Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Baked Brie with Mushrooms and Thyme

The McQuaid clan are all big fans of brie, especially when baked and in it's true ooey-gooey goodness state!  When I ran across this recipe I couldn't resist and knew it would be a hit.  Perfect for a rainy, Sunday afternoon while watching the Cowboys destroy the Redskins!  GO COWBOYS!!!  =)

This recipe is easy to make, although it has several steps, but none of them are difficult. I served the brie in the box on a nest of crumpled foil as suggested and it made the clean-up easier and made for a nice presentation as well.  I would give this recipe five stars...We all loved it.

Here's the recipe that's adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine:

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms*
2/3 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
6 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
2 tablespoons minced shallot (about 1 large)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 13- to 14-ounce Brie (about 5 inches in diameter; preferably in wooden box)
1 baguette, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Rinse dried porcini to remove any grit. Place porcini and wine in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over low heat; remove from heat. Let soak until soft, about 20 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer porcini to work surface and coarsely chop. Line strainer with damp paper towel; strain wine into small bowl and reserve.
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add crimini and shiitakes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until brown, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add shallot and stir until soft, about 1 minute. Add chopped porcini and strained wine. Boil until almost dry, about 1 minute. Stir in thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.

Remove Brie from box, discarding lid and paper. Using sharp knife, cut top rind from Brie; discard. Return Brie to box. (Alternatively, stack two 12-inch rounds of foil and fold up around bottom and sides of Brie, crimping foil at edges, leaving top exposed.) Mound mushroom mixture atop Brie. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place Brie with mushrooms on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cheese begins to melt and mushrooms are warmed through, about 15 minutes.

Transfer Brie in box to plate. Serve hot with baguette slices.

*Available in the produce section of many supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Italian markets.
test-kitchen TIP

To cut the top off the round of Brie more easily, first place the cheese in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up slightly.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Apple Crumb Pie

In honor of fall I couldn't wait to make an apple pie or an apple crisp.  During my research process I ran across Paula Deen's recipe that was a lovely combination of both.  I did tweak her recipe a bit after reading the reviews.  Her recipe calls for twice as much applesauce and half of the crunch topping that I used.  With a few minor adjustments, this apple pie/crisp topped with vanilla ice cream is American cuisine at it's BEST!!  

Here's my tweaked version of Paula's recipe:

Dough and Filling:

Dough for a double crust 9-inch pie (homemade, frozen, or refrigerated)
3/4 cup sugar
1 TBSP all-purpose flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon
Dash salt
3 1/2 cups peeled, chopped granny smith green apples
1/2 cup applesauce
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP butter, chopped into small pieces

Crunch Topping:

6 TBSP all-purpose flour
2 TBSP sugar
Dash or two of salt
2 TBSP butter, at room temperature
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie pan with half of dough. Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Stir in apples, applesauce, and lemon juice. Spoon apple mixture into pie pan and dot with butter. Cut remaining crust into strips; arrange in a lattice design over top of pie. For crunch topping, combine flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Using a fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over top of crust. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for about 45 minutes, or until crust and topping are golden brown.  Top with vanilla ice cream.

Paula's Perfect Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp fine salt
3 TBSP granulated white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold
12 TBSP butter, cold and cubed
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup ice water

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the shortening and break it up with your hands as you start to coat it all up with the flour. Add the cold butter cubes and work it into the flour with your hands or a pastry cutter. Work it quickly, so the butter doesn't get too soft, until the mixture is crumbly, like very coarse cornmeal. Add the ice water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together forming a dough. Bring the dough together into a ball.

When it comes together stop working it otherwise the dough will get over-worked and tough. Divide the dough in half and flatten it slightly to form a disk shape. Wrap each disk in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. On a floured surface roll each disk out into a 10 to 11-inch circle to make a 9-inch pie.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

If you love butternut squash soup you will appreciate this recipe.  I made this for Halloween night and it made the house smell divine.  This soup has complex flavors, with a little heat and a lot of sweet.  The squash and toasted spice mixture took some time to make, but now that I have extra spice mix, it will be much easier to make next time.  

Don't toss out the seeds from the squash.  After scraping them out, I rinsed them, dried them on paper towels, tossed them with about a 1 teaspoon or so of butter, sprinkled them with a tiny bit of the rub, then roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Tasty on their own or sprinkled on the soup. 

I have to admit I'm not a big fan because the soup is a little too sweet for my liking.  When making again I will use a little less molasses to help cut down on the sweetness.  Cassidy who loves anything made with pumpkin or squash can't wait for me to make this again.  Overall, though, a great recipe that received rave reviews from family and friends who gobbled this rich soup up on a cold Halloween night.

This recipe is adapted from Michael Chiarello's.  Be sure and check out Michael's serving  suggestions after the roasted squash recipe.  

2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diced onion
1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced celery
1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced carrot
1 cinnamon stick
Sea salt, preferably gray salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 tsp ground toasted coriander, optional
1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash (recipe follows)
1/2 cup half-and-half, optional
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, optional
2 TBSP toasted pumpkin seeds, optional

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and cinnamon stick and saute until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and the coriander, if using, and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about 1 month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with stock or water when reheating.)

Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Add the half-and-half, if using. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm until service.

To serve:

Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish evenly, with the cheese and pumpkin or squash seeds, if desired.

Roasted Winter Squash:

About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
Gray salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dark unsulfured molasses
2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthwise, discard the seeds, then cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter ceases to foam and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and immediately add the sage, sugar, vinegar (stand back so as not to get splattered), molasses and toasted spice rub. Mix well and let simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well, then transfer to a heavy rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are runny.

Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor and process until smooth. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Serving suggestions: Serve the puree on its own as a side dish for roast chicken, turkey, or pork; stir into polenta just before the end of cooking; use as a stuffing for ravioli; make into a soup; or use to flavor pastina. Or omit the sage, season with ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg to taste, and use as a substitute for canned pumpkin in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe.

Variation for Smoky Butternut Squash: Cook the prepared squash on a baking sheet in a covered grill with soaked chips to give a slightly smoky taste. Substitute in any of the recipes that call for roasted squash. If cooking kabocha, acorn, or other difficult-to-peel squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and rub the insides and cut edges with the vinegar/molasses mixture. Place on a baking sheet, cut sides up, and roast at 400 degrees F until tender. Scoop out and puree.

Yield: about 2 cups puree

Toasted Spice Rub:

1/4 cup fennel seeds
1 TBSP coriander seeds
1 TBSP peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (1-ounce) pure California chili powder
2 TBSP kosher salt
2 TBSP ground cinnamon

Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a small, heavy pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan, add the red pepper flakes, and toss, toss, toss, always under the fan. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool.

Put mixture into a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon and blend until the spices are evenly ground. If you have a small spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices, grind only the fennel, coriander, pepper, and chili flakes. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.

Chef's notes: Toasting freshens spices, releases their oils, and makes them more fragrant, as well as adding a new dimension of flavor.

Taste your chili powder before adding and, if spicy and hot, cut back the amount. California chilies are almost sweet, not hot.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

German Potato Salad

Here's my version of Kuby's Sausage House's classic German potato salad and is the perfect accompaniment to the meatloaf recipe I previously posted.  Serve with some seasoned sauerkraut and you have yourself a fabulous home cooked German feast.  I do love me some Kuby's!

3 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes
6 - 8 slices bacon
1 onion, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
3/4 cup white vinegar, or to taste, I like it more vinegary
2 TBSP water
3 TBSP white sugar
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley

Place the potatoes into a pot, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain, and set aside to cool.

Place the bacon in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Fry until browned and crisp, turning as needed. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add onion to the bacon grease, and cook over medium heat until browned. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil, then add the potatoes and parsley. Crumble in half of the bacon. Heat through, then transfer to a serving dish. Crumble the remaining bacon over the top, and serve warm.

Not Your Typical Meatloaf

If you live in Dallas you have to know about Kuby's Sausage House in Snider Plaza.  I particularly love their meatloaf with brown gravy, seasoned sauerkraut, German potato salad and their marinated cucumbers.  As I've stated before, one of my biggest passions is food and everything that goes into creating a meal.  I started researching recipes to figure out the best combination of flavors to re-create some of Kuby's signature dishes.  

I don't like my meatloaf with ketchup and tomatoes or it tasting sweet at all, which is why I like Kuby's version so much.  I substituted brown gravy for the ketchup called for in most recipes.  I cooked one of the loaves in a big loaf pan and a couple others in little, single-serving loaf pans.  When cooking again I will do individual servings as they seemed to turn out better than the one in the bigger pan and of course, the smaller ones cooked quicker.  Top each serving with extra brown gravy and I recommend serving with warm German potato salad (recipe to follow).

1 (1 1/2 ounce) slice white bread, or dried Italian bread crumbs
2 TBSP milk
1 1/2 cups prepared "McCormick's Classic Brown Gravy" or 1/2 cup ketchup, divided
1 lb ground beef, extra lean
1 lb lean ground veal
1 lb lean ground pork
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp Worcestershire 

1 tsp celery seed
salt and pepper to taste
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If not using already dried bread crumbs, place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse breadcrumbs measure 1 1/2 cups.

Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of brown gravy (or 2 -3 TBSP ketchup) and remaining ingredients except cooking spray.

Shape meat mixture into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan placed on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Spread remaining 6 tablespoons brown gravy or ketchup over top of meat loaf. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a thermometer registers 160°. Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut the loaf into 12 slices.  Serve with brown gravy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bacon, Egg and Toast Cups

Here's a recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, September 2010, that looked too good to resist.

Try cooked, crumbled sausage in place of bacon or make a vegetarian version with sauteed spinach. Dress things up with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

4 TBSP butter, melted
8 slices white or whole-wheat sandwich bread
6 slices bacon
6 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 6 standard muffin cups. With a rolling pin, flatten bread slices slightly and, with a 4 1/4-inch cookie cutter, cut into 8 rounds. Cut each round in half, then press 2 halves into each muffin cup, overlapping slightly and making sure bread comes up to edge of cup. Use extra bread to patch any gaps. Brush bread with remaining butter.  Toast in the oven for a minute or two.

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium, until almost crisp, 4 minutes, flipping once. (It will continue to cook in the oven.) Lay 1 bacon slice in each bread cup, add 1 TBSP cheese and crack an egg over each. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until egg whites are just set, 20 to 25 minutes. Run a small knife around cups to loosen toasts. Serve immediately.

Cook's Note:

Standard muffin pans come in 6 or 12 cup size; if baking 6 items in a 12-cup pan, leave empty space in between. Nonstick pans are nice but not essential. Beware of very thin pans, which often lead to burning. Place pans on a baking sheet to make them easier to get in and out of the oven.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Authentic Tamales

I've been wanting to make tamales for quite awhile now and after researching through dozens of recipes, I combined a few and was very pleased with the end result.  I do have a few tips to share that are crucial to making the perfect tamales.

I learned the hard way that the key to making good tamales is to spread the masa or dough very thinly on the husk. I find it to be highly disappointing when tamales have too much steamed masa surrounding them and with hardly any filling inside.  The filling should most definitely dominate the masa.

The more the merrier when it comes to making tamales. They are certainly labor intensive, but very rewarding and therapeutic to prepare.  
Plan on at least two days for preperations.  This is a great family project for a rainy weekend. 

You can mix the beef and pork for the tamales, but if you’re a purist like me, go with one or the other.  My favorite tamales are made with pork. 

With a few minor kinks to iron out, my tamales did not disappoint.  The filling especially can not get any better.  I made sure to use enough chili powder for the masa to add a nice kick...definitely recommended.  I made about 30 tamales, half of which we steamed and the other half we froze, which will make for an easy snack or dinner.  I serve my tamales with Sriracha and sour cream.  Mucho delicioso!!

Day 1:

3 lbs pork/beef butt or shoulder
1 - 48 oz chicken broth for pork, or use beef broth for beef tamales
1 - 26 oz chicken cooking stock for pork, or use beef stock for beef tamales
1 white onion cut into chunks
4 bay leaves
8 - 12 peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp chili powder
1 package corn husks

Cook meat (pork or beef, or both in separate pots) in a large pot of broth and stock; add enough water to cover the meat.  Add onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns and chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low and cook low and slow for the day, 4 hours minimum. The more broth you can generate from the meat, the better.

After the meat is cooked so that it falls apart and shreds easily, remove from pot, set aside to cool; remove the bay leaves.  Puree the onion, garlic and peppercorns with the broth. Season broth mixture to taste with chili powder and salt.

Shred meat finely with two forks and store covered in refrigerator separately from broth.

Soak corn husks in water overnight.

Day 2:

Corn Husks

Shredded meat
Cooking broth
Chili powder, divided use
1 - 2 tsp cumin (optional)
Salt, to taste, divided use
2 cups of masa harina (meal)
1/2 cup of shortening or lard

Rinse and clean corn husks thoroughly. Drain well and pat dry.

Season shredded meat with chili powder, salt, and cumin (optional) to taste. As you season the meat, add a small amount of broth to moisten meat, but it should not be runny; set aside.

In a large bowl mix 2 cups of masa harina (meal), 1/2 cup of shortening or lard, 1 tsp of salt, and enough chili powder to make a pink dough. Add broth mixture a little at a time to masa and mix with your hands to get a smooth, spreadable consistency. If you run out of broth, you can use hot water or store-bought broth.

To assemble the tamales, spread masa about 1/8 inch thick on corn husk with fingers, leaving about 1/2 inch border along the sides and 2 inch border along the top and bottom of husk. Use about 2 TBSP of the seasoned, shredded meat to fill the tamale like a cigar. Fold sides until they just overlap, fold narrow end under, and place tamale folded side down. Tear thin strips of the corn husks to tie a little belt around each tamal to keep it secure.  This makes each tamale a little gift to be opened.

To cook the tamales, steam for 1 - 1/2 hours or until masa is no longer sticky.  Replenish the liquid in the steamer with the reserved cooking broth as needed while steaming.

Store the remaining tamales in your freezer. Steam frozen tamales for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.