Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pumpkin Pots de Creme with Candied Pecans

I'm bracing myself.  Pumpkin recipes are hitting Blogosphere, and I couldn't be happier.  Pumpkin is about the only squash (or is it a fruit?) that I truly love.   For those of you who hate pumpkin pie, just send me your share. I'm in.

Pots de creme (PO-de-[insert phlem here] and say from deep in your throat "c-h-hrem") is a simple dessert.  I think of it as a baked custard. Actually, Pots de Creme is a lot like a creme brulee. Both are baked in a bain marie (water bath).  The only real difference is that a brulee has caramelized sugar, from a blow torch.

I hoard canned pumpkin.  I'm probably the reason that there is a "supposed" pumpkin shortage.   I eat pumpkin year-round. Here's one cup.  Isn't uncooked pumpkin a pretty color? Remember this, as I'll point this out later on.

Pumpkin spice is convenient, but I made my own blend of nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. Coarse salt brings out the sweetness in desserts. Sounds strange, but it's true.  Molasses is also necessary for this recipe.

To the pumpkin puree, add 3 egg yolks (did you now you can freeze egg whites to use later?) and some brown sugar...

Add heavy creme.  This is not the time to add skim milk, folks. This is dessert.  Just eat a smaller portion.

The recipe said to oil  four individual ramekins. I'm not sure why, but I did as instructed.
NOTE: I've read that it's safe to use tea cups (which makes a pretty presentation) as the pot de creme is baked in water, at a temperature.  I'm not that daring, as my tea cups are heirlooms.   Set the ramekins on a clean kitchen towel, in a roasting pan and the oven should be preheated to 325F.

Divide the filling, evenly....  I used six ramekins, rather than the suggest four.

But don't space out, like I did, and forget to strain the filling before dividing it.  D'oh!

Very carefully, add hot water to the pan until it reaches to about halfway up.  I didn't use the right kind of pitcher, and splashed water into one ramekin.  Double D'oh!

Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the custards are set but still jiggle when you shake them, 30-35 minutes.
 Transfer the roasting pan to a cooling rack and remove the foil, leaving the ramekins in the water until the custard reaches room temperature. Removed the cooled ramekins from the water bath and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. NOTE: I found that the ramekins were cool enough to touch in about 30 minutes, and they went straight into the refrigerator.

While waiting for the Pots de Creme to cool, I decided to make the Candied Pecan recipe as a garnish. Leave the oven at 325F.  The ingredients include sugar, coarse salt, pepper, cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne.
 Add some honey...

...a little corn syrup

 Whisk it well...

I keep an arsenal of pecans in my freezer, so I measured about 1-1/2 cups. 
Coat the pecans, well, with the honey mixture.

If you have a silicone Silpat baking sheet, this is the perfect time to use it. Otherwise, use a lot of non-stock spray on a baking sheet. Bake at 325F for about 5 minutes.
Using a fork, stir the pecans to coat them with melted spice mixture. Continue baking until the nuts are golden and the coating bubbles, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pecans to the foil. Working quickly, separate the nuts with the fork. Cool. Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

I was a little disappointed that so much of the cinnamon had floated to the top. I'm not sure why, but the pecans do look pretty.  The pecans aren't necessary.  Whipped cream works really well with this dessert. So, remember how I said to make a mental note on how pretty uncooked pumpkin looks.  Don't look away....

I wasn't going to post this photo.  Fine Cooking won't be asking me for permission to reprint it, that's for sure. I'm just keepin' it real, and so here it is.  Remember the ramekin that I accidentally spilled water in?  This is it. Craterville, after scooping out the pool of hot water from the middle.  As for the color... well... it's not attractive.  I admit it. It reminds me of... well, I raised a baby. That's all I'm sayin'.   As for oiling the ramekins, I'm not sure if that's necessary. It's spooned out easily, and clean up was a snap.

VERDICT:  The texture was very creamy, indeed.  Pots de Creme are very quick and easy to make.  If you don't own a torch to make creme brulee, then this dessert is for you.   This is naked pumpkin pie, and I'm fine with that-- as I'm not the biggest fan of pie crust. Not too sweet, and the spice was balanced nicely.  As for the pecans, my son liked them.  I don't think they're necessary, but if you want to take the extra step, they make a pretty presentation.  That sorts of makes up for the not-so-appealing color. I still prefer my Pumpkin Brulee recipe, but this one come close.

I believe in giving recipe credit where it's due.  Thanks to "Baking Obsession" for the recipe, and beautiful photos.  A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.


Pumpkin Pots de Crème with Candied Pecans

        <p>Pots de Crème are very much like a Brulee, except there isn&#8217;t that crunchy sugar that is done with a blow torch. These are easily made with a whisk, and gently baked in a water bath.  The candied pecans are a nice touch, but not mandatory.  ...     

        See Pumpkin Pots de Crème with Candied Pecans on Key Ingredient.     


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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fresh Corn Chowder and Buttered Rosemary Skillet Rolls

The first day of Fall slipped quietly by. I barely noticed. The climate, where I live, usually brings warm and beautiful weather-- but, then it can change to be overcast and cool.  My garden is so confused.  So it my palate.

This is the time of year when I still want to grill summer veggies, and yet my yearning for home baked bread and soups starts to kick into gear.

I had an itch for Corn Chowder and home baked bread that needed to be scratched.  I've made Ina Garten's Cheddar Corn Chowder, but I wanted to try a different version.  I had bookmarked a version from Cook's Illustrated, a while ago, because it had many positive reviews.   Soup and bread is hard to resist, so I decided to make one of my husband's favorite bread recipes-- Buttered Rosemary Skillet Rolls.   The rolls are adapted from (gasp) "The Pioneer Woman".  Ree's original recipe uses frozen bread dough. I make my own, and these rolls are  one of the easiest-- and most faithful-- recipes you'll ever use. Just look at the pool of melted butter! Doesn't it make you swoon? (Paula Deen has nothing on me, with these rolls.)  I am not ashamed. 

I've lost count on how many times I've made these rolls. I use instant yeast, and it takes about 10 minutes for me to make the dough, using a stand mixer with a dough hook.  The dough rises, perfectly, in about 45 minutes.  Once shaped into rolls, the second rise takes about 20 minutes. TIP: I turn my oven to WARM, then turn it off.  This acts as an "incubator" for my dough, and speeds up the process of proofing the dough.
The rolls bake in about 25 minutes. (I bake them in my beloved cast iron skillet). You can use a cake pan, if you wish.

What's missing in this post? I'll tell you.  My typical step-by-step photos are!  I hadn't planned on blogging about the soup, nor the rolls.   I really just wanted to re-shoot the rolls, as the finished shots on my original post didn't turn out right.  (This is what happens when you don't check your lens, and you've smeared melted butter all over it.)   Fortunately, I automatically photograph most anything I eat. My friends are used to it, now.  I'm glad that I did, because the soup recipe is worth sharing with you.

VERDICT: I have to tell you that the Corn Chowder definitely scratched my itch.  I have to share it with you. I owe it to you.  It was creamy, and I did not miss adding cheese to it-- as Ina's recipe does.  Some of the corn kernels are reserved, and added towards the very end of the cooking time. This gives the soup a texture of creamy, with some crunchy al dente texture of fresh corn. I loved it. I didn't have salt pork, so I used regular bacon-- and that worked just fine. I did add some finely chopped red bell pepper, to the recipe.  I liked the color, and the flavor, that it contributed to the soup.  As for the bread...

...well, who can beat the smell of fresh baked bread? The rolls turned out, once again, to be very tender.

I love this recipe. There's something about sea salt & fresh rosemary that makes these rolls very addicting.

This meal represented the flavors of summer corn, and the promise of home-baked bread, with fall weather.  Both of these recipes will remain in my regular rotation file. They're both that good!  You can see step-by-step photos on how to make these rolls here. (Printable recipe cards are at the end of this post.)

Now... I have a hankering for pumpkin. Big time!


Fresh Corn Chowder (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

        <p>This recipe comes from Cook&#8217;s Illustrated, and it&#8217;s one of my favorite versions of Corn Chowder.  (You could use frozen corn, too.)  I like the texture of both creamy and some crunch, because whole corn is added toward the end of the ...    

        See Fresh Corn Chowder (adapted from Cook's Illustrated) on Key Ingredient.    



Buttered Rosemary Rolls (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

        <p>I saw this recipe on Pioneer Woman&#8217;s website. Ree uses frozen bread dough, but I decided to make my own bread rolls because my recipe is fast and super easy&#8230; like 10 minutes to prepare and they were on the table in 90 minutes! These are ...    

        See Buttered Rosemary Rolls (adapted from The Pioneer Woman) on Key Ingredient.    


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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fig-Prosciutto Pizza (The Pioneer Woman)

I never imagined that when I started my own food blog, in 2008, that I would collect so many recipe ideas.  In fact, I invested in a DEMY Digital Recipe Reader, so that I could keep track of the hundreds of recipes that I doubt I'll live long enough to make.  My food blog addiction began, when I stumbled across Ree Drummond's Blog.  I liked her humor, her photos, and her recipes are downright tempting.   For 35 years, I owned horses.  My dearly departed and beloved horse, Savannah, went on to win state championships as a stock horse.  I loved riding trails, tagging along cattle drives and flirting with cowboys going to rodeos.  I enjoy how Ree shares about her city girl, turned wife-of-a-real-cowboy life.  I don't read a lot about her home schooling, since I have a grown son.  I can honestly say that the recipes I've made, from Ree's blog,  are some of my family's favorites.  Yes, they're a bit high in fat and calories, but they are not low in flavor.  I just don't eat like that every day!

My step-by-step photos and printable recipe are past these next few paragraphs.  I just want to share some of my personal feelings about some recent comments I've been reading about The Pioneer Woman (along with  Paula Deen, and Ina Garten, Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray).

Why so much hate, people?!  I've watched Ree's new Food Network Show.  I'm not so sure that Ree's written humor translates as well on screen, and I learn more from Anne Burrell-- when it comes to cooking techniques.  But, whoa, Nelly!  There are websites where people are having a field day ripping Ree's new show to pieces!  She's being labeled a phony, a piece of PR marketing and a lot of not-so-nice digs at her "money".   They're attacking her for her fattening food, along with Paula Deen. Much of this translates to me as pure envy, and a mixture of just plain food snobbery.  While I appreciate "gourmet food" as much as any other "foodie", I'm also a fan of simple comfort foods.  I hope that I never become as snobby sounding as some of the comments I read about this particular recipe!  I have certain food aversions that I cannot overcome. But, I would never write anything like "gross", or "ew" if I see an ingredient that my palate just can't accept.  I'm just plain disappointed in the "hate" websites.
It remains to be seen if the Pioneer Woman's new show will be as big a hit as her website. For now, she has a huge base of loyal fans.  As for me, I like her personality, on her blog.  I've never met her, in person, so I can't say that she's phony. Some of her recipes aren't something I'd make, but that doesn't mean there aren't other households who are racing to the store to buy those very ingredients.  The same goes for my own food blog.  There are times when I've posted a recipe, and the comments are less than stellar. Other times, I receive a lot of blog love when I post something else.  We can't please everyone, and I try not to take things too personally. While I'm not a fan of recipes that use a lot of processed foods and/ or mixes,  I'm sure there are plenty of people who prefer to use these shortcuts. Go for it!   But, why the hate?  If PW isn't your cup of tea, it doesn't mean she is worthy of such vicious attacks. Just move on...as I have with some Food Network personalities I just don't care for.  For the record-- I suspect those who are on writing such hateful comments are not food bloggers.  Some people just need to complain about something... End of my complaint rant.
 So, back to this recipe.  I love figs, and I only recently discovered how fun they are to cook and bake with in very recent years.  I've had pretty good success in making my own fig jam.   Figs and cheese... figs and Prosciutto... these make excellent pairings--and they make lovely appetizers.  It was Tyler Florence's recipe for Bacon, Potato, Rosemary & Fontina Cheese with Arugula that opened my eyes to less traditional pizza combos.  Ree's recipe uses Fig Spread (or jam), instead of red pizza sauce.

 After watching her show, I made a note to buy Prosciutto di Parma ...

 ...and fresh mozzarella.  

I already had a jar of fig jam that I had purchased, and it was nearing it's expiration date. The ingredients were nice, too-- figs, lemon juice sugar and no high fructose corn syrup.  Works for me!

NOTE: This is not an inexpensive pizza to make.  Total cost = $15.00, approximately.  However, have you ever seen a pizza like this at your local pizzeria?  Probably not!
I usually make my own pizza dough, but this time I bought one from Trader Joe's-- I made this last Monday, on a work night.  If I had planned enough ahead, I like making my pizza dough a day or two ahead. When the dough ferments, it takes on extra flavor that I really love.  There are a few tips I've learned about making  non-soggy pizzas...

I've invested in a baking stone.  Mine is large and square, for baking Artisan breads. It's perfect for pizzas, too.  I like to preheat my pizza stone, at 450F.

I haven't purchased a pizza peel yet, so I use the back of a baking sheet-- with lots of corn meal.  There is nothing more disheartening than to make your pizza and then it sticks...and rips... while trying to set it on a baking stone.  If you don't have a baking stone, I've found that preheating a baking sheet works pretty well.

Fig Spread is easier to use.  I had to heat this jam, so it would become more spreadable.

...like that!

I could slap my forehead for all the years that I bought that rubbery ball of mozzarella.  Fresh mozzarella is so worth the extra cost. It's creamier... and so much tastier. I used the entire container.
NOTE:  I forgot to drizzle olive oil, and salt, but I actually didn't find the additional olive oil to be necessary. The salt is essential, though.  I used sea salt.

I said a little prayer, and my pizza slid right off the back of my baking sheet and onto my very hot baking stone.  Corn meal, to the rescue! The pizza crust was baked in about 18 minutes.

I could cut this up into bite-sized pieces, and serve them as tapas. But, let's kick this up a few more notches...

Lay the Prosciutto slices all over the pizza, while hot. By the way, I love wrapping Prosciutto around fresh cantaloupe slices. Sweet, salty... so good!

Very nice!

Right before serving (which was, like, 3 minutes after I finished with adding the Prosciutto and pouring wine), add some fresh and peppery arugula. 

...and Fresh Parmesan shavings is the last "ta-da". Since I used "cheater" pizza dough, dinner was ready in about 1/2 hour! 

Craig and I enjoyed our dinner "Al Fresco", as the chilly Fall nights haven't quite arrived in Salinas. But, it's getting closer.  

VERDICT:  My husband, at first, referred to this as a "girlie" pizza.  He got that idea, from watching a little bit of Ree's show.  Once he took a few bites, he said it was good.  He had thirds seconds, he said this was really good.  I'm glad we added a little extra sea salt, because the Prosciutto didn't quite hold enough of that salty contrast to the sweet of the fig jam.   I liked the fig jam, but I will use my favorite brand, "Dalmatia Fig Spread", in the future. This pizza is quite light, actually.  I would make this again, and cut them into smaller squares-- as a perfect appetizer.  The crunchiness of the arugula works really well.   There were a few slices left over, that my son discovered when he did a midnight refrigerator raid.  The next morning, he commented that the pizza was really good.  He said it threw him for a loop, at first, when he realized the sauce wasn't a traditional tomato-base.  Overall, this is a keeper recipe.

Ree Drummond, congratulations in your success. It's always nice for me to see a food blogger who is successful.  I'd never have the courage to stand before a camera, and demonstrate my recipes.  I don't have that kind of confidence!

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Panko-Stuffed Broiled Tomatoes

When I made Ina Garten's Potato Basil Puree, I decided to add broiled tomatoes as an extra bonus.   I often forget how delicious tomatoes can be, when they are filled with bread crumbs, seasoned with fresh herbs and garlic oil.  They're also really easy to make. I've tried a few recipes, but this is my favorite version:

I'm such a fan of panko crumbs. I love that special "crunch" that I don't get with regular bread crumbs.  I add fresh thyme, a little bit of Parmesan cheese.  In a separate pot, I heat a little bit of olive oil and butter, and then some minced fresh garlic. On very low heat, I allow the garlic to infuse the oil.

I use Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise; seeds and pulp are removed.

Season with salt and pepper...

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