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Caramel Pot de Creme

Lately I’ve been on a caramel kick. This is our current go-to for dessert for dinner parties. It’s usually one of the following I serve: Caramel Pot de Crème, Salted Caramel & Chocolate Mousse, or Panna Cotta with Balsamic ‘Glaze’. Interspersed with the Olive Oil Cake and I’ve got my repertoire. Pot de crème is not hard, but it is a technique driven recipe.

Pot de crème will need several hours of chilling time. I make mine the day before. It is also best to use the freshest eggs and cream as possible and a really fine granulated sugar for the caramel.

To make silky-smooth custard, strain the custard mixture through a fine sieve before pouring it into the ramekins.

Serves 6

Ingredients
6 large egg yolks
¼ cup water
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 Ramekins

Directions
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and lightly whisk them.

Making the caramel and cream: In a heavy pot large enough to hold the milk and cream, dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat. Increase the heat to high and cook the sugar until it is a golden amber color.

While the sugar is dissolving, in another heavy bottom pot, scald the milk and cream over medium high heat.

As soon as the sugar becomes that golden amber color, turn off the heat, and slowly pour the hot cream and milk into the caramel. Note: adding the cream to the caramel will make the mixture bubble – it is dangerously hot. What I do – I add the cream mixture by the ladle full and using a long handled whisk, combine the mixture as I add the milk.

Slowly whisk the caramel cream into the egg yolks. Strain the mixture and allow it to cool (refrigeration is fine).

Pour the custard into the ramekins and place the ramekins into a baking pan. Fill the baking pan 1/3 to 1/2 full with hot water. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Bake the pot de crème for about 50 minutes. When gently shaken, they should be set around the edges yet have an area in the middle, about the size of a quarter, that will not be firm.

Refrigerate the pots de crème for several hours or overnight.

Optional: 1) Before serving, you can sprinkle with a little bit of flaked salt like Maldon. 2) You can also add a little bit of whipped cream on top and shaved chocolate

Bolognese

There are many, many variations of Bolognese out there in recipe books and websites. My version uses Italian sausage and ground chuck, both of which make for a fattier and more flavorful sauce. I make a whole bunch by doubling the recipe and freezing it in serving size batches.

A note on pasta: I know there is a trend for gluten-free diets or just low carbs. I do not adhere to either. There is a wealth of information on the web on alternatives, please read those and use/adjust accordingly. What I do adhere to is the 80-20 rule: 80% of our food is organic or GMO-free. We either make our own pasta using unbleached organic flour or buy the organic dried variety easily found at your local food cooperative.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion chopped
1 small celery rib chopped
1 small carrot peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ lb. of ground chuck
½ lb. of mild Italian sausage, casings removed
½ nutmeg, grated
½ cup milk
½ cup dry white wine
1 – 28 oz. can of petite-diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
In a large pot, heat the olive oil in medium-high heat until glistening. Add the chopped onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground chuck and the Italian sausage and sauté until no longer pink. Add the nutmeg and milk, stir and bring to a rolling boil. Continue to stir the mixture and reduce the milk until almost all gone, about 7-10 minutes. Add the wine and stir the mixture. Continue to stir the mixture and reduce the wine until almost all gone, about 7-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the sauce to simmer for one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The sauce is great on wide, flat pasta such as tagliatelle, pappardelle, and rombi. The sauce can also be used in lasagna.

Linguine with Clams

Linguine with clams

I’m a true believer that bacon enhances dishes like no other ingredients. Hence my take on linguine with clams.

Serves 4

Ingredients
5 strips of hickory smoked bacon, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
½ tsp crushed red pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup clam juice
1 lb baby clams or cockles
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 lb linguine

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Equipment
Large heavy pot, large enough to transfer the pasta
Large heavy pot for the pasta

Directions
In the large heavy pot, in medium heat, cook the bacon until fat is rendered. Do not let it crisp. Add the olive oil and let it heat up in the pot, about 2-3 minutes. Add the onions and sauté until soft and the onions are clear. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the oregano and the crushed red pepper and sauté for 1 more minute. Add the wine and the clam juice. Allow to cook until the alcohol has burned off and the liquids have reduced, about 7 minutes. Add the clams and cover for about 7 minutes. Remove the cover and check, the clams should have opened up. Discard any clams that remain close.

Meanwhile cook the pasta per the instructions. Drain the linguini and add it to the clam mixture and toss until well mixed. Divide into bowls, add chopped fresh parsley, and serve.

Hints: I cook the pasta just under the allotted time. This is because the pasta will still keep cooking in the sauce. So if the linguini takes 11 minutes per the package instruction, I start checking the pasta at 9 minutes and more often then not, I stop at 10, drain and add it to the sauce.

Yes, I add parmesan cheese to this dish. After all, I am from Wisconsin.

Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil CakeOlive oil mini cakes

This cake – my favorite these days – easy to make and is a hit with everyone, even my dad. The recipe below is borrowed heavily from Michael Chiarello’s recipe.

Ingredients
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fine salt
3 large eggs
1-1/4 cups whole milk
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup of brandy, Cognac or Armagnac
1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling pans
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons anise seed
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons orange marmalade

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Oil 2 (10-inch) round cake pans.  Line the bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper.  Oil the parchment paper as well.

In heavy saucepan, reduce the orange juice over medium heat to 1/4 cup.  Add the salt, stir and let cool.

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, lightly beat eggs on high speed for 1 minute until frothy.  Add milk, sugar, alcohol/liqueur, olive oil, reduced orange juice, lemon zest, anise and 1 teaspoon rosemary.  Mix for 1 minute until well blended.  Mix in the flour, baking soda and baking powder until well blended and smooth.

Pour half the mixture into each oiled cake pan.  Bake for 1 hour.  Place on a rack to cool.  Run a knife around the edges and place it on a plate.  While the cake is still warm, smooth 3 tablespoons of marmalade on the top of each cake.  Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon chopped rosemary evenly over both cakes.

If you would like to make mini cakes or muffins as seen in the second picture, oil a small size muffin tin and fill with batter.  Bake the muffins for 20 minutes. Let the muffins cool and remove the muffins from the pan. Smooth the marmalade on top of each muffin. Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of chopped rosemary on top of the muffins.

Peru

A truly inspiring country and people.  I will never forget this trip.  Magical.  Yes, we hiked a very tall mountain and I will post pictures of the hike and the mountain later.  On this post I want to show the amazing people we met.

This first one I find quite guapa (pretty)  I noticed similarities in our cultures – baby girls, as young as 6 months or even younger will have pierced ears. We have the same tradition where I come from.  Not so in the US – where ear-piercing is somewhat a rite of passage among teenagers.

Molleplata_1 Molleplata_2 Salkantay_1 Salkantay_2

New Beginnings

IMG_6433[3]IMG_6436[1]

A new start, a new website.  I’m hoping this is a place to keep me honest and true about my projects.  Starting projects have never been a problem for me.  Finishing them is more of the issue.  I look at these nests we’ve collected around the house.  Birds build and abandon these nests every year.  Once the birds are done rearing their young, the nests are abandoned and picked up by me.

Like these nests, I have a tendency to abandon recipes once I’ve mastered them.  And then years later I spend all day wondering where I placed my very brief notes, or spend hours wracking my brain into remembering what ingredient made the last attempt so yummy.  Or my husband will request some obscure dish I made years ago and I search both online and in my stash of recipes – only to find the notes weeks, sometimes months later jammed between the pages of a completely unrelated recipe book.

Unlike these nests, I abandon difficult knitting, sewing or embroidery projects.  I leave them in a clear plastic bag, with pattern, needles, material, etc.  and store them in the hopes that someday I will finish.

This is a place: this is my recipe keeper, my virtual plastic bag, my reusable nest.