Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record. It seems I get all my recipe from three places, All Recipes, Food Network (and their website), and Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen.
This is no exception. For Thanksgiving, I was in charge of an appetizer. I've done stuffed mushrooms before, and the version printed in Number 95 looked delish. Fine it's been a long time since I've done stuffed mushrooms, but come on, they're mushrooms, with stuffing. I learned some tough lessons though by not following directions exactly. Learn with me people. . . .

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Spinach and Goat Cheese
(the filling can be made in advance and kept in the fridge; just reheat it before stuffing the mushrooms)

10 small portobello mushrooms - Remove stems and chop. Also chop up two of the 10 mushrooms, so you're left with 8 to stuff and about 3 c of chopped mushrooms.
4 tbsp olive oil
2 6 oz bags of baby spinach
bread for bread crumbs - I used some stale sourdough baguette I had around; use whatever you have (although the recipe calls for two slices of white sandwich bread, torn into quarters if you must know; you just want to end up with 1 1/2 c)
1-2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely diced (approx 2 cups)
4 medium sized cloves of garlic (squish through a garlic press)
1/2 c dry sherry (I used Dry Sack)
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
4-5 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 c ff half and half (recipe calls for heavy cream)
1 c walnuts, toasted (I used the Diamond walnuts that came already chopped to save myself some work)
2 tsp lemon juice
ground black pepper

And now for the million steps. . . * cracks knuckles before proceeding *
Place spinach and 2 tbsp of water in a microwave safe bowl with a cover and nuke for 3 minutes (I had to do this in two batches, and just divided the water). Spinach should be wilted and half of what it was before. Keep covered for a minute before moving spinach to a colander. Once I had nuked both batches, I let the spinach sit in the colander to drain and cool off while I did the rest. If you're impatient, use the back of a spoon or spatula to smoosh excess liquid out of the spinach. If you're patient and the spinach cools off, you can squeeze it by hand. You really want to get as much liquid out as possible. Roughly chop, smoosh or squeeze again, and set aside.
Pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground.
Heat 1 tbsp oil (and 1 tbsp of butter if you'd like; I just used some butter flavored Pam to impart a buttery flavor to my oil) over medium high until warm. Add bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned, 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out skillet with a paper towel.
Add remaining tbsp oil back to pan and head over medium high until smoking. Add mushrooms to pan and let sit without stirring for 2 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, 4-6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Add 1 tbsp butter and onions to skillet (I probably could've gotten away with more Pam here, but decided to go for the real deal) along with the onions. Cook 5-6 minutes until onions are light brown. Add garlic and cook til fragrant, only 30 seconds or so. Stir in sherry and cook til almost no liquid remains, just a couple of minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in the mushrooms, spinach, thyme, goat cheese, half and half (or cream), and walnuts. Cook until cheese is melted and veggies are well coated. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

As for the mushrooms, preheat oven to 400; preheat baking sheet on center rake as well. Using a sharp knife, cut a crosshatch of shallow slits (about 1/4 inch deep) onto the top of the mushroom (not the gill side) about 1/2 inch apart.
Brush both sides of caps with remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place mushrooms, gill side up onto preheated baking sheet. Roast until mushies have released some of their juices and have begun to brown around the edges, 10 minutes or so. Flip over and roast for another 10 minutes until juices have evaporated and caps are golden brown. Mine remained soggy and messy the entire time which was unfortunate. Remove mushies and preheat the broiler.

If you made the filling in advance, now is the time to reheat it. It doesn't have to be piping hot, but it should certainly be warm. Fill caps, top with bread crumbs and broil for a few minutes. Do NOT walk away from the oven at this point! Just hang out and watch to make sure you don't burn the tops. Serve immediately.

Again, be sure to get the small ones if you're doing this as an appetizer; if you get the big ones you'll end up with a big delicious flaccid mess. Look for the ones that are 4 inches across or so. If you use the large ones, these will still work as a knife and fork vegetarian meal, but not so much as an app. They're awesome so I highly recommend you make them.

Pickled Asparagus

Back on pickling day, we made some pickled asparagus which didn't seal. We knew we'd have to get eatin' and yesterday was our first sampling. They turned out GREAT and I would absolutely do them again, this time in good canning jars and not those stupid swing top jars.
This is the recipe I used, but I totally forgot to add the chili flakes. I will next time, but it was still tasty without.

Pickled Asparagus
30 asparagus spears
1/3 cup coarse salt
2 quarts cold water
1 2/3 cups distilled white vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 1/2 teaspoons dill seed
1 white onion, sliced into rings
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh dill

Trim the cut end of the asparagus spears, and cut them into 3 inch lengths. Place them in a large bowl with 1/3 cup salt, and cover with water. Let stand for 2 hours. Drain and rinse under cool water, and pat dry.

Sterilize two pint size wide mouth jars in simmering water for 5 minutes.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, mustard seed, dill seed and onion rings. Bring to a boil, and boil for one minute.

Pack the asparagus spears, tips up, in the hot jars leaving 1/2 of space from the rim. Tuck one dill sprig into each jar, and sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Pour hot pickling liquid into the jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the rim. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth, and seal with lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Cool to room temperature. Check seals when cool by pressing the center of the lid. It should not move. Label and date; store in a cool dark place. If any jars have not sealed properly, refrigerate and eat within two weeks.


Quinn and I cooked a Thanksgiving feast for TM yesterday, yes, the day after we had stuffed ourselves over at Dad and Aylene's. What can I say, I need leftovers.
The day before Thanksgiving I was watching Ina Garten make this herb roasted turkey breast. She used a whole, bone in breast, and I used two halves. Whatever. The only difference is that it cooked quicker than hers, maybe an hour and a half or so.
I also tried Alton Brown's "Best Ever Greenbean Casserole" which I had high hopes for, but I can only say was it not only NOT the best ever, it wasn't even good. I have been ruined by that gloppy canned stuff it seems, because fresh ingredients were not my bag. Or Quinn's bag. Or TM's bag. We had an entire skillet full of the stuff and none of it was saved with the other leftovers.
We had leftover stuffing from Dad and Aylene's, mashed potatoes and gravy a la Quinn, and Aylene's mashed sweet potatoes. And bread. And salad. And Texas sheet cake and ice cream.
* ugh *

Barefoot Contessa Herb Roasted Turkey
turkey breast, 6 1/2 - 7lbs (either 1 whole bone in, or two halves)
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp dry mustard or 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat under the skin. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the breast.

If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices spooned over the turkey.

The Texas sheet cake turned out well, but it's not a favorite of mine so I sent the majority home with TM, since it IS her favorite!

If I weren't heading out to a party, I would be all over a turkey sandwich right now. Actually, I might anyway. Mmmmm.


We all know that melted cheese is basically heaven on earth. The only thing that makes it better is a second course of melted chocolate.
The Toshis and I got together a couple weekends ago for some drinks, some shenanigans, and way too much food eaten off of skewers.
I created my fondue mostly from memory (yes, I eat it enough to guess as to how it should be made), but with a quick trip to the old standby, All recipes. They say these things can feed 4-6, which I suppose is true, since us Toshis shared nicely, but Quinn and I ate an entire pot by ourselves for lunch. We did not go on to the dessert course however.

Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue
1 clove of garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 lb Swiss cheese, grated
1/2 lb Gruyere cheese, grated
2 tbsp flour
dash of ground nutmeg (1/4 tsp or so)
optional 1 tbsp kirsch brandy (or more or less, to taste)

Grate the cheese, sprinkle with the flour and toss to coat. Rub the inside of your fondue pot with a cut clove of garlic, using the cut side against the pot. Add the wine and simmer. Once the wine is hot, add cheese and flour mixture, a handful or so at a time, allowing to melt between additions. Once all the cheese is melted, add the nutmeg and kirsch if desired and stir to combine.
Serve with tart green apples, cubes of sourdough, and anything else yummy (veggies, salami, breadsticks, etc.).

One of the Toshis was kind enough to leave behind her chocolate fondue recipe, which was divine, so I'm including it here too. I seriously have no idea if this is what she did, or if this was just one of several recipes they used, but I'm going to find out because it was so good. Like, really really good. I have a feeling they served the caramel on the side rather than mixed in, but whatever.

Chocolate Fondue
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
8 oz milk chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
1/2 pint whipped cream
1/2 c caramel sauce
Place all ingredients in fondue pot over low heat, stirring constantly until melted and smooth. Do not allow to boil.
Serve with just about anything: Rice Krispy treats, marshmallows, pound cake, pretzels, fruit, graham crackers. . . and I highly suggest you dip the marshmallows in the chocolate and/or caramel, and sandwich between some graham crackers, a la s'mores. And you can never have too many strawberries.

Monday, November 17, 2008

updates to pickling

Those swing top jars, the ones that latch? I do NOT recommend for canning. Even those that say they're specifically for canning (and certainly not their less expensive cousins from Ikea). Both things we used them for leaked after they were sealed. If it's not liquid tight, it's certainly not air tight.
Now we just need to hurry up and eat 60 spears of pickled asparagus and a couple of pounds of pickled beets in the next week or so. Who's hungry?!

Well, we're still eating the pickled asparagus (although I admit to doing so with some trepidation) and no one is dead yet, and they're still tasty! We haven't even refrigerated them! Hallelujah for preservation techniques!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let's get pickled!

I am so sick of pickling right now that I can hardly write this blog. And I'm really only half way done. What an undertaking! I imagine subsequent pickling sessions will run a bit smoother, and I am praying to God that no one gets botulism from eating any of my pickled goods.
"Merry Christmas!! How was your stay in the hospital for the near death experience I gave you as an unpleasant side effect to my cheap gift?! I was relaxing in Vermont at the time, so I really only heard about it second hand. Anyway, nice to see you!"

On the to do list:
dilly beans (a request by my roommate McD)
pickled asparagus
Giardiniera mix
Onion jam

Done so far:
dilly beans
Giardiniera mix

Quinn has his own recipes in the works, check out his blog for snazzy photos (notice he didn't take any of my superior jars - jealousy makes some people so petty), and his recipes.

Aside from the fear that I will kill my loved ones, or at least make them violently ill, I also worry that my flavor will be off. I mean I can't tweak this. I have to WAIT and taste it to find out if it's any good. I hate that. The dilly bean recipe I found calls for "dill heads" which I thought just meant a bunch of dill. It doesn't. So, in my, uh, "experiment" I just chucked in a whole bunch of dill fronds or whatever the heck they're called, in my jars. Wish McD and I luck. They look flaccid as hell and I'm pretty sure I overcooked them on top of improperly spicing them. I am SO not cut out for things that require following instructions.

Dilly Beans
(based on this recipe from Allrecipes)
4 pint jars for canning
3 c water
1/2 c pickling salt (aside from every grain being identical, I have no idea how this is different from any other salt)
- here is where I'd suggest 4 dill heads, but not having the foggiest what a dill head was or where to find one until AFTER, I used around 2 bunches of dill, around 1/3 of a bunch in each jar
1/4 c pickling spice
1/4 c mustard seed
4-8 dried piquin (or some other variety) peppers
12 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 1/2 lbs fresh green and yellow wax beans

Sterilize the jars. Seriously, don't mess around with this part. I was super careful and I'm still nervous.
Combine the water, salt and vinegar in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and keep at a simmer while prepping the sterilized jars.
Pack each jar with the following: a good amount of dill (again, I used around 1/3 of a bunch in each jar), 1 tbsp of pickling spice, 1 tbsp mustard seed, 1-2 piquin peppers depending on spice preference, and 3 cloves of garlic. Pack the beans in vertically. If I were to do this again, I'd put the beans in first, leaving a little space in the middle to jam in the spices.
Pour the hot brine into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Put the hot (also sterilized) lids on and screw closed. Process in a hot water bath for 6 minutes or maybe less unless you want shrively flaccid little beans too. I'll play with this next time too. Just make sure the lid doesn't have any give or flex to it; if it does, the jar probably was not sealed properly.
Store for at least 2 weeks before eating.

I could eat an entire jar of this stuff in one sitting. I found the stuff served in restaurants in Italy to be a bit spicier sometimes than the stuff we have in jars here in the states, but I still can't get enough of it.
I found a super easy recipe at that I followed fairly exactly, except for possibly cutting up WAY too many veggies - looks like we're having slightly vinegary roast veggies with dinner tonight.
I would suggest that you definitely plan on boiling some extra vinegar, as it seems to boil off pretty quickly, and better to have too much than not enough. The flavor seemed good, but I'll let you know once I eat it from the jar in a few weeks.
Odd that this recipe didn't call for heat treating the jars once they were filled, but we'll go with it for now. If you don't hear from me ever again, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME and blame, not me.

Stay tuned for part deux.

I tried the giardiniera mix last night. It's okay. It's not as good as the stuff that I was trying to recreate, or rather, it's DIFFERENT than the stuff I was trying to recreate. A bit sweeter. I'll still give them as gifts, but I think I'll look for a different recipe for "next time."