Monday, November 28, 2011

Prepare a Pair of Poached Pears - Spice Poached Pears in Butterscotch

It has become apparent to me, while trying to come up with a title for this post, that I have seen WAY to many Veggie-Tales episodes that feature Silly Songs with Larry; for I cannot seem to get the Homophone song out of my head......

I know a pear, pear, pear, pear
With a pair of really soft shoes.
He wears them to pare, pare, pare, pare
Bushes that easily bruise.

Homophones!  Homophones!
Where the toads are towed out on the plane
Homophones!  Homophones!
I need my kneaded biscuits plain

Whether, whether, whether whether,
Whether you like it or not.
Weather, weather, weather weather,
Weather is cold, warm and hot...

And something about rows of a bad smelling rose and a nose that knows.  (sigh)

I guess I should be happy that I am not roasting a Cebu for dinner! (it's a bovine cousin, kind of like a water buffalo)

Homophones, talking cucumbers and cebu aside.....  To me, a poached pear is a fundamental fall food.  I'm not completely sure why, but I think it has to do with mom & dad canning pears every autumn when I was growing up.  A lot of things were canned in the fall, for that was harvest time.  If you wanted to eat fruit in the winter, you needed to can it in the fall.  Let's face it, I am old enough to remember a time before refrigerated produce from Peru and Argentina made it's way to grocery store shelves.  Thus, canning Applesauce, Pears, Apricots, Cherries & Peaches, as well as freezing Huckleberries, Raspberries, Marionberries and Gooseberries, ensured a plentiful supply of said fruits through the winter.

After all, there is nothing quite so delicious as a Peach Kuchen in January.

But getting back to pears.  The scent of pears would permeate the kitchen while mom & dad were peeling, packing and finally pouring syrup into the jars before lidding them and throwing them in the water bath so the lids would seal.  Yeah, I am pretty sure this is where my love of poached pears comes from.

But being me, I am not happy with a simple sugar syrup. I should rephrase that.  I would still be happy, but I am happy-er when I get a chance to break out some flavor enhancements.  And I can think of nothing so perfectly suited to enhance the flavor of a pear than Gewurztraminer.  The spice floral aroma is intoxicating and the juicy lychee flavor with hints of grapefruit is heaven in a bottle.  Add a little Lemon and some Ginger, and you have a winner!  OK, I will admit that if you pour Butterscotch over just about anything, it increases it's awesomeness factor by 75%!

Spice Poached Pears in Butterscotch

6 medium Bosc Pears
1 Lemon
1 bottle Gewurztraminer (a spicy floral)
1 cup Water
1 cup Sugar
2 inches Ginger, sliced
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Meyer Lemon, juiced
1 Mexican Vanilla Bean ("spicy" vanilla flavor as opposed to Tahitian which is more "creamy")
Butterscotch sauce

First you need some beautiful Bosc pears...  These are my favorites for poaching.  It's not just because they have the quintessential "pear" shape, although that is part of it, it's mainly because these pears maintain their shape during poaching and their texture actually improves.  They do not become all mushy and disgusting.  Bartletts, I have been told, do this too, but not as well as the Bosc pears do.

Before peeling the pears, you need to fill a bowl with cold water and squeeze the juice from a lemon into the water.  Heck, throw the lemon halves in as well.  This will keep the pears from browning once they have been peeled.

Gently peel the pears with a vegetable peeler, carefully following the pear's voluptuous curves, flatten the bottom just a little with the peeler, and place it in the Lemon water.

After you are finished peeling all the pears, let them just hang out in the lemon water while you make the Gewurztraminer syrup.

Grab a medium stock pot, that is just big enough to hold the pears, combine Gewurztraminer, Water, Sugar, Ginger, Cinnamon stick, Meyer Lemon Juice and a split Mexican Vanilla Bean.

Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Remove the pears from the Lemon water and plunge them into the simmering liquid, stem up, then cover the surface of the simmering syrup with a tea towel to keep the pears weighed down to ensure even poaching. (if the pears are not completely covered with liquid, add some of the Lemon water)

Let the pears simmer for about 25-30 minutes, then remove the pot from the flame and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid.

When ready to serve, grab a bowl and spoon a pool of Butterscotch in the bottom.

Remove a pear from the warm liquid,

and place it in the center of the Butterscotch pool.

Drizzle a heafty spoonful of butterscotch over the top near the stem and let it languidly run down the sides of the pear.

Serve to your awestruck guests...  :)


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Devilishly Delicious - Grandma's Deviled Eggs

There are many, many, many recipes for Deviled Eggs.  In fact, I have about 7 different iterations in my repertoire that I have made for various occasions.  (Tarragon Mustard is REALLY good) But 'tis the season for celebrating family foods.  Thus I am presenting to you, one of our Thanksgiving staples....   Grandma's recipe for deviled eggs.  (Yes, I am aware that they kind of look like eyes)  LOL  But they are still tasty.

Grandma's Deviled Eggs

As many large Eggs as you are willing to boil.....
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Best Foods (Hellman's) Sandwich Spread
Sweet Paprika
Manzanilla Green Olives (the little ones)

First you need to boil and peel eggs... This, in and of itself, can be a pain in the proverbial booty.
This is how I boil eggs to ensure that a) they peel correctly without the membrane sticking and b) that I don't end up with green sulfurous yolks.

Place eggs in a stock pot and cover with cold water.

Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil.

Cover and remove from the flame, letting them sit in the hot water for 10 minutes. (only 10 minutes)

While they are hangin' out in the hot water it is time to prepare an ice bath.

Using a spider or a slotted spoon, move the eggs from the hot water to the ice bath.  This will shock the eggs and do two things...

It will stop the cooking immediately (this is good in 2 respects as it ensures that your whites will not be rubbery and your yolks will not turn green with sulfur compounds)

It shocks the interior membrane between the shell and the white, making releasing of the shell a much more pleasant eggs-perience. :)

Once the eggs have completely chilled, it's time to crack and peel.  I personally am a tap and roll kind of guy.  Meaning, I tap them on the counter, all the way around the egg, then kind of roll it with a little pressure to break the shell into tiny bits.

Once I start peeling, because the shocked membrane adheres to the shell and not the white, I usually find that most of the shell comes off in 1 piece.

Continue in this way until you have a whole slew of beautifully peels eggs.
Now the fun part.
When it comes time to split the eggs in half, I grab the sharpest knife I own...  My filleting knife. (with an edge as fine as frog hair)

Slice each egg down the center, lengthwise, and pop the yolks out into a bowl and set the whites in an "deviled egg" container, or on a plate. (I forgot to shake the eggs and center the yolks before boiling)

Once you have halved all the eggs and removed all the yolks, go ahead and smash the yolks with a fork into a fine "meal".

Now it's time to add the secret ingredient... Best Foods sandwich spread (it saves a step, cause the pickle relish is already in it)

This is the bad part, there is no set amount... But to give you a ball park figure, I boiled 19 eggs and used 1/2 of the 15 oz jar.

Mix everything together well along with Kosher Salt and Black pepper, then transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.

Fill each egg....

Sprinkle with Sweet Paprika

Slice manzanilla green olives in half.

Top each egg with a green olive half.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cauliflower Power - Cauliflower & Chestnut au Gratin with Asiago Cream

I don't know 'bout you, but I really love cauliflower.  Especially when it is covered in cheese sauce (mornay).  And nothin' says cheesy mornay lovin' with complete conviction the way an "au Gratin" can.  This is one of my most favorite au Gratins, followed very closely by Pommes de Terre au Dauphinois.  Who can possibly say "No" to Cauliflower and Chestnuts baked in a thyme laced Asiago Cream sauce.  It's utter decadence.  Which is why I only make it once a year.  And Thanksgiving is the perfect Holiday to bust this one out.

I believe I originally got this recipe from the Hastings. Then again I have read so many recipes over the years, it could truly be anyone...  LOL   I know it originally called for 3/4 lb Purple Cauliflower and 1 lb of White Cauliflower.  Me? I prefer to use the 3/4 lb of the Orange Cauliflower instead, but could not find any this year. I also like to change out the Parmigiano-Reggiano for Asiago, though it is quite tasty with Gruyere as well.

I apologize for the final pictures looking kind of messy, but it was Thanksgiving.  In this family, no one is really willing to take a chance that the food might get cold in order for someone to take a picture of it... LOL

Cauliflower and Chestnut au Gratin

1 3/4 lb (795 g) Cauliflower florets, cut into bite sized pieces (or 1 lb White and 3/4 lb Orange)
12 Roasted Chestnuts, chopped
4 cups (945 ml) Heavy Cream (yeah, you know it's gonna be good)
2.6 oz (75 g) (3/4 cup) Asiago d'allevo, freshly grated (and now it's better than good)
1/2 tsp Thyme, chopped
8 oz (225 g) fresh French baguette, torn into 2-inch pieces
2 TB Thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
3 TB Chives, chopped
1 1/2 tsp Lemon Zest
1 clove Garlic, finely minced
~1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
~3/4 tsp Black Pepper
4 oz (113 g) (1/2 cup) (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, melted (and this makes it awesome)
~1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
~1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Disassemble the cauliflower head into bite sized pieces...

For reference, that is about this big....

In a medium stockpot, combine Cauliflower, Chestnuts, and Heavy Cream.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; immediately reduce heat to low and simmer until Cauliflower is tender. (about 10 to 12 minutes)

Remove cauliflower and chestnuts from cream with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.

Add shredded Asiago and Thyme to the Cream and bring to a boil over medium flame.

Reduce heat to low and Simmer until cream sauce reduces by half and thickens slightly. (about 15-20 minutes)

Meanwhile, it's time to make the bread crumb topping......

Tear the baguette into 2 inch pieces.

Place in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until breadcrumbs are formed.

Transfer crumbs to a large bowl, then add Thyme, Parsley, Chives, Lemon Zest, Garlic, Salt, and Pepper;

Mix with hands until well combined.

Drizzle with melted Butter and toss with a fork until the crumbs and herbs are evenly coated; set aside.

When the sauce is ready.....
Return cauliflower to Parmigiano-Reggiano Cream mixture and stir to coat well, then season with Salt and Pepper.

Spoon Cauliflower mixture evenly into a 9 x 13 baking.

Top with the Breadcrumb mixture.

Move the baking dish to the oven and bake until topping is golden and sauce is bubbling. (about 4 to 5 minutes)

Serve warm. (Trust me, it doesn't really have a chance to get cold)