Thursday, December 30, 2010


I am a limoncello fan for sure, in addition to being a fan of making my own booze, so when I saw someone sipping Arancello I knew I had to find out more.
Imagine my surprise when the recipes I found basically just tell me to substitute lemons for oranges.  Duh.

Limoncello or Arancello
10 lemons or 10 oranges
1 750 bottle of vodka (or everclear if you can find it - purists swear it's the only way to go)
3 1/2 cups of water (some recipes only call for a little bit of water if you need it, but I prefer to make a syrup to start)
2 1/2 cups of sugar

Scrub your fruit with a vegetable brush and HOT water to get them super clean.  You can let them sit in the super hot water until it cools enough for you to get your hands in there - I use gloves so the heat doesn't bother me.Use a vegetable peeler to peel the lemons, taking care to avoid as much of the pith as possible - the pith will make your limoncello (or arancello) bitter.
Combine the peels with the alcohol and allow to steep for about a week. 
Strain the alcohol to remove the peels and any little bits.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat - stirring frequently to create a simple syrup.  Allow to cool and add to the alcohol.  Bottle and keep in the freezer as a digestif after your next big bowl of pasta.

You can also use this as a cocktail base - just think how yummy this would be with some champagne!  Maybe a little bit of chambord, or perhaps some orange juice. . . delish!

While hunting for limoncello recipes, I found this intriguing recipe for Liquore de Fragole which I'm sure I'll have to try this summer.

2 pints strawberries(washed, hulled & halved)
1 quart everclear
4 cups water
2 ½ cups sugar

Put the strawberries in a gallon glass jar. Pour in everclear and cover. Let sit for about 2 days in a dark cool place. Spin contents of the jar 4 or 5 times a day to mix. Strain and discard the strawberries. Combine sugar and water over medium flame, and heat until sugar becomes clear-do not boil. When syrup cools, add to the alcohol. Store several more days, then put in freezer.

Hash Brown Casserole

It was at a diner in. . . .Florida maybe?, where I had a life altering breakfast.  You know the type - you take a bite and think, "OMFG, why doesn't EVERYONE serve this EVERYWHERE?!"  It was basically all my brekkie favorites - eggs, cheese, meat and hashbrowns - cooked into a casserole dish.  Soft, ooey, gooey, flavorful HEAVEN.
I've only dreamed of it for oh, four years or so and have yet to try to make it on my own.  Between Paula Deen (my arteries slammed shut just thinking of what her version would be like),, and everywhere else  you can find a recipe, you're sure to find some variation (bacon!  sausage!  ham!  potato chips?!) you'll be dying to try.  I'm tempted to give it a whirl now because I just had my step grandmother's amazing scrambled egg Christmas morning casserole and thought I could try out the hashbrown version for a hungover January 1st.

Breakfast Casserole
3 cups of potatoes O'Brien, thawed  (you can use the cubed type hash browns if you can't find O'Briens)
1/2 cup milk - I used heavy whipping cream because I had it and also because wow, but I wouldn't normally!
5 eggs
1/3 cup chopped onion (use 1/2 cup if you're not using O'Briens)
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (I have a swiss and Gruyere mixture ready to go, but use your fave)
sliced ham, cooked & crumbled bacon, or cooked & crumbled sausage
salt & pepper

Beat the eggs and milk and season with salt & pepper (feel free to try paprika, onion or garlic powder, or celery salt here as well).  Stir in onions, 1 cup of cheese and the ham or sausage (the bacon I'd keep to crumble on top so it stays crispy, but you could stir it in if you'd prefer).
Put the hash browns into a baking or pie dish and pour the egg mixture over the top.
Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and put into oven.  Turn heat on to 350 and allow to cook for 35 minutes or until set.  About five minutes before it's done, add the bread crumbs and bacon to make a nice crispy crust.

Butter Tarts

Butter tarts?!  Next I'll be making treacle tarts I'm sure. . . whether inspired by Alice in Wonderland, my Irish boyfriend, or The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network, who knows, but butter tarts sound like something I can totally cheat at (premade pie dough anyone?) and make delicious.
Between Beau MacMillan and epicurious, I'm ready to give them a whirl.

Butter Tarts
12 ounces all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
4 drops vanilla extract
9 ounces butter (!!!!!)
4 ounces eggs
4 teaspoons water

1/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins
1 vanilla bean

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest and vanilla. Cut in the butter and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the eggs and water and mix until combined. Divide the dough into 18 pieces and roll each into a circle. Press the dough into tart pans.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter, brown sugar and milk in a saucepan and stir until the sugar starts to dissolve.
Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the egg and raisins.

Bake the tart crusts for 12 minutes. Divide the filling among the tarts and bake until bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Amish Friendship Bread

A fantastic holiday treat and a fun way to share with like minded, baker type friends - Amish Friendship Bread is a time tested classic.  The only problem?  Waiting for someone to give you a starter!!!  The last one I received must've been 6 or 7 years ago and that's just mean.  My stepmom swears by a recipe that has pudding in it (?!), but the one version I made did not involve pudding.  Here is a pudding inclusive recipe that also features some good Q&A about substitutions and such.
AllRecipes also features a recipe with tons of reader comments that may be helpful.
This starter will yield enough batter to make yourself a loaf and share with three of your friends.  Be sure not to use metal bowls or mixing tools for this - plastic, glass and wood only!  You can dress this bread up however you'd like.  We've done apples and raisins, chocolate chips, and my stepmom even did banana.
Now I don't recall needing to refrigerate this bad boy - despite the milk. . .someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think refrigerating it makes the yeast lazy and slows down the fermentation magic.  Put it in the fridge or freezer only if you're not baking your bread on day 10.

Super Secret Starter:
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (warm means 110 degrees F when you're working with yeast if you didn't know - I sure didn't the first time I encountered this direction)
1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup white sugar
1 cup of warm milk (110 degrees F again)

In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water for 10 minutes or so, stirring well.
In a medium-large bowl, combine the flour and sugar mixing together to prevent lumps.
Slowly stir in the warm milk and the yeast.  Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap - it will go all bubbly and exciting as the yeasties chomp on all that sugar.  This is Day One of your bread.

Amish Friendship Bread (directions to include with the starter you share with your friends)
Note: The batter can be left in a bowl, covered, to do its thing.  If you'd prefer to give these gifts in a Ziploc bag, that works too - in that case you can just "massage" the batter around in the bag.  After day five you'll probably need to "burp" your bag so you don't come home to an exploded Amish mess.

Day One - the day you receive the starter (unless you're told otherwise by the giver!)

Day Two - stir the batter
Day Three - stir the batter
Day Four - stir the batter
Day Five - Add 1 cup each of sifted flour, sugar, and milk
Day Six - stir the batter
Day Seven - stir the batter
Day Eight - stir the batter
Day Nine - stir the batter
Day Ten - Add 1 cup each of sifted flour, sugar, and milk.  Separate into four, 1 cup portions and give three to friends.  With the fourth portion, do the following:
Add 2/3 cup oil
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Using a fork (yes it's okay to use metal now), or wooden spoon, beat by hand until well blended.  Add any additional treats now (raisins, nuts, etc.).
Grease two loaf pans with butter and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 325 F for 45 minutes to an hour until sides have pulled away and a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool and remove from pans.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Deviled Eggs

I'm not a huge fan of deviled eggs.  I don't dig cooked yolks see.
This means I don't like my eggs over well.
I toss the little sulfuric sphere out of my hardboiled ovum.
I DETEST egg salad (cooked yolks AND mayo - man, how could you?).
My stepmother makes deviled eggs for most events because most people quite like the things.  At some point during this last year (Easter I believe it was), she had the brilliant idea of adding pickled jalapenos.  Now there's something I can get on board with.  I branched out.  I tried a deviled egg.  And another.  And maybe one more.  Okay two.  But that's really only two full eggs so it's not that bad.

This year for festivus, my darling friend Jennie wanted to use her grandmother's crystal egg plate, but she had no idea how to make deviled eggs.  Enter me.  A quick call to my stepmother, a walk through of a semblance of a recipe (she cooks like I do), and I was on my way.  They weren't quite as good as hers, though nothing I make ever is, but they were a hit, and a decent first go if I do say so myself.

1 dozen eggs, hardboiled and cooled
(put the eggs into cold water and bring to a boil; boil for 17 minutes and immediately remove from water and immerse into an ice bath)
Peel the eggs, and cut in half.  Place the whites on papertowels to absorb any extra moisture and mash the yolks into dust.  A little more.  A little more than that.  There you go, that should be good.
Add to the yolks: 2 tsp of white vinegar (you may want to add more later, but start here), onion powder, garlic powder, salt, white pepper, 1 tbsp of mustard, and mayo to consistency.  It's all about taste here - start small and add more until you get to a spot you (or your boyfriend and his brother) approve of.  I think I might even like to add chopped up pickled jalapenos and sour relish sometime, but that's neither here nor there.
Put the yolk mixture into a plastic bag and cut off the tip (or a pastry bag with a star tip if you'd prefer) and pipe into the egg halves.
Garnish with whatever you like - paprika, pimentos, olives, sprigs of dill, crumbled bacon, and pickled jalapenos all seem like good options.  Stroke of genius: deviled eggs with crispy bacon on top could equal a great egg dish for a brunch party.  Yes.

Take photos before you bring them to the party or they'll all get eaten and you'll have to post with no photo, yet again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I'm gonna have to go ahead and name these puffcakes.  Although puffins is cute too.
Mini Maple Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Sift together with a wire whisk.
  • In another bowl, stir buttermilk, egg, maple syrup and melted butter until just combined.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until combined.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Spoon into muffin tins, either minis or regular - no need to spray them if they're nonstick.  The butter in the batter will keep them stick free.  We did spray ours and they ended up a little bit greasy.
  • Bake for 8-9 minutes for mini muffin pan, or 10-12 minutes for regular muffin pan.
  • Makes 24 minis or 9 regulars sized muffins.
Let cool slightly and remove from the pan. You may need to use a toothpick around the edges to separate the pancake muffins from the pan.
Serve immediately with more maple syrup for dunking.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wild. Boar. Ragu. . . . Oink.

I'm finally doing it y'all.
Wild Boar Ragu.

Patrick and I stopped in to Bud's Custom Meats in Penngrove and picked up a couple of hunks of wild swine (and Bloody Mary jerky, of course) and I set to work marinating for my ragu.
I found this recipe on Chow and proceeded to screw it up immediately by combining ALL ingredients into a bag and allowing them to marinate overnight.  :/
Luckily I did not destroy it (wild piggies are spency) - in fact, it was amazing.

I also stopped into Whole Paycheck and picked up some gnocchi and a little hunk of Parmesan and I am ready to get pan searing and give those Myth gnocchi of my memories a run for their money.

2 pounds wild boar tenderloin, cut into large chunks
carrot, small dice (about 1/2 cup) - I used baby carrots since that's what I had, but you could use 1 large one
2 ribs celery, small dice (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
4 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf

3 fresh thyme sprigs or 2-3 teaspoons dried
1 cup hearty Italian red wine, such as Sangiovese - I used a Pinot Meunier I got from my wine club that I wasn't wild about, but was good quality so I felt bad chucking it and kept it to cook with
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 -4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups low-sodium beef broth (or brown veal stock if you'd prefer)
sliced mushrooms
Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Combine boar with carrot, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme,tomatoes, tomato paste, broth and red wine in a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange the rack in the middle. Remove meat from the marinade and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reserve marinade for later.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy-bottomed pot with a tightfitting lid over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add meat and sear until nicely browned, about 6 minutes per side. (You may have to do this in 2 batches.)
Add reserved marinade, and bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and place in the oven until meat is fork tender, about 2 hours (but check it - ours was ready after an hour and a half). 
I thought it wasn't quite rich enough at this point, so I added another tablespoon or two of tomato paste and stirred it through, and added some sliced brown mushrooms and put it back in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes.
When meat is tender, shred it with two forks and mix well. Keep ragu warm over low heat until ready to combine with pan seared gnocchi. 

For those pan seared gnocchi?  I just put a tablespoon of unsalted and a tablespoon of salted butter in my pan (because I had them, not because I think you have to - I think all of one or the other would be fine and if you use unsalted you can season to taste) and allowed it to melt.
I chucked in the gnocchi and tossed them about to brown on most sides and crisp up a little.  A couple of scoops of the ragu and a hearty dusting of grate Parmesan and you're ready to swoon.
It would also be great over tagliatelle.

I don't know if there are many things better for a chilly December night.