Have you ever heard of wild sea spinach? I hadn’t until I read about it in, The Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Henry. Wild sea spinach grows along the coastline of Ireland, and other countries in the UK. Another species of wild spinach grows in New Zealand and parts of Asia. Sea spinach is related to most cultivated beets. However, casting family lines aside, prepare sea spinach the same way as cultivated spinach. Darina has made me so curious about wild sea plants. I wonder how they taste and if they are salty from being bathed by the sea.
Anyway, I saw a recipe of hers where she prepares wild sea spinach in a butter sauce and serves it spooned over oven poached sea trout. Maybe I am a romantic at heart, but the idea of cooking vegetables and fish from the local coastal area made me want to jump into the cookbook and be there. If you read my post about crispy potato skins, you know about my fantasy wanting to forage wild plants with Darina. It is very possible this recipe could have been the one that got my fantasy in full gear.
In Darina recipe, she poaches a whole sea trout “en papillote”. This is a technique where you wrap fish in foil or parchment paper and bake it in the oven. I love to prepare fish using this technique. The fish is very moist and the natural juices accumulate in the pouches. I have never poached a whole fish en papillote before. My visual of a whole salmon wrapped in foil is rather massive and would be hard to handle. For my purposes, I decided to scale the recipe down.
Salmon filets are a great substitute for sea trout. I also believe arctic char or small rainbow trout would work too. Perhaps, I may have to go to the UK to get sea spinach, but now and then sea trout is available in our stores in the Northeast US. I substituted baby spinach to replace the sea spinach. It may not have the ocean saltiness, but the baby spinach has a wonderful smoothness and flavor in a butter sauce.
The spinach butter sauce is an adaptation of a beurre blanc, a French white butter sauce, and is traditionally served with fish. It is not difficult to make, but you must be patient and not let the butter get too hot. While I am whisking in the butter, I usually move the pan on and off the heat to control the temperature. It is important to keep whisking away until the butter is all incorporated. Your whisking, and keeping the temperature low, are the keys to get the butter emulsified in the sauce.
Baked salmon with spinach butter sauce is a delicate and rich dish. Because the spinach sauce must stay warm, and is not easily reheated, it is not a meal that can easily be made ahead. It is possible to cook the fish ahead and serve at room temperature. However, the spinach butter sauce must be warm. I have read that a thermos will help keep the butter sauce warm, or placed in a double boiler on very low heat. Ultimately, it is best to eat salmon with spinach butter sauce as soon as it is done.
This is an elegant meal, and I believe a treat to be served on occasion. Serve along with baby potatoes boiled in salted water then drizzled with olive oil and herbs. You need the boiled potatoes because whatever amount of sauce the salmon does not soak up, the potatoes will. You should not serve this meal with anything else that is rich and fancy. The spinach butter sauce is all the embellishment you need.
A delicious dinner of oven poached salmon with spinach butter sauce, boiled baby potatoes with parsley and chives, green salad with a light dressing, white wine, and good company. Your special dinner is ready.
Serving Size: 4- 8 oz servings or 6- 5 oz servings
Fish wrapped in foil or parchment paper packets, en papillote, then baked in the oven is a great way to cook fish. The fish stays moist and the natural juices accumulate in the pouches. The spinach butter sauce adds a luxurious element and compliments the fish nicely. Perfect with boiled baby potatoes.
This recipe is slightly adapted from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen
5 oz / 150g baby spinach
2 lbs / 1 kilo salmon filet, or one side of arctic char
4 tarragon sprigs, divided
Fennel Fronds (optional)
¼ cup/ 60 ml dry vermouth or dry white wine (optional)
5 Tbs butter plus 1 Tbs
1/2 cup / 125 ml heavy cream
1 lb / 455 g fingerling potatoes
1 – 2 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil
About 1 Tbs minced chives
About 2 Tbs chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 375˚F / 190˚ C / Gas Mark 5
Wash and remove the stems from the spinach. Blanch the spinach in salted boiling water for one minute after the pot returns to a boil. Drain the spinach then shock in ice water. Place the blanched spinach on a clean flour sack towel, or thin kitchen towel, to dry, then squeeze out all the water from the spinach. Finely mince the spinach and set aside.
Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is at least 6-8 inches (20 cm) longer in length, and wider, than your piece of fish. Lay the aluminum foil on a sheet pan, large enough to hold your piece of fish, and smear half a tablespoon of butter across the center part of the foil. Place the salmon on the buttered surface and smear, or dot, the surface of the salmon with a half tablespoon of butter. (If your piece of fish is larger or your a cooking a whole fish, you will need more butter). Sprinkle the salmon with salt and scatter half of the tarragon leaves over the salmon and some fennel fronds. (If you are cooking a whole fish, add the herbs and salt in the cavity of the fish). Add the vermouth or wine if using.
Cover with another piece of aluminum foil and fold in and crimp the 4 sides of the foil to create a tight seal.
Place the fish in the preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your fish. Start checking to see if your fish is done at 20 minutes. Press down on the top of the salmon at it thickest part. If it feels tender but firm with some give, then the salmon is done. Once the salmon is done cooking, take it out of the oven and let it rest in the foil for 10 minutes. You can take the salmon out of the oven slightly before it is done, as it will continue to cook while it rests.
In the meantime, mince the remaining tarragon and set aside.
Boil some salted water in a saucepan large enough to hold all your potatoes. Add the fingerling potatoes, whole, to the salted boiling water and cook until done. Depending on the size of the potatoes, they could be done between 10 and 20 minutes. The potatoes are done when you pierce them with a knife, and the knife slides easily in and out of a potato without resistance. Check several potatoes to determine if they are all cooked. Drain the potatoes, and when cool enough to handle but still hot, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, chopped parsley and minced chives.
While the salmon and the potatoes are cooking, make the spinach sauce. Add the heavy cream to a wide mouth saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Carefully bring the cream to a boil. Once the cream starts to boil turn the heat slightly down, simmer until the cram is reduced by half its volume, ¼ cup. Once reduced, add the minced spinach and remaining tarragon and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low then add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, to the sauce and whisk in completely. Once the butter is thoroughly whisked in, add another knob of butter then whisk and repeat whisking it in. Repeat until all the butter is emulsified in the sauce. While you are making the sauce, watch the heat carefully and whisk constantly, you do not want the butter to get too hot or it will separate or brown. Once the fish is rested, carefully pour out some of the juices from the fish into the sauce, then whisk until combined.
Place the fish on a platter and spoon the spinach butter sauce over the fish. Put any leftover sauce in a bowl for your guests to help themselves. Serve with the boiled potatoes.
There is no occasion too ordinary that does not deserve recognition and celebration. For any reason, be it a birthday, anniversary, honor your national heritage, a promotion, or simply because the whole family is together, a celebratory acknowledgement is welcome and cake is the perfect finale.
If you are partial to chocolate cake, then chocolate stout cake is a terrific stand in. This is a very moist cake with deep dark chocolate flavor. Guinness Stout enriches the chocolate without any boozy aftertaste. Adding the Guinness to the cake makes a moist cake with deep malty and dark chocolate flavor. The extra bonuses are, it is simple to make, baked in one pan, and does not require fancy cake decorating skills. Chocolate Stout Cake is perfect in its simplicity as well as flavor.
I believe chocolate stout cake would taste delicious by itself without frosting, or just simply topped with whipped cream. Yet, it is nice to give cake more pizzazz and a creamy rich frosting will compliment the dark chocolate. Also, adding white frosting creates a cake that resembles a pint of stout. Many recipes frost chocolate stout cake with dark chocolate ganache, or cream cheese frosting. Fortunately, I discovered one made with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting and that sealed the deal for me. Normally, cream cheese frosting does not excite me, but add some white chocolate to it, I just knew it would be spectacular.
Baking with stout is not a novel idea. According to Anne Byrn in her book American Cake, people across the globe have baked with ale, porters and cider for ages. Centuries ago people used to make their own ale or cider. This common ingredient was often included in baked goods to keep cakes moist and add extra flavor. During that time, cakes were cooked inside a cast iron pot with a lid and placed directly on top the hot embers of the home fire. These were not like the delicate cakes that we now know and love, but hearty ones with preserved and fermented ingredients.
Traditional Irish Stout Cake is more like a spice cake with raisins and citrus. The origin of this type of cake could date back several hundred years. I am not sure when chocolate stout cake became popular in Ireland, or the US, yet I believe it was an inevitable pairing. Chocolate and stout are perfect mates.
My recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake is a combination of three recipes. From my research, I discovered Chocolate Stout Cake is not for the faint at heart. One recipe I found uses a pound of butter for one cake. That is more like a pound cake with all that butter. I was hoping for something not so heavy, and kept searching for a “lighter” version. Nigella Lawson’s recipe from the New York Times came through. Her recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake uses only 10 tablespoons of butter, and another bonus includes 1 cup of Guinness. The other recipes I found used a half cup of stout. This was an easy decision to make, less butter… more stout. I believe that is a fair trade.
I was thrilled when I discovered Donal Skehan’s recipe for White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. His Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe is like the other ones I researched, but his idea of adding white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting is brilliant. The past few times I made frosting with white chocolate has been nothing but extraordinary.
Additionally, I discovered a recipe for stout simple syrup from Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith. I added chili powder to the syrup then drizzled it over the frosting. I thought the stout syrup would resemble the amber stout making its way up through the white foam in a pint. Honestly, I could drizzle this stuff on anything. Right now, I am wondering how it would work in whipped cream, ice cream, or espresso martinis.
I am sure there are many potential adaptations for my pieced together cake. Most recipes for Stout cake select Guinness as the stout of choice. Fortunately, there are so many stouts to choose from, why not have some fun with it? I may try a stout from a local microbrewery the next time I make Chocolate Stout Cake.
Chocolate Stout Cake is a perfect cake to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Yet, it is too delicious to serve only once a year. I know I will want to make it for any time good cheer is on the menu.
Chocolate Stout Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Next time you are in the mood for chocolate cake, Chocolate Stout Cake will give you that chocolate flavor you crave. The addition of Guinness stout makes this delicious chocolate stout cake very moist with some extra lift. The stout makes the chocolate richer without a boozy taste. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is a delicious compliment to the dark chocolate cake. A luscious double chocolate treat.
This recipe is from three recipes: Cake from Nigella Lawson's, Chocolate Guinness Cake via the New York Times. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is from Chocolate Guinness Cake by Donal Skehan. The Stout Syrup is from Stout Float by Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith from the Food Network.
Chocolate Stout Cake
1 cup / 8oz / 250ml Guinness Stout, or your favorite stout
10 Tbs / 5oz / 132g of unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan
3/4 cup / 2 ½ oz / 70g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups / 1 lb / 450g sugar
2 cups / 10oz / 291g all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup / 6oz / 200ml sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tb vanilla extract
White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
7 oz / 200g good quality white chocolate, 30% cocoa butter
4 oz / 125g unsalted butter at room temperature
1- 225g package cream cheese
1½ cups / 225g confectioners sugar
Stout Syrup (optional)
1 cup / 225g granulated sugar
1-12 oz / 355 ml bottle Guinness Stout
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch / 23cm springform pan. Add a parchment paper liner to the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan add the butter and stout. Turn the heat to medium low and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Once the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk together until well combined. Let cool for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour and baking soda and whisk together to get the baking soda evenly mixed through. Make a well in the flour and add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 min - 1 hr, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and cool the cake in the pan.
Stout Syrup (optional)
If using make the stout syrup while the cake is baking.
Pour the stout and sugar in a medium saucepan and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat then simmer the liquid until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes or more. Let the syrup cool before using.
White chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. As soon as it is melted remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
In a bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or large mixing bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and light. This will take awhile. Periodically stop beating and scrape down the sides of the bowl so it mixes evenly.
Add the cooled white chocolate to the cream cheese and butter, and mix together at medium speed.
Sift the confectioners sugar, then gradually add it into the white chocolate and cream cheese. Mix on low speed between each addition of confectioners sugar. Once all the confectioners sugar is added, beat the frosting until smooth.
Putting it all together
Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Release the latch from the springform pan and lift the rim away from the cake. Loosen the bottom of the cake from the pan with an icing spatula or knife, then remove the bottom of the pan. Holding the cake upside down, carefully peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake on a serving plate.
Spread the frosting across the top of the cake. The cake will look like a pint of stout with the dark bottom and the white cloudy top.
(optional) Drizzle the stout syrup randomly across the top of the frosting on the cake. Swirl a knife through the stout syrup drizzle to create a random pattern.
Serve and enjoy. The cake tastes best at room temperature and eaten the day it is made.
One cannot research Irish Cuisine without devoting some time reading about the potato. This nutritious plant plays an important role in Ireland’s history, and because of the potato famine, US history as well.
Although there is some debate about when and who introduced the potato in Ireland, there is no mistaking its impact. The health and welfare of the Irish people significantly improved after its introduction. I read, before the potato famine, 30 percent of Ireland’s population depended on the potato for a significant portion of their diet. There is evidence from that time that people ate 40 to 60 potatoes a day. *
Sadly, the plant that helped build a country is also responsible for one of Ireland’s most significant challenges. In 1845, the potato blight hit Ireland. By 1851, 1 million people died from starvation, and by 1855, 2 million people emigrated from Ireland. * How does a country recover from such a significant loss?
There is often a connection between historical events and food, or the lack thereof. With some time and effort, I am sure it is possible to create a timeline of historical events and discoveries that relate back to the potato. Any food could have an impact to all aspects of our daily lives. Yet, some of the more interesting developments is seeing how food changes from a means for survival, to a developed regional cuisine. Fortunately after the potato famine, Ireland was able to do just that.
I own a wonderful Irish Cookbook, The Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Allen. She is considered “the Julia Child of Ireland”, and runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork. I love reading this book. Darina has a friendly ease in her writing that makes you feel you will always be welcome at her table. She is passionate about teaching and the slow food movement. I would love to spend a day with her, foraging through the Irish countryside then bake biscuits with the wild onions we collected.
Darina Allen’s book is my primary source about Irish cuisine. It has a vast collection and I believe I will be reading, cooking and learning from it for some time. After browsing through her section on potatoes, I am not sure what I enjoy more, the food or their names. With names like Champ, Colcannon or Bubble and Squeak, it is easy to believe there is always lively conversation during dinner time. It was hard to pick just one recipe to feature. Several traditional potato recipes were very enticing, but I decided on a recipe that is very familiar to Americans, Crispy Potato Skins.
Darina’s recipe recommends serving plain baked potato skins with dips, like you would for chips. Her dips range in flavor from sweet and spicy, to herby and creamy combinations. This sparked my imagination. However, I decided to follow my own path and create crispy potato skins as a composed appetizer recipe.
Please forgive me for my American adaptation. Darina’s Crispy Potato Skins are perfect appetizer fare on any continent. Yet, I could not stop myself from dreaming up endless potato skin recipes. Potato skins with melted cheddar cheese and crispy bacon is a familiar menu item, but what about smoked Irish salmon? Pickles and potatoes are delicious together, what about pickled jalapeños? How would hot pepper jelly taste with the crispy potato skins? Maybe crab or blue cheese would be a nice change. I am not too far off the game here as Darina’s cookbook inspired all my ideas.
One idea I had, is to serve potato skins buffet style, like you would for a taco dinner. This could be successful for a small gathering of friends. People would get the potatoes skins hot out of the oven and choose toppings as they please. I thought this would be perfect for the times when there are guests with different diet preferences. No one would feel left out.
One word of caution, do not eat green potatoes. They are slightly poisonous and will give you an upset stomach.
The important thing to remember is potato skins are informal, and help create a fun and relaxed time with friends and family. Don’t let the informality fool you. They are also quite delicious. Even though crispy potato skins are easy to make, they require planning ahead. It can take up to an hour to cook the potatoes before you cut them open and make them into crispy potato skins. These tubers are twice baked. So sadly, they are not suited for an impromptu get together.
Now that all the crispy potato skins are all eaten up, I must decide what to make with the leftover fluffy potato flesh. Let’s see… Champ, Colcannon or Bubble and Squeak? Oh joy, what’s next?
Serving Size: 2-3 slices per person for an appetizer
Two ways to serve crispy potato skins, one with smoked salmon and another with melted cheese and pickled jalapenos. The amounts of toppings for each recipe of potato skins is sized up for 8 potatoes. You can easily adjust the ingredients up or down depending on how much you want to make. The amount of topping ingredients is all relative to personal preference and the size of potato.
Serve the Crispy Potato Skins hot.
Plain crispy potato skins and the Dubliner Cheese and Pickled Jalapenos Potato skins can be made ahead and reheated in a 350˚F oven covered with foil.
8 medium size Yukon Gold Potatoes, or other medium starch potato
2 Tb melted butter or extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
For the Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Irish Salmon
1/4 lb smoked Irish Salmon*
1/4 cup sour cream
3 Tb minced chives and more for garnish
32 extra thin slices of cucumber, cut in half
For the Dubliner and Pickled Jalapeno Potato Skins
1/2 cup (or more) of grated Dubliner cheese
32 slices of pickled jalapenos, rough chopped
For the Crispy Potato Skins
Preheat the oven to 400˚F
Scrub and clean each potato thoroughly, then dry with a paper towel.
Prick each potato with a fork or sharp paring knife in 2-3 places
Place the pricked potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until cooked about 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. The potatoes are done when pierced with a sharp knife or fork and there is no resistance. The knife will glide easily in and out of the potato.
When done, remove the potatoes from the oven and cool. Turn the oven up to 450˚F.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. Some potato flesh should remain on the skin. Reserve the potato flesh for another use.
Slice each potato half, lengthwise in 2 pieces.
Arrange the potato slices on a sheet pan and brush the fleshy part of each slice with melted butter or extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with Kosher salt and ground pepper.
Bake in the oven until crisp, about 10-15 minutes.
Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Irish Salmon
While the potato skins are crisping in the oven, slice the smoked salmon into pieces that will fit onto the potato skins.
In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with 3 Tbs of the minced chives.
Assemble the crispy potato skins. You will want to work quickly because the potato skins taste best when they are hot.
When the potato skins are crisp and hot out of the oven, spread a small spoonful of the sour cream and chives along the fleshy part. Add two cucumber half slices on top of the sour cream, then drape a generous piece of smoked salmon on top of the cucumber. Garnish with minced chive.
Repeat until you have assembled all the skins you want to complete.
Melted Dubliner Cheese and Pickled Jalapenos Potato Skins
Remove the potato skins from the oven when crisp. Keep the potato skins on the sheet pan and sprinkle grated Dubliner cheese over each piece and place the pickled jalapenos on top of the cheese. (or vice versa). Put the potatoes back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted. Serve hot.
* You will most likely not need a full 1/4 pound of smoked salmon. Cut the smoked salmon into pieces as you need them. Enjoy the remaining smoked salmon for another use.
This month I decided to teach myself about Irish food. I know about the usual suspects, but not much else. Realizing there is probably more to Irish cuisine besides corned beef and cabbage, I set out on an Irish food journey. My journey began researching beer which led me down a delightful but windy road to discover Irish cheese.
If, like me, you are not familiar with Irish cheese, then you are in for a treat. In my area, the available Irish cheeses are from Kerrygold. I was concerned this company is a big commercial brand and not one with artisan cheese quality. Typically, large US grocery stores carry cheeses and food from major commercial companies so I wasn’t sure how these cheeses would taste. I knew their butter was outstanding and decided to have an Irish cheese tasting of three different cheeses: Dubliner Irish Stout Cheese, Irish Whiskey Cheddar and Cashel Blue Cheese. What I learned is Kerrygold not just makes delicious butter, they make wonderful cheeses.
Usually, when I make up a cheese platter I select three distinctly different cheeses. For this platter, I wanted to present a region so the types of cheeses I had are more limited. I also like to have fresh and dried fruits with the cheese because the sweetness and acid from the fruit can cut the richness of the cheese. When I have a cheese tasting I serve the cheese on very plain crackers, like Carr’s Water Crackers. That way I predominantly taste the cheese. The plain crackers are also great to clear your palate.
Three Irish Cheeses
My first Irish cheese sample was Cashel Blue. I don’t know if there is a protocol with cheese tasting, like there is at a wine tasting, but I went ahead and dug right into the strongest cheese on the plate. It is a strong blue cheese, but not a biting one. There is a wonderful creaminess to offset the musty veins. We loved it, and I later learned it is an award-winning cheese. As I was tasting it I was going through my mind of what I would want to make with it, like my Blue Cheese Baby Cheesecakes, or Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots. Yet again, Cashel Blue is just fine by itself paired with Killian’s Red Ale.
Dubliner Irish Stout Cheese was the driest in texture and mildest of the three cheeses. I would not classify this as a mild cheese though, as it has a lot of body. This is a Dubliner cheese infused with Irish stout. It has a rich and nutty taste with a hint of malty stout. The stout flavor is mild, yet blended well with the nutty cheese flavor. The color is so buttery and beautiful.
Irish Whisky Cheddar is exactly as the name states. Oh man, this cheese is delicious. It is a sharp but creamy cheddar with lots of body. There are hints of the caramel from the whisky without the boozy flavor. This is another winner, and in our opinion, one of the best cheddar cheeses we have ever had.
I am no stranger to good cheese. I worked in a gourmet cheese store in NYC and lived my entire life in the States with exceptional artisan cheese companies. There is an obvious connection between areas where there are quality dairy farms and high-end artisan cheese making. All the cheeses are balanced in flavor. You know the phrase, “You are what you ate, ate”? These cheeses deliver in quality flavor because they were made from milk of grass-fed happy cows. I wanted to travel in space and land on an emerald-green coastal pasture in Ireland.
My Irish cheese tasting was a fun and delicious discovery and I will happily do again. Yet, any one of these cheeses would be welcome on any cheese platter. As recommended, I served an Irish red ale to pair with the cheese, but snuck in tasting some stout along the way. The Irish red ale thoroughly complimented the cheeses, and I did not miss the customary wine and cheese tasting. As the saying goes, “What grows together, goes together”.
If you want to make an Irish Cheese Platter, but can’t find any cheeses in your area, I-gourmet is a very good specialty cheese and food website. They started their business in my hometown of Yorktown and offer a great choice of cheeses and other fun food and gifts items. Click on this link for their “Little Bit of Ireland” selection.
What beer and cheese pairing do you enjoy?
Full disclosure, I am not sponsored by Kerrygold or anybody. This is about my research based on what Irish cheeses and beer are available to me in NY. It is my intention to learn more about Irish cuisine, (and beer), and how I can develop this cuisine into my repertoire. Cheers!
I have a distinct food memory for Swedish Meatballs. Not the ones Mom made when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s. Her meatballs were made using the 1960’s secret ingredient in everything, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Now I enjoyed Mom’s Swedish meatballs, enough to order them in a restaurant as an adult, but hers had a familiar taste. They always reminded me of something we ate before, like the chicken enchilada casserole or baked chicken and mushroom dinner. Individual flavors did not stand out. Everything tasted “good” but that was it. No wow factor. My Swedish meatball memory is significantly different.
Joe and I were eating at a restaurant one night after a long work day. This was in the time before we became parents and could eat out during the week. I do not remember the name of the restaurant, but it was a wine tasting bar and very different from all the restaurants in the Mt Kisco, NY vicinity. It was a great place to go. I loved their idea creating a bar focused on wine and served small plates. This restaurant was open before tapas and small plate establishments were popular. Sadly, the bar did not last very long. Maybe it was a restaurant before its time.
I ordered a Cabernet Sauvignon and a small plate of Swedish meatballs. They were a revelation. I have no idea if they were authentic or not, but the meatballs were bathed in a light cream and fresh dill sauce. The fresh dill in the Swedish meatballs changed everything for me. It transformed a rich and traditional meal, to a fresh and light dinner that was truly unexpected. Not a can of Campbell’s soup in sight.
Fresh dill and I have an on again off again relationship. When I was in my early 20’s I cooked with dill all the time. It got to be too much, so I stopped eating dill. Fortunately, I adapted and appreciate fresh dill not only with fish, but in stews and chicken. Every time I eat dill it surprises me, as if I had forgotten what it tastes like. The flavor of dried dill must still be seared in my brain. Thankfully, now when I eat fresh dill, it is always a welcome surprise and not a recurring nightmare.
Honestly, what excites me about cooking is using fresh herbs. Adding, fresh herbs differentiate food from the walking the same routine to dancing with happy feet. The fresh herb flavor elevates the meal to new levels and defines the foundation, like hearing Mavis Staples singing, “I’ll Take You There”. Food, like music, ground you and lift you up at the same time, and there is always a welcome invitation.
Recipe Development for Swedish Meatballs
Is my recipe for Swedish meatballs authentic? Maybe, I am not positive. Based on my research, traditional Swedish Meatballs are spiced with allspice or nutmeg, a blend of different ground meats, cooked in a gravy with or without cream, and served with Lingonberry Jam. I researched many recipes and used the similarities for my base recipe. My sauce is a total improvisation, but I believe it works. The sour cream in the sauce has such a wonderful and welcome tang. I would miss it if I made this recipe using heavy cream. Adding fresh dill to any meat dishes always adds dimension and pairs well with the lightly blended meat and sour cream.
Based on my experience making meatballs, I decided to try a different technique recommended by Daniel Gritzer from Serious Eats. Instead of baking the meatballs in the oven, or frying them in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter, I deep-fried them. Well, if you can call ½ inch of oil deep-fry, but this recommendation worked perfectly. The meatballs were evenly browned with a smooth round shape. The thin crispy exterior was the perfect thickness protecting the tender meat inside. Also, frying the meatballs got rid of my typical problem of having too much flour coating the meatballs. Joe is our in-house meatball expert and loved them a lot. He especially liked the contrast of the crispy exterior and the tender and juicy interior.
Whether or not my version can authentically be labeled Swedish Meatballs, I believe they are respectful to its history. What matters to me, is they are a welcome change and fun challenge for me to make. It is not a fancy dinner, but a pleasing one with enough distinct and delightful flavors to have its own identity. Careful, they are quite addictive. It was hard for me to stop nibbling them while I was photographing the Swedish meatballs. If Mom were here enjoying a dinner of Swedish meatballs with us, I am certain she would like them so much she would lick her plate clean.
Serving Size: 3 meatballs for an appetizer, 6-8 for dinner
Delicately flavored Swedish meatballs with a welcome tang from sour cream combined with a bright taste of fresh dill. Deep frying the meatballs creates a light and crispy exterior that protects the tender and juicy meat inside.
Serve Swedish meatballs with buttered egg noodles and a dark green vegetable.
½ cup whole milk
½ cup panko bread crumbs
4 Tbs butter, divided
1 small onion, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 tsp Kosher Salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Handful of chopped parsley
Vegetable oil for frying
2-3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs oil used for frying
2 cups beef broth plus extra
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Kosher or Flakey Sea Salt to taste
Fresh Ground pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream
5 sprigs of fresh dill, minced
Put the milk and the bread crumbs in a small bowl and let them soak for a few minutes.
Add 2 Tbs butter to a small skillet and add the minced onions. Cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent and softened. Turn off heat and slightly cool the onions.
Add the ground beef, ground pork, milk soaked bread crumbs including the milk, the egg, nutmeg, minced parsley, Kosher salt, and ground pepper to the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor.
Mix on low speed until all the ingredients are just combined. Turn the speed to medium high and mix for about one minute.
Roll the ground meat mixture into small meatballs the size of a walnut, about 1 inch in diameter. Place the rolled meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Wet your hands with water to keep the ground meat from sticking to your hands while you are working.
Turn the oven on to 200˚F and place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack.
Use a 12-inch skillet and pour in vegetable oil until the oil reaches a depth of ½ inch. Heat the oil to 350˚F.
Fry the meatballs until they are evenly golden brown and have the internal temperature of 160˚F. This will take about 3-4 minutes depending on the size of your meatballs. While frying the meatballs, turn the meatballs over so they get evenly browned. A fish spatula is perfect tool to guide the meatballs over. You will need to fry the meatballs in batches, and being careful not to crowd the pan. I cooked 9-10 meatballs at a time in my 12-inch skillet.
When done, remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon, or spider, and place on the baking sheet in the pre-heated oven. I found it easier to transfer the meatballs to the oven in two steps. First, I removed the meatballs from the skillet and placed onto a dinner plate. Then I used the plate to transfer the meatballs into the oven and roll them off the plate and onto the rimmed baking sheet. (The plate was also useful as a staging area to check the internal temperature of the meatballs. Additionally, if red juices dripped out of the meatballs I knew more cooking time was needed.)
Repeat frying the meatballs in batches until all the meatballs are cooked. Make sure the oil in the skillet reaches close to 350˚F each time you start a new batch.
Keep the meatballs warm in the oven while you are making the sauce.
In another skillet or Dutch oven, add 1 -2 Tbs of the oil used to fry the meatballs with. Add 2 Tbs of butter and turn the heat up to medium. When the butter is melted add 3 Tbs flour and stir into the butter with a wire whisk. Cook the flour and butter until the mixture is a nice light brown color and you do not smell the flour, about 2-3 minutes. Pour 2 cups of the beef broth into the butter and flour and whisk the ingredients until it is smooth and incorporated, do not let it boil.
Add the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and mix together. Taste for salt and add Kosher salt, a small pinch at a time, to correct the seasoning.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sour cream. Taste and correct the seasoning if needed. Add more beef broth if it is too thick for your taste. Place the pan back on the burner and turn the heat on low. Add the minced dill and stir.
Add the meatballs and mix together with the sauce. Correct your seasoning to taste and serve.
The meatballs can be made a head in two ways.
1- Cook the meatballs and refrigerate them until you are ready to serve them. When ready, make the sauce 30 minutes before you want to serve them, and heat up the meatballs in the sauce.
2: Prepare the meatballs and the sauce in a Dutch oven. Cool the Swedish meatballs, cover with the lid, then refrigerate until needed. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Put the covered meatballs in the oven and warm up. About 30 minutes. Check the warming meatballs to make sure they are not drying up. Add more beef stock if needed.
What I love about cooking is its split personality. Cooking requires technical precision, but also a certain amount of flexibility. It seems like an odd arrangement, but both precise technique and the ability to be spontaneous and adapt, happily co-exist when the heat is on. Technique, experience and intuition dance together and enlighten the cook toward a delicious masterpiece.
Inspiration and real-time situations influence a cook’s technical strengths and creativity. How many creative works of art and scientific truths have evolved out of “mistakes”? And, where would the world be without the creative spirit to “fix” them? I do my best to plan and be prepared whenever I start to cook a meal. However, I can’t tell you how many times I started cooking something and realized I was missing one or more of the required ingredients, the chicken went bad overnight, or had the wrong size pan. Damn, now what? A quick survey of the situation and my pantry, something unintended develops and who knows could be a new family favorite.
I rely on recipes I call my foundations. These recipes can easily adapt to any of life’s unexpected adventures, or my creative whims. One foundation recipe is Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel. I fall in love with roasted fennel every time I eat it, and this recipe is no exception. The subtle sweetness of the fennel compliments the richness of the caramelized shallots and roasted chicken. I will also seek out any excuse to use fresh tarragon. Still, the bones of the recipe allow me to develop many reincarnations at whim or by necessity.
Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel is not complicated to make, or have a lot of speciality ingredients. A total bonus is, it does not require my full attention while it is cooking. Yet, there are a couple of technical factors that will influence the recipe’s outcome. The obvious one is knowing when the chicken is properly cooked. Undercooked chicken will make you sick and overcooked chicken is chewy and dry. The not so obvious influence is the baking pan.
Tips for Success making Oven Baked Chicken
In this instance size, does matter. The size and type of pan will determine how long the chicken will cook, and how it will cook. The higher the sides the more pan juices will develop. Too large of a pan and the juices will dry up. A pan that is too small will not allow for enough air circulation to achieve crispy skin and have the chicken cook properly.
I baked eight pieces of chicken with all the vegetables in a roasting pan that was 16″ x 11” x 1 1/2″ (41cm x 27.5 cm x 4 cm) in size. The finished meal was perfectly baked chicken with crispy skin, caramelized shallots and plenty of pan juices. Yet, being flexible is my mantra so use whatever baking pans you have. The size of the pan is more important, than the type of pan. Hopefully you have a baking dish with sides. If you only have small pans, divide the recipe between two pans. The outcome might be slightly altered, but more importantly you can still make this delicious baked chicken dinner without making a trip to the store.
Second, be observant and listen to the chicken with your senses. The chicken will tell you when it is done. Pierce the chicken at its thickest part with a fork, and take note about how much resistance you feel. The fork will slide through a perfectly cooked piece of chicken with little resistance. You should see clear liquid flowing out of the holes made by the fork. If you see cloudy or bloody juices spilling out of the chicken, the meat needs more time to cook.
Additionally, you can cut open the meat and look inside. It is better to cut across one piece of chicken then serve undercooked chicken to your friends and family. Chicken meat that is properly cooked, is not pink or appears raw. It should be juicy as well. The meat is overcooked if it looks dry and there are no flowing juices. The internal temperature for just cooked chicken is between 165˚F and 170˚F.
I like to follow the recipe exactly as instructed the first time I cook it. I learn about how to prepare a new dish and about the author. Learning new techniques is fun, but so is being creative and adapting to my set of circumstances. So, after the first trial run, I am comfortable adapting a recipe to fit my mood, or to what is in my pantry.
Oven Baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel is a balanced chicken dinner accented with tarragon, vermouth, garlic and lemon. If necessary you can adjust the ingredients, including the amount of time to marinate the chicken. Don’t like vermouth, no problem switch it with a dry white wine. The fresh herbs are not available at the store, fear not and use dried herbs. Can’t find shallots, regular onions sliced into thin wedges will suffice. No time to marinate the chicken, no worries it will still taste fine if you mix everything together right before you cook it. The depth of flavor may not be as intense, but it will be satisfying and delicious.
Cooking a meal should not be stressful. I always say use what you’ve got and enjoy the process. Technique is your friend that sets the foundation but also allows you to be creative and adapt to any of life’s mistakes and adventures.
The combination of fresh tarragon, shallots, fennel and vermouth add subtle and sweet flavor to the baked chicken. If you have time, marinate the chicken and vegetables for one to four hours. Not to worry if time does not allow for marinating the chicken. The baked chicken will still be delicious.
Use a Pyrex like baking dish, roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet to bake the chicken. The pan should be large enough for all the chicken pieces and vegetables to fit in without being too crowded or too big.
8 Skin on bone in Chicken Thighs or combo of breasts and chicken*
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
8-10 cloves of garlic, divided
Zest of half a lemon plus 1 whole lemon cut into 8 wedges
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh tarragon
1/2 cup dry vermouth, divided
2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsp honey
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 fennel bulb and fronds
8 small shallots
Trim the chicken thighs of extra skin and if using chicken breasts cut each breast in half. Arrange the chicken on a tray. Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with Kosher salt and let rest on the counter while you make the marinade.
Peel the garlic, remove the green germ, and mince half of the garlic cloves. Place the minced garlic in the mixing bowl. Strip the thyme and tarragon leaves from their stems and finely chop. Add the herbs to the bowl. Add the lemon zest, mustard, honey, olive oil, ground pepper and 1/4 cup vermouth to the bowl and whisk together until incorporated.
Cut the fennel bulb in half, remove the core and thinly slice the bulb, no more than a 1/4 inch. Reserve the fennel fronds and set aside.
Peel each shallot then cut each bulb in half. Set aside with the fennel.
Add the chicken to the marinade then use your clean hands and mix the chicken until each piece is thoroughly coated with the marinade. Add the sliced fennel, remaining garlic cloves, and shallots then mix them all together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate for 1 - 3 hours. Marinade the chicken in the refrigerator if longer than one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 F, 15 minutes before you want to bake the chicken.
Spread the chicken, fennel and shallots over a large roasting pan that is just large enough to accommodate all the chicken without crowding the pan. You can slip the fennel under the chicken.
Place the lemon wedges around the pieces of chicken, fennel fronds and the remaining 1/4 cup of vermouth to the roasting pan.
Bake the chicken and vegetables for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with pan juices and bake for 20 more minutes. Check to see if the chicken is done. The chicken is done when piercing the chicken with a fork, there is little resistance and the juices are clear. The internal temperature should be between 165F and 170F.
When done, remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Serve the chicken with the fennel, shallots and lemon, drizzled with remaining pan juices.
If you prefer, you can make this dish with boneless and skinless chicken thighs. Reduce the oven temperature to 400F. If the chicken did not brown as much as you like put the chicken and vegetables under the broiler for a couple of minutes. I do not recommend making this with boneless chicken breasts because they will cook to quickly and the vegetables will not be done. Boneless chicken breasts get mushy if they are marinated for more than an hour.
The roasting lemon wedges with chicken adds great lemon flavor. You can eat the lemon slice rind and all. Use only lemons with a thin rind. Too much lemon pith does not taste very good.
Whenever I go out for breakfast or brunch I have a silent debate about what to order. Usually, I will toggle back and forth between the different selections. Do I want pancakes? Eggs? My thoughts circle around in my head questioning which would be healthier, won’t leave me hungry in two hours, and what do I really want? It is ridiculous, but I must walk my way through the menu, weigh each option, assess my mood, then grant my wish.
On the occasion that I do choose pancakes, I feel as if I have made a gutsy decision. A cheer for a laissez-faire attitude to eat whatever I want, and stand up to the imaginary food police. When did pancakes become a guilty pleasure? A song comes to mind coaxing me to live by the wise words of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy.”
Fortunately, I devised a solution to convince my inner grumblings and created a more “nutritiously dense” pancake breakfast. I substituted all-purpose flour with oat flour. I could be kidding myself, believing pancakes made with oat flour are healthier and a more nutritious choice then pancakes made with all-purpose flour. It is a whole grain after all. At this time I am not sure how reliable my nutritional information is. Yet, if we put the potential nutritional benefits aside, pancakes made with oat flour are moist, airy, and have a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. In other words they taste great, extra health benefits or not.
It is not just a straight swap of all-purpose flour with oat flour. Oat flour does not have the gluten proteins and will need extra leavening. Also, oat flour has more moisture than all-purpose flour, so you might not need the same ratio of liquid to flour. The easy part is, pancakes are the perfect place to start learning how to cook with gluten-free flour because of its free-form structure.
You can make oat flour by putting rolled oats into a blender and grind away. However, the flour will not get as smooth as the store-bought oat flour. The uneven gritty texture might be fine in some baked goods, but I prefer my pancakes light with an fluffy texture minus the granules. If you can find oat flour at your grocery store, buy it. Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur are two companies that make oat flour. Fortunately, Bob’s Red Mill is widely available at most grocery stores and usually costs around $3.65, and over $6.00 for gluten-free oat flour. If you want to make banana oat pancakes for someone with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, make sure the package says it is gluten-free on the label.
I believe oat flour adds a nice flavor to pancakes and does not have that floury aftertaste that you sometimes get with all-purpose flour. Banana Oat Pancakes are a great way to sneak in some oatmeal for little ones, (and big ones) who are not so fond of eating a bowl of oatmeal cereal.
Airy banana oat pancakes are light with a slightly sweet and buttery flavor. It is a great way to add some nutritious oats into your diet. They are made with oat flour and is a delicious gluten-free alternative for pancakes.
For Blueberry Pancakes substitute the bananas with 1 cup fresh blueberries.
For Buttermilk or yogurt pancakes: substitute the milk with 1 ½ cups buttermilk (or yogurt) and ½ cup milk. Substitute the baking powder with 1 tsp baking soda plus 1 Tb baking powder. Omit the vanilla. The batter will be a lot thicker than pancake batter with milk.
Serve the pancakes with butter and warm real maple syrup.
3 Tb (1 1/2 oz/ 43 g) melted butter
2 cups (7 oz/200 g) oat flour
3 Tbs granulated sugar (2 oz/56 g)
1 Tb plus 2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (1/4 tsp if using store bought ground nutmeg)
1 ½ cups milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs separated
¾ cup rough chopped bananas (4 ¾ oz / 137 g, about 1 ½ bananas)
Preheat oven to 225˚F. Place a baking sheet in the oven on a rack in the middle of the oven.
Melt the butter using a microwave or stove top. Set the butter aside to come to room temperature.
Sift the oat flour into a large mixing bowl.
Add the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg to the bowl with the oat flour. Stir the ingredients so they are evenly combined with a wire whisk. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together the egg yolks, milk, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.
Add the egg and milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix together until well combined with the whisk. The batter will thicken and you will see some air bubbles. Add the cooled melted butter and bananas then mix until just combined.
Add the egg whites and mix until well combined. You do not have to worry about over mixing with oat flour because there are no gluten proteins. Optional: whip the egg whites with an electric beater until they are stiff, but not dry. Then fold one quarter of the egg whites into the batter. Add the remaining egg whites and carefully fold them until all mixed in.
Heat your griddle or skillet to medium - medium/high heat. (I set my electric griddle to 350˚F, then turn in down to 325˚F when it is hot.) To test if your pan is hot enough, flick some water onto the surface of your heated pan. If the water bubbles, sizzles and dance, the pan is hot enough. If the water just sizzles, then the pan needs more time to heat up. If the water immediately evaporates, then the pan is too hot.
Melt a little knob of butter on the griddle or skillet, and spread it evenly over the pan's surface.
Use a 1/4 dry measuring cup to scoop the pancake batter and pour the batter onto the hot surface. Use a thin rubber spatula to help scrape out the batter from the cup. Continue to scoop and pour batter onto the hot pan until the pan is full but not crowded. I fit 6 pancakes at a time using a countertop griddle. A 12-inch skillet will fit 3 pancakes at a time.
As the pancake batter cooks it will begin to form bubbles. When some of the air bubbles pop, the pancakes are ready to flip. Look for some air bubbles appearing in the middle of the pancake, about 2- 3 minutes. Use a sturdy spatula, flip the pancakes over, and cook the other side for another minute or 2. You want nice golden brown color on both sides of the pancakes and cooked all the way through in the middle.
Put the cooked pancakes on the baking sheet in the oven to keep them warm while you finish the rest of the pancakes.
Serve with warm maple syrup.
Pancake batter is not suitable to making ahead of time. All the loft from the leavening and egg whites will deflate over time. Cook the pancakes as soon as the egg whites are folded in the batter.
If you need to prepare the pancake mix ahead, mix together all of the dry ingredients and cover them with plastic wrap. They can sit on the counter until you plan on making them. Add the wet ingredients and egg whites when you are ready to cook them.
It is optional to whip the egg whites. I did not detect a significant difference between whipping them or not. Pancakes made with oat flour benefit from extra leavening so it won't hurt, but it is not mandatory.
In the gentle quiet I hear, “Love and happiness… Yeahhhh. Something, make you want to do wrong. Make you do right. Yeahhhh. Loooooooove……” Then comes an anticipatory thump, thump, thump, thump priming me for his melody of syncopated guitar licks. bass, and swooning. The song is not so quiet anymore. Al Green guides me along with his lyrics and invites me to sing out loud and dance. He is generous that way and knows how to get the romantic heart pumping.
At the stove, wooden spoon in hand, I stir, sway, and sing “Love and Happiness,” while creating a love song with dark chocolate and Nutella. The name of my love song is, Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme, a silky custard that could easily compete against any love song. This dessert has the right amount of everything; silky smooth custard for the base line, rich dark chocolate mixed with Nutella for the rhythm notes, Sriracha for the added syncopation and palpitations, then finishes with flaky sea salt to tie it all together. A pure love melody.
Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme, could be one of the best things I have ever had, period. Not just the best chocolate dessert, or the best dessert. It tops the charts in all categories. I would be lying if I told you it is a cinch to make. It is and it isn’t. All the steps are not complicated to perform, but methodic actions and attentive observations are necessary for success. If you have never made a custard base before, use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to start. No pressure. Aren’t we supposed to take chances with the ones we love?
Clues for Success making Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme
The only challenging part is getting the custard cooked to just the right consistency without scrambling the eggs.
Cook the custard slowly and stir constantly. The stirring will prevent the custard and eggs from sticking to the pan and solidifying.
The finished custard will have the consistency of thick paint. It will coat the back of a wooden spoon with an even layer. Swipe your finger across the back of the custard covered spoon, if the edges run it needs more time to cook. If the lines stay formed, and the custard is thick, the custard is finished. The temperature for the finished custard will be between 175F and 180F. Above 185F the eggs will scramble.
There have been several times that my custard has reached 175F, but was not thick enough. Keep stirring and control the heat of the pan by turning down the heat, or taking the pan off the heat for a minute then place it back on the heat. Keep stirring.
Trust your judgement.
For Your Listening Pleasure
Here is a link to my unfinished play list of love songs on Spotify. It is an eclectic list of music, with an R & B foundation. Enjoy it while you are creating Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme or a love song of your own. Enjoy!
What is your favorite Love Song? Let me know in the comments section below.
This version of chocolate pots de crème could be one of the best things I have ever eaten. It is very sensuous with the perfect amount of spice to jazz things up.
Serve in glasses, espresso cups, small coffee cups, or ramekins.
Recipe is from Aarti Sequeira, Food Network
1 cup Nutella, or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
3.5 oz dark chocolate (70 percent) chopped
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ tsp Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp Sriracha sauce (up to 2 tsp if you like it really hot)
½ tsp instant espresso powder
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Lightly sweetened whipped cream or crème fraiche
Cocoa powder for dusting
Minced hazelnuts for garnishing
Flaky sea salt (I like Maldon)
Spoon the Nutella into a medium bowl, then add the chopped dark chocolate. Set aside.
Turn the heat up to medium temperature. Then add the milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar and salt into a medium, nonreactive saucepan. Briefly whisk together the ingredients. Switch out the whisk with a wooden spoon and cook the custard stirring constantly, scraping along the bottom and crevices of the saucepan to make sure the custard does not stick or burn. After the custard has cooked for a while, about 8-10 minutes, you will notice the custard beginning to get thicker. This is an indication your custard is getting finished. Two clues that the custard is done cooking; first, dip your wooden spoon into the custard to coat the spoon and run your finger across the back of the spoon to paint a line. The line should stay intact at the edges, not runny. Second, the temperature of the custard should register between 175˚F and 180˚F. Above 185˚F the eggs will start to scramble. Depending on the temperature of your stove, the cooking time should take between 10-15 minutes. When the custard is done, turn off the heat and pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the chocolate and Nutella. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, organize your serving glasses or ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet.
Stir the custard and chocolate until just incorporated. Then add the instant coffee, sriracha, vanilla extract and stir again making sure the chocolate is melted and the custard is well mixed together.
Pour the chocolate into a container with a spout and pour the mixture into serving dishes. Tap each glass against the countertop to remove any air bubbles in the chocolate pots de crème. Slightly cool, then cover the pots de crème with plastic wrap (leaving some pockets around the edges for the heat to escape) and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
Serve garnished with whipped cream or crème fraiche, sprinkled coco powder, sea salt and chopped hazelnuts.
Day 3 of Super Bowl dip recipe frenzy. What do you get when you combine two all-time favorite classic American dips? You get the ultimate onion dip and the ultimate blue cheese dip. I guess whatever camp you belong to, will determine your name for this wonderful double classic dip recipe. I call it, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots.
Both onion dip and blue cheese dip have been around for decades, at least my lifetime and probably longer. So, bringing the two dips together seems inevitable. I love blue cheese dip and onion dip equally. To be honest, French Onion Dip made from the spice packets is a guilty pleasure of mine. I pounce on it whenever it is served.
Also, Onion dip opens my childhood memory treasure chest. One potato chip scoop of onion dip and the summer days of my childhood materializes. With each bite I am rewarded with welcomed memories of my family picnicking on our sailboat in the San Francisco Bay, dipping into onion dip, eating burgers, and drinking 7-Up. I can hear my parents voices clearly, Mom exclaiming, “Oh Dunny….,” and my dad standing at the stern on top of the deck, responding, “Whaaat?!” with a huge grin. I can feel the warmth or the welcome sun while the wind blows beyond our sheltered cove. Wind. There is always wind. Oh, what sweet memories get stirred up as I dig in.
Despite my confessed love of French Onion dip spice packet, I am going to ask you to put it down and walk away. I did. You do not need to add extra salt, onion powder, and artificial flavor to make appetizers with delicious onion flavor. Nothing more than adding caramelized onions are needed to develop that rich and sweet onion flavor. Because shallots are so small, it will take about 20 minutes to caramelize. Once the shallots of caramelized and cooled, it takes an additional 5 minutes to mix all the ingredients together. So there you have it, delicious blue cheese dip with caramelized shallots ready to dig into. It is that easy and tastes better the longer you let it rest before serving. A perfect party dip recipe.
Classic appetizer recipes are ageless and this recipe proves to be no exception. This recipe dates back to March of 2001 from Bon Appetit Magazine. The recipe is a feature by Rick Rodgers. He presented a collection of easy and delicious dip recipes, but his recipe for blue cheese dip with and caramelized shallots stood out to me. In his article, Rick Rogers says you can make this recipe three days in advance. Well you can, but the color of the caramelized shallots will bleed into the sour cream and get darker with every day. It tastes fine, but the look is not as fresh as one might want to present to a party. I would make the dip at most 24 hours in advanced and it will still look bright and creamy.
Additional ideas for Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots
All that talk about burgers made me hungry for one, and I thought how delicious the Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots would taste as a topping for a juicy hamburger. This is an easy adaptation for a hamburger with blue cheese and caramelized onions. I am craving one now.
Food memories and food dreams, who knew how powerful a simple dip could be.
Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots combines two favorite dip recipes into one easy appetizer. You have the best of both blue cheese dip and onion dip in this recipe. Serve with potato chips or as part of a crudité platter.
Finish making the dip at least 2 hours before you want to serve it. Can be served cold or room temperature.
Recipe is from Bon Appetit March 2001 by Rick Rodgers
1 Tb vegetable oil
1 ¼ cup / 4oz thinly sliced shallots (2-3 large shallots)
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup full fat sour cream
4 oz blue cheese, room temperature (I used French Bleu D’Auvergne)
Place a large skillet on the stove and turn on the heat to medium high. Add the vegetable oil and shallots. Once the skillet is hot and the shallots begin to cook, turn the heat down to medium low. Continue to cook the shallots until they are golden to dark brown. You will need to stir the shallots on occasion so that they do not burn. The process of caramelizing shallots takes some time, at least 20 minutes, and you should pay attention to them. I often need to adjust my heat either up or down to prevent them cooking too fast and burning. Once done, set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl add the sour cream and mayonnaise. Stir until evenly combined. Add the room temperature blue cheese and use the side of your spoon or rubber spatula to stir and smash the blue cheese into the sour cream mixture. You want to have different size chunks of blue cheese blended into the sour cream.
Stir in the caramelized shallots and taste for seasoning. It is a good idea to taste with the chip or vegetable you are serving the dip with, before you add more salt.
Cover the dip with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours for the flavors to meld together.
Serve cold or at room temperature in a decorative small dish with potato chips or crudité. This dip will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator.
Day 2 of Super Bowl Dip frenzy featuring Muhammara. This is a delicious dip recipe made with roasted red peppers, chili pepper, chopped walnuts and pomegranate molasses. Muhammara, pronounced [mu-HUMM-a-da](Maureen Abood), is an amazing discovery and could be the best party dip ever.
Roasted red pepper dip has its origin from Aleppo, Syria. It is typically served as part of mezze. To generalize, mezze is the Middle Eastern equivalent to Spanish Tapas. A selection appetizers featuring spreads, cheeses, several meats, and served with drinks. We served Muhammara with grilled chicken for dinner last night and I thought it was out of this world. I could not stop myself from spreading it over everything on my plate. I showed great restraint not to dollop this dip all over my salad.
If you are ever looking for an alternative to hummus, Muhammara is a good substitute. Nonetheless, you will have nothing to lose if you want to serve both. I believe there is always room for more. The walnuts make this dip of roasted red peppers thick and creamy, and the olive oil smooths the texture. Additionally, pomegranate molasses adds a touch of sweetness to counter the spice of the hot peppers.
My research revealed that there are as many versions of this dip as there are recipes, and almost as many different pronunciations. (Food Network pronunciation is [moo-hahm-MRAH].) So please feel free to play around with the amounts of each ingredient. After all, the more you make this dip you will develop Muhammara into your own special creation. I adapted this recipe of Muhammara from two recipes, Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate by Amanda Hesser from Cooking at New York Times, and Muhammara from 101 Cookbooks.
Tips for success making Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara
Roast the peppers on a hot grill, under the broiler, or over the flame on a gas burner. You want to get the whole surface of each bell pepper really charred. It is a lot easier to peel off the skins when the peppers have a good char, followed by a good steam in a covered bowl.
I used Aleppo pepper flakes, but feel free to use any dried red pepper flakes you have. You can also use a fresh hot chili pepper. Roast the chili with the red bell peppers, peel off the skin, and add according to how spicy you want it to be. You can buy Aleppo pepper flakes at specialty spice markets or on Amazon.
Toast the walnuts. Toasting nuts brings out the flavor by releasing the oils and makes a big difference in their flavor and texture. You can toast walnuts by spreading them out on a sheet pan and place in a preheated 350˚F oven for 8 – 10 minutes. Watch the nuts carefully so they do not get scorched. The walnuts are finished toasting when they are slightly darker and have a toasty-nutty aroma.
Pomegranate molasses is concentrated pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice which is cooked down and reduced to a thick syrup. You can make it or buy it at specialty markets (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Korean Markets, Middle Eastern Markets, specialty grocery stores, or Amazon).
Muhammara is a dip made from roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and dried hot pepper flakes. It has concentrated flavor of roasted red bell peppers and an amazing creamy texture. Make the dip as sweet or spicy as you like. It is the perfect party dip and very addictive.
Muhammara should rest for at least one hour after it is made to allow for the flavors to meld. Can be made a day ahead. Best served at room temperature.
2 lbs red bell peppers (2-3 red bell peppers)
1 Tb Aleppo pepper, or dried red pepper flakes, or 1 small fresh hot chili pepper
Up to 1 ½ cups toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 Tb pomegranate molasses
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp granulated sugar
2 Tb olive oil, more for garnish
Pita bread for serving
Roast the red peppers (and fresh chili pepper if using): Turn the oven on to the broiler setting. Cut the red bell peppers in half and place them on a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil, and put the peppers under the broiler*. Broil the peppers until the sides are charred all over. This will take some time, about 10 - 20 minutes. You will need to watch the peppers closely during the broiling process. The more it is charred the easier it is to peel the skin off the bell peppers.
Once the peppers are charred, immediately put them in a bowl large enough to accommodate all the peppers and quickly cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam in the bowl for 15 minutes.
Once steamed and cool to touch, rub the skins off the peppers and remove the seeds and pith. Rough chop the peppers and place in the blender, or food processor.
Using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor, combine half of the chopped walnuts and the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil, into the bowl to process. You might need to add the ingredients incrementally depending on what small appliance you are using. I used an immersion blender and the dip got very thick until I added the roasted red peppers. Blend until smooth and add more of the walnuts to reach your desired consistency. If the dip is too thick you can add a small amount of water, two teaspoons at a time.
Add the olive oil and process until very smooth. The dip can have some texture to it, but you want a smooth consistency.
Let the dip rest on the counter, or covered in the refrigerator if longer than one hour. Serve the muhammara at least one hour after you make it. Muhammara is best served at room temperature. Drizzle the dip with extra olive oil, ground cumin and chopped walnuts. Serve with plain or toasted pitas.
Muhammara will last in the refrigerator for one week.
Toast the pita bread.
Turn on the oven to 350˚F and cut each pita into 8 triangles and place on a rimmed sheet pan. Place the pitas in the oven and bake until lightly browned and crispy, about 10 to 20 minutes.
*If you are using a fresh hot chili pepper, broil and remove the skin at the same time with the red bell peppers. Add the amount of chili pepper to the dip to satisfy your desired level of spice and heat.