Saturday, December 29, 2007

Baked Brie

*photo courtesy of Simply Recipes

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! As a gift to my parents for the holidays, we made them a three course meal, which started off with this amazingly simple but remarkably delicious appetizer of baked brie from The only change I made was to top it with honey instead of syrup and add some sliced almonds. This was delicious!

Baked Brie
from (
Serves 6

1 round of brie cheese
1 can of crescent roll dough
2 TBS of raspberry jam (or jam of your choice)
1-2 TBS honey
1 TSP sliced almonds

1) Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2) On a non-stick cookie sheet, roll out crescent dough without separating into triangles (pinching gaps together). Place brie in center of dough.
3) Spread jam on top of brie. Fold up edges of dough to cover the cheese. Drizzle the honey on top and sprinkle on almonds.
4) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until pastry dough is golden brown and the cheese has begun to ooze. Serve with slices of french bread, crackers, or apples.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peppermint Bark

After tasting some commercial peppermint bark, we decided to make our own! Last year's attempt was delicious but hardly as pretty. When we poured the hot white chocolate onto the warm dark chocolate, it all started melting together and came out more of a swirly milk chocolate color. This year, we theorized that if we let the dark chocolate totally set (with the help of our freezer) then quickly spread the white chocolate across the top before it could all melt together, we might create the beautiful layered effect one finds in the store-bought variety.

All would have gone smoothly, if we hadn't thought it was a good idea to add cream to the white chocolate. Apparently we don't deal with chocolate enough, but I immediately realized what was happening (thanks to Alton Brown's "Good Eats") that the chocolate was "seizing" and then promptly began "separating" (it looks pretty gross). In a panic, I turned to The Joy of Cooking which told me, if this happened, to add "1/2 teaspoon of vegetable shortening per oz of chocolate." So we lowered the temperature and began spooning in the shortening until it returned (sort of) to the proper texture. I don't think this was actually the right solution. According to Alton Brown, we probably should have added more liquid (which I also should have warmed first.) Needless to say, I will not include these instructions in the recipe because it just complicated things. Honest. In the end, it all tasted fine.

The process is really quite easy if you don't screw up like we did. And it is SO delicious and decadent. We put in a teaspoon of peppermint extract, but I am going to recommend less because it is quite potent. I can't wait to try this with other flavors... orange perhaps?

Happy Holidays!

Peppermint Bark

11 oz bag of dark, bittersweet chocolate chips (make sure cocoa butter is a main ingredient)
11 oz bag of white chocolate chips (make sure cocoa butter is a main ingredient)
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 candy canes, crushed into roughly sprinkle size bits

1) In a double boiler, melt the bittersweet chocolate until smooth. Stir in peppermint extract. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Pour out hot chocolate onto wax paper and spread out until about a 1/16 of an inch thickness. Immediately place in freezer for about 1 hr or until fully hard and set.
2) In a clean double boiler, melt the white chocolate until creamy (it will be thicker and harder to work with than the dark chocolate). Remove dark chocolate from freezer. Pour white chocolate onto dark and quickly spread until evenly coated. Sprinkle candy cane over the top. Return to freezer for at least 30 minutes or until set. Remove and break apart into 1 inch pieces. Store in airtight container (we store ours in the fridge).

Steak and Cheese Subs

A combination of good fortune: our grocery store sells shaved beef and I have vast amounts of experience making steak and cheese subs from my days as a short order cook. We eat these more often in the summer--sandwiches for dinner seem more appropriate then--but they are delicious anytime. Feel free to grill up other toppings of your choosing such as sweet peppers or mushrooms. Also, this time the deli man asked me if I wanted "the real stuff" when it came to provolone. Oh boy, it was delicious. I was so used to the some what bland generic provolone, but the real thing has a delicious bite to it. I don't think I can ever go back.

Steak and Cheese Subs
Serves 3 (or two very hungry people!)

3 sub 6" sub rolls (a crusty baguette or ciabatta rolls work well too)
1 lb shaved beef, shredded into smaller pieces
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 onion, cut into thin slices
3 large slices provolone cheese
salt, pepper, and other seasonings of your choice (there's a tasty cajun one we use)!

1) Slice the sub rolls in half three-quarters of the way through, angling down. It helps if the bottom half is slightly thicker than the top half. Toast in the toaster oven until lightly browned.
2) Heat olive oil on a large, flat grill pan until very hot, but not smoking. Place onions (and other toppings) on the pan, away from direct heat. Cook until browned and softened.
3) Spread beef over the pan. Using a pair of tongs and a firm spatula, move the meat around the pan, tearing large pieces into smaller pieces with the tongs, using the spatula to pull against, to speed the cooking process. If meat begins to stick, add a little more oil. Continue moving and tearing until the meat is no longer pink. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you like. If all parties are having onions, mix them in and tear apart along with meat. Otherwise, continue to allow them to cook separately and add at the end. This whole process should maybe take 10-15 minutes.
4) Divide meat into three equal portions. Top with any individualized toppings. Place a slice of cheese over each portion of meat and allow to melt into meat, about 1 minute.
5) Using a spatula (you may need two) scoop up the filling and place on sub roll. Don't be afraid to stuff it all in there. It doesn't have to be pretty, it will still taste good. This is most easily done with a long, firm spatula. Repeat with remaining portions and serve to ravenous crowds!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Roasted Garlic Soup (with Pasta Veggie Toss)

Approach this soup softly, caring a large slab of toast. Delicious, but quite potent, this soup is best served in small portions as a first course or side dish, over buttered slices of toasted baguette. I also served this with egg noodles tossed with sautéed vegetables and butter.

Roasted Garlic Soup
from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Soup with mods
Serves 2, as a side

2 heads of garlic
2 TBS olive oil
6 slices of baguette or other crusty bread
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 325ºF. Slice the top off the heads of garlic and arrange in a shallow baing dish, cut side up. Drizzle 1 TBS of olive oil over the garlic and cover loosely with foil. Roast until the cloves are very tender when pieced with a fork, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool, then squeeze the soft garlic pulp into a small bowl and set aside.
2) Warm remaining olive oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. When hot, add the bread slices, reduce heat to medium, and fry bread on each side until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.
3) In a medium sauce pan over med-high heat, combine broth and garlic pulp and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a wand mixer (or food processor), purée the soup until smooth and frothy. If necessary, return pot to stove and reheat to serving temperature. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4) Place 2-3 slices of bread in each bowl. Ladle soup over top and serve!

Simple Pasta Veggie Toss
Serves 2

2 cups of egg noodles
1/2 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup broccoli florets
1 TBS olive oil
2 TBS butter or margarine (or our favorite... olive oil spread)
salt and pepper

1) Fill a large pot half way with water and bring to a boil.
2) Once boiling, add broccoli florets and blanch for 3 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon and set aside. Add egg noodles to boiling water and cook according to package directions.
3) Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. When hot, add peppers, onion, and broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until tender.
4) Drain egg noodles. Add egg noodles to skillet. Toss with butter until melted. Serve!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eight Nights of Lights, Three Nights of Brisket

Brisket Ragu?

Sorry for the delay in posting. I would make excuses but there really is no point, is there? I merely hope that I haven't discouraged any readers with the large gaps between my posts. Come back! So many tasty things!

Hannukah was this past week and in honor of such, I made brisket for maybe the second time, in my slow cooker. Delicious! I made twice as much because I knew we would be busy, so we'd have leftovers to play with. So, one night of traditional brisket, one night of bbq brisket sandwiches, and one night of, er, a brisket ragu?

So basically, I prepped the brisket the night before, fridged it, then plopped it in the slow cooker before work and came back to deliciousness. There was no burning down of the house, which made me especially happy.

This was good. Not quite the same as my Nana's, but good.


from William Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker with mods.
(did anyone else note the irony in a food made fast cookbook... for the slow cooker?)
Serves 2 (for three nights!)

1 lb beef brisket, trimmed of fat
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper
3/4 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (potent!)
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS tomato paste

1) On a large plate mix flour, salt and pepper, to taste. Coat brisket in flour misture, shaking off excess, reserving leftover flower. In large heavy bottomed pan, warm oil over high heat. Add brisket, fat side down and cook until browned, about 7 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 7 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to slow cooker basin (or a seperate dish).
2) Pour off all but 1 TBS of fat from pan and return to med-heat. Add onions, garlic, red pepper and sauté until onions begin to caramelize. Add reserved flour and stir until incorporated. Add broth and vinegar and raise to a boil to deglaze pan. Add sugar and tomato paste and stir until blended. Pour mixture over brisket. Cover with foil and refridgerate overnight.
3) In the morning, remove foil and return slow cooker basin to mechanism (or put brisket in slow cooker). Cook on high heat for 3 -4 hours or low heat for 6 -8 hours. Brisket should be very tender when pierced with fork. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain. Serve with natural gravy from the slow cooker.

BBQ Brisket Sandwiches
Serves 2

2 hamburger buns or sandwich rolls
4-6 slices of brisket (see recipe above)
1/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce or blend of sauces (we used Dinosaur BBQ sauce and Original Hunts BBQ sauce)
any other toppings you like (coleslaw, onions, cheese, etc)

1) Toast hamburger buns to a lovely golden brown.
2) Place brisket in a microwave safe dish. Cover completely in BBQ sauce. Cook in microwave for 2 minutes on high. Remove and stir sauce, testing brisket for tenderness. Heat for an additional 2 minutes or until the brisket is tender and hot.
3) Place 2-3 slices of brisket on each bun and a generous amount of sauce and toppings as desired!

Brisket "Ragu"
Serves 2

Brisket leftovers, chopped (hopefully about 1/2 -1 cup
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp italian seasonings (or as much as you'd like)
1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce (we're currently in love with Classico Caramelized Onion and Roasted Garlic)

1) Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add onions and peppers and sauté until tender.
2) Add tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings, cooking until tomatoes soften.
3) Add tomato sauce and brisket. Continue to cook until heated through and the brisket is tender. Serve over pasta!