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Posts from — December 2009

New Year’s Eve Indulgence

lobster bisque

There aren’t too many dishes more extravagant than a rich and creamy lobster bisque. This is a short-cut version because it begins with already cooked lobsters, making it quicker to pull together. Both of my lobsters were female (also known as hens), which was a happy and unexpected bonus, since they included the roe which is also called the coral or caviar. Enjoy and have a fun and safe (that doesn’t have to be an oxymoron) New Year’s Eve!

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December 31, 2009   No Comments

casserole – are you excited or disappointed?

layering

Say the word “casserole” and you will generally get one of two typical responses… a huge smile filled with excitment from the person who knows that something hearty, filling, and tasty is about to come their way… or a turned up nose and rolling eyes from the person who envisions a sticky, gooey, mess of food about to be forced upon them.

Because of that second reaction, I was tempted to call this dish a “Bake” instead of a “Casserole”.  I even searched through online thesauruses looking for an alternate name, but call it what you may, it’s a casserole.  And exactly what is that?  A casserole is an ovenproof dish sometimes with a tightly fitting lid, made from earthenware, glass or metal. The word ‘casserole’ also refers to the mixture of food itself which is prepared in the oven in this dish. The word is derived from the Old French word casse and the Latin word cattia meaning a “frying pan or saucepan.” As often happens, the name of the cooking utensil was used for the name of the dish.

So, if the word if derived from a French word, then how does it end up sounding so pedestrian? Maybe it is because, when some of us were growing up, the contents in the casserole dish were often called “surprise”, as in Turkey Surprise, or even worse, Spam Surprise; almost a guarantee that this would not be a happy or delicious “surprise” at all!

As with many casseroles, this one is made using leftover meat, pork from Christmas dinner, to be exact. Feel free to use another leftover meat, such as chicken or beef in place of the pork. Additional vegetables can be used as well; bell peppers, green beans, kidney beans, or whatever you have on hand or dream up. I used a mix of three different “green” salsas to get my 3 cups needed, do the same if you have a mix of jars in your refrigerator.  I hope the only surprise you receive upon making and tasting this casserole, is that it makes your taste-buds sing!
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December 30, 2009   No Comments

what is crème fraîche?

red pepper soup

This lovely red soup is perfect for Christmas or Valentine’s Day. It is decorated with crème fraîche.

Crème fraîche is a thinner form of sour cream developed by the French. It has a slight tanginess because it contains bacterial cultures. But the amounts of cultures are far less than those in sour cream, so it has a smoother taste. One of the advantages of crème fraîche is that it doesn’t “break” as sour cream may when added to sauces. This is due to its higher fat content.

Crème fraîche is becoming more and more available in stores, but is still just as easy to make at home. To do so; pour 1 cup heavy cream in a jar, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk, cover and shake. Leave covered, on the counter, in a room temperature draught-free place for  24 hours. It is ready when it is thick. Do not worry about the cream going bad, the benign live bacteria in the buttermilk will multiply and protect the cream from any harmful bacteria. After the 24 hour “counter time” place in the refrigerator. It will continue to thicken and take on a more tangy flavor as it ages. Crème fraîche will keep in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.
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December 29, 2009   No Comments

carrots and sesame oil

carrot soup

We all have certain foods we have never liked and do our best to avoid.  Carrots are one of those foods for me.  I really don’t care for them raw and I despise them cooked! I go out of my way to pick them out of soups and stews and obviously don’t serve them as a side vegetable at home. So imagine my shock when I discovered that I loved them in their nearly purest form in a creamy soup! I first encountered a version of this soup when asked to make a triple batch for a Jacques Pepin book signing. I had planned on just having my husband, Dave, be the soup tester, since he loves raw carrots. Loves them so much that the palms of his hands actually turned orange after eating too many raw carrots over a short period of time. He tasted it and said it was good and the seasoning was balanced, but feeling the need to try it myself before serving it to Jacques, himself, and to the students at the signing. I could not believe it was cooked carrots I was eating. What makes this soup so great is the addition of sesame oil, it is the perfect compliment to the carrots. I served this as a first course on Christmas Eve this year and served it as soup shooters for two separate Christmas parties we hosted last year.

I used the frozen turkey stock I made from Thanksgiving, so the picture below shows the frozen solid, ziplock shaped, form in the pan with the carrot, melting over high heat. No need to thaw ahead of time, just drop it in the pot and go!
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December 28, 2009   2 Comments

brown sugar bacon

Christmas morning meal

As stated in yesterday’s post, this bacon is a Christmas and Easter breakfast tradition in our house. It’s basically “Bacon Candy”.  So sweet, crispy, and decadent! And it couldn’t be easier to make. It is pictured above with our other Christmas breakfast tradition – Cinnamon-Pecan Rolls. That recipe is on yesterday’s post. Also pictured here today, is Connor and the five mini-oil paintings he made as gifts for the family. Nothing better than beautiful and heart-felt homemade gifts from a talented person. Thanks, Con!
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December 27, 2009   4 Comments

Christmas was merry and bright

cinnamon rolls

Christmas at the Hopkins’ house was full of family, food, fun, food, gifts, food, friends, more food and laughter. The most honored and long standing tradition in our house is our Christmas breakfast. It always consists of only two items; the artery-clogging, sickeningly sweet, and utterly delicious and delectable brown sugar baked bacon and cinnamon-pecan rolls. These rolls are only made on Christmas day, as your heart and waistline could not bear them more than once a year. And the bacon, that we have twice a year. Once on Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ birth and then again on Easter to celebrate His resurrection. Of course, the bacon itself has nothing to do with either blessed event, just with our traditional family meals. Again, the bacon is only eaten twice a year because of its horrific health ramifications! Today’s post shall focus on the rolls and tomorrow, the bacon. The dough for the rolls is a classic James Beard recipe for Refrigerator Potato Bread, the original recipe can be found in his book, Beard on Bread, available on Amazon.com.

I make a double batch of the dough and use it three times over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The first third is used for potato rolls for Christmas Eve dinner with my mother, the next third for the cinnamon rolls Christmas morning, and the final third for a fresh batch of rolls for Christmas dinner with my dad. If you would like to do the same, the dough needs to be made on December 23rd and refrigerated overnight to begin the process. The dinner potato rolls are also a traditional part of our Thanksgiving meal each year.

potato rolls

Another thing I just have to share with you is what caused all the laughter at our house this year. I stumbled upon the funniest thing a few weeks ago. Decoy gift boxes at theonion.com. They are the most clever and hilarious things I’ve seen in a long time.  I purchased the four-pack, check out the site when you have a free moment and consider buying a pack for next year or for birthday gifts throughout 2010.

Dave, Marissa, and Connor with their decoy boxes

Dave, Marissa, and Connor with their decoy boxes

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December 26, 2009   4 Comments

on his way, sleep tight

December 24, 2009   No Comments

chocolate and peppermint

Andes

Connor made these pretty bars to add to our cookie collection today. He used both the red peppermint and the green creme de menthe flavors of Andes candies and then sprinkled them in stripes on the bars. Pretty and sweet! Thanks, Con.
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December 23, 2009   No Comments

a bowl of warmth

garlic potato soup

It’s hard to beat a great homemade soup on a cold winter’s day. I love soup anytime of year, but particularly in the winter and this hearty winter soup is guaranteed to warm you inside and out. If you made turkey stock with the Thanksgiving bird, all the better, but store-bought broth will work here too. Pair it with warm crusty bread and your day will end on a high note. (In the picture, you may notice the soup is missing the grated swiss cheese on top. Don’t tell my family, but I forgot to add it… they will be sad when they find out, but it honestly was delicious anyhow!)

pom pyramid

In addition to the kitchen ornament picture at the end of the post, here is a picture of a fresh pomegranate centerpiece I created for the season. To make; stack pomegranates and use a glue gun to hold them in place.  Put the “pomegranate pyramid” on the a pretty tray or plate and fill in spaces with fresh bay leaves, pine boughs, eucalyptus cuttings, holly, etc. Poke cinnamon sticks in to finish. This arrangement is beautiful fresh and will dry wonderfully too.
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December 22, 2009   1 Comment

zipping along with flat iron steak

flat iron zipp

I’m still on a bit of a high after the Arizona Cardinals won the NFC West title yesterday. While researching area foods for the post for yesterday’s game in Detroit, I not only found the Chop Salad, but also this tasty and famous steak sauce – a Detroit favorite. It brings out the best in beef and adds a spicy punch of flavor.

The Flat Iron Steak, also known as the top blade steak, has been a popular restaurant menu item for the past few years and is increasingly becoming available in grocery stores. It was developed at the University of Florida. The researchers wanted to find a way to use a waste cut of beef from the shoulder of the cow. Though a flavorful and relatively tender cut of meat, the top blade roast has a serious flaw in its center; an impossibly tough piece of connective tissue running through the middle.

The researchers developed a method for cutting and presenting the steak, an wound up with an amazing cut of beef, a nearly perfect steak for the grill. The Flat Iron, named because it looks like an old fashioned metal flat iron, is uniform in thickness and rectangular in shape. The only variation to the original roast is the cut into the middle of the steak where the connective tissues have been removed.

The Flat Iron is similar in flavor and texture to Skirt and Flank steaks and is best grilled over medium-high heat. For this particular recipe, we are using a grill pan so that we can gather drippings from the meat. Enjoy!
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December 21, 2009   No Comments