Friday, November 30, 2012

FFWD ~ Beef Daube ~ no cheeks

Presenting the scrumptious Beef Daube


This week, for French Fridays, we are making Beef Cheek Daube.  I searched high and low for beef cheeks and they were just not to be had in my neck of the woods.  I called two butchers in my area and visited two others. No one had beef cheeks nor, could they get them for me.  So, my Daube was made with beef chuck! This is not a quick dish. It definitely takes some planning and time to make.  However, it is a perfect dish for a cold day; like the kind of days we’re having here in the northeast!  

The process was straight forward. I began by chopping up veggies (carrots and onion) and bacon.  Then browning the beef chuck and slow cooking the veggies over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add 2 cups of hearty wine (I used cabernet sauvignon) and 1 cup of beef broth.  Boil a few minutes, cover the pan with foil and the lid, then slide into a preheated 325 degree oven.  This should braise in the oven for two hours…undisturbed!  Now, sit back with a glass of that wine, read a book and wait for dinner!  Just before the two hours are up, boil your pasta. After two hours, take the pot out of the oven, adjust seasonings, and add your finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.  Finally, add the pasta to the beef mixture and finish the cooking process. Whew!!
The aroma of the Daube permeated my home in such a comforting way!  This was an amazing beef stew! The flavors were absolutely mouthwatering and delectable! The meat so tender it just fell apart. It was a big hit in our house…a definite keeper! Happy Friday everyone!!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans book “Around My French Table”. The recipe can also be found hereTo see what other Dorista’s have done with their Daube, check it out here.  

Veggies and bacon….
Slow cooking on low heat
Red wine and beef broth added to the pot...ready for the oven
Cover pot with foil and lid and slide into the oven
Ready to serve
This was an amazing meal….the gravy was the best ever

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Delectable Pumpkin Cheesecake with Biscoff crumb crust

Desserts are so much apart of the holiday season, and for me that’s just fine!! I adore just about any dessert but, cheesecake is my all time favorite!  I don’t care whether it’s a traditional NY cheesecake, or a rich chocolate version. If it incorporates liqueur such as Amaretto, Baileys or Frangelica I’ll take it!!  With crust or without, cheesecake is seductive and sensuous!  Every creamy, rich mouthful becomes an addiction!  This year, for Thanksgiving, I made a Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I needed to redeem myself. Last year, after following the recipe to a tee, it was not baked all the way through. It did firm up after a few days in the fridge but, that was too late for my Thanksgiving guests!  It was my first ever cheesecake failure.  So, this Thanksgiving I had to give it another try. I don’t handle failure very well.  This year I changed the oven temperature and I baked it longer! Viola, it was perfect and absolutely

I used Biscoff biscuits for the crust…yummy!
Crust pressed into 10 inch springform pan
Batter ready for pan
Springform pan wrapped in foil and placed in larger pan for waterbath
I baked this cheesecake for 1 hour in a 350〫oven….Here it is just out of the oven
Oh how I love cheesecake….any kind of cheesecake
Creamy, rich, seductive….oh my!

Pumpkin Cheesecake
adapted from Baking 911

2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs; I used Biscoff biscuits for my crust  
¼  cup granulated sugar…I omitted the sugar, the cookies were sweet enough
½  cup finely ground toasted pecans 
½  cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½  tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
¼  tsp ground cloves
2 pounds (four 8 ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
¾  cup granulated sugar
¼  cup packed light brown sugar
1 15 ounce can (1 3/4 cups) solid pack pumpkin; do not use pumpkin pie filling
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

Use a springform pan, a 9- or 10-inch. To prevent water leaking in from the waterbath,  wrap springform pan in aluminum foil and place in a larger pan to be used for the waterbath.  

1. Position an oven rack in the middle. Place a larger pan, to be used as a waterbath, on the shelf and preheat the oven to 350°F. Water should come about 2 inches up the side of pan

2. Mix the crumbs, sugar and nuts in a the cheesecake pan. Slowly pour the melted butter over the crumb mixture and stir until it begins to hold together when you squeeze some between your fingertips. Press the mixture into the bottom of the buttered pan and up the sides of the pan. Tap down with the bottom and sides with a metal measuring cup. Set aside in the refrigerator and prepare the filling.

3. In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the softened cream cheese on low, until smooth. Scrape the bowl and with the mixer on low, add the sugars, and beat until smooth. Scrape the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the pumpkin puree, and the spices.  
With the mixer on low, add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, until completely mixed after each one. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl. Give the mixture a few good folds with a spatula.  

5. Gently scrape the filling into the prepared crust. Tap the pan on its side with the handle of a wooden spoon about a dozen times to get rid of any large air bubbles. Smooth the top.

6. Place the pan with the cheesecake mixture into the larger pan set in the oven. Use a pitcher and fill the larger one with hot water, halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.

7. Bake the cake for 1 hour. It's done when the cake is firm around the edges and slightly jiggles in the center. 

When done, remove the cake from the oven, and carefully from the water bath. 

Set cake on a wire rack for 1 to 2 hours to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill it for at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours before serving. This cheesecake can be frozen. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

FFWD ~ Herbed Olives

Dories’ wonderful Herbed Olives
I  really planned on posting Dories Herbed Olives on Friday but,  after hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I was thrown totally off kilter.  Then I thought French Saturday sounded good but, again I just couldn’t get it together.  Here I am, and it’s Sunday!  So French Sunday it is…better late than never!
I started my herbed olives the beginning of the week.  The deli department, at my grocery store, has a great selection of wonderful olives.  I picked up some large Italian green, and some Gaeta (black) olives.  Both were pretty plain with only olive oil added.  I followed Dories recipe by toasting the coriander and fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns in a dry fry pan.  After the spices cooled I added the garlic, olive oil, orange rind, rosemary and thyme to the pan and heated it.  Once heated, I poured the mixture over the olives in a Mason Jar, letting them sit and macerate for at least 8 hours.

These Olives were a nice addition to my appetizer table!  I’m pretty sure they were a hit because, at the end of the day there were very few left in the bowl.  My son, who happens to be a huge olive fan, really enjoyed these.  Being of Mediterranean descent,  I grew up with olives. They were always on our table. Not those canned ripe black olives that most Americans love and enjoy but, oil cured, green and kalamata.  My grandmother kept a huge jar in her pantry.  She served them at just about every meal. Who knew my grandmother was so far ahead of her time? Those olives, that she served at every meal, would be considered gourmet today!  Happy Sunday everyone!!
You can find this recipe in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table” or here where it was published by Epicurious.

Ingredients for Herbed Olives

Mixture  poured over the olives and left to marinade 
 A really nice addition to my appetizer table


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Baking with Julia ~TWD ~ Best Ever Brownies

A  luscious, chocolaty brownie
Brownies and I go way back. I was a young bride when I found my husband raving over brownies my neighbor had made. What??? I can make better tasting brownies than that @#$%&!! So began my quest to make the most delicious brownies ever made. After several failures and eventual success, my husband figured out what I was doing ( a new batch of brownies every week for a month ) and finally he told me what I was waiting to hear...“These are the best Brownies I’ve ever had”.  After that I lost my interest in brownies until my kids were of school age!  Brownies were the treat of choice! My favorite recipe back then was on the box of Bakers Chocolate! 

Fast forward to todays Baking with Julia~TWD project. The recipe comes from Rick Katz. I thought of skipping this one. Don’t get me wrong; I love brownies! I am addicted to the luscious, chocolatey dense flavor of a great brownie!  So, the Best-Ever Brownie is a lot of temptation to have hanging around the house!  Especially, the week before Thanksgiving!  So this week, for Tuesdays with Dorie,  I reluctantly made the Best-Ever Brownies.  Were they the Best Ever? They were pretty darn good! I thought I was making them according to the directions.  However, I didn’t read the recipe through.  I didn’t beat the eggs and sugar till thick, pale and doubled in volume, and it never got folded into the chocolate mixture.  Actually, I thought I might have ruined them but, after mixing all the ingredients, I wasn’t about to start over.  Having made brownies many times in the past, I know that most brownies are made from a one bowl batter. No beating eggs separately!  I thought they would probably be fine; at least I hoped for that.  Well, they were way better than fine! They were delicious, chocolatey and everything a good brownie should be!  The proof is, my hubby and I can’t walk by the container that holds the brownies, without sneaking a tiny taste. And that is why I wanted to skip this week!

These really were quite easy to make, whether you make them as directed or, as I did! I intended to freeze most of them however, they’re disappearing very fast!

Check out Baking with Julia to see how others did!  Our host this week is Monica of  A Beautiful Mess. You can find the recipe on her blog. 

Happy Tuesday everyone and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

These came out great…moist, chewy and perfect

Chewy and decadent 

Friday, November 16, 2012

FFWD~Goat-Cheese Mini Puffs

A wonderful appetizer…Goat Cheese Mini Puffs

Happy French Friday everyone!! This week our assignment was for Goat Cheese Mini Puffs.  I’m no stranger to Pâte a Choux (cream puff pastry).  I’ve spent many hours making dozens of puffs and filling them with chicken salad for wedding and baby showers.  I’ve also served many profiteroles in my life. So I did these lovely puffs this morning. They were quite easy, especially using my stand mixer.  I’ve always done them by hand in the past.  Dories method was quick and easy. I think it took me all of twenty minutes…and I’m being generous with the time.  I decided to bake nine of them and freeze the remainder for Thanksgiving!  These puffs were filled with a mixture of equal parts of goat cheese and cream cheese that had been thinned with some heavy cream.  I loved the goat cheese filling and, these will be so lovely to serve on my appetizer table!
This was a great pick for a crazy week! Most of it spent trying to clean up after the storm. I cleaned out two freezers and threw out so much meat, all my berries and veggies that I froze last summer from my garden, and many loaves of bread! Why did I freeze so many loaves of bread?  I will never again leave in October, without cleaning out my freezer.  We were without power for eight days so, everything had to go!  Still, we were very fortunate, when compared to so many in our area that lost so much more.

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table”.  You can also find it  here!  To see what other Doristas are up to, check it out here

From my house to yours Happy Thanksgiving! 

This is everything you need for the puffs except for a ½ cup of water and a ½ cup of milk
Put all the ingredients into a saucepan except the flour and eggs…bring to a boil
Add the cup of flour all at once and beat with wooden spoon until smooth
Put the mixture into the bowl of the mixer and let stand about 1 minute before beating in the eggs…one at a time
Drop by ½ tablespoons onto the baking sheet
Heat oven to 425〫…as soon as you put your tray into the oven turn down to 375〫.  Bake for about 24 min.
Perfect Puffs 
The cheese mixture

So delectable and perfect for any appetizer table

Friday, November 9, 2012

FFWD ~Spur-of-Moment Vegetable Soup and Top Secret Chocolate Mousse

 Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde
It feels like forever since my last post. So much has happened, beginning with our annual trip south. First a week in Georgia, to kid sit my grandsons, followed by some R&R in Florida.  That part went well. The days in Florida were unseasonably warm and we spent just about every day on the beach. The first friday after our arrival in Florida, French Fridays put vegetable soup on the menu. After spending the afternoon on the beach, with temps in the mid 80s, I just didn’t feel like making or eating soup. So, I posted my pumpkin pie oatmeal. Beach and soup just don’t go together! Our plans were to return home sometime around Halloween. However, NJ was clobbered by a miserable lady named Sandy! She wrecked havoc on our beautiful Jersey Shore, NYC and Long Island. Knocked out power to about 2.9 million homes just in NJ.  We decided to take a side trip to New Orleans. It  made perfect sense. Go home to no electricity and gas rationing or, spend a lovely 2 days in New Orleans! How  ironic…going to New Orleans to avoid a hurricane.  It was a wonderful trip and, I so enjoyed my first taste of this wonderfully unique city. Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde, listening to wonderful musicians everywhere we went, and dinner at Plaza Cafe! I will post more about that later.

Enjoying  those beignets 
We then planned on spending a weekend at my sons house, then back home.  Power was not restored as quickly as we had thought, and I was really starting to second guess myself about wanting to go home. We decided to leave for home on monday, with or without power. How much longer could it be out? We were lucky. While on the road, my neighbor texted me that power had returned…yay!!  When we reached NJ, we stopped in a small town a few miles from our home, to pick up some groceries. It still hadn’t sunk in that this area had been hit so very hard during the storm. I entered the A&P to get my usual roasted chicken, so I could just go home and relax after being on the road for 2 days.  Never, in my lifetime, have I seen a grocery store so absolutely empty. I felt I was in some third world country and, for the first time, I realized what NJ went through. There was nothing perishable on any shelf. No  fruit, no veggies, no eggs, no cheese or meat. Incredible! I bought a few cans of soup and milk (which was just delivered because power had just been restored a few hours before).  Before going home, we  drove to our polling place as I wasn’t going to miss my chance to cast my vote.  Finally we headed home, past many downed trees and tangled wires…wow!  Scary, and our area was not hit as hard as the shore areas! Arriving home, we felt extremely fortunate to find only a few small downed trees and no damage to our home. Except for a family of mice that moved in ( now gone ) during our absence, no lasting effects from the storm. Sadly, many of our communities still struggle, and will for some time to come.
This soup was wonderfully delicious…I swirled some cream into it!
So that brings me to Wednesday!  I made Dories Spur-of-the Moment Vegetable Soup. It was wonderful and so satisfying! We both enjoyed the comfort of sitting down to a bowl of soup; as the sleet and snow were beating against our windows!! That’s right, another nor-easter!! All I could think of was, all those people still without power!

Top Secret…..Chocolate and Eggs

Top Secret Chocolate Mousse

I decided to make this Fridays pick yesterday, so that I could post a double FFWD post until I catch up.  However, we lost power again yesterday…Arrgh!  After spending the day unpacking, I was just too tired to make my Dorie pick last night.  So, this morning I made my Top Secret Chocolate Mousse. This was a true winner! I look forward to making this one again and again! A definite keeper!

Oh so delicious!
A definite keeper!
These recipes can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table”.  You can also find Spur of the Moment Vegetable Soup here and Top Secret Chocolate Mousse here. To see what other Doristas are doing, check it out here! Happy Friday everyone! 

Just a side note: I grew up going to the “Shore”. It was a right of passage for all Jersey kids to go to the Shore the day after their prom. I spent many summers there and took my children and grand children.  We will rebuild!! Jerseyites are strong and will get through this.  However, they really need the support of everyone who cares about such incredible sadness. It’s really getting cold in the North East and these people have no power and many have no homes.  Here is a link to the American Red Cross  If possible, please donate today. Financial donations make the greatest and most immediate impact helping the Red Cross provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by disasters like Hurricane Sandy.