Thursday, December 23, 2010

The story of the fresh hog, fresh cranberry scones, & bonbons au chocolat

Leigh, the owner of the Bull Run, the farm I receive CSA from, offers a number of specials during the CSA season including opportunities to purchase raw cheese, local honey, and meat. Couple month before Thanksgiving, Leigh sent CSA members an email asking if anyone would be interested in purchasing a whole or a half hog from a local farmer, who raised grass fed hogs. Fear of having to store over 50 pounds of pork in my freezer stopped me from signing up for this deal right away. Within a week, I recruited eight friends with a weakness for good meat to share half a hog. So a day after Thanksgiving, my sister and I hopped on the road to pick up 80 pounds of glorious pork from Fauquier's Finest Country butcher shop, in Virginia. The butcher did an amazing job packing and sorting the meat. All I had to do was to stack the vacuum-sealed meat blocks in my freezer like Tetris.

Instead, I decided to make candy with none of the traditional caramel/toffee mess. The inspiration for the recipe came from store-bought candies that are very popular back home. Based on the reviews I received from my colleagues, these bonbons will soon become popular in the States too.

Dried fruit and nuts bonbons au chocolat
20 dried apricots
20 dried prunes
10 dried figs
20 salted and roasted almonds
20 roasted whole walnuts
20 salted and roasted pistachios
2 tbsp cinnamon
4 lightly crushed cloves
16 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate

Pre-heat the oven to 250F.
Bring three pots of water to simmer. In the first pot, dissolve the spices and add apricots. In the second pot, add figs and prunes. Simmer for 5-7 minutes until the fruit “puffs” and softens. Remove the fruits from the liquid, spread on the baking sheep, pat dry, and stick in the oven for 5-7 minutes until the skins are dry. Cool the fruits.
In the third pot, melt the chocolate in a water bath stirring constantly with the spatula. Line a large cutting board with a plastic wrap.
Using kitchen scissors make a small cut in each fruit and insert 1-2 nuts inside (I stuffed apricots with almonds, prunes with walnuts, and dates with pistachios).
With chopsticks or tweezers, dip each stuffed apricot into the chocolate, making sure the entire fruit is well coated with chocolate. Gently shake off excess chocolate and place the bonbon on the cutting board lined with a plastic wrap. Continue with the rest of the fruit. Refrigerate the bonbons until the chocolate is firm for 15-20 minutes.
Compliment the bonbons with a cup of tea or coffee.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2 sisters + 1 kitchen = 1 Thanksgiving dinner or maybe 2

 As you can see, we served an apple pie for Thanksgiving. The applause for the apple pie goes to my sister, not only because she made the pie, but also because she managed to escape the holiday traffic and successfully deliver the frozen pie dough, turkey serving platter, carving set, and couple bottles of Cava.

Honestly this was the most thoroughly planned holiday meal that we have ever made. In the recent months, work at Artisa Kitchen has made me a slightly obsessive kitchen planner. I planned and cooked two Thanksgiving menus: one for David's family and another one for my dinner party. The planning started about two weeks before the holiday. My sister's reply to the question if she had any specific dishes on her mind was something along the lines, "No, not really. Well, I want to spatchcock the turkey and make the double baked apple pie. Oh also, I have this recipe for a very simple gravy."  To this I replied, "Yeah I am also not sure about the menu. There is a recipe for mashed potatoes in the Happy in the Kitchen that I want to try. And remember that cranberry sauce you made last time? Well I want to make it with quince. U-u-u and the stuffing that you served in Chicago...ohhh that was good". The menu for my dinner party was born.
busy cooks' lunch of smoked duck breast and sauted beet greens with apples
David's menu was born because of the little food brat who lives inside me.   When he told me that he has no idea of what to serve his family on Thanksgiving and most likely it will be something from a can.... no no no! I wanted to make an menu  of dishes that can be prepared in advance and require minimum cleanup. Grilling was the safest choice. I salted the spatchcoked turkey and then rubbed it with herb butter. Sides included grilled fingerling potatoes and winter squash, bacon brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and a salad. The meal ended with dolce leche ice cream over a rose poached pairs.

Now back to our table.  Let's start with the turkey, shall we, because that is probably what instills the most fear in budding home cooks.  Oh, and this is Madina taking over the story.  My sister threw around this term, "spatchcock", which is a rather funny word that simply means taking out a bird's backbone and  flattening it.  This technique helps cook the bird more evenly and faster, with our 13 pounder finished is just a little over an hour.  This bird also gave us a good laugh, seeing as it was missing a significant part of its left wing, thus making it our first "right-winged" turkey. The night before Thanksgiving, I mixed kosher salt, chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, and sage), with black pepper and generously sprinkled the turkey all over.  It rested in the oven till the following afternoon, allowing the salt to draw out some juices, let herb flavor penetrate the meat and improving the meat's texture.  About two hours before dinner, I took the turkey out of the fridge to take the chill off while the oven pre-heated.  Roasted on a flat baking sheet, with some basting, this was one tasty right-winged bird (sorry, couldn't help it!).  

With that, and props to my sister for taking her artistic, slightly OCD nature to decorating the apple pie with hand-carved leaves of pie dough, I will wrap up this post. The recipe for apple pie is coming, I promise.  I just want to get this out before its Christmas, which will bring cookies and a 3-way duck.  I guess we like to have a little fun with our poultry.  

apple pie

beet+pea+simple mashed potatoes
Pea mashed potatoes
4 large Yukon golds
1 cup of frozen peas
handful of basil
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 cup of warm whole milk
white pepper/salt
Peel and cut potatoes in even chunks. If you have a steamer, steam potatoes to reduce the amount of gluten that potatoes will produce. Otherwise, cover potatoes with cold water and bring to boil. Cook until a you can easily pears potato with a knife.

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Drop the peas in the boiling water and cook for a minute or two. Strain the peas and immediately put the strainer in the bowl with ice. Place peas, basil, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor or a blender. Blend until the mixture is smooth.

Place potatoes and pea mixture in a double boiler (with a bowl over simmering water). Mash the potatoes adding milk as needed. Adjust salt and pepper.

Beet mashed potatoes
4 large Yukon Golds
2 large beets
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 cup of cream
salt/black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut off the beet greens. Wash and dry the vegetables. Place the beets on a sheet of heavy duty foil, pour the olive olive oil over the beets, and cover with foil tightly. Roast in the over for 45 minutes or until beets are cooked through.

With a paper towel remove the beet skins. Cut beet into chunks, add a little more olive oil and pure in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Follow instructions on cooking potatoes and mixing the vegetables from the recipe for the pea mashed potatoes, substituting cream for milk.
Madina's master carving

stuffing stuffed with other food

Michelle Richard's deconstructed egg