Archive | March, 2010

The Devil is in the details

29 Mar

Linzer Tarts are one of those things that my family just loves. They are sweet and beautiful and delicious to boot. There’s something about a sugar covered, jam filled, cookie that begs to be eaten.

Every holiday someone in the family makes these cookies, and if no one makes them we buy them from the Wyckoff Quality Bakery in Wyckoff, NJ.

If you look up linzer cookies or linzer tarts in a cookbook you’ll find two theories. The first is the classic linzer dough which is a shortbread type dough that uses filbert flour and ground walnuts. It’s a heavy dough that needs to be worked while cold or it will fall apart. This dough can be formed into tart pans and baked like a pie or rolled and cut into the cookie shape.

The second theory is a basic shortbread dough. This dough is a four ingredient dough. It’s versatile enough to double as a pie crust and cookie. My family favors the shortbread style. Here’s the recipe:

Linzer Tarts

3/4 pound butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup good quality raspberry preserves (admittedly I like to use wild blueberry preserves, so use whatever flavor you like best)
confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the salt and flour, then add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/4 inch thick and cut an even amount of shapes out of the dough. In half of the shapes cut a small piece out of the center. Place all the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.

Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread the preserves on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the tops of the cut-out cookies with confectioners’ sugar and press the sides together, with the preserves in the center and the powdered sugar on top.

Take your time with these babies. They are a labor of love, but worth every minute.

Always thinking about the next meal,


Beef Stroganoff… not from a box

22 Mar

When you think of beef stroganoff do visions of salty box mixes come to mind? Let’s end this misconception of a classic Hungarian dish. Beef stroganoff is actually very simple to make from scratch. I prefer to use beef that isn’t too expensive, like chuck, but Wegman’s had tri-tip on sale and I went for it.

Boxless Beef Stroganoff

serves 4

1 1/2 pounds tri-tip, sirloin, or chuck, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 bag no yolks noodles
1/2 cup onion
2 cups button mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/4 cup marsala wine
1/4 cup whole grain dijon mustard
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 qt beef stock
salt and pepper to taste

Toss the beef in salt and pepper and sear in a hot pan until brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the butter to the pan and add in the onions and mushrooms. Scrape the bottom of the pan while stir the vegetables to release the brown bits. Add in the wine and stir until the liquid is evaporated. Add in the stock, rosemary and mustard. Add the beef back in and reduce the heat to medium. Let the beef cook and the liquid to reduce for 35-40 minutes or until the beef is tender. Meanwhile, cook the noodles. Drain the noodles and place in a serving bowl. When the beef is tender, cut off the heat and add in the cream. Season and toss to combine. Top the pasta and serve hot, garnish with rosemary.

This is easily doubled or tripled for company. Enjoy.

Always thinking of the next meal


When Irish stomachs are growling…

21 Mar

Although not well known as a culinary giant, the food of Ireland is delicious. Simple and rustic, the traditional dishes of the emerald isle are perfect for entertaining. In the past week I’ve catered 2 events that wanted an Irish menu. One of the best things about Irish cooking is that there are lots of potatoes and everyone loves potatoes.Irish food has a great way of getting the most flavor out of basic ingredients. My Potato Leek soup is easily transformed into the traditional Irish soup, Colcannon, by adding bacon and cabbage. Lamb Stew is given a classy make-over by adding tri-tip and O’hara’s Irish Red Beer. And, while the Irish are big on desserts, an apple oatmeal crisp with whiskey anglaise pays tribute to the warm and sweet flavors celebrated in their beverage of choice.

The first even I did this week was a luncheon for the teacher’s at my mom’s school in Orlando. The menu was simple and classy and did not lack in flavor. Here’s what I served:

Potato leek soup with cabbage and bacon

Pub Salad
Mixed greens with tomatoes, cucumbers, fried onions and Irish cheddar, served with creamy herb dressing and roasted shallot vinaigrette

Banger Sandwiches
Irish sausage on rolls with whiskey glazed onions and Guinness mustard

Traditional Breads
Irish soda and brown bread served with Guinness butter and jam

Apple-Oatmeal Crisp with Vanilla Irish Whiskey Sauce
Apples baked with brown sugar, cinnamon, and oatmeal and topped with a creamy vanilla sauce infused with Irish whiskey

Irish Punch
Lime sherbert and 7-up

The event was really great. I love seeing the teacher’s so happy to have food. There were about 65 fed and I just made it with the food. I really thought that my numbers were right on the money, but I guess those teachers were hungry! Anyway, it the event went off without a hitch. Like I always say, the best events are when the food is gone and people are still talking about it. Next year’s event will have to be even better.

The second event I did was for a good friend in Harrisburg. They asked me to do a traditional Irish dinner for about 12 of their friends. Even though I have cooked Irish food for awhile, and I got a little bit of practice from the luncheon, I was nervous. I mean these people are Irish through and through. They’ve been to Ireland and they know when the food is right and when it’s just not. I was intimidated but I pressed on. Here’s the menu for the dinner party:

traditional potato leek soup with cabbage and bacon

Bangers and Boxties
potato pancakes with Irish sausage and whiskey glazed onions

Chicken and Mushroom Hand Pies
miniature pies filled with chicken and mushrooms, served with a savory dipping sauce

Braised Lamb and Beef with Guinness
Slow roasted lamb and tri tip with root vegetables

Soda Bread with Guinness Butter

Apple Crisp
Apples cooked with cinnamon, brown sugar and oatmeal with Irish Cream Anglaise Sauce

Shamrock Cookies
Decorated sugar cookies with royal icing

This menu is a little more intimate and fun. I could add more details since I didn’t have to do as much volume. Again everything was a big hit. Although my boxties were not quite what they were expecting. There’s a rhyme is in Irish folklore that says: “Boxtie on a griddle, boxtie in a pan, if you can not make a boxtie, you’ll never get a man.” Well, thank God I don’t live in ireland and thank God I’m already married, because my boxties just weren’t right. They tasted good, but they needed to be thinner, more like crepes than pancakes. Lesson learned…

Whenever I do cater jobs I get asked the same thing, can I have the recipe or are these kitchen secrets. Personally I think that a good chef has nothing to hide. I share all of my recipes. Although, I’m mid-book writing and some recipes will have stay mine for a little while longer 🙂

As requested by a few of my clients, here’s the recipe for my apple crisp.

Apple Crisp with Whiskey Creme Anglaise

For the crisp:

2 red delicious apples, large dice
2 granny smith apples, large dice
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the apples with the white sugar, half of the cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of flour and the raisins. Put the apples in a baking dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients and top the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are bubbly and the top is brown.

for the anglaise:

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
1 oz Irish Whiskey or Baileys
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a sauce pan, combine the milk and cream and heat until wisps of steam are visible. While you are waiting for the dairy to heat, wisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Whip until the yolks are thick and pale yellow. Add in the vanilla and whiskey. When the milk is hot, slowly add it into the egg mixture, wisking the whole time. Add everything back into the saucepan and stir gently until the anglaise thickens to the point that it coats the back of a spoon. Chill and serve over apple crisp.

Enjoy my friends

Always thinking of the next meal


Old favorites… new twist

8 Mar

When I was little, my mom used to make this dish that was great. At the time it seemed insignificant. It was a casserole. It wasn’t that it didn’t taste great, it was amazing, but I just couldn’t appreciate it at the time. When you’re a kid you just eat what’s given to you. A couple of night’s ago I was having dinner with my mom and we were talking about this dish. She told me that she used to make it it with chicken breast and cream of mushroom sauce and frozen peas.

I love you Mom, but I’m taking my own spin on this and making it from scratch. The other quirky thing about this recipe is that although this dish resembles chicken pot pie or chicken an dumplings, it’s neither, and it doesn’t have a name. It’s half Betty Crocker and half Diane B. Now, it’s part Katie and I guess it’s about time to name this dish. If you have any ideas let me know 🙂

1/2 cup carrot, small dice
1/2 cup celery, small dice
1 cup onion, small dice
1/2 cup fennel, small dice
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon flour
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups milk
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of Pilsbury flakey butter biscuits

In a hot pot, add the bacon fat and oil. Add in the chicken and cook until brown on the outside. remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add in the vegetables and cook until just starting to turn soft. Add in the flour and wisk into the vegetables. Slowly add in the thyme, wine and milk, wisking to combine. Allow to come to a boil and then add the chicken back into the pot. Season and then turn the heat off and arrange the biscuits on the top of the chicken mixture. Bake in the oven at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until the biscuits are fluffy and golden brown on top.

This is great for a cool night. It really hearty and has minimal clean up since it’s all in one pot. What’s not to love about this comforting, delicious meal?

Always thinking about the next meal


Some traditions should never change

3 Mar

St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching. For one day the whole country will pretend they are Irish and drink Irish beer and eat Irish food. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but green beer is not Irish and just because the menu says it’s made with Guinness doesn’t mean it’s traditional.

In our house growing up there was always one constant on St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Soda Bread. I’ve come to learn that in general soda bread is a quick bread. The recipe that has been based down to us is more of a giant scone, cést la vie.

Anyway, this recipe is my Great Aunt Millie’s recipe. She brought it over with her from the Emerald Isle and it still works today. However, I have found that by making 1/2 the recipe at a time the consistency of the dough is better and more workable. Here’s 1/2 the original recipe:

Aunt Millie’s Irish Soda Bread

3 cups AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups raisins

mix all the ingredients together and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes until the center has set and the edges are golden brown.

The bread is a great side for traditional Irish dinners like corned beef and cabbage, but makes an equally great breakfast. I make it year round and have found that it’s a great addition to tea parties, tailgates and brunches. It’s slightly sweet from the raisins and has a very pleasant texture. This recipe also has a nice amount of baking soda. I’ve had soda breads in the past that have too much baking soda or baking powder. How can you tell? Well, if a baked good has too much baking soda, it can taste like a chemical saltiness. If there is too much baking powder, you will be left with a strange fizzled filling on your tongue. Almost like carbonation.

Give this recipe a try. It’s old but the best recipes stand up to the test of time

Always thinking of the next meal