Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cassoulet Bainbridge Style

Today is my wedding anniversary and the gift I’ve asked of my dear husband is  that we cook New Years Eve dinner together. 

Our traditional NYE dinner is cassoulet and this year we’re recreating the cassoulet dinner we had in Castelnaudry, one of the most enjoyable meals we had during our month in Europe. 

The Menu

Fois Gras with toast and balsamic reduction.  Mixed greens tossed in a light vinaigrette. 


Peeled fresh grapefruit segments frozen just until the outside is crunchy and the inside is ice cold; a riff on grapefruit sorbet.

Followed by:

Cassoulet de Castelnaudary with Duck Confit and artisanal sausages.


Mini-three cheese course and profiteroles


I’ll update later with pictures and tasting notes.  Happy New Year and all the best to you and yours.

The update:  There was so much meat in the cassoulet we skipped the fois gras and went straight to the main event.  Tender white beans and meat ragout studded with Uli’s garlic sausage; smoked kielbasa and duck confit (purchased in France this summer and stored until this special night).  Stunned by the food and champagne we retired to the hot tub and watched fireworks, then finished our meal:   frozen grapefruit; crunchy with ice crystals exploding with juice in each bite.

New Year's Eve 100 The finished product.

New Year's Eve 080 Built by layers.  First a layer of beans, then a layer of meat.

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Then another layer of beans…

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Topped by fresh bread crumbs drizzled with duck fat.  This is a rich and hearty meal…I have no idea how I managed to eat this entire menu  fois gras to profiteroles last summer in France.

For this recipe; click here:

Cassoulet in Castelnaudary.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Golden Anniversary

Today is my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It is a rare and wondrous achievement and proves what I’ve always known:  My parents are rare and wonderful people.

Mom says it doesn’t seem like they’ve been married fifty years but then reflects on the world events and global changes they’ve seen together:  five children grown,  Man walking on the moon,  computers in every home (to list just a few). 

My mom’s family is long lived and loyal.  Her grandparents were separated by her grandmother’s passing just months short of their 60th wedding anniversary. Her parents celebrated their fiftieth and would have seen their 60th had not cancer intervened. 

My father’s parents were married until the day his father died.  Dad is witty and kind and has a certain nobility about him and he cherishes my mother; just the way I remember Grandpa Herb and Grandma Frances.  Sometimes while I’m stirring a pot at the stove Ross comes up and hugs me from behind just the way my dad does with my mom.  It makes me happy to think that maybe, just maybe with luck and health we’ll be them someday.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.  I love you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh Fudge; revisited.

Whew.  Recovering from family holiday fest.  My mother made three kinds of fudge.  Sampled all weekend and still can’t pick a favorite.  I give you all three recipes (including the fudge disaster recipe, now totally foolproof):

Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups sugar

½ cup milk

1 1/3 cups peanut butter

1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme

In saucepan bring sugar and milk to a boil; boil for three minutes. Add peanut butter and marshmallow creme; mix well. Quickly pour into a buttered 8 inch square pan; chill until set. Cut into squares. Yield 3-4 dozen bite sized pieces.


Chocolate Fudge

4 ½ cups sugar

1 can Carnation evaporated milk (12 ounces)

2 sticks butter

3 teaspoon vanilla

2 large bags chocolate chips (mom uses milk chocolate chips)


Mix sugar and milk in a saucepan. Bring to hard boil and boil for 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and chocolate chips. Pour in 9X13 pan and refrigerate until cool.


White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

From: A Taste of Home

1-1/2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup butter, softened, divided

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

12 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped

1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Line a 9-in. square pan with foil. Grease the foil with 1-1/2 teaspoons butter; set aside.

In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, sour cream and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil; cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 234° (soft-ball stage), about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat; stir in white chocolate and marshmallow creme until melted. Fold in peppermint candy and extract. Pour into prepared pan. Chill until firm.

Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Gently peel off foil; cut fudge into 1-in. squares. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 2 pounds.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oh… Fudge!

One must have stunning failures before achieving great success. 

I think I ruined a perfectly nice All Clad Stainless steel pan this afternoon.  My mom’s “foolproof” fudge recipe turned to carbon before my eyes and super-glued itself to my pan.  The house smells like burned marshmallows and I wince each time I approach the kitchen sink and the charred remains.

Guess I’ll finish the dishes tomorrow.

Does anyone have a foolproof fudge recipe?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Handmade Pasta

This, too was part of our Food Friday challenge and since none of us had fresh lasagna sheets tucked away in our freezers (the challenge was to make a meal with the contents of our pantries) we made the pasta from scratch.  Kudos to Veni who patiently and painstakingly made 36 perfect butternut squash raviolis:




Then made fettuccine with the leftovers.

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Making pasta is not for the faint of heart.  If you posses a pasta roller perhaps you disagree, but from where I was sitting (drinking wine and sneaking bits of fresh apple cake), it looked pretty hard. 

The results were worthy.  Tender noodles (drizzled with sage infused cream sauce) filled with sweet squash abundant with parmesan, cream and a hint of nutmeg. 

Thanks to Daniela of Bella Signature Design for the action photos above.

Winter Squash Ravioli

From:  Le Cordon Bleu Cookbook

12 oz butternut squash, baked.

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 oz prosciutto, finely chopped

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh sage

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons whipping cream

Pinch of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients using the back of a fork to mash the squash.  Taste, adjust seasonings.  We didn’t use the prosciutto so added extra salt.

Fresh Pasta

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

Mix flour and salt then add the oil and egg, mixing well to a firm ball.  Let rest to relax the dough and roll into thin sheets.

Sage Infused Cream Sauce

This was a challenge so I couldn't run to the store to buy fresh sage and made do with dried instead.  So good that I may have to “make-do” with dried herbs more often.

1/2 cup cream (heavy or light)

Sprinkle of dried sage

Combine in heavy pot and bring to a boil; let simmer for as long as it takes to heat your pasta water and cook your pasta.  Will reduce to a few tasty tablespoons.  Drizzle over hot pasta.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

OMG this was good.  We made it for Food Friday lunch and I swear I’ve never tasted anything so delicious.  The entire Food Friday challenge; to use up all the Butternut Squash that Aunt Sharron brought from her organic grocer, has been a great opportunity to  love Butternut Squash.

squash muffins 028 Creamy with parmesan zing in every bite.  So delicious, conversation momentarily ceased as we reveled in flavor.

Before last Monday I’m not sure I could pick a butternut squash out of a squash line up.  Today, however, I have four new recipes that I CAN’T WAIT to make again; all of them featuring butternut squash.

Part of Friday’s challenge was to make dishes from the ingredients in our pantry so we made this without pancetta. 

It took almost an hour to get the rice al dente and we used 2-3 more cups of chicken stock than Ina calls for; just letting you know in case you’re a) in a hurry to eat or b) low on chicken stock.

Cheers and enjoy.

Butternut Squash Risotto

From Ina Garten

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

2 ounces pancetta, diced

1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Butternut Squash Muffins with Sour Cream Glaze

I think Aunt Sharron has a crush on Jamie Oliver.  She arrived with two of his cookbooks and proceeded to make me want to fall in love with him, too.

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He had me at “sour cream glaze”.  At first I thought he’d made a typo; surely he meant cream cheese?  Lemon zest, orange zest, powdered sugar and sour cream?   But after I tasted the butternut squash muffins destined to be glazed, I decided to trust him. 

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These muffins were astonishingly moist , bursting with flavor and endearingly yummy.  Endearing because they’re healthy (veggie, organic eggs and olive oil) and  simple to make with no fussy ingredients.
We ate them for two days  before I got around to making the glaze.  Delicious without any topping I almost didn’t go the extra step.  Glad I did because this zesty, sweet and sour frosting took the muffins from really, really good (though a bit frumpy) to fabulous and so pretty all dressed up in frilly bonnets.  We shared them with neighbors to their great delight.

Butternut Squash Muffins with Sour Cream Glaze

Adapted from Jamie Oliver
14 ounces butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and whirled in food processor until finely chopped
2 ¼ cups light brown sugar
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 ½ cup flour
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
Handful of walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine eggs, oil and brown sugar, fold in squash. In separate bowl combine dry ingredients (including walnuts). Make a well in center of dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Bake in 350 degree oven for twenty minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Sour Cream Glaze

½ cup sour cream
zest of one Satsuma (or whatever orange you have on hand); plus more for garnish
zest of one lemon
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix well and spoon over cooled muffins. Grate orange peel over frosting as garnish.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro

You could call this week the Butternut Squash Challenge:  Three butternut squash go a long way and we’ve been working our way through them.

Yesterday we made butternut squash soup.  Spicy, hot and smooth, thanks to the garnish of cayenne pepper, sour cream and cilantro.  Joining those three big flavors with the creamy soup broke all kinds of taste records and had me (no fan of squash soup) going back for seconds.

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Today is Food Friday and we’ve challenged ourselves to use up the rest of the squash and a whole bunch of apples without going to the store for additional supplies.  On the menu:

Butternut squash ravioli with sage cream sauce or browned butter

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash muffins with sour cream glaze

French Apple Croustade

Fresh apple cupcakes

…and whatever else strikes our fancy.  I’ll report in on Monday with recipes and tasting notes.  I’d blog it over the weekend but my dance card is already full with Christmas in the Country and the Bainbridge Island Studio Tour two of my favorite holiday events. 


Squash Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 stalks celery ,chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 Cloves garlic, finely minced

½ Habanero (or other hot chili), finely minced

5 cups vegetable or chicken broth, no salt

3 cups (1.5 Pounds) squash (Butternut) light flesh seeded, peeled cut into 1 inch cubes

¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/3 cup sour cream

Sour Cream for Garnish

Cilantro for garnish

¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrot. Sauté until soft, but no t brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and chili and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in broth, squash, parsley, bay leaves, thyme and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer till vegetables are very soft, 25-30 minutes. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Puree soup in batches in food processor or blender until very smooth. Add water if too thick. Return soup to pan and stir in ½ cup sour cream. Simmer soup for 3 minutes more. Adjust seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with cayenne, cilantro and sour cream.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whiskey Pecan Fruit Cake

This is my great-great grandmother’s fruitcake recipe.  Before you sprain a finger speed-exiting this blog, hear me out.

This is good stuff.  No one admits to liking fruitcake.  No one.  (Except my friend Heather, who just now confessed).  But even those people who say they don’t like fruitcake like this:  my dad and my uncle can’t get enough, my grandma loves it, my aunt loves it and dare I say…I …uh…like it a lot.  I figure it has to be good to survive five generations. (the recipe not the actual fruitcake.)

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Aunt Sharron is the keeper of family traditions.  If you recall, she’s the maker of the Irish Enchiladas a recipe passed down from my Great Grandma.  And, now the family fruitcake recipe:

(A word about family fruitcake recipes:  You have one too.  I guarantee there’s a great aunt out there somewhere making your family’s fruitcake recipe right now.  But I digress.)

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This cake is rich and dense, rife with nutmeg, potent with whiskey.  We pulled eight gloriously bronzed loaves out of the oven a bit ago and my house smells like the inside of a gingerbread cottage abundant with spice and roasted nuts.  We’ve yet to wrap them in whiskey soaked cheesecloth but I have plans to liberate a crumb or three.  This recipe makes A LOT of fruitcake:  eight small loaves and one big one…feel free to halve the recipe.

I’m a little concerned the fruitcake baton is being passed to me and soon I will be known as the keeper of the family fruitcake tradition.  The family fruitcake-er.  If this came with some sort of magical ability like levitation or lighting candles without a match I’d consider it a fair trade but for now I’ll watch and learn and try to keep away from the Black Velvet.

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By the way I just have to comment on this glorious day.  This morning:  glittery frost, snuggled in one of my mom’s quilts on the deck, cradling a cup of hot green tea watching dawn steal across the bay.  A family of geese glide by; silent  black silhouettes.  Followed closely by a raft of widgeons and buffleheads whistling and chirping. 

Life is good.


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Whiskey Pecan Fruit Cake

½ cup candied orange peel

1 pound mixed candied fruit;

2 pounds dates or raisins or mixed dates/raisins

1½ cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

1 cup molasses

6 eggs

1 heaping tablespoon baking powder

4 cups flour

2 tablespoons nutmeg

2 1/4 pounds pecans, divided

1cup whiskey

Do not cut up the pecans or dates; leave whole. Reserve some fruit pieces and 1/4 pound pecans for decorating the finished loaves.

Combine remaining nuts and fruit in colander and rinse with boiling water to remove the sticky sugar coating from the candied fruit.  Drain well then place in the largest bowl you have.

Cream together butter and sugar and add eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Add molasses and mix well.  Add whiskey and mix well.

Combine flour, baking powder and nutmeg in bowl and whisk well.  Add to butter/sugar mixture.  Mix well.

Pour batter over the fruits and nuts.  Mix well.

Line bread pans with with greased waxed paper. Press batter into pans level with the top of pan.  Decorate with reserved fruits and nuts.  Bake at 250⁰ for 4 hours or until done.  It’s done when the batter hardens across the top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When cooled, wrap in whiskey soaked cheese cloth and wrap in wax paper then foil. Store in cool, dark place for a month or two; from time to time adding a little whiskey.