Monthly Archives: December 2011

Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Parsley Butter

Christmas dinner is all about extravagance in my house. Because it was just me and Grant this year – up in the mountains – I didn’t want to do a whole roast, but still wanted red meat. So I made my very first beef tenderloin, which turned out to be the most delicious, tender, juicy and fabulous thing I’ve ever made for Christmas.

I adapted the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. They spent $1,200 testing the expensive tenderloin cut prepared various ways, so I felt OK spending $50 (on sale!). I bought one massive tenderloin that I had to hand-trim to get the tender mid-section ready for cooking. The center cut of the loin – called “Chateaubriand” – is roughly the middle third of the whole beef loin. The other ends have more fat and connective tissue – all of which I saved to make beef bourguignon later in the week.

Cook’s Illustrated is brilliant for a couple reasons: salting the meat and letting it rest 1 hour before cooking (you can see the salt start to draw out the juices, enhancing the flavor); roasting and THEN browning on the stove top (no “gray line”); and cooking in butter (drool).

This was one of those recipes that I was nervous about the whole way through – thinking I didn’t cook it long enough or did this/that wrong. But it came out perfectly and presented a true value of quality and quantity.

Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Parsley Butter

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 beef tenderloin (2 lbs), center-cut, trimmed of fat and silver skin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 T canola oil

Using kitchen twine, tie roast crosswise at 1 1/2 inch intervals. Sprinkle with salt and let stand at room temperature for around 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 with oven rack in middle.

Pat roast dry with paper towels and sprinkle evenly with pepper. Spread butter all over the surface. Transfer to wire rack set in backing sheet. Roast until center of meat registers 125 degrees on your meat thermometer, flipping roast halfway through.

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high until smoking. Place roast in and sear until well browned on all sides, 1-2 min. per side. Transfer to carving board and spread 2 T flavored butter (recipe below) over top of roast. Let rest 15 min. Remove twine and cut meat into 1/2 inch slices. Serve with remaining butter.

Shallot and parsley butter

Combine all of the below:

  • 4 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T parsley, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Served simply with a side salad and roasted potatoes…almost too decadent for a quiet dinner for two…oh, who am I kidding?

We ate roughly half that night and I saved the rest for steak sandwiches the next night: crusty baguette split, then slathered with more of the shallot-parsley butter and topped with baby greens (or arugula), shaved Parm-Regg and thinly sliced steak (I gently reheated it at 200 degrees, so it was still medium-rare in the middle).
I have never had a steak sandwich so tender! Usually they are kinda hard to bite into. But this was too good.
Whew! I’m sweating just from remembering this. I highly recommend one splurge in your year – beef tenderloin at Christmas.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo
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Foodie Gifts

All you foodies out there, what great gifts did Santa leave you?

My own little Santa Grant got me these pretty owl measuring cups and butter dish from West Elm:

Now that the season of giving is over, I’m on to the season of getting: wedding season! Thanks to all who have tweeted or emailed me their must-have registry items. Keep ’em coming!

xoxo

Shrimp Scampi

Merry Christmas! This was the first year that I’ve been away from “home” for Christmas. I visited my family and friends in the Northwest earlier in the month, spending the actual Christmas holiday with Grant and his family. It was really wonderful and an important step in making The South my new homebase…and creating new traditions.

On Christmas Eve, we walked to our neighborhood Moravian church for the Lovefeast ceremony – full of lots of beautiful choir music, Moravian buns (rolls with orange and vanilla), sweet coffee and beeswax candles that everyone holds at the end. Then, we came home and I made a seafood dish in keeping with the Italian tradition of having fish for the holidays.

After dinner, we made hot toddies and walked through the neighborhood, where each street was dotted with flickering luminaries. I don’t know who organizes the luminary thing, but it looks really magical – all those glowing lights trimming the streets, winding around the foothills of Buena Vista. There must have been thousands.

But back to food traditions – seafood at Christmas! I must have red meat on Christmas day, so seafood the night before is a wonderful balance. I made a recipe that I saw in Food Network Magazine from the amazing Lidia Bastianich, who is frequently featured in Bon Appetit and partnered with Mario Batali to create “Eataly” in NYC. I always wanted an Italian grandmother just like Lidia. So I should have known that this recipe would knock my socks off…

Scampi means heavy on the garlic and lemon…and butter. But Lidia’s recipe really goes above and beyond by creating a garlic-shallot paste that you treat much like and Indian curry paste – frying it in the pan until it dries out a little, then adding the liquids and simmering to thicken.

The flavors are aggressive and the seasoning is perfect – Grant about died when he snuck a spoonful of the buttery sauce simmering on the stove. I served mine over capellini, but it would also be good with crusty bread or any other thin pasta.

I have to call this recipe a MUST for anyone who loves Italian food, seafood and/or garlic.

Shrimp Scampi with Capellini

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 3 shallots, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 7 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 lb. dry capellini pasta

Combine the shallots, 5 cloves garlic and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a food processor. Process to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

Pour 6 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining garlic into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Let the garlic sizzle for a minute, then add half of the shrimp and all of the thyme. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the shrimp are seared but not fully cooked, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining shrimp and another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove the shrimp and thyme from the skillet to the plate.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic-shallot paste to the same skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the paste has dried out and begins to stick to the bottom of the skillet, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the thyme to the skillet and pour in the white wine, lemon juice, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 4 tablespoons butter and 1 cup water. Bring the sauce to a rapid boil and cook until reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Keep warm.

When the sauce has reduced, whisk in the remaining butter and return the shrimp to the pan. Cook and toss until the shrimp are coated with the sauce and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the breadcrumbs and bring to a boil just to thicken.

To serve, spoon shrimp mixture over pasta and garnish with more parsley and cracked pepper, if needed.

Rich and filling, this was just what we wanted on Christmas Eve.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Indian Beef Lettuce Cups

I’m always looking for new, healthy ways to eat beef. I don’t particularly care for ground beef: I think Five Guys is horrible, I prefer turkey-sausage meatballs and  I hate Sloppy Joes.

Mixing beef with complex Indian flavors helps me appreciate this cheap form of red meat. Sizzled together and wrapped in lettuce or, as we did, cabbage, it is a quite nice meal (and a nice leftover lunch for myself).

My only regret is that I don’t have some of the ingredients the recipe asks for (curry leaves, brown mustard seeds), so instead I used a little curry powder, cumin seeds and yellow mustard seeds. If you have the luxury of exotic spices, please use them … and share with me!

I adapted this from Spice Goddess.

Indian Beef Lettuce (or Cabbage) Cups

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried curry leaves (I substituted 1/2 tsp curry powder)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (I used yellow)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 6 to 8 green cabbage leaves
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish
In a skillet set over medium-high heat, add the oil. When it’s hot, add the ginger and onions and cook until softened and beginning to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add the curry, garam masala, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red pepper flakes and cardamom seeds, and cook for 20 seconds. Add the ground beef, sprinkle with salt and stir to break up any chunks. Continue to cook until the beef is cooked through, about 8 minutes.Meanwhile, place a stovetop steamer over medium-high heat and bring to a boil (I just brought some water to boil in a wide pan). Add the cabbage leaves and steam (or simmer) until bright green and tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Place them on a platter and spoon the beef on top. Garnish with lemon wedges (which are great squeezed over the top).

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Smoky Bacon-Ginger Cookies

We had a cookie exchange/Secret Santa shindig with the girls at work. Everybody was asked to bring a dozen cookies, preferably something that reminded them of home. I guess I didn’t hear this last part because I went ahead and made cookies my mother never would have made growing up.

But times have changed. Bacon continues to ride the wave of food-trendiness. You won’t see me with a “Keep Calm and Eat Bacon” tee shirt, but I like bacon as much as the next red-blooded American. Leave it to Martha Stewart to turn something as low-country as bacon into a sophisticated cookie that will wow your guests.

The brilliant part is that you POUR THE BACON GREECE INTO THE BATTER. Don’t let your arteries get into a tizzy – this batter has way less butter to account for the bacon fat, so the resulting cookie is chewy and spicy like a ginger cookie, but with something extra – the smoky smell of the hickory-smoked sea salt you sprinkled on top, plus a savory bite that enhances the rest of the flavors.

I was most surprised to find that I couldn’t really taste the bacon. So don’t expect a mouthful of bacon bits. Instead, it’s more of a flavor enhancement…

Smoky Bacon-Ginger Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices of good, thick-cut smoked bacon cut into 1/4-inch dice (this is not the time for off-brand bacon!)
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 c. raw sugar for rolling
  • smoked sea salt for sprinkling (I used hickory smoked sea salt from Williams-Sonoma, you can really smell the hickory!)

Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon bits are crisp and have released their fat entirely. Reserve the bacon fat (you want about ¾ cup, plus 2 tablespoons) and set aside the crisp bacon (about ¾ cup as well) on a paper towel. Let the bacon and fat cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter and brown sugar and white sugar until they become fluffy together, about 3 minutes. Add the bacon fat and mix well, about 1 minute. Add the egg and mix until well blended. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour in the molasses and mix. On slow speed, slowly pour in the dry ingredients, mixing until just blended. Gently mix in the bacon bits.

Scoop 1 T of dough out and roll into a 1-inch ball, then roll in the raw sugar to coat entirely. Put the balls of dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Flatten the balls of dough with the palm of your hand, then top with a pinch of the smoked sea salt. Slide the sheet tray into the oven and bake until the edges of each cookie is starting to crisp, the tops start to crack, but the center is still soft, about 8 minutes. (Turn the baking sheet halfway through.) Do not be tempted to over-cook these. I would stick to 8 minutes at least for your first batch. These cookies do well when they are chewy in the middle.

Allow the cookies to cool completely on a rack, about 15 minutes.

Then plate up … with an Elf on a Shelf!

I never heard of the Elf on a Shelf tradition until I moved down here, but I love these little guys, hiding all over the house – Santa’s little snoops.

While I baked these cookies, Grant poured himself some Makers Mark, which goes well with the smoky nibbles.

And we enjoyed a silent night.

Here is the obligatory photo of my cat being forced to wear a reindeer outfit.

Happy Holidays, friends! xoxo

Homemade Ricotta with Herbs

I made my own ricotta! Another item added to my “I never thought I’d make my own…” list. I don’t know if Ina Garten just used a shortcut, or if this is legit. But it is legitimately delicious.

All you do is boil a little milk with cream, a dash of salt, then stir in some white wine vinegar to curdle it all. Then you strain into cheesecloth and voila! Mix with your favorite herbs and swirl into pasta or plop on a piece of toast, just as I have.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Homemade Ricotta with Herbs

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. whole milk (one medium carton)
  • 2 c. heavy cream (one small carton)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 T white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 3 T chopped fresh basil

Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

To continue with the recipe…

Mix the ricotta with your herbs; set aside.

Heat broiler and drizzle sourdough bread slides with EVOO and sprinkle with S&P. Broil on both sides until lightly browned, then rub one side with a garlic clove.

To serve, dollop 1 spoonful of ricotta cream on each piece of toast. Top with a little extra S&P, if needed.

The ricotta is so smooth and creamy – way more so than store-bought. Like a cool little cloud with flecks of herbs.

I served my herbed ricotta bruschetta as an appetizer for a dinner party and people went nuts over it. I’ve been asked to bring it to another holiday gathering this weekend.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Singapore Street Noodles

Singapore Street Noodles were my favorite dish at a restaurant called Soba in Bend, Ore. Soba was one of the few Asian restaurants in town, offering lots of yummy rice and noodle dishes, including a staff favorite: Singapore Street Noodles. The rice noodles were a bit spicy and smoky, mixed with perfectly cooked shrimp and egg. Like an even better  pad Thai.

Now I live on the East Coast and the Singapore Street Noodles have a distinct difference: curry. It adds a heat, sweetness and turmeric hue to the dish. Definitely different from my little Oregon dish, but just as satisfying.

I was so happy to see No Recipes post his version of the dish, and I quickly made it myself with a few tweaks.

Singapore Street Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 5.5 ounces dried rice vermicelli (a.k.a. mai fun)
  • 1 lb. small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 8 ounce can of strip bamboo, rinsed and drained
  • 4 ounces bean sprouts
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • Canola oil for stir-frying

Note: do ALL prep work ahead of time because cooking is fast.

Heat a medium pot with water. When almost boiling, add rice noodles and remove from heat. Let soak for 3 minutes, stirring to loosen. Rinse in cold water several times to prevent the noodles from absorbing too much water and to wash off excess starch. Set aside.

Add the shrimp to a bowl and season with the soy sauce, vinegar and corn starch. Set aside.

Measure out the curry powder into a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the fish sauce, oyster sauce and chicken stock. Set both aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat until very hot then add a tablespoon of oil. Add the egg, scrambling. Transfer the egg to a plate and set aside.

Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan, then add the garlic and ginger and then fry until fragrant. Add the shrimp and saute until just turning pink, 2 min.

Add the onion, bamboo, and bean sprouts. Fry while stirring vigorously, 2-3 min. Add the curry powder and stir-fry until fragrant, 30 seconds, then pour in the chicken stock and fish sauce mixture. Stir to combine, then add the noodles, coating with the sauce (use tongs).

Top with scallions and serve!

Yummy! The only thing better than having Asian take-out is making your own and having tons of leftovers to bring for lunch. Carb heaven without the MSG hangover!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Cranberry Creme Fraiche Cake with Almond

Who knew cranberries and almonds taste so yummy together? I used my leftover Thanksgiving cranberry compote to make this festively pink Bundt cake. I saw the recipe at The Kitchn and knew I had to make it – anything with creme fraiche!

The cake is pretty dense – not your airy, light cake, but more substantial and with nice texture combinations from the sliced almonds that bake into the cranberries and cake batter.

My favorite part, by far, was the glaze. Served at a recent dinner party, everybody agreed it was lovely!

Adapted from The Kitchn…

Cranberry Creme Fraiche Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus melted butter for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup crème fraîche (usually one small tub)
  • 1 1/2 c. whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • Cranberry Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the inside of a 10-cup Bundt pan with the melted butter and dust it lightly with flour (note: using melted butter is so much easier than trying to get softened butter in those Bundt crevices!).

Whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three increments) alternately with the crème fraîche (in two increments), beginning and ending with the flour and beating after each addition until just combined.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Swirl half the cranberry sauce over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the cranberry sauce, and then swirl the remaining cranberry sauce over the batter. Sprinkle the almonds over the top. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Cranberry Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon cranberry juice (reserved from making the cranberry sauce)

Mix the confectioners’ sugar, almond extract, and cranberry juice in a small bowl until smooth (I added some orange juice to loosen it up a bit).

Pretty in pink!

A tasty way to use my last Thanksgiving leftovers, eh? Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Citrus-Scented Olives with Goat Cheese

I don’t know why, but I’m just not someone who is creative with leftovers. I’m trying so hard to be that person who plans all meals ahead and uses one night’s leftovers as a totally different dish later, but alas, the time comes and I just can’t pull through. But I’m trying. And the next few posts will show you how.

We had a little party last weekend, where we served some artisan olives along with other finger food. I bought way too many, so I prepared the leftovers in a way I love to get olives at restaurants – warm, with oil, herbs and spices.

I challenge you to use whatever’s on hand – heck, do you have old jars of olives in the fridge? Bring them out!

Citrus-Scented Olives with Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/2 c. assorted olives of your choice (mine have pits)
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme (just clip whatever’s still in your garden)
  • Zest of 1 clementine orange (or any other citrus)
  • 3 T EVOO
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan, combine everything except the goat cheese and heat over low until just warmed.

Place goat cheese on your serving plate and pour the olive mixture over.

The olives taste so much better warmed! And that orange zest – don’t you all have those little sweeties around the house this time of year? It really adds a nice elegance. I served with some Triscuit crackers and it was a lovely little snack.

In other attempts to empty my fridge, I have a cranberry-sauce and creme fraiche cake coming up and right now I have a pot roast working in the Crock Pot, full of veggies and herbs left over from the holiday. I hope it works!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Thanksgiving in the Mountains

Whew! Thanksgiving was a blur this year. Grant and I took a mini-vacay to Bald Head Island the weekend prior, so the following week was a flurry of prep-cooking, cleaning and getting ready for my family’s arrival.

Finally, it was the day before Thanksgiving and the six of us caravanned up the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy the holiday at the cabin.

My menu:

  • Herb-roasted turkey with giblet gravy
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Parker House rolls
  • Cheesy broccoli (with Cougar Gold sharp cheddar cheese)
  • Roasted cauliflower with herbs
  • Italian-style dressing
  • Classic cornbread dressing
  • Carrot ribbons with almonds and browned butter
  • Cranberry compote
  • Pecan pie

I overdid myself with all the side dishes – let’s just say that next year, I will only be making one type of dressing.

We brined the organic turkey overnight, then rubbed it under the skin with an herbed butter compote and stuffed it with aromatics. It roasted beautifully.

A few sides were my roasted cauliflower with Parm-Reg cheese, lemon and herbs (thyme, rosemary, tarragon).

My favorite dressing to make is one of Giada de Laurentiis’ – an Italian-style dressing made with sourdough croutons, apples, cranberries, chestnuts, sausage, white wine and lots of herbs and spices.

I also made my mom’s famous spaghetti-squash casserole, which is a squash simply cooked and mixed with bacon, wild mushrooms and swiss cheese (and a dash of nutmeg).

I finally wised up and bought a food mill, which is quite cumbersome but produced my best-ever mashed potatoes, made with two whole roasted heads of garlic, milk and butter.

Hope everybody had a fabulous holiday. I am over my turkey hangover and ready to get some new recipes posted for you. Stay tuned! xoxo