A few years ago, I was in charge of preparing an Easter lunch for my family. We were a small group that year, and decided on classic Southern brunch food – grits, fruit, ham. But a whole ham would have been more than enough food for our group. We would have had leftovers for years. But most of the smaller hams on the market are pressed hams, and I am not into that. And I didn’t want to serve pre-sliced pieces from a plastic package either.
I was standing at the deli counter, contemplating whether or not there was some kind of compromise I could work out. And then I saw the Canadian bacon. They sell it sliced, like any deli meat, but of course behind the counter, they have it in whole chunks.
It took some explaining to the deli supervisor, but I went home with a big chunk of cured Canadian bacon. I realized I could treat it both like a ham and like bacon, baking it with a sweet, sticky glaze and serving it sliced.
And it was a hit. Perfect for a small gathering, and perfect with the classic brunch accompaniments. You can slice it thick or thin, as you like, but basically serve as you would ham. If there are any leftovers, it is amazing on sandwiches or try an eggs benedict – the tangy, sweet edges on the bacon add a special touch.
Glazed Canadian Bacon
Serves 8 – 10
2 lbs. Canadian bacon, one piece, unsliced
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cane syrup, molasses or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Generous grinds of black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking dish with parchment or non-stick foil.
Place the piece of Canadian bacon in the prepared dish. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cane syrup, mustard, mustard powder, ginger and pepper. Brush half the glaze over the bacon, spreading along the sides and ends. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the baking dish.
Bake the bacon until it reaches and internal temperature of 165 degrees F. This should take about an hour. About 20 minutes into the cooking time, spoon the remaining glaze over the bacon and continue cooking. When the bacon is done, leave it to rest for 5 minutes or so before slicing and serving. It can be served warm or at room temperature.
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Boom. It’s Tuesday again! And you know what that means? It’s TV Tuesday.
This week on Beyond The Peel TV we wanted to switch it up a bit and share with you a way to use up those items in your fridge that you know you should/need to eat, but you don’t, because you either don’t want to, or you don’t know what to do with them – aka you’re uninspired.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. The veggies that you thought you’d eat. The herbs you only used for one recipe. Yeah. Those are the ones I’m talking about.
Well, we’ve been putting "The Flavor Bible" by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg to the test, and just found another awesome use for it. Look up the ingredients in your fridge that are about to go bad and let the book work it’s magic. Come on, I’ll show you how….
Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Cipollini Onions
1/2 head (or a full head) red cabbage
1 apple, cored and sliced or chopped
1 lb. cipollini onions
2 tablespoon bacon drippings or olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
Place all the onions in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over the onions and cover for 5 minutes. This will speed up the process of removing the skins. While the onions are steaming, roughly chop the cabbage and apple. Peel off the outer skin of the cipollini onions. Place the onions, cabbage and apples in a large 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
In a small bowl combine the fat, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar in a bowl. Pour the maple syrup mixture over the cabbage and stir to coat.
Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken
3 chicken thighs and legs
1/2 a preserved lemon, pith and pulp removed and peel finely chopped (or 2 teaspoons lemon zest)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (increase to 1/2 if using lemon zest)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Mix the lemon, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme together to create a “paste.” Cut a slit in the skin of the chicken pieces. Use your fingers to create space between the skin and the meat. Put an even layer of paste under the skin of the chicken pieces. Season the skin with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken pieces on top of the cabbage and apple mixture and bake for 40 minutes or until the juices run clear. Ours took a little longer because they were barely thawed.
If you’d like to learn more about "The Flavor Bible" you can read about it right here.
Although I love making soup, it's always bothered me that making stock feels so wasteful. As the child of one of the world's thriftiest people (love you, mom!), the idea of tossing a whole bunch of gorgeous carrots, celery, onions, and herbs into the pot, only to remove them all a little while later, replacing them with new veggies that would feature in the actual soup, has always rubbed me the wrong way.
And buying cartons of stock is expensive and those cartons may or may not actually be recyclable (never mind whether my garbage company actually recycles the stuff it claims to recycle...) so that was not really doing it for me either. But then, a couple months ago, I saw a post on Facebook about making vegetable stock from kitchen scraps! My prayers had been answered.
So I started saving some of the veggie scraps (more below on which ones are best to use and which ones you should avoid) that would otherwise have gone straight into the compost bucket. I stored them in one of this one-gallon Ziploc bags in my freezer. Since I like to cook and I like vegetables, they started piling up pretty quickly.
Then I followed the incredibly simple instructions (basically, cover them with water, bring to a boil and simmer for one hour, then strain) to make my own homemade vegetable stock.
And guess what? It's good! It was easy. It was free. And absolutely no vegetables were wasted in its making. Once I was done with those scraps, they got tossed on the compost heap, too.
Now we've got several containers of the stuff in our freezer, waiting for the next time we want to make some delicious soup. We also did an ice cube tray or two as it's great to have some smaller units of stock on hand if you just need to de-glaze a pan or add a little bit of liquid to something but don't want to go whole hog and defrost an entire yogurt container (those are our freezing containers of choice for bigger, liquid-y stuff) of the stuff.
The only thing I plan to change is omitting onion skins as I think I might prefer a clearer-looking stock – onion skins add nice flavor but also darken the color considerably. This is totally up to you, though.
So get scrappy and then get simmering! Once you're fully stocked, I've got a short list of delicious soups you might want to try your stock on at the bottom of this post.
Homemade Vegetable Stock From Kitchen Scraps
Makes roughly 3 quarts
Veggies To Save
Onions, carrots, and celery form the backbone of veggie stock, but don't stop there! Lots of other veggies add sweetness and flavor: leeks, scallions, garlic, onions (see my note below), fennel, chard, lettuce, potatoes, parsnips, green beans, pea pods, zucchini and other squash, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, asparagus, corn cobs (think sweet!), winter squash skins, beet greens, and herbs like dill, thyme, parsley, cilantro and basil. You can use anything that is beginning to lose its luster but steer clear of anything that has actually gone bad, of course.
Veggies to Skip
These vegetables tend to overpower the stock flavor-wise (and some of them turn a bit bitter) so you may want to dump them directly on the compost heap, instead: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes. And skip anything rotten or moldy.
Veggies You May Want to Skip
You can use beet root scraps and onion skins but just be aware that they will make your stock either a deep red or a deep brown so you may want to skip them. I plan to skip 'em in the future.
Storing the Scraps
You will want to collect roughly 4-6 cups of vegetables to make 2 quarts of stock. You can either save your scraps throughout the week in a large Ziploc or some other airtight container in the fridge, or if you're collecting scraps for longer than a week, just keep them in the freezer (this is what I do.)
Making the Stock
1. Place roughly 4-6 cups of scraps in a 5 quart stock pot. Add 1-2 bay leaves and a few black peppercorns.
2. Cover it all with cold water then bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for about an hour. Any more than an hour and the flavor will begin to deteriorate.
3. Strain vegetables using a fine mesh strainer or a colander and giving them a press to make sure you get all the broth. Quick tip: I made mine in my steamer pot from Ikea which made the straining incredibly easy since all the veggies were in the steamer insert and I just lifted it out of the pot once it was done. Let cool then pour into glass jars, clean yogurt containers or freezer bags. Let cool completely in the fridge and then freeze or store for up to five days in the fridge.
Related post on The Garden of Eating: Carrot Soup with Orange & Ginger
Naturally, I had to adapt them for my own. I added coconut for a little more sweetness, and nuts for crunch, but this recipe is easily altered to satisfy your tastes.
I’m going to add peanut butter to mine next time. And you don't have to just eat them for breakfast, they make a healthy dessert cookie, too.
Healthy Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies:
Makes about 2 dozen
1-1/2 cups of rolled oats
2 ripe, mashed bananas
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamonto taste cinnamon
1/8 cup chopped pecans or almonds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Spoon out teaspoonfuls of batter onto a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
Let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Related post on nestMeg: Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti
Remember Whatchamacallits? I used to love these candy bars when I was a kid – crisp rice, caramel, peanuts and chocolate, a no-fail combo. I don't know if they even make these anymore since I don't shop the candy aisle unless I'm buying them on sale after Halloween for brownie add-ins but I don't recall seeing them in recent years.
This recipe from the blogosphere caught my eye and the pictures looked so yummy, I had to try them for myself.
I did modify this though; instead of caramel topping, I used dulce de leche and instead of making the chocolate topping, I melted some milk chocolate candy melts and enrobed bar-size pieces to make a more authentic-looking Whatchamacallit bar.
After having tasted these, they were good but to make them a little closer to the original Whatchamacallit bar, I would consider cutting back on the flour and adding more rice krispies to get the crunch.
Adapted from Bru Crew Life
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup dulce de leche
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup caramel bits
3/4 cup chopped peanuts, toasted
2 cups rice Krispies
Milk Chocolate Candy Melts (I used Wilton's Premium)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a 9" x 13" baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, dulce de leche, and salt and beat on low until fluffy.
Sift the baking powder and flour and slowly add to the butter mixture. Stir in the caramel bits, peanuts and rice Krispies (in this order) by hand. Batter will be thick. Smooth top with small metal spatula.
Bake for 28 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Cut blondies into bar-size rectangles (your choice on how big or small you want them to be). Melt candy melts over low heat, stirring smooth. Spread over bars, using small metal spatula, encasing top and sides with the melted chocolate. Set on wax paper and let cool until chocolate is set.
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Soufflé. It’s the word that strikes terror into aspiring cooks. Actually, it can strike terror into the most experienced cook. The idea of any dish that must be treated with such care and delicacy, that a loud noise or simple sneeze might ruin all your hard work. Something thought so difficult that even the tiniest of misteps can turn it into soup or a leaden, burned brick. We’ve seen the TV episodes of the Fifities housewife desperate to impress the in-laws reduced to tears by a fallen soufflé. Soufflé the dread, soufflé the feared! Like the greatest sinners among us, we fear becoming The Fallen.
I have been instructed by experienced chefs, I have experimented in my own kitchen, and yes, I have had a fallen soufflés. But practice makes perfect, and mistakes sometimes take you where you meant to go. I worked on a soufflé recipe for months, making notes, crossing things out, writing in the margins, spilling milk on the ink and somehow I got here. I may not of reinvented the wheel, but I sure made it simple.
This is the soufflé for the culinarily challenged. I won’t say it is foolproof; it does take a little patience. But from the first time I accidently stumbled upon the formula to the many times I have made it since, I have never had a dud. My nieces and I used to create “restaurants” at my house. We’d design a menu, plan the cooking, make the signs, take the orders (from indulgent parents and grandparents) and cook and serve the meal. On the first menu of our first restaurant, we offered this Cheese Soufflé, and it was a best seller. So trust me, you can do it.
Cheese soufflé makes an elegant first course, a lovely light luncheon with a salad, or a sophisticated breakfast or brunch treat. Jazz these up with herbs added in, or the addition of a surprise at the bottom of the dish. I always argue for using the best ingredients possible, but in a simple dish like this it is really important that they shine. Farm fresh eggs, quality butter and really good cheese. I use a natural white cheddar.
It is important that the eggs are at room temperature, and that the cheese mixture has cooled before folding in the egg whites to get the puffy soufflé effect.
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, separated, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Have a sheet pan ready. Butter and flour 6 ramekins, about 7 ounces each.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then whisk in the flour until it starts to bubble and turns white, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and gradually whisk in the milk. Return to heat and whisk until bubbling and thick. Switch to a spatula or sturdy wooden spoon and add the mustard, cheese, nutmeg and salt. Pull off the heat and add the egg yolks. Stir vigorously until everything is smooth and fully incorporated. Cool.
In an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Stir a large dollop of the egg whites into the cheese mixture to loosen it up, then gently fold in the rest of the whites.
Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat for about 5 minutes. Carefully place the ramekins on the heated baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes.
Serve immediately. These will deflate as they cool – deflate, not fall or collapse. They are still lovely, light and airy.
You can chill the pre-baked ramekins for up to 4 hours in you prefer. When ready to serve, cook as directed above, though they may take a minute longer.
*For a little flair, spoon an extra into the ramekins such as crumbled blue cheese, chunky salsa or chutney.
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Blender Cheese Soufflé
One of the things I love about cooking is the prep work, getting everything chopped, minced, measured and ready to go. I still remember the first time, years ago, that I did a proper mise en place, organizing everything I would need before turning on the flame under the pan. Seeing the five or six little bowls of ingredients lined up on the counter, I could tell I had taken a step forward in my cooking.
An added bonus of doing the prep work, certainly with this dish, is all the wonderful aromas that take over. Garlic, shallot, cilantro, the lemongrass as you smash it with the side of the knife, the curry powder as you spoon it into a waiting ramekin…. Their fragrances come in waves as you work, layering together and hinting at the flavors you’ll soon be enjoying.
I’ve cooked mussels here a number of times. They’re inexpensive, especially for seafood, fun and elegantly messy to eat with your hands and so delicious. Their mild brininess blends beautifully with any number of flavors. And mussels cook up quickly. Once they hit the pan, you’re five to 10 minutes from dinner.
Mussels are also that extremely rare find – sustainably farmed seafood. I’ve written about that before here, but it bears repeating. Mussels don’t need to be fed other seafood; they filter their sustenance from the water around them. So they actually clean the water, instead of polluting it as some farmed seafood does. Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, the go-to authority on seafood sustainability, calls farmed mussels a Best Choice. Most American-farmed mussels come from the coast of Maine.
Usually when I’ve cooked mussels, it’s been with a European direction – with tarragon and cream or oregano, saffron and tomatoes – or out and out French, with the classic Moules Marinières. This time, though, I took a pan-Asian (plus semi-global) approach. It started when I read a recipe somewhere for curried mussels. It sounded good enough to prompt finding more recipes for the same. There were many differences and one surprising constant (besides the mussels, I mean).
Camps were divided on the curry. Many called for Thai red curry paste, while some chose curry powder. Curries, I should point out, are actually dishes – usually vegetables, meat or fish – with a richly spiced sauce. While they originated in India, they’re found throughout Asia. Curry powder is a mix of spices used to flavor curries (the same with curry pastes). Shallots and garlic appeared in some recipes, but not in all, as did lemongrass, which is closely associated with Southeast Asian cuisines. Wine figured in some recipes, not Asian at all, as did vermouth. And while some relied on cream for richness, most went with coconut milk, a staple of Thai cuisine.
With all those differences, the one universal ingredient was cilantro. Get out your passports for this one. It probably originated somewhere in Mediterranean Europe and has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. But it’s also a big part of Southeast Asian cooking and practically mandatory for most Mexican recipes.
I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I put so many big flavors together. What I got was a surprisingly delicate balance. It was flavorful, make no mistake. But no one ingredient tromped all over the others – or our taste buds. Everything blended into one sublime meal. Each ingredient was definitely there and accounted for, but no one was shouting.
Curried Mussels with Cilantro
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter
2 pounds mussels
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed, cut into pieces (see Kitchen Notes)
1/2 cup dry white wine [editor's note: substitue cooking wine]
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional (see Kitchen Notes)
2 generous tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
1/2 cup light coconut milk
a baguette or other crusty bread
A quick note: Prep everything else before you clean the mussels – or even remove them from the fridge.
Clean the mussels. Scrub mussels with a stiff brush under cold running water, discarding any mussels with broken or cracked shells, or any opened mussels that don’t close when you tap their shells. Remove the beards which may appear along the hinge side of the shell, using a sharp knife or pulling with your fingers. Set aside in a bowl.
Heat olive oil in a large, lidded pan (a sauté pan is ideal) over a medium flame. Add the shallot and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and lemongrass and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Add wine, water, curry powder and half the cilantro and stir to combine. Add mussels in a single layer and cover pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cook just until mussels open, about 4 to 6 minutes.
Transfer mussels to a bowl with a slotted spoon, discarding any mussels that don’t open. Add coconut milk to pan and raise heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, stirring, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes to blend flavors. The broth will not appreciably reduce; that’s okay.
Divide mussels among shallow serving bowls. Spoon broth over mussels, avoiding pieces of lemongrass as much as possible (there’s nothing dangerous about it – it’s just chewy). Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and serve with crusty bread for sopping up the flavorful broth.
Lemongrass. This delicious Southeast Asian grass (yes, it’s really a grass) is filled with citrus oil. It’s also fibrous and tough. Sometimes, you need the actual plant, so you peel it down to the tender core and mince it well. Other times, like now, all you need is the oils. Peel off some of the outer tough leaves, cut the stalk into 2-inch sections and bash them with the side of a chef’s knife. This will release the oils into the broth as it cooks.
Heating things up. A little heat in this dish livens up the delicate balance of flavors. The curry powder I used was already packing heat in the form of ground Sannam red chiles. If your curry powder isn’t hot, consider adding crushed red pepper flakes.
Where’s the salt? You’ll notice there’s none in the recipe. The mussels release briny liquid into the broth, and extra salt is rarely needed.
Related post: Baked Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes
Earlier in March my boys and I visited Austin, Texas, for a little visit with family. We sure picked a good weekend – the weather was the kind of perfect spring that comes but once a year and all too briefly. Brilliant, cloudless blue skies, warm sun, cool breezes.
Trees were putting out tender little leaves, blades of bright green grass were pushing up everywhere, sour grass (yum!) covered the hillsides, and Texas Mountain Laurel and a bunch of other lovely flowers I don't know the names of were blooming. In short, spring had sprung.
At that time, spring had not sprung in upstate New York. We had headed out on the heels of a two-day snow-sleet-ice-rain storm. Perhaps that is why I was seized by a desire to make egg salad – which I consider to be a sort of culinary harbinger of spring – in the midst of the white stuff falling from the sky.
I had some fresh dill and some celery left over from making chicken soup for a friend. There's something so incredibly spring-like about fresh dill – the fresh, light flavor, the tender, feathery, green fronds.
And I had some hard-boiled eggs hanging out in the fridge.
So I mixed up this simple and dee-li-cious egg salad. It's a much more classic interpretation than I typically make but it was a hit with me and the husband.
Happy spring to you all.
Egg Salad With Fresh Dill and Celery
4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons sweet relish
2 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 stalks celery, leaves and ends removed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or onion
1-2 tablespoons chopped, fresh dill
Cut the eggs in half length-wise. Scoop the yolks out into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the relish, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper and mix to combine.
Chop the egg whites into cubes/squares and place them in a bowl along with the celery and onions. Add the yolk mixture, dill, and mix well.
Taste and adjust salt, pepper, etc., to taste. Serve on bread, crackers or a bed of lettuce.
Related post: Curried Egg Salad
I had a difficulty deciding on title for this post. I'm not sure if these are carrot fritters or little carrot patties. When I think of fritters, I think of a thick liquid type of batter. But then again, someone commented on the Guyanese pancakes a couple of weeks ago and said that they looked more like fritters than pancakes. Oh well, call it what you will.
Recently there was a glut of carrots on the local market, here in Barbados. I did a few recipes for a local publication to encourage people to buy the carrots and do more with them than just steam or make coleslaw or carrot cake.
This recipe was one of those things whereby I just put a little bit of this and that as I went along.
Please, as always, feel free to adapt it to suit your taste.
Yield: 10 - 12
2 packed cups finely grated carrots
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (or substitute 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup mashed potato (optional:I put this in because I had it on hand)
1 egg, room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro/coriander
Oil for shallow frying
Add all the ingredients to a bowl, except the oil, and mix well.
Form into little patties 2 inches wide, 1/2 inch thick.
Add oil to frying pan and heat on medium heat.
Fry patties until brown and on one side and then flip and cook on the other side.
Drain on a cooling rack inserted into a sheet pan or on paper towels.Serve with sour cream and chives or Greek Yogurt.
Related post: Guyanese Cheese Pies
The pancakes taste better if you first visit the boiler room of the Davenport Maple Farm in Shelburne, Mass.
Sugaring is as much a way of life for the Davenport's as it is a means of income. The farm will have been in the family 100 years as of 2013. The sugarhouse is not a replica of a long forgotten New England tradition. The old equipment, cans, and tubes are the real thing, even if they are family relics.
The boiling room is the place where neighbors, family, friends and tourists visit to see the clear, white maple tree sap being boiled into thick, golden maple syrup. Locals come by to check on the syrup making, comparing notes with Norm Davenport, who has a dead pan New England sense of humor. Tourists check out the scenery, settle in on a bench as the steam rises from the evaporator, taking it in while Lisa Davenport willingly explains how to make syrup again and again.
Other visitors bring cameras to photograph the mounted deer head on the two-story wall. Children count the elves that are hanging in various places from the ceiling – a game Maegan Senser devised to keep children amused while their parents talk syrup.
This year's warm weather and early spring hampered production, cutting the Davenports final tally (419 gallons) to half of last year's banner year (880 gallons). Though the season is brief, it is labor intensive, requiring careful maintenance of the tap lines and long hours boiling sap. That’s the thing about sugaring – no technology will alter the process of trees making sap. Nature will take her time or speed up at will.
Just have the pancakes ready.
To see a slideshow of the Davenport Maple Farm click here.