Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs

Flavorful and tender, braised beef short ribs make an excellent dinner, especially when cooked with sweet onions and beer. You can use bone-in or boneless for this recipe, and because of the long, slow braise they are easy to prepare in the slow cooker (Crockpot), if you prefer.

Julian's Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs
I usually serve pork as a traditional New Year's meal. But when I found out my guests didn't eat pork, I had to come up with an alternative. This recipe rings in the New Year right. It goes well with just about everything and who doesn't like food cooked in beer? I'm serving it here with a wild rice dish with shaved Brussels sprouts, cranberries and nuts. But it would go equally well with mashed potatoes.

Browning the Ribs in Small Batches
The term "short ribs" comes from the fact that the cut of meat contains only a portion of each long beef rib. However, local grocers and butcher shops often do not differentiate between the various cuts of short ribs, which can come from the beef brisket, chuck, plate, and rib. In the U.S., short ribs from the plate are generally the least expensive cut, followed by the brisket and chuck, and then premium-priced short ribs from the rib area. Rarely will you find these marked.

Boneless short ribs, like those I'm cooking today, are cut from either the chuck or plate, and consist of rib meat separated from the bone.  Don't be confused by something labeled "Boneless country-style short ribs" because these are not actually short ribs at all, but rather are cut from the chuck eye roll, a less expensive cut of meat. I bought my boneless ribs at Costco, and based on the rich marbling, I would guess they are from the chuck. You can find a full discussion of the Costco boneless ribs on this site. I have used these before and find if I select a well-marbled package, they are more tender when braised.

Short ribs generally require long periods of cooking in order to break down the connective tissues and make the meat tender. I'm doing mine in a long, moist braise today. But you can alternatively just dry rub them and roast them covered, very low and slow for about 4 hours (at say 225F degrees.) If they were well marbled and bone-in, these will also come out very well.

Ingredients
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
3-5 pounds beef short ribs (cut into pieces)
BBQ rub (store bought or my recipe)
2 carrots (peeled and roughly chopped)
2 sweet onions (widely sliced)
2 celery stalks (roughly chopped)
2 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)
1 bottle beer, dark
1 bottle beer, light
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
pinch thyme
pinch rosemary
pinch oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions
Preheat slow cooker on low or your oven to 275F degrees.

Season the short ribs lightly with the rub. Heat a Dutch oven or deep skillet over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and heat until very hot (just before smoking). Add the short ribs and brown on all sides, in small batches. Remove from pan and drain all but one tablespoon of fat from pan. Place the browned short ribs into your cooking vessel (roasting pan, Dutch oven or Crockpot.)

Deglaze the pan with the half the bottle of light-colored beer, scraping with a wooden spoon to remove the brown bits. Reduce the liquid by half and pour over the beef ribs.

Will the heat still on high, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and add the onions. Stir gently for about 5 minutes until they are reduced and tender. Add the carrots and celery and cook stirring gently, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Stir in the spices. Pour in the remaining bottle and half of beer and deglaze the pan by scraping up any remaining bits with a wooden spoon. Continued cooking until the liquid is reduced by half and then add the tomato paste and chicken stock and stir together.

Pour the vegetable-liquid mixture over the ribs. Do your best to get all of the meat submerged. Cover and cook approximately 3-4 hours or until meat is fork tender. Transfer the ribs to a plate and cover to keep warm. Using a slotted spoon, remove any vegetable solids that remain and reserve in a bowl.

Let the liquid settle a bit so the fat rises to the top and then spoon off the fat from the liquid, or use a large gravy/fat separator.  Taste and add more salt and fresh black pepper as necessary. Add back the vegetables and either spoon over the servings of meat OR using a stick blender, puree the solids into the liquid making more of a gravy. Serve and enjoy hot.

Ready for the Long Simmer in my Crockpot


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Perhaps the simplest of all pasta sauces, a brown butter sauce takes only a few minutes to prepare and matches beautifully with this seasonal pasta.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce
These ravioli on the other hand, would have taken a good bit of time to make homemade. That's why, when Costco had them fresh (not frozen), I purchased them and they were quite good. Each package (the product comes in a set of two packages) serves 4 adults as a main course, as the sauce is rich. If you have big eaters you may need to increase the quantity. As a first course, one package serves 6, approximately two raviolis per person.

From Costco - Very Good - Link Here
While the link above prepares them with a garlic sauce, I felt a brown butter sage combination would be more seasonal. You can purchase fresh sage in most good grocery stores, which is what I did.

Browned Butter
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 small shallot, minced
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
Juice from half a fresh lemon
Pinch of salt and grind of fresh pepper
Prepared butternut squash ravioli (per above)
Shredded Parmesan cheese (to taste)

Instructions
Prepare butternut squash ravioli by bringing a large pot of salted water to boil. Freshly made (not frozen) ravioli take only 3-4 minutes in the boiling water.

In a 12 inch or larger deep skillet (avoid a dark non-stick skillet), melt butter over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally. Do this until the butter is browned and releases nutty aroma, which takes about 2 minutes. Do not leave the stove top as you don't want it to burn. Off heat, add shallot and sage, stirring until shallot is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm until your pasta is ready.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the well-drained raviolis a spoon at a time into the butter sauce. Toss them gently to coat before adding a second spoon of ravioli. Once all are coated, transfer to serving bowls and top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

The prepared sauce ready for the pasta.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Rum or Cream Cheese Glaze

Nothing says winter, and particularly Christmas, like an old-fashioned gingerbread. The flavor of gingerbread really comes from the combination of spices and molasses. Classic gingerbread is a dense, hard cookie, but you can enjoy these flavors in many forms.

Julian's Festive Gingerbread Bundt Cake
Today I'm making a gingerbread Bundt cake. If you're looking for a great gingerbread cupcake, use this recipe, as it has a looser crumb more suitable for cupcakes. This cake is more dense but equally flavorful.  You can make this and serve it with no topping at all, or just with some whipped cream. Today I'm adding a rum glaze and topping that with a cream cheese glaze, as I want to give it that holiday festive look. But this cake is equally good without either, or you can just use either one.

Just as good without glaze, and bit of whipped cream on each slice.
My original recipe came from King Arthur Flour. I've modified it to amp up the flavor. You can and should use their unbleached all-purpose flour if you have it. Otherwise, regular all-purpose flour will do.

Ingredients
Note: The butter and eggs should be room temperature before use.

Cake
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg,
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 cup water

Rum Glaze (optional)
1/3 cup dark/aged rum
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1.4 teaspoon butter rum flavor (optional)

Cream Cheese Glaze (optional)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
Milk or cream as needed, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Cake
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly grease a 10-12 cup Bundt pan. You can you a spray food release or traditional shortening. There is no need to flour the pan after greasing.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in well after each addition. Scrape the bowl frequently to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. On low setting, mix in the molasses.

With the mixer on the low setting, blend in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the water. Mix until just incorporated and smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet. If using the rum glaze, it can be applied while the cake is still warm. If using the cream cheese glaze, the cake must be room temperature before glazing.

Rum Glaze (optional)
Heat the ingredients, except for the optional butter rum flavoring, over low heat stirring regularly until the sugar is dissolved. Using a long pick, poke small holes into the top and sides of the cake. Stir in the butter rum flavoring. Brush the glaze onto the cake while it is warm.

Cream Cheese Glaze (optional)
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Slowly add milk or cream until the desired glaze consistency forms. Pour the glaze on the top of the cake.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Creamed Spinach

Nothing could be more simple or delicious than fresh spinach that has been sauteed and then cooked with heavy cream. I had never posted this before because I didn't think anyone needed a recipe, it's that simple. But several have asked me to post this, so I'm doing it today.

Julian's Creamed Spinach
Cooked spinach can be a great side dish and can even be prepared ahead and reheated. I never chop the fresh spinach as some do, as it really does cook down considerably and I want my dish to look like it was made from fresh spinach and not that frozen stuff. Below I recommend two large bunches of spinach and you may look at that and think it is way too much for four people. It really is not and you will not have any leftover. It cooks down considerably. In the photos I'm making a half batch, which makes only two small side dishes.

Cooking the Spinach
Ingredients (served 4)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bunches fresh spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup heavy cream



Instructions
Wash the spinach several times insuring all sand and grit are removed. Holding each piece by the leafy top part, peel off the stem as far up the leaf as possible. Discard the stems and re-rinse the leaves.

In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and butter and warm until melted. Stir in the onion and saute for 3-4 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic for another minute. Add the spinach, salt and pepper and stir until cooked down. Add the heavy cream and a pinch of nutmeg and continue cooking 3-5 minutes until the liquid reduces by half. Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies - Cookie Baking Tips

With winter upon us I like to make cookies, especially when it's snowing outside. So today I'm making a simple, no fail recipe that most everyone enjoys.

Julian's Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
The flavors are holiday related with cranberries and white chocolate. These have an oatmeal base and so they are also a bit chewy and not as sweet as some cookies, which is another reason I like them.

Today I also wanted to share some common cookie tips, as I'm often asked why cookies don't come out the way you expect them to.

Test Cookies:  My number one suggestion is to always bake a test cookie first. I know it takes an extra 10 minutes, but it's worth the time. A test cookie lets you know what the rest will be like when you bake them. It tells you how much they are likely to spread so you know how much room you need between them. Don't skip this. I do this on every cookie I make, even if I've made it many times before. After you bake the test cookie, you'll know what, if anything you need to do from the list below to improve the outcome. If you do make a change from the list below, remember to test again before you put in an entire tray.

Flavor and Shape:  The other top suggestion is to make your cookie dough at least a day in advance. Once made, refrigerate or freeze. Chilling the dough for at least 24 hours before baking improves flavor and and helps them keep a nice shape. You can freeze dough months in advance and then let it thaw in the refrigerator before use. This is actually an easy way to have cookies ready at a moments notice, letting you make the dough when you have time, then just thawing and baking when you need them.

Thicker:  If you didn't make ahead and chill and your test cookie has spread out too much and you want them thicker, freeze the cookie dough for 30 to 60 minutes before baking. This solidifies the butter, which will spread less while baking.

More Brown:  Set the oven to 360F-375F rather than the typically 350F degrees. Caramelization occurs at 356 degrees or so.

Lighter/Fluffy: If your cookies seem to dense and you want to lighten them, increase the amount of baking soda to double what is noted in the recipe.

Thick and Chewy: Substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour in your recipe if you want your cookies to be more chewy than crispy. It has a higher gluten protein content and will also spread less when baked.

Sugar Options: White sugar makes a crisper cookie than those made with brown sugar. A brown sugar based cookie will also absorb moisture after baking, helping to ensure that they stay chewy. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes contain both brown and white sugars for flavor and a middle-of-the-road outcome.

Thin and Crisp:  A tablespoon or two of water  or milk added to the cookie dough will help your cookies spread into flatter and crisper rounds.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

This original recipe came from OceanSpray, the makers of the dried cranberries. My version makes about 42 large (#20 scoop, slightly mounded) cookies. You could of course make smaller cookies for a larger yield count.  

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups old-fashioned oats
3 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces Craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)
4 ounces white chocolate, chunked
11-12 ounces white chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth and mix in sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks and chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons or use a #20 cookie scoop onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicon pads. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for five minutes and transfer to wire rack until cooled completely.



Saturday, December 3, 2016

Caramel Apple Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

Great year around, but particularly in the fall and winter, this Bundt cake is moist and delicious. It is very popular every time I make it, and it is simple to prepare.

Caramel Apple Bundt Cake
I got the original recipe from a fellow blogger, but since then have made several slight modifications to make it more reliable. Over time I had trouble with the original recipe with regard to the cream cheese filling, so this version takes care of that problem.

The cut cake.
Perhaps the best thing about this cake is that you should make it 1-3 days in advance, as it tastes better after it sits refrigerated. You can make the caramel sauce below, or use store bought. Both will be good.

Ingredients

Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Ready for Serving
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 medium apples, green and red mixed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 1/4 cups vegetable or canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs

Cream Cheese Layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg

Glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla

Caramel Sauce: (or store bought)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half or whipping cream
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla

Instructions
Generously grease (or spray with food release) and then flour a large (12 cup) Bundt pan. (This is the classic size pan). Set aside. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. Peel, core and dice 3-4 apples. Toss the apples with the tablespoon of lemon juice to keep from browning. Add the dark brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and toss to combine. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, blend the oil, sugar, and vanilla until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. The batter will be thick. Drain any excess liquid from the apples (if any) and gently stir the apple mixture into the batter. Pour 2/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Reserve the remaining batter.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese just until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla and egg and beat on medium speed until creamy and smooth.

Using a spoon or butter knife, make a trench in the center of the cake batter (going around in the circular shape of the Bundt pan) about 1-inch deep (just scoop the excess batter to either side if possible. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the trench, working quickly before the batter smooths out. If necessary, have someone make the trench slowly as you follow along and add the cream cheese mixture. Try and keep the cream cheese mixture in a ring in the center of the cake so it has cake batter on either side around the circle. Once the cream cheese mixture is in place, pour the reserved apple cake batter on top of it.

Bake the cake for 60 minutes or until a long pick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Remove from the oven to a cooking rack.

While the cake is cooling in the pan, mix the ingredients for the glaze in a small pan over medium high heat. Allow the ingredients to come to a boil and boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Using a long pick, poke holes throughout the Bundt cake.  Pour the glaze over the cake while the cake is still in the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan before removing.

Turn the cake out onto a serving plate and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serve chilled or at room temperature, drizzling caramel sauce over each piece.

Home made caramel sauce:  For the caramel sauce, mix the butter, brown sugar, half-and-half or cream, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thickened slightly. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a glass jar or container. Refrigerate until cold (or use slightly warm but not hot). If the caramel sauce has cooled in the fridge long enough to harden, warm slightly before drizzling on each serving of the cake.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork Shoulder

This Cuban-style favorite is juicy and succulent with garlic and citrus flavors.

Julian's Cuban Mojo Roasted Pork
Over the years I've made and shared with you many recipes for pork shoulder, which is such a flavorful cut of meat when properly prepared. The trouble is, many don't cook it properly and it sometimes has the reputation of being a cheap, tough cut of pork. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Pulled Pork Shoulder
The key is cooking it slowly over a low heat (6-8 hours) so that the connective tissues have the chance to break down and let the meat become pull-apart tender. While the salt in the mojo marinade does provide a basic brine technique, well known to keep meat juicy, nothing is more important than a slow roast. Forget any recipe that states cooking to a specific temperature when talking about a pork shoulder. You can use a traditional oven or slow cooker (Crockpot) for this recipe.

Whole Pork Shoulder Roast, Resting before Shredding
What is mojo?
The basic marinade for a Cuban-style pork roast is called mojo.  It is a a sauce made with the juice of sour oranges, garlic, oregano, cumin, and olive oil. There are many versions of this marinade and you can be loose with your selection of ingredients. What's nearly impossible to find here in the USA are the sour oranges called for in the traditional recipes. So we substitute by mixing juice from regular Florida juice oranges with fresh squeezed lime juice. I chop and mix my ingredients in the food processor to save time, but you certainly can do this with a knife.

Mojo marinated pork shoulder, ready for oven roasting.
I like to serve the pulled pork with steamed white rice and shredded salad on plate. Reserve a little of the mojo to garnish each serving.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 fresh juice orange
1 fresh lime
1 bunch cilantro leaves
1 small bunch mint leaves
8 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons course salt and 5-6 fresh grinds of black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 pounds, bone-in pork shoulder

Instructions

Make the mojo: Zest and juice the orange. Juice the lime. Add the orange and lime juice, cilantro leaves, mint leaves, garlic cloves, oregano and cumin to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until everything is finely chopped (or do this by hand with a knife). Add the orange zest, salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir to combine.

Place the pork shoulder in a zip lock bag or a covered dish. Reserve 1/4 cup of the mojo to an airtight container and refrigerate. Add the remaining mojo to the pork shoulder and turn to coat completely. Place the mojo coated shoulder into the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Turn at least once during refrigeration to ensure even coating.

Roast the pork (oven):  Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Remove the marinated pork shoulder from the refrigerator and transfer the meat to a roasting pan still coated in its mojo. Let sit at room temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Use of a roasting rack is optional. Discard the marinade that remains in the bag/container. Roast the pork for 30 minutes at 400F uncovered. It should be lightly browned. Add a cup or two of water to the pan. Reduce oven temperature to 250F degrees and cover the roast with a lid or foil. Cook for another 6-8 hours or until fork tender. Check the roast ever hour while cooking and baste with drippings while you have it open. Add additional water to the roasting pan if needed to stop drippings from burning. Generally this is only necessary at the beginning of the roasting, as the meat will produce significant amount of drippings when covered during cooking.

Roast the pork (slow cooker): If using a slow cooker (Crockpot) follow the same directions above, but place in the slow cooker instead of the oven, fat side down. Cook the first 30 minutes on high uncovered, turning over after 15 minutes. The turn the slow cooker to low, cover and cook for 6-8 hours until fork tender.

Prepare to serve:  Transfer the cooked pork to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest 20-30 minutes. Wait 10 minutes for the pan drippings to cool and add two tablespoons of the drippings to the reserved mojo and stir to combine. Shred the pork roast and toss lightly in some of the pan drippings. Serve reserved mojo over the pulled pieces of pork with a side of white rice.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe or Pasta with Crushed Black Pepper and Pecorino Cheese

It's been called an adult version of Mac and Cheese, although I never think of it that way. I suppose if you added more cheese than I do, it might taste similar. But I'm making the classic and now once again quite popular restaurant dish favored throughout Italy. So we have more of an emphasis on the black pepper taste than a gooey cheesy meal.

Julian's Creamy Cacio e Pepe
Cacio is the local Roman dialect word for Pecorino Romano, a sheep’s-milk cheese made in the region since ancient times. The word pepe means pepper. Cacio e pepe is a relative newcomer to the Roman repertoire, first appearing in the mid-twentieth century. The pasta is tossed with a sauce of Pecorino cheese and black pepper that is bound by starchy pasta cooking water. To improve moisture on the plate, I add a little olive oil.

Finely grated Pecorino cheese and very hot water are essential to a smooth sauce, while fresh, coarsely ground black pepper gives flavor and texture. The most important component of a flawless cacio e pepe, however, is speed. If the water cools before melting the cheese, the sauce will clump. I find having a helper is best when making this dish. One person tosses the hot pasta while the tosses in the cheese, pepper, pasta water and olive oil.

Julian grating cheese in Italy.
Ingredients (serves 4)
Salt for the pasta water
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns,
     or more to your taste
1 pound pasta noodles of your choice
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Olive oil, 3 tablespoons


Instructions
Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, grind the peppercorns very coarsely. Note that the measurement of peppercorns is done BEFORE grinding.

Cook the pasta until al dente (just a bit chewy). Scoop out and reserve 2 cups of the starchy hot pasta water. Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pot it cooked in. Work quickly.

Immediately scatter most of the grated cheese and most of the ground pepper on the pasta, and toss together quickly. As you mix, add a little of the reserved hot water to moisten and amalgamate the pasta with the cheese. Add more water as necessary to create a creamy sauce. Toss with a little olive oil to lubricate further, as the pasta will continue to absorb the water and it may become too dry as it cools without the oil. Sprinkle the top of the pasta with the remaining cheese and pepper. Serve while the pasta is hot.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Julian's Thanksgiving Buffet

Most families in America gather together for Thanksgiving and this usually means feeding a crowd. As such, the buffet is usually the way to go as you may have people dining at multiple tables.

Julian's Thanksgiving Dining Room Table
Further the large number of dishes prepared often makes it impracticable to try and and place them on the dining tables themselves.  So we lay out the dishes on a buffet and let everyone take what they like best. Most will make several trips to enjoy this full holiday feast.

Buffet
This year on the buffet I have a cranberry jello salad, chestnut stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn bread, ham and of course, a roasted turkey. 


As I'm having ten guests for dinner, I've set an additional table in the kitchen that coordinates with the dining room, so no one feels left out. In year's past I've also added a separate table in the kitchen area that seats another six persons. Thankfully, I have a large set of Lenox Eternal cream colored china that can be used on any occasion. With this basic set of china table service, you can simply change up the table linen and center pieces to match any occasion. 

Carved Roasted Turkey
Of course, the turkey is the center of everyone's holiday feast. Most people only eat turkey this one time per year. If you're having a big crowd you might consider making more than one or roasting an additional breast, as white meat seems to be the favorite. I always brine then roast my turkey and you can follow the link to my pictorial step-by-step instructions to ensure the very best, juiciest roasted turkey you will ever serve.

Baked Ham
To add some variety, this year I also prepared a ham. Just remember that most ham comes pre-cooked and ready to eat and only requires the most gentle warming before serving. For info on ham preparation, check my blog post here.

Julian's Green Bean Casserole
  
Julian's Chestnut Dressing with Sausage
Of course, the classic green bean casserole and chestnut stuffing are pretty standard dishes and if you don't prepare them expect people to ask. So I always make them for the holidays. The dressing is more time consuming but can be prepared a day in advance and baked on Thanksgiving. My detailed recipe instructions are available to assist you.

Julian's Dessert Buffet
After everyone's had the chance to rest a bit, it's time for the dessert selections. This year I've made a couple pies (pumpkin and pecan) and some chocolate mousse cups. A friend brought the lovely pineapple upside down cake. With some coffee, these will hit the spot. We may need a nap afterwards!

Julian's Thanksgiving Chocolate Mousse Cups
My our homes to yours, best wishes for a joyous Thanksgiving feast!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Pan Fried Chicken with Rice

My mother frequently prepared pan-fried chicken, which was not a deep fried crispy chicken like you might get at KFC. Rather, this is chicken that has been dipped in seasoned flour and shallow pan fried in a combination of oil and butter, then baked.

Julian's Pan Fried Chicken with Rice
The purpose of the pan fry is to provide a browned crust and not to cook the chicken through, as this occurs in the oven along with the rice. The baking process helps to flavor the rice as the chicken finishes cooking and gives off its juices.


Julian in the Kitchen in Italy
While any cuts of chicken can be prepared this way, it's ideal to use bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken. To ensure even cooking, I usually just purchase legs, wings and sometimes thighs for this recipe. If you prefer, you can fold the tips of the wings under for a neater V-shaped appearance.

I'm using two kinds of rice as that's all the store had.
For the rice, you can use any rice you prefer. I like to use a yellow rice mix. You cook the rice until nearly done before adding with the chicken for the final oven bake.

Pan frying the chicken.
Ingredients
Cut up chicken pieces, bone-in, skin-on
   6-8 legs and 6-8 wings
2 cups flour
Italian dry seasoning to taste (or
     dried chopped basil, oregano, garlic, onion, paprika)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
Prepared cooked rice

Instructions
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Mix the flour and seasonings in a bowl or pie plate. Use more seasonings than you might think is necessary to ensure full flavor. I usually use a teaspoon each of basil, oregano, garlic, onion powder and 2 teaspoons paprika. Add salt and pepper.

Place the rice in a pot to cook according to the package directions. Heat half the oil and butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Preheat your oven to 325F degrees.

Roll the chicken pieces in the flour, one at a time until you have coated just enough to fill your frying pan. Do not coat any pieces that won't fit into the first batch of frying. Brown the chicken on all sides and then remove to a plate. Prepare the second batch the same way and continue until all chicken is fried.

Place the cooked rice in a large shallow baking dish (here I'm using a 9 x 12 inch glass dish). Place the browned chicken pieces on top and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the largest pieces are cooked through and tender. Serve with green vegetable.

Fresh from the oven and ready to serve.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Grilled Garlic Pork Chops - Italian Style Favorite

These chops are flavorful and easy to prepare. Marinate them in advance for a quick and simple dinner, full of Italian flavors.  If weather permits, prepare these outside on the grill. They will have better flavor. If not, you can cook them in them in the oven. As always, use bone-in chops for better flavor and juiciness.

Julian's Grilled Garlic Pork Chops
In the photos shown here, I'm using a charcoal grill at a Villa Perla del Lago which we rented on Lake Como In Italy. The villa was stunning and the chops turned out great. If you'd like to visit Lake Como I'd highly recommend this villa.

Julian's Italian Grilled Pork Chops
Ingredients
1/3 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 lemon, juiced

salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 thin to medium cut, bone in pork chops
1 tablespoon white granulate sugar

Instructions
Mix together the olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and and fresh lemon juice. Add the pork chops and marinate refrigerated approximately 4-8 hours. Preheat the grill or an oven to 400F degrees. Shake off excess liquid and sprinkle lightly with sugar on both sides. Place over the hot grill or on a cooking rack over a baking sheet in a the oven. On the grill, turn after about 4 minutes and continue cooking on the other side. Continue cooking until the chops are cooked through. Total cooking time about 12 minutes, depending on thickness of chops. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Swedish Meatballs over Buttered Noodles

The national dish of Sweden, and re-popularized by retailer Ikea, these little meatballs in a creamy sauce are popular on buffets and served as a main dish.

Julian's Swedish Meatballs over Buttered Noodles
If you haven't had them before, these are very different from Italian meatballs which are larger and spicier. When I was a child in the 1950-60's every American housewife showcased these at their holiday party buffet. Since then they had gone out of fashion, and you rarely saw them at parties or served at dinner. However with the introduction of Ikea into the United States, that has now changed.

Ikea estimates that it sells 150 million Swedish meatballs every year. The dish was the brainchild of Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, who worried that customers would get hungry while browsing his massive stores. His team came up with a menu for a food department. It had to be cheap and it had to be Swedish. Meatballs were the answer.

In Sweden, the meatballs are made with ground beef or a mix of ground beef, pork and sometimes veal, including bread crumbs sometimes soaked in milk, finely chopped fried onions and all spice. A sauce made of broth, pan drippings and sour cream is common. The small (1 inch round) Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with sauce, boiled potatoes or noodles, a condiment of lingonberry jam, and sometimes fresh pickled cucumber.

Below I give you my rendition, which I'm serving as a main course over buttered egg noodles. You can just as easily use them on a holiday buffet without the noodles. In my recipe below I include mushrooms and make the sauce with some white wine. Neither are traditional and you can omit these if you prefer. Both enhance the flavor. This is not a quick dish to prepare, as it usually takes me nearly two hours. You can however, prepare them a day in advance and reheat at serving time. My photos in this recipe show a larger batch. The below ingredients should make about 24 meatballs.

Forming the meatballs.
Ingredients

For the Meatballs
2-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Browning on all sides.
For the Sauce
8 ounces slices white button mushrooms (optional)
1/3 cup white wine (optional, substitute chicken broth)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth
3/4 cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Egg noodles (1 pound)
4 tablespoons butter

Fresh chopped parsley leaves to garnish

Instructions

Meatballs:  Heat half the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent. About 3-4 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, ground pork, bread crumbs, egg yolks, allspice, nutmeg and cooked onion. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Mix until well combined, using your hands or a large spoon. Use a small scoop to gather the meat mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. The finished meatball should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet or Dutch oven and brown meatballs on all sides. This is done in batches so as not to overcrowd the skillet and allow for proper browning. Each batch will take about 5 minutes to brown on all sides. Transfer cooked meatballs to a bowl or platter. They need not be cooked completely through as they will cook again in the sauce.

Sauce: If using the mushrooms, add them to the skillet/Dutch oven and cook stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes until they begin to tenderize. Deglaze the pan with white wine or chicken stock, scraping up any brown bits and mixing with the optional mushrooms. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the butter to the skillet and stir until melted. Stir in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in beef broth and cook, stirring constantly until the sauce is lightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in sour cream, taste and season as needed with additional salt and pepper.

Combine the meatballs with the sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through and thickened, about 10 minutes over medium heat. If you desire a thicker sauce, make a slurry of a small amount of flour and water and stir in a little at a time until the desired thickness is reached.

While the meatballs cook in the sauce, boil the egg noodles. When tender, drain and toss with butter. Place noodles in serving dishes and top with the meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Cooking in the sour cream sauce.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Crispy Buffalo Shrimp - A Game Day Favorite

This recipe for crispy buffalo shrimp is my version of a dish they make at Hooters. They don't share their recipe, but I think this is pretty close. It's great for game day when you are serving a variety of hot and cold appetizers while watching the game.

Julian's Crispy Buffalo Shrimp
In the recipe below I suggest you toss the cooked shrimp into the buffalo sauce. If you want everyone to have clean fingers, hand dip each piece holding the shrimp by the tail. Then you'll have clean little 'handles' on the shrimp to keep everyone's fingers tidy.

These are deep fried shrimp, but you don't have to have a deep fryer to make these. I use my deep skillet, called a 'chicken fryer', but really any heavy bottomed pot or skillet will do. Just keep in mind, the larger the pot/pan, the more oil you will consume. You want the oil to be about 1 to 1.5 inches deep and you don't want the shrimp to crowd or they will stick together. This is why I prefer a wide deep skillet for the job.

Oil heated to 350F degrees.
Regarding the type of hot sauce to use in this recipe, I prefer Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce. You can substitute Tabasco or any other favorite brand of hot sauce.

Ingredients

20 Shrimp, large, peeled, deveined, tails on
Canola oil (see note above)
Dried parsley to garnish
Ready to go!

Wet Coating
1 Egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
2 Teaspoons Creole or Cajun seasoning
2 Teaspoons garlic powder
2 Teaspoons onion powder
5-6 grinds of black pepper

Dry Batter
1 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup flour
3 Teaspoons Creole or Canjun seasoning
4-5 Grinds of fresh black pepper

Sauce
1/4 Pound (1 stick) butter
1 Cup hot sauce (see note above)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions
Rinse, peel, and devein shrimp. Leave tail intact for use as a handle when eating. Let drain then place in a mixing bowl.

Prepare the wet coating: Using a fork, mix egg with mustard in a small bowl. Stir in the seasoning, garlic and onion powder and black pepper. Place shrimp in a large bowl and toss with the egg/mustard mixture and set aside.

Prepare the dry batter: Mix the cornmeal, flour, seasoning and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

Begin to heat the the oil in a large skillet, pot or fryer to 350 degrees over medium-high heat. Use a thermometer to monitor temperature. Do not overheat the oil.

While the oil preheats, prepare the sauce. Place butter, hot sauce, lemon juice and garlic powder in a saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until butter is melted and you are ready to coat the shrimp. Stir occasionally.

Form an assembly line, with the hot oil at the end, the bowl of dry batter closest to the oil, followed by the wet-coated shrimp

When the oil reaches 350F degrees, toss 1/3 of the shrimp in the corn flour and coat well. Place into hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Use a slotted or screened spoon to gently move the shrimp apart in the oil. When the shrimp are golden, approximately 3-4 minutes, remove to paper-towel lined plate. Repeat until all shrimp are cooked.

Toss or hand dip the shrimp in warm buffalo sauce. Sprinkle with dried parsley and serve.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Apple Maple Glazed Pork Chops

A great autumn recipe that is easy to prepare and with a flavorful, juicy result. If the weather is good, by all means grill the chops. If not, you can also cook them in the oven.

Grilled Apple Maple Chops with Balsamic Carrots and Peas
I marinate these chops with the rub for 2-4 hours, the longer time being for thicker pork chops. If you are pressed for time, you can skip the marination and just apply the rub a few minutes before you begin grilling.

I make two versions of these and give you both options below. They simply change up the spices used, and both are equally good. There is a small bit of heat in the seasoning, which pairs nicely with the sweet apple cider and maple syrup. It is by no means 'spicy' or 'hot'. If you want it that way, increase those spices.

I use hot chili oil (above) in this recipe, which is available wherever Chinese cooking spices are sold. If you can't find it, substitute regular olive oil combined with 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.

Ingredients
2 Bone-in pork chops
1 Sweet apple, halved and cored

Rub
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon chili powder
     or spicy curry powder or omit
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Teaspoon salt
3-4 grinds of fresh black pepper
1 Tablespoon hot chili oil
    or olive oil with or without crushed red pepper flakes
Rub


Glaze
1/2 cup apple cider or natural juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespooon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of salt

Instructions

2-4 Hours in Advance of Dinner

In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with a fork crushing any chunks of brown sugar. Add the chili oil to the spice mixture. It will make a crumbly paste. Dry the pork chops with paper towels, and then rub the spice mixture onto both sides. Place on a plate and cover so they are air tight with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

1 Hour in Advance of Dinner
In a small saucepan, prepare the glaze by combining the apple cider, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Bring to a low boil uncovered. Reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally. Let the sauce reduce by about half to intensify the flavors (about 30 minutes).

30 Minutes in Advance of Dinner
Heat your grill to medium high heat (or preheat your oven to 400F degrees). Remove the chops from the refrigerator and put the spice covered pork chops on the hot grill (or in a dish in your oven). Brush with the cider glaze. Grill/bake for about 6 minutes. Turn the chops and brush with the glaze on the other side. Grill for about 2 more minutes, flip and brush again. Repeat this process until the pork chops are done and have an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees.

If you're also grilling the apple, brush the halved apple with glaze and grill for about 5-6 minutes cut side down on the grill.