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Archive for December, 2009

Shrimp Cakes

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I love appetizers, but I rarely have the time or the occasion to make them.  So, when we were invited to a large family Thanksgiving party, I jumped at the chance to make the appetizers.  I searched through cookbooks and websites, and the following recipe immediately stood out as one to try.  I’ve made this twice:  once for Thanksgiving and for Christmas.

A note about the chili sauce I used.  My husband loves Asian food, so we have a lot of spicy chili sauce around.  I used chili sauce with soybean oil, which gave the cakes a nice kick.

Adapted from Stacey Snacks

1 lb. shrimp, coarsely chopped

1 egg beaten

3 green onions

2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro

1 TBSP fresh ginger, grated

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

1 TBSP Chili Sauce

1 tsp. salt


1 c. panko breadcrumbs

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, making sure to add the panko crumbs at the end.  Combine all the ingredients with your hands.

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Form small patties and fry in peanut oil on medium- high heat. When I first made these, I turned the cakes to early.  I found that starting that cakes on medium-high heat, cooking one side for 3 to 4 minutes, and then turning the cakes and reducing the heat works well.  Continue cooking over medium for another three minutes.

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The first time I made these, I served them with tartar sauce and cocktail sauce.  I was crunched for time, and I found that those worked well in a pinch.  When I served these for Christmas, I made a Remoulade sauce (recipe to follow!)

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Green Beans with Shallots and Nuts

Monday, December 28th, 2009

I’m always searching for side dish recipes that are quick and easy, and this is one of the best I’ve come across.  I found this recipe on Stacey Snacks and it was a big hit.

Instead of walnuts, I used pecans, mainly because I had them on hand.  Also, instead of cooking the beans in salted boiling water, I steamed mine in a steamer basket.

Here’s the recipe:

1 lb. green beans, trimmed

2 large shallots, sliced

handful of pecans, chopped

salt and pepper

olive oil

Bring pot of water to a boil.  Place beans in steamer basket and steam, covered, for about 7 minutes.  Run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

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Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and saute the shallots until starting to brown.

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Add the green beans and pecans.  Cook for another two minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

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Au Gratin Potatoes

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

This is one of my go to side dishes.  My husband is not the biggest fan of potatoes, but I love them, so this dish has become something of a compromise accompaniment in our house.

This recipe is adapted from William Sonoma Potato. My mom has had this cookbook for years, but my version is different from hers, so the following recipe is a combination of the recipe in my cookbook and the recipe I remember from hers.

Potato Gratin

2 TBSP unsalted butter

1 1/4 c. milk (recipe calls for whole milk, but I usually use 1%)

1 c. heavy cream

salt and pepper

freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 lb. grated gruyere cheese

5 russet potatoes, peeled

1 onion, sliced thinly

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the butter, milk, and cream in a large pot over medium heat.  Slice the potatoes.  Each slice should be between an 1/8th and a 1/4th inch thick.  Add the slices to the milk mixture.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

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Remove a third of the potatoes from the pot with a slotted spoon.  Arrange the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish.  Cover with half of the onion slices.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Cover with 1/3rd of the grated cheese.

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Repeat, creating one more layer with onions.  Cover with the remaining potatoes and cheese.  Cover the dish with buttered aluminum foil.  Cook for 60 minutes.  Remove the aluminum foil, and cook for another 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the top layer is brown.   Remove from the oven and let stand for 10  minutes before serving.Food Blog 105


Christmas Dinner Feast with Friends

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

This Christmas was a year of firsts:  the first Christmas my husband and I spent as husband and wife, the first year in the past ten years that we weren’t traveling for Christmas, and the first year I tried my hand at cooking Christmas dinner.  So, to celebrate being at home, we invited a few friends for dinner, opened a few bottles of wine, and enjoyed quite the feast.

Christmas 2009 Menu

Shrimp Cakes with Remoulade Sauce

Crown Roast of Pork with Onion and Bread-Crumb Stuffing

Potatoes Au Gratin

Green Beans with Frizzled Shallots and nuts

Crown Roast of Pork with Onion and Bread-Crumb Stuffing (adapted from Gourmet, December 2005)

A word of warning before making this recipe:  be sure to special order your crown roast from the butcher a few weeks before you plan to make it.  I made the mistake of waiting until the last minute to plan my Christmas menu and almost had to scrap my menu entirely due to poor planning on my part.  Thanks to the fine folks at Whole Foods of Boulder (Pearl Street) for obliging my Christmas Eve request to have crown roast.  They made our meal!

For Stuffing:

3 large yellow onions, finely chopped

2 1/2 tsp. salt

2 sticks unsalted butter

2 TBSP chopped fresh sage

1 TBSP chopped fresh marjoram

1 tsp. black pepper

1 1/2 TBSP cider vinegar

1/2 c. dry white wine

1 lb. country loaf, cut into 1 in. cubes and then pulsed to crumbs in food processor (I used a little more than half of a 1.9 lb. Italian Country Boule from Whole Foods)

3/4 lbs. ground pork

1 c. finely chopped celery

Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet.  Add the onions and 1 1/2 tsp. salt.  Cook over medium heat, covered, until tender.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and continue to cook until the onions are golden, again about 10 minutes.  Add the sage, marjoram, and pepper, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add the vinegar and wine and cook until the liquid is evaporated.  Reserve one cup of the onion mixture for the sauce.

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In another large, heavy skillet, melt the other stick of butter.  Add the breadcrumbs and remaining salt.  Cook the breadcrumbs over medium-low heat until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and starting to crisp.  This should take about 20 minutes.

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Combine the onion mixture (except for the one cup reserved for the sauce), the celery, the breadcrumbs, and the ground pork in a large bowl.  Coat a 2 qt. baking dish with cooking spray.  Reserve 2 1/2 cups of the stuffing for the pork, and transfer the remaining stuffing to the baking dish.  Place the baking dish in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

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For Roast:

1 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage

1 tsp. finely chopped fresh marjoram

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 10 lb. crown roast of pork

2 c. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the oven rack in the bottom 3rd of the oven.

Mix the sage, marjoram, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and rub the mixture on the outside of the roast.

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Place the roast in a roasting pan.  Mound the reserved stuffing in the center.  Add the water to the pan.

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Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, cover the stuffing and the tips of the bones with tin foil.  Continue to roast for another two hours, until a digital thermometer reads 155 degrees.

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With 30 minutes of cooking time left, add the stuffing to the oven, and bake, covered with foil, for the last half hour.  Remove the roast from the oven and let stand for 30 minutes.  Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees, and cook the stuffing for an additional 15 minutes, until the top is crisp.

For Sauce:

1 c. dry white wine

3 c. chicken broth

2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 TBSP water

2 TBSP cold unsalted butter

While the stuffing is cooking, remove the roast from the pan.  Place the roasting pan, with all juices, on the stove over medium heat.  Add the wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits.

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Continue to cook until reduced by half.  Add the onion mixture and broth and simmer.  Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir until incorporated.  Add the butter to the pan and season with salt and pepper.

I served the pork with the stuffing, green beans, and au gratin potatoes.

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Beef Burgundy (Boeuf Bourguignon)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

As soon as it gets cold, the first dish I want to make is Beef Burgundy.  I first made this dish for New Year’s Eve and have even enjoyed “the real thing” while visiting Burgundy with my dad in the middle of summer.  To me, though, this dish is supremely satisfying as the weather gets colder.

This recipe is a little time-consuming, especially for the first half hour or so, but I tried to simplify it by using the same Dutch oven to brown the bacon, brown the beef, cook the vegetables, and to start braising the beef.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Soup and Stew

6 strips bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3 1/2 lbs beef stew meat, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 TBSP Olive Oil

2 yellow onions, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 TBSP all-purpose flour

1/4 c. brandy

1 bottle red wine (I used Bordeaux)

1 1/2 c. beef stock

1 TBSP tomato paste

6 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

3 TBSP butter

1 lb. white button mushrooms, quartered

1 package pearl onions (I use fresh, but you could also use frozen.  If you use frozen, skip the blanching step)

1 TBSP cornstarch, mixed with 2 TBSP water

Parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, brown the bacon.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to  paper towels.

Brown about 1/2 of the beef in the bacon grease.    Brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the beef to a bowl, and brown the rest of the meat.

Once you’ve browned the beef, add the olive oil to the Dutch oven.  Saute the onions and carrots until lightly browned.  Reduce the heat to low.  Add the flour and stir until the flour is thoroughly incorporated.  Return the bacon and the beef to the pot.

Remove from the heat, add the cognac, return to the heat for about 20 seconds, and using a long kitchen match, flambe.  Hold the lit match just above the contents of the pot until it ignites.  The flame should burn for about 30 seconds, but keep the lid of the Dutch oven close by, in case the flame does not go out after a minute.

Once the flame is out, return the pot to medium heat and add the wine, stock, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf.  Bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, transfer the pot to the oven, and braise for about 2 hours.  Cook until the meat is tender and the stew thickens.  I usually check the beef every 30 minutes to see how tender it is and to stir the stew.

During the last 45 minutes while the stew is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add the pearl onions and cook for 5 minutes.  Drain the onions and rinse in cold water.  Remove the skins.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in medium frying pan.  Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 to 7 minutes until browned.  Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl.  Melt the remaining butter and add the pearl onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 7 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of water, cover the onions, and cook for 5 more minutes.

Once the stew meat is tender, remove from the oven, and stir in the mushrooms and pearl onions.  At this point, I return the stew to the stove and thicken, if the meat becomes tender before the stew thickens to my liking.  There are two ways to do this:  I usually just use a mixture of cornstarch and water.  If, however, you’re looking for decadence, mix 1 TBSP of butter with 1 TBSP of flour.  Divide the mixture into small pieces and add slowly to the stew.  Garnish with parsley and you’re ready to go!

I usually serve this with mashed potatoes or au gratin potatoes.