Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fondue on New Year's Eve

I generally prefer to stay home on New Year's Eve and have a simple meal and be tucked happily in bed to ring in the new year. I suggested to my husband that we have a simple fondue for dinner. The fondue was served with roasted vegetables, warmed freshly baked bread, and a bit of meat to satisfy the carnivores at the table. I found an easy fondue recipe on the Food Network website and just roasted the veggies with a bit of olive oil, some salt, and a few grinds of freshly ground pepper. YUM!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has a healthy and prosperous year. :)

White Wine Fondue

1 pound shredded Swiss cheese*, at room temperature
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 clove garlic, halved
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
French bread, cubed, for dipping

Toss cheese and flour together. Rub a fondue pot or saucepan with the cut garlic. Add broth and wine. Heat over medium heat until hot but not bubbling. Add lemon juice. Add cheese mixture and stir until cheese melts. Season with nutmeg. Keep warm. Serve with bread cubes for dipping.

*Use only natural, aged Swiss cheese, such as Emmentaler, natural Gruyere, or Raclette.

Recipe courtesy of Sandra Lee and the Food Network

No Knead Bread

I was a bit skeptical when I read about this on The Kitchn website, but I tried it and it is so yummy! I made it in time to go with Sunday dinner and it is just as easy as described in the recipe. This bread has a truly wonderful crust and is light on the inside. When you take the bread out of the oven, it crackles for about ten minutes. My family was very impressed when I told them that I had baked it from scratch.

No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Recipe courtesy of the NY Times: No Knead Bread Recipe

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mmmmm Gumbo!

I thought it would be fitting that my first post is about the Gumbo I made on Saturday. After a big Christmas dinner on Thursday, it was nice to have something simple and comforting. It turned out pretty good, which is always a plus (I was a bit disappointed in the sausage I added). Since both of my parents are from Louisiana (specifically they are both from Gretna), Gumbo is one of those things I just know how to make - I never use a recipe, so I had to sit and think about what I did to put the recipe together. There are several ways people like their gumbo; filé or no filé, okra or no okra, smoky sausage or spicy sausage, etc. I made this Gumbo with okra, andouille sausage, but no filé. Pretty much, as long as you like it, you have made it right! I know there are some people out there that may disagree with my, but that is my two cents! The actual recipe is at the end of the post.

First, I started on Friday by making a stock. I usually plan for when I want to serve Gumbo so I can make the stock from scratch. I usually add whatever vegetables I have available in the vegetable drawer when making the stock. This time, the stock was flavored with garlic, onions, green onions, leeks, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, fresh parsley, and a few celery stalks. After a quick rough chop on the vegetables, they went into the pot along with a rotisserie chicken (tip: using an already roasted meat on the bone makes a really tasty stock). I covered everything with water and added a bit of salt plus some fresh ground pepper, turned the stove on medium heat and let it simmer for about an hour-and-a-half. When it was done, I cooled it and stashed it in the refrigerator overnight.

On Saturday afternoon, I took the stock out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, then strained it. I put the pot back on the stove and added some roux, then my fresh veggies and sautéed for a minute. Next, I added the stock and brought it up to a boil, then lowered the temperature to simmer. I added a few bay leaves and some okra and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I cut up the sausage into bite sized pieces and cooked them in a frying pan for a few minutes. Next, I added the chicken and sausage and about 10 minutes before serving, I added the shrimp. Voila, Gumbo! I hope it does not sound too complicated, and if you do not have the time, there are plenty of great chicken broth/stock products available at the grocery store that you could use to cut back on the time.

Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Gumbo

1 medium sized chicken cooked, removed from the bones and broken into pieces (I usually buy a rotisserie chicken to use for my gumbo and just pick the meat off the bones, but you can always buy raw chicken and bake or boil it)
1 pound sausage (such as andouille or kielbasa) cut into ½ inch pieces
1 pound medium sized raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
2 cups frozen okra (more or less depending on how much you like okra, and if you don't like okra you can omit it)
3 bay leaves
9 cups chicken stock (or canned chicken broth)
½ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup flour

In a large pot, combine the oil and the flour over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and very regularly until the roux is a dark brown color (like the color of chocolate) - please note that this may take a while. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers to the pot and cook until they become soft (maybe 4 – 5 minutes). Slowly, add the chicken stock and bay leaves and stir until everything is well combined, then add the okra. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the stove temp to medium-low and simmer for 45 mins to 1 hour. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan and add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and then the sausage. Cook the sausage until well browned and then transfer the sausage to the pot. Add the green onions, chicken, and shrimp, then cook until the shrimp are cooked through (about 5 mins). Serve and enjoy.

If you would like for the gumbo to be a bit spicy, add ¼ tsp (or more) of Cayenne pepper to the pot when you add the chicken stock.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Taking the Plunge. . .

I have been thinking about doing this for a while, so here I go. I really ejnoy getting in the kitchen and seeing what I can whip up. My right-hand-woman, is my friend Kym. She and I usually collaborate on menus and dishes, sharing successes and failures. My left-hand-man is my four year old son; I can't walk through the kitchen without him getting out the step-ladder and asking to help.

I start this blogs a a funny time. I broke my stove last week. I never liked it, but it came with the house we bought. I have one of those ceramic top electric stove tops and I dropped a heavy stock pot on the edge of it and chipped the edge. I did not think it was a big deal until I put the pot on the burner, when I heard a crack and saw that the stovetop was now cracked from top to bottom. It still works, so my husband and I are going to wait until the beginning of the year to look for a new one and we are ging to take the opportunity to switch to a gas stovetop.

I am going to get back in the kitchen this weekend and do some last minute Christmas baking and candy making, so check back next week to see how it went.