Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - French Bread!

This month's Daring BakersChallenge (my first!) was hosted by Mary at The Sour Dough (this link is where the recipe is at) and Sara at I Like to Cook .

They chose a recipe from one of my most favorite people ever - Julia Child. Her 18 page-long recipe for Pain Francais (French Bread) seems daunting at first, but once you get going, it's not difficult at all, just time-consuming. All told I spent 8 hours making this bread! It is so very worth it, though. My own bread certainly didn't turn out bakery-pretty, but it was absolutely delicious!

Here's my bread making day in photos:

Flour - I used King Arthur's unbleached bread flour - and salt.

Dissolved yeast.

Everything together.

Dough formed.

The kneaded dough ready to rise.

Three batards shaped and risen.

My state-of-the-art unmolding board.

The finished-if-not-so-pretty bread.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Dinner

This was actually a few weeks ago. Today I'm cheating and making easy chili and cornbread. I may take photos, but it's not really different than anyone else's recipe, I bet!

Herbed Roast Pork and Gravy
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Wilted Baby Spinach with Honey and Bacon
Apple Cobbler

Pork roast, thyme and rosemary.

Salt and pepper the roast first--rub it all over well.

Chop the herbs and cover the roast with those as well.

The roast seared on all sides and ready for the oven.

Roasting garlic--3 cloves in a small square of tin foil.

Wrap up and toss in a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes until soft. Mash well before adding to potatoes.

The mashed potatoes with roasted garlic added--these are Yukon Gold.

Spinach with bacon and honey. This was really yummy--even if the photo is blurry.

Another blurry-but-yummy - the pork roast gravy.

I didn't get a photo of the finished roast or the cobbler, but they were sure good!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Stocks 101, Part 2 - Chicken and Vegetable

We've covered brown stock and the resulting brown sauce, let's move on to chicken stock and the vegetable stock I used for the Mushroom Stroganoff. Stocks are classified as "white" or "brown". Anything can be used for either type. If the bones and mirepoix I used for the brown beef stock had not been roasted first, the stock would be called "white beef stock". Chicken stock is almost always a "white" stock, and vegetable stock is also usually "white". The vegetable stock I made was to be used expressly for a vegetarian stroganoff, so I made it brown by roasting the vegetables first.

This is how that went:

The correct mise en place for vegetable stock is the veggies above and the sachet shown, which is slightly different than a standard sachet. A teaspoon of fennel seed and a few whole cloves were added. The veggies are: 1 large carrot, 2 stalks celery, 1 medium onion, 2 medium leeks, 1 medium turnip, 1/2 small cabbage, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 1/4 cup tomato paste and 3 garlic cloves.

The veggies are roasted like the beef bones; in a 350 degree F oven for about 1 hour. These are the roasted veggies in the stockpot. Cover with 1 gallon of water and add the sachet before bringing to a boil and turning down to a simmer.

This is the vegetable stock simmering - about 1 hour should do it.

This is the finished brown vegetable stock.

Strain as for other stocks and use in place of brown beef stock to make brown sauce vegetarian-style.

This is a basic chicken stock--not as detailed in photos as the others:

Mise en place for chicken stock - add a standard sachet as shown in my
previous post. This is 4 chicken backs and 4 wings. Ideally necks and backs are used, but my butcher only had these parts. The mirepoix is one pound and one gallon of water, or enough to cover the bones, is added before simmering just the bones for one hour.

After the bones have simmered for one hour, add the mirepoix and sachet. Simmer for another hour.

A double thickness of cheesecloth in a colander is the easiest way to strain the stock.

The finished chicken stock.

You may wonder why salt was not mentioned here for the stocks or the brown sauce. Salt is always added to the finished dish, not the base. Salt is only there to enhance the flavor, not to create it. The stock should be very flavorful on it's own.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stocks and Brown Sauce 101

Yesterday I wrote about using a brown sauce made from vegetable stock for the Mushroom Stroganoff I made. There were a couple questions posted to the comments, and as promised, I'm going to explain it all right now.

Stock is the liquid made from simmering bones and vegetables to extract their flavor. It's used as a base for soups, stews and sauces. The type of stock made depends on the bones and method of cooking used.

Before we start, you'll need to know a few cooking terms that are common in the making of stocks.

Mise en place ~French for "everything in it's place". The best way to start any recipe is to have everything you need measured and ready to go before beginning.

Mirepoix ~A mixture of vegetables, 2 parts onions, 1 part celery, 1 part carrots and may also contain leeks and mushrooms in which case the amount of onions would be decreased. It's used as a seasoning and flavor enhancer for the sauce that is made from it and the pan drippings.

Sachet d'epices~ French for "bag of spices" - Aromatics tied in cheesecloth. Used to flavor stocks, sauces, soups etc. Most often contains parsley stems, cracked peppercorns, dried thyme, and a bay leaf.

Concassè ~Applying to raw or cooked tomatoes: Peeled, seeded and diced.

Pincé~ To caramelize by sautéing - most often refers to a tomato product.

Amounts are dependent on how much stock you are making. A gallon of stock used 5 - 8 pounds of bones, a pound of mirepoix 1/4 pound of tomatoes and a single sachet.

This is a classic brown stock preparation:

The proper mise en place for brown stock; bones, mirepoix, sachet and tomato product. I chose to use fresh plum tomatoes concassé for this stock. The bones are beef marrow bones, which are the best for stock since they have the most flavor and make a very gelatinous stock once cooled. The mirepoix is diced large since the cooking time for a brown stock is long.

The Sachet d'epices. This will be tied with kitchen twine and added to the stock a half hour before the end of cooking time.

The bones, mirepoix and tomatoes properly roasted. The bones are roasted first until browned, at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour. The mirepoix is then added and roasted for anouther 1/2 hour or until browned well. The tomatoes concassè are added last and roasted, or pincé, for another 20 minutes.

Just the bones go into the pot first.

The right amount of water to cover the bones by one inch. This is simmered for 5 hours before adding the mirepoix and sachet. Once the mirepoix and sachet are added, the stock is simmered for another hour. Strain well with cheesecloth.

The finished stock.

Once you have a rich brown stock, it's time to make brown sauce, or Sauce Espagnole, one of the 5 mother sauces which are:

1. Béchamel or basic white sauce
2. Velouté or stock based white sauces (chicken, fish, veal)
3. Espagnole or brown sauce
4. Tomato
5. Butter sauces (e.g. Hollandaise sauce)

Brown sauce is one of the most commonly used sauces in French cuisine. Here's the simplest way to make a good brown sauce:

Mise en place for brown stock:

The sachet.

The mirepoix and tomato product. This time it's 1/2 pound mirepoix and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.

The brown stock, 8 cups, hot and ready.

The mirepoix is browned well. This is the onion at the right color.

Carrots and celery added and browned.

Tomato paste added and pincé.

Roux, flour and butter or oil 1/4 cup of each, is browned well before adding the stock.

The stock - which needs to be hotter than the roux before adding - and sachet added to the mirepoix and roux. Simmer for an hour before removing the sachet and straining well through cheesecloth.

The brown sauce and the right consistency. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon. If the consistency is not right, correct it with more roux before straining.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Veggie Wednesday: Mushroom Stroganoff

Mushroom Stroganoff
Mushroom Stroganoff

I adore a good stroganoff and this vegetarian version is no exception. Mushrooms are just the right texture to replace meat in a dish that needs to stay rich.

I made this one with a brown sauce made from vegetable stock. I'll be posting about stocks in the next few days so you can check back for those recipes.

Mushroom Stroganoff
Printable Recipes

2 lbs mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (I used button mushrooms and Baby Bellas)
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T shallot, minced
salt and pepper
red wine
brown sauce, as needed
sour cream, to taste
Cooked noodles or rice

Cook garlic and shallot briefly in olive oil and add mushrooms. Sauté until completely softened and liquid has evaporated. Push the mushrooms aside and deglaze the pan with a small amount of red wine, about 1/4 cup. Stir mushrooms and cover with brown sauce, 2 to 3 cups depending on what consistency you'd like. Stir well and add sour cream, 2 T to 1/4 c. Heat through and serve over rice or noodles.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Simon and Garfunkel Roast Chicken

Yes, you read that right, and if you are old enough to remember, you'll know exactly what that means; Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I added a couple cloves of garlic to it and this is that herb roasted chicken I mentioned making for Sunday Dinner this week, and it was good.

The beautiful bird.

The freshly chopped herbs (1 tablespoon each), garlic (2 cloves minced) and 1/2 a cup of butter.

Herbed butter under the skin...

...and on top of it.

The gorgeous, and delicious, finished roast.

Ready, Set, Cook! #37 Recipes

Here's what I got for this month's game:

See Ranae's awesome meal at
Cornbread & Cookies.

I posted
Cauliflower and Leek Fritters (which were served with grilled chicken breasts) at Suite 101.

And this came in from someone who doesn't have a blog and wants to be known as, "a gal who loves to cook" - Good enough for me!

Cauliflower Chicken Casserole

1 small leek - cleaned and sliced
1 large head cauliflower - broken up and cooked in salted water until just tender
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 large red pepper - diced
4 cups white sauce
2 cups shredded Swiss or Provolone
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Cook leeks in a small amount of butter until tender. Mix everything together and put into a greased 9 x 13 pan or large casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly and lightly browned - about 30 minutes.

OK, see you next month for Ready, Set, Cook! on March 4th!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Product Review: Senseo Deluxe

I love coffee. I'm addicted to coffee. If I could get coffee in an IV drip, I'd do it; the faster, the better. That's where Senseo comes in. It's fast, it's good, and there's no coffee left behind to burn and be rendered completely unsafe for human consumption. OK, well, unsafe is pushing it, but really, how long can you drink burnt coffee before your stomach lining is gone? See? Senseo is good for your health.

All silliness aside, this thing really works. Add water to the reservoir, pop in a coffee pod, turn it on and there you have it. Fresh coffee and consistent flavor, cup by cup, each and every time. I tried the Dark roast that came with the machine and also bought Sumatran blend - both were great.

It takes up no more room than a regular coffee maker, you can brew two cups at a time, and it looks totally cool.

What other reason do you need to want one? If you'd like to purchase a Senseo for yourself, I have 5 coupons for $20 off a system - but ONLY 5! Email me at irishones7 (@) with your mailing address and I'll shoot one off to you ASAP! There's also a neat little brochure with each coupon with more details on the Senseo.

Once again, if you click the link above, you can fill out a very short form and see if you can get one for just shipping and handling!

Senseo was provided by Charlie Kondek of Hass MS&L. This is not a paid product endorsement.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

If you were stranded in a snowstorm...

Let's say the snow is on its way and you have just enough time to get to the grocery for one last pick-up. The snow will be BAD, but you'll only be stuck inside for 2 days. You know, one of those- "nobody on the roads but emergency vehicles" -type storms.
Your pantry is already well-stocked. What do you buy that you just have to have for those 2 days?

My own answer is: a pint of Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk to go with the movies I've planned to watch--1/2 a pint for each night.
And you?