Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sauerkraut Even the Kids will Love ~ with Ham, Pork Roast or Brats!

Braised apples, onion, carrots and even a bit of garlic, make this sauerkraut a crowd pleaser. I've served it to many and it is universally admired. Unlike it's original namesake, which literally means 'sour cabbage' mine isn't all so sour. The added vegetables along with a bit of brown sugar, improve the flavor while reminding you of the central ingredient, fermented shredded cabbage.

Julian's Glazed Ham with Sauerkraut
As I wrote about previously, sauerkraut is a New Year's day tradition for many and brings a year of good luck. So, today I'm pairing the kraut with ham, but you could easily substitute a pork roast. This kraut is also excellent with bratwurst, and I use the same recipe when making it. If you have kids that like hot-dogs, through some of those in too. Below I'll give you tips on how to do the kraut for brats and pork roast, as well as the classic holiday ham.

Saute the Vegetables
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped (red, Spanish or sweet)
salt and pepper
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 large apple, sliced and cored (golden delicious preferred)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons mustard (Dijon or stoneground)
2 packages (32 ounce each) sauerkraut, drained
1/3 cup brown sugar (more optional)

If you are making a pork roast or bratwurst, brown the meat first on all sides in a dutch oven or deep skillet using a little vegetable oil. Use the drippings to saute the vegetables in the next step instead of the vegetable oil.

Core the apple, no need to peel.
Over medium-high heat, add oil to a dutch oven or large deep skillet. When shimmering, add the chopped onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the shredded carrots and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in the sliced apple, chopped garlic, and mustard then add the drained sauerkraut. Stir to combine and add the brown sugar, using more or less to your desire sweetness.

If making a ham, add the sauerkraut mixture around the ham in a roasting pan, cover with foil and bake until the ham is just warmed through, about 2 hours at 275F degrees (follow package directions). Drain the sauerkraut before serving.

If making a pork roast, sprinkle the browned pork roast with a thin layer of sugar (white or brown) and add the pork roast to the sauerkraut. Roast until the meat is done, stirring the sauerkraut several times during roasting to ensure even cooki
ng. If it begins to brown excessively, cover with foil. Drain the sauerkraut before serving.

If making bratwurst, add the brats to the sauerkraut mixture and add two cans of dark beer or a similar amount of chicken broth. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the sauerkraut before serving with or on top of, the brats.

Julian's New Year's Day Dinner Table

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti

If you're looking for a great baked item as a gift or for holiday company, this is it! It's both festive (cranberries and white chocolate) and tasty. You can make it days or weeks ahead and it holds quite well. The technique is the same as that of my other biscotti recipes on this blog, although the ingredients are slightly different. These bake at a slightly higher temperature due to the moist fruit in the batter and the recipe makes more biscuits. This recipe is easily converted to other biscotti combinations so use it as your base recipe and experiment with different versions throughout the year.

Cutting the Baked Biscotti
This is my sister's biscotti recipe which I got from the "Cooking Down Memory Lane" cookbook produced by St. Joseph Church in Dover, Ohio. The cookbook also has great historic local photos and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the church (1965-2015).


Separate the Dough Into Halves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour, plus a little extra
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
6 ounces white coating chocolate (see note)

Note: Coating chocolate is not quite the same as chocolate chips. I don't advise using white chocolate chips for this purpose. Rather use Wilton Candy Melts or another chocolate specific labeled as 'coating chocolate'. These are widely available at JoAnn's, WalMart and K-Mart. It will melt and perform better than melted chips, which are made for holding their shape in cookies. If you use chips keep them away from all liquids. If they do not melt properly and seize up which is common or remain lumpy, you can rescue them by mixing in vegetable oil until you have the desired consistency.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with silicon pads.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30-45 seconds with the standard mixing paddle attachment. Mix in the sugar, then add the eggs and almond extract mixing until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Mix in the flour a little at a time until combined. Add and cranberries and mix.

Ready for the first baking.
Sprinkle a work surface with a little sugar and flour. Dump the dough on to the work surface and combine with the heal of your hand, turning it several times until combined and formed into a disk. Sprinkle with extra flour/sugar if sticky. Separate the dough into two equal parts.

Shape each portion into an 11-inch long roll. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and straighten so they are approximately three inches apart. Slightly flatten the tops of each roll with your fingers until the rolls are about 2 1/2 inches wide.

The second baking dries the biscuit.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the tops are lightly brown, cracked and almost firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and turn off.  Let the rolls sit on the baking sheet for 3-5 minutes until just cool enough to handle with your bare hands. Transfer to a cooling rack being careful not to break the rolls. Let cool 30 minutes until just slightly warm.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Transfer to a cutting surface and using a sharp serrated knife or electric knife, cut each roll diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Place cut side down on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for eight minutes, remove from oven and turn each piece over. Bake an additional 8 minutes on the second side and remove from the oven. Cool on the baking sheets, to permit some additional baking time out of the oven.

Cranberry on the Left
When cool melt the white chocolate coating according to package directions. Using a your hand covered in a latex or food safe glove, place the tips of your fingers into the melted chocolate and shake them across the biscotti in the same direction. (See image)  Continue doing this until the biscotti are drizzled to your liking. I refrigerate the trays at this point to speed the setting of the drizzle, although this is not necessary if you have more time to let them dry.

Biscotti can be stored in an air tight container for up to 3 months if kept in a cool, dry place.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Roast Duckling with Orange Balsamic Glaze

If you are having a small gathering for the holidays and want to give them something different, consider a roasted young duckling. The flavor is lovely, particularly with this glaze and it's a relatively unique dish they will appreciate.  Duck meat, even the breast, is dark and more flavorful than turkey or chicken. But it cooks and carves much the same, although does take longer in the oven.

Julian's Christmas Table with Roasted Duckling
I paired this with my chestnut stuffing and braised red cabbage, which made for a festive holiday meal. But you could prepare this dish any time of the year and it would be appreciated.

A single duck will however only feed four adults at most, so plan accordingly. Most grocers have duck in the freezer section, but if you can get yours fresh by all means do. If yours is frozen, it's best to let it thaw slowly in the refrigerator for 2-3 days prior to preparation.

Roasting time: 1.5 - 2 hours

1 ducking (4-5 pounds)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
4 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup orange juice, no pulp
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons orange liqueur

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees with the rack set into the center position.

Rinse the duck and remove any organs/meat inside the cavity. Dry and set aside.

Stir together the remaining ingredients in a bowl that will make approximately 2-3 cups of liquid.

Spray the roasting pan with food release (Pam) and add 1 inch of water. Place the duck on a roasting rack set into the roasting pan. Using the point of a sharp knife, pierce the skin of the duck all over and particularly on the lower portions to permit the fat to drain.  Brush it with the glaze mixture.  Place in the oven and roast until the leg joint is loose and approximately 160F degrees. This should take about 1.5 - 2 hours. 

While the duck will be darkened from the glaze, you may need to cover it loosely with foil during the last 30 minutes to stop excessive browning.

Let the duck rest 30 minutes before carving.

Julian's Roasted Duck with Chestnut Stuffing and Braised Red Cabbage

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Gingerbread Cakes Grandma Would Be Proud Of

My memories of gingerbread cakes are of a moist, dark cake with a perfect crumb and a lot of flavorful spices. I've posted a recipe previously and while it's not bad, it still wasn't my ideal cake. So this year I set off to make a really great gingerbread cake that anyone's grandma would be proud of.

As it turns out, most Americans don't really seem to know what gingerbread is supposed to taste like anymore. Most seem to think of cinnamon and nutmeg, but we aren't making a pumpkin latte here, but rather a rich, delicious, spicy cake that is loaded with flavor yet still has the perfect cake crumb. While the ginger is the headline ingredient, I've found the real key to great gingerbread is using molasses, or if you're British, treacle. I like a mix of dark (robust) and light (golden) molasses, and since I usually have both on the shelf I do that. But you can do either one alone. The dark will give you a somewhat darker cake with more robust flavor but even the all light molasses version will be delicious.

Scooping into Paper Liners
Gingerbread, as we know it today, descends from Medieval Europe and the cakes we enjoy are largely a British custom during the holidays. So for that reason, I turned to a English friend for a bit of taste testing and came up with this wonderful recipe which I think you and yours will very much enjoy.

Today I'm making gingerbread cupcakes, but this recipe works equally well for a traditional square cake. I've doubled the recipe to make two dozen cupcakes but if you want to double it for a larger cake, you can do that, but it's best to make them in two separate nine inch square baking pans (rather than one larger pan.) This helps the cakes bake more evenly.

Julian Frosting Gingerbread Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes or a 9 inch square cake

Pecan Frosting
1 1/4 cups boiling water
6 ounces molasses (3/4 cup) dark or golden
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg (room temperature)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line cupcake molds with paper liners or spray baking cups or pan with food release (Pam) or butter them lightly.

Bring water to a boil.  Off heat add the molasses and baking soda. Stir together and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, flour, baking powder, salt).

In a mixer, whip the butter until softened and distributed. On low speed, stir in the brown sugar. Increase speed to medium and mix until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Beat the egg with a fork and with the mixer running, add the egg to the butter/sugar mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and pour in the room temperature molasses mixture. Remove the mixing bowl and fold in the dry ingredients. The mixer will be loose, like a cake batter.

If using cupcake/muffin tin, scoop in about 1/4 cup into each mold to distribute the batter evenly. If making a single cake, pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

If you are going to serve this slightly warm from the oven, really no topping at all is necessary, but a good whipped cream will nicely complement the flavors. As you can see in the photos, I've topped my cupcakes 4 ways: cinnamon cream cheese frosting, pecan frosting, chopped pecan and crystal of sugar.

Cream Cheese Frosting with Cinnamon Whipped In