Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta

Some things just go together. Cookies and milk, pb and j, hot chocolate and marshmallows and among those famous pairings should be blue cheese and honey. Sweet honey mingles with tangy blue cheese to reveal a smooth, sultry and surprising combination.
This is an easy appetizer to whip up for a crowd or just for two. I think it works best with a semi-sweet bread. I found a walnut raisin sourdough bread at my local grocery store and it worked perfectly with the toppings. Slice, toast up and enjoy! It's easy yet fancy and will leave you wanting more. What else can you ask for from a bruschetta?

Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta
1 loaf of raisin walnut bread (Or any fruit/nut bread will do), sliced into 1 in thick slices
1 8 oz package of blue cheese
1 stick of butter, slightly softened so it's spreadable
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place your sliced bread on a baking sheet and let it crisp up. Once slightly toasted, remove and spread a pat of butter on each slice. Then crumble a small handful of blue cheese over top of the buttered bread.
Place the toasts back in the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes to slightly melt the cheese. Remove and drizzle each slice with your honey. Serve warm.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers: Shrimp Bisque

I finally got to one of the two Barefoot Bloggers recipes for this month. Actually, I made the Indonesian Ginger thing, which was the second recipe, but did it with salmon instead of chicken, wasn't real impressed and it didn't come out very photoworthy so I just decided not to blog about it. However, this shrimp bisque was definitely blog-worthy.
I had actually made this once before a few years ago so I already knew this recipe was a winner. Lately in these parts, soup-weather, ie cold, frigid nights, have been plentiful so I served up this soup last night. I really love the flavor in this soup - it's pretty simple, the shrimp taste can really shine through and it's not too rich. Ina hits a homerun again! If I make it again, I would keep a few extra whole shrimp for topping the soup, along with some fresh parsley. Soup is hard enough to photograph - especially in the winter when the sun goes down early. This soup made a particularly boring photo since I had nothing to top it with to add color or texture. Oh well - you still can get the general idea. Hope everyone enjoyed this BB recipe as much as me! Enjoy!

Shrimp Bisque
Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
4 cups seafood stock
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.

In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season, to taste, and serve hot.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Lady's Chicken Noodle Soup

I was home sick about two weeks ago - and still today battling the after affects of a nasty cold, mainly congestion. Being pregnant, you really can't take any medication so I resorted to every homeopathic, old school remedy I knew.
First, I mastered the strange science of the Neti-pot. Have you ever seen one of these things? They look like a cheap plastic version of Aladdin's lamp and come with packets of saline solution. You fill the pot with warm water and saline solution and then shove the spout up your nostril, turn your head to the side and basically run water through your nose. It's a very odd feeling - almost like when you dive into the pool head first and get water up your nose. It does work though in helping to clear some congestion.
Second, I drank hot green tea - decaf of course - like it was going out of style.
Third, I hung my head over a steaming pot of water several times a day to keep the moisture going.
And did I mention I did all these things while there were two men installing hardwood floor in my house?? I'm sure they thought I was one of the strangest clients they've ever had when they found me hovered over my sink with my Aladdin lamp up my nose. Or with my head shrouded in a towel hanging over a steaming tea pot. Oh the things we do for relief.
Lastly, and probably the most normal method of relief, I made a huge, delicious pot of homemade chicken noodle soup.
I was going to just come up with my own recipe, but then I saw this one on Food Network's website from Paula Deen and decided to give it a go. I'm so glad I did! It was slightly creamy, very comforting and had great homemade flavor. It so beat any canned chicken noodle soup. So if you're sick and you have any energy at all, do what I did and use it to make this soup. This recipe makes a ton so I froze a good bit of it for later in the season - in case the common cold strikes again I'll be armed and ready. Neti-pot, check! Tissues, check! Chicken soup, check!

The Lady's Chicken Noodle Soup
Food Network Website, Paula Deen

1 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) fryer chicken, cut up (I used two chicken breasts with skin on)
3 1/2 quarts water
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
3 chicken bouillon cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups sliced celery, with leafy green tops
2 1/2 cups uncooked egg noodles
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup cooking sherry
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
(I also added a ton of fresh thyme as well as a bag of bean sprouts that I had in the fridge)
1 cup grated Parmesan, optional (ADD IT!! It made the soup so tasty)
3/4 cup heavy cream, optional (ADD IT!! Ditto statement above)
Seasoning salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty French bread, for serving
For the stock: add all ingredients to a soup pot. Cook until chicken is tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool. Remove and discard bay leaves and onion (I left the chopped onions in the stock, I figured the more veggies the better. I think they just added to the overall flavor and texture of the soup). You should have approximately 3 quarts of stock. When chicken is cool enough to touch, pick bones clean, discarding bones, skin, and cartilage. Set chicken aside.

For the soup: bring stock back to a boil, add carrots, and cook for 3 minutes. Add celery and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add egg noodles and cook according to directions on package. When noodles are done, add chicken, mushrooms, parsley, sherry and rosemary. Add Parmesan and cream, if using. Cook for another 2 minutes. Adjust seasoning, if needed, by adding seasoning salt and pepper. Enjoy along with a nice hot crusty loaf of French bread.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Butterscotch Sticky Buns

Forget New Year's resolutions! Life is too short to skip these butterscotch sticky buns. Ooey, gooey, buttery, nutty, soft and warm. It doesn't get ANY better than this. These buns rival the famous Cinnabon and they aren't that difficult to make, believe it or not. There are a lot of steps, since you have to let the dough rise, but they are worth the effort. Make sure to eat them HOT out of the oven - that is how sticky buns are meant to be devoured.
Although, a leftover bun can be warmed up in the microwave to bring back some of that supple softness. I made a batch of these on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, in the middle of making them three of my five family members left to go visit others and so the only person who enjoyed them hot out of the oven was me. A little Christmas gift to myself I guess. Oh well. I enjoyed making them and enjoyed eating them even more so no loss. They did have them for dessert after dinner, but the fresh dough tends to harden after a few hours so they weren't as squishy. The flavor was still there though. So put off that resolution one more week. I won't tell anyone!

Butterscotch Sticky Buns
Source: Food and Wine Magazine
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter—6 tablespoons softened, 2 tablespoons melted
2 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons Scotch whiskey
2 1/2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Make the Dough: In a glass measuring cup, heat the milk in the microwave until warm, 1 minute. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the warm milk and the yeast. Add the granulated sugar and the 6 tablespoons of softened butter and mix at medium speed until the butter is broken up, 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour and salt and mix at low speed until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and mix the dough for 2 minutes longer. Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray a standard 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to a 9-by-24-inch rectangle. In a small bowl, mix the light brown sugar with the cinnamon. Brush the 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the dough and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Beginning at a long edge, roll up the dough as tightly as possible and pinch the seam. Cut the log into twelve 2-inch pieces and set them in the muffin cups cut side up. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Set the muffin pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the buns are golden brown. Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast for 10 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then coarsely chop the nuts.
Meanwhile, Make the Glaze: In a small saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, Scotch, condensed milk, water, crème fraîche and corn syrup to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, vanilla and baking powder.
Unmold the buns. Pour the glaze over the hot buns and sprinkle with the pecans. Let stand until the buns have soaked up some of the glaze and are cool enough to eat, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.