when you know the cake is a meatloaf! 😉 Welcome to my April Fool’s Day dinner.I used a delicious turkey meatloaf recipe from Health magazine. (Here’s the link.) I evenly spread out the meatloaf mixture in a 9 by 9 inch pan rather than making it into a loaf shape. After the meatloaf baked and cooled, I cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter for individual cakes. I mashed the potatoes with a little skim milk and salt to taste. Then I covered the meatloaf round with the mashed potatoes. I used an offset spatula to smooth the top and sides, and a piping bag with a star tip to decorate. Note: Make sure your potatoes are very smooth and creamy or they will clog up the star tip. (I won’t tell you how I learned that. 😉 ) Leave the cakes white to showcase the potato “frosting,” or sprinkle with chive “sprinkles.” (Or get creative and add peas, carrots, or anything else you can imagine! This is a day to play and have fun.)
Our Valentine dinner was a celebration of winter citrus! I love that citrus fruit comes into season in the middle of the winter months, just when we can use a bit of brightness. I thought it would be fun to choose a variety of citrus fruits, and then base my menu on what I found at the market.
I ended up with kumquats, blood oranges, Buddha’s hand, and a pomelo. This was my first time playing with Buddha’s hand, which was quite a discovery! I would highly recommend picking one up if you see it at the market. The scent is lovely, and the taste is distinctly different than any other citrus I have tried before. I really enjoyed exploring what I could do with the fruit. A culinary adventure! 🙂We began our dinner with scallops and fennel salad, all dressed in a tarragon and kumquat vinaigrette. The main course was seared duck breast with a blood orange sauce. Then for dessert we had Buddha’s hand cheesecake with candied Buddha’s hand on top. It was all paired with a sparkling wine pomelo cocktail and a delicious red wine from Orange Coast Winery.
I think our favorite dish of the night was the duck. The recipe was based on a duck bigarade recipe, which is a dish traditionally made with Seville oranges. I used blood oranges that were a little tart since I thought the blood orange color was perfect for Valentine’s Day!Seared Duck Breast with Blood Orange Sauce
Based on a recipe from Epicurious.com
2 duck breasts
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Zest of 1/2 blood orange, for garnish
Flesh of 1-2 blood oranges, for garnish
Salt the duck breasts generously on both sides, and allow them to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Pat the duck dry with a paper towel. Once the pan is hot, place the duck breasts into the pan, skin side down. Sear about 6 minutes on the skin side, and about 4 minutes on the flesh side, or until golden on the outside and still a little pink (medium) on the inside. (Of course, if you like your red meat cooked more, by all means cook it a little longer.) When the duck is cooked to your liking, set it aside on a cutting board. Tent with foil.
While the duck rests, discard all but 2 tablespoons of the duck fat in the pan. Turn the pan onto medium heat. Add the flour to the hot fat, and whisk until well combined. Cook until it is the color of a café au lait.
Slowly whisk in the stock, orange juice, orange liqueur, and vinegar. Pour any juices that may have accumulated around the duck into the sauce. Boil the sauce until thickened to the consistency of gravy. Salt and pepper to taste. Optional: Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer for a smoother consistency.
The final pie I made for our British anniversary pie extravaganza was a pheasant, leek, and parsley pie. 🙂 I started with a chicken pie recipe from BBC Good Food, which I thought would lend itself well to the gamier pheasant. I loved the clean, fresh flavors of the leek, parsley and lemon zest that complimented the pheasant well.
Again, I did a slow braise with the pheasant, just as I did with the rabbit, which resulted in very tender meat and a bunch of extra pheasant stock to use for future recipes.
Pheasant, Leek, and Parsley Pie
Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food
Cooking the pheasant and the stock:
1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower
1 pheasant, about 3 pounds, cleaned
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tablespoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Preheat a large stockpot on medium high heat. When hot, add oil, and wait until the oil is hot and shimmering. Add the whole pheasant, and brown on all sides. Add the remaining ingredients and cover everything with water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for about 2 hours, or until the pheasant meat is easily shredded with a fork.
Strain the stock, and discard the vegetables and seasonings.
Shred all of the meat, and reserve 2 ¼ cups of the stock for the pie. Freeze the rest of the stock for future recipes.
Cooking the pie:
1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower
2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ¼ cups pheasant stock
¼ cup dry white wine
1 3-pound cooked pheasant, shredded
Zest of 1 lemon
1 small bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the oil, and wait until hot and shimmering. Add the leeks, and cook until softened. Add the flour, stir well, and cook for about a minute. Gradually stir in the stock and wine, cooking until the sauce is thickened slightly. Add the pheasant meat, and heat until warmed through. Take the pan off the heat, and add the lemon zest and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, add the stew to small ramekins and top with the pre-baked shortcrust pastry. (The instructions for the pastry can be found here in the first beef pie blog entry.)
The sweet ending to our meal is up next. 🙂 A lemon syllabub trifle!
Happy New Year 2013!
On New Year’s Eve, we celebrated the last day of the year with a few Spanish tapas. My favorite was made with quince paste, Manchego cheese, and Marcona almonds. I had never cooked with quince before, and it really intrigued me! If you’ve never had it, I would describe it as a cross between a pear and an apple, but it needs to be cooked to bring out its sweetness. I love to explore ingredients I have never tried before. It keeps the kitchen fun and interesting.
I stayed with the quince theme for our New Year’s Day dinner. A new fruit for a new year seemed fitting! We had Five Spice Duck Breasts with Caramelized Quince to kick off 2013. I followed the recipe from Cooking Light magazine pretty closely except that I cut the sugar in the poached quinces quite a bit. Other than that, we thought it was a really exceptional recipe!
Based on a recipe from Cooking Light magazine
2 cups water
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 (1-inch) julienne-cut lemon rind
2 cored peeled quinces, quartered
Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan, and cook 2 minutes. Add quinces; reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Remove quinces from liquid with a slotted spoon. Strain liquid through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Pour liquid over quinces.
Five Spice Duck Breasts with Caramelized Quince
Poached Quinces from recipe above
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (12-ounce) packages boneless whole duck breasts, thawed and cut in half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions
Reserve 3/4 cup poaching liquid from Poached Quinces. Reserve remaining liquid for another use. Cut the quince quarters into cubes; set aside.
Combine 1/2 cup reserved poaching liquid, five-spice powder, ginger, and garlic in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add duck to bag; seal and toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator at least 24 hours or up to 2 days, turning bag occasionally.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Remove duck from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle duck evenly with salt and pepper. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Place duck, skin side down, in pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until skin is golden brown. Turn meat over; cook 1 minute. Place pan in oven. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160° (medium) or until desired degree of doneness. Remove duck from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Place duck, skin side down, on a cutting board or work surface. Brush meaty side of duck with remaining 1/4 cup poaching liquid.
Heat reserved drippings in pan over medium-high heat. Add cubed quince quarters; sauté 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in sliced green onions.
Remove skin from duck; discard. Cut duck diagonally across grain into thin slices. Divide duck slices evenly among each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1/4 cup quince mixture. Serve immediately.
PS. The leftover quince syrup was a nice addition to a glass of sparkling wine to ring in the new year :).
PPS. The festive little paper hats were free to download and print from http://www.ellinee.com. Super cute!
I discovered a new recipe website this year called Food52.com. It is an online community where you can share recipes, compare them and just chat about food. My favorite part about it is that they run recipe contests, so everyone’s favorite dishes rise to the top. When I found myself with a bunch of turkey leftovers earlier this year, I stumbled upon the “Best Recipe for Turkey Leftovers Contest Winner,” which was turkey pho. I’d never made pho at home before, but I definitely enjoy a good bowl on a cold and rainy night. I was actually quite impressed with how well this dish turned out! I love it when something comes out of my own kitchen that surprises me ;-). I thought I would pass along this recipe before you have your own turkey leftovers next week. It is a very delicious and comforting dish that is a little off the beaten track if you’d like to try something new.
From Food 52
This recipe makes 2 big bowls of soup
TOAST THE SPICES
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
4 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Heat a cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon stick and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices into a bowl to avoid burning them and set aside.
MAKE THE TURKEY PHO
1 quart homemade turkey stock (or homemade or store-bought chicken stock)
1 bunch green onions (green top parts only) chopped
1 3-inch chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 teaspoon brown sugar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon fish sauce, or more to taste
1-2 cup kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound leftover turkey breast, shredded
1 bunch (approx. 2 oz.) cellophane/bean thread noodles (or enough flat dried rice noodles to serve 2)
1-2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped- for garnish (optional)
1-2 tablespoon chopped green onions (white parts only), minced- for garnish (optional)
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
Sriracha chili sauce to taste
In a large pot, add the toasted spices and all ingredients from stock through fish sauce and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
Taste the broth and add more sugar or fish sauce, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Add the kale and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Remove from heat.
Add the shredded turkey and the cellophane noodles. Allow to sit for a few minutes while the noodles soften.
Ladle the broth into bowls. Divide the kale, shredded turkey and the noodles evenly into each bowl.
Sprinkle on the garnishes and add sriracha to taste. Squeeze lime juice to taste over the top of your bowl before eating.
We celebrated a little early with family this year, so Rob and I had a quiet and cozy Thanksgiving for two on the actual holiday. I decided to shake things up a bit since we had the traditional turkey and sweet potatoes and all of that last week. For our own little celebration, we had Roasted Pheasant with Chestnuts, Wild Rice and Fennel, Frisée Salad with Blue Cheese, Walnut and Cranberry Crostini and a Pumpkin Cake Roll with Cream Cheese Frosting. If you would like to try something off the beaten path for your holidays, we both thought all three were exceptional! The recipes were twists on the traditional fare, so it still felt like Thanksgiving, but it was fun to try a few new things.
The frisée salad was a festive little starter for our meal. I have to admit, I am not a big cranberry sauce fan, and so the addition of dried cranberries on the crostini was my version of “cranberry sauce.” 😉 I used quite a bit less blue cheese than the original recipe called for, and I was actually able to find a reduced fat cheese by Stella that had a very full flavor. I also used a baguette instead of ciabatta since I liked the size better, and it has fewer holes to let the goodies fall through ;). I made the whole recipe for the crostini, so as to have leftovers as snacks in the coming days.
Frisée Salad with Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Cranberry Crostini
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine
24 ½ or ¼ inch-thick slices of a French baguette, depending on your preference
3 tablespoons walnut oil, divided
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup reduced fat blue cheese, crumbled
5 tablespoons minced shallots, divided
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 bunch of frisée lettuce
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange bread slices on baking sheet. Brush bread slices on top side with 2 tablespoons walnut oil. Bake until crisp, about 5 minutes.
Mix walnuts, cheese, 4 tablespoons shallots, and dried cranberries in medium bowl. Sprinkle mixture on toasts. Bake until cheese melts, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine frisée, 1 tablespoon shallots, 1 tablespoon walnut oil, and vinegar in bowl. Serve with crostini on top of the frisée.
For the pheasant dish, I followed the recipe pretty closely. I did omit the butter when called for and used olive oil instead. I also needed to cook the pheasant longer than 40 minutes to get the breast meat to 160 degrees. If you haven’t ever had pheasant before (like we hadn’t) it has a very mild taste, but it is definitely not chicken or turkey. It was less gamey than I expected. A nice refreshing change from our usual poultry choices :). The sizes of the pheasants were also perfect for two with leftovers. I used two little 2 lb birds. (If you are in the Seattle area, Don and Joe’s Meats in Pike Place Market carries pheasant along with many other specialty meats. It’s a fun place to visit if you are looking for a little culinary adventure!)
Roasted Pheasant with Chestnuts, Wild Rice and Fennel
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com
2 cups fresh chestnuts
3/4 cup wild rice
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 pheasants (about 2 pounds each)
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 shallots, 2 minced and 4 slivered lengthwise
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
2 fennel bulbs (about 8 ounces each), sliced thinly crosswise
1 cup homemade chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. With a sharp knife, make two crosscut gashes on flat side of chestnuts. Place on a baking sheet, and roast for 15 to 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel off skins and set aside.
Rinse rice well. In a medium saucepan, combine with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover loosely, and allow to simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
Rinse pheasant, and pat dry. Combine rosemary, garlic, minced shallots, and salt and pepper to taste. Rub cavity with mixture. Season outside with salt and pepper. Tie pheasant’s legs together with kitchen twine. Tuck wings under breast.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Pour 1 tablespoon oil in a roasting pan over medium heat. Brown bird evenly on all sides, about 15 minutes. Place breast side up; transfer to oven. Cook for about 40 more minutes, basting often, until legs are a little loose when you shake them.
Meanwhile, pour 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet. Add slivered shallots, and cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer shallots to a bowl.
Pour another 1 teaspoon oil in skillet. Add fennel slices, and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
Pour remaining tablespoon oil in skillet. Add chestnuts; cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced to a glaze, about 10 minutes. Add remaining stock; simmer until again reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add rice, shallots, fennel, and 1 cup water to skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Add chestnuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with pheasant.
For dessert, we had a pumpkin cake roll with cream cheese frosting. I reduced the sugar from the original recipe and I made a simple Neufchatel frosting for the middle instead of the traditional full fat cream cheese filling. The presentation was quite beautiful, but I must say, it looks harder to make than it actually was. My favorite kind of recipe! 😉
Pumpkin Cake Roll with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Cook’s Country magazine
1 cup cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
5 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
16 ounces Neufchatel, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for garnish
For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 18- by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet and line with greased parchment paper. Whisk flour, spice, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; set aside. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat eggs and sugar until pale yellow and thick, 6 to 10 minutes. Add pumpkin and mix on low until incorporated. Fold in flour mixture until combined. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until cake is firm and springs back when touched, about 15 minutes. Before cooling, run knife around edge of cake to loosen, and turn out onto clean sheet of parchment paper that has been dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel off parchment attached to cake and discard. Roll cake and fresh parchment into log and cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the Filling: Place the room temperature Neufchatel cheese in a food processor, and blend with ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar until smooth.
To Assemble: Gently unroll cake and spread with frosting, leaving 1-inch border at edges. Re-roll cake snugly, leaving parchment behind. Wrap cake firmly in plastic wrap and chill completely, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Remove plastic, dust with confectioners’ sugar.
The main course for our wedding anniversary dinner was something new to our kitchen…Duck! We have had duck out in restaurants, but I’ve never tried making it at home before. I changed the original recipe from Domaine Chandon quite a bit to replace the turnip puree with a celeriac and potato puree. We love that flavor combination. Plus, I omitted the heavy cream and butter by using these vegetables with a naturally creamy texture. I also omitted the canola oil, since the duck breasts have enough fat in the skin to sauté them in a dry pan. Lastly, I used Earth Balance instead of butter when called for.
Duck Breasts with Celeriac Root Potato Purée and Caramelized Carrots
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
3 medium celeriac roots (about the same total size as the potatoes)
Earth Balance to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons in the potato mixture and about 1 tablespoon for the carrots)
Skim Milk to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
2 boneless duck breasts
Peel and chop the potatoes and celeriac roots into approximately 2 inch pieces to speed up the cooking time. In a large pot, boil enough water to cover the potatoes and celeriac. Boil until everything is very tender. Drain the water, and place the potatoes and celeriac into a food processor. Pulse the mixture while adding a little skim milk until it is smooth. (Be careful not to over mix, however, since potatoes can get goopy if over mixed.) Add a little Earth Balance, salt and pepper to taste, and pulse the mixture until everything is well incorporated.
In a small frying pan, melt about 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance over medium low heat. Add the carrots and sauté until tender and golden brown. Season with salt to taste.
Trim away any excess fat on the duck breasts. Score the skin in a crosshatch pattern using a chef’s knife to allow the fat to render. Salt and pepper on both sides.
Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat. Place the breasts skin-side down and cook until the skin is crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Pour off and discard the rendered fat from the pan as you go. Turn the breasts, and cook until medium-rare. (Adjust the heat to a lower temperature if they begin to get a little too brown before they are cooked.) Transfer the breasts to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. Cut into thin slices crosswise. We also carved away most of the skin for a leaner cut.
To serve, place a bed of the potato mixture in the middle of each plate. Fan several thin slices of the duck meat over the bed, and sprinkle the carrots on the other side. Serve immediately.
Serves 2 with leftovers.
We paired our dinner with a California wine called Steele 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The traditional anniversary gift for the 11th wedding anniversary is made of steel, so I thought it was a fitting choice! 🙂 We thought it was very delicious…Fruit forward but full bodied, which is our favorite style.
Rob also picked up a French Marsannay Rosé by Domaine Charles Audoin as a part of his gift to me. It was recommended to him by our local wine store when he asked for something to pair well with duck. Duck is fairly rich tasting meat, and the rose was light and crisp. Perfect combination :).