Monday, October 26, 2009

Beef Bourguignon… fancy beef stew meal.

Friday night I had dinner club at my house. Now, my dinner club is a wonderful thing. Six women get together once a month to….well, eat of course! We’ve been doing it for ten years or so and we don’t miss a month. Our event has evolved to become much more than sharing recipes. Shoot, we don’t even bring our recipes along anymore. Six friends just sitting around eating appetizers, drinking wine, gossiping and discussing, eating more food and planning our next event. It just doesn’t get any better….

One obstacle that I have to overcome twice a year when I host the dinner club is the decision on what to make. You can imagine that we’ve tried quite the variety of foods, so it is a challenge. The host decides on the main course and then we diffy up the rest—an appetizer, two sides, dessert and, of course, the wine and cocktails. But the main course kind of sets the tone of the evening. We’ve gotten pretty good at coordinating our dishes and there has never been a time when dinner club has been disappointing (we won’t talk about the December when we chose to do all appetizers with a gift exchange and had four different kinds of baked brie). At any rate, my dilemma was actually solved when I went to see the Julie/Julia movie over the summer. I have been dying to make Beef Bourguignon ever since.

Now you would think that Beef Bourguignon is very fancy, very expensive and very hard to make. Well, let’s keep the fancy part, just because. But really, when it comes down to it, Beef Bourguignon is French for beef stew. Very, very tasty beef stew, I might add. And this, by far, is not the most expensive meal I’ve ever made.

I loosely followed a recipe in The New Basics Cookbook. Most of the Beef Bourguignon (that word kills me—it is so hard to spell—and I majored in French, lol) recipes that I found were very similar, so I just picked one. Here are the ingredients I used:

½ pound of thick sliced bacon, diced
3 pounds of chuck roast, cubed (I bought stew meat since it was on sale and already cubed for me)
1 cup chopped onions
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups dry, good quality red wine
3 cups beef stock or broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme (the original recipe used fresh rosemary leaves, but I didn’t have any—I think the recipe would have been even better with fresh herbs)

3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups white pearl onions
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon butter

First you have to check out my official LeCrueset pot.
Pete bought a whole set of Le Crueset  for me the first Christmas we were together--30 years ago. I'll bet the cost of this one pot today would have bought the whole set back then.

Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.

In an oven proof casserole dish or dutch oven, sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels (the recipe never mentions the crisp bacon again--I just saved it and used it in a salad the next day).

Meanwhile, pat the meat dry with paper toweling.

Pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon drippings. Over medium-high heat, sauté the beef a few pieces at a time until browned on all sides.

Add the onions to the beef, and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the flour. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

Add the wine, stock, tomato paste, and thyme (I also added 3 bay leaves) and bring to a boil. Cover the casserole, transfer it to the oven and bake until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.
Use a good quality wine.

While the beef is in the oven, prepare the vegetables. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Drop in the carrots and boil until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Reserve.

Make a small X in the root end of each pearl onion. Drop them in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Peel and reserve.

Sauté the mushrooms in the butter for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Set aside.

When the meat is cooked, transfer the casserole to a burner, and add the carrots, onions and mushrooms. Heat through, about 7 minutes.

You will have to excuse some of the pictures---the lighting wasn't ideal.

My friends also brought some delicious food to accompany the main course. Jennifer brought a beautiful cheese appetizer, some French bread and some good olives. Amy made a terrific soda bread to sop up the gravy.

Jane brought a gorgeous Salade Niçoise, made with a bit of chicken instead of tuna.

And the grand finale was Patricia’s dessert: Crème Brûleé!

 Altogether an outstanding meal!
Beef Bourguignon on Foodista

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chicken (or Turkey) and Mashed Potato Pie

Ever wonder what to do with the poultry leftovers? I like to get a nice rotisserie chicken every once in awhile (the local grocery store has 5 buck cluck every Friday night), but I don’t always finish the bird. Chicken salad is always good, and so are chicken quesadillas. I like sandwiches, too. But one of the best things to do with leftover chicken is to make a pot pie. Good old comfort food. I even like the cheap frozen variety. A few years ago, I found a really good pot pie topped with mashed potatoes. Now it’s nowhere to be seen. Why would they discontinue something that good? Well, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. I was feeling the necessity of mashed potato topped chicken pie, so I invented.

The pie crust part is pretty easy---Pillsbury makes a really easy and yummy one, but any homemade pie crust will do, as well. It was the filling that needed a little trial and error. I, of course, turned to my favorite web site, and did a simple search. It was there that I found a recipe submitted by my friend Karen. She posted a pot pie recipe that she had tried at Paula Deen’s restaurant. Now, Paula used a puff pastry crust and I was looking for one topped with mashed potatoes. So, I duplicated the filling, adding my own touches, and put it in a prepared pie crust. Then, for la pièce de résistance, I topped it with mashed potatoes. Yum.

Here is the recipe I used:

1 Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crust (from 15-oz box), softened as directed on box or make your own, which I did this time

1 jar (12 oz) chicken gravy

½ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/3 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

2 cups chopped, leftover rotisserie chicken or use leftover turkey (think Thanksgiving leftovers)

3-3 1/2 cups mashed potatoes (again with the leftovers)

Preheat oven to 400 ° F. Unroll pie crust in 9-inch glass pie plate as directed on box for One-Crust Filled Pie.

In large bowl, combine gravy, sour cream, cornstarch, tarragon and pepper. Stir until smooth. Fold in peas and chicken; pour into prepared pie crust.

Stir mashed potatoes until smooth. Spoon potatoes over the chicken mixture and spread with spatula, making sure the entire top is covered. Sprinkle on a little paprika for color.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the potatoes just start to brown at the edges and the filling is bubbling. Let it sit for a few minutes (if you can) so that the gravy isn't too runny.

Here's a hint: Don't wait until the next day to take the picture--it's not as pretty--the gravy isn't runny enough!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hot, Bubbly, Creamy and Cheesy….potatoes at their finest

So, I didn’t feel well this week. It was just a cold, but I was uncomfortable enough to stay home a day from work. And, since I’m almost never sick, I indulged myself. I lounged on the sofa, read trashy magazines, watched really bad daytime television and ate….potatoes. I craved them. I ate a plate of French fries for lunch. A few kettle chips for a snack, and when I felt a little better, I made scalloped potatoes. I know, scalloped potatoes don’t really sound very good…kind of like grade school cafeteria food. But these scalloped potatoes were different. Quite sensational, really. Possibly the best potatoes I had ever eaten. Ok, maybe they were really au gratin potatoes. Sounds better, I guess. At any rate, without further ado, here is the recipe:

Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes
Printable Recipe

• 5 large russet potatoes, peeled
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1/2 cup chopped onions
• 1/4 cup flour
• 2 1/2 cups milk
• 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
• 2-3 dashes hot sauce
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning (no salt)
• 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 ° F.; Spray a 2 Qt casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Thinly slice the potatoes into a bowl of ice water and set aside. I’m going to make a confession here. I don’t have a food processor. No, that’s not my confession—I’ll buy one someday. It’s what I use in its place that’s a little embarrassing. Ahem. I love my Salad Shooter. Ok, I swear it works really well for slicing potatoes really thin. And shredding zucchini and carrots. Let’s just drop it. Make sure to slice the potatoes thin and make sure to cover them in ice water so that they don’t turn grey from the starch.

Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium/high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are soft, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and then slowly stir in the milk. Add the garlic, hot sauce, salt, lemon/pepper, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Continue to heat and stir until sauce is thickened and bubbly.

Drain the potato slices into a colander, and pat dry with paper toweling.

Spread half of the potatoes into the prepared casserole dish. Pour half of the sauce evenly over the potatoes and repeat, ending with the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the sauce.

Cover the casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the top is browned and the potatoes are tender.

I think that the best part of these is the crispy, crusty cheese around the outside of the dish.

Oh...and since I sliced way too many potatoes, I fried the rest on them in some hot vegetable oil, along with some banana peppers and chopped onion. Then I ate them so fast, I almost forgot to get a picture.

By the way, those potatoes must have been a miracle cure ‘cause I woke up this morning without the slightest sniffle.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday Night Pizza Party!

Friday night has always been pizza night at my house and last night was no exception. Whoever invented the pizza stone was a genius! Ha—probably a caveman, right? At any rate, I think I make a different kind every time. This is the one I made last night:

Pizza Dough

1 ¼ cups warm water (bathwater warm)
1-2 tablespoons sugar or honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons yeast (or one package)
3-3 ½ cups bread flour (you can sub 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt

In mixing bowl, combine water, sugar or honey, oil and yeast. Let this sit for 5-10 minutes or until it gets kind of foamy. This is called proofing your yeast and it makes sure that your yeast is active and working.

If, like me, you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook*, add 3 cups of flour and the salt to your bowl, attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. The dough should “clean” the sides of the bowl. Add more flour, a tablespoon at a time, if it is too sticky. Place the kneaded dough in an oiled bowl, turning it so that both sides have a little oil. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set it in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.

While the dough is rising, pre-heat your oven and pizza stone to 475 ° F. Punch the dough down (don’t worry—it won’t punch back) and divide it in two. Place one of the dough pieces on a floured surface and shape it into a pizza (about 10”-12”).

I know, it looks a little like the dog peed on it--not my best picture--it's better with the oil spread out.

*If you don’t have a stand mixer, simply add as much flour to the yeast mixture as you can stir with a wooden spoon. Turn this onto a floured surface and knead the dough by hand, adding flour as necessary, until the dough is soft and flexible, about 5-8 minutes.

Topping the pizza:

Put some cornmeal on a pizza peel (if you don’t have one, put it on a cookie sheet) and place the shaped dough on top. Spread a couple of drops of olive oil on the dough and then top with sauce, either homemade or jarred (I used a sauce put out by a local pizza chain). At this point, you can add whatever floats your boat. This time I chopped up some onion, green peppers, fresh banana peppers and mushrooms. Other times, I’ve used sausage, pepperoni, tomatoes, spinach---whatever I have on hand. Then I top it with shredded cheese.

Slide the pizza onto the pre-heated pizza stone and bake for about 12 minutes. I turn on the convection oven for this to brown the top more.

Slide the pizza peel under your baked pie and pull it out. Let it cool for just a few minutes, so as not to completely peel the skin from the roof of your mouth and then enjoy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In The Soup.....

I have never felt a change of seasons quite as rapidly as this one. It seems as though autumn appeared overnight. And while I still consider this time of year to be my favorite, I have to say enough is enough with the cold rain. Blech. There is one thing that makes me feel better when it’s nasty out……soup! You can call it stew or bisque or chili or even “stoup” (hate that one), they all mean warm, comfort food.

Two things happened last week to make for a soup extravaganza at my house. First, my co-worker, Brenda brought me another boatload of tomatoes (love that picture--it was from the first batch). Second, we had the challenge going on at BakeSpace that I mentioned in my last post--- I had the pleasure of picking out a recipe from Chris Coyle’s (Tyler’s Aunt) kitchen---and I chose to do her lentil soup. Here is the recipe as Chris wrote it:

Lentil Soup

• 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
• 1-2 Cloves minced garlic
• 2 large onions, chopped
• 3-4 stalks celery, chopped
• About 2/3 bag of lentils - rinsed and checked for stones
• Water
• 2 cans beef broth
• Salt and pepper
• Dried dill
• 2 cans chopped tomatoes - I prefer the Delmonte Mexican Blend
• **Diced smoked ham if available - or a drop or two of Liquid Smoke

Sauté the garlic, onions and celery in olive oil until tender. Add the lentils and water just to cover. Add the beef broth, salt, pepper and 2 Tbsp dill; let simmer for about 45 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and ham or liquid smoke. Once the ham and tomatoes are heated through, adjust dill to taste. Add broth/water if you want your soup thinner.

When serving, sprinkle additional dill, or float a sprig of fresh dill on top

** For the ham, I prefer a Morel E-Z Cut. Although the price keeps going up, this is definitely my favorite ham. Whenever we make it, I use the leftovers for the soup.

I’m kind of terrible at following recipes (even my own). The trouble is, I’m always out of one thing or another and end up making substitutions. So, I started out just fine with the olive oil, garlic, celery and onions. But then I had just a handful of carrots that were starting to dry out and I threw those in, too. Lentils? Check. Beef broth? Check. Dill? Oops. Shoot, no dill. Hmmm…what to use? Ah, how about some Italian seasoning? Yup, that looks good. Oh, and there are some bay leaves that I just bought. Let’s throw a couple of those in there.

As for the tomatoes, well, I had just roasted those beautiful tomatoes that I got from Brenda. A few turns in the food mill to shed the skin and the seeds and that went into the soup, too.

 No ham, either, but I did have the liquid smoke--two bottles, in fact. One of those things that you just don’t use that often and then forget you have, so you buy another one. Then, of course, I couldn’t top it with dill, so I used a little Parmesan cheese.

I have to say that this is one really good pot of soup. And I promise to use the dill next time! Thanks, Chris, for a fabulous recipe.

Since I still had a load of tomatoes, I made a pot of Turkey Chili with Black Beans on Sunday. My chili has always been pretty basic and this one was no exception. . First, I cooked my own black beans. My husband has a little issue with high blood pressure, so we want to make sure the sodium content is low. Then, I just sautéed, in olive oil, a chopped onion, and two cloves of crushed garlic.

I added one pound of ground turkey to this and fried it until it was no longer pink. Then I usually add two cans of whole tomatoes, but this time I used some of my freshly roasted tomatoes--I couldn’t even tell you how much, since I didn’t measure—and I added 2-3 tablespoons chili powder, 1 cup of hot picanté sauce, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Oh yeah, and about half of the cooked black beans (I froze the rest). I let all of this simmer for about 45 minutes., spicy Chili. Perfect for a crappy weather day!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cream Filled Cupcakes….a lesson in sheer gluttony

Recently, we had a little challenge going on at my favorite website, It was a really interesting one, where we put all of the participant’s names into a hat and paired each other up with another member’s recipe box. My paired up member was Chris (Tyler’s Aunt) and I made a really good lentil soup from her cache of recipes (that blog will follow). My friend Spryte (Spyte’s Place) had to look through my stuff and decided on my cream filled cupcakes. She did a tremendous job on them, despite the fact that I wasn’t as descriptive as I should have been with the filling and it got more than a little goopy on her. It is my one fear with posting my own creations….I hate to have people go to all of the time and expense of making something that doesn’t turn out like it should because I didn’t communicate well. So here is my cream filled cupcake tale. Hopefully, this will make it easier the next time, for these truly are worth making again.

Although rare, there were a few disadvantages in having a father who was a baker. The major issue, as I saw it, when I was 8, was that I was not allowed to indulge in various childhood treats that others took for granted. Chips Ahoy? Nope. Wonder Bread? Nada. Hostess Cupcakes? Not on your life. I had to enjoy these forbidden treats surreptitiously at my best friend’s house, since none of them could pass Daddy’s strict culinary standards. While my cravings for a Chips Ahoy cookie or a slice of Wonder Bread have long since gone away (what was I thinking?), I am still a sucker for the treat of all treats—the Hostess Cupcake.

I was contemplating that wonderful creation one day a couple of years ago, when suddenly I was struck with an inspiration……what if I made my own cream filled cupcakes? Would it be possible? Would it be difficult? What the heck; why not give it a try? So, I pulled three different recipes out of my file and I came up with this one:

Cathy’s Cream Filled Cupcakes
Printable Recipe


2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups water
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
½ cup cocoa

I don’t get fancy with these. Just put all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes until it’s all blended. The batter will be very thin. Line the cupcake pans with liners (this recipe will make 28-30 cupcakes) and fill the liners a little over ½ full. I use a large measuring cup for this part, since the batter is so thin. Bake them at 350 ° for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched. Let them cool completely.


4 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar (powdered sugar will make this too sweet, trust me)
1-2 teaspoons vanilla

Whisk the flour and the milk together in a small saucepan until the mixture is very smooth. Heat this over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it gets thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and place the flour mixture in a small bowl, covering the top with plastic wrap. Allow this to cool to room temperature (chill in the refrigerator if necessary).

Whisk, whisk, whisk!!

Then whisk some more...we don't want lumps. 

Place the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl (preferably, use a stand mixer). Beat at high speed for about 5 minutes until fluffy. Add the cooled flour mixture and the vanilla and continue to beat for 5-10 minutes or until the filling is very creamy and no sugar granules remain. Since I don’t have a splatter guard, I cover the mixer with a towel while it is beating, so I don’t find frosting flung across the kitchen.

In my original recipe, I scaled back on the ingredients for the filling because I always have so much left over. But what the heck, go ahead and make the full batch and just use the leftovers to frost graham crackers. Yummy.

Chocolate Ganache:

½ cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips (I used mini-chips)

Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium/low heat until it just comes to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let it sit for 2 minutes.Using a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate and the cream until well-blended.

To assemble the cupcakes, begin by filling a pastry bag with the butter cream filling. Fit an appropriate tip on the pastry bag. I originally said to use a #5 tip. Sadly, my dog chewed up the good set of tips that I had (…sigh…I can’t keep anything nice) so I found a nice long plastic tip that works well. Push the tip into the top of a cupcake and pipe in enough filling that you see the top of the cupcake just ready to break. Repeat for each cupcake.

When all of the cupcakes have been filled, prepare the chocolate ganache. Take a cupcake and swirl the top in the chocolate glaze, covering the top of the cupcake; repeat for each one. Let the cupcakes sit for a few minutes, so the glaze hardens and then pipe some of the leftover filling in a swirl over the top of the cupcakes.

For an extra special treat, make the cupcakes in mini-muffin pans. So cute!

I think even my father would have approved!

Cream Filled Cupcakes on Foodista