Aligot

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Recently I was looking something up on the internet, and came across photos of melted cheese. That is exactly the way to get my attention – melted cheese. It didn’t look quite like raclette or fondue, and I read that it was Aligot. Why have I never heard of this?

Aligot (ah-lee-go) is a specialty of the Auvergne region of central France – a potato purée beaten together with cheese to make a stretchy mixture. Stretchy indeed!

The following photo is from the French cooking blog Papilles et Pupilles.

From a New York Times article, “somewhere between buttery mashed potatoes and pure melted cheese lies aligot, the comforting, cheese-enhanced mashed-potato dish.”

The recipe I’m using is from the book, The Food of France – a journey for food lovers, published in 2001. I was gifted this book but used it mostly as a coffee table book because it’s so beautiful. This recipe and the one from Papilles et Pupilles are very similar.


Aligot
Slightly adapted
Printable recipe below

1 1/2 pounds floury potatoes, cut into even-sized pieces
4 ounces butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 ounces cream
10 ounces Cantal, grated

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. I weighed both the potatoes and cheese to make sure I had the correct ratio, not knowing if it was that critical or not.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and add the garlic.

Mash the potatoes using a ricer or food mill; don’t use a food processor or they will become fluent.

Place the riced potatoes in the saucepan over gentle heat and add the cream.

Mix together well and then add the cheese, handful by handful, beating vigorously with each addition.

Once the cheese has melted the mixture will be stretchy.

Season with salt and pepper before serving.

It starts out a little lumpy, but indeed, with serious stirring, the potato and cheese mixture becomes smooth.

This dish is meant to be a “backdrop” side dish, so yes, stronger aged cheeses like a cave-aged Gruyere can be used, but I think it’s important to stick with authenticity. By using the proper cheese, aligot is similar to a plain polenta, that lets the sausages, or daube, or coq au vin “shine”.

Serve as quickly as you can, because it does stiffen when cooling.

I served the aligot with sausage and a lightly dressed green salad.

Aligot is basically cheesy mashed potatoes on crack! Crazy good. And a fabulous cheese that I’d never tried before. So much excitement on this end!!!

And now I need to travel to the Auvergne region of France to see what else I’ve been missing.

 

 

Walnut Cream Gnocchi

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Years ago my husband and I vacationed in Italy, visiting Lake Como, Venice, Verona, the Dolomites, Varenna, Cinque Terre, Florence, Umbria, Siena, and Rome, plus delightful villages in between. One day we had lunch in the beautiful and historically fascinating city of Siena. I remember it like it was yesterday – not only the city but also my lunch.


We had walked away from the touristy part of town, and discovered a restaurant-filled alley. We checked out posted menus, and finally just picked one eeny-meeny-miney-mo style. Honestly all of the restaurants had fabulous menus.

I ordered gnocchi with a walnut cream sauce, which could definitely be my last meal on earth if I had a choice in the matter. The gnocchi were bite-sized pillows – just what you’d expect in Tuscany. But the walnut cream sauce was heavenly.

I took before and after photos of my lunch, and fortunately, have never deleted them from my computer. They’ve been a constant reminder to try and duplicate the sauce. And yes, I left one gnocchi just to not feel piggy! But seriously, look at that serving?!

Once home, I pondered the different ways you can make a walnut cream sauce. It really depends how thick or thin you want it; one of my options was to make a walnut bechamel, but I chose to make a somewhat thinner sauce.

To keep it simple, I used gnocchi from the store. This is a fabulous product.

So here is my recipe for gnocchi in a simple walnut cream sauce, subtly infused with garlic. The prepared gnocchi can be served tossed in the sauce, with grated Parmesan passed around, or baked with the sauce and cheese first. Your choice!


Walnut Cream Sauce for Gnocchi
serves 2 or 4

6 ounces walnuts
12 ounces heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2
4 ounces unsalted butter or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces gnocchi
Grated Parmesan

Toast the walnuts in a heavy skillet just until lightly browned. Let cool. I try to avoid the nut dust after toasting them.

Combine the walnuts and the cream in the blender jar. Process until smooth. You can see how thick the walnut cream becomes.

Turn on the oven to 400 degrees F if you’re going to bake the gnocchi. See * below. Prepare the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the garlic and gently warm it in the butter for a few minutes. Add the walnut cream to the garlic butter and whisk until combined.

* Fold in the prepared gnocchi gently, making sure they are all coated with the cream. Add the salt and taste. Once heated through, place them in a serving dish.

At this point the gnocchi can be enjoyed as is, with grated Parmesan passed around. This is how I had it in Siena.


For the baked version, pour the walnut-cream covered gnocchi into a buttered baking dish, and generously top with Parmesan.


Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until there’s some bubbling and browning. The baking dish could alternatively be placed under the broiler for a few minutes prior to serving.

I have to add that this isn’t the prettiest sauce in the world. The walnuts make the cream a bit off in color, but it’s so good I’m not sure anyone would care.

I also think some panko bread crumbs could be used on top for a little crunch, but next time…


Since creating this recipe, I’ve repeated it for company using 3 pounds of gnocchi, and for the sauce used 16 ounces of walnuts and 1 quart (32 ounces) of cream. It worked out perfectly, so I don’t think the nut-to-cream ratio is that critical.

This recipe is so good, and I’m stating that even though I “created“ it. Duplicating delicious meals, especially from traveling, is always fun.

Both versions, the baked and non-baked are fabulous. If you want to taste most closely what I had in Siena, don’t bake the gnocchi!

Country Game Terrine

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A terrine is a fabulous food from the charcuterie family that I enjoy making when my husband brings home pheasant or quail from his hunting trips in November, December, and January.

I love including slices of terrine on an hors d’oeuvres spread, for aprés ski time by a fireplace. Not that I ski, but I will put on a warm sweater and enjoy a terrine with good bread, some accoutrements, and of course wine.

So what is a terrine? Well, it’s not liver. To this day, my husband will not eat my terrines because he is sure I have snuck liver into them. There’s NO liver in a terrine, unless of course you want there to be.

It is a mixture of ground meats, flavored and seasoned and cooked with lots of fat so that although dense, they’re moist and flavorful.

You can make layered terrines with multiple meats, or place sausages in the middle, or even cooked eggs, so that the slices are pretty. I don’t do anything artistic, but I do sometimes adding nuts and dried fruits to the meat mixtures so that the terrine is texturally interesting.

What sets a terrine aside from say, a meat loaf? First, there’s a substantial amount of fat incorporated into the terrine mixture to prevent dryness. Secondly, the mixture is marinated in herbs and spices, plus Cognac and Madeira, before cooking begins.

Terrines are cooked slowly in a Bain Marie, and afterwards are weighted down to help create the dense texture. See how well they slice?


In other words, this ain’t no meat loaf!

Terrines are best served at room temperature, but cold is good too. Some people turn leftover slices into yummy sandwiches.

Country Game Terrine

4 tablespoons butter or duck fat
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 pounds fatty pork shoulder or butt, coarsely ground
1 pound mixed game meat or pheasant only, coarsely ground
1/2 pound ham, diced
Large handful chopped parsley
4 tablespoons Cognac
3 tablespoons Madeira or white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup dried cranberries or diced dried cherries
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
Bacon slices, about 36 ounces
3 bay leaves

Heat the butter over moderate heat in a medium skillet, and sauté until soft. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt, black pepper, white pepper, allspice, and nutmeg and remove the skillet from the heat.

In a large bowl place the pork, game, and ham. I had to grind the pork first, a coarse grind, followed by a more fine grinding for the quail. The hardest part for this step is remembering how to put the damn meat grinder together.

Add the cognac and the Madeira to the meats, plus slightly cooled onion and spice mixture and parsley. I also went ahead and added the cranberries.

Give everything a good stir, cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, test the terrine mixture for seasoning by frying up a little bit in a skillet and taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly. The parsley, allspice, thyme, and cognac are extremely important flavors.

Then stir in the heavy cream and egg yolks until well combined. Fold in the pistachios.

Line a loaf pan generously with bacon slices, allowing them to hang over the loaf pan.

Fill the terrine firmly with the meat. Place the bay leaves on the top of the terrine mixture, then fold over the bacon slices to cover completely.

You don’t have to have as much fun as I did with the bacon, because you’re going to be removing it in any case.

Bring the terrine to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and prepare a large, deep pan with water in which to cook the terrine.

Cover the pan with foil tightly; a double layer would be ideal. Place the loaf pan in the water bath and let it bake for about 1 1/2 hours. But many different factors would change the time. So ideally, use an oven probe thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the terrine.


After the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F, remove the pan from the water bath and place on a counter top. Remove the foil to let any steam escape. Leave it alone for about one hour.

Notice I forgot the place the bay leaves under the bacon…

Place clean parchment paper over the top of the loaf pan, and cover with another loaf pan that fits inside it, with weights on top. These can be canned goods or bricks. If you think some of the remaining juices will overflow, cover the bottom with foil topped with paper towels.

Leave it like this until the terrine cools completely, then place in the refrigerator and chill it for 24 hours.

To serve, remove the terrine from the loaf pan carefully, remove the bacon strips and bay leaves, and slice crosswise into 1/2” slices.


The terrine is best served at room temperature.


The cranberry and pistachio combination make this terrine more festive. But just about any dried fruit and nut combination can be used, like diced dried apricot and hazelnuts.

Whatever meat you use, just make sure there’s fat inside, or the terrine will be dry. I learned that the hard way.

Nuts and dried fruits are fun, but not a necessity. And hopefully you can see that no real recipe is needed for a terrine. Just have fun!

E Z Brownies

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Years ago a friend and I started a charity event that focused on wine tasting, to benefit our local SPCA. We really had no budget, but wanted to offer foods to go along with the wines.

The first event was successful, with about 400 people attending. That’s considered pretty good in our town of about 50,000 people. Fortunately, it has grown in popularity over the last 20 years!

Back then, money was tight. We couldn’t donate money to our beloved SPCA, but over the years I fostered animals, and volunteered in other ways. And every year, I made food for the wine tasting event, its biggest fund raiser.

A few years in, one of the wine distributors wanted to do chocolate and wine pairings, and I created these E Z brownies for that purpose.

They are called E Z because, wait for it, a box mix is used. Do you think any other time in my life I’d use a box mix???!!! Hell no! But It was for such a good cause.

The brownie mix is enhanced with liqueur, and goodies are added like chocolate chips or toffee bits or dried fruits. It was always fun to mix and match the flavors.

Fortunately, a wonderfully generous beneficiary of the SPCA also owned a liquor store, so she gave me all of the liqueurs I needed for these brownies!

So, for $1.16 per box of brownie mix, I could make hundreds of brownies for not much money, and everyone loved them. I wanted to share the recipe, because you can create a fabulous, customized brownie, starting with a box mix. I still can’t believe I just wrote that 😬

To really make the brownies stretch, I make mini brownies. They’re bite-sized.

Faux Brownies
Makes 16 regular-sized brownies, or cut each into 6 pieces for 96!

1 – 18.3 ounce box brownie mix (brands are different weights)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, whisked
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup liqueur, I used Amarula
1 cup bits and/or chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9 x 13” baking pan with corners. These are non-stick, but I still add a little spray oil.

Place the brownie mix, the eggs, flour, and choice for liqueur and stir until the mix is fully incorporated.

Fold in the chips and bits and scrape into the prepared baking pan.

In these brownies I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chips and dried cranberries. Amarula is a fruity liqueur, so I thought this would be a nice combination.


Bake for 22 – 25 minutes.


For thicker brownies, smaller pans can be used, or you can use twice the amount of mix; of course baking times will vary.

You can adjust any box mix just by balancing the dry and wet ingredients. Liqueur is a wet ingredient, so compensate by adding a little flour or even cocoa.

See the cranberry bits and the chocolate chips?.

These brownies are thin, but extremely dense, chocolatey, and chewy.

Like I mentioned, a square pan would bake up thicker brownies, but for a crowd, these 9 x 13″ pans are perfect, especially when one recipe makes 96 mini brownies!

Try these combinations:
Dried tart cherries and Amarula
White chocolate chips and Framboise
Dark chocolate chips and Bailey’s
Toffee bits and Buttershots
White chocolate chips and Rumchata
Candied nuts and Amaretto
Freeze-dried raspberries and Grand Marnier
Caramel Corn and Kahlua
White chocolate chips and Chambord

Manhattan, the cocktail

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First I have to admit that I don’t drink Manhattans, the whisky-based drink named after Manhattan, allegedly created in New York City’s Manhattan club in 1880. I just don’t like whisky or any of the brown liquors. However, my husband does.

According to people who consider themselves Manhattan connoisseurs, this is the best Manhattan ever. Here’s the story.

My husband and I met friends at a nice restaurant in Oklahoma City for a special birthday event January of 2019. The restaurant is called Vast, located 726.2 feet above ground on the 49th and 50th floors of the Devon Energy building.

The birthday girl and I ordered pretty typical drinks. The husbands chose Manhattans. And, they continued to order them, being kind of obsessed with them.

Once home, I gathered the ingredients for the Vast Manhattans to surprise my husband on his upcoming birthday, which included Old Forester whisky and Punt e Mes vermouth. One of the ingredients is Strong tonic, a tonic syrup made in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

I contacted the Strong tonic people and asked if they knew the restaurant’s recipe, and I received it!

I told Glenn that the Vast recipe mentioned Old Forester and not Rittenhouse Rye, and he said, “Old Forester is great!” Oddly enough, his name was Glenn Forester!

I substituted Old Forester for the Rittenhouse rye in his recipe. And, to make it just like the restaurant’s bar, I did a sherry rinse, using Harvey’s Bristol cream, and served each cocktail with an Amarena cherry.

The night of my husband’s birthday, these same friends celebrated with us. Let me just say that these are strong drinks! But I won’t go into details.

Evidently the proper glass for a Manhattan is a martini glass, but I find them too top heavy. Plus I’m klutzy.

The above recipe from Mr. Forester is for one drink. Below is a recipe for 4 “hefty” drinks that can be mixed in a pitcher, which is way easier than making one at a time. Plus the pitcher can chill in the fridge before company arrives.


Vast Manhattan

16 ounces Old Forester
6 ounces Strong Tonic, original
2 ounces Punt e Mes
16 dashes Angostura bitters, regular or orange
Sherry, like Harvey’s Bristol Cream
Amarena Cherries and syrup

Have glasses in your freezer before you begin.

In a shaker, combine the whisky, tonic syrup, punt e mes and the bitters. Add some ice cubes and give the mixture a few serious swirls.

Pour a 1/2 teaspoon of sherry into each of two chilled glasses and give it a twirl; dump out excess into sink or mouth.

Strain the ice and pour the Manhattan into the glasses.

Add one or two cherries to each cocktail. I also add just a bit of syrup for fun. No one has complained yet.

I was very Martha Stewarty and placed the amarena cherries on pine sticks.

When you make a pitcher of Manhattans, you don’t really have to add ice because the pitcher can chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. But if you feel the drink is too strong, add a few small ice cubes.

I so wish I could drink whisky.

 

 

Fettuccine al Burro

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I didn’t grow up with Italian cuisine, which is interesting, considering my French mother cooked various global cuisines over the years, like Ethiopian and Chinese, as well as French. Somehow, Italian got overlooked.

It could have been on purpose now that I think of it. Her first husband, my father, was from Sicily. That marriage didn’t end well.

Fortunately, thanks to the comprehensive Time-Life Foods of the world set of cookbooks that my mother gave me when I got married, I gradually learned about the world of Italian cuisine.

My exploration taught me quickly that the cuisine was not anything like Americanized Italian food that I’d experienced at “bad” Italian restaurants.

Creating Osso Buco and Scaloppine al Marsala, and discovering pesto, were revelations. But one recipe really stood out in “The Cooking of Italy” cookbook, and that was Fettuccine al Burro.

It was and is still for me one of those “to die for” recipes. Practically equal parts butter, cream and cheese melted into fettuccine. What’s not to love?

This recipe is probably what’s better known as Alfredo sauce, but I’ll always call it by the name I first learned, which translates to fettuccine in butter.

Fettuccine al Burro
Egg Noodles with Butter and Cheese
Slightly adapted

8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus a little more
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
12 ounces fettuccine
1 canned white truffle, sliced very thin, optional
Extra freshly grated Parmesan

Cream the softened butter by beating it vigorously against the sides of a large, heavy bowl with a wooden spoon until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the cream a little at a time, and then, a few tablespoons at a time, beat in 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Set aside.


Bring the water and salt to a bubbling boil in a large soup pot. Drop in the fettuccine and stir it gently with a wooden fork for a few moments to prevent the strands from sticking to one another.


Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally until the pasta is tender. Use the package instructions for guidance.

Immediately drain the fettuccine into a colander then transfer it at once to the bowl the toss until every strand is well coated.

Taste and season generously with salt and pepper. I use white pepper.

Stir in the optional truffle, if using. I know for a fact that 30+ years ago I never used truffles because I was pretty confused as to why one would put chocolate in pasta!!! I also could never have afforded them…


Serve the fettuccine at once.

Pass the extra grated cheese in a separate bowl.


If the fettuccine dries up a little before serving, add a little more cream, cover the bowl, and let the pasta sit.

Some day it would be fun to add some lovely slices of white truffle to this pasta, but it’s certainly rich and satisfying as is.

note: I typically buy a 4-5 pound chunk of Parmesan Reggiano at Whole Foods and store it for when I need to freshly grate some. For some odd reason, this really irks them, and I have no idea why. But how people can be happy with little 3 ounces plastic-wrapped chunks of Parmesan that are obviously cut along the rind is beyond me. So I break down my large chunk when I get home, store it in cheese bags, and grate as needed.

I love this gadget that I got at Amazon, of course, and it’s easier on the hands than a traditional grater. It’s a manual rotary cheese grater with 3 different graters. Just FYI.

Risotto with Pork Shanks

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On the last season of Masterchef US, season 10, the 4th runner up went home. His name is Noah Sims and he was a favorite. What sent him home was a risotto topped with venison loin. The venison was overcooked, unfortunately for him, but what sent him home was a profound learning experience to me.

Risotto is a dish. It is a meal. It can be enhanced with an endless number of ingredients, from mushrooms to tomatoes and squash, and seasoned accordingly. It also can be served with protein of just about any kind, for a more involved meal. However, the protein is a separate dish from the risotto.

So, you have risotto, and the added protein, and according to Joe Bastianich, the son of Italian cuisine expert Lidia Bastianich, something has to tie them together. Otherwise it’s like serving a chili dog on a plate of cacio de pepe. (not his quote.) Two completely different dishes.

What Mr. Bastianich suggested was that if Noah had been able to prepare a venison stock to use in the risotto, the overall meal would have worked.

I found this to be quite revelatory. Because although my husband doesn’t mind, I’ve put just about any kind of meat or seafood over his risotto. Now, they have to “go” together. Now I know.

So I created this risotto dish topped with braised pork chops in order to use pork broth in the risotto. Start in the morning, and don’t plan on serving the dish until the next day.

Braised Pork Shanks
4 servings

4 – 1 1/2 pound Berkshire pork shanks
Salt
Pepper
Grapeseed oil, about 1/4 cup total
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
3 cups white wine
3 cups chicken broth
Parsley
Bay leaves
Rosemary branch
Thyme branch
Sprig of sage

Begin by coating the pork with a generous amount of salt and pepper.


Heat the grapeseed oil in a heavy cast-iron pot over high heat. Brown the tops and bottoms of all four shanks, one at a time.

After browning, place the shanks in a large, deep and heavy pot, like a Le Creuset; set aside.

Turn down the heat under the pot to medium. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots for about 5 minutes, stirring up all of that meaty goodness.

Stir in the garlic for a minute, then add the wine and broth.

Add all of the herbs to the pot with the broth. Heat up the liquid in the pot, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes. Then cover the pot well and cook for 30 more minutes.

Let the liquid cool enough to handle the pot, then strain the liquid through a fine colander into the pot with the shanks. Add more wine or broth if necessary. The meat should just be covered.

At this point you can check the seasoning. The broth should be rich with flavor.

Place the pot over a medium-high heat and simmer the shanks for 2 1/2 hours. Turn the shanks over halfway through cooking.

When you’re ready to collect the pork broth and proceed with the risotto, remove the shanks and place in a baking dish. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Taste the broth. If it’s watery, spend at least 30-45 minutes reducing it. Store it in a pourable pot, then make the risotto (recipe below).

Risotto served with Braised Pork Shanks
4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
12 ounces arborio rice, about 2 cups
Pork broth, about 4-5 cups
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, and saute the shallots for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir until all of the grains are lightly coated with the oil.

Gradually begin adding the pork broth to the risotto. This whole process should take about 45 minutes; stir constantly.

Season to your taste. At the end of cooking, I added just a little bit of cream, but this is optional.

For seasoning the risotto, if you want it more “fun,” think about adding some dried thyme, or mushroom powder, or even tomato powder or tomato paste.

The risotto already pairs with the pork shanks because of the lovely rich broth used in it, but you can be a little more creative with the risotto.

To prepare the risotto and pork shank dish, place half of the risotto on a pasta bowl, and top with a warm pork shank. I brushed a little of the broth over the pork so it was nice and moist.

I added some chopped parsley for a little color, and served the meal with a simple green salad.

The pork is so moist, and tender like pulled pork. And flavorful.

And the risotto? Superb. Even with very little fat, the pork broth really created a rich-tasting risotto.

And if you don’t want to deal with the whole shank on your risotto, you can cut it up first, and serve warm over the risotto, like you would short ribs.

But the whole pork shank does make a pretty presentation!

Salmon Brandade

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This recipe comes from the 2018-published cookbook entitled Everyday Dorie, by Dorie Greenspan. I bought it recently after seeing quite a few bloggers share some of this book’s recipes on Instagram.

Personally, I’ve never gotten to “know” Ms. Greenspan. It’s probably because I first learned about her when the book, Baking with Julia, was published. Ms. Greenspan and Julia Childs were co-authors.

Well, I won’t bake with Julia, or anyone else, so I kind of ignored Dorie Greenspan and her award-wining books over the years, until now.

The book? Fairly straight forward, simple food. Her goal with the cookbook is to “turn out food that’s comforting, satisfying, inviting and so often surprising. I love when there’s something unexpected in a dish, especially when it’s in a dish we think we know well.

So, she added Dijon mustard to gougeres, to carrot and mustard rillettes, to honey-mustard salmon rillettes, and to a tomato tart with mustard and ricotta. And that’s just the appetizer chapter. I wasn’t really impressed with her “surprises,” but the photos of the food are really pretty.

I chose to make Ms. Greenspan’s salmon brandade, because I love traditional brandade, made with salt cod. If you’re interested HERE is a Jacques Pepin recipe for it.

According to Dorie Greenspan, “This brandade celebrates everything that’s warm and comforting about the original while adding a touch of luxe – it’s brandade for dinner parties. Serve with a salad and white wine. Maybe even Champagne.

The dish isn’t gorgeous, but it’s perfect comfort food, especially served during cold months. And for pescatarians.

It’s basically a salmon shepherd’s pie!

Salmon Brandade
Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound smoked salmon, or lox
2 – 2 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into medium chunks
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus 1/2 tablespoon butter
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped, rinsed, and patted dry
2 garlic cloves, germ removed, minced
6 – 8 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
2 – 3 tablespoons minced mixed fresh herbs, such as dill, chives, parsley, and/or tarragon
Plain dry bread crumbs, for finishing

Bring the milk just to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in half of the smoked salmon, turn off the heat and let steep while you make the potatoes.

Put the potatoes in a tall pot, cover generously with cold water, salt the water and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they’re so tender that you can easily crush them against the side of the pot with a fork, 15 – 20 minutes. Drain well.

The potatoes must be mashed, a job best done with a food mill or ricer, which produces fluffier potatoes. Mash them in a large bowl, and then, using a spatula, stir in the salmon-milk mixture, followed by the 6 pieces of butter.. The potatoes will be softer and looser than you might be used to. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9″ pie plate and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I used a small baking pan and two ramekins.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Toss in the onion and garlic and cook, stirring until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper – go light on the salt – and stir in the cubed fresh salmon.


Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth and cook, stirring, until the wine almost evaporates, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the herbs and remaining smoked salmon.

Taste for salt and pepper and scrape the mixture into the buttered pan.

Top with the mashed potatoes, spreading them all the way to the edges of the pan. Dot with bits of the cold butter and sprinkle over the bread crumbs.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are hot all the way through, the juices from the onion and salmon are bubbling, and the top is golden brown. If you want the brandade to have more color, put it under the broiler.

Serve immmediately – the brandade is meant to be so hot that you’ve got to blow on every forkful. See the steam in this photo? Nah, I can’t either, but it was steaming hot.

The two layers are exceptionally good, especially the soft potatoes with the bits of salmon.


But the bread crumbs (I used panko) really add a fun crunch to each bite.

I would consider this recipe excellent, but salt the potatoes!

And, the individual brandade in the ramekins turned out perfectly as well.

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup

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My first introduction to pumpkin was probably like every other American’s – pumpkin pie. I had no idea that this lovely pie was made with a vegetable! The horror! I was married and just learning how to cook when I figured this out.

Pumpkin, the squash, does not taste like pumpkin pie. It’s kind of plain, really, but with some sweetness. But boy does it lend itself to all things sweet and savory.

When my kids were little, I snuck canned pumpkin into just about everything, from oatmeal and pancakes to soups, stews, and pastas. To me, the pumpkin just increased the nutrition of whatever I was making, and the girls never minded the color. Puréed spinach is a different story!

The only way to get canned pumpkin in the “old” days, was in cans. Nowadays, I purchase puréed organic pumpkin in cans or aseptic cartons. I learned a long time ago not to buy inferior brands of pumpkin. They are tasteless and watery.

If you want to be a purist, grab a cooking pumpkin, chop it in half, remove the seeds. If desired, drizzle the flesh with a little olive oil and season (if you’re using the pumpkin for something savory.) Cover the halves securely with foil, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

After the pumpkin has cooled, remove the flesh and place it on paper towels or a clean dish towel to remove the water. This step takes a couple of hours. If you want to expedite this, place a heavy baking dish over the paper towel-wrapped pumpkin flesh. This isn’t as critical of a step if you’re using the pumpkin purée for a soup.

Baking a pumpkin from scratch is an important thing to do once. It’s fun. Afterwards, you figure out it’s much easier to buy good puréed pumpkin! Plus, you know the weight of the pumpkin in the can, if you’re using a recipe.

You might have noticed this post published the day after America’s Thanksgiving event. That is because pumpkin to me is something that can be used year around. It isn’t just for autumnal dishes.

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup
serves 4
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1” piece of fresh ginger, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin purée
1 – 15.8 ounce can Great Northern beans, well drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/3 cup heavy cream, or other options, below

Heat butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes; a little browning is okay.

Add the ginger and garlic and sauté gently for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, let boil, then reduce the liquid by about half.

Add the pumpkin and beans and stir well. Add the seasoning and taste. Let cool before adding to the blender.

Now you’ve got curried pumpkin and white beans and you have options.

1. For a less creamy soup, use broth to blend the pumpkin and beans to your desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche.

2. Use heavy cream to blend the pumpkin and beans for a super creamy and rich soup, and serve with cilantro and cayenne pepper flakes.

3. Use either of the above liquids, and top your soup with bacon bits or slices of grilled sausage. And the curry powder ingredients are optional, of course.

Because I’m a sucker for rich soups, I opted for number 2, using heavy cream. You can use 1/2 and 1/2, evaporated milk, or even goat milk. They will all work.

Stop blending when the soup is as thin as you want it; I prefer thicker soups, especially during cold months.

If you haven’t used white beans in a soup before, they’re a miracle worker. They thicken, just like potatoes, but they also add a creaminess and healthy fiber, without adding any significant flavor. It would be like adding tofu for creaminess, fiber, and thickness, which also works well.

Once you use white beans for a soup, you’ll be hooked. I promise.

 

 

Mincemeat Ice Cream

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I know. Your initial impression of ice cream with mincemeat may not be favorable. But this isn’t the suet and minced meat type of olden days mincemeat. This is a glorious mixture of spiced apples, raisins, and pecans – mixed into ice cream.

Last Thanksgiving I made the ubiquitous pumpkin pie, a favorite of my family, and served it with this mincemeat ice cream. And it was a sublime pairing. There are no photos, because I’ve learned that food blogging can’t really happen during special meals! But I did want to share the recipe, which originally came from Bon Appetit.

The recipe is for a custard-style ice cream plus the mincemeat that is folded into the prepared ice cream.

This year, for the sake of time, I purchased a gallon of high-quality vanilla bean ice cream, made the mincemeat per this recipe, and folded it into the softened ice cream. You can do it all from scratch like I did last year, or cheat like I did this year.

I purchased a pumpkin pie for the purpose of photographing this ice cream, because this year I have other dessert plans for Thanksgiving. You know me – so much food, so little time… but I did want to share this spectacular recipe.

Mincemeat Ice Cream
Bon Appetit recipe, slightly adapted
printable recipe below

Ice cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
10 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar

Mincemeat:
2 Golden Delicious apples (about 1 1/3 pounds), peeled, cored, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup apple cider
1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Juice of one lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

To make the ice cream, mix cream and milk in heavy large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer; remove from heat.

Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes. Strain custard into bowl. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours.

To prepare the mincemeat, bring all 13 ingredients to boil in heavy large saucepan.

Reduce heat to medium and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.


Transfer mixture to bowl; refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Process custard in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to bowl. Fold in 3 cups cold mincemeat. Cover and freeze until firm, about 4 hours. I you’re using a gallon of purchased ice cream, use all of the mincemeat, which measures 3 cups.

The mince meat could be made with pears as well if they were firm.

Just for fun, I combined some of the cider and brown sugar bourbon I used in the mincemeat and reduced to a syrup, then poured it warm over the ice cream on the pumpkin pie.

I have the worst time photographing ice cream, but I can guarantee that if you love apple pie filling, you will love this recipe.

It is so good by itself, but especially good with pumpkin pie!

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!