I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Easter Dinner: Desserts

Finally, right? I'm sure you're tired of hearing about my Easter dinner--I'm tired of talking about it myself!

But before I finish up I'll give you the desserts. When planning this menu I was trying to think of spring flavors. One of the things I love the most when the weather starts to warm up is a mojito. Unfortunately I know how much bartenders hate to make them so I rarely order them. But why not take those flavors and put them into a dessert? And the mojito dump cake was born. Another one of my favorite warm weather flavor combos is from the Hawaiian Ice stands I would stop by a lot in college--especially during my summer as a camp counselor. My absolute favorite Hawaiian Ice was the Tiger's Blood: a combo of strawberry, coconut, and cinnamon. Here I took those flavors and mixed them into a creamy ice cream instead.

Mojito Dump Cakes
for the lime pie filling:
1 c. sugar
3 TB cornstarch
1 1/2 c. cold water
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
grated zest of 2 limes
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1 TB butter
1/2 c. fresh chopped mint

1 18-21 oz. french vanilla cake mix
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. coconut
1 16 oz. can crushed pineapple
1/2 c. mint
1 stick butter, melted

Mix together the sugar and the cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in the cold water, then add the egg yolks and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil and stir for 1 minute, then remove from heat (you will notice the mixture thicken up quickly, so don't turn away from the pan). Stir in the lime zest, lime juice, butter and mint and allow the pie filling to cool.
Prep muffin tins by placing the foil part only of foil baking cups into muffin tins (2 12 muffin tins or 4 6 muffin tins).
In a bowl combine cake mix, walnuts and coconut. In a separate bowl mix together the pineapple and mint.
Layer lime pie filling in the bottom of each muffin tin. Layer pineapple mixture on top of that. Top with the cake filling and pat down on each one to make it even. Drizzle the butter on top and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Tiger's Blood Ice Cream
1 1/2 c. coconut milk
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon extract
1 TB coconut rum
1 1/2 c. strawberries, mashed well
1/2 c. coconut

Combine the coconut milk, whipping cream, sugar and cinnamon extract in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to 170 degrees F. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut rum. Allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. Then cover with plastic wrap touching the top of the mixture and refrigerate overnight.
The next day add the mixture to the ice cream maker and mix. After 10 minutes add the mashed strawberries and the coconut. Continue mixing the ice cream until it has reached a soft-serve consistency. Scoop the mixture into a lidded container and freeze for at least an hour before serving.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Easter Dinner: Sides

Ok, I promise to try to finish this up in the next day or so so I can finally move on to something else. But at least updates are happening, despite the snail's pace. After this, it's just dessert.
I have to confess that I used canned mandarin oranges for the salad. The thought of supreming all the oranges I would need was just too overwhelming on top of everything else. I recommend using fresh oranges instead (since you probably won't be serving 15 with this :).

Focaccia (not made into pizzas, obviously)
Fennel, Citrus, Sherry Salad
4 heads fennel, sliced
3 cans of mandarin oranges
2 grapefruits, supremed
blue cheese, crumbled
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. dry sherry
1/8-1/4 c. sherry vinegar
1/4 t. season salt
1/8 t. celery salt
1/2 c. olive oil

Toss the fennel, oranges, grapefruit, blue cheese and walnuts.
In a separate bowl mix together the sherry, vinegar, season salt, and celery salt. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Toss the dressing with the salad and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Easter Dinner Part 2: Milk Braised Pork

I love pork. In any form. (have I said all this before? Perhaps. But it's really worth mentioning again) I mean there's bacon, prosciutto, pork chops, lardo (mmmm), bacon, pork belly, ribs, loin, and did I mention bacon? I love all of ways you can prepare and enjoy the pig. So it's pretty safe to assume that when I have a gathering of people it's one of the first things I think of adding to my menu.
Since I had so many people coming over for Easter and I didn't want to completely break the bank I decided to use pork shoulder again this year. But I wanted a different preparation than last year's pernil (although that was awfully tasty). Talking with one of my guests a couple of weeks before we discussed a restaurant that we both had recently tried for the first time. One of the things on the menu was milk braised pork. As soon as the words came out of my friend's mouth I knew this was what I had to make.

I've had milk braised pork once before in the kitchen in a restaurant where I used to work. The chef had just pulled this amazing massive piece of steaming pork out of the oven and asked me if I wanted to try (this particular chef knows of my passion for eating and let me try so many of the things that came out of that kitchen--even things that never ended up on the menu. How I miss that part of that job!). The meat of this pork was tender and the outer edges were crispy and full of flavor. It was maybe one of the best things I had ever put in my mouth. I begged the chef for the recipe over and over again. I never got it out of him (yet). This particular recipe here was put together after scouring the internet for different versions of this dish (the spice blend is my own).

I know this isn't as fall-out-of-my-chair-amazing as my first taste of milk braised pork was, but it is pretty darn good. So good, in fact, that hours after the meal my friends and I pulled it out of the refrigerator and sat and ate most of the leftovers with our bare hands on the island in my kitchen.

(Remember: keep in mind I was feeding a large group--this recipe makes a lot! Try it with a pork loin instead or a small portion of pork shoulder to keep the servings under control.)

Milk Braised Pork
1 full and one 1/2 pork shoulder (bone-in, about 14lb) *
1 TB coriander seed powder
1 1/2 t. fennel seed powder
1 TB dried rosemary
3 TB salt
1 TB pepper

6 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 gallon of milk
1 pint of heavy cream

*Using a knife, carefully remove the skin and the thickest part of the fat from the shoulders. Chop and reserve about 1/3-1/2 c. of the fat for searing the meat.
Mix together the coriander seed powder, fennel seed powder, rosemary, salt and pepper. Rub all over the pork shoulders. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In a large pan cook the chopped pork fat with about 1/3 c. of water over medium/medium-high heat to render the fats. Remove the solids from the pan when you have a few tablespoons of fat in the pan. Turn heat up slightly and get the grease hot. Sear each pork shoulder separately on all sides--about 4-5 minutes each side for each piece of pork. Remove the pork from the pan.
Add the garlic to the pan and saute quickly. Add a little milk to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan and remove from the heat.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place seared pork into a large roasting pan. Pour in the milk and garlic from the searing pan and then pour in the heavy cream and enough milk to cover as much of the sides as possible (if some of the pork is sticking up, it is fine, you can flip it part of the way through cooking). Cover the roasting pan with a tight fitting lid or with foil. Place in the oven. After about an hour and a half, check on the meat and flip the pork shoulder so the outer half is now below the milk line. Return to the oven. Cook until the meat begins to pull away from the bone easily (I cooked this about 3 1/2-4 hours).

Remove the pork to a platter and cover. Place the braising liquids into a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat. Use a hand blender to make the milk sauce nice and smooth. Add a little salt and pepper, if necessary. If you want a little thicker sauce, add a little cornstarch to the mixture.
To serve shred the pork and top with the creamy milk sauce.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Menu, Part 1: Appetizers

So, as promised, the Easter menu spread will be unfolding a little slowly. I made a lot and to put it all into one post would just be overwhelming!

Can I just say that I love planning dinner parties like this? I sit for weeks beforehand drawing up menus, printing off recipes, making lists for shopping trips, preparing a detailed step-by-step guide to when to start what. I would do this every weekend if I had the money for it.

Here is the menu I used for this gathering:
Endive Spears with ricotta and arugula pesto
Huevos Rellenos
Main Course
Milk braised pork shoulder
Fennel, citrus, blue cheese salad with sherry vinaigrette
Mini Mojito Dump Cakes
"Tiger's Blood" Ice Cream

A couple of notes: I don't have pictures of everything I made (I'm bad about doing that when there are people around and we are all talking/drinking/having a good time). And I made a TON of food, so depending on how many people you have you probably want to cut back on portions a little. I'm also really bad about actually measuring things, so play around with quantity a bit because these measurements are probably not quite accurate.

Endive Spears with Ricotta and Arugula pesto
6 heads of endive
lemon juice
salt and pepper
1 large container ricotta cheese (32oz?)
1/3 c. fresh fennel fronds, finely chopped
1 c. of arugula pesto (recipe below)

Separate each individual leaf from the heads of endive until you get down to the very small leaves in the center. Wash and dry the leaves, then arrange on a large platter. Sprinkle with a little bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
In a bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, chopped fennel fronds, and some salt and pepper to taste. Spread each of the endive spears with some ricotta mixture and then spread on top some of the arugula pesto.
You can prep the ingredients in advance for this dish, but do not assemble until it is close to serving time as the endive will wilt slightly.

Arugula Pesto
1 bag arugula (about 2 1/2 c.)
1 c. chopped or shredded pecorino cheese
1 c. walnuts
4 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
1-1 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until finely chopped and mixed together well. Start off with the smallest amount of olive oil and add more as needed to bring the pesto together and to desired consistency.

Huevos Rellenos
(Spanish Deviled Eggs)
18 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
6 oz. tomato sauce
2 cans of tuna
1/4-1/3 c. of mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Cut each of the eggs in half and remove the yolks to a mixing bowl. To the mixing bowl and the remainder of the ingredients. Mix together well, adding salt and pepper or more mayo as needed. Refill the hole of each egg white with the yolk mixture.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beef Wellington

Ok. I think I am back finally! We are settled in to the new apartment, my kitchen is unpacked, and I've made a few meals that are blog-worthy (including a big Easter spread that will be slowly unfolding on here!). I haven't been keeping up with the reading of blogs lately, either, so I promise to get caught up on all soon.
First up: a picture of the new kitchen. It's small, but I love it. It's open to the living room and I can cook while watching TV when I'm alone or I can chat with my husband/friends when there are people over. In my last kitchen it was hard to have more than one person in the kitchen an here I can actually not feel cut off from the world in there. The kitchen got really good and broken in on Easter when I cooked a meal for 13!

And, just to brag a little, here's the view to the left when looking out of our window:

For the first real meal in our new apartment, I was really ready to cook and make something new, and maybe a little fancy. Beef Wellington hits the spot. What's really great about this recipe is that it is honestly so, so easy but feels like you have slaved away forever on it. It feels like one of those really romantic meals for me. I've never tried out this recipe before, but you can bet that I will be making it again and again.

Beef Wellington
(from about.com)
2 fillets mignon, 1-inch thick
2 sheets puff pastry
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. Mushroom Duxelles
1 egg

1. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions.
2. Fillets are often irregular in shape, if yours are use a piece of kitchen twine to tie them into a round. (See the photo tutorial for making Individual Beef Wellingtons.)
3. Season fillets generously with salt and pepper.
4. Pre-heat a medium (10-inch) non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add butter and swirl in pan to melt.
5. Cook fillets on both sides for about 3 minutes until well-browned, then brown the edges. Note: Regularly check the internal temperature of the fillets, they should not be cooked past 120F at the center.*** Allow fillets to cool, then wrap in plastic and chill for at least a couple of hours. In the meantime make the duxelles.
6. Heat oven to 400F. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water (egg wash).
7. Wrap the fillets in puff pastry . Brush with egg wash, and bake in center of oven until golden brown; about 30 minutes.
I love to serve these drizzled with truffle oil and red wine reduction (recipe below).

***Note: The fillets are deliberately undercooked and then chilled to prevent them from overcooking in the final step. They should come out of the oven medium rare after the final baking.

Mushroom Duxelles
(from about.com)
1/2 lb.mushrooms (morels are great, but button mushrooms work)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter; divided
3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup dry vermouth, sherry, or white wine

1. Finely chop mushrooms in a food processor.
2. Scrape mushrooms out into a clean, cotton towel. (Note: Do not use terry cloth, and choose an old towel as you will stain it.)
3. Twist towel around mushrooms and wring out as much liquid as you can over the sink.
4. Heat a large (10-inch) non-stick skillet over a burner set between medium and medium-high.
5. Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to melt and avoid burning.
6. Add mushrooms, shallots, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, and thyme.
7. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms appear dry and are beginning to brown; about 5 minutes.
8. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter, and, when melted, the sherry or wine.
9. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vermouth has evaporated.
10. Remove from heat and cool.
Note: Duxelles freeze well, so although this recipe produces more than you need for two wellingtons, you can save the remainder for future use.

Red Wine Reduction
1 c. red wine
2 TB cold butter, cut into 6 pieces
salt and pepper

Add the red wine to the pan that you used to cook the mushroom duxelles. Cook over medium/medium-high heat until it is reduced by half. Turn the heat to low and slowly add the butter a piece at a time, whisking the sauce to incorporate. Salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over the wellington to serve.