We've been enjoying a wonderful, relaxing holiday, interspersed with the occasional lively party, and here we are at New Year's Eve already. I never planned an intentional break from blogging, but between the Christmas festivities and settling into our now home, I hardly touched a computer for days.
Don't worry, I documented the highlights from all the feasting over the last few weeks, and will be bringing them to you without delay!
First up, here is a dessert worthy of a New Year's Eve dessert table: a white chocolate mascarpone mousse layered with white wine poached pears and lady fingers. It's rather regal, standing proudly in a lovely trifle bowl, and the billowing layers of mascarpone mousse & whipped cream topping make it a pretty winter dessert. I'm a huge trifle fan (some people just are or they aren't, so I am discovering) and this version tops the 'decadent' scale with it's addition of creamy mascarpone -yum!- and sophisticated spiced poached pears -yum yum!
It's also a spectacular do-ahead dessert, which we all love, right? I actually spaced out the work and made it over three days, starting with the poached pears on the first day, then the mouse and assembly on the second, and finally, on the third day, added the whipped cream topping and candied ginger just before serving.
The flavors actually improve after spending a night together in the fridge--the only challenge is finding the space! I feel like I've been playing Refrigerator Tetris for the last two weeks, trying to juggle the items in my jam packed fridge so that everything fits. All I can say is, open at your own risk, as some items may have shifted during the flight-er, night!
We are indeed, very blessed to have an abundance of good food. While 2009 was not an easy year for us in many way, we are exceedingly thankful for all that we do have and look forward to 2010 with excitement and anticipation!
I'll be making an announcement early in the year about a new project that I am thrilled to be a part of, so look for that coming soon!!
Have a safe and fun New Year's Eve!
White Chocolate Tiramisu Trifle with Spiced Pears
adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2007; via Ashley of Not Without Salt
1 750-ml bottle dry white wine
2 cups pear juice - I used apple
1 1/4 cups sugar
12 whole green cardamom pods, crushed in resealable plastic bag with mallet
4 1-inch-diameter rounds peeled fresh ginger (each about 1/8 inch thick)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
7 large firm but ripe Anjou pears (3 to 31/4 pounds), peeled
White Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:
7 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
1/3 cup poire Williams (pear brandy) - I used apple liquor
1/4 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 8- to 8.8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
3 3-ounce packages soft ladyfingers, separated
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3-4 candied ginger rounds
For spiced pears:
Combine first 6 ingredients in large saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Add pears and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until pears are just tender when pierced with knife, about 35 minutes. Transfer liquid with pears to large bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to plate. Boil poaching liquid in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat until slightly thickened and reduced to generous 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Strain into 2-cup measuring cup; discard spices in strainer. Cool. Cover and chill pears and pear syrup until cold.
For mousse: Combine white chocolate, pear or apple brandy, and 1/4 cup water in top of double boiler set over simmering water. (You can also do this in the microwave for 30 sec. increments – be very careful not to overheat) Stir until smooth (mixture will be very liquidy). Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; discard bean. Transfer white chocolate mixture to large bowl; gradually add mascarpone, whisking until mixture is smooth. Cool mascarpone mixture until barely lukewarm. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup cream in medium bowl until peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture in 4 additions. Cover and chill white chocolate mousse until set, about 3 hours.
DO AHEAD: Pears and mousse can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
For trifle assembly: Cut pears lengthwise in half and remove cores and stems; cut halves lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange ladyfingers, rounded sides down, in single layer in bottom of 12-cup trifle dish (about 8 inches in diameter and 5 inches deep), covering bottom completely (using about 15 ladyfingers). Drizzle 5 tablespoons pear syrup evenly over ladyfingers. Using small offset spatula, spread 1/3 of white chocolate mousse over ladyfingers, making layer slightly thicker around outer edges of dish to allow mousse to be more visible (center of mousse layer will be thin). Starting at outer edges of dish, place pear slices in single layer with curved edges against sides of dish atop mousse, covering completely. Repeat layering of ladyfingers, syrup, mousse, and pears 2 more times. Cover with fourth layer of ladyfingers (some ladyfingers and pear slices may be left over). Drizzle ladyfingers evenly with 5 tablespoons syrup.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead.
Cover and refrigerate trifle and remaining pear syrup separately. Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups whipping cream in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup pear syrup and beat until stiff peaks form. Working in batches, transfer cream to large pastry bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe rosettes all over top of trifle, mounding slightly in center. Sprinkle with crystallized ginger.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep refrigerated.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Huge thanks and props to our friends, the very talented Tim & Angela Chin of timchin.com, who ran with my idea for our Christmas card and created this vintage Gourmet moment. Isn't it precious?!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Mincemeat has been on my list of Christmas goodies to make from scratch for, oh, about three years now. Funny, if I had known it was going to be as easy as tipping ingredients into a pot, stirring every so often, and then transferring them to a jar, I wouldn't have waited so long.
Like most great recipes, this one sort of evolved with each discovery in my pantry. I call it Canadian mincemeat because the majority of the stellar ingredients are produced locally. The grated apples, cranberries -fresh & dried-, maple syrup, honey, apple cider... even the all-important-to-proper-mincemeat-booze-factor is a Québec maple whisky called Sortilège.
Oh yeah, it's pretty awesome.
I'd have to say it all came together marvelously and took a total of about 30 minutes. Between unpacking and playing house with the kids, that's about all the time I have for playing in my kitchen these days.
I wish I had stockpiled dried cranberries and currants earlier in the month so that I could make vats and vats of the stuff, because little jars of my mincemeat would make THE most delightful homemade edible Christmas gifts. Instead I have just enough to turn out a hundred or so tartelettes, which, I can assure you, won't even make it to see Santa come down the chimney.
Aimée's Canadian Mincemeat
This would also be a marvelous do-ahead holiday treat, but I'm not nearly that organized.
2/3 cup apple cider (may substitute cranberry juice)
2 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or 1 tsp dried)
1 cup currants
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried cranberries
2 medium apples, quartered, cored and grated with the peel on
50 ml Sortilège (Canadian maple whisky) or brandy
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons honey
In a large saucepan, warm the apple cider and dissolve the brown sugar in it over low heat.
Add the whole cranberries to the pot (I used frozen) and stir.
Add cinnamon, cloves and ginger, along with the currants, raisins, dried cranberries and grated apple.
Stir and simmer over medium low heat until it starts to darken and the mixture has absorbed most of the liquid. About 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Take off the heat and add the whisky, extracts, maple syrup and honey. Beat well to incorporate everything and crush the cranberries slightly.
Spoon into sterilized jars (a run through the dishwasher will do the trick), cover with lids and store in the refrigerator for several weeks.
May also be frozen for up to three months.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Now that we are in our new home, every meal feels like a celebration: the dreaded move is over, Christmas is coming and we feel very blessed with where we find ourselves. We have so much to be thankful for! Practically speaking, I'm grateful we have an actual dining room now. No longer do I have to share my kitchen with the family table, the new workspace is all mine. We can now enjoy meals in a dining room where the view out the patio doors shows snow falling on our Narnia-like forest.
Said forest has already been the source of much adventure for the boys. The very first morning after the move, Noah was out slaying invisible dragons amidst the trees with his sword and shortly after, we were watching ducks from the nearby river bank. Growing up rurally myself, nothing gives me greater joy than to nurture that love of nature in my own children.
With such a regal view from where we are seated for dinner and elbow room around the table for a change, it's no wonder there is cause for celebration every time we break bread.This 'Steak au Poivre' or Pepper Steak, is the perfect fare for such occasions.
Perhaps Pepper Steak feels special because it is reminiscent of a restaurant dish. I've spotted it on menus countless times, yet this was my first attempt to recreate it at home. Thanks to the Beef Chronicles and the various cuts of steak in my freezer, I challenged myself to try something new and thanks to the clear (if not a tad wry) directions from Anthony Bourdain, the dish was a hit.
The sauce for Steak au Poivre is killer, there is no messing around with peppercorns and make no mistake - it's HOT. Fortunately I paired the steak with some oven roasted sweet potato fries, and their sweetness was the perfect complement to the heat.
You may want to hold the sauce for the kiddos and don' be surprised if they request ketchup with their sweet potato fries, they are kids after all.
Anthony Bourdain's Steak au Poivre
Recipe (and all extra comments) courtesy of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, Bloomsbury
INGREDIENTS 4 8-ounce steaks of your choice. (I, Aimee, used flank steak)
2 ounces olive oil
2 ounces freshly cracked peppercorns (crushed but not ground to powder!)
4 ounces sweet butter
1 ounce good Cognac
4 ounces strong, dark veal stock (something to keep in your freezer)
Salt and pepper
EQUIPMENT Heavy skillet, Kitchen tongs, Wooden spoon, Serving platter.
DIRECTIONS FOR STEAK
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Moisten the meat very slightly with oil, then dredge each of the steaks in the crushed peppercorns to thoroughly coat. Don't be shy with the pepper.
2. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add 2 ounces, which is half of the butter. Place the steaks in the pan and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side.
3. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until desired doneness, about 5 to 7 minutes for rare, 10 minutes for medium rare, and so on. Remove from the oven and remove the steaks from the pan to rest. Have I told you yet to always rest your meat after cooking? I've told you now.
DIRECTIONS FOR SAUCE
1. Return the skillet to the stovetop and carefully stir in the Cognac. As much fun as it is to create a column of flame as you add flammable material to an incredibly hot pan, it's not really desirable or necessary — especially in a home kitchen. Unless you're a pyromaniac, I recommend carefully adding the Cognac to the still-hot pan off the flame, stirring and scraping with the wooden spoon to get every scrap, every peppercorn, every rumor of flavor clinging to the bottom of the pan.
2. Now place the pan on the flame again and cook it down a bit, by about half. Stir in the veal stock and reduce over medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with French fries or sautéed potatoes. Note on searing: With any recipe that calls for searing meat and then using the pan to make a sauce, be careful to avoid blackening the pan; your sauce will taste burnt. Avoid by adjusting the heat to, say, medium high, so it will still sear the meat but not scorch the pan juices. But stoves and pans vary, so pay attention.
Maple-Glazed Sweet Potato Home Fries
Adapted from"Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics"
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut each half into 3 long spears. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil. Spread the potatoes in one layer. Combine the maple syrup, salt, and pepper and sprinkle on the potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve hot.
More Beef Chronicles:
In Which we Buy A Cow
Rib Steak With Red-Wine Butter
Rosemary-Garlic Marinated T-Bone
Sesame-Beef Lettuce Wraps
Beef Tacos with Salsa Cruda
Classic Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding
Shepherd's Pie with Cauliflower Purée
Friday, December 04, 2009
Tomorrow is the big move! I keep telling myself that, YES, everything will get done and NO, it will not snow.
We've got lots to look forward to, starting with celebrating the holidays in our new home. I for one, can't WAIT to get back to cooking three square meals a day.
In the meantime, as blatantly obvious 'blog filler', here is my interview with Julie...
JVR: What made you want to write a blog?
UtHC: It’s funny because I am more artist than techie and before I started blogging I only used the computer to check email; it never crossed my mind to start a blog.I frequently had people asking me for recipes and cooking tips and finally, someone, bless their heart, suggested I start a blog and share my recipes there. This advice seemed to make sense to me, so I launched UtHC with little hope of keeping it up for long; I guess I imagined it would fizzle out like the journals of my teens. Happily it almost immediately became a creative outlet for photography, writing and cooking, not to mention an invaluable connection to many other amazing individuals with similar interests and I am in my third year now.
JVR: Would you consider UtHC more food or parenting-related?
UtHC:I was surprised when other web sites started pegging UtHC as a family blog, because I saw it entirely as a food blog. Apparently I can't keep my babies out of my writing and so along the way I've embraced the ‘Mommy-Blogger’ label and slant the blogs content ever so slightly toward parents. It remains primarily a food blog, though.
JVR: What makes mealtimes unique for parents of small children?
UtHC: Cold food? Eating one-handed? Getting up from the table a million times? Oh, the family dinner table is held in high esteem by the psychology experts, but rare are the moments of domestic bliss around our table and we only have two children! Ideally dinnertime should signal the start of a relaxing evening, but if you have young members, it can be the most exhausting part of the whole day.
We have our laughs at the table, too; it's not all bad, no way. As the boys get older, the communication grows exponentially and we're making good memories together as well.
JVR: Any dinnertime disasters to share?
UtHC: Any meal that I put love into and is later rejected by the little ones is a small failure for me. I remember one time watching my son repeatedly spit out a gorgeous maple-glazed grilled pork chop and in my silent fury I muttered to my husband:
“I may as well just be feeding him pooh”.
I believe I was implying the food equivalent to pooh, such as Hamburger Helper or KD, not, of course, real pooh, but one can't be sure. I was pretty upset.
JVR: What are your biggest mealtime challenges?
UtHC: I'm trying to avoid taking the easy way out, which is preparing three different meals; a flavorful dish for us adults, an egg/bread combination for my 4 year-old, and some form of mushy finger food for the toddler. That may not sound easy for some, but my background as a former chef makes it a cinch and we can then eat in peace, avoiding the power struggles and the vocalizing of dislikes. Unfortunately, not only could this be a potential health hazard for my eldest son (no greens, meat), it doesn't exactly provide opportunity for trying new things.
I'm trained to keep the customer happy, but when the client is a picky preschooler who only wants pancakes or meatballs, I need to ignore his requests and serve up the chef’s special—for everyone.
JVR: Do you cook or approach food differently now that you're a mom?
UtHC: Hmm, friend once suggested to that I have a glass of wine before dinner gets underway to help me relax; I like that approach, but I don't think that is what you are asking, right?
I certainly make more of a conscience effort to serve a balanced meal than I did before we had kids. We always ate fairly healthy then, but often finished meals with a wedge of triple cream brie or a slice of cake. Now I rarely have those options available for the kids; dessert is fruit or yogurt.
Oh, we still eat sweets, just after the little ones are in bed!
Now let's hear from YOU!
Mealtime challenges? Dinnertime disasters? Dish on the above questions in the comments section below.
Share your wisdom; I'd love to hear it (and obviously I could use it!)