Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Maple and Mustard-Glazed Chicken Thighs #FoodBloggerLove


Earlier this month I noticed a fun game posted in the online group #FoodBloggerLove. We claim the last blogger in the comment stream and add our own link. Then we have a week to post an inspired recipe. I was thrilled to claim Ellen of Family Around the Table. She and I have been in several different blogging groups over the years, so I was familiar with her blog already. But it was great to really dive deep and get to know her better.

Meet Ellen! You can find her: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Pinterest.

She is a freelance writer, recipe developer, and former correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times where she wrote a regular TASTE section feature as well as reviewed cookbooks for more than 15 years. And, regarding her blog name, she credits her mom, her kids, and her grandmother for the inspiration. She remembers her grandmother making fresh pasta for dinner, writing, "She was from Italy and a very good cook so I come by my love of cooking naturally. My Mom inherited her cooking skills too."

Everyone needs an Italian nonna to get them into the kitchen! The world would be a better place, I think, if more people spent time with older relatives learning useful life skills.

So, I explored Ellen's blog and will be making several of her other dishes, including her version of the Barefoot Contessa's Beef Bourguignon and a Hearty Vegetable Beef Stew. Like Ellen, I really love beef.

On the sweet side of things, her Out of this World Apple Cake is calling my name. But I think I will save her Italian Cream Cake with Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting for a special occasion.


But, for this post, I was inspired by her Maple Glazed Chicken as I had a new bottle of bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and I definitely wanted to use it in a savory dish. This was it! I made a few changes in that I did this on the stove instead of in the oven and I skipped the vegetables and just served a green salad. But her combination of the sweet maple syrup and the tangy mustard was fantastic. I will definitely be making this again.


Ingredients serves 6
  • 6 or 7 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
  • 3/4 C pure maple syrup + more for finishing
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T olive oil
  • sesame seeds for garnish


Procedure
Mix maple syrup, mustard, and sesame oil together in a small mixing bowl and rub that mixture into the skin side of the chicken. In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil. Place the skin side of chicken down and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

Turn the chicken over - the skin will be browned and crisp - and cook on the second side for 25 to 30 minutes.


To finish, brush each chicken thigh with a thin layer of maple syrup and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately!

Chamomile-Poached Sand Dabs with Candy Caps


With all this gloom and grey, I wanted a dish that looked a little bit Springy. And I looked no further than the fresh organic chamomile blossoms I had on my table. Fresh chamomile is surprisingly bitter, so I thought I'd temper it with the maple syrup-reminiscent candy cap mushrooms. 

Remember? I just used them in Candy Cap Cookies?! And our CSF (Community-Supported Fishery) share this week from Real Good Fish was sand dabs. That sounded like a great place to start.


One of the many things I adore about belonging to a CSF is knowing about the fisherman and the fish. These sand dabs were caught by Geoff Bettencourt on the FV Miss Moriah just up the coast from us in Half Moon Bay.

Sand Dabs, scientific name Citharichthys sordidus, are a mild white fish whose range runs the coastline from Alaska to Baja. It has the ability to change its color and pattern to match its surroundings which protects it from predators. Since most of the waters in and around the Monterey Bay are closed to trawling, these are caught using the hook and line techniques.

Ingredients serves 4

  • 1 pound sand dab filets, deboned
  • 1/4 C dried candy cap mushrooms 
  • 1 T fresh, organic chamomile blossoms + more for garnish
  • 1/2 C boiling water
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 T shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1 T olive oil + more for serving
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • organic chamomile greens for serving

Procedure

Place candy cap mushrooms and fresh chamomile blossoms in a bowl. Pour boiling water over them. Let steep until softened and fragrant. Whisk in maple syrup. Set aside.

In a large, flat-bottom pan, heat olive oil and saute shallots until softened and beginning to turn translucent. Pour in the soaked candy caps, chamomile blossoms, and soaking liquid. Bring to a simmer.

Place sand dab filets into the liquid. Poach until firm, approximately 5 minutes.

To serve, move cooked filets to a low, rimmed bowl. Spoon candy caps over the top. Pour in a few T of poaching liquid. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with fresh chamomile blossoms and greens.

Butternut Squash Tourte #ChefsSecret


I had it all planned out: an entire Valentines' dinner with recipes from the companion cookbook for Crystal King's The Chef's Secret. For the dessert course, I thought about re-making my own Crostata di Ciliegie; but I wanted to try one of the other sweet treats.


I settled on the Pumpkin Tourte that Crystal herself offered. I substituted butternut squash because that's what I had just received in my CSA box. I roasted it, pureed it, and set about making the tourte. Except...I was rushing and I forgot to add the sugar.

With the first bite, everyone at the table had an odd look on their faces. "It's different," declared my Enthusiastic Elf.

"Is it supposed to be savory?" asked my Love. No, why?!? I took a bite and immediately knew what I had done, or not done. Darn it! I forgot to add the sugar.


I ran into the kitchen and whipped up some cream with a significant amount of sugar and came back with a plate of Black Tahini Truffles, too. Our Valentines' dessert cravings were averted, but I have Crystal's Pumpkin Tourte on my to-bake list. Correctly next time. With sugar!

Flops happen. I think it's important to share my kitchen successes and failures. Because, if you can't laugh at yourself, you'll never improve, right?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Crostata di Ciliegie #ChefsSecret


This recipe is my interpretation of a pie mentioned in the new historical novel The Chef's Secret by Crystal King*. And I was excited to share it with her. The book was just released last week and my Crostata di Ciliegie appears in the digital companion cookbook. How fun is that?

This isn't a full review of the book, especially since I'm re-reading it this month and will do a more extensive post. So that will be coming soon. But I wanted to share this recipe and its inspiration.

On the Page

 “I began the day I was to dine at casa di Palone in the Vaticano kitchen, helping Antonio prepare the pope’s meals.…I suspected the pope would not touch the custardy dessert, but I felt compelled to take a chance. The worst that might happen was that he would order me to go back to his regular menu. At best, he would recognize the joy of food God gifted to us.…Antonio helped me bake a crostata to take the Palone house that evening. …The fragrance was magnificent. I hoped the famiglia Palone would find the pie tasted as good as it looked” (Chapter 11).

On the Plate

After I read that passage, I was daydreaming about cherry crostata, and I decided to create a version with frangipane and Amarena cherries with the top crust brushed with a hint of rosewater. The Amarena cherries, a variety of the Prunus cerasus developed by Gennaro Fabbri who was born in Bologna in the late 19th century, small, dark cherries grown near Bologna and Modena. Though Giovanni’s version is made with the Visciola—an indigenous, wild cherry—Amarenas were what I could find here in California! Because the cherries were bottled in syrup, I used very little sugar in the crust and added lemon juice to the frangipane to cut the sweetness. Rosewater, I’ve found, is a very polarizing ingredient; some people love it, others abhor it. So, I used it very sparingly.

Ingredients

Crust
• 2-1/2 C flour + more for rolling
• 1/2 C ground almonds
• 1/4 C powdered sugar
• pinch of salt
• 1 C butter
• 3 T water
• 3 T grappa (use whatever alcohol you want – vodka and gin work well – or more water.)
• Also needed: a tart pan with a removable bottom, silicone brush

Frangipane
• 1 C ground almonds
• 1/4 C dark brown sugar
• 1/2 C melted butter
• 2 large eggs
• 2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons because I have a tree in my yard. Use whatever lemons you have.)

To Finish
• Amarena cherries (I used two 7.4 oz jars from Trader Joe’s which are pitted but still have stems.)
• 1/2 t rosewater
• 1 T water
• Unsweetened whipped cream, for serving, optional

Procedure

Crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the flour, ground almonds, powdered sugar, and salt together; rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Alternatively stir in water and grappa, if using, until the mixture forms a ball. Divide the ball into  thirds, then combine two of the balls so you end up with 1/3 of the dough for the top and 2/3 of the dough for the bottom. Wrap the smaller ball in plastic wrap and chill. Roll out the larger ball between two pieces of parchment paper. Press gently into a tart pan. Prick crust with a fork to prevent  bubbling.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350, or until a light golden brown. In the meantime, make the frangipane.

Frangipane
Mix everything together to form a paste. Once the tart crust is cooked, spread a layer of frangipane over the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes.

To Finish
Drain the Amarena cherries and remove their stems. Rinse briefly under cold water and let drain again while the frangipane bakes.

Press the cherries into the partially baked frangipane. Roll the second crust out between two pieces of parchment paper. Slice into ¾” wide strips. You can weave the lattice if you like. I simply overlap them to create a grid and press gently at the intersections. Trim any excess dough and press gently at the edge of the pan to attach the strips to the crostata base. Dilute the rosewater in 1 tbsp water and brush a light coating over dough strips.

Return to the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the crostata from the tart pan.


Slice and serve with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.


*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Steak au Poivre et Thé + Martian Radiant Cabernet Franc 2014


In preparation for an upcoming the Cabernet Franc event for Wine Pairing Weekend crew, I got ahold of three bottles of Cab Franc and took two over to a dinner party. You'll hear about that tasting next month, but the third bottle I kept for my own table. And, on a stormy evening this weekend, Jake and I paired it with some tea and pepper-crusted filet mignons.

In My Glass

Martian Ranch & Vineyard is a biodynamically farmed vineyard in Santa Barbara County. Created by Nan Helgeland in Los Alamos, California, the name is a blending of her sons' names, Martin and Ian.

I was able to track down a bottle of their sold-out 2014 Cabernet Franc. Helgeland has a drive to find a plot of land best suited for each specific varietal. Here's the 'Martian's eye view' of her vineyard...the Cab Franc is cultivated in plot 08.

from martianvineyard.com


In the glass, the wine is inky, almost black. On the nose, I get aromas of cherries with a hint of mushrooms. On the palate, the wine is well-balanced and smooth which made me think of a steak topped with silky, caramelized onions. To add some more complexity, I went with a Steak au Poivre and added in some pulverized smoked tea leaves, hence the Steak au Poivre et Thé.

On My Plate

I love the smoky aromas and flavor of Lapsang Souchong tea. I use it to add smokiness - as if from bacon - without actually adding bacon.

Ingredients serves 4
  • 4 T Lapsang Souchong tea (use any black tea you wish)
  • 4 t peppercorns (I used a mixture of black, white, and pink peppercorns)
  • 1 t allspice berries
  • 4 six ounce Filet Mignon steaks, approximately 1-1/2" thick
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced


Procedure
Melt 1 T butter in olive oil. Add the onions and cool until translucent and caramelized. Set aside.

In a spice grinder, add tea, peppercorns, and allspice. Grind coarsely and turn out on a plate. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees F. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and press them into the tea-peppercorn mixture.


Melt 1 T butter in a large, flat-bottom pan. Sear the meat until well-colored, approximately 4 minutes on each side. Move the steaks to an baking dish and transfer them to the oven to keep warm.


To serve, place the steaks on a plate. Spoon the onions over the top. Serve immediately. I served this with a salad and scalloped potatoes on the side.

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Book, An Inspired Braise, and A (Surprise!) Bottle of Red from Provençe #Winophiles #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the February #Winophiles event.
The book was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

This month, Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is hosting the French Winophiles. She levied a fun, two part challenge to the group. You can read her invitation: here

She offered us copies of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle - courtesy of Blue Vase Book Exchange* - to accompany our exploration of Provençal wines and food pairings. Bonus points, she said, for not opening up a Provençal Rosé. Needless to say: this wine-swilling bibliophile was in. Immediately. 

Provençal Posts
A Book

When I picked up the package at the post office, I was so excited to have a new-to-me book for the weekend. I had to accompany D and his project partner downtown one Sunday last month. So, while they planned a strategy and identified a shot list of photos they needed to take, I sat there with some cheese and a coffee, enjoying the sun, and dug into the book. This is a breeze to read. If you haven't read it and are looking for an afternoon's diversion to Provençe, pick this up!


As much as I love travel and food memoirs, I am surprised that this hasn't crossed my shelf yet. Organized as a calendar year - each chapter encompasses a month - this memoir details Mayle's first year in Provençe as a British ex-patriate who has purchased a house in France and is in the process of renovating. 

I read that Mayle passed away last January - 2018 - after having lived in France for over a quarter of a century. I will definitely be looking up more of his books as I really enjoyed his narrative voice and, of course, the picture he paints of his adopted country.

Some entertaining passages I want to share that illustrate his skill with a pen...and some differences he notes between the Brits and the French.

In January: "The effect of the weather on the inhabitants of Provençe is immediate and obvious. They expect every day to be sunny, and their disposition suffers when it isn't. Rain they take as a personal affront, shaking their heads and commiserating with each other in the cafés, looking with profound suspicion at the sky as though a plague of locusts is about to descend, and picking their way with distaste through the puddles on the pavement" (pg. 10).

In June: "It had taken me some months to get used to the Provençal delight in physical contact. Like anyone brought up in England, I had absorbed certain social mannerisms. I had learned to keep my distance, to offer a nod instead of a handshake, to ration kissing to female relative and to confine any public demonstrations of affection to dogs. To be engulfed in a Provençal  welcome, as thorough and searching as being frisked by airport security guards was, at first, a starling experience" (pg. 101).

In December: "It is very different with the French. They are no sooner given a glass before they put it down, presumably because they find conversation difficult with only one hand free. So the glasses gather in groups, and after five minutes identification becomes impossible. The guests, unwilling to take another person's glass but unable to pick out their own, look with longing at the champagne bottle. Fresh glasses are distributed, and the process repeats itself" (pg. 203).

A (Surprise!) Bottle of Red
 

Probably like most people, when I think of wines from Provençe, I automatically think of Rosés. I've opened a fair share of those after all. I've shared these pairings Spiced Orange Salad + Cave de Saint-Roch-les-Vignes Côtes deProvence Rosé, Warm Weather Rosé + Cheese Pairings, and Tapenade-Topped Sablefish + Cave de Saint-Roch-les-Vignes Côtes de Provence Rosé; and, though not a wine-food pairing, I posted Tasting Notes: Luc Belaire Rare Rosé. So, lots of pinks there.

When Wendy mentioned that she'd like us to find reds or white, as we could, I was on the hunt. And I found one. I picked up a 2014 Domaine de Terrebrune from Bandol, Provençe. It's a single varietal Mourvèdre. Surprise! My bottle of wine is not a Rosé.

Mourvèdre is primarily a blending grape - it's the 'M' in GSM blends - but is increasingly being bottled on its own. When I find it on its own, I am always captivated. The grape goes by a few different names worldwide. The grape we know as Mourvèdre goes by the name Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in Australia.  


This wine has strong garrigue aromas which refers to the wild, aromatic low-growing vegetation on the limestone hills of the Mediterranean coast. Think juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender; 'garrigue' refers to the lot of them. For this almost purple-hued wine, I got mostly lavender and thyme on the nose. And the salinity on the tongue definitely made me think of the Mediterranean coast of Provençe. There was also some licorice undertones. The noticeable tannins harmonize nicely with the structure of the wine making this a delightful sip.

An Inspired Braise

I took inspiration from this passage in the January chapter: "The cold-weather cuisine of Provençe  is peasant food. It is made to stick to your ribs, keep you warm, give you strength, and send you off to bed with a full belly. It is not pretty, in the way that the tiny and artistically garnished portions served in fashionable restaurants are pretty, but on a freezing night with the Mistral coming at you like a razor there is nothing to beat it" (pg. 13).

So in the last weekend of January, I made a Provençe-inspired braise with boneless pork chops I had in the fridge. And to match the garrigue notes of the wine, I added in thyme, rosemary, and lavender to the dish. With the cream and potatoes, it definitely sent us to bed with fully bellies!

Ingredients serves 4 to 6

  • four boneless pork chops
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thickly sliced with fronds reserved
  • 1 pound potatoes, thickly sliced (I used multi-colored marble potatoes)
  • 2 t crushed dried lavender blooms
  • 2 t dried rosemary
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 2 t sea salt
  • European style mustard*
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 1/2 C stock (I used chicken stock, but use whatever you have)
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • water, as needed
*NOTE (because a reader asked for clarification): When I write 'European style mustard' I just really mean anything other than (American) yellow mustard. It could be Dijon, English, or whole grain. You could use any kind that you have, but the latter kinds have a little bit more texture and heat, in my mind.

Procedure

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a small mixing bowl, blend together the lavender, rosemary, thyme, and sea salt.

In the bottom of a baking dish or Dutch oven, layer in the onions and fennel bulb. Sprinkle in a third of the herb mixture. Add the potatoes and top with another third of the herbs. Place the pork chops on top and finish off the herbs.


Add some mustard on top of the pork and use a knife to make a thin layer. Pour in the liquids. If the liquid doesn't reach to the bottom of the meat, add in some water. Top with fresh fennel fronds and  the cover the dish or use the lid.


Place in the oven and let braise for 2 hours. Remove the lid. Turn the meat and potatoes to make sure they are fully covered in the sauce and return it to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.


Serve hot with a wine from Provençe...a red wine, if you can. I also served this with wilted spinach and a bitter greens salad in a mustard vinaigrette. What a delicious meal, inspired by a fun read. Thanks for hosting, Wendy! And thanks, too, to Blue Vase for the book. Merci beaucoup!

Find them on the web, on Facebook, and on Amazon
I am also linking this post up to February's #FoodieReads: here.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Candy Cap Cookies: Fungi Treats for My Fun Guys


After almost twenty-one years together, Jake knows I get a little creative with my ingredients. In fact, all of my friends joke that I can't make anything plain or basic. Ever. Case in point: I can't stand to make plain rice krispie treats; there's always a twist. Fine, they're right.



So, when I was trying to decide on some Valentines' treats, I eagerly eyed a bag of dried candy cap mushrooms that I had tucked away in the cupboard. I have ground them up to make Candy Cap Macaroons and to use them in a crumble topping before. I pulled out my coffee grinder to do something like that again. 

Then I found a recipe that rehydrated the dried candy caps, cooked them in butter, and used them in the cookie like that.  So, I started with that recipe from Bedford Winery. I swapped sugars, used coffee extract, and skipped the nuts but added nut flour. I also saved the mushroom water, made a syrup, and used it in a frosting. 


D, my mushroom-averse child, wrinkled his nose when he saw these on the counter. "What are those for, Mommy?" he almost wailed. Don't worry about it. You won't even know it's in there. "Oh, I'll know," he insisted.

R walked over as I poured hot water over the dried mushrooms and declared, "That's a lot of witchiness going on, Mom. What are you making with that?" Cookies. "Yum!"

In case you aren't familiar, candy cap mushrooms actually smell and taste like maple syrup. In fact, I've washed my hand dozens of times since I made these and they still smell like the candy caps. It's a crazy ingredient that I love.


And just two more things you should know about this cookie. I actually ate one. Well, I ate half of one. D ate the other half. Most of the time I am content just to create. I don't actually need to taste the baked good to decide if I'm going to share the recipe or not. My peanut gallery is always more than willing to give me thumbs up or thumbs down. So, it's saying a lot that I indulged. They were that enticing.

Also, I went to pack a few cookies in each lunchbox this morning and the entire container was gone. Jake had packed it to take to work. So, he must have liked them that much...or he just wanted to prove to his coworkers that his wife is off her rocker. In any case, I need to make some more because this batch vanished quickly.

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 C dried candy cap mushrooms
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 1 C butter, softened + 1 T for sautéing
  • 1 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 t coffee extract
  • 1-1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C ground almonds

Candy Cap Syrup
  • reserved mushrooms water (mine was about 1 C)
  • 1 C organic dark brown sugar

Frosting
  • 2 C organic powdered sugar, or more to thicken icing 
  • 1 to 2 T candy cap syrup
  • 1/4 t coffee extract

Procedure

Cookies
Rehydrate dried mushrooms. Place them in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them. Stir to ensure that they are all submerged. After 20 minutes, strain them but reserve the soaking liquid. Squeeze excess liquid out by hand, then chop or thinly slice.

Melt 1 T butter in a skillet and add in the sliced mushrooms. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1 C butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg and coffee extract. Slowly add flour and ground almonds while stirring. Once it's come together, add in the sautéed candy caps. Incorporate the dough into a ball. Divide the ball in half and wrap in plastic wrap to chill for 15 to 30 minutes.

Candy Cap Syrup
While the dough chills, make your syrup. Strain the soaking liquid a few times to remove any chunks or debris. I think I strained mine three times. Pour the liquid in a small sauce pan and stir in brown sugar. Over medium heat, bring the liquid to a boil. Swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. If you would a thicker consistency, cook it longer. I only used a little bit of this syrup. So, you'll see it again in a candy cap cocktail. Soon.


Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out to between 1/4" and 1/3" thick. Use a cutter and place the cookies on a parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet.


Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until bottoms of cookies are firmed. Let cool on the baking sheet for 3 to 4 minutes before removing to a wire rack and letting them cool completely.

Frosting
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the ingredients until smooth. If it needs to be thicker, add more powdered sugar. If it needs to be thinner, add more syrup. Set aside.


To assemble, place a small amount of the frosting on top of the cooled cookies. Gently use a spoon to push the frosting to the edge. Set aside to let the frosting set.


There you have it: fungi treats for my fun guys! Happy Valentines' Day.

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