Thursday, December 31, 2009

NYE #3--Hot chorizo and cheese dip (p. 73), Beer cheese dip in a bread bowl (p. 73), Red onion dip (p. 72), and Honey yogurt dip (p. 78)

We thought that a New Year's Eve party menu would be primarily appetizers. Dips seemed particularly appropriate!

We made so many dishes that I forgot to take pictures of some of the dishes. Hot chorizo and cheese dip (p. 73) suffered this fate. I only have a final picture:

It was an easy recipe-I sauteed onion in butter, added chorizo, added flour, whisked in milk, and waited until thickened. And waited. And waited. I'm not sure if it was thickened when I said "good enough" but that step took a really long time. Cheddar was then added, along with poblanos, and done! We kept it in a little Crock Pot so it didn't get hard--it was really delicious and slightly spicy. I'm not really into cheese dips so I'm not a good judge of these.

Which might beg the question, why did we make Beer cheese dip in a bread bowl (p. 73)? I think I'm the oddity and that most people really like cheese dips for chips and that certainly seemed the case at the party.

The first step was hallowing out a nice dark rye bread:

I was very nervous about this step! I didn't want to make a hole because then the cheese would leak out. Remember to keep the extra bread for dipping!

I simmered some beer on the stove (beer from the keg!) and then added a cornstarch/water mixture. When the beer thickened up (strange), I added a mixture of cheddar, cream cheese, blue cheese, Dijon mustard, and Worchestershire sauce that I had mixed in another bowl.

And I added it to the bread bowl:

No leaks! It was really good--pretty much like every beer cheese dip I've ever had. I thought that the blue cheese lent it a nice tangy quality that most dips don't have. Rachel said this was her favorite dish of the night and happily ate most of it. I was pretty excited to have made a bread bowl--it's something that always intimidated me but it was actually pretty simple.

I don't like onions (something I am actually--thankfully--getting over) but Red onion dip (p. 72) is a recipe that I would probably never make for myself. I think part of why I don't like onions is because I am really sensitive to them. Rachel chopped all the onions, I was completely across the kitchen, and my eyes were watering like mad. I'm not sensitive to eating them, thankfully!

Two onions is a LOT of onions--I sauteed them in butter until they were soft and then stirred in a little salt and a little sugar.

When they turned golden brown, I added beef broth, garlic cloves, and thyme.

The mixture was then cooked down until almost all the broth is evaporated. This took forever and I was worried that it was going to burn at the end. A little balsamic vinegar was added and then a cup of sour cream was stirred in:

To me, it tasted exactly like the onion dip that you can buy pre-made at the grocery store. Many of you know my philosophy--I won't make something if it isn't either cheaper or better in homemade form (I don't have that much time!) and I don't think this recipe is cheaper or better than store-bought dip. It's just as good but not better. And it was extremely time-consuming--honestly, I think it took at least an hour, which is way too long for a cold dip.

On a slightly different note, we also made Honey yogurt dip (p. 78). This recipe was exactly the type of dip recipe I like--mix yogurt, honey, mind, and lemon zest together and done!

It's a strange flavor combination--especially the mint. Like many TJOC recipes (pickled grapes anyone) the first couple bites seem gross. Then a couple more bites and it's better. All of a sudden it's totally gone! I didn't eat much of this because we didn't have any fruit (why did we make a fruit dip if we didn't have any fruit? I have no idea). It was good though and I actually think I would make it again. It would be even better with fresh garden mint.

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NYE #2--Tamarind dipping sauce (p. 237), Samosas with ground beef (p. 89), and Samosas with potatoes and peas (p. 89)

Rachel pointed out that we should make samosas for the New Year's Eve party. We both like samosas, she made made them before (granted, with puff pastry rather than phyllo), and I had used phyllo before (making mushroom triangles), so it seemed perfect. We decided we would make both types of samosas in TJOC and a tamarind dipping sauce (conveniently on the randomly generated list!). Rachel mentioned that maybe we should just make half batches of both types and I said the words that would come back to haunt me--"Oh no. You like samosas, TJOC recipes don't always half well, we'll just make both".

Tamarind dipping sauce (p. 237). I'm not an expert on tamarind dipping sauce although it is pretty ubiquitous at Indian restaurants. I had never seen tamarind before but, bizarrely, Rachel had some in the cupboard.

This is tamarind paste:

It looks absolutely disgusting but smells deliciously fruity. You don't even use the tamarind--you soak it in water and then use the water and through out the tamarind. That seems bizarre to me. So the tamarind water, raisins, dates, brown sugar, cilantro, chili-garlic sauce (which Rachel tasted, made a face, which motivated me to taste it and make a face--it's very salty!), salt, cumin, and ginger were added to the blender:

If you are wondering what that yellow is--I was making three recipes at once, got mixed up, and that's yellow mustard that I got the vast majority removed (I wasn't about to through it out and start over!).

It was blended and then strained:

OMG! It was sooooo good. Sweet and tangy and the perfect condiment for the samosas. Everyone who tried it said that it tasted just as good as at restaurants and it was my favorite thing that we made all night. Rachel gave me some tamarind paste so I can make it again (unfortunately, I don't have any dates but I'm sure I can fix that).

These samosas were made at the end of the night after almost twelve hours of cooking and my pictures started to suffer (in other words, I took very few pictures of the samosa-making process). We made Samosas with ground beef (p. 89). It was an easy start--onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, and salt were sauteed in vegetable oil. Ground beef was added and then water until it evaporated. At the very end cilantro and jalapeno peppers were added.

This picture is at the beginning of the process:

We also made Samosas with potatoes and peas (p. 89). We cooked potatoes and mashed them. We then cooked mustard seeds and garlic in vegetable oil and added it to the potatoes, along with peas, an onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lemon juice, and salt:

The samosas were wrapped in exactly the same way that the mushroom triangles (referenced above) were wrapped:

When they came out of the oven they were beautiful:

No exaggeration, the samosas took me at least 2.5 hours to wrap. I never seemed to make an progress! And that was with me wrapping and Rachel popping them into the oven and getting them out--without her doing that job, it would have easily taken twice as long. When Rachel bit into the first one, I told her I sure hoped they were good, otherwise I was going to cry.

The samosas were absolutely amazing! I'm thinking that we didn't make 120 of them (the amount the recipe claims it makes) but it easily made 100. Different people had different opinion on which ones were the best. The beef was heavily seasoned and strong and the potatoes were crisp and savory. I absolutely adored the ground beef ones--they were so delicious!

I would make these again but only for a special occasion. They were well worth the time but it was a LOT of time...

The pea and potato samosa recipe is online.

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NYE #1: Becker bloody bull shots (p. 57), Champagne punch (p. 65), and Glogg (p. 67)

New Year's Eve! I was going to be in Iowa for once. One of my very best friends, Rachel (who some of you may remember from Thanksgiving or my birthday) cane up with a truly terrific idea--she wanted to have a party and we could cook lots of recipes from TJOC! I thought it was a truly inspired idea and we made a boatload (well, if 16 or so fill a boat) of recipes. I'm going to break them into five posts so keep checking back!

Rachel and I made three sets of drinks for the New Year's Eve party--I will discuss them in the order I find them the most interesting. I don't usually have events with enough people for the party drinks in TJOC (ie punch).

Rachel and I had an excess of beef broth. I said "You know, TJOC has a recipe for Becker bloody bull shots (p. 57) and it uses beef broth and is kind of like a Bloody Mary". Rachel perked up--we are both huge Bloody Mary fans. I told her that I thought the recipe looked gross and she replied that it looked delicious and we should make it (we had all the ingredients). The recipe is one of those bizarre ones--tomato juice, beef consomme (or beef broth, I figured), tons of vodka, lime juice, a dash of hot sauce (or many, many dashes if you measure like Rachel), and a little black pepper:

Rachel and I were absolutely exhausted by this point and a drink was well needed:

We decided to drink this more as a drink and less as a shot. It was STOUT. Not kidding around. This is a great drink if you really like hot sauce and vodka. It didn't taste particularly beefy, so if that is scaring you away from the recipe, don't worry! Of course, if you have vegetarians at your party, you might want to warn them--there aren't usually animal products in what seems to be a Bloody Mary :)

I love champagne, I love punch, it seemed Champagne punch (p. 65) would be the perfect drink for a NYE toast.

First, we peeled and cored three pineapple.

Rachel went shopping for the first set of groceries without the list and thought "how many pineapples could this recipe possibly take". She bought two, it takes THREE! THREE PINEAPPLES! Does that seem like a lot to anyone else?

We then sprinkled a pound (yes, a pound) of confectioners' sugar over the top and let it stand for an hour.

Lemon juice, brandy, rum, curacao (actually, Grand Marnier, we traded up), and maraschino liqueur (what the heck is this? We used cherry schnapps) were added to the pineapple and powdered sugar mixture.

The whole thing sat and chilled for four hours. We then added four bottles of champagne.

It was so delicious! Nice and sweet. The pineapple was nice and punchy too--and tasty. This is the perfect drink if you don't really like alcohol because it was so sweet and easy to drink. People seem to mock punch as a innocuous drink. A drink for 15-year-olds to drink and feel naughty. And it is, if it doesn't have alcohol in it. This punch? Almost entirely alcohol.

There was one problem with the punch. Well, actually two problems.

Problem 1--the punch was easy to drink but had no liquid ingredients, other than the lemon juice, that weren't alcoholic so it was STRONG. So, it packed a punch (ha!). Problem 2--I'm allergic to fresh pineapple. That's why I had Rachel slice the pineapple. I thought about it all day. But for some reason, I drank about ten glasses of it. The next day, I was in real pain--my throat was swelled almost shut, my lips itched, my eyes itched, and so on. FOR THREE DAYS! Next time I try to eat pineapple, slap me. Or kiwi, I'm allergic to that too. So I won't be making this again :(

There are a couple of recipes in TJOC that have absolutely amazing lines. Glogg (p. 67) is one of these recipes but we will get to that later...

Glogg requires cinnamon sticks, cloves, and cardamom pods to be tied up in cheesecloth:

The packet was dropped into a mixture of tawny port, brandy, vodka, the peel of an orange, and a cup of raisins.

Getting the tawny port was not as easy as it should have been. Rachel and I went to a grocery store and looked for the port section. Not easily finding it, I asked the liquor employee. He asked me what port was. That's not a good sign! I stumbled upon it myself (in the "dessert wines" section).

TJOC recommends a large non-reactive pot. What is a reactive pot? We had no idea, we figured reactive pots would be copper, everything else is non-reactive. Does anyone know the answer to this?

It was then simmered for an hour.

And on to the best line in a long time...

"Holding the lid against the edge of the pot as a shield, hot a lighted long match near the rim of the pot until the alcohol fumes ignite."

Love it! A shield!

It was on fire! How pretty!

The glogg was strong. STRONG. Really strong. Did I mention it was strong?

There was NOTHING in the glogg except for raisins, spices, and alcohol.

I will admit to not liking the glogg much but I don't like cinnamon. It's a VERY cinnamon-y drink. Unfortunately, it was so late by the time we finished that almost nobody drank it! So Rachel packaged it up--hopefully someone got use from it, it was extremely expensive to make! And lighting it on fire wasn't a fraction as difficult as it seemed like it was going to be.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Shrimp, scallops, squid, clams, or oysters tempura (p.377)

As I was recently thumbing through TJOC, I noticed a recipe that I found very annoying-- Shrimp, scallops, squid, clams, or oysters tempura (p.377). There is nothing particularly annoying about the recipe itself, just the fact that I regularly make this and didn't know it was a recipe in TJOC.

We don't eat meat on Christmas Eve, leading to a very shellfish heavy meal. The meal usually includes pasta with a crab/lobster/shrimp sauce, stuffed calamari, fried calamari, fried cauliflower, fried shrimp, shrimp scampi, and a couple more dishes. Delicious! Many years ago, all the fried dishes became my duty. Last year I made TJOC's tempura batter for the fried food and it was amazing.

The recipe is simple--the tempura batter is egg and cold water mixed with flour.

The calamari is cleaned (which is gross and my noni's job) and separated into bodies and tentacles. I chopped the bodies into rings. I greatly recommend drying them as much as you can--every bit of water spits and it's really annoying and dangerous. They don't dry well at all.

The calamari were then dredged in the batter and fried in our ancient and scary deep frier.

YUM! My very favorite dish of the holidays! I honestly think I ate at least half of those rings. And I like them cold too, so very few of them ever make it into the leftover pile.

The benefit of Florida is the beautiful view from the kitchen window:

The best part of our ride back? The airplane had a raffle and I won $75! It came in a little shot glass and it was probably one of the best airplane rides I've ever had :)

It was COLD in Florida this year and is even colder in Iowa. Honestly, our highs have been negative three. Without the wind chill! And there IS a wind chill! So cold. I hope it's more temperate for all of you!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nutty meringue kisses (p. 771)

After all that candy making, I really wanted some cookies. I know that seems totally bizarre but I don't really like candy (actually, I don't really like cookies either) and I wanted something to snack on. Nutty meringue kisses (p. 771) stood out as a good choice. I made meringue kisses in July and they didn't turn out. I mean, they tasted good, but they weren't "kisses", they were more like "discs". I thought I would give it another go. And almost every dessert is better when you add nuts.

This time, I was really careful about separating the yolks and whites and made absolutely sure there was no yolk. I beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until the egg whites began to form soft peaks. I then added sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. The only thing that differentiated this recipe from the previous time I made it was adding chopped pecans:

The batter was glossy and delicious-looking:

I felt better about them immediately when I was dishing them out onto the parchment paper. They were kisses!! I used a spoon but they would undoubtedly be more attractive if you used a pastry bag.

They were baked at a low heat for a very long time--I think it's more like drying them out than cooking them:

THEY WERE DELICIOUS! They were so good! I made 36 cookies and ate them ALL within 24 hours, which is not normal for me. The meringue kisses are very light and airy. I think the almond extract really added to the flavor too. I recommend using parchment paper because they peeled right off.

As an aside--I always think of cyanide when I use almond extract because it smells like cherries. Thank you Nancy Drew files for that knowledge!

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bourbon glaze (p. 583) and Steamed broccoli (p. 260)

My father came to visit for the weekend and was supposed to spend a nice weekend with us (drive in Friday, drive home Monday). He got in late Friday, no problem. Saturday he woke up in excruciating pain. It turns out he was running down the street during a blizzard (why? why would you do that?) and slipped, falling hard on his back. I convinced him that we needed to go to the urgent care center, where we spent the next 5-6 hours. It turned out that he had broken a rib and the muscles between his ribs were seizing.

So instead of a weekend of fooling around Colorado, we had a much more relaxed weekend. In fact, we had such a relaxed weekend that we almost didn't move. Poor dad could barely even eat because he was on two different types of muscle relaxers and painkillers. Even so, I decided to try to make a tempting meal to make him feel better.

I had bought a nice spiral-sliced ham at the grocery store and had a nice bottle of Maker's Mark (from making the bourbon balls), so I decided to make a Bourbon glaze (p. 583). The glaze was simple--red wine, bourbon, brown sugar, garlic, and orange zest.

I used my brand-new garlic press I bought from Ideeli. Ideeli is another of my favorite websites. If you like to shop, it's the perfect website. It has deep discounts from designers, which change every day. I LOVE it. My most recent purchase was the Anolon garlic press and a beautiful pot for much cheaper than I've ever seen them before.

I poured the glaze over the ham. It poured like water.

I was not in love with this glaze. It was so thin, it all dripped off! I wasn't very impressed. How was the flavor? Who knows? It all dripped off! I know that it smelled strongly of red wine and not nearly enough like bourbon. I won't bother with that particular glaze again.

Steamed broccoli (p. 260) is another one of those no-brainer recipes.

Chop broccoli, add to the steamer, and steam until done.

From this:

To this:

Done and delicious! I don't understand how so many people hate broccoli when I love it so much!

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Candy making #2: Fruit jellies (p. 878) , Citrus fruit jellies (p. 878), Cream caramels (p. 864), and Bourbon balls (p. 879)

Of course, in my candy making extravaganza, I made several TJOC recipes. Why didn't I make only candy from TJOC instead of other cookbooks? I don't know, I just saw other recipes that looked terrific and I wanted to try them!

I rather randomly sent candy to friends and family, so I hope they comment on these two blogs about the candies. If you didn't get candy and wanted it, I apologize :) It was probably due to me thinking you didn't like candy or wouldn't be home around the holidays--let me know for next time! And I didn't send the whole compliment of candy to everyone because I didn't make that much .

Josh's good friend Jan mentioned that her kids liked gummies. While leafing through TJOC, I noticed a recipe for Fruit jellies (p. 878) and had a feeling that was as close as I was going to get to gummies. The recipe requires 3 cups of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries. I bought frozen strawberries and blackberries and set them out on the counter to thaw. I was under the impression that the bags would be sealed shut.

The next morning, blackberry juice was ALL over my counter. It looked like someone had been murdered and I've never been so grateful my counter wasn't white. It was a huge mess. I spent the first hour cleaning.

Eventually, I cooked down the blackberries until they "released their juice".

I then mashed the blackberry mixture through my new strainer (thank you uncle Derryl!):

It was at this point that I realized I was an idiot. A major idiot. I HATE straining. And the blackberries took FOREVER. Absolutely FOREVER. Plus I only got the minimum amount of puree that was needed for the jellies.

IMPORTANT TIP! TJOC mentions that you should use 4 envelopes of gelatin to get 3 tablespoons. My envelopes each included 1 tablespoon, so I only needed three envelopes. So look and be careful!

I decided to just mix the gelatin into the cup since that's what I measured the puree in to. It was a big error in judgement because the gelatin clumped WAY too much and had to be cut out of the final project. It was so hard that my kitchen shears almost couldn't cut it. In all future versions I used the medium sized bowl that the recipe called for.

While the gelatin was "softening" I started cooking my sugar/water mixture. It went from opaque:

To clear and bubbly:

The gelatin mixture was then added into sugar mixture and cooked:

Eventually it looked like this:

The next day, I popped the fruit jellies out of the pan, which wasn't easy because the jelly was very sticky:

I cut them with my kitchen shears and rolled them in sugar:

I also made a strawberry version of the jellies:

The strawberries were WWWAAAYYY easier to work with. No problem to strain and I got twice as much juice as I needed, so I made two batches. If I was going to make this again, I would use strawberries and blueberries, which are the easiest to juice.

After making three batches of fruit jellies, I decided to just plow ahead and make Citrus fruit jellies (p. 878), which are essentially just the fruit jellies above with citrus juice.

I mixed orange juice with lemon juice and gelatin.

Like above, I cooked the water/sugar mixture until the soft-ball stage and then added the orange juice:

I stirred until dissolved and then got it back up to the correct heat and poured it into the pan:

I finally cut the jellies and rolled them in sugar. I couldn't' find superfine sugar so I just used my normal sugar which is pretty fine to begin with.

The gummies are incredibly sugary. Inside and out. And I don't think they are going to travel well but I was unwilling to wrap all three thousand of them. So I apologize to people for the crushed candy!

I'm also rather sure the kids won't like them--I know when I was a kid, I usually wanted the store-bought version of food, not the homemade (except for Italian food, which was essentially all my family cooked). For example, I detested my grandmother's homemade macaroni and cheese because I wanted the radioactive orange Kraft version.

I'm not sure what motivated me to make Bourbon balls (p. 879). It certainly wasn't because I had bourbon on hand (because I didn't). I think it was because I was thinking of the rum ball cookies that I like and hoping they would be similar (they weren't). I went to the liquor store and stared at the dozens of choices. I really, really wanted to buy the cheapest one. Unfortunately, I knew that the flavor would really come through and I needed good bourbon. So I bought Maker's Mark (and I like the bottle!).

I sifted powdered sugar and cocoa together using my new sifter:

And I mixed bourbon and corn syrup in another bowl. The recipe says you could use bourbon OR rum, but if you used rum, would they really be bourbon balls?

I mixed the cocoa mixture and the bourbon mixture:

I then smashed some Nilla wafers with a mallet and mixed them with chopped pecans and then I mixed the cocoa mixture with it:

And shaped them into balls:

They didn't shape into balls easily and really wanted to fall apart. I kept adding bourbon, so they were pretty stout. And hard as tiny rocks--although rather good. I'm really interested to know what other people think about them.

I had made chocolate cream caramels (and I did it again this time, although I'm not going to detail it because I did it again). I hadn't made Cream caramels (p. 864). The recipe was pretty similar. I mixed sugar, corn syrup, butter, and heavy cream in a pot and then heated it up until the firm-ball stage. Stirring constantly. It took forever.

Boiling caramel is scary! Use a deep pot so it doesn't boil over:

At the very end, another cup of cream was poured in and the mixture was brought back up to temperature. I poured it into a lined disposable pan. I learned from experience that lining the pans was not necessary (that tip came from Brittles, Barks, and Bonbons and was absolutely true).

And wrapped them up cute!

I was afraid they didn't turn out because they felt so hard but they tasted perfect.

Notes on candy making:
There are two types of people that shouldn't make candy.
1. People who hate to measure. Measuring ingredients and watching the temperature is incredibly important.
2. People who are impatient and think "well, I'll just turn up the temperature" or "it surely doesn't need to be stirred all the time" shouldn't make candy.

Disposable pans are terrific. Candy just pops right out!

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