Monday, August 29, 2011

Beef and Oyster Pie with Guinness

Okay, I know it's still summer and all. But we have been absolutely obsessed with this pie ever since we first tried one at the Skellig last winter. The Skellig is known for having the best fish and chips on Moody Street (actually, the best I've had anywhere - including the pier in Brighton, England. Yes, the Skellig's are that good). But this popped up as a special one night...and really, who can resist a pie with three of the most beloved foods ever...beef, oysters, and GUINNESS !! So we ordered it, and it was scrumptious, and we set about learning to make it. And this past weekend, with a hurricane looming and oysters in the pantry...pie it was.

This recipe is basically a variation of a Rick Stein one that Mark found online. Rick's called for fresh oysters, which we absolutely love and eat raw as often as we can get them. For whatever reason, we couldn't find enough decently priced fresh ones at Whole Foods the first time we made this, so we ended up using canned...which really worked perfectly in the pie. Just as well, as whenever an oyster gets opened around here it doesn't last long before someone just has to pop it in their mouth.

oysters !
The other major tweak Mark made was to use substitute shiitake mushrooms for half of the called-for button mushrooms. This is something I do in my risotto as well - the shiitakes are so rich, but the button mushrooms make such a nice contrast in texture. Use a total of 8 ounces of whatever your favorite mushrooms are (or what looks good that day), and you'll be in heaven.

A note on the Guinness...while regular Guinness would work fine, the Extra Stout really gives an amazing depth of, thick and luscious. If you can find it, definitely give it a try - well worth it !

Beef and Oyster Pie with Guinness
Rick Stein, as interpreted by Mark

6-8 Servings

2 lbs beef stew meat

2 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms

4 - 6 shallots, sliced

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

10 fluid ounces Guinness Extra Stout

10 fluid ounces beef broth

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 8 oz can boiled oysters (not smoked)

1 lb puff pastry , defrosted if frozen

1 egg, beaten, for brushing

salt & freshly ground black pepper


Season the pieces of steak with salt and pepper, then toss with the flour and shake off but reserve the excess. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and brown the meat in 2 batches until well colored on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Add another tbsp of the oil, half the butter and the mushrooms to the pan and fry briefly. Set aside with the beef. Add the rest of the oil and butter, the onions and sugar to the pan and fry over a medium-high heat for 20 minutes, until the onions are nicely browned. Stir in the reserved flour, then gradually add the Guinness and stock and bring to a boil, stirring.

Return the beef and mushrooms to the pan with the thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 1½ hours, until the meat is just tender. Lift the meat, mushrooms and onions out of the liquid with a slotted spoon and put into a deep (2 pint) pie dish. Bring the liquid to a boil and boil rapidly until reduced to 1 pint. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme twigs, adjust the seasoning if necessary and pour into the pie dish. Stir everything together well and leave to cool completely

Preheat the oven to 400F. Add the oysters to the pie dish and push them well down into the sauce. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 1in larger than the top of the pie dish. Lay the pastry over the pie dish, and press down to seal. Trim away the excess overhanging pastry and crimp the edges between your fingers to give it an attractive finish. Chill for 20 minutes to relax the pastry. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is bubbling hot.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Maple Pumpkin Spice Donuts

Internets, I think I have a problem. I am totally, completely, head-over-heels in much so I can barely think about anything else. Every time I try to think about something else - like, say, when I'm lying in bed on a rainy morning with a hurricane swirling around outside - he sneaks into my thoughts, tempting me with his sweet, warm, seductive goodness.

Yes, I'm in love....with my donut pan :)

Seriously, this little item is one of the best inventions ever. I included my blueberry donut recipe in my blog about Maine , but I haven't written much else about how much fun I have with this pan. Traditional donuts are of course fried, and very tasty fried items they are too - love me a hot donut straight out of the fryer. (Okay, I love pretty much anything straight out of the fryer :) ). The donut pan is basically almost a sort of oddly shaped cupcake pan, with little posts in the middle of each depression.
my exact pan....from King Arthur Flour
Simply spray the pan with nonstick spray and fill with batter, and you'll shortly be enjoying all of the donut love with a fraction of the guilt. The donuts are dense - definitely of the old fashioned cakey type, not the yeast-risen Krispy Kreme type - and lend themselves to all sorts of flavor combinations. They bake fairly quickly...and nothing says love like a warm donut. Well, okay, not many things :)

The pans are available in a number of stores, but I happened to order mine from King Arthur Flour. They sell not only the pans but a variety of mixes that are actually pretty good - the chocolate one in particular is a knockout. However, you know us here at CO...gotta make it ourselves. Fortunately, there's lots of great recipes out there - including (I hope) this one.

The combination of maple and pumpkin is one of my very favorites (I make a killer maple pumpkin pie ), and I am lucky enough to live in New England where I have pretty good access to maple sugar. In a pinch, you could probably use light brown sugar and substitute a tablespoon of maple syrup for a tablespoon of the pumpkin - and definitely do the maple glaze instead of just dipping in sugar.

I should note that as compared to some other donut pan recipes, this batter is hella sticky - and they really don't smooth out as they bake and rise, so try and get the batter into the pan evenly if you want them level. A toothpick or a bamboo skewer work great for getting the batter around in the pan.

Enjoy !!

Maple Pumpkin Spice Donuts
makes 12 regular sized donuts*

2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 heaping tsp. nutmeg
2 heaping tsps. cinnamon
½ cup maple sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
2 Tbl. buttermilk
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside. Cream together the maple sugar, canned pumpkin, eggs, buttermilk, butter and vanilla extract until the butter is well incorporated. With your mixer on medium low speed, slowly add the dry sifted ingredients to the wet mixture. Mix until just barely combined. Be careful of over mixing.

Spray the donut pan with cooking spray and fill each donut mold halfway with the pumpkin batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes or until the exterior springs back when touched. Allow to cool completely.

Dip in maple sugar or cinnamon sugar while warm, or glaze with the following glaze when cool...both are awesome !

Maple Glaze

½ cup powdered sugar
2 Tbl. maple syrup
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg

Mix until smooth and creamy, but still liquid - adjust ingredients as needed. Dip the top of each cooled donut into the glaze, then set on rack to dry.

Glaze will set better on completely cool donuts - though I did some warm and they were still pretty good. Just don't do it when they are roaring hot, or your glaze will melt.

*for mini donuts - bake 8-10 minutes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Goodnight Irene

In honor of Miss Irene's visit, we are reposting a recipe from our last hurricane watch...Earl. Earl himself was quite the letdown, but the hurricane recipe is killer. A few of these and you won't care what's going on out your window.

History of the drink, from Wikipedia :

The creation of this passion fruit-colored relative of a Daquiri drink is credited to New Orleans tavern owner Pat O'Brien. In the 1940s, he needed to create a new drink to help him get rid of all of the less popular rum that local distributors forced him to buy before he could get a few cases of more popular liquors such as scotch and whiskey. He poured the concoction into hurricane-lamp-shaped glasses and gave it away to sailors. The drink caught on, and it has been a mainstay in the French Quarter ever since. It is more commonly served in a disposable plastic cup, as New Orleans laws permit drinking in public and leaving a bar with a drink, but prohibit public drinking from glass or metal containers

clearly, we are not in New Orleans :)



2 oz light rum
2 oz dark rum
2 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 tbsp simple syrup
1 tbsp grenadine

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a hurricane glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice

Friday, August 19, 2011

Maine 2011

lobstah, buttah, what else do you need ?

Some good news, readers...I have FINALLY replaced my laptop !! Hopefully I can get back to blogging a little more regularly's good to be back !! (Thank you Dad for Christmas in August, and Ma for a very generous birthday gift)

I have been asked so many times to "name my favorite meal". For a foodie, that question is nearly impossible to naming a favorite child.  Perfect meals are as much about timing as ingredients...what you're craving at any moment, what is fresh and available and irresistible and OMG MUST HAVE NOW !! I've had caviar and champagne at the perfect moment, and a perfect tuna melt just when I needed it most. Both could easily be my "favorite":

However, when absolutely pinned down to name my all time favorite meal, there's only one answer I can really give : lobsters and clams on the back deck of our family place in Cushing, Maine. My ties to this magical spot run old and deep - much more than I want to get into in this blog, which is really all about the, let's discuss.

clam digging

nice haul !

"Local" is a huge buzzword in food circles right now...well, this seafood is about as local as you can get. The clams were dug on our own very rocky clam hoes for this group; you go with your fingers so you can tell the difference between the clams and the rocks. 70 clams were brought back up to the house, with half being turned into fritters and half being simply steamed...we can never decide which is better, so we always go with both.
fritters a'fritterin'

clam fritter with Cajun Remoulade

the best steamers on earth
As for the lobsters, 30 of the buggers were procured from a local lobsterman...but no sooner did they get to the house then my cousin Tom showed up with 70 or so tails. That is a hell of a lot of lobster, even for me...but hey, we're talking my favorite food here. None of this was going to go to waste !! We cooked every single one of them, turned some of the tail meat into my famous Lobster Mac + Cheese, everyone ate their fill of lobster in the shell, and we still had enough for everyone to take some home and make copious amounts of lobster salad. (Can't really give you a recipe for that...basically cooked lobster, just enough Hellman's to hold it together, and a TINY tiny dash of either Tabasco, cayenne pepper, or [my favorite] chipotle powder - not for heat, just to perk up the mayo) . Lobster lobster everywhere..

raw tails...
and cooked ones

lobster mac + cheese

my lovely sister
and brother-in-law
lobster rolls !

I'll leave you here with pictures of my other cooking in Maine...namely, blueberry donuts. I am in love with my donut really works like a charm : delicious baked donuts in the time it would take you to go stand in line at Dunkin's on a Sunday...and better for you by far ! Recipe follows.I so wish it was time to go back to Maine...

Blueberry Donuts
Makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup dried blueberries
cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling (mix cinnamon into sugar to taste)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly grease a doughnut pan, or spray with cooking spray.  

In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Stir in buttermilk and oil. Beat together until well blended, then stir in blueberries.

Fill each doughnut cup approximately 3/4 full. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until doughnuts spring back when touched. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar while warm.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brown Butter and Candied Pecan Ice Cream

butter and ice cream and pecans, oh my !

Last Friday was my son's 19th birthday. I'm pleased to report that the boy is shaping up to be just as much of a foodie as his parents are...this kid has pretty much always been a joy to feed. I know were lucky in that respect...tough growing up around here if you're not much of an eater : )

For his birthday, we decided to take him to Sprigs . We absolutely love Sprigs - it's one of our favorite places on earth, and we've never had a bad meal there. Somehow, though, the silly child has never managed to be around when a trip to Sprigs was on the calendar. He's always wanted to try it, though, so off to Acton we went - and another fantastic meal was had by all. And even though we were stuffed to the gills, you can't have a birthday without dessert. And that brings us to Brown Butter Ice Cream...which I have been obsessed with since Friday.

happily browning away
Brown butter in and of itself is magic elixir. Plain unsalted butter is melted in a saucepan and slowly, slowly cooked until small toasty brown bits appear and your whole kitchen smells like butter and nuts and toast and all things delicious. It's used for all sorts of things - you can throw in herbs (especially sage) and serve it over vegetables or pasta; you can add a sprinkle of pecans, toast them up, then throw in cooked rice for an amazing side dish, and you can use it add the most incredible flavor to baked goods and pastries. Sprigs, however, uses it to make the most amazing ice cream I have ever encountered. And once I had it, I knew I had to find out how to make it.

It just so happens that last Christmas, Santa brought me an ice cream maker attachment for my beloved Kitchen-Aid mixer. I'm still trying to figure out the hang of this thing...for some reason every batch I make overflows. We've had a lot of fun learning, though...and thankfully, I have acquired enough skillz that I was able to do justice to this amazing concoction. I found the basic recipe here , but of course tweaked it and added a few things. Because that's how I roll :)

A word on the brown absolutely have to keep an eye on it. If you go past "brown" to "black", throw it out and start over. No coming back from that one. I also think a little bourbon would go swimmingly in will definitely need to freeze for a few hours before serving if you add the booze as it won't totally freeze in the ice cream maker. Worth it though, I think !

Brown Butter Ice Cream with Candied Pecans

 8 Tbs butter
 2 cups cream
 1 cup milk
 6 yolks
 1 cup light brown sugar
 ½ tsp salt
 1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs bourbon (optional)
1 cup candied pecans (store-bought, or use my glazed pecans - replace the chipotle with cinnamon and nutmeg)

In a pan, melt the butter and continue cooking it over low heat until the butter browns - you will see brown toasty bits and it will smell nutty. Immediately remove from heat and set aside.

In a larger pan, combine the cream and milk and scald (barely bring to a simmer, then take off heat). Stir in the vanilla (and bourbon if using) 

In a mixer whisk together the eggs, brown sugar and salt until fluffy. Add the brown butter, a little bit at a time to the running mixer. When they are combined, add the milk a little at a time until the whole mixture is frothy and smooth and well combined.

Return mixture to the larger pan and put back on the stove over medium-low heat., and cook on low until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until completely cool or up to overnight.

Run the custard through an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers directions, stirring in the pecans at the end. (at least that's how the Kitchen-Aid works) It will come out of the Kitchen-Aid the consistency of soft-serve, but you can also just freeze until firm....if you can wait that long to eat it !

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fish Tacos with Tequila-Lime Aioli and Auntie Jojo's Black Bean Salad


I love fish. Growing up, whenever we ate out I almost always ordered fish...even as a kid at McDonald's, I was far more likely to be found with a Filet-O-Fish than I was with a Happy Meal. My little sister hated fish, so we never got to have it at I ate it every chance I got. Even now, more often than not I tend to order fish when I go out. Old habits die hard, I guess - or I really do love fish that much !

I also love tacos. I remember tacos being the first meal I was ever allowed to cook in Maine, which was a huge deal (that was a house full of seriously good cooks, and the kids weren't really allowed in the kitchen).  Tacos are not only tasty and fairly healthy (well, except the cheese and sour cream), but they are great for feeding kids (and picky grownups). Fun to build your own food, and you can just put in what you like. Kid friendly, grown-up foodie approved !

Given my affection for all things fish and taco related, it seems amazing that I had never sampled the delight that is the fish taco until last year. Somehow fish and taco were two words that never went together in my head...sort of like bacon and chocolate. (Which actually do go together. But I digress :) ). After seeing a coworker order some really fantastic-looking fish tacos at one of our favorite lunch spots, I decided to take the plunge. Oh, yeah. Spicy bits of fish, the cooling crunch of cabbage, the silkiness and tang of the cream...that's some Culinary Orgasm right there.

Fish tacos originated in Baja California , and are very popular on the West Coast - though they are definitely working their way on to a lot of menus here in the Northeast. There are two popular varieties - one in which the fish is battered, fried and crunchy, and one where the fish is spiced and grilled or quickly pan-seared. Though we're definitely not afraid of the deep fryer around these parts, I decided to go with the non-battered version...even here at CO HQ, we do try to eat healthy at least once in a while. Shredded cabbage, a sour cream or crema (basically Mexican sour cream), and some sort of salsa round out the basic construction. The version you see here is one of my usual mashups - I did a lot of reading and incorporated bits of different recipes as well as my own ideas. This one is basically a  Bobby Flay / Alton Brown / Guy Fieri cover (the aioli is pretty much all Guy, and a brilliant idea). The only thing I really wish I had done differently is used a crunchy corn shell wrapped in a flour shell...I had them that way once, and it was by far the best presentation when using a non-battered fish component. (I did soft and soft, which was okay...but soft/hard would have been much better !) You can of course do just soft or just hard rather that doubling up - it's your party ! The doubling prevents the hard shell from disintegrating at first bite, which is my major problem with hard taco shells.

Black bean salad is a perfect accompaniment to tacos - my sister (the fish hating one) actually puts it in her tacos, which I have to admit is a pretty damn good idea. My much beloved sister-in-law who moved to Key West a few years ago sent us back this recipe, and it is truly a winner - easy to make, plenty of flavor, super cool and refreshing. Jojo specifies English cucumbers, which I do prefer myself - but the guys who live here are not fans of the English, so I use plain ol' American instead. I wish she would send herself back more often - I miss her all the time - but for now, I'll just eat this salad and think of her.

yummy fishes !

choose your weapon

Tequila-Lime Aioli

Black Bean Salad

* "Tacos Rule" is a Robot Chicken reference - see here or here . Yes, I know it's pretty dumb. So am I, sometimes :)

Fish Tacos

Fish :

1 1/2 lbs white flaky fish - tilapia or mahimahi work very well
2 T canola oil (plus extra for pan)
2 T tequila
juice and zest of 1 lime
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 clove garlic
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes :

Sour Cream or Tequila-Lime Aioli (recipe follows)
Prepared salsa of your choice
Shredded cabbage (I like the look and flavor of the red, but use whichever you like better)
Chopped red and green onions
Chopped cilantro
Lime wedges
8 - 10 hard taco shells, heated according to package directions
8 - 10 flour tortillas, heated

Tequila-Lime Aioli

8 oz sour cream OR crema OR Crème fraiche
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 T tequila
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
2 T cilantro

For fish - combine all ingredients except fish in blender, and blend well to make a marinade. Pour marinade over fish (large Ziploc works well) and marinate for 15 - 20 minutes. Heat a large pan (a griddle or grill pan works great) and brush with oil. Cook the fillets until just cooked through and opaque, about 4 minutes per side. Serve in taco shells wrapped in tortillas, and let everyone garnish accordingly.

Auntie Jojo's Black Bean Salad

1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can kernel corn, drained and rinsed
1/2 c chopped red onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp cumin
juice of 2 limes (I throw a little of the zest in too)
chopped cilantro to taste

Mix all ingredients, and chill.