Monthly Archives: December 2009

Cognac Butter

Cognac Butter

Want to know a secret?  Cognac butter is my latest obsession.  What the heck is cognac butter you ask?  Up until a few days ago, I didn’t know either.  Then I got my hands on this brandy butter from Thursday Cottage. 

Mmm, cognac

At my office, our vendors send us gift baskets around the holidays.  Since we work with some folks from Great Britain, we often get unique foods from across the pond.  When I saw the brandy butter in the gift basket, I snapped it up.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be totally delicious…  sweet and buttery with just the right amount of cognac taste.  Marc and I ate the whole jar in two days.

Sifting the sugar

Sifting the sugar

After that, I decided I best try my hand at making my own cognac butter (how else can I feed the obsession).  Using the proportions of butter, sugar, and alcohol listed on the back of the Thursday Cottage jar, I used my stand mixer to create a fantastic version.  This comes together very quickly and easily.  A couple of tips to keep in mind: make sure your butter is at room temperature, sift the powdered sugar so it is lump free, and add the cognac very slowly to make sure that it gets thoroughly incorporated.   If you want, jazz it up with a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or any other spices that suit your fancy.

Beating the butter and sugar

What to do with your finished butter… the possibilities are limitless.  Spread it on toast, english muffins, biscuits, or any other baked good you can think of.  Use it to “frost” shortbread or sugar cookies.  Smear it on pancakes or waffles.  Lick it off the knife (oops, did I say that out loud).

Almost ready, can you taste it?

Cognac Butter

For this recipe, I have given all amounts by weight.  What is important here is the proportions: 35% butter, 8% cognac, 57% sugar.  You can scale the exact amounts up or down to get the quantity you want. 

Ingredients:

57 grams (4 tbls) unsalted butter

92 grams confectioners sugar

16 grams (20 ml) good quality cognac

1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)

To Make:

Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, beat the butter over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Sift the confectioners sugar into a bowl.  Add the sugar to the butter in small batches, beating well to incorporate after each addition.  It will look crumbly at first but will get smooth again as you continue to beat.  After all the sugar is incorporated, slowly drizzle in the cognac while the mixer is running.  Allow the butter to continue mixing until the cognac is fully incorporated.  Add the cinnamon (if using) and beat until thoroughly mixed.

To Serve:

Makes enough butter to fill a 1/2 pint jar.  Store in the refrigerator and let warm up a bit before using.  Feel free to get creative with the type of alcohol and spices you use.  I am sure this would be delicious with rum, Amaretto, or Cointreau.

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Filed under Add-ons, Dessert, Recipes

Slow Roasted Leeks

Slow Roasted Leeks

Leeks are beloved in our house.  We get very excited whenever leeks arrive in our CSA boxes or show up at the farmer’s market.  If you have never had leeks they have a mild onion-y and garlicky flavor that is really delicious.  You can finely chop, saute, and add them to soups, quiches, or strata.  Or, you can do what we do… slow roast them with a little butter until they are melt-in-your-mouth soft and delicious.

Fresh CSA Leeks

This is how we make leeks 90% of the time.  It is one of those recipes that is exceptionally simple and uses only a few ingredients but elevates the leeks from a supporting player to a stand-alone side dish.  I know there are other culinary options out there but this is so darn good that we keep coming back to it.  Why mess with perfection?

Washing the grit away

A note on prepping leeks: they tend to be very dirty and gritty because of the way their concentric rings push up through the soil when they are growing.  To help combat this, cut them in half lengthwise and soak them, cut side down, in a deep bowl of cold water.  Don’t be afraid to let them soak for at least 20-30 minutes.  Then remove the halves and rinse under cold running water (I like to separate the leaves at the ends just a little bit to make sure all the grit is rinsed out).  Pat dry before cooking.

Boiled and buttered

Slow Roasted Leeks

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients:

12 slender leeks, white and light green parts only halved lengthwise, well cleaned (it is helpful to leave the barest sliver of the base intact to help the leaves hold together)

1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

4 tbls unsalted butter

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To make:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil.  Add the leeks in a single layer, cut sides down, cover and bring the stock back to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes.

Carefully remove the leeks, draining out the excess stock (reserve the stock for another use such as soup or to make mashed potatoes to serve alongside your leeks).  Pour about 1 tbls of the butter into a large baking dish and spread around.  Place the leeks in the baking dish, cut sides up, and drizzle with the remaining butter.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Place the baking dish in the oven and roast, uncovered, until the leeks are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40-60 minutes.

To Serve:

Serve immediately drizzled with any pan juices that remain.  Serves 4 as a side dish.

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Filed under Recipes, Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Marsala Roasted Root Vegetables

Marsala Roasted Root Vegetables

We are up to our eyeballs in root vegetables.  We picked up the third and final installment of our Shared Harvest CSA yesterday and our fridges are full of parsnips, carrots, turnips, and celeriac while our basement closet is stocked with white and sweet potatoes.  Admittedly, we tend to get a little complacent about preparing our roots.  Our standard approach is to wash/peel/chop whichever vegetables we have handy, toss them with olive oil and salt, and roast them on a cookie sheet until they are tender enough to eat.  While this is certainly a tasty and easy approach, it can get monotonous when you use the same preparation technique over and over.

Locally grown root vegetables

However, there is a real appeal to cooking these vegetables this way.  The high heat of the oven caramelizes the sugars that most root vegetables are full of and softens the bite of strong vegetables like parsnips.  Plus, it is easy to clean and chop the vegetables while the kids are napping, then simply toss them into the oven about an hour before dinner.  Vegetables are on the table and there was no complicated or labor intensive prep.

Marsala wine

In the name of maintaining the delicious simplicity of roasting, we decided to try this recipe for Marsala wine roasted root vegetables.  The addition of butter, thyme, sage, and Marsala wine adds a welcome complexity to the flavor of the roots.  The mix of sweet carrots and potatoes, sharp parsnips, and earthy turnips creates a nice balance to the dish.  Serve it alongside roasted pork or chicken for a lovely winter meal.

Herbed vegetables ready to roast

Marsala Roasted Root Vegetables

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Favorites

Ingredients:

1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

1/2 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

1/2 lb turnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

1 tbls butter

1 tlbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried sage

1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup Marsala wine

2 tbls chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

To Make:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil.  Add the carrots, parsnips, and turnips and simmer until the vegetables give slightly when pierced with a fork, about 4 minutes.  Drain well.

Place all the vegetables in a large roasting pan that has been lined with aluminum foil (for the sake of easy clean up).  In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.  Add the olive oil, thyme, sage, and nutmeg and stir to mix well.  Drizzle butter mixture over the vegetables and toss to coat evenly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the Marsala wine into the bottom of the pan.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Roast for 40 minutes.  Remove the foil, toss the vegetables, and continue to roast, uncovered, until the Marsala evaporates and the vegetables can be easily pierced with a knife, 10-20 minutes more.  Remove vegetables to a platter and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

To Serve:

Serve immediately.  Serves 4 as a side dish.

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Filed under CSA Talk, Dinner, Recipes, Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Cherry Almond Galette

Cherry Almond Galette

After a brief hiatus, we are back with yet another recipe for something sweet… and something tart… and something rich.  All in one.  The beginnings of this recipe were conceived when Marc brought home two very random ingredients, a jar of Morello cherries and a tube of almond paste.  These two things sat in our pantry for over two months as we contemplate how to use them.

Cutting in the butter

Then one day I found this recipe for a fig tart, and then this one for a pear and cherry tart.  The wheels started to turn and we starting thinking about making some type of cherry and almond tart.  However, that idea was soon shelved because we a) don’t have a good recipe for a tart crust and b) we don’t own a tart pan. 

Ready to assemble

Then Marc had a brainstorm… we could make the go-to sour cream pastry dough that we have used with great success for previous galettes.  We decided to spread the dough with the almond paste mixed with a little flour, sugar, butter, and eggs.  We topped the almond mixture with the drained cherries, folded the dough over and baked it until the dough was browned, the almond mixture was puffed, and the cherries were bubbling.

Galette ready to bake

This galette is a mix of sweet and sour, rich and fruity.  The almond paste is sweet, the cherries are tart and fruity, the pastry is rich and buttery.  Together, they make for a complex dessert that is sure to impress your guests.  Make sure to save the juice you drain from the cherries.  We reduced it until it was thick and syrupy and drizzled it over the finished galette.

Freshly baked

Cherry Almond Galette

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup frozen unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup ice water

6 ounces almond paste

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp almond meal (you can substitute with all-purpose flour)

3 ounces butter (salted or unsalted) cubed at room temperature

1 large egg plus 1 egg white at room temperature

1 27.4 ounce jar Dark Morello Cherries in Light Syrup (Trader Joe’s sells these, if you can’t find them, you need about 12 ounces of sour cherries), drained with syrup reserved

2 tbls heavy cream

1 tbls granulated sugar

softly whipped heavy cream (optional)

To Make:

The Pastry

Put the flour and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice, and water and add half of this mixture to the flour mixture.  With your finger tips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form.  Remove the lumps and repeat the process with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture.  Pat all the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To assemble

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Using a mixer, beat the almond paste, flour, and sugar until crumbly.  Gradually beat in the butter, until smooth, and then beat in the egg and the egg white. 

Lightly flour a pastry board or other work surface.  Roll out the dough into a rough circle about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick.  This does not need to be perfect, part of the charm of galettes is that they are rustic.

Spread the almond mixture on to the pastry, leaving a 2 inch border.  Place the drained cherries on the almond mixture.  Fold dough border over the cherries and almond mixture, pleating as necessary.  The center will be open.  Brush the exposed edges of the dough with the cream and sprinkle with the sugar.  Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet for 35-45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cherries are bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.  Remove to a cutting board.

While the galette is cooking, pour the reserved cherry syrup into a small saucepan.  Set the heat to medium-high and boil until the liquid is reduced by 3/4 and is syrupy.  Watch it closely as it gets to the end as it can go from syrupy to burned pretty quickly.

To Serve: 

Cut the galette into wedges.  Serve topped with softly whipped cream and drizzled with the cherry syrup.  Serves 8.

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Filed under Baked goods, Dessert, Recipes