Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cheese-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto

All I have to say here is - thank you , Giada!
You had me at goat cheese, much less prosciutto, marscapone, medjool dates..........

Cheese-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto
courtesy Giada DeLaurentiis
1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (2 ounces) mascarpone cheese, a room temperature
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Chives (origina recipe calls for basil leaves)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 Medjool dates (12 ounces), pitted
8 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise

Special equipment: 16 toothpicks or cocktail picks
In a small bowl, mix together the cheeses and basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Gently pull the dates apart and stuff with about 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Close the dates around the filling. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each date and secure with a toothpick.
Arrange the stuffed dates on a platter and serve.

Friday, December 25, 2009

An Experiment in Brining--

I was recently enthralled watching Anne Burrell brine a monstrous Tgiving turkey. It fell in line with a lot of reading I've been doing about brining and how many swear it's the only way to make a moist chicken any more. However, when it's just two of you for Christmas, it seems wasteful to prepare a whole turkey. Thus, I picked up some Cornish game hens this year for my little "experiment."

I will have to tell you that this was THE most succulent & flavorful chicken I have ever put in my mouth as well as the hubs and I's fav part of our Christmas meal. Trussing, not my strong suite to start with, was like a day at the rodeo. These suckers were lucky they made it into the roasting pan, much less the oven! (that's why you see an "X" on the back of one of the hens, it's leg was broken and it wasn't cooperating, so I did some "creative trussing" - I also would've put Ralphie's dad to shame w/the artfully crafted blue streak coming out of my mouth........but, I digress...........)

Rule of thumb(s?) that I've gathered is approx. 1 cup table salt for every gallon of water. Do not brine for less than 1/2 and hour and do not use more than 2 gallons of water. It's best to start w/scalding hot water so that it dissolves the salt and releases the essential oils in whatever herbs and spices you choose to use. Use a non-reactive (non-aluminum) dish or container to brine in. Ziplock bags work great, as do stainless dutch ovens (which I used). You will want the water to cool before placing your meat in it as the heat puts the process of osmosis that's at work into overdrive and your chicken/poultry will end up tasting like ham.

For my hens- I used:

1 c. table salt
1 gallon water
1/2 a packet of Herbs for Poultry- 1/2 bouquet of thyme, 1 thick sprig rosemary, 1 large sage leaf
1 tbsp cracked telicherry peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, whole, crushed

I only brined the hens for 90 minutes as I wanted to play it on the safe side, but you can do up to 2 hours with smaller fowl. Stuffed them w/sausage dressing, laid them on a bed of sliced onion. Roasted for a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes- basted w/butter at 350 for an hour, then did 400 for the last 15 minutes (basting in the middle).


Btw- Sasha wanted me to tell everyone- Merry Christmas and save some chicken for me!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I love this site so much! I'm just sad I didn't think of it first.
These are all things I think, but never thought to say in a blog.
Now you can read it and have a few laughs too- Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Soft Center Chocolate Cakes

I was the fortunate recipient of a Ghirardelli gift box this Christmas. And as such, felt it my honor bound duty to test the recipes and chocolate sent to me. Thus, on this snowy, homebound evening, I found myself delving into a flourless chocolate cake recipe of sorts.

I must say, not being a baker, this was fun to make! Esp. when my end result flopped out onto the plate without much finesse in a pile of airy fudge. Guess I'll just have to try again! Poor me!

It may not turn out as pretty on the plate as the pics in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook, but no matter. It's definitely a chocolate lover's (read: my) Christmas Chocolate Dream come true- SO good!

Soft Center Chocolate Cakes

1.2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken up or in melting chips
2 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tspn vanilla
1 tbsp cake flour

Optional: Berries and/or whipped cream

Preheat oven to 450. Butter four 6 oz ramekins and dust with sugar(I recommend caster/super-fine sugar).

Melt stick of butter and chocolate over double boiler until smooth.

Meanwhile, whip whole eggs, yolks, sugar and vanilla w/an electric mixer for approx. 10 minutes (it will thicken). Fold in melted chocolate, then flour until just combined. Spoon mixture into prepared ramekins.

Bake for 9-10 minutes, until the top and sides are set. The center will be quite soft. Removed from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes, then unmold each ramekin onto a dessert plate. Top w/berries and/or whipped cream if desired.

*B Tip - you can freeze these easily (take out of ramekin) and reheat them for 10-15 seconds in the microwave directly from the freezer. Like fresh out of the oven!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unbelievably Good Roasted Veggie Soup

Had this served to me by dear friends on my recent sojourn to Chicago. Now, everytime I make this recipe, I will forever cherish the memory of their adorable son hoovering this soup and begging for more - THREE TIMES! So, those of you trying to get veggies in your kids, this recipe is the way to go! Not to mention, it will make your house smell amazing!

I would recommend serving it with either whole grain croutons (made from a baguette, toasted w/olive oil) or a nice grilled cheese/panini type sandwich.

Hope you love it as much as we do!

Roasted Veggie Soup
Williams Sonoma Soup Cookbook
p. 56

2 leeks, including green tender parts, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut in 2 inch pieces
2 zucchini (courgettes), cut into 2 inch pieces
2 Asian eggplants, (slender aubergines), cut into 2 inch pieces
2 large tomatoes, quartered
2 white potatoes (about 10 oz), peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
4 ½ c. chicken stock/broth
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil (I roasted my veggies w/dried basil)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large, heavy roasting pan, combine leeks, carrots, zucchini, eggplants, tomatoes and potatoes. Add ½ cup of chicken broth/stock, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Mix until veggies are well coated.

Roast until veggies are softened, turning once to make sure they do not burn, about 40 minutes total.

In a blender, in about 3 batches, combine the veggies with ½ cup total chicken stock/broth and puree until smooth.

Transfer to a large saucepan over low heat and stir in the remaining 3 ½ cups stock, the basil and lemon juice.

If needed, add a bit more stock for the desired consistency. Cook for 3 minutes and allow flavors to blend.

Season to taste w/salt and pepper.

Freezes beautifully.