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68 Days of Gourmet:  Day 30

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I love staying in on Friday nights and cooking something a little more special than our average weeknight meal. This week sea scallops were on sale at the grocery. Since they are one of my favorites, I decided to base our Friday night meal off of them.

I browsed through the highly rated scallop recipes from Gourmet online and thought that this recipe for Seared Scallops with Tomato Beurre Blanc sounded perfect. I love sundried tomatoes so I knew I would enjoy this beurre blanc.

I went to a hot vinyasa class at Y2 yoga after work yesterday. The founder of the studio, Tanner, was teaching so I was very excited to check it out. It was an awesome class and I couldn’t believe the amount of work he packed in to 60 minutes. Usually, I prefer 90 minute yoga classes but I don’t think I could have made it through 30 more minutes of this class! I definitely think there was 90 minutes of work packed into the 60 minute class! I left exhausted but with a smile on my face – ready for the weekend and ready for these scallops!

The online recipe says that the preparation time is 2 hours and 15 minutes. That is not true. I don’t know how it could have taken that long. The only time you have to build in is making your sundried tomato butter. You can do that the day before or cheat like me and put the butter in the freezer to harden! :)

I loved this recipe. Simple but delicious preparation. I served it with Orzo “Risotto” (I was going to make real risotto but ran out of time and energy for it!) and roasted asparagus. Perfect Friday night feast!

Seared Scallops with Tomato Beurre Blanc
(Recipe source Gourmet, May 2002)

Ingredients:

FOR BEURRE BLANC
1/4 cup packed soft dried tomatoes (I used very soft, ready to use sundried tomatoes and skipped the rehydration step)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup minced shallot
2/3 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

FOR SCALLOPS
2 lb large sea scallops (30), tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
About 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

FOR THE BEURRE BLANC
Soak tomatoes in warm water until softened, 20 to 25 minutes (I skipped this step because I used ready to eat softened sundried tomatoes). Drain and pat dry, then mince. Mix together tomatoes, softened butter and salt. Form butter into a log on a sheet of plastic wrap, roll up and chill until firm. About 1 hour in fridge or you can cheat and put the butter in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Cut tomato butter into 12 equal pieces.

Heat a small heavy sauce pan over low heat. Cook shallot in 1 piece of tomato butter for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add wine and boil over medium heat until liquid is reduced by half, to about 1/3 cup. This should take anywhere from 5-10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and whisk in remaining cold tomato butter 1 piece at a time, adding each piece before previous one has completely melted and lifting pan from heat occasionally to cool mixture (sauce should not get hot enough to separate). Whisk in water and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer beurre blanc to a bowl and keep warm, covered, in a larger bowl of warm water.

FOR THE SCALLOPS
Rinse and pat scallops dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sear scallops, turning once, until golden on each side and cooked through. About 2-4 minutes total. Work in batches if you need, keeping previously cooked scallops warm on a platter covered with foil. Wipe out skillet and add more oil in between batches.

Serve scallops with 3 tablespoons of beurre blanc – either spooned onto the bottom of the dish or spooned over the scallops. I served my beurre blanc over the scallops and the orzo.

Yield: 6 servings
(I did not make 6 servings for the 2 of us. I just cut the beurre blanc in half and used about 1/2 pound of scallops.)

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 21

I have to admit that I had a mini-meltdown during menu planning this week. I was all over the place and couldn’t make a decision. Sometimes menu planning is so simple for me – it all just comes together. Other times – not so much.  I was just really over thinking it for some reason. While we were unpacking groceries, I was rambling off the menu selections for the week. Brandon seemed pretty pleased with his options so I guess I pulled it off.

We decided to keep it simple tonight with salad and a baked potato. But not just any salad…Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs. I flagged this one in The Gourmet Cookbook because a) Brandon loves bacon and b) he thinks pretty much any food is even more delicious topped with an egg. One of his recent favorites has been a fried egg on hamburgers. Extra protein?

I actually made several changes to this recipe but it still turned out fabulously. First, we don’t love frisee – we usually pick it out of the salad mix or its left uneaten on the plate. You can’t even buy it on its own at the grocery store  where we shop and I was not going to make  a special trip for it. I had some baby arugula mix in the fridge so decided to go with that. Second, I realized I was out of red wine vinegar so I used a splash of white wine vinegar and a splash of balsamic instead. And last, I opted to use my egg poacher rather than use the written method for poaching eggs.

I will definitely be making this salad again. How can you not love this combination? And the warm bacon dressing is amazing…although I had to put it in the back of my head that it was essentially bacon grease and vinegar. This is a great easy weeknight dinner paired with soup or a baked potato. It would also be an impressive first course for a dinner party.

Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, printed in Gourmet February 1999)
Printable Recipe: Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs

Ingredients:

1/2 pound frisée (French curly endive)
6 ounces slab bacon or thick-cut bacon slices (about 6 slices)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons shallot, chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions:

Tear frisee into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. If using slab bacon, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Then cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4 inch thick strips (these are your lardons).

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally. Remove skillet from heat when bacon is golden and beginning to crisp. Set skillet aside.

In another skillet, place 1 inch of warm water and set aside. Fill up a 4-quart saucepan halfway with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a simmer. Break each egg into a teacup one at a time and slide into simmering liquid. Immediately push white around yolk with a slotted spoon, working gently. Egg should be oval in shape and yolk should be completely covered by white. Using the same method, add the remaining 3 eggs. Simmer eggs for about 1 1/2 minutes for runny yolks up to about 3 minutes for firmer yolks. Immediately transfer eggs to skillet of warm water.

Reheat bacon in its skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often. Add red wine vinegar and boil 5 seconds. Immediately pour hot dressing over frisée and toss with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide salad among 4 plates and top with drained poached eggs. Season eggs with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 17

I was so excited to prepare our Thanksgiving feast with my dad this year. It’s rare that we have the chance to be together in the kitchen and we’ve never cooked the Thanksgiving meal together. This was the first year that Thanksgiving was at my parent’s house instead of my grandmother’s house and while Brandon was in law school we stayed in Birmingham for Thanksgiving due to finals. My mom pitched in with two killer desserts – Sweet Potato Pecan Pie and Apple Cranberry Pie.

We emailed back and forth about the menu for several weeks. We had the main dishes set but wanted to mix things up with the side dishes. I spotted these Creamed Leeks on the Epicurious Thanksgiving Guide and thought they sounded like the perfect accompaniment to our meal. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never worked with leeks before and I was oh so thankful that my dad had taken to the time to watch a video of the test kitchen director cleaning and preparing the leeks for this recipe.

I wasn’t sure how these would go over with the dinner crowd but I was happy to find that they were extremely well-received. I did get several comments on what a different side dish it was (which was what I was going for!) but everyone enjoyed them – some even went back for seconds.

These Creamed Leeks would be a fabulous side dish to any holiday meal!

Creamed Leeks
(Recipe source Gourmet, November 2006)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 lb leeks, root ends trimmed
2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from a country loaf, crusts discarded)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
6 tablespoons(3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (we had other things going on in the oven and couldn’t have the temperature that high so we cooked them a little longer at a lower temperature).

Cut each leek into an 8-inch length, measuring from root end, and halve lengthwise. Then cut crosswise into roughly 1 1/2-inch pieces, you should have about 8 cups). Wash leek pieces in a large bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out and transfer to another bowl. Repeat with clean water, then drain leeks well. Watch this video if you have never worked with leeks before.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium sized heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir in bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp and pale golden. This should take around 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover the skillet but leave the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Cook for about 12 minutes, until tender, stirring occasionally.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer leeks to a gratin dish. Slowly pour cream over leeks and scatter bread crumbs on top. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cream is bubbling and thickened and crumbs are golden brown.

*Notes:
– Bread crumbs can be cooked 1 day ahead, cooled completely uncovered and kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Scatter bread crumbs over leeks just before baking.
– Leeks can be cooked and assembled in dish with cream (but not sprinkled with crumbs) 1 day ahead. Cool completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered.


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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 14

Saturday was my one year blogiversary! On November 28, 2008 I made my blogging debut with my Dad’s chili recipe. To celebrate reaching the one year mark I decided to make the Flourless Chocolate Cake from The Gourmet Cookbook. I thought it would be a nice departure from Thanksgiving desserts and I can’t get over how easy it is to make this cake. It’s a perfect option for an impressive dinner party dessert when you don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen.

I am not the biggest chocolate dessert fan (I know, I’m crazy) but Brandon gave this cake two thumbs up and I consider him a chocolate dessert aficionado. He is known for always ordering the most chocolaty and rich dessert on the menu at restaurants! The texture is almost brownie-like (fudgy) but the taste is similar to a very dark chocolate cake. Brandon requested his with a scoop of ice cream but it’s also nice served with fresh whipped cream, a dusting of powdered sugar or cocoa powder and fresh berries.

If you’re having a chocolate craving or looking for an easy dessert to impress guests give this Flourless Chocolate Cake a try!

Flourless Chocolate Cake
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

8 ounces good quality bittersweet (not semi-sweet) chocolate, roughly chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9 or 10 inch springform pan and line the bottom with wax or parchment paper (cut into a circle to fit bottom of pan). Make sure to grease the liner as well.

In a double broiler or in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water, add chocolate and butter. Stir constantly until melted. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Last, sift cocoa powder into mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared springform pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with moist crumbs and top should have a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove sides of pan. Invert cake on a plate and then back onto the rack to fully cool before serving.

Yield: 10-12 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 11

One of my favorite things to do is stay in on Friday night and cook a nice dinner. I’m usually pretty tired from a week of working and enjoy hanging out at home, cooking and watching a movie. We save going out for Saturday nights. Brandon commonly requests steak for our Friday night dinners. He used to love filets but since getting into grilling his favorite now is bone-in ribeyes.

Filets were on sale at the grocery Friday so I decided have Brandon grill them and I’d make a nice sauce. We love sautéed mushrooms with grilled steaks so I decided this recipe for Filet Mgnon with Mushroom Sauce from Gourmet sounded perfect.

The combination of the bacon and mushrooms in this sauce was great. The bacon really added an extra element of depth to the sauce and the lemon brightened it up. It was very simple to put together and holds well if your steak isn’t ready yet. The sauce was a nice addition to the grilled filet. I served our steaks with steamed asparagus and roasted fingerling potatoes. A perfect dinner for two!

Filet Mignons with Mushroom Sauce
(Recipe source Gourmet, March 1995)

Ingredients:

1 slice bacon
1 small garlic clove, mashed to a paste
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 white mushrooms, sliced thin
2 tablespoons Cognac or other brandy
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 filet mignons, about 1 inch thick

Directions:

Cook bacon over medium heat in a heavy 8-inch skillet (cast iron if available) until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel and pour off excess fat from the skillet. Crumble bacon and reserve.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and garlic to skillet. Cook until butter is softened and then add mushrooms and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until liquid from mushrooms begins to evaporate. Add brandy and boil until nearly evaporated. Stir in water, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and boil until sauce is thickened slightly. Transfer sauce to a small saucepan and stir in reserved bacon and parsley. Keep sauce warm.

Pat filets dry with paper towels and generously salt and pepper. If you’re cooking steaks in skillet, heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium high heat and sauté filets for 4 minutes. Sear sides slightly and turn filets over. Sauté 3 to 3 1/2 minutes more for medium-rare meat. Internal temperature should be 125 degrees. Let steak rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

For the grill, preheat the grill to 400 degrees. Cook steaks for about 4-5 minutes per side, rotating half way through on each side if you want grill marks (a 45 degree turn). Pull steaks when they’ve reached 125 degrees for medium rare. Let rest 5 minutes to allow juices to redistribute.

Divide filets between 2 plates and spoon sauce over them.

Yield: 2 servings

And another filet suggestion…Bacon Wrapped Filet
http://bakinandeggs.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/bacon-wrapped-filet/

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 10

I just finished sampling a slice of this cheesecake. I love cheesecake and I love pumpkin and this combination didn’t disappoint. Brandon’s first comment was, “I can’t believe how much it tastes like pumpkin pie.” I think what I like best about it is that it’s not too sweet. The balance of flavors is perfect and the texture is nice.

This cheesecake was published in Gourmet in November 2000. It’s received over 300 reviews and maintains a 4-fork rating. It’s definitely a winner if you’re looking for a holiday dessert. This cheesecake is a nice change from the traditional pumpkin pie. But don’t save it only for Thanksgiving, it’s a great dessert to serve throughout the fall and holiday season.

I substituted ginger snaps for the graham crackers in the crust because I love holiday cheesecakes with ginger snap crust. Also, you can omit the bourbon if you’d like but the bourbon flavor is not very strong.

If you’re a cheesecake and pumpkin lover this dessert is for you!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping
(Recipe source Gourmet, November 1990)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRUST
3/4 cup graham cracker or ginger snap crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

FOR THE TOPPING
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Directions:

FOR THE CRUST
Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the crumbs, pecans and sugars in a bowl. Stir in melted butter and press mixture into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of springform pan. Chill crust for 1 hour.

FOR THE FILLING
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together cream cheese and granulated sugar for about 3 minutes. Add in cream, cornstarch, vanilla and bourbon and mix until incorporated. Add in pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into chilled crust and bake the cheesecake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the center is just set. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes (leaving the oven on).

MAKE THE TOPPING
Whisk together sour cream, sugar and bourbon in a bowl.

Spread sour cream mixture evenly over top of the cheesecake. Bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan on a rack for at least an hour. Place in refrigerator and chill covered overnight.

Release cheesecake from pan and serve.

Yield: 8-10 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 9

I don’t even know where to start. I don’t want to gush so much that you think I’m crazy but this macaroni and cheese recipe is pretty life changing as far as mac and cheese recipes go. If you think you’ve already found the perfect recipe you still have to try this one. I found it in The Gourmet Cookbook. They had me at, “this is arguably the best macaroni and cheese on the planet.”

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort food dinners. I just serve it with a green salad and call it a meal. (Who needs meat anyway when you can just eat more mac and cheese!?) The method in this recipe is pretty basic for mac and cheese: make a roux, stir in milk, cream and cheese, mix in macaroni, sprinkle on topping and bake. The results are a creamy, cheesy mac and cheese with a crunchy topping – heaven!

I’m already planning the next time that I’ll make this…and that will be this weekend. My sister-in-law just brought home a new baby and I know they will love this mac and cheese. This recipe makes a full 11 x 17 pan so it’s perfect for leftovers or entertaining.

Please try this and let me know how it compares to other mac and cheese recipes! This has definitely been one of the highlight recipes of 68 Days of Gourmet so far and I know I’ll be making this for years to come.

Macaroni and Cheese
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

FOR TOPPING
1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups panko or coarse dry breadcrumbs
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

FOR CHEESE SAUCE AND MACARONI
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound elbow macaroni

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 3-4 quart baking dish or 13 x 9 pan with butter or cooking spray.

FOR THE TOPPING
Mix together panko, butter and cheese in a medium bowl. Set aside.

FOR THE SAUCE
Melt butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Whisk in flour and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk in a slow steady stream. Increase heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently until mixture is thickened a bit. Stir in cream, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

COOK THE MACARONI AND ASSEMBLE THE DISH
Cook macaroni according to package directions, making sure to add plenty of the salt to the cooking water. (At least 1 tablespoon for every 4 quarts.) Undercook macaroni about 3-4 minutes so that it still has quite a bite to it. This ensures the pasta won’t get mushy when cooking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and then drain noodles.

Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water and sauce in a large bowl or in your sauce pot if it’s big enough. Transfer to prepared baking dish, mixture will be loose.

Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture and bake for about 25-35 minutes. Top should be golden and bubbling.

Yield: 8 main course servings or 12-14 side dish servings

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