Monday, November 26, 2007

"Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland" & "Sunset Fresh Ways With Salads" & "Perfect Chocolate Desserts" (Willan) - pot pie, salad, dessert

Date my husband made these recipes: November 23, 2007

Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland by Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 0-679-41175-5
Recipe: Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust – p. 170-171

Sunset Fresh Ways with Salads as Side Dishes or Main Courses by the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine
Published by: Lane Publishing Co.
ISBN: 0-376-02608-1
Gorgonzola, Apple & Walnut Salad – p. 9

Perfect Chocolate Desserts by Anne Willan
Published by: DK Publishing Inc.
ISBN: 0-7894-1671-9
Chocolate Crème Brulee – p. 58-59

No, I have not turned over my kitchen to my spouse. It’s just that our schedule changed with the unexpected stay-over of my brother and sister-in-law (see the Canadian Bacon Egg Casserole blog posting) and with everything going on, my husband volunteered to make dinner that night. Because he’s the pie guy, he also makes the fabulous biscuit crust that goes on top of the chicken pot pie and so what the heck, he might as well do the entire thing.

I mentioned in the pie blog posting that there are only two cookbooks that we keep in our kitchen. One is the Sunset Pie & Pastries Cookbook and the other is my absolute favorite out of all 800 (and counting!) cookbooks: Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland by Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson. (I just refer to it as Savoring the Seasons but that only gives you part of the gist of what this book is about).

Lucia Watson is to food in the heartland the way Alice Waters is to food in California. Both use fresh ingredients, both change their menus constantly and both figured out this “buy locally” concept well before it became popular nation-wide.

When Lucia opened her own restaurant in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, she turned the restaurant industry on its ear. The place was and still is packed. The food is just so unbelievably good that if one had the money one could just eat well by dining there all the time.

And then, God bless her, she and Beth Dooley published a cookbook. Mine happens to be a first edition and I love it so much that it has the aforementioned place of honor in my kitchen. It is spattered, it is stained, it is crumpled and it was autographed by Lucia when she did a book signing in conjunction with the promotion of the 1999-2000 Minneapolis -St. Paul Restaurants Zagat Survey. I tell you what, I gushed!

But my connection with Lucia didn’t end there. Lucia ordered her prosciutto from the Italian deli I was managing at the time and so every couple of days or so, she called in her order and often came to pick it up in person. She was always very pleasant and I enjoyed talking to her but nothing cemented our relationship like the Rhubarb-Sour Cream Cake Incident of 2000.

After a friend gave me and my husband a boatload of rhubarb, I decided to make the Rhubarb-Sour Cream Cake, found on p. 333 of the cookbook. Everything went well with the making of it but when I bit into it, the cake was soggy. Very soggy. Hmmm….well, that was disappointing.

So I did what any of us would do, right? I called and asked Lucia what went wrong. Now I didn’t really think I’d get Lucia herself because she was busy cooking food that was out of this world, but danged if she didn’t answer the phone. So I told her the problem and she said she’d have her pastry chef get back to me. “Yeah, right,” I thought.

Well, sure enough, the pastry chef called me back. And we went over the recipe step by step but the only thing we could think of was that perhaps my dry ingredients were past their prime but otherwise, it was a head-scratcher. But did I care? Heck no. I just turned my attention to other recipes in the book! (I’m no quitter).

So to date, here’s what I’ve made:

Chicken in Gin with Juniper – p. 70
Porketta (Garlic-Fennel Pork Roast) – p. 108-109 (one of our favorites)
Pork Loin with Apples and Cider Sauce – p. 110-111
Beef, Wild Rice and Winter Vegetable Soup – p. 146
Mrs. Macine’s Brownies – p. 314
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars – p. 317
Rhubarb-Sour Cream Cake – p. 333

And our number one favorite and this year’s featured item during our post-Thanksgiving Dinner: Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust.

People, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing more comforting than Lucia’s Chicken Pot Pie. We’ve made this recipe over and over and over again and it never disappoints. Neither does Lucia’s restaurant. If you haven’t been to Minneapolis before now, then get thee on a plane, train or automobile and make your dinner reservation now!! And if you live here and haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for??? Here, let me help you:

And although we could survive on Lucia’s Pot Pie alone, we needed to at least provide our guests with a couple other items and so we made a Gorgonzola, Apple & Walnut Salad from yet another Sunset Book - Fresh Ways with Salads - and then finished off our meal with a kick-butt Chocolate Crème Brulee from Anne Willan’s Perfect Chocolate Desserts Cookbook. The later book was given to us by my brother and sister-in-law as a gift one year so we thought it was appropriate that we make something from it while they were here.

Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust – serves 6 to 8 (unless you’re us in which case, two, maybe three servings. Of course, this all depends on how you define “servings!”)

3 cups homemade Chicken Stock or low-salt canned broth
1 pound chicken or turkey breast or 2 ½ cups diced cooked chicken or turkey meat
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1 cup peeled, chopped onions
4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup peas
¼ cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk
Egg wash (1 egg yolk combined with 1 tablespoon milk to brush over top of crust)

To make the filling, bring the stock to a low simmer in a large stockpot. Add the chicken or turkey breast and poach the meat on low (never allowing the water to boil) for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink when cut. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Add the carrots, potatoes, and celery, and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Dice the meat. Drain and reserve the stock and set the vegetables aside.

Melt the butter in a deep skillet and cook the chopped onions, stirring over medium heat until they are soft, then sprinkle in the flour and cook some more, stirring, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the milk and 2 cups of the chicken stock in a stream, stirring, and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and nutmeg, and cook about 5 minutes—the mixture should be thick. Add the peas and carrots, potatoes, and celery to the pot and stir to combine. Turn the mixture into a casserole dish or deep pie tin and make the crust. (This dish may also be made in individual pies. Use single serving ramekins and shorten the cooking time to 15 minutes).

To make the crust, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter until the dough resembles coarse meal, then toss in the grated cheese. Whisk the egg with the buttermilk. Add to the flour mixture and gently stir to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured board and pat it into a large round. Cut the dough into 2 ½-inch circles.

Place the biscuits on top of the chicken filling and brush with the egg wash. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Gorgonzola, Apple & Walnut Salad – serves 6 to 8
Gingered Walnuts (recipe follows)
¼ each walnut oil and salad oil
2 tablespoons each white wine vinegar and lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of white pepper
2 large tart green apples
1 head romaine or green leaf lettuce, washed and crisped
3 ounces (about 2/3 cup) crumbed Gorgonzola or other blue-veined cheese

Gingered Walnuts
1 tablespoon salad oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup walnut halves

To make the gingered walnuts:
Pour 1 tablespoon salad oil into an 8-inch square baking pan. Place pan in oven; preheat to 250. When oven is hot, remove pan and stir in soy sauce, ginger, salt and garlic powder. Add the walnuts, stirring to coat with oil mixture. Spread nuts in a single layer. Bake, stirring occasionally, until nuts are crisp and browned (about 30 minutes). Let cool on paper towels. If made ahead, store nuts in an airtight container at room temperature for u to 1 week. Makes about 1 cup.

To make the salad:
In a medium-size bowl, combine oils, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper; mix until well blended then set aside.

Just before serving, core and thinly slice apples. Tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces (you should have about 3 quarts). In a salad bowl, combine lettuce and apples. Mix dressing again then pour over salad and mix lightly until well coated. Sprinkle salad with walnuts and cheese. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Crème Brulee – serves 4
So…nothing says Thanksgiving like chocolate, no?! Since we made a pot pie for our non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we didn’t want to follow up with a dessert involving pie dough or biscuit dough so we turned our attention to chocolate.

This recipe was so good and so rich that I actually couldn’t finish it. The best thing about this recipe is its simplicity: chocolate, cream, eggs and sugar are all that are needed to impress your friends (and expand your waistline!).

6 oz semisweet chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

On a cutting board, with a chef’s knife, cut chocolate into small chunks. If you do this on a warm day, chill the chocolate first. Also note that the cutting board must be dry as moisture can affect melting. You can also chop the chocolate in a food processor but be sure you don’t overuse that pulse button or you’ll have a mess on your hands.

Get out your heavy-based saucepan and heat the chocolate and cream, stirring with a wooden spoon, until melted and smooth. Bring just to a boil. Let cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk together until just mixed. Pour the chocolate cream slowly into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until evenly mixed.

Strain the chocolate cream through the large strainer to remove any bits of cooked egg yolk. Anne recommends resting the strainer on the rim of another bowl.

Carefully ladle the chocolate cream into the ramekins, dividing it equally among them.

Fold a dish towel and put it on the bottom of a roasting pan. Set the ramekins on the towel then pour in cold water to come just over halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Bake the chocolate creams in the oven until a think skin forms on top, 10-15 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan. Chill the chocolate creams in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

To caramelize the chocolate creams:

Heat the broiler. Sprinkle each chocolate cream evenly with sugar, using a small strainer, to form a think even layer. Be sure to wipe off any sugar from the edges of the dishes because it will burn under the broiler.

Half fill the roasting pan with cold water and ice, and set the ramekins in it. Broil the chocolate creams as close as possible to the heat until the sugar melts and caramelizes, 2-3 minutes. Let cool a few minutes so the caramel forms a crisp layer.

NOTE: This is the first time I’ve heard of putting ramekins in an ice bath. My husband usually does the caramelizing and uses either a blow torch or a kitchen torch to do the job. In order to get a very thin, crisp crusty top, he recommends lightly sprinkling the ramekins with sugar and then dumping out the excess so you don’t over-torch the things!

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