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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake

Party-Cake collage

When I first made Dorie's fabulous Perfect Party Cake a little over a year ago for a Daring Bakers challenge, I remember commenting that I wished I'd had an actual party to bring it to. Well, it took a while, but I finally got that wish. Last month was my twin nephews' 7th birthday, and when I saw that the Perfect Party Cake was in the TWD queue, I volunteered to make it for the twins' party.

The Perfect Party Cake starts with layers of lovely moist and light white cake, which are filled with raspberry jam and enveloped in clouds of fluffy white Swiss buttercream. Then, sweet, tender flaked coconut is pressed all around the perimeter of the cake. The result is a beautiful mountain of snowy cake perfection.

party-cake-slice

Because I had already made this recipe as written once before, I wanted to do it a little differently this time. Also, since I was making the cake for two little boys, I wanted to make it a little more kid-friendly. For the filling, instead of the raspberry jam, I used strawberry jam and fresh, sliced strawberries with a thin layer of lemon curd on top. I nixed the coconut altogether, because the boys don't care for it.

Probably the last term I would ever use to describe myself is "cake decorator". I'm pretty hopeless in that department! Anime characters and Transformers were just not happening. But still, I wanted the twins' cake to look fun and whimsical. I tried to achieve that by decorating the cake with multi-colored polka dots that I made with a fondant cutter out of candy melts. I also found some really pretty candy melts that were white with multi-colored sparkles in them. I melted those down and let them harden into one big block. Then, I used a vegetable peeler to make big candy curls, which I piled on top of the cake. It was perfect because the flecks in the candy curls matched all of the different colors of the polka dots.

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There were lots of "oohs" and "aahs" heard around the party table as the cake made its entrance. The adults all seemed suitably impressed. From the looks of those big smiles on those happy little faces, I think the kids liked it too!

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Many thanks to Carol of Mix, Mix...Stir, Stir for choosing our recipe for this week. If you'd like to make your own Perfect Party Cake, you can find the recipe on Carol's site. And, as always, check out the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll to see what the rest of the group come up with.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Present Well-Baked Bakewell Tarts...er...Pudding

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The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

What exactly is a Bakewell Tart (or Pudding, if you prefer)? Based on my research, it's a pastry consisting of a shortcrust pastry shell, spread with jam and covered with a sponge-like filling enriched with ground almonds, known as frangipane. It may also be covered with chopped or sliced nuts, such as almonds.

According to Wikipedia, "The origins of the Bakewell Tart are not clear, however the generally accepted story is that it was first made by accident in 1820 when the landlady of the White Horse Inn, left instructions for her cook to make a jam tart. The cook, instead of stirring the eggs and almond paste mixture into the pastry, spread it on top of the jam. When cooked the jam rose through the paste. The result was successful enough for it to become a popular dish at the inn. The name is believed to have come from a customer who decided that the tart was "baked well" thus the inn called it their "Bakewell" tart."

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Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart...er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is a pudding, where a layer of jam is covered by an almond pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is an actual tart, which the DBers are presenting today, where a rich shortbread-like pastry is filled with jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.

The core of this challenge was to make the actual Bakewell Tart. An optional component was to make your own jam filling from scratch. I decided to forgo the jam making process because I already had a jar of lovely Cherry Amaretto preserves that I brought back from Seattle. I love the flavor combination of cherry and almond, and I couldn't think of a more perfect filling for my frangipane-topped tart! I was right. My cherry preserves with just a kiss of almond flavor were a perfect match for the buttery shortbread crust and fluffy almondy frangipane. It was a really lovely dessert that was enjoyed by all who tasted it- including me!

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I also brought back a bag of toasted hazelnut flour from Seattle that I'd been dying to use. So, I also made a batch of tartlets using that in place of the almond meal called for in the recipe. To make my shortcrust, I decreased the AP flour by 1/4 cup and added the same amount of the hazelnut meal. I also used some vanilla bean paste instead of almond extract. The crust had a slightly rougher, more rustic texture than the almond version, but it was really nice. I used the hazelnut meal to make the frangipane topping with the same result. A little rustic, but delicious nonetheless! The tartlets were filled with Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread, instead of jam, and topped with toasted, chopped hazelnuts. OMG! You haven't lived until you've had a gooey, chocolatey Nutella-filled Bakewell tartlet! Absolutely divine!

bakewell-nutella-collage

I thought that this challenge was a perfect one for any time of year. The Bakewell Tart is a deliciously rich and nutty confection that can be served warm or cooled. Yet, despite its substantial nature, it can be prepared with a minimum of time and fuss in the kitchen. It can also be adapted to use whatever seasonal fruits are available in your area. It also keeps well. I put half in the freezer, and several days later it tasted just as scrumptious as the day I made it.

If you'd like to see how the rest of the Daring Bakers fared with this challenge, visit the Daring Kitchen web site.

bakewell-tart-4

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart:

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking. The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter.

Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It's a pretty popular popular cake, so you
shouldn't have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.

• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.

• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.

Annemarie’s notes:
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

**********************

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Jasmine’s notes:
• I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract.

*********************

Frangipane

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well.

The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Annemarie’s notes:
• Add another five minutes or more if you're grinding your own almonds or if you're mixing by hand (Heaven help you).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Crabby Corn Chowder

crabby-corn-chowder-2

The other day I told you about the miserably oppressive heat we've been having here in South Florida. What I didn't tell you was how sluggish, listless and grumpy I've been feeling as a result. At least, that's what my family tells me. I don't usually pay much attention when Mini SGCC tells me I'm being a big meanie. She's a teenager, so what can I say? It's part of her job description. When Mr. SGCC gets into the act, then I know there must be something to it.

Now, I know it's probably hard for you to believe that I'm not always the cheery, perky, charming and loveable blogger that I portray on the Internet, but dear readers, it's true. Little Mary Sunshine, I am not. Sometimes, I am downright crabby! Crabby, crabby, CRABBY! And, running around in 95 degree heat all day long makes me even crabbier. I swear, I can actually feel pinchers growing where my fingers used to be!

crabby-corn-chowder-3

Since I'm looking at another several months of this extreme weather, not to mention hurricane season, I've decided to embrace my crabbiness. Celebrate it, if you will. And, what better way to do it than with this deliciously creamy, smoky, sweet and spicy Crabby Corn Chowder. It's chock full of chunky potatoes, smoky chipotles, onions, fresh sweet corn and succulent morsels of crabmeat, all swimming around in a creamy and buttery seafood broth. It's like heaven in a bowl! Plus, the whole dish can be made in one pot in under an hour.

You can serve this chowder as a first course, but it's substantial enough to make it a meal. Serve it alongside some crusty bread and a tossed salad and you're all set.

crabby-corn-chowder-1

My Crabby Corn Chowder didn't make the temperature any less sweltering, but it definitely improved my mood!

Crabby Corn Chowder
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 cup chili peppers in adobo sauce, pureed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3-5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups clam juice or fish stock
4 cups half-and-half or whole milk
4 cups fresh corn kernels, scraped from the cob (frozen is okay too)
1 pound fresh lump crab meat
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)
Hot sauce for serving (optional)

Directions:

Heat a deep pot over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter is melted, add potatoes, celery, onion, bay leaves and chipotle peppers to the pot. Season vegetables with salt and pepper, mix well and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle in flour and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in clam juice and half and half and mix well.

Bring soup up to a simmer and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.

Stir in corn, crab and sherry and simmer for another 5 minutes, until heated through.

Adjust the soup seasonings and remove the bay leaf. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired.

Serve with some crackers, crusty bread or cornbread.

Serves 6 as a first course and 4 as a main course.

Enjoy!

Seen around the Blogs

Roasted Corn Chowder with Chicken and Cilantro from Karina's Kitchen

Clam and Pork Belly Soup from Wrightfood

Creamy Corn and Clam Soup from Home Cooking Rocks

Corn, Sausage and Potato Chowder from Sing For Your Supper

Thai Green Curry Seafood Chowder from The Spiced Life

Corn Chowder from Simply Recipes

Friday, June 19, 2009

Baby, It's HOT Outside! (and Contest Reminder)

ssundrinking

It's been another scorcher today in the Sunshine State! By 9:00 this morning the temperature had already shot up to 85 degrees F., and was steadily climbing. For weeks now, we've been experiencing hot, blistering days and nights in the 90's. People, let me tell you, that is HOT! Not even the short, sporadic bursts of rain we've had have managed to cool things off.

Now, I know that many of you are reading this while snow is still melting and thunderstorms have been pummeling down all around you, thinking "What is she b*tching about?". But, let me tell you, this incessant heat is no day at the beach! It's oppressive! While the the sun is shining in a pristine blue sky, and flowers are blooming in a profusion of bright, beautiful colors, it's too darn hot to spend much time outside to enjoy it. Honestly, I don't know how people ever survived here before air conditioning!

The last thing I feel like doing in weather like this is cooking. So, unless I have to, I don't. We still have to eat, so I rely a lot on take-out, outdoor grilling and quick, easy dishes that require very little or no cooking. This was one of those weeks, where I was able to just coast.

I do believe, however, that you can still be creative in the kitchen even if you don't turn on the oven. Just to prove it to you, I've dug out some of my favorite summertime recipes from the SGCC archives. Each one is satisfying and delicious, and guaranteed to help you beat the heat. I hope you enjoy them!

gazpacho2 This simple chilled Gazpacho is a Spanish-style soup that sort of resembles a chunky, liquid salad. It has lots of fresh, raw vegetables suspended in a broth of tomato juice. It's full of zesty and refreshing flavors, and is one of my favorite warm weather meals. I like to jazz it up a little with some diced jalapeno, fresh lime juice and a dash of Tabasco. I often top it with a little creme fraiche and a few boiled shrimp.




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strawberrysoup4 Another lovely summertime soup is this Sumptuous Strawberry Soup. I've served this soup both as a brunch dish and a dessert. Ripe, fresh strawberries are blended with yogurt, sour cream, lime juice and honey. The result is a cross between a rich mousse and a smoothie.


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edamame-tomato-salad2 This Edamame & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Lemon-Miso Vinaigrette is light and vibrant dish made with heirloom tomatoes tossed in a light lemon-miso vinaigrette, along with steamed edamame, scallions and a chiffonade of shiso leaves. Of course, you can add any mix of vegetables and herbs you like to this salad. Throw in some pre-boiled shrimp from the market, and you have a complete meal.

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pacificrimburger2 My Kitchen Sink Asian Slaw is another great summer salad. All you need to start is some pre-packaged cole slaw mix from the produce aisle of the supermarket and build on that. I toss in some scallions, diced mango and pineapple, thinly sliced kumquats and some garlic. Then, I dress it with a bottled ginger dressing, also from the supermarket, squeeze in a little lime juice and squirt in a generous blob of Sriracha sauce. The result is a fabulously sweet and spicy slaw that will knock your socks off!

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mysterypasta4 This Chicken Pasta Alfresco came to be one night as I was rushing to make dinner and accidentally dumped my cooked pasta into my Caprese salad instead of my chicken and mushroom pasta sauce. After that, the only thing left to do was mix the chicken in too! I did and it was fabulous! If you're militant about not turning on your stove, you can eliminate the chicken and serve this pasta with just the salad. Or, you can add some shrimp or rotisserie chicken from the market. It's all good!

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rachelsandwich2 The Rachel sandwich is a variation of the ever-popular Ruben. It's filled with lean pastrami, cheese and either coleslaw or sauerkraut. And, it can be cooked either on your barbecue grill or with a small tabletop electric grill, like the Griddler.


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arugulasandwich1 I've never given this big, fat Italian-style sandwich a name of its own, but I make it all the time. I layer slices of various cured meats, like prosciutto, capicola ham and sopressata Calabrese (which is like a spicy salami) on one side of a ciabatta loaf. On the other side, I spread a generous layer of crisp, peppery arugula, thick, ripe, juicy slabs of heirloom tomatoes and slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella. Then I drizzle a little balsamic vinaigrette on top, close up the sandwich and voila - dinner!

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pacificrimburger1 These Pacific Rim Burgers with Ginger Mayonnaise are hands down my favorite burger ever. They are made with ground chicken and some spicy good stuff. They are glazed with a honey-teriyaki mixture and either grilled or seared in a pan. Then, the burgers are smothered with an utterly magical ginger-based mayo, topped with crunchy, fresh cucumbers and served on toasted sesame seed buns. These burgers are so moist, flavorful and delicious that you will forget you're eating ground chicken. Honest! I swear! You'll never miss the beef!

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chipotlevealchops4 A visit to Whole Foods is usually a dangerous proposition for me. I almost always go armed with a specific list of items to buy, and I never stick to it. I can't help myself! The day I bought these veal chops was no exception. As the name implies, the first time I made these Pan Roasted Veal Chops with Chipotle-Lime Butter, I seared them in a cast iron skillet. Since then, I've made them out on the grill and they're just as succulent and juicy that way.


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So, there you have it - a small arsenal of tired and true, simple and tasty recipes you can serve to family and friends without breaking a sweat!

Enjoy!

I just want to add in a reminder that my Razor Clams recipe contest ends at midnight EDT tonight. If you haven't submitted your recipe ideas yet, get moving! You can find the details here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD & Flavor of the Month: Two for the Price of One

peach-icecream-6

Since this week's TWD assignment was an ice cream recipe AND happened to fall at the same time as this month's Flavor of the Month installment, I decided to combine them and give you two for the price of one. Oh, who am I kidding! I did it to save myself the time and trouble of writing a separate post for each. It's Summertime, people! Who wants to be chained to the kitchen when the sun is shining brightly in a sky that's bluer than blue? Besides, there just wasn't room or one more quart of ice cream in my freezer. So, today you're getting a SGCC 2-for-1 special. And, it is pretty special. Today, we're all about Dorie's Honey Peach Ice Cream selected by Tommi from Brown Interior.

Living in Florida, it can be hard to tell when Spring rolls into Summer without looking at the calendar. One sure sign for me is the arrival of stone fruits in the markets, especially peaches. Around this time of year, peaches are everywhere, from the farmer's markets to the grocery stores to the roadside stands that dot the sides of our streets. These ripe, juicy orbs of sweetness just beg to be dressed up as cobblers, compotes, crisps and of course, ice cream. I was only too happy to oblige!

peaches1

Dorie's recipe calls for fresh peaches to be cooked down in a honey bath. I decided to roast my peaches with a honey shower instead. I really love the extra sweetness and caramelization that roasting the fruit imparts. To roast the peaches, cut them in half and remove the pits. Place them face down on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with sugar or drizzle them with honey. Then, bake them for about 30 minutes in a 400 degree F. oven until soft and gooey. An added bonus is that the skins just peel right off.

peachicecream1

For this ice cream, I used a wild lavender honey that I happened to have on hand. I also decided not to add the peach chunks to my ice cream, because I really don't like icy chunks of anything in my ice cream. Another change I made was to add a couple of tablespoons of peach liqueur to my ice cream base. This not only adds extra flavor, but it also helps to prevent the ice cream from getting too hard in the freezer. Immediate scoopability is very important when it comes to ice cream. When you've got something like this scrumptious Honey Peach Ice Cream waiting in your freezer, who wants to wait for it to get soft? It's called instant gratification, baby!

peach-icecream-duo

I toyed with adding a raspberry swirl to this ice cream, but Mini SGCC nixed that idea! She said it would overpower the delicate honey-peach flavor. She was right. I did, however, use some of the ice cream to make some grown-up Honey Peach Ice Cream Floats. For this, I poured some champagne and peach liqueur into glasses and "floated" a scoop of the ice cream on top of each. They made a refreshing, summery, cocktail treat!

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If you'd like to make this creamy and delicious ice cream for yourself, you can find the recipe on Tommi's site. And, as always, you can check out the Tuesdays with Dorie site to see what the rest of the TWD gang did with this recipe.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Share a Winning Recipe for These...(And Win a Prize)

razorclams-1

RAZOR CLAMS!

I have three pounds of clean, shelled razor clams from Seattle sitting in my freezer and I'm itching to use them. The only problem is that I have no idea what to do with them! Though, I've seen and heard about razor clams on the blogs, I've never been up close and personal with them before, much less cooked with them. Also, as far as I know, I've never actually eaten razor clams either. So, I turn to you, dear readers, for help.

What should I make with my razor clams?

After a little research, I've discovered that Pacific razor clams (Siliqua patula), is a species of large edible marine bivalve mollusk in the family Cultellidae, found along the beaches of the Pacific West Coast from eastern Alaska down to California. They are considered highly desirable among clam aficionados, and are greedily collected by both commercial and recreational harvesters. Thousands of people flock to the beach when the razor clam season opens each year in hopes of scoring these marvelous mollusks!

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(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

I've read that razor clams are exceptionally meaty and can be prepared a variety of different ways, from deep fried to chowders to pasta. I just can't decide what to do! Who knows when I'll ever have the opportunity to find razor clams again. I want to make something absolutely fabulous with them!

Here's where you come in. Leave me your ideas and recipe suggestions for preparing my razor clams in the comments by midnight EDT on Friday, June 19. You can either type your recipe there, or leave me a link. My trusted sous chefs and I will evaluate each entry and choose our favorite based on originality, availability of ingredients and ease of preparation.

Sous Chefs

(Trusted Sous Chefs)

The winning entry will win one of these:

Cuisipro-Rasp

It's an accutec, razor-sharp, double-sided, acid-etched bladed Cuisipro Fine Rasp Grater. It is the perfect kitchen tool for grating citrus zest, Parmesan cheese, garlic, nutmeg and cinnamon. If you don't have one - you NEED one! If you do have one - it makes a great gift!

So, what are you waiting for?

GO FIND ME A GREAT RECIPE FOR THOSE RAZOR CLAMS!!!

Thank you very much!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sesame-Crusted Tuna with Homemade Ponzu Sauce

sesame-tuna-5

Mr. SGCC and I went to a fancy cocktail party several weeks ago. It was the kind of party where everybody spoke in hushed tones, hors d'oeuvres were passed on silver trays and champagne was poured into real crystal flutes. The kind of party where you feel obligated to squeeze your feet into high heels and risk killing, or at least maiming yourself.

Yawn!

The buffet table was just lovely though, laden with platters of impeccably displayed, mouthwatering morsels and mile-high vases of lush, fresh flowers. At one end of the tables, a guy wearing a crisp, starched, white jacket stood over a smoking hot wok. He was searing gorgeous slabs of tuna encrusted with black and white sesame seeds. and was doing an excellent job of it too. That tuna was perfectly cooked - golden and crunchy on the outside and cool and smooth on the inside. It literally melted in your mouth! I remember thinking at the time that I simply had to try to recreate this dish at home.

The next morning, I was sipping my coffee and scanning through my reader, when lo and behold, I saw a recipe on Steamy Kitchen for the exact. same. tuna. What luck! I've made no secret of the fact on this blog that I think Jaden's recipes are terrific. And, I'm lucky enough to live in the same city, so if I have any questions, I don't even have to call long distance. I bookmarked the recipe and hurried down to Whole Foods to find some beautiful, fresh, sushi-quality tuna steaks.

yellow tuna steak

Just look at these beauties!

I followed Jaden's recipe pretty much as written. She says to coat the tuna with a thin layer of wasabi paste before coating it with the black and white sesame seeds. I was a little leery of this, but I did it anyway. She promised it wouldn't kill me. Then, I seared it, sliced it and served it with some zingy, citrusy, homemade Ponzu Sauce.

ponzu-2

Ponzu Sauce is a citrus-based sauce that is commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is made by boiling mirin, rice vinegar, bonito flakes, and seaweed over medium heat. The liquid is cooled and then strained, after which citrus juice is added. In Japan, Ponzu is made with a citrus fruit called yuzu which can be difficult to find in here in the States. Fortunately, a very close facsimile can be made using other citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges, which is what I did here. My version also includes soy sauce, technically making it a Ponzu Shoyu. I also left out the seaweed, because I didn't have any and didn't feel like going to the store again.

You can buy bottled Ponzu Sauce in the ethnic foods aisle at most supermarkets, but don't. It is so incredibly easy to make yourself, and the flavor just doesn't compare with the bottled stuff!

sesame-tuna-3

I have to tell you, my Sesame-Crusted Tuna was just as good, if not better than the one I ate at that cocktail party. That tuna was like buttah! And the wasabi schmear that I rubbed all over it really did mellow out and give a nice, gentle bite to the tuna, just like Jaden said it would.

I'm going to send you over to Steamy Kitchen for the tuna recipe. She gives a detailed, step-by-step presentation there. But, definitely come back here for the Ponzu Sauze. It will really make your tastebuds sing!

Ponzu Sauce
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

¾ cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
½ cup rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup bonito flakes
1 tbsp fresh lime zest
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Directions:

Combine the mirin, vinegar, soy sauce, lime zest and bonito flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Remove from the heat and let cool.

Pour the sauce through a strainer into a bowl and discard the solids.

Mix in the citrus juices.

Can be stored in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Enjoy!

From the Archives

Misoyaki Salmon

Smoky Seared Sea Scallops

Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Pineapple-Apricot Dipping Sauce

Seen around the Blogs

Seared Tuna with Avocado from Simply Recipes

Seared Spiced Tuna with Zucchini from La Tartine Gourmande

Prosciutto Wrapped Grilled Tuna with Wasabi Butter from Chili Cheese Fries

Tuna Nicoise-ish from The Perfect Pantry

Tuna Poke from No Recipes

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Smoky Chipotle Sliders

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When I was a kid, as soon as the Winter melted into Spring each year, my family would take every opportunity possible to have a big, backyard, family barbecue. Dad's grill was lit from Memorial Day right on through Labor Day. Each holiday, birthday, graduation and anniversary was celebrated in style under our lilac and cherry trees. The folding chairs and card tables were dusted off and set up outside. The coolers were hauled out and filled to the brim with icy cold beer and soft drinks. Everybody brought some kind of "picnic-y" dish to share. Everyone except my Aunt Giuseppina, that is. She always brought a huge tray of eggplant parmigiana. But, that's a story for another day.

As the "women" draped brightly covered plastic tablecloths over everything and set up the buffet, the "men" got down to the business of grilling the meat. I don't know how it is in most families, but in Italian families, hot dogs and burgers alone just don't cut it. No, no, no! There also needs to be chicken, sausage, ribs and a few nice ribeyes thrown in for good measure. Italians are always terrified that there won't be enough food when guests are over. It isn't actually one of the Ten Commandments, but it might as well be. Thou shalt never run out of food at a party. What scumbari!

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I can remember looking at those huge mountains of meat and wondering how in the world anyone could eat all of that food! Of course, no one could. I'm half convinced that part of the reason for the food overkill was so that there would be enough leftovers for everyone to take home! Anyway, from an early age, my solution to this problem was to just take a few small bites of each thing. That way, I could try everything without exploding. The only problem with that rationale was that after taking bites off of various pieces of meat, those remaining pieces didn't look so appetizing for the next guy. But hey, it seemed logical to a six year-old!

We don't have many of those big backyard bashes anymore since my father passed away. Somehow, it just doesn't feel the same. But, a few weeks ago, over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to give it another try.

As I was shopping for hot dog and hamburger buns, I saw these packages of cute little slider buns in the bread aisle.

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That's when it hit me. Instead of making big old hamburgers, why not make tiny little sliders. That way, everyone could still have a burger (or two or three), and still be able to enjoy some of the other stuff as well. (Don't I just dazzle you with my brilliance, sometimes?) So, I bought some of those buns and went home to make Smoky Chipotle Sliders!

These Smoky Chipotle Sliders are made just like regular burgers, except that I add some pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to them. The peppers are dried and smoked red jalapenos and come canned in a sweet and spicy red sauce that typically contains tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt, and spices. They can be added to all kinds of different foods, and in these sliders they provide a distinctive warm heat and delicious smoky flavor.

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I made an easy peasy Smoky Chipotle Mayo to spread on top of them and served them on the toasted slider buns. I also cut slices of cheese into quarters and put one on each slider.

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These Smoky Chipotle Sliders were a huge hit with my guests, especially the four teenagers that were there. They were the perfect size for a barbecue buffet. And, the addition of the chipotles in adobo not only added tons of flavor, but also just enough extra moistness to keep those little guys nice and juicy. I hope you'll give them a try for your next barbecue bash. I think your guest will love them too!

Smoky Chipotle Sliders with Smoky Chipotle Mayo
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

1 lb ground chuck
1 lb ground sirloin
1 medium-sized sweet onion, grated
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, pureed with 2 tablespoons of sauce (depending on how spicy you
want it)
Salt and pepper to taste
Slider buns (Pepperidge Farm) or small potato rolls
Smoky Chipotle Mayo (recipe follows) and sliced American cheese, cut into quarters

Directions:

Mix first 6 ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into small patties about 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter. Using an ice cream or meatball scoop for this makes the perfect sized sliders.

Grill or fry until sliders reach your desired level of doneness.

Top with a piece of cheese and Smoky Chipotle Mayo and serve on toasted slider buns.

Smoky Chipotle Mayo

1 cup Mayonnaise
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with 1 tablespoon of sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and whiz until well blended.

Makes about 24 sliders.

From the Archives

Ribeye Steaks with a Spicy, Smoky, Cacao Nibs Rub

Bistec a lo Pobre

Churrasco with Chimichurri Sauce

Pacific Rim Burgers with Ginger Mayonnaise

Seen around the Blogs

Meatball Sliders from Smitten Kitchen

Slider Buns from Use Real Butter

Turkey Sausage Sliders with Tomato Basil Relish from Cooking by the Seat of My Pants

Honey Scallion Sliders from Not Eating Out in New York

Mini Lamb Sliders with Harissa Sauce from Ms. Glaze's Pommes d'Amour

Barbecued Spiced Lamb Sliders from More Than Burnt Toast

Carolina Pulled Pork Sliders from The Daily Loaf

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More Cheekiness - With Halibut

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About a year ago I told you all about my first experience with fish cheeks. Grouper cheeks, to be exact. I had been reading about fish cheeks on various other blogs and I was intrigued. When I happened to stumble upon some fresh grouper cheeks at a local fish market, I pounced! Those grouper cheeks turned into a delicious meal for my family and me and I couldn't have been happier. I couldn't believe that I'd never tried, or even known about fish cheeks before! Posting about them made me feel like I was part of the "in" crowd.

One thing that continued to nag at me though, was that I was never able to get my hands on the coveted halibut cheeks. Halibut cheeks are like the Rolls Royce of fish cheeks. They are sweet and flaky little morsels of fish that when cooked, take on a flavor and consistency similar to sea scallops, or dare I say it, lobster. And they just are not available in Florida - ever. Whenever I'd read a new post or find a new recipe for halibut cheeks, I'd feel a tiny little nudge in my gut, which was the realization that I'd probably never have an opportunity to get some of my own. Until Seattle, that is.......

Hmmm. Have I mentioned lately that I was recently in Seattle for the IFBC? Yes? Well,I won't bore you with all the details again, (although Part 3 of my Great Seattle Adventure is still in the works). I'll just skip to the part where I was standing at the Pike Place Fish Market and spied these little beauties.

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Do you know what these are?

They're HALIBUT CHEEKS!!! Gorgeous, plump, shiny, pristine and fresh halibut cheeks! Tons of them!

PAY DIRT!!!

I swear I got a little giddy just looking at that huge vat of cheeks. I think I may even have had to steady myself on the arm of this cute fish guy for a minute or two.

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Once I regained my composure, however, I ordered five pounds of those halibut cheeks to go. Pike Place Fish ships their fish anywhere you want it to go, so I had my cheeks sent to my home Florida, along with my king crab legs, Copper River salmon and other assorted seafood delights. The fish arrived at my house the morning after I did. I shared some of my bounty with my mother and brother (but not too much), and packed the rest into smaller packages for the freezer. We'll be eating lots of fabulous fish this Summer at Chez SGCC!

After careful consideration and research, I decided to prepare my fist batch of halibut cheeks as simply as possible. I really wanted to taste the fish instead of masking it under a lot of extra stuff. I took the advice of others who knew better and lightly dusted them (the cheeks, not the others), with some seasoned flour mixed with a little corn meal and toasted hazelnut flour. Then, I pan fried them in a little butter and olive oil. I made some of my Wicked Spicy Tartar Sauce to go along with them and served them on top of a nice little chopped salad for crunch and color.

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So, how were they, you ask?

UNFREAKINBELIEVABLY AWESOME!!!

They really, really were. Their flesh had the most lovely, flaky, delicate texture. It was sweet and buttery beyond compare. Mr. SGCC and I barely spoke a word throughout the entire meal. We were too busy groaning with pleasure as we savored each and every one of those succulent little jewels of the sea.

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When we had finished, the only thing that could console me was the knowledge that I still had two more pounds of halibut cheeks, just waiting in the freezer to be transformed into another wonderful feast!

If you ever come across halibut cheeks in your travels - get some. Don't even think about it. Just. Get. Some. Trust me, you won't regret it!

Simply Sauteed Halibut Cheeks
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

2 lbs fresh halibut cheeks
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1/4-1/2 cup toasted hazelnut flour
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon or lime wedges for garnish
Wicked Spicy Tartar Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions:

Lightly season halibut cheeks with salt and pepper

In a pie plate or other flat rimmed dish, mix together flour, corn meal, hazelnut flour, salt and pepper.

Dredge halibut cheeks in flour mixture and pat off the excess.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Adding 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil at a time, saute the halibut cheeks in batches until golden brown on both sides - about 2-3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook. They should have a consistency similar to sea scallops.

Serve with lime wedges and Wicked Spicy Tartar Sauce.

Serves 4-6.

Wicked Spicy Tartar Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons "Wickles" sweet and spicy pickle relish (with juice)
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (depending on how much "spice" you want)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

From the Archives

If you liked this recipe, here are some others from the SGCC archives that you might also enjoy:

Coconut Shrimp

Pistachio Crusted Flounder with Mineola-Ginger Beurre Blanc

Pan Fried Grouper Cheeks

Spicy Crab Cakes with Key Lime Mustard Sauce

Trout Almondine

Seen around the Blogs

Here are some other great halibut cheeks recipes to check out:

Halibut Cheeks with Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Chive Oil from Nook and Pantry

Halibut Cheeks with Pomegranate Sauce from The Omnivore's Solution

Simple and Delicious Halibut Cheeks from Restaurant Widow

Halibut Cheeks with Lemon, Caper and Butter Sauce from Chronicles of a Fledgling Home Cook

Butter Poached Halibut Cheeks with Baby Bok Choy from The Endive Chronicles