Friday, December 28, 2012

Brown Gravy from Pan Drippings with Ale and Cider



The perfect accompaniment for roasted meat is gravy made from the pan drippings.  My favorite recipe, below, is from the 1981 Joy of Cooking book.  Besides, what else would you use the pan drippings for?  It's free gravy!  No preservatives and it goes with everything.  This works for roasted chicken, turkey, beef, pretty much any meat that gets roasted.

For this recipe I roasted a small chicken, generally following the Winning Turkey recipe from Thanksgiving.  It did not need thawing and I didn't have a ton of planning time so I put the salt on and let it rest on the counter at the same time for about 45 minutes.  This was enough to give it perfect crispy skin.  I stuffed the cavity with quartered onion and apple, and used apple juice for about a third of the cooking liquid. 

After roasting is when the gravy begins!  Carefully remove the meat from the pan.  That part isn't strictly necessary but it makes it a ton easier to get the drippings out of the pan without trying to tip the pan on its side while holding the hot meat in place.  Place the meat where it will remain hot.

Take out 2 Tbsp drippings and put in a small saucepan.  (Note, SAVE the rest, you will need them too) Using a wire whisk, blend in the flour until the mixture has thickened and is well combined and smooth.  Congratulations, you just made a roux! 

Cook slowly and stir constantly, while adding 1 cup of liquid: as much of the pan juices as possible, plus either milk, beer, stock, cream, or water.  I used 1/4 cup of Cutthroat Pale Ale (mostly for an excuse to open one) and the flavor blended perfectly with the apple-stuffed chicken.  Add an extra Tablespoon of flour to increase the total liquid to 1 1/2 cups - I really like gravy so extra is always good. Add spices to taste, if desired.  The spices will vary depending on what the gravy will be served with.  I didn't add anything extra for this version.

Continue to simmer while stirring until the gravy has reduced a little, then turn off the heat.  It will thicken as it cools. 


Brown Gravy from Pan Drippings with Ale and Cider
from Joy of Cooking, 1981 edition
Makes 1 cup


INGREDIENTS
Pan drippings from roasted meat (as much as is available, up to 1 cup)
1 to 2 Tbsp flour
Additional liquid to make one cup including the pan drippings: milk, beer, stock, cream, or water (enough to make 1 1/2 cups total if you want extra gravy)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Fresh or dried minced herbs
Grated lemon rind, etc.

DIRECTIONS
1. Remove the meat from the pan.  Place it where it will remain hot.
2. Take out 2 Tbsp drippings and put in a small saucepan.  Using a wire wisk, blend in the flour until the mixture has thickened and is well combined and smooth.
3. Cook slowly and stir constantly and stir constantly, while adding 1 cup of liquid: as much of the pan juices as possible, plus enough liquid to total 1 cup. Add spices to taste.
4. Continue to simmer while stirring until the gravy has reduced a little, then turn off the heat.  It will thicken as it cools. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Eggnog

Homemade eggnog is thick and creamy and rich, scented with nutmeg and with a custard-like flavor. 

Sure, store-bought is easier, but it is also very different.  This is what eggnog is supposed to taste like.  One of the healthy things I did for myself this year included avoiding high fructose corn syrup whenever possible.  This is the reason I read the labels on every brand of eggnog at the store... then left without purchasing any of them, disappointed that I would be going without this year.  Not so!  No corn syrup or GMO-related anything in the homemade version!  Now I'm not saying that eggnog is healthy but it is amazing and goes perfectly with everything holiday-ish.

Thanks to Martha Stewart for the recipe, no adjustments needed.  It doubles and quadruples well too if you want tons of eggnog.  A double recipe makes almost half a gallon.



Some tips:
- Use a stirring spoon to alternate with the whisk to make it easier to tell when the sugar is dissolved.
- Adding the milk to the eggs prevents the eggs from cooking - pouring the eggs into hot milk would basically poach the eggs instead of mixing them together smoothly.
- Mine took about 30 minutes to get to the right thickness.  It happens pretty quickly, the mixture is thin like milk during most of the cooking time then suddenly it's eggnog.  Take it off the heat as soon as the shift happens or it will overcook.
- You will need a fine-mesh strainer, preferably one that can latch onto a large bowl to make it easy to strain the hot eggnog.  Straining separates out any bits of egg that separated from the milk, to keep the consistency smooth.

Local highlights:
Eggs from Clifford Farm
Milk and cream from Winder Farms


Homemade Eggnog

INGREDIENTS
        4 cups milk
        1 1/3 cups sugar
        12 large egg yolks
        1/2 cup bourbon, (optional)
        1 cup chilled heavy cream
        Grated nutmeg

DIRECTIONS
1. In medium saucepan, whisk milk and sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks. Whisking constantly, pour hot mixture into yolks in a slow and steady stream.
3. Return mixture to pan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until thick enough to coat back of spoon, 20 to 25 minutes; do not let simmer. Quickly strain into a bowl.
4. Stir in bourbon, if desired, and cream. Cool completely; cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with nutmeg, if desired.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sweet holiday nuts



These sweet crunchy meringue-coated nuts are something I've been wanting to try my hand at for a while now, and I am very pleased with the first couple of batches.

Start with preheating the oven to 325 and put the stick of butter in a 9x13 pan in the oven.  Keep an eye on it so it does not burn, but it needs to melt. Waiting until the last step to do it seems to take a long time, watched pots and all that. 

WASH the eggs.  Even though they will be cooked, precaution is best.  Separate the eggs - put the whites into a large bowl, with high sides if you have one, and the yolks in a covered container in the fridge for another recipe.  Eggnog is an excellent companion recipe to use the yolks (I'll have that one ready for you soon!).

This is the mixture forming stiff peaks.  Do not eat them.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. I used my great little hand mixer on high speed.  Watching the clear watery egg whites turn frothy is neat!  They expand quite a bit too.  This was my first time making anything meringue-related that did not involve a microwave (which I don't recommend by the way).  Add sugar, salt and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form and turn glossy. Fold in nuts and coat well with the egg white mixture.  Stir in cinnamon.

Fold in nuts with a spoon.  I just wanted to show off my hand mixer.  :)

Evenly spread coated nuts over melted butter in pan and put the pan back in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring and turning nuts about every 8 minutes, or until butter no longer remains in pan. Place hot nuts on foil and allow to cool.  Get them out of that pan as soon as they come out of the oven, once the sugar starts to set they do not want to come out.  Wait until they cool completely before eating or packaging them.

Baked nuts just out of the oven!

Sweet holiday nuts, ready for gifting

Sweet Holiday Nuts
Source: Allrecipes.com
Makes 1 pound of nuts

INGREDIENTS
2 egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound walnut halves
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. Beat egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. Add sugar, salt and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form and turn glossy. Fold in nuts and coat well with the egg white mixture.
3. Melt butter in a 9x13 inch baking pan by placing pan in the oven. Evenly spread coated nuts over melted butter in pan.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring and turning nuts about every 8 minutes, or until butter no longer remains in pan. Move hot nuts to foil and allow to cool. May be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jessica's Scalloped Potatoes

Seasons greetings, my wonderful blog readers!  One of the first family recipes I remember helping with in the kitchen was making Scalloped Potatoes for the Christmas gatherings.  I loved sprinkling the layers of cheese and flour and laying out potato slices in designs, to be hidden under more cheese.  Sometimes I got a little carried away with the flour and ended up with clumps of dry flour in the finished dinner, but even that was fun.  That led to the important lesson that handfuls are different than a light sprinkle.  I even loved peeling the potatoes over a big spread of old newspapers, once I was old enough to use the sharp metal peeler.  Two dishes were always made: one for the gathering and one for us so that there was no temptation to sneak bites out of the casserole dish for the extended family, which I'm sure happened on more than one occasion.

Here in Utah they are called "Funeral Potatoes", referring to the gatherings that people usually bring them to.  They are very easy and make great leftovers, so it's a nice dish to have on hand when people don't have the focus to cook dinner for themselves.  I prefer to keep the dish associated with more happy times though so I am sticking with Christmas. Besides, my family never really did the food thing for funerals. 

The first step is to slice the potatoes as thinly and uniformly as possible.  This will prevent unexpected crunchy bites of uncooked potatoes.  Nothing in this dish should be crunchy, and if it is, be worried, and see how guilty the kids' faces look.

Four potatoes does not seem like enough for a whole casserole dish, to me anyway, but with the space between the slices and all the cheese, it is plenty. It is better to not cut up enough potatoes than to cut up too many, unless you have other plans for extra potato slices.  They do not store well. 

Buying a bag of pre-grated cheese is a huge timesaver and I never had that option as a kid so I like taking full advantage of it now.  Costco-size?  Yes please! 

In a 1.5-quart glass casserole dish, thinly layer flour, salt/pepper, potato slices, and cheese.  About halfway up the dish, sprinkle in a little savory and onion powder.  This makes the flavor a bit deeper and more complex. 



This is not a 1.5-quart glass casserole dish.  Nope, I wanted to make LOTS so this is a 9x13 pan.  It took about 8 or 9 smallish potatoes. 

Repeat the flour, salt/pepper, potatoes, and cheese until they are 1" from the edge of the pan, then top with cheese and slowly pour the milk over the entire top.  The milk is there to moisten the flour.  This makes the delicious gooey bits of goodness in between the potatoes.  Un-moistened flour... stays flour. That being said, I've been known to go a bit overboard with the milk, which makes everything too soupy to cook properly.  If you do that, a turkey baster works well to pull the extra milk out, even if you don't notice until halfway through cooking. 





Keeping it uncovered the whole time makes the top layer of cheese bake into a beautiful browned color.  Put a foil-covered cookie sheet under the casserole dish in case the cheese bubbles over, as it often does for me because I like to fill the casserole dish too full.

The finished product!  I never seem to snap a shot before the first person digs in.

Scalloped potatoes in a casserole dish
Scalloped potatoes in a 9x13 dish (double-ish the recipe). 


Jessica's Scalloped Potatoes

INGREDIENTS
4 thinly sliced medium-sized russet potatoes
1 lb grated cheese (medium cheddar or colby-jack)
Salt and pepper to taste 
Sprinkle of Savory
Sprinkle of Onion Powder
1 cup flour (have available; won't need the whole cup)
1 cup milk (may not need the whole cup)

DIRECTIONS
1. In a 1.5-quart glass casserole dish, thinly layer flour, salt/pepper, potato slices, and cheese.  About halfway up the dish, sprinkle in a little savory and onion powder.

2. Repeat the flour, salt/pepper, potatoes, and cheese until they are 1" from the top, then top with cheese.

3. Pour in the milk - the purpose is to moisten all of the flour, so pour slowly and evenly over the entire top.  It should not reach more than halfway up the sides once it all settles in.  (use a turkey baster to pull some out if needed)

4. Bake in 350 degree oven for about an hour until the potatoes are soft. Do not cover. Put a foil-covered cookie sheet under the casserole dish in case the cheese bubbles over.