Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cauliflower Gratin

I had a Barefoot Contessa kind of week.  

I didn’t visit the Hampton’s, although a visit would have been lovely.  I made two Ina-inspired dishes, Salmon Cakes, that were absolutely delicious, and Cauliflower Gratin, my contribution to our family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ll make the Salmon Cakes again this weekend as a bribe for my daughters to help me decorate the Christmas Tree.

And hot chocolate.

Ina Garten is, of course, The Barefoot Contessa.  What I did not know is that her show is named after a specialty food store she owned and operated in the Hampton’s in 70’s and 80’s. A dear friend of mine used to work with Ina at that very store and, in addition to being totally awed by that little piece of information, I love listening to her interesting stories and happy memories.

I pretty much followed this recipe exactly as written except I took some shortcuts.  I chopped the cheese in the mini-food processor instead of grating it (my least favorite cooking activity), I substituted panko for fresh bread crumbs, and used cauliflower in a bag that I steamed.  I knew I would not want to deal with a head of cauliflower on Thanksgiving morning and I concluded the difference, in any, between the fresh, already chopped and bagged, over the fresh head would be nicely camouflaged by the cheeses.  I used some Gruyere and Swiss, because I had both on hand and I increased the nutmeg by just a smidge, which is defined as a little less than a small pinch.

Martha has a similar recipe, but, in a rare demonstration of disloyalty, I chose Ina's recipe.

Sorry Martha.  You're still my favorite, but this recipe is delicious.  It could pose as gluten-free Mac and Cheese, minus the bread crumbs!

Cauliflower Gratin
by:  Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets, or three 10 oz. bags 
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/4 cup of Swiss, grated
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, or panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, the Swiss, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and a little more Parmesan and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Turkey Cranberry Wreath

It was my turn to cook last week — maybe it was two weeks ago…I don’t know — and I thought I would pre-emptively strike the whole "what do I make with all a this left-over turkey" situation. 

I bought a hunk of roasted turkey at the Co-Op and I made an all-time favorite, Pampered Chef Turkey Cranberry Wreath AND the Pioneer Woman’s Turkey Tetrazzini (that I promptly forgot to take a photo of).   You can read about that recipe here.

Our dear A. used to be a Pampered Chef consultant (that explains why we all have every Pampered Chef tool in the catalog, including the well-loved and often-used pizza stone I baked the Wreath on) and a few weeks ago at Dinner Club, the demonstration party recipes were a topic of conversation.  I mentioned that I loved, Loved, LOVED the Turkey Cranberry Wreath and decided, right then, that I would make it my next turn.

Then I saw the Pioneer Woman making Turkey Tetrazzini and I was downright flummoxed over which dish to make.  The Pampered Chef favorite won the toss for Dinner Club, but I made the Tetrazzinni  a few nights later.  The Tetrazzini was delicious and, as the Pioneer Woman herself often admits, it is not low calorie/low fat, especially with a brick of cream cheese mixed in!

So, if you never had the Turkey Cranberry Wreath, let me tell you, it is so good….completely satisfying.  The filing is a snap to make (especially if you use pre-grated cheese) and the sweet, savory and creamy flavors temp you to go back for seconds and possibly even thirds, not uncommon on Dinner Night!  The hardest step in this recipe is making the wreath with the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls…I never did master this step — and Dinner Night was not an exception.  You’re supposed to lay the triangles out, with the widest sides touching on the outside and inside of the wreath, fill the wreath with the filling, then fold the triangles over the filing to meet the wider pieces. 

Okay, what?

Sounds easy enough, right? But apparently, not for me.  Luckily, the appearance does not affect the taste….it was delicious…a little burnt on the bottom in spots, but yummy none the less.  Some people like burnt. Like the crispy edges of meatloaf or Macaroni and Cheese.

BTW, I subsequently YouTubed how to make this stinkin' wreath correctly….now I get it.  I am, indeed, a visual learner.

by:  Pampered Chef

2 packages (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups (12 ounces) chopped cooked turkey
1/2 cup sliced celery
3 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1   egg

Preheat oven to 375°F. Unroll crescent dough; separate into 16 triangles. With wide ends of triangles toward the center, arrange 8 triangles in a circle on large pizza stone. Corners of wide ends will touch and points will extend 1 inch beyond edge of baking stone. Arrange remaining 8 triangles in center, matching wide ends. Seal seams.  The points in the center will overlap in center; do not seal them.  

Here is a photo from the extremely helpful YouTube video.
Place mayonnaise, mustard and black pepper in a large bowl. Chop turkey and celery into bite size pieces. Chop parsley. Add turkey, celery, parsley and cranberries to batter bowl. Grate cheese into batter bowl. Mix filling together and scoop filling over seams of dough, forming a circle.Coarsely chop the walnuts and sprinkle over filling. Beginning in center, lift one dough triangle across filling mixture. Continue alternating with outer triangles, slightly overlapping to form wreath. Tuck last end under first.  Separate the egg lightly beat egg white and brush over dough.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cauliflower Sausage Casserole

The weather is getting a bit nippy here in the Northeast.

Or maybe Pennsylvania is considered mid-Atlantic?  

Regardless, the chill in the air excuses our tendency to enjoy stick-to-our-ribs favorites, because, after all, we’ll need that extra layer that may appear during colder months to insulate our body’s core.

At least that’s the science lore.

But every now and again, we find a healthy alternative — a delicious, winter insulator poser — to help satisfy our seasonal cravings and still be able to fit into our favorite jeans come Spring.  Such is the case with the Cauliflower Sausage Casserole that C. made last week.

Let’s talk about cauliflower.  Like its cousins, cabbage, kale, and broccoli, cauliflower is cruciferous vegetable and a good-for-you rock star.  It is high in antioxidant nutrients that assist with body detoxification, vitamin K to defend against inflammation and support our cardiovascular system and the fiber helps us digest what we eat.  

Plus it’s just so good.  

C. bought the cauliflower she used at the local Farmer’s Market.  Cauliflower likes a cool climate in which to grow and, like most other vegetables, needs about six hours of sun per day.   
Something I did not know is when the cauliflower heads are a few inches wide their leaves are supposed to grow over their little floral heads, to keep them tender and white.  Sometimes this doesn’t happen as nature planned and a little twine or a clothespin can help this process along.  In about a week or two after the covering, the cauliflower head will be ready for harvest and to enjoy in your favorite recipes.

Cauliflower Sausage Casserole
From:  The Chew, Michael Symon

Olive Oil
1/2 pound Chicken Sweet or Spicy Italian Sausage (removed from the casings)
1 medium head Cauliflower (about 2 pounds; cut in to small florets)
1 medium Onion (small diced)
4 Garlic cloves (minced)
28- ounce can whole San Marzano Tomatoes (crushed and broken up with your hands)
1 cup Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
2/3 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with the sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage as you go, until browned, about 10 minutes. 
Add cauliflower to the pot and brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To the pan, add the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions become soft and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the broken up tomatoes with their liquid, along with the sausage. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and give it a taste, adding additional salt and pepper is necessary. Mix in the parsley in then pour the whole mixture in to a 13x9 baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the sausage  and cauliflower and bake until golden brown on top and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve. Garnish with parsley.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Two-Two, Two Weeks in One

I am writing first about jambalaya and I would like to say that we had jambalaya for dinner last week, but we didn’t.

We had jambalaya for dinner at M.’s house a few weeks ago.

I am catching up on posts and this post includes two recipes.  First, one for jambalaya and, following that, the Pasta with Pumpkin Ricotta dish A. served the following week.  A. used homemade ricotta, the Smitten Kitchen recipe.

First, the Creole favorite.

We all know there are many French influences in Louisiana and jambalaya is no exception.  The word 'jambalaya' comes from the Provençal word ‘jambalaia’ meaning a few things, including a mixture and a pilau (pilaf) of rice.

Creole jambalaya was created by the Spanish in an attempt to replicate paella in the strange new land known as America.  The cost of importing saffron required creativity by the Spaniards who substituted tomatoes.  Eventually, other Caribbean spices were introduced and the dish we now know as Red Jambalaya soon became a favorite in New Orleans and beyond.

Like in M.’s kitchen.

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated.  M., who is a self-described Cooks Illustrated junkie, followed the recipe pretty closely, except she substituted leftover stewed chicken for the chicken thighs and fresh Andouille for the smoked variety.  Grated lemon rind - and  a bit of lemon juice finished the dish off nicely.  An extra “kick” was introduced compliments of “Slap Ya Mama” cajan spice.

Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya
By:  Cooks Illustrated

1 1/2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 oz of smoked Andouille sausage, sliced 1/4” thick
1 onion chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 stalk of celery, minced
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 cups rice
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can dice tomatoes, 1/4 cup of juice reserved
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (8 oz) bottle clam juice
2 bay leaves
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.   Place chicken thighs skin side down in pot and cook until well browned, about 7 minutes.  Flip chicken to cook until lightly browned.  Transfer to a plate and remove and discard skin.  Tent loosely with foil.    Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat, add sausage and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until browned, about 3 minutes.  Remove and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  

Heat the fat left in the pan and add the onion, bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any browned bits, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.   Add rice, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and cayenne and cook, stirring often until rice is coated.  Stir in tomatoes with reserved juice, chicken brown, clam juice, bay leaves and browned sausage.  Place chicken on rice mixture and bring to a boils.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir once, keeping chicken on top.  Cover and continue to simmer until chicken is tender and cooked, about 10 minutes longer).  Transfer chicken to a clean plate and set aside.  Scatter shrimp over rice, cover and continue to cook until rice is fully tender and shrimp are opaque and cooked through.  Meanwhile, shred the chicken.  When shrimp are cooked, remove pot from heat, discard the bay leaves, stir in parsley and shredded chicken and serve immediately.

Now for the Penne and Pumpkin Ricotta dish that A. just invented in her kitchen the evening of our gathering.  She. Amazes. Me. I recorded her telling us how she made it and below is the transcription of that recording (minus some clarifying questions from her grateful guests).

Penne and Pumpkin Ricotta
By:  A.
"I cut up an onion and sautéed it in a little butter and olive oil until it was pretty soft  -- not spongy --and then I sliced up a bunch of baby bella mushrooms and threw those in with the onion until they were sautéed and cripsy....I also threw in some slice garlicd too. Then I put in a little pinch of herbs de Provence.  I took the onions and mushrooms out of the pan. Then, I took two links of Italian chicken sausage -- from the Coop -- and one link of buffalo chicken sausage and took them out of the casings, mushed and broke them up and cooked them in the same pan as the onions and mushrooms.  After that, I took cooked pasta and put that in the baking dish, mixed in the sausage, mushrooms and onions and a bunch of chopped, fresh sage.  Then I added the homemade ricotta and a small can of pumpkin -- not the whole can because it looked like it would be too much -- and blobbed them around and swirled them around to mix together, but not to fully incorporate  I had some leftover pumpkin rolls and wizzed them in the food processor and toasted the crumbs in a pan.  Then I put the crumbs, grated fontina, some Parmesan cheese -- whatever I had leftover -- on top of the penne and baked at 350 degrees until heated through. And that's how I made it!" 

I tried to upload the recording but blogger didn't like that at all for some reason.