.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Pan-Seared Halibut with Creamy Fennel Ragout

The secret is out with this journal entry. "Not as good as Pork Cracklins" is a sham. It's a lame attempt to honor my friend Sheri. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it's true.

I love Pork Cracklins. I check it everyday, usually right when I wake up. Not long ago, she made a dish that I knew I would love, Pan-Seared Cod with Creamy Fennel Ragout.

I used halibut, but otherwise followed the recipe. I only made 1/2. It took all my willpower not to eat the fennel as it browned in the bacon grease.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Day of the Dead Cookies

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

I saw these on a blog called "101 Cookbooks". They were so adorable, I just had to make them.

Day of the Dead Cookies

Vanilla dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch process
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar, lump free
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Baking sheets lined with parchment paper

To make the vanilla dough, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour just until incorporated. Form the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Set aside.

To make the chocolate dough, in a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar with the back of a spoon or an electric mixer until smooth and creamy but not fluffy (less that 1 1/2 minutes with an electric mixer). Beat in the egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Form dough into a log the same length as the vanilla log. If the dough is too soft and sticky to handle place it in the freezer to firm (note from heidi: this is important).

To shape the skulls, reshape each log of dough so that it is skull shaped rather than round: make one side narrow for the chin and jaw and leave the other side wide for the cranium. Wrap and refrigerate the chocolate dough. Form features in the vanilla dough, using the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes for eyes through the entire length of the log. Form the nose with a skewer, poking two holes for nostrils. Form the mouth by inserting a narrow table knife and wiggling it back and forth to lengthen and widen the opening. Don't try for perfection: irregular holes make the best and weirdest skulls. Wrap and refrigerate the vanilla dough. Chill both doughs at least 2 hours, preferable overnight.

Position rack in the upper and lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the chocolate dough into 1/8-inch slices and place them at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. Cut the vanilla dough into 1/8-inch slices and place 1 slice on top of each chocolate slice. Bake until pale golden at the edges, 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking. Slide parchment liners onto cooling racks or transfer the cookies directly from the pan to the rack with a metal pancake turner, waiting 1 to 2 minutes if necessary to let the cookies firm up before moving them. Cook cookies completely before stacking or storing. Cookies keep at least 1 week in an air-tight container.

Recipe from: A Year in Chocolate : Four Seasons of Unforgettable Desserts by Alice Medrich (Warner Books)

My Notes:
I added 1/2 t. cinnamon to the chocolate dough. I think it's perfect.

Cut the chilled logs into thirds. Work on 1/3 and keep the rest in the fridge until you're ready to deal with it. The chocolate dough isn't as difficult to work with as I thought it would be. But both need to be in the fridge when you aren't shaping/cooking.

I didn't like using dental floss. I thought my serrated knife worked better.

Slice the vanilla dough a little thicker than 1/8". The faces stay their shapes better.

They cutest ones seem to be the ones with really exaggerated pointy chins.

They spread while cooking, so don't crowd the pan.

I've sprinkled some with turbinado sugar, some with white sugar and left some plain. Your choice.

These are a big hit!! Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Cranberry-Orange Muffins

I clipped this recipe from the food section of the newspaper a couple of weeks ago. It calls for 1 1/2 cups whole fresh cranberries, but I gave them a quick pulse in the food processor. The batter is foamy: there's 1 T. of baking powder to 2 cups flour, so hopefully they'll be nice and light textured. The yield is wrong. It says "makes 12 muffins", but I filled a standard muffin tin 2/3 full and still had plenty of batter for 6 more, so I'd say "makes 18 muffins". I'll freeze the intended 12 for Gary's Birthday/Thanksgiving week, and we'll go ahead and eat the extras.

  • Cranberry-Orange Muffins (Mad About Muffins, Dot Vartan)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Cream Sauce

I love when Dottie is cooking in the fish department at Central Market Westgate. A lot of times she's using one of the Sonata Seasoning mixes from Colorado Spice. She never goes by the directions on the backs of the packages, but I swear, everything she makes is super-yummy.

She wasn't there on Sunday and some guy was cooking in her place! He was cooking salmon with a cream sauce made with Tomato Basil & Chipotle Sonata Seasoning. I love cream sauces. I just love them. But even I have my limits. I thought the cream was too rich with the richness of the salmon. Just as I was thinking that, I overheard him telling another customer that it was also be great with chicken or pasta.

I sprinkled boneless chicken breast with the seasoning before I grilled them. I used a smallish spoonful of it in a 1/2 cup of cream, which I simmered until thick to make the sauce. OMG. Gary and I both loved it. I can't wait to put it over pasta.

  • Grilled chicken with Tomato Basil & Chipotle cream sauce
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Whole wheat rolls

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Somehow it became a tradition for me to make Spiced Pumpkin Bread for Gary's birthday, which is November 23, Thanksgiving week. Often we are travelling, either to family or camping at Big Bend, but I always pack it in a shoe box and he is always happy when he opens it.

The original recipe is from Bon Appetit, November 1995 (Spiced Pumpkin Bread), but very early on I began substituting applesauce for half of the oil and that's the way I have it typed on the card. It's still not exactly healthy; it's very rich and sweet. It makes 2 loaves and I usually freeze one for closer to Christmas. But this time I'm freezing both, because Birthday/Thanksgiving week is going to be hectic and I want to have as much done ahead of time as I can.

The house smells nice this morning.
  • Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Bridge Party

When it's Gary's turn to host his Bridge Party, sometimes I try to have a dinner prepared that he can serve without much trouble. Last time, I was at Buffalo Springs, but I had made a Raspberry Linzer Torte ahead of time, and I had shown him how to assemble a Big Tomato Sandwich (Deborah Madison).

This time he requested the yummy grilled chicken sandwiches from Cooking Light. And I made some super-easy cherry tartlets that I assemble from store bought ingredients. The're darling and they're delicious. Although I didn't do quite as good a job of crimping the sides of a couple of them: more filling oozed out than usual.

  • Grilled Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwichees with Fontina Cheese (Cooking Light Cover Recipe, June 2004)
  • Mixed Greens with Grape Tomatoes and Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Cherry Tartlets and vanilla ice cream