Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

Every year my family has a tradition of cooking a prime rib sometime during the holiday season. Let me tell you, I look a good slab of meat as much as the next person, but a whole prime rib is kind of a lot. Like, a very sizable portion of cow. It makes reliance on good side dishes rather necessary.

Horseradish is a pretty traditional accompaniment to prime rib, but not too many people are really that cool a great big dollop of the stuff. So, sneak a little into the mashed potatoes, and it's all good. It makes a great compliment to the beef with the pan juices. Mmm mmm good.

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

  • 5 pounds Russet potatoes
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • up to 1/2 cup milk, if needed
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped chives
  • 1 - 3 heaping tablespoons prepared horseradish sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • several pats butter
Leaving the peels on the potatoes, scrub the dirt off and cut into 6ths or 8ths. Boil until very tender when pierced with a fork.

I do all of this in a stand mixer, but you can do it by hand if you'd like. Mix all the ingredients (except the milk and butter). and mash together. Horseradish sauces vary widely in strength and bite, so start small and work up to your desired level. I don't like the horseradish flavor to be overwhelming. If the potatoes are too thick, add a little milk to dilute.

Serve in a dish, placing the butter on top and allowing it to melt over the potatoes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Baked Apples

Baked apples are a rocky tradition in my household. For years we made them, but they had a rough track record. Maybe 60% of the time they were bad, really bad. I personally didn't care for them, and I kind of hoped the tradition would die a silent and painless death, leaving us to enjoy hot chocolate and clam chowder and eggs benedict and cherry chocolates and It's A Wonderful Life in peace. Mom even gave away the special apple baking dishes to a thrift store, hoping to seal the sad fate of the apples. Dad and the internet came to the rescue, however, and more apple baking dished magically showed up on our doorstep.

Determined to make them not gross this year, I kind of exerted a little "I have a cooking blog and I know what I'm talking about" attitude, thinking it would be met with some respect. I got none. Anyone who knows my family can imagine what happened next. Six type A personalities descended on the kitchen with yells of "Put a pie crust on it!" "Nobody wants raisins!" "Peel them!" "Ginger? What are you talking about?" It disintegrated into a contest of who could put an ingredient into the mix before someone else stopped them, but boy were the results good. Unfortunately, there was no recipe followed and no measurements made, so this is approximate. Sorry 'bout that.

Baked Apples

  • Baking apples (we used Rome, but Macintosh work well, too)
for the apples

  • A bowl of melted butter, to coat the apples
  • A mixture of cinnamon and sugar, to taste, to coat the apples
  • Raisins
  • Nuts (we used almonds, but walnuts or pecans would probably be great, too)
for the topping

  • A mixture of equal parts oats, brown sugar, flour, and butter, pulsed a few times in the food processor
for baking
  • Orange zest and the juice of 1 orange
  • A mixture of about 6 parts water to 1 part vanilla (a few tablespoons per individual baking dish, or just enough to coat the bottom of a large baking dish if you're doing them all together)
Peel and core the apples, then coat in the melted butter and cinnamon sugar. Place in individual baking dishes or all together in a large casserole. Stuff the open cores with the mixture of raisins and nuts.

Sprinkle the oat, sugar, flour mixture over each apple. Sprinkle a little orange zest and orange juice over each one. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the water/vanilla mixture in the bottom of each baker, or just enough to coat the bottom a the large baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beef Stew

I'm at my parents' house in Utah for the holiday, and let me tell you, it is cold. There is a foot of snow on the ground, it's been snowing off and on for the last three days, the wind has been blowing, and I am cold. I have wanted nothing but warm soup for every meal, and I'm afraid my family has had to suffer through my insatiable craving for liquid food.

Now I realize that beef stew is kind of a basic standard, and this will come as no groundbreaking revelation to anyone, but I was happy with the slightly-sweet heartiness of this recipe. It's really not even much of a recipe--just kind of a list of ingredients with some rough proportions, so feel free to adjust however you want.

Beef Stew

  • A few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for sauteeing
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 -2 pounds stew beef
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped celery stalks (leaves still attached)
  • 2 pounds baby yukon or red potatoes, peels still on, quartered
  • 3-4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • A few tablespoons flour, to thicken
Heat the oil in an a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sautee until the onions are translucent. Add the beef and stir until the edges are browned. Add the vegetables, then the liquids and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 - 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Fish out the bay leaves, add the honey, and season with the salt and pepper. Thicken by whisking about 2 tablespoons of flour with a few tablespoons cold water, then pour into the soup. Repeat until desired thickness.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Classic Split Pea Soup

One time my family went sailing in the British Virgin Islands, and it was an all-around amazing experience. We snorkeled and swam in some of the clearest water I've ever seen, played on breathtaking beaches, scubaed to shipwrecks, and billowed in the wind of the sailboat. One night, we picked a tiny little restaurant in a secluded little cove with tables right on the beach. The waves came right up over your toes during dessert. The cook's son swam out to a trap in the middle of the bay to get the lobster my dad ordered for dinner. I am also quite convinced that the only people working there were the waitress, the waitress' mother in the kitchen, and the waitress' brother who swam to get the lobsters. Dinner took about 3 hours, and no one minded one bit.

So, to get to the point, the first coarse was a bowl of split pea soup. As it was being served, I say to myself, "We travel down to an exotic paradise and all I got was a bowl of pureed, green baby food?" However, one spoonful of that soup, and I was made a believer. I adore split pea soup. In retrospect, it was probably about 40% cream, but hey, there's precious little a pint of heavy cream can't fix.

This recipe was necessitated by being forced to take the leftovers from the church Christmas dinner. There are only a few things I know of that one can do with a ham bone, and this is the main one. I'm sorry that there's no crazy experimentation, secret ingredients, twists or turns for this one. Actually, I'm mostly sorry that there's no real recipe. A friend sent over just a list of ingredients without any measurements or ratios, and in my book, that's awesome. I wasn't bound by anything. So, this one is completely up to you. Good luck, and have fun.

Warning: I had a great big ole' ham bone, so I made a whole lot of soup. You can probably half everything and be just fine.

Split Pea Soup

Ingredients (all measurements are approximate)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 large russet potato, skin still on
  • 1-2 stalks celery
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 large ham bone, with some meat still on
  • 2 pounds split peas (rinsed thoroughly, and bad ones or stray pebbles picked out)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic
  • ample salt and pepper, to taste
  • chicken broth (I used about 2 quarts, plus some extra water)
  • about 1/2 cup heavy cream
I started in a crockpot, but then ended up moving to a stock pot on the stove later because the crockpot just wasn't big enough. You'll have to be the judge for yourself.

In a food processor, I chopped the onion, potato, celery, and herbs then added them to the crockpot. Place in the ham bone, split peas, and garlic in there also, and cover with liquid. Let heat for several hours (or fewer if on the stove: just be sure everything is soft and falling apart). Pull out the ham bone (making sure to get all the parts if some cartilage or other ham parts have fallen off), cut off the meat, and chop finely.

In the pot, still vigorously or pulse a few times with an immersion blender to homogenize the soup a bit. Add the ham back in, thin it with a little water if necessary, add the cream, and stir well.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake

I've been holding out on you guys. Sorry about that. A friend of mine sent over a link to me ages ago to a recipe for this cheesecake on SmittenKitchen, I made it, fell in love with it, and never even told you about it. Not only did that event on Deb's beautiful blog inspire my own food blogging and experimenting, but this cheesecake changed my life in a very literal way. I am a better person for the experience, and like the selfish monster I am, I didn't share it with you at all.

Now, when the big guns came out for Thanksgiving, I knew this one had to make a reappearance after its months in hiding. It takes a lot of work, but the depth of flavor you achieve by slowly caramelizing the sugar first is incredible. It's worth the effort.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake


For the crust:
  • 1 10-ounce box Chocolate Teddy Grahams (you really could use chocolate graham crackers if you wanted, but the Teddy's are so much more fun, plus they're a good source of calcium)
  • 3/4 stick of butter, cut up
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • pinch salt
For the filling:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped up
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 eight-ounce blocks of full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Put the teddy grahams, butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade and pulse until the mixture is the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and sides of a greased springform pan (this recipe makes enough crust to go all the way up the side: I like to take it past the top of the cake). Wrap the springform pan in at least 2 layers of wide aluminum foil.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat until liquid and golden. Turn down heat to low and add the cream (it will crack, hiss, steam, and make all sorts of a delightfully sugary ruckus). Stir until the caramel is dissolved into the cream. Add the chocolate and sour cream, and stir until melted and even throughout.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese for a few minutes until light (scraping down the sides as necessary). Reduce the speed to low and pour in the chocolate mixture; stir until incorporated.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a few seconds in between each one.  Add the vanilla. Continue stirring until even.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Set the springform pan into a large roasting pan, and pour about 1.5 inches of water in the roasting pan surrounding the springform pan. Bake for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the middle of the cake is not quite set.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight or several hours to set. I have served it plain, or topped with caramel sauce, and both are great. Do whatever sparks your fancy.