2/27/08

Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding

Well, I managed to unbury myself (out of the snow AND the homework) to share yet another course of Mark's Valentine's Day dinner with you. See that cute little cast iron frying pan the pudding's served in? Those were MY Valentine's Day presents (I got two). They even came with little pot holders that fit over the handles to protect your hands when transporting them. They were actually perfect for this dish, so they were a nice surprise.

The recipe is called Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding, but it was more like mushroom stuffing. It was really good, but maybe needed a bit more of the liquid to give it the "pudding" consistency. However, the middle was softer and had that bread pudding taste. So if I were you, I'd increase everything just a bit or decrease the bread a bit to make sure there's enough liquid.

Here's how I made it:

We got this great looking challah at the West Side Market. It was so fluffy and good.

Chop the bread into cubes...

Then bake the cubes in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan until golden-brown, about 10 minutes.

I used a mix of shiitake, oyster, and cremini mushrooms.

Slice the mushrooms into strips...

Cook the shallots in butter over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and some thyme like I did if you'd like. Cook until the liquid that the mushrooms give off has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Then add parsley and garlic and cook about another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Whisk together half-and-half, eggs, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Pour the mixture over the browned bread cubes...

Add the mushroom mixture and stir until the bread cubes are coated well.

Let stand 10 minutes for bread to absorb some of egg mixture.

Butter the ramekins (or cute little frying pans like me!), and fill with the pudding mixture. If you're using ramekins like the recipe suggests, be sure to add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom of each ramekin and butter those too. This will make it easier to unmold the puddings at the end.

Bake the mushroom puddings in a 350 degree oven until firm to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes. If you use ramekins, unmold the puddings and discard the parchment. If not, just serve!



















Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding

Gourmet | December 2007
Paul Grimes

Ingredients
4 cups (1/2-inch) fresh bread cubes (preferably brioche or challah; about 5 ounces)
1 1/2 pounds mixed fresh wild mushrooms such as chanterelle, cremini, and oyster, trimmed
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups half-and-half
4 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
(I suggest also adding thyme)

Equipment: 8 (6-ounce) ramekins

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Bake bread cubes in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan until golden-brown, about 10 minutes.

Tear or cut mushrooms lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces.

Cook shallot in butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until liquid mushrooms give off has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add parsley and garlic and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk together half-and-half, eggs, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Stir in mushrooms and bread cubes until coated well and let stand 10 minutes for bread to absorb some of egg mixture.

Meanwhile, butter ramekins, then put a round of parchment in bottom of each and butter parchment.

Spoon mixture into ramekins and bake on a baking sheet until firm to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes. Unmold puddings and discard parchment.

Cooks' notes:
• Mushroom bread pudding can be baked in a buttered 2-quart shallow baking dish (not lined with parchment; do not unmold pudding from baking dish).
• Bread cubes can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
• Pudding can be assembled (but not baked) 2 hours ahead and chilled, covered. If making the fillet of beef, bake puddings while beef stands (meat can stand a little longer).

2/21/08

Braised Lamb Ravioli with Caramelized Onions and Parmesan

This was the main course of the Valentine's Day dinner I made for Mark last weekend. I know I've neglected you for a little while, and I wanted to post something good, so I skipped right to the main event. The other components of the dinner were good, too, but the ravioli... once it was seriously tweaked... was the best part of the meal in my opinion.

Now, I say that this recipe was tweaked, and boy was it ever. The reason being that the first ravioli dough recipe I decided to follow was HORRIBLE and SO WRONG. It was a recipe that called for an ungodly amount of eggs, producing a YELLOW DOUGH that had the strength of bathtub caulk! I could have boiled that ravioli for 10 years and it wouldn't have become tender. It was tough, chewy, and didn't taste good. Now, you'd think since I live with an Italian man that grew up on his 100% Italian grandmother's cooking, that of which included homemade pasta and ravioli, that I would have listened to him when he said, "That sounds like too many eggs." But NO... I said I had heard of such a dough and that it was just a different way of making it, so I was going to try it. I figured it would be richer than regular dough, which was fine since it was a special dinner. IT WASN'T. IT WAS JUST WORSE.

So what happened was this. I spent an amount of hours in that kitchen that I don't even want to confess to you to produce this four course meal for my Valentine. He was such a good Valentine because he waited patiently for it to be prepared, never asking once when it was going to be done or why it was taking so long. He knows me by now and he realizes that I like to learn things the hard way sometimes. This was one of those times. The amount of time spent in the kitchen wasn't due to the bad ravioli dough, at least not entirely. It was mostly bad planning on my part. I should have done way more prep cooking the few days before that day, but I decided to do it all that day. In my head it went a way different way... but alas, that's not what was meant to be. So since I had been cooking long enough for my feet to start hurting and my eyes to start closing, only to be perked back open with swigs of sugary Coke, I was in NO mood to find out that the ravioli that was to be the star of this dinner was a big fat DUD.

Now, the lamb shanks themselves were spectacular, right from the get-go. They were braised low and slow in a mixture of port, red wine, and homemade veal stock, so they were very good when they came out of the oven. However, I didn't season the meat enough, the dough was all wrong, and the sauce (which was really just the jus from the braising pan) didn't have the depth and consistency this dish really needed to come together and make you go MMmmmmmmm.... So that night, I had to serve my Valentine a dinner that I not only wasn't proud of, but was actually ashamed of. I really wanted to make him something special; something that from the taste told him that I put real time and love into what I cooked for him. Well, I sure put in the time... and the love, but it wasn't obvious thanks to the taste.

So we went to bed and I was still bothered by how the dinner turned out. The next day was supposed to be his Valentine's day gift to me, which was supposed to be taking me to the movie "Definitely, Maybe". I REALLY wanted to see that movie, but I asked him if he minded if we didn't go and instead I would make the ravioli again for him, but this time making it all that it could be (AND taking his advice and using his grandmother's ravioli dough recipe). He said "sure" (probably not too disappointed that he got out of watching a chick flick) and we went to the market together to get a couple more things I would need for the dinner, part II.

I am happy to report that the second time was a charm and I was able to produce a good tasting and special ravioli dish for the man I love. He liked it, I liked it, and the leftovers were even better. I have a little more of the shredded lamb meat left over and will be enjoying it tonight in sandwich-form as a matter of fact.

So, without further adoo, here's how I made this ravioli...

I started with 4 beauuuuutiful looking lamb shanks. This was probably double what I needed, but don't worry, it's getting eaten.

I seasoned the lamb with salt and pepper, then seared it on all sides in some hot canola oil.

I removed the browned lamb shanks from the pan and poured off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat. I then added my shallots and garlic and cooked for a couple minutes.

Next, I added the port and red wine to deglaze.

Then the veal stock...

Then returned the lamb shanks back to the pan, along with some fresh thyme and bay leaves. Just look at that. Mmmmmmm..... I brought the liquid to a boil, then covered with foil and poked a few holes in the top to allow some of the steam to escape.

After three hours in a 350 degree oven, the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious.

I removed the meat from the liquid to allow it to cool so that the meat could be easily pulled from the bone and shredded.

As the meat cooled, I caramelized the onions in some olive oil. I seasoned the onions with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.

I reduced the jus from the pan by about 1/3.

I then took a can of diced tomatoes, pureed them, then stirred them into the jus. A little salt, pepper, and fresh thyme and it was just right. It had a deep, rich flavor that really gave the dish the heartiness I wanted.

After shredding the lamb meat, I chopped it up into little pieces, added most of the caramelized onions (saving some to garnish the ravioli with at the end), about 5 tablespoons of the jus reduction, salt, pepper, and plenty of fresh thyme.

To make the ravioli dough, simply add 1 egg to 1 cup of semolina flour. This made enough dough for two people. If you increase the flour to 2 cups, you'd use 2 eggs, and so on...

Using your hands, combine the egg with the flour, then add water a tsp at a time until the dough holds together enough to be kneaded.

knead the dough until soft and somewhat elastic (even though it's a fairly strong dough).

Divide the dough into two parts, roll out until thin enough to feed through a pasta machine and feed it through until it's as think as you'd like it. I took it to setting #4, but I think next time, I'll try #5 to make it just a bit thinner. Either way is fine, though.



Cut one of the pasta dough sheets in half, and on one half, measure out tablespoons of the lamb filling and space the mounds of filling out enough to press the top portion of the dough down between them. Be sure to brush egg wash all around each mound of filling so the dough will adhere to itself to form the ravioli.

Using a knife, separate the ravioli, then press and fold the edges until they are secured.

They're now ready to be boiled!

I boiled the ravioli in two batches, for 20 minutes per batch. Usually homemade pasta takes less time to cook than dried pasta, but the ravioli pasta was thicker, so it apparently needed a bit longer.

To plate, ladle some sauce onto the plate, top with some ravioli, drizzle some more sauce, and top with caramelized onions and grated Parmesan cheese. After eating the leftovers, I would alternatively suggest boiling the ravioli first, then adding them to the sauce and letting them soak in some of the sauce before serving, because they were good that way too.

This recipe was a good amount of work, but worth it in the end. The most time spent was actually just allowing the meat to braise in the oven, so if this was the only dish I was making that night, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal work-wise. If you love lamb, and I know many of you that visit FOODIE do, give these a try.

















Braised lamb shank ravioli with caramelized onions, lamb jus and shaved Parmesan
"post-tweaking"

Ingredients:

Lamb filling:
2 pounds lamb shanks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 whole cloves garlic
1 cup ruby port
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef or veal stock
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves

1 can diced tomatoes

Caramelized onions:
¼ cup olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
7 sprigs thyme tied in a bundle

Ravioli dough:
2 cups semolina
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
A few teaspoons water to bind
All purpose flour or Semolina for dusting


Preparation:

Lamb shanks:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Trim excess fat from lamb shanks and discard. Sprinkle both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high. Sear shanks for five to seven minutes or until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Pour off all but two tablespoons fat from the pan and decrease the heat to medium. Add shallots and garlic, and cook for two minutes. Add port and wine, stirring to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add stock, thyme, bay leaves and browned lamb shanks, and bring to a boil.

Cover Dutch oven with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and use a knife to pierce five or six holes to allow steam to escape. Place in the oven and bake, turning meat occasionally, for three to four hours or until meat is falling off the bone. Remove from the oven and allow shanks to cool in the liquid for an hour. Reserve cooking liquid to make ravioli jus.

Caramelized onions:
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium. Sauté onions and thyme until onions are soft and transparent. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring with wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent burning, for eight to 10 minutes or until onions are caramelized. When onions turn dark brown, remove from heat. Discard thyme. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow onions to cool, then place in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.

Reduce the jus by 1/3. Then chop up the shredded lamb, then combine with 3/4 of the caramelized onions, about 5 tablespoons of the jus, and season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme to taste. You want the flavor to be very vibrant so it stands out once stuffed into the ravioli.

Puree a can of diced tomatoes and combine it with the remaining jus. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. This will be your sauce.

To make Ravioli:
Combine the semolina with the two eggs and a pinch of salt until you get a course meal. Add the water a teaspoon at a time until the dough stays together and can be kneaded. Knead the dough until elastic and a bit soft.

Divide the dough into two portions, roll each portion out enough to be able to run it through your pasta machine. Take the dough down as thin as you'd like.

Measure out tablespoons of the lamb filling and space the mounds of filling out enough to press the top portion of the dough down between them. Be sure to brush egg wash all around each mound of filling so the dough will adhere to itself to form the ravioli.

Using a knife, seperate the ravioli, then press and fold the edges until they are secured.

Cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling, salted water until it's al dente (up to 20 minutes).

To plate, ladle some sauce onto the plate, top with some ravioli, drizzle some more sauce, and top with caramelized onions and grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh thyme.

Makes about 40 ravioli

2/14/08

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Chocolate-Dipped Fortune Cookies

I hope everyone is having a fun, romantic, silly, corny, sappy day today. I love this holiday, as I'm sure many women do, but I'm the biggest cornball around on this day. I couldn't bear to show up to work without something cute to share with my co-workers. It's a sickness, I recognize it, and hey - that's the first step toward healing, right? Ok, I'll probably never NOT be a cornball - it's just the facts, people.

So, my Valentine's gift to my co-workers (and YOU!) are these cute little chocolate-dipped fortune cookies. Of course, I had to dye them red for the occasion! Instead of traditional fortunes, they instead contained quotes about love by various famous people. Here are a couple of examples:

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. - Jimi Hendrix

Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave. - Martin Luther

Ok, everyone now... "Aaaaawwwwwwwwwwww".

These little cookies are also going to be the dessert portion of a very special meal I'm cooking up for my man this Saturday. I'll start sharing the rest of that meal with you on Sunday - it's gonna be a doozy!

So, even if you think today is a stupid, goofy, non-holiday, take some time out today and think about someone you love. Maybe it's someone you're just starting out with and everything is exciting and new. Maybe it's someone you've been in love with for years and that love grows into something even better each year.

Or MAYBE it's your little orange kitty that doesn't want you to get this post done and instead play fetch with him with his favorite plastic milk ring!
Am I the only one with a food blog mascot? I swear, he sits behind my monitor like this every single time I post. So I guess I should introduce him as the FOODIE mascot! haha... I tell ya, if any cat in this world is a foodie, it's my cat. He LOVES all the different foods we make and tastes almost all of it. He's got his favorites and he's always there watching me cook in the kitchen, hoping for something good to be dropped into his little "tasting" bowl on the kitchen floor. He's so spoiled...

Ok, so hey, do you wanna know how I made these things or what? Here we go!

Start by beating the egg whites, vanilla extract, almond extract and vegetable oil until frothy, but not stiff. I didn't have any almond extract on hand, so I just doubled the vanilla extract and it tasted just like a fortune cookie to me, so that works too.

Next, sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a separate bowl. Stir the water into the flour mixture.

Add the flour into the egg white mixture

and mix until you have a smooth batter. The batter should not be runny, but should drop easily off a wooden spoon.

I decided to add some red food coloring to my batter.

Place level tablespoons of batter onto the cookie sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart. Gently tilt the baking sheet back and forth and from side to side so that each tablespoon of batter forms into a circle 4 inches in diameter.

Pop them into a 300 degree oven for about 13 minutes - just until the very outer edge of the cookies start to brown.

I apologize, but I don't have pictures of the actual forming of the cookies. You have to move so fast when you do this that I didn't have time to pause and snap a picture.

But basically, as SOON as the cookies come out of the oven, they'll still be a little soft and pliable. You just remove the cookie with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Quickly place a fortune in the middle of the cookie. To form the fortune cookie shape, fold the cookie in half, then gently pull the edges downward over the rim of a glass, wooden spoon or the edge of a muffin tin. Place the finished cookie in the cup of the muffin tin so that it keeps its shape. Continue with the rest of the cookies.



Now, you can be done with the cookies at this point, or you can deck them out with tasty little chocolate shawls. I just melted down some Mally's chocolate bars I had laying around and dipped the backs of the cookies from end to end in the chocolate. Then I rolled them in colorful sprinkles for an extra pop of color.



HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!


Fortune Cookies

By Rhonda Parkinson, About.com

Ingredients:
• 2 large egg whites
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 8 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 3 teaspoons water

Preparation:
1. Write fortunes on pieces of paper that are 3 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 9-X-13 inch baking sheets.

2. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg white, vanilla extract, almond extract and vegetable oil until frothy, but not stiff.

3. Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a separate bowl. Stir the water into the flour mixture.

4. Add the flour into the egg white mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter. The batter should not be runny, but should drop easily off a wooden spoon.

5. Place level tablespoons of batter onto the cookie sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart. Gently tilt the baking sheet back and forth and from side to side so that each tablespoon of batter forms into a circle 4 inches in diameter.

6. Bake until the outer 1/2-inch of each cookie turns golden brown and they are easy to remove from the baking sheet with a spatula (14 - 15 minutes).

7. Working quickly, remove the cookie with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Place a fortune in the middle of a cookie. To form the fortune cookie shape, fold the cookie in half, then gently pull the edges downward over the rim of a glass, wooden spoon or the edge of a muffin tin. Place the finished cookie in the cup of the muffin tin so that it keeps its shape. Continue with the rest of the cookies.


Each serving includes (based on a total yield of 9 cookies):
Calories 93, 11 g Carbohydrates, 1 g Protein, 5 g total Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 0 mg Cholesterol, trace Fiber, 72 mg Sodium, 18 mg Potassium.

2/9/08

Spicy Crab and Mango Salad in Wonton Cups

This is the first recipe I've ever tried

by Ellie Krieger. She's one of the newbies on the Food Network and her other job is being a nutritionist. They seem to be making her website into a

weight loss site that you can sign up on for a small fee and she will tell you what to eat. Well, I won't be doing that... but I will make her recipes

from time to time because this one was really good and it was nice and light.

I work at a big company and one of the focuses of this company is to make sure that their employees are happy at work and feel "recognized". Part of that

recognition plan always involves "food days" here and there. These can be as simple as pizza and wings from the nearby pizza joint, or they can be a

veritable eating bananza with people whipping up their specialties and bringing them in for everyone to share. We all end up grazing all day on all the

food and fall face first into our keyboards later in the afternoon because we're too tired and full to work. It's a really productive day.

Well, we just had a food day not too long ago and as I've mentioned before, I'm trying to watch what I eat. That's not to say that I've given up on all

rich foods because I'll never do that (I've got a chicken and dumplings recipe coming up soon that was goo-ood!), but I try to eat nearly perfectly

through the week, especially throughout the work day. So, when I heard there was going to be a food day, I decided to bring in something fairly healthy,

but still tasty and fun to make.

One of my favorite things to make in the world is appetizers. I love small little cute food and I love the assembly-line type of cooking. Lots of prep

and then the assembly line starts and you crank out hundreds of little gems that everyone will love. Ok, maybe not hundreds. I also love that appetizers

are easy-to-eat little explosions of flavor in one (or two) little bites. They're usually pretty and sometimes colorful and they're just plain fun.

So, to satisfy all my appetizer requirements (fun to make, pretty to look at, tastes good), I chose these little crab salad wonton cups. Here's how I made them:

Start by spraying two mini-muffin tins

with cooking spray, then brush some canola oil on one side of each wonton wrapper.

Press each wonton wrapper, oil side

down, into the mini muffin sections. The wrappers automatically look like little flowers without any effort - just pressing them down. Bake them in a 375

degree oven for 8 minutes or until they just turn a golden brown. They will turn dark brown FAST so make sure you're paying attention to them. I made two

batches and the first batch was definitely darker than the second. Live and learn!

Next, mix together the crab salad. In a medium bowl, toss together the crabmeat, celery, mango, scallion and

cilantro.

To make the dressing, whisk together the lime zest, lime juice, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Add the oil and whisk until well combined. If you can

help it, don't leave out the pepper flakes; I think they really made this appetizer. If you don't have pepper flakes, chop up a jalapeno pepper very fine

and add it to the salad part - that would be really good, too.

Add the dressing to the crab salad mixture and toss to combine. Fill each cup with the crab salad and serve.

I made these late in the evening, so apparently I wasn't in the picture-taking mood I usually am - sorry! But they did come out great, they were a hit at

food day, and I loved the taste and lightness of them as well. I would make these again, especially in the summer time for picnics.