Archive for the 'Recipe' Category

15
Jan
08

New Years Eve and a 1K Week

I checked my stats yesterday and noticed that Good Home had over 1,000 hits in a week for the first time ever (that’s a lot for my blog). It was the week of New Years, so to celebrate I thought I’d share a pic or two from our New Years celebration.

New Years Eve Dinner

We stayed home New Years Eve. Linda and Jim, and John’s brother Ben and our sister-in-law, Lise came over and we cooked non-stop from 6:00 to 9:00 when we finally ate. We had the best time. Lise and Ben brought divinity and pecan rolls they’d made with Lise’s mom. Linda and Jim brought steaks as thick as your arm for us to cook. John and Ben made Steak Au Poivre, which is steak coated with cracked peppercorns; seared, then laced with a flaming cream sauce. I think its either a Jacque or Julia recipe. If enough people say that want it (I don’t know how many meat lovers I have reading), I’ll see if he will write it down for me to post. Steak lovers can die without regret once they’ve eaten it.

I love this picture of Ben and John stoking up the cream sauce. We love fire in the kitchen.

Heh, Heh, Fire

Linda recreated a salad from a description Ben and Lise gave her of one they ate a restaurant in Dallas. Ben, what was that place called? It had candied pecans and blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. I think apples, too. We improvised the candied pecans, which were tasty as snacks. I keep thinking one day I’ll make a huge batch and give bags of them out as Christmas gifts.

Since we were eating hunks of meat the size of dinosaurs, and pan fried potatoes, too, I roasted pears for dessert, a simple and light recipe I adapted from one we heard on NPR’s Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetta Kasper (She doesn’t know it, but I claim Lynne as my radio girlfriend. I love her.). The recipe is below. It’s easy and pretty, too. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures.

Everyone left by 11:30 p.m. and we were snug in bed by 12:00. A perfect New Years Eve!

Roasted Pears

Adapted from Sally Schneider’s book The Improvisational Cook. Sally recommends using lemon juice (instead of orange juice), and didn’t include the orange zest, but oranges were what I had. I’m sure the lemon version is very good, too, but the orange wasn’t bad if I say so myself. And the zest is pretty.

Serves 6

6 not-quite-ripe pears such as Comice, Seckel or Bartlett, halved (with stems left), peeled
and cored, except for stem (The stem looks nice and I think helps hold things
together.)
Juice from one fresh orange
Zest from one fresh orange
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
Butter
Balsamic vinegar (Optional, but I highly recommend it, especially if you use orange juice. The tanginess will spice things up a little.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F
2. Arrange pears, cut side down, in a baking dish. Drizzle with fresh orange juice. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with the tip of a sharp knife or a small spoon then mix the seeds with some granulated sugar and the orange zest. Sprinkle lots of the orange-vanilla sugar on the pears. Dot with butter.
3. Roast the pears until caramelized, for about 40 to 50 minutes turning them over half way through baking. (I actually guessed on this time, the recipe doesn’t really say how long to bake them.) Baste pears with liquefied sugar mixture before returning them to the oven. If desired, just before serving, drizzle a few drops of fine aged balsamic vinegar on the pears.

Serve one or two pear halves with a scoop or two of good vanilla ice cream. Drizzle the sugar mixture from the pan onto the ice cream and pears. Orange peel makes a pretty garnish.

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14
Jan
08

Good Lard! A Better Biscuit

Okay, since November I’ve continued to play with my biscuit recipe and process. So here is a better and more convenient version of my earlier recipe.

After reading some historic cookbooks I decided to try lard as the fat instead of butter and shortening, and I must admit, it made a big difference in texture and form (rose higher and was easier to handle). Tasted just as good, too.

To make things easier I pre-measured my own “self-rising” biscuit mix, which basically means I stir together 2 cups flour, 3 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 scant tsp. salt together and put the mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator until I am ready to bake. The refrigerator keeps the ingredients cool, which is a plus when baking biscuits. I’m also keeping my lard there, too.

So here is what biscuit making looks like for me now.

What you’ll need (plus you’ll need a biscuit cutter, which I forgot to put in the picture):

What You Need for Biscuits

Preheat oven to 450.Dump pre-measured dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse a couple of times just to mix them. Then scoop out 5 tbs. of lard and put those into with the dry mix.

Adding Lard</

Pulse the dry ingredients and lard until it looks like this, more or less no lard lumps bigger than a pea.

Texture with Lard Cut In

Put the mixture into a mixing bowl and pour a scant cup of plain yogurt on top (you can also use buttermilk, but this is what I had). Then mix it with a fork or spoon until the mixture comes together to make a shaggy dough that looks like this:

Shaggy Dough

If the mix is too dry to come together, add a tablespoon or two more yogurt.Dusting

Dust flour onto your kneading surface (John bought this handy skimmer that works really well for dusting). Dump your dough onto the surface and knead it no more than 10 times. To avoid handling the dough too much (and sticky fingers), you can use a bench scraper to fold the dough onto itself.

Layering Dough

I love the bench scraper. It also helps with cleaning the flour off of the counter later. Add a little more flour to the surface and your hands if the dough is too sticky.

Roll or flatten dough with your hands until it is about ¾ inch thick. The marble pastry roller stays cool (thanks for the tip, Beth!) and because it is heavy only requires a few strokes to get to the dough to the right thickness.

If you want biscuits that rise in the oven, cut them with a sharp, stiff, straight-sided biscuit cutter. Dip the cutter in flour and then push straight down on the dough with no twisting. I finally broke down and bought some good biscuit cutters at William Sonoma. Oh, and once a biscuit is cut, gently place it on the ungreased baking sheet – no shaping the biscuit to make it more round, or whatever, since that will gum up the sides and keep it from rising evenly. (I had a few biscuits that rose on one side and not other because I was too handsy.)

Brush the tops of the unbaked biscuits with milk or melted butter. I used melted butter this time. (John got me this silicone brush for Christmas and I love it – no more bristles on my food and MUCH easier to clean).

Brushing with butter

Pop those babies in the oven (middle rack) and don’t open the door until the tops are good and brown (ovens are different, so times are different). 8-10 minutes? While biscuits are baking, put together a mix of the dry ingredients and put them back in the refrigerator so they’ll be ready for next time.The finished biscuits should look something like this:

Biscuits

Nothing healthy about lard, but it sure made for some flake-tastic biscuits. Oh, and if you can, buy lard where people buy lard frequently so you know you are getting fresh stuff. Our nearby Hispanic grocery replenishes its stock often. My friends in Indy and in Arkansas shouldn’t have to worry too much about whether the lard at their stores is fresh. If you live in New England, you may want to check the date.

27
Nov
07

Pecan Poll – Chopped or Whole Nuts in a Pie?

Jennie brought up an interesting question about what size pecans should be in a pecan pie.  She thinks whole.  I think chopped Beth’s way, maybe with a few left whole for show, but certainly not small chunks.  Do you have a theory?  Please share.

23
Nov
07

Beth’s Pecan Pie

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This recipe can be doubled. Again, our friend Beth’s recipe. I was asked to bring a pecan pie to our Thanksgiving at John’s dad’s this year. I’m happy to do what I’m told, especialy when John’s step-mom, Linda, does most of the work (turkey, potatoes, dressing, noodles, etc.). But my family would tell you how ironic it is that I was asked to bring a pecan pie. My mom makes great ones, but I never ate them because we used fresh pecans from my grandfather’s giant tree in Arkansas. Sometimes a little pith would be left in the nut and the bitter taste bugged me. I’ve come to realize what a treasure that old pecan tree was, but not until I moved so far away that I can’t watch mom make the pie. Thankfully, our friend Beth came to the rescue.

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbs. flour
1 cup dark Karo syrup
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped

Beth slices her pecans this way in no time. I was surprised by how easy it is to chop them by hand (I’m using a steak knife because our paring knife is missing), and the pecans have a nice even shape and size that makes slicing the pie easy. Bring the blade in on the “belly side” of the pecan.

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs lightly. Set aside.

Place chopped pecans into empty piecrust (see Beth’s pie crust recipe).

In a large saucepan, work flour into brown sugar. With a big spoon, mix Karo and butter into flour mixture.

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Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, only until butter is melted. Turn off heat and let mixture cool slightly in the pan. Stir vanilla into cooled mixture.

Stir about ¼ cup of sugar mixture into eggs. Then add egg mixture back to pan of brown sugar mixture and stir slowly until mixed.

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Pour mixture into crust. No need to do much rearranging. The mix will sort itself out.

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Bake for 35-45 minutes on lower middle rack. If you can avoid it, don’t open the oven door during baking time. Pie is done when filling is slightly domed with a few crack on top (see photo above). I could have taken this one out just a few minutes sooner. Place a foil cover around the crust portion if it starts to brown too much. Remove and cool.

21
Nov
07

Beth’s Pie Crust

(Makes two crusts)

Our friend Beth, one of the best Southern bakers I know, came to stay with us last weekend. While she was here, she showed me how to make a good (and unbelievably easy) pie crust. I’ve seen two kinds of pie crust recipes in the past – one is basically a list of ingredients with vague instructions like “mix together and roll out.” The other kind cautions you a million times not to handle the dough to the point that you feel guilty for looking at it. Both make me nervous. The benefit of having an experienced crust baker nearby is that they can say, “It’s going to be just fine” to you and show you some handy tricks. Since Beth can’t be around all the time I thought I would print her recipe with a few photos. I’m using it to make a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, and I’ll include that recipe later.

In addition to ingredients, Beth would tell you that the following will help make things easier, though the food processor and the wax paper are the only gadgets that are essential to this recipe:

A food processor (worth getting one if only to make pie crusts)
Two pieces of wax paper
Heavy rolling pin (Marble is preferable)
White corning ware ceramic pie plate (she buys them on E-bay for about $2.00.)

Ingredients:

2 and ¾ cup flour, measured in a liquid measuring cup
1 cup butter flavored Crisco
¼ cup ice water
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. vinegar
1 egg

Use a spoon to dip 2 3/4 cups flour into a liquid measuring cup (the kind with a spout for pouring). Dump flour into bowl of food processor.

Place Crisco in bowl of food processor with flour. Pulse until it looks like cornmeal.

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In a small separate bowl and in the following order mix the ¼ cup ice water, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tbs. vinegar, 1 egg. Whisk together.

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Pour liquid mixture into processor with flour mixture and process in pulses until it forms a ball or is mostly sticking together.

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Split dough into two pieces. Place one half on a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic to turn the dough into a ball. Wrap and set aside.

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Gather the other piece of dough into a ball and place it between two pieces of wax paper. Pat the ball through the wax paper into a ¾ inch thick disk.

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Then, using a large rolling pin, roll the disk into a circle.  Roll in the direction of midnight, then 1:00, then 2:00, etc. until you have a circle that is just a little wider than the wax paper.

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Remove the top piece of wax paper. Then, place the other piece dough side down into a white ceramic pie plate.

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Tuck the dough along the side of the plate so that lays flat against the bottom.

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The dough needs to extend beyond the plate slightly all the way around, so gently work areas of excess dough into thinner parts around the pie plate.

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Using your right index finger, bring dough that is extending beyond plate in so that a slight ridge is formed evenly all the way around the plate.

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Finally, shape a chevron crust by putting the thumb of one hand (flat so that you can see the entire fingernail) on one side of the dough ridge and the index finger and thumb of your other hand (so that you see the sides of your fingers, like you are about to pinch something) on the other side of the dough ridge. Bring them together until the ridge is shaped into a chevron pattern all the way around.

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Gather any stray dough from the rim and shape it into the chevrons.

Then finally, gently, using your thumb nail, push excess dough into the curves of the chevrons and gently press the points or each chevron against the pie plate. This will help prevent shrinkage.

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Now you’re ready to either fill and bake, or use a fork to prick the bottom of the crust and bake to be filled later.

I’m sure there are lots of good crust recipes out there, but this is the least messy and Troy proof (in pastry circles I’m known as “Thunder Hands”). But in this recipe your fingers don’t even touch the dough until you start shaping the top of the crust. I’m finally looking forward to making pies! Let me know if you try it.

Coming soon: Beth’s Pecan Pie recipe.

27
Aug
07

A Very Fun Saturday Night

Went to one of our favorite homes Saturday night for dinner.  Favorite for a lot of reasons. 

1.  We love who lives there—Duane and Todd and their kids Daniel and Mari.

Mari and Todd

Mari and Daniel

(Mari’s Minnie Mouse dress and Daniel’s Mickey hat and Disney shirt were their birthday outfits from a few weeks back.  Oh, I probably don’t have to tell you, but Mari is drinking grape juice.) 

2.  The food is always awesome. 

This time we had Thai Eggplant and Chicken curry

Duane's Thai Eggplant and Chicken Curry

with a Thai cucumber salad, which Duane has blogged about before.  He gave the recipe on his blog, and I can say I’m a big fan. 

Thai Cucumber Salad

3.  I’m crazy about their house.  I took pictures while we were there, but I forgot to shoot their house.  But don’t worry, we’ll invite ourselves back over so I can do that.   Because their place is like a country bed and breakfast, John and I talk about a having a family retreat out there one weekend where we spend the night, eat pop popcorn and watch movies.  Duane and Todd haven’t said no yet, so hopefully we can insinuate ourselves out there again as soon as possible.