Sunday, January 30, 2011

Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Strata

Alright. I'm going to break even with you. This isn't a diet blog. It just can't be. There are too many delightful recipes that use whole milk and butter and goat cheese, and...well, I would feel wrong keeping them to myself. So, just stick by the *everything in moderation* motto, or spend your cookbook reading time on the elliptical, as I am known to do from time to time. This strata is worth it.

My boyfriend's mother found this recipe and kindly shared it with me. The best part about this recipe (besides its rich flavor) is the fact that you can make most of it the night before--in fact, you should. You can pull it out the morning of your brunch, pop it in the oven and enjoy time with your guests, instead of slaving away in the kitchen and missing the whole party. Did I mention it is divine? 

Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Strata

18 slices thick white bread (I use Italian bread)
6 ounces prosciutto, sliced thin
8 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces provolone
1/4 chopped green onions
6 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

5 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are letting the strata sit overnight, obviously save this step until morning.

Crumble goat cheese and shred or tear provolone. Cut all crusts off of the bread. Arrange a layer of bread in a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Evenly spread half of the cheese, onions, basil and prosciutto over the bread layer. On top of this, place another bread layer. Top the second bread layer with the remaining cheese, prosciutto, basil and onions. Cut the rest of the bread into 1/4-inch cubes, and sprinkle the cubes over the top. 

In another bowl, mix eggs, milk, mustard and salt together in a medium bowl. Use a whisk and be sure to break up the yolks and evenly distribute the mustard and salt. Pour the egg mixture into the glass baking dish, making sure to distribute evenly. Use a spatula to press down on the top of bread cubes, making sure they soak up the egg mixture. Melt the butter and drizzle over top.

At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the strata overnight (or for a few hours). Or, if you're serving the strata the same day you make it, let it sit for at least 30 minutes so the bread layers have time to absorb the egg mixture. 

Place the strata in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you refrigerated the strata overnight, bring it to room temperature before popping it in the oven. Cook, uncovered, for about an hour--until the center is set. Remove from oven and preheat broiler. Put the strata under the broiler until the top is golden, this should take 30 seconds to 1 minute. Cut into squares and serve.  Serves 9. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Praline Lace Cookies

Remember a few weeks ago when I promised you healthy recipes? You know, the sort that would actually help you in whatever diet-based resolutions you had made? Well, I lied. I mean, I gave you two, but then I remembered these cookies. And then I had to share this recipe. 
Like many truly fabulous recipes, finding the origin takes some digging. These cookies are, apparently, an inn keeper's family recipe. At this inn, the cookies are served to all the guests--one of whom was a friend of my mother's friend's friend. That's right, this recipe has traveled a bit. At some point after receiving the recipe, we added toffee bits to it, and those toffee bits give the cookies their praline-like flavor. Pair them with a glass of milk (I used a glass that showed a little love for my favorite borough) and you are set. Makes 3 dozen cookies.
Praline Lace Cookies
Adapted from the Heritage House Bed & Breakfast Cranberry Lace Cookies recipe

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup uncooked old-fashion rolled oats
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely pecan pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 ounces toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Then, add in oats and set aside. In a large bowl (a mixer bowl, if you have one), cream butter and both sugars together. Once the mixture is light and fluffy, add the egg and the vanilla. Fold in the flour and oats mixture, then stir in pecans, toffee bits and cranberries. 
Place 1" balls of dough on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, with ample room between them. These cookies will spread as they cook! Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

Word has it, Beef Stroganoff was invented in the 1890's but gained real popularity in the U.S.A. in the 1950's. This may explain why you remember it as something you've only had at Grandma's house. But you should not stop reading. Here's why:
I understand that sometimes the meals at Grandma's house consisted of jello salad and other...nightmares. (Grandma, if you're reading, that isn't a reference to you personally. I promise.) This dish, however, is a classic and it deserves some real attention. It has been created from gourmet, imported ingredients in one rendition and from a Campbell's soup can in others. This is a meal that has stood the test of time, surviving through varying tastes and budgets. There has got to be a reason.
There is. It has survived all this time because it tastes really, really good. Earthy baby bella mushrooms compliment each bite of good quality beef, and a slightly tangy sauce is balanced by the creaminess of the overall dish. When combined with fettuccine pasta, or better yet, homemade fettuccine, the results are seriously mouth watering. Even if you are not a meat lover, this dish will please you and your crowd. The fact that it seems an impressive, gourmet feat, but actually takes only a little planning and effort...well, that is just an added bonus. 

Beef Stroganoff
Adapted from Simply Recipes Beef Stroganoff

Pam Canola Oil
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound of 1-inch thick top sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 2 1/2" long strips (freeze for 1-2 hours prior to cutting for ease in slicing thin), bring to room temperature prior to searing meat
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced (these are also known as baby bella mushrooms)
salt & pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dry tarragon or 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup dry white wine (can substitute with shot of cognac, brandy, or vermouth)
1 1/2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup creme fraiche (at room temperature, can substitute sour cream)
1/4 cup sour cream (at room temperature)

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Spray the cast iron pan with canola oil and melt 2 Tbsp. of butter. Increase the heat to high/med-high and add the strips of beef--they should sizzle (loudly) as they hit the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan here. The beef strips should have adequate space to cook, for optimal cooking--see the photo above for a visual cue. Immediately salt and pepper the beef in the pan. Once the first side of the meat has browned, flip and season and cook evenly on the second side. Be careful not to overcook the meat, and remember that the meat will carry-over cook a bit after you take it out of the pan. As this recipe calls for a large amount of beef, you should work in batches. Place cooked beef in a bowl (covered with aluminum foil) and set aside.

Keeping the cast iron skillet on the stove, reduce the heat to medium. Add your minced shallots and cook for a minute or two. Add the softened shallots to your reserved meat bowl and set aside.

Now, melt another 1 Tbsp. of butter in your cast iron skillet. Increase the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms and do not add salt. Cook the mushrooms for about 4 minutes, to until they soften a bit and become fragrant. Add the nutmeg and tarragon to the mushrooms during this step, sprinkling evenly over the whole pan. 

Reduce the heat to low and add the beef bouillon and then the wine. Add the creme fraiche and sour cream (or sour cream, if that is all you are using), and mix everything together well. Careful, here, not to let the mixture come to a simmer or a boil, as you are now working with milk products. We all know what happens when we bring milk to a boil, right? (The answer is, generally, bad things. Things like curdling.) Stir in the reserved shallots and beef and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve your beef stroganoff immediately, over fettuccine noodles. Serves 4. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Green Beans with Garlic and Almonds

The last few months of sugar and spice have been...well...delicious, but I'm quite aware that the "Battle of the Bulge" begins in January for most people. So, I'm giving you a healthy and fresh recipe this week. No sprinkles, no sugar, no frosting, just a nice vegetable dish that you can use as a side for pretty much anything. 
The best part of this simple dish is the retained crispiness of the beans. Blanching the beans (cooking in boiling water, then transferring them to ice water right away to stop them overcooking) ensures that overcooked, mushy beans are a thing of the past. Nothing here but bright flavors and textures. Here's to good health and happiness in the New Year!

Green Beans with Garlic and Almonds
Alexandra Rogers

1 pounds haricot verts/francais, trimmed and washed (fresh is best, but you can use frozen)
4 cloves or 2-3 tsp. crushed garlic
5 ounces slivered almonds
oil/butter for pan

Prepare one large bowl (or two medium bowls) of ice water and set aside. In a 350 F degree oven, toast almonds for 10 minutes on a sheet pan. Remove from oven and set aside.

Submerge beans in a large pot of boiling water and boil for 4 minutes, until vibrantly green but still crispy. Remove beans from boiling water (with slotted spoon or strainer) and transfer immediately to ice cold water, adding more ice to ice water to maintain cold temperature. Leave beans in ice water for 2-3 minutes, then remove and pat dry with paper towel. 
In a large pan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Once the oil/butter combination is so hot it sizzles, add the dried, blanched beans to the pan. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring infrequently so you allow the beans to brown a bit in the pan. Stirring frequently interrupts the caramelizing process, so don't do it. Add the crushed garlic and mix into beans thoroughly. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic has begun to soften in smell and flavor. Add the toasted, slivered almonds and transfer to serving dish. Makes 6 healthy servings.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cranberry Christmas Cake

As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I love traditions. Especially ones related to food. And, especially ones related to Christmas. See where this is going?
Every Christmas Eve, my parents host a small lunch where we make beef stroganoff (post forthcoming), and this Cranberry Christmas Cake. It is a relic of sorts, brought back from childhood Christmas dinners with the Troups. The recipe was given to my mother by Meg Troup, a woman who taught me all about garden-fresh salads, table manners and style. When Mrs. Troup's husband retired after years as a doctor, the story goes, she threw two retirement parties: one for her husband, and one for herself. She retired from being a homemaker and her husband whipped up dinner from then on (more on those meals later, rest assured). She took charge of the salads that started the meal and many times, the desserts that ended them. We were a well-fed bunch, to say the least.
Back to this divine cake, though. The cake gets drizzled with a buttery, caramel-like sauce. Drenching the cake in sauce is also an (excellent) option.
The sweetness of the sauce might be overwhelming but for the tart, fresh cranberries in the cake. The flavors pop surprisingly in your mouth: for one of the easiest recipes I have ever made, the resulting flavor contrasts are slightly complex.

The recipe is at the bottom of this post, and I know it might be a bit late to use it for your official Christmas dinner. But, truly, there is no better way to end a meal than with a sweet, warm, dessert in a bowl. It is truly cozy and you certainly don't need to wait until the next holiday season to try it. In fact, you could serve it for New Year's Day dinner! 

I apologize for the lateness of this post, but you'll have to excuse me. I left on Christmas day to join my family for a few weeks in Sri Lanka. And as I'm sure you can understand, it is very hard to get anything done with a view like this:
Best wishes for 2011 and Happy New Year!

Cranberry Christmas Cake
Meg Troup

{Cranberry Cake}
1½ Tablespoons soft butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh cranberry halves

½ cup butter (1 stick, room temperature)
1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

(I never said it was low calorie. I just said it was a delicious tradition)

{Cranberry Cake}
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 9” round cake pan. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt together. In a larger bowl (or a fitted mixer if you’ve got one), mix butter and sugar together. Alternate between adding milk and dry mixture until all ingredients are well blended. Gently, and thoroughly, fold in cranberries with a spatula or wooden spoon. Spread mixture evenly in pan, bake for 30-40 minutes. Cool cake until it is warm on wire rack.

After cake is out of oven, place butter, sugar and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together while the butter melts and bring to a boil for 1 minute, remove from heat and add vanilla. Serve cake warm and pour sauce onto individual servings right before eating. Try to remember that licking the bowl is A-Okay.
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