Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Breakfast Strata

with Spinach and Gruyere

from Cook's Illustrated

I'm planning on making this on the morning after Christmas.

8-10 slices French bread (6-7 ounces), sliced 1/3-inch thick
5 tablespoon softened butter
4 medium shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I buy the boxes, saw off one end, defrost in the box in the microwave, and squeeze out by squeezing the box)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup medium-dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)*
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups half-and-half

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 225 degrees.

Arrange bread in single layer on large baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp (about 40 minutes), or leave slices out overnight to dry. When cooled, butter slices on one side with 2 tablespoons butter and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoon butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Saute shallots until fragrant and translucent (about 3 minutes). Add spinach and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinanch and shallots are combined (about 2 minutes). Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium high, and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 2-3 minutes). Set aside.

Butter 8-inch square baking dish with remaining 1 tablesppon butter; arranging half the butter bread slices, buttered-side up in a signle layer in dish. Sprinkle with half the spnach mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining spinach mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese over bread. Whisk egggs in medium bowl until comblined, then whisk in reduced wine, half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread layer; cover surface flush with plastic wrap, weigh down (you could use a couple of boxes of powdered sugar as the weights), and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight (I was planning on doing the dish the night before we eat it).

Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover strata and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over surface. Bake until both edges and ceter are puffed and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of dish (about 50 -55 minutes or 60 minutes for doubled recipe). Cool on wire rack 5 minutes.

Serves 6

*The nice things about Whole Foods and cheeses are that they have all kinds, you can purchase any quanity you want, and you can taste them before buying.

Maple syrup and other goodies

We tried Trader Joe's 100% Pure, 2004 harver, maple syrup, U. S. GRADE B. It was fabulous. Apparently, grade B is darker in color and, hence, richer in flavor. It is from the Province of Quebec and comes in a 25 fl. oz. wine-type bottle.

We served it over Alton Brown's buttermilk pancakes. Costco's breakfast pork-link sausages completed the meal (Steve Kelley brought these up from Redwood City; they were really tasty and he did a great job of cooking them--he put them in my electric skillet with the cover on and the heat realively low and let them steam for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then he removed the lid, turned up the heat, and let them cook until they were nicely brown).

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

With linguine

from Cook's Illustrated

Eventhough this dish has a surprising amount of pepper, garlic, wine, &c, it is well-balanced and not overly hot.

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (we used Trader Joe's frozen shrimp, which I defrosted under running water and dried)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
4 tablespoons minced or pressed garlic (we used 6 very large cloves, pressed--the Zyliss "Susi" garlic press is the best)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup medium-dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 pound linguine or spaghetti

Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil.

White water is heating, heat 12-inch heavy bottomed skillet over high heat for 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss shimp, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl.

Add shrimp to skillet, quickly spreading in a single layer. Cook without stirring until bottoms turn spotty brown (about 30 seconds). Remove from heat, add cognac, and let stand for 5 seconds. Wave a lit match over skillet until cognac ignites, return to heat and shake until flames subside. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

Off heat, cool the now-empty skillet 2 minutes. Return to burner and reduce heat to low. Add 3 tablespoon olive oil and 3 tablespoons of garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic foams and is sticky and straw-colored. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, sugar, tomatoes, and wine. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until thickened and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Stir in the reserved shrimp and accumulated juices, the remaining 1 tablespoon of garlic, and the parsely, and simmer until shrimp have heated through (about 1 minute). Off heat, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

While sauce simmers, add linguine or spaghetti and remaining 1 tablesoon salt to boiling water, stir to separate pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/3 cup pasta cooking water. When pasta is drained, return it to the now-empty pasta pot. Add about 1/2 cup of the sauce (without shrimp) and 2 to 3 tablespoon pasta cooking water. Toss to coat. Divid pasta among warm serving bowls, top with portion of sauce and shrimp.

Serves 3-4

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

How to pick out a great turkey!

Last weekend we tried an Empire kosher turkey. They are already brined so it saves time there, and it was really delicious.

Jim said it was the best ever turkey.

Fall Linzer Tart

from Food and Wine

I have never made this recipe but planned to a number of times. I can still remember the taste from years ago when mom made it for the first time.

This is a double-crusted tart filled with a jam-like filling.


Combine in a medium bowl:

3 hard-cooked egg yolks, which have been pressed through a seive; 1/2 cup whole almonds (3 ounces), which have been blanched and skinned, and then ground in a food processor with 1 tablespoon of sugar until fine; 1 tablespoon cinnamon;1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg; and, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.

Beat 3 sticks of cold butter, cut into tablespoons, and 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 4 large lemons) in a large bowl at high speed until light in color, fluffy and soft peaks form (about 10 minutes).

Beat in egg yolk-almond mixture, 1 cup of sugar, and 2 teaspoons almond extract until well-blended.

Mix in 1 1/2 cups flour by hand until a dough forms.

Divide the dough in half and shape into two 6-inch disks. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.


In a heavy, medium, nonreactive saucepan, combine: 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup of water and bring to a boil over moderately high heat.

Boil the mixture just until the sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, 2 cinnamon sticks, a pinch of freshly ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves. Increase the heat to high and boil until the mixture is thick and syrupy and turns a light caramel color, about 3 minutes.

To the saucepan, add 1 bag (12 ounces) of fresh cranberries and stir to coat with the syrup. Cook until some of the berries begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped and the mixture is thick and jam-like, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

When mixture is cool, grease an 11-by-1-inch fluted tart with a removable bottom or an 11-inch ring with 1 teaspoon butter. Roll each disk of chilled dough into a 13-inch circle (about 1/8 inch thick) between 2 sheets of parchment paper--the dough is very difficult to handle. After each is rolled, transfer to a cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm enough to handle, atleast 10 minutes.

When ready to assemble, peel off the top layer of parchment, invert the dough into the prepared tart pan, then peel off the remaining piece of parchment and carefully pat the dough into the pan. Trim the excess dough from the rim. Refrigerate the dough again until well chilled, at least 30 minutes.


Remove the cinnamon sticks from the cranberry mixture and stir in the preserves (it is best to use seedless-preserves). Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and spoon the filling into the shell, spreading it evenly over the bottom.

Peel off the top layer of wax paper from remaining peice of chilled dough. Invert the dough over the filling and peel off the other layer of parchement paper. Crimp to seal the edges and trim off any excess dough even with the rim.

With a small sharp knife, cut out about eight 1 1/2 inch diamonds from the top crust. Mist or brush the top crust lightly with water and sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar on top. Bake for about 55 minutes, until well browned. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly before unmolding and serving.

Best Turkey Soup

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

We made this Monday night, and it was deelish! The 2 cups of white wine (or white vermouth in my case) really did some wonderful to the broth.

Combine in a large stock pot.

1 turkey carcass from 12- to 14-pound turkey, cut into 4 or 5 rough pieces to fit into pot
1 large onion , peeled and halved
1 large carrot , peeled and chopped coarse
1 large rib of celery , about 4 ounces, chopped coarse
3 medium cloves of garlic , unpeeled and smashed
2 cups dry white wine
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs fresh parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 1/2 quarts water

Bring to boil over medium-high heat, skimming fat or foam that rises to surface. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 2 hours, continuing to skim surface as necessary. Add parsley and thyme; continue to simmer until stock is rich and flavorful, about 2 hours longer, continuing to skim surface as necessary.

Strain stock through large-mesh strainer into large bowl or container and discard solids. Cool stock slightly, about 20 minutes; spoon fat from surface.

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 quart turkey stock
1 cup water
2 carrots cut into thin rounds
1 cup medium shell pasta
2 celery stalks, chopped
½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat butter and oil in large pot and add the onion, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Saute on medium heat until onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Increase heat to high, add broth and water and bring to a simmer. Add carrots and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the pasta and celery and cook until just tender. Stir in parsley and lemon juice. Continue to cook until pasta reaches your preferred texture and all other ingredients are heated thoroughly.

Serves 6.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Prime Rib Salad

Yesterday I made a prime rib salad with the leftover prime rib, some hard-boiled eggs, black olives, avocado, and romaine lettuce. I used the Caesar salad dressing (posted here) and sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on the top. It was really nice.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Prime Rib (Christmas 2006)

from Good Eats

Notes from Christmas 2006--we had a 2 rib, small-end, approx. 4 pound prime rib and roasted it to 122 degrees. After it rested for about 30 mins. and the temperature climbed to 129/130 degrees. We returned it to the oven for an additional 10 mins. at 500 degrees, then let it rest for another 20 mins. It was pretty much medium rare in the center sections and a little bit more towards medium on the end. We thought it came out perfectly. We also discarded most of the grease from the roasting pan before deglazing, and poured any juices from the final resting of the roast into the finished sauce. Our 4 pound roast took about 3 1/2 hours at 200 degrees to get to 122 degrees. So it was nearly 4 1/2 hours from counter top to table. We let the roast sit out on counter top for about 2 hours before putting it in the oven.

Let's face it: prime rib is a really expensive cut of meat. However, it's a lot cheaper to cook it at home than to have it in a restaurant. And then there are the left-overs (see my Parmesan Caesar dressing recipe).

Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees (rack in middle of oven). Rub a bone-in prime rib roast with a little canola oil and season it with Kosher salt. Place the roast on a rack placed in a shallow roasting pan (a cast-iron frying pan would work great). Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat (make sure it is not touching any bone). Place it in the oven and turn down the heat to 200 degrees. Roast until it reaches 118 degrees. Remove it from the oven, covering it loosely with foil. Let it rest until it reaches 130 degrees (this will take at least 30 minutes).

Meanwhile, turn the oven heat to 500 degrees. When the roast has reached 130 degrees, remove the foil and return it to the oven for about 10 minutes or until nicely crusted. Remove it from the oven and let it rest on a carving board while you make the reduction sauce. Place your roasting pan with its juices on the stove on high heat. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of water. When reduced by half, add 1 cup red wine and 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves. Continue to reduce until you have 1 cup total. Strain into a gravy boat.

Eventhough we let our roast sit for over 30 minutes, it only went to 126 degrees. We were hungry, so we put it back in the oven at that point for the final browning. Next time, I think I might cook it until it reaches 120 (see Christmas 2006 note at top of page) degrees instead of 118. Ours was a fairly small roast; a larger one might have had the ability to climb to 130 degrees.

Parmesan Caesar Dressing

We thought this dressing had a well-balanced, slightly lemony-Parmesan flavor--it must have been the addition of an egg because the dressing wasn't oily or heavy; it was light and refreshing. We would definitely make it again. It is not your typical Caesar, but defintely a good variation. We had a prime rib last night and I am going to make a salad with left-over pieces of the meat, some black olives, a hard-boiled egg and a few slices of sweet onion, and put the remaining dressing on it for dinner.

4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar (or white white vinegar)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons walnut oil (picking out a good oil is extremely important. I like the International Collection brand of Walnut oil--in fact, I think all their oils are really nice)
1 teaspoon lemon juice (measure this and do not add more as would make the dressing too tangy)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard*
1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Diamond Kosher salt (I really prefer this brand)
1/2 packet sugar substitute (Splenda) or 1/2 teaspoon sugar--the sugar is needed to balance the acidity level
1 organic eggs beaten until frothy

Place all ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake well. Refrigerate.

*Cook's Illustrated recommends Roland Extra Strong Dijon or Grey Poupon Dijon; apparently the operative ingredient is how much allyl isothiocyanate the brand contains. I've been using Trader Joe's brand, but when it's close to running out I'm going to try Roland's and compare.

Makes 14 tablespoons

Monday, November 01, 2004

Tarragon Chicken Thompson

This is one of the quickest dinner entrees I have found. Unopened créme fraîche keeps in the refridgerator for a couple of months, so I usually keep a container on hand. Use any fresh herb you happen to have instead of the dried tarragon. I often halve the recipe and make 4 chicken breasts at a time.

1 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons dried tarragon, crumbled
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a 13 x 9-inch baking dish stir together all ingredients except chicken. Add chicken to mixture, turning it to coat well, and arrange in one layer. Bake chicken in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

Serves 8.

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