MERRY CHRISTMAS!

For those who celebrate, we wish you a Merry Christmas!  In proper holiday spirit, I will share with you a recipe that has festive written all over it: Sourdough Popovers!  They were described quite appropriately in the King Arthur website as “High, Wide, and Handsome”    😉
baked222

SOURDOUGH POPOVERS
(from King Arthur website)

1 cup milk (full-fat, reduced-fat, or skim)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

In the microwave or in a small saucepan, warm the milk until it feels just slightly warm to the touch. Combine the warm milk with the eggs, sourdough starter and salt, then mix in the flour. Don’t over-mix; a few small lumps are OK. The batter should be thinner than a pancake batter, about the consistency of heavy cream.

Heat a muffin or popover pan in the oven while it’s preheating to 450°F. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray, or brush it generously with oil or melted butter. Quickly pour the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the top. If you’re using a muffin tin, fill cups all the way to the top. Space the popovers around so there are empty cups among the full ones; this leaves more room for expansion.  Bake the popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until popovers are golden brown.

Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Popovers might be the easiest thing in the world to make! In this case, the sourdough doesn’t act as the leavening agent, it is there exclusively for taste, so don’t worry if your starter is not at its peak of activity.  A big bowl, a wire whisk, and a few minutes of preparation is all you’ll need. The real magic happens in the very hot oven.  If you have kids around, let them peek as the popovers rise up and up and up, it’s fun to follow their baking.

Enjoy the popovers as soon as they are out of the oven, because they will deflate somewhat.  Break each one open, and dig in!
goodie111
They are perfect with roast meats.  We enjoyed these babies with roast turkey, gravy, and the most delicious cranberry sauce with dried Mission figs and Port wine.  Recipe to be featured soon, stay tuned… 😉
plateddd

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting….

ONE YEAR AGO: Merry Christmas!

TWO YEARS AGO:  Sourdough Focaccia, with a twist

THREE YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH HOMEMADE CALZONES!

baked111Do you think it would be too hard to enjoy calzones made from scratch right in the middle of the week?  Trust me, it is doable with just a little bit of advance prep.  First, the day before (or early in the morning), make your favorite pizza dough.  Place it in the fridge.  Also the day before, prepare the fillings, and reserve in the fridge, right next to the dough.  When you arrive home from work,  take the dough off the fridge and let it warm a little as you heat the oven.   Roll the dough out, add the filling, close the calzone, and bake!
ingredients

SPICY CHORIZO CALZONES
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

1 recipe for pizza dough (click here for my favorite)
3 chorizo sausages, casings removed
1 can (14.5 oz) diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 box (10 oz)  frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little water)
homemade tomato sauce to serve alongside (optional)

Prepare the dough the day before or early in the morning.  Place it in the fridge until dinner time.   Make the filling:  heat the olive oil, and add the chorizo sausage, crumbling it into pieces. Saute the sausage until it starts to get browned, drain the diced tomatoes, and add to the sausage.   Reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes.  Let it cool, and place in the fridge.

Remove the dough from the fridge, cut it in four pieces, and turn the oven at 400 F.  Squeeze as much water as you can from the spinach, add it to ricotta cheese, season with salt and pepper, add the egg and mix.

Roll out each ball of dough to a 7-inch diameter round.  Add a little bit of sausage mixture, the ricotta/spinach, and grated mozzarella.   Fold the dough over,  pinch the edges to seal, brush the surface with egg wash. Cut three slits with a sharp knife, place it in the oven.  Bake for  25 minutes until golden brown.   Serve with tomato sauce and a salad, and you are all set!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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These will turn any dinner into something special and festive, and they are sooo easy to make!  I used a very spicy chorizo, but the ricotta mellowed it down quite a bit. Sometimes I do not add any egg to the ricotta, but in this version I did, to make sure the filling would have a bit more body. If the filling is too liquid, the bottom of the calzone might get soggy.  Of course, this is a perfect recipe to improvise, coming up with different ingredients: sautéed mushrooms, black olives, a little Gorgonzola cheese, artichoke hearts, anything goes!

doublet111I like my calzones either plain, or with a little bit of tomato sauce, but others are known to go for the kill… 😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

TWO YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

THREE YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye

FEIJOADA, THE ULTIMATE BRAZILIAN FEAST

The day was September 28th.  The year was 2009.  On that day I posted a recipe for Brazilian black beans, and promised a subsequent recipe for feijoada.  It took me almost 2 years, but here it is!  Be aware that any recipe for this great Brazilian dish will be controversial, just as a Bolognese sauce is for Italian cooks. Every family has their own favorite, and noses will twist at any deviations from their norm.  It’s also tricky to find the authentic ingredients in the US, which my recipe takes into account by adapting to what’s available here. For instance, “carne seca”  (dry meat, a delicacy NOT to be confused with the American beef jerky), and some parts of the pig that are sold salted and/or smoked (pig’s feet, ears, tail) are basic components of the Brazilian dish, but I can’t find them at American markets. Because they are so salty and some are also quite fatty, most recipes ask to soak these meats overnight (discarding the water) and cooking them separately from the beans until almost tender.  I am substituting corned beef and other types of pork, easily available.  I also omitted using a pressure cooker, to make the recipe feasible for those who do not own one.  By the way, feijoada is a dish to be enjoyed at lunchtime, traditionally on Wednesdays or Saturdays.  It’s such hearty dish that enjoying a plate of feijoada at dinner could be risky…   😉

FEIJOADA 
(a family recipe)

2 pounds black beans
4 quarts water
2 pounds pork shoulder, cut in large cubes
1 cup orange juice
2 bay leaves
1 pound fresh spicy sausage (linguica)
3/4 pound corned beef
1 pound smoked pork chops
1/2 pound chorizo
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 pound slab bacon, diced
2 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Serrano peppers, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Cover the black beans with water and let them soaking overnight.  Next day, discard all the water, place them in a very large pan, add water to cover them by an inch, bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes, without any salt.

Meanwhile, prepare the pork butt by placing the cubed meat in a large pan with 1 cup of orange juice, water to almost cover the meat, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, simmer for 45 minutes, covered.  Discard the cooking liquid, reserve the meat, and add it to the black beans after they simmered for 45 minutes.   Add the brisket in one piece and the bay leaves.  Simmer everything together for 1 hour.

Add the smoked pork chops and both types of sausage, continue simmering for another 2 hours, keeping an eye on the water level, adding more if necessary.  At this point, the meats should be tender enough to cut into pieces. Remove them, cut the brisket, the sausages, and add them back to the pan.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan, add the bacon cut in pieces, the onion, garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion starts to get golden brown.  Add the serrano pepper, saute for a minute, add the whole mixture to the black beans, holding back some of the fat in case the bacon released too much oil.  Remove 1/2 cup beans with a slotted spoon (draining the liquid), add them to a small bowl and mash gently with a fork, forming a puree. Return the mashed beans to the pan.

Simmer everything for another 30 minutes or until the meats are completely tender.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, remove bay leaves.  Serve over white rice, with fresh oranges, cut in large chunks.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

These photos were taken at my youngest niece’s home, she and her husband hosted an unforgettable Saturday lunch for the whole family.  The table was beautifully set, with the green/yellow colors of Brazil, fitting the menu to a T.

Feijoada is always served with fresh chunks of oranges, sauteed and shredded “couve” (similar to collard greens), farofa, and white rice.   The  best way to serve it is to assemble all the goodies in a buffet type setting, so that each guest can make their own plate.  In my family, we also provide an assortment of salads, especially now that we have two vegetarians in our crowd.

It is easy to understand why this meal suits lunchtime a lot better than dinner!  😉

What to drink with feijoada?  If you want to remain authentic, go for capirinhas: either the traditional drink made with limes, or some of the many new departures on this classic. At any rate, my brother–in-law Celso is a pro at making capirinhas, one glass and one huge smile at a time…

and once the feijoada is over,  only a good hammock will do!

ONE YEAR AGO: Vegetable Milhojas

TWO YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny day!

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BABY BACK RIBS ON THE 4th OF JULY

Barbecued ribs are a classic to celebrate this holiday at the height of the Summer.  In Brazil, barbecue means grilling large pieces of meat that were seasoned with coarse salt and pepper…  and nothing else.  No marinades, no rubs, no extra flavors.   Because I was raised with that concept, I sometimes twisted my nose at American barbecue,  particularly those in which the meat is suffocated by seasonings.

Then one day I found myself in an Oklahoma rib joint, where I tried barbecued pork ribs for the first time, all sticky, messy, gooey and covered with a screaming-red barbecue sauce.   I shook my head in disbelief – why mask the flavor of the meat with all that stuff? – but the first bite clarified the issue forever: barbecue sauce is awesome, funky, and sexy!  It turned those ribs into a life-changing experience! Seriously, from that day forward I was hooked, and soon became a barbecue sauce snob. It has to be just right, without liquid smoke and without excessive sweetness.   A little hickory flavor is acceptable, even desirable, as long as it’s subtle.  For the most part the bottled, grocery store varieties fail my personal test.  Instead I make my own sauce and exclusively use it on pork ribs.  It’s a match like Romeo and Juliet.

OVEN-BARBECUED RIBS
(adapted from Easy Basics for Good Cooking, 1987)

2 slabs of pork ribs (baby back or spareribs)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
salt and pepper
juice of the lemon

for the barbecue sauce
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup red vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp paprika (smoked, if available)
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp chili powder (hot)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs (use a paper towel to grab it and it should peel off easily).  Place the ribs on a rimmed baking dish, cover it with the lemon and onion slices, season with salt and pepper, and squeeze the lemon juice all over.   Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 hours at 300F.

Meanwhile make the barbecue sauce by mixing all ingredients in a saucepan and bringing to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while.  If not using the sauce right away, refrigerate.

When the ribs are baked, remove the aluminum foil, discard the lemon and onion slices, and any liquid accumulated in the bottom of the baking pan. Brush a good amount of barbecue sauce all over the ribs and either refrigerate for a day or two, or proceed with the final cooking right away.

To finish the ribs in the oven, place them in a 425 F lightly covered with aluminum foil, for 45 minutes. They will look like this at the end of the baking time. Uncover, brush a little more barbecue sauce on top of the ribs, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned on top.  You can also finish them in a medium grill until cooked to your liking.  Serve the ribs with additional barbecue sauce on the side.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: People may split into two camps when it comes to  barbecued ribs: those who want their meat falling off the bone, and those who prefer to work a little hard and nibble the meat from the bone. I’m part of the first group. Life is hard enough, and I want my ribs (rather, the pig’s) tender. 😉 If you’re on my team, then these ribs are almost all that you need for your 4th of July dinner. Close the deal with this dessert, and you are in for a memorable meal!

A PIE FOR YOUR 4th OF JULY

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ONE YEAR AGO: A Golden Sandwich Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese

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WHITE HOUSE MACARONI AND CHEESE

It’s been a while,  but today I bring back my favorite guest blogger, my husband, to talk about his version of macaroni and cheese.   It was one of the first meals he cooked for me when we were dating, and we’ve made it together countless times in the past 12 years… So, without further ado, here he is:

This is not a dish for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of guts to face the excesses of this delicacy.  But, macaroni and cheese is a uniquely American concoction, that, unfortunately, is seldom prepared in a way that justifies it.   It has a long,  glorious history.  OK, the Italians mixed pasta and cheese years beforehand, but  Thomas Jefferson introduced America to macaroni and cheese at a White House dinner in 1802, and the rest IS history.  When the flavors of this dish saturate your taste buds, any concerns about caloric excess will fade away, lost in your enjoyment of the pasta!  Probably a significant amount of  American obesity derives from the decadence of macaroni noodles baked into that matrix of cheese, eggs and milk.  Besides cakes, pies and cookies, it was one of the only things that elicited an enthusiastic “Oh boy!” when my mom announced its presence on the menu.  We recently made it for some visiting European friends who “oooohed and aaaaahed “ their way through several servings each.

However, too often macaroni and cheese appears in a lunch buffet in some almost unrecognizable,  bland and bloated form.  And let’s not talk about the boxed varieties.  But this recipe is different.  I admit it,  I took some liberties with my version, that I invented as a starving college student.  It’s different from Mr. Jefferson’s, and even my mother’s original recipe:  I added celery and mushrooms.  I suspect, though, that you’ll agree the new ingredients bring it to a  higher level.   Scoff if you must (I’m sure that Mr. Jefferson would not), or even skip (don’t do it!) an additional crucial ingredient, Velveeta “cheese,” another appropriately American original that imparts inexplicably  unforgettable flavor to the mix.

WHITE HOUSE MACARONI AND CHEESE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 box of macaroni noodles (elbows, or another short shape)
4-5 large celery stalks
8-12 oz of white or cremini mushrooms
½ pound or more of high-end cheeses [emmental, mozzarella, manchego, roquefort, camembert – choose two of your favorite(s)]
½ pound or more of Velveeta “cheese”
3 eggs
1 + 1/2 cups of milk
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Cook  and drain the macaroni.  Rinse the vegetables and dice them and the cheeses into macaroni-sized pieces.  Rub a large casserole dish with butter and fill it with layers of the  ingredients.  Put pasta, celery and mushrooms in each layer, and an amount of cheese to your taste.  Don’t skimp on the cheese! Cover the top with breadcrumbs.

Beat the eggs with a fork, then add the milk and spices and beat a bit more.  Pour the liquid mixture over the casserole and put it in the oven; reduce the heat to 400 F and bake until you observe the sauce bubbling up to the top, 45 min to an hour.

ENJOY! (and don’t feel guilty!)

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Make sure to cook enough macaroni.  I always prepare a full  bag or box, and save any extra for lunch another time.   The amount of milk and eggs somewhat depends on the size of your baking dish, and it might take a little trial and error to perfect your own amounts.  I’ve given amounts that work for about a 10″ deep casserole, like the one in the picture.   I want to see the liquids bubbling up to the top of the pasta just at the end of the cooking time.

ONE YEAR AGO: For the love of bread

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