CHICKEN AND HEART OF PALM SQUARES

Puff pastry turns any delicacy into something special. It is hard to beat the taste and texture of a nicely laminated dough. You can go sweet or savory, you can skip any additions, just form them as sticks, twist them around and enjoy plain or with a humble sprinkle of spices. Today I share a recipe for puff pastry squares using a classic Brazilian filling: chicken and hearts of palm.

CHICKEN AND HEART OF PALM SQUARES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for rough puff pastry:
(makes a little more than you’ll need)
345 g unsalted butter, frozen
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
300g all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp (to toss with grated butter)
80 g whole milk, cold
80 g water, cold (may not use it all)
1 egg for egg wash

for the filling:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 lemon (to poach chicken)
salt and ground black pepper to poach chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
salt and ground black pepper
2 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
100 g hearts of palm, cut in ¼ inch rounds
100 g frozen peas (no need to defrost)
80 g cream cheese (full-fat)
Sriracha sauce
fresh cilantro to taste
1 lemon
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup whole milk

Mix in a large bowl the 300g flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

Grate the butter using a food processor with a grating disk attachment. Toss it with 2 Tbsp flour and reserve.

Take 155 g of the grated butter and mix with the flour in the large bowl, tossing with your hands to form reasonably small crumbles. Keep the rest of the butter in the freezer. Add to the flour/butter mixture all the cold milk and half of the water. Make a smooth dough, trying to handle it as little as possible. Adjust with water and or more flour.

Roll it out as a rectangle, about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Add roughly 50 g of frozen grated butter to the center of the dough. Fold bottom half up, add 50 g more butter to the folded portion. Fold the top portion down, covering the butter. Turn the dough so that one open side is facing you. Roll it out as before, add the leftover grated butter exactly the same way. Fold and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough as before, fold two more times without adding any more butter. Roll out as a rectangle and keep in fridge until filling is ready and cold.

Roll out about 1/3 of the dough (roughly 300 g) as a square a little bigger than 12 inches. Do the same for another third of the dough.  Cut 12 squares from each piece of dough, punching a star using a cookie cutter in the center of half the squares (they will be the top of the pastry).

Place the squares that will be the bottom over parchment paper. Add enough cool chicken filling, brush the sides with egg wash, place the top pastry and push the edges to close it down. Brush the top with egg wash and bake at 400F for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.

FOR THE FILLING (can be made a couple of days in advance)
Poach the chicken breasts very gently in water seasoned with salt, pepper, soy sauce and lemon juice. I like to bring the water to almost a boil, turn the heat off, and leave the chicken in the pan for 15 minutes. Keep in mind it will cook longer in the pie.  When chicken is poached and cool enough to handle, shred the meat with your fingers or a couple of forks. Reserve.

Sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil with a touch of salt and pepper in a large skillet until fragrant. Add the shredded chicken breast, tomatoes, tomato paste, hearts of palm pieces and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Dissolve the flour in the milk, whisking well to avoid lumps. Pour into the meat mixture and heat until it starts to thicken.  Add the cream cheese, then the frozen peas and mix everything gently. Add the Sriracha sauce, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Add the minced cilantro, lemon juice and allow the mixture to cool completely before assembling the pastries.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The filling for these puff pastry squares is very similar to this one of my recent blogging past. It is a classic component of Brazilian recipes like pasteis, empadinhas and pies. The recipe will provide you with leftovers that you can enjoy over rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, or if you are truly daring, try it as a topping for pizza or flatbreads. Add a bit more cheese on top for good measure.

You will have a little bit of puff pastry leftover. You can cut in small squares, fill mini-muffin pans and play with other fillings like….

Mushroom duxelles!  Or save in the freezer for future important experiments in the kitchen. It does freeze beautifully…

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TEN YEARS AGO:  Italian Bread

SALMON RILLETTES, A CLASSY APPETIZER

My last post featured the main dish I chose for Phil’s birthday dinner. Now it’s time to share with you a nice appetizer from the same evening: salmon rillettes. When we lived in Paris, rillettes were a favorite item we ordered in restaurants. Often pork, sometimes duck rillettes. In one of the little neighborhood bistrots, Aux Artistes, they would serve them (as well as their country terrine) family style. A big dish would be brought to the table, so you could serve yourself some, then the waiter would take it away for others to enjoy. Very civilized in that unique French way. Hard to imagine the same situation in the US. What? You expect me to eat something that was already on someone else’s table?  Manipulated by other human beings? You must be out of your mind!  I say “Vive la différence!”  And pass me the rillettes, will you?

I found this recipe in Karen’s site. She loved it so much that she confessed to having it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner several days in a row. That, my friends, is what food endorsement is all about.  I knew I had to make it sooner rather than later.

Salmon Rillettes2

SALMON RILLETTES
(from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

1 lemon
1/2 cup vermouth
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced in half, one half minced
5 to 10 white peppercorns
5 to 10 coriander seeds
2 to 3 green onions, cut into 3 inch slices
salt
1/2 pound salmon fillet, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6 ounces smoked salmon (peppered coho smoked salmon, if available)
3 tablespoons unsalted and softened butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
1/2 tsp crushed red peppers
With a vegetable peeler, cut off a strip of the peel of the lemon.  Finely zest the rest of the lemon and set the zest aside. Set the lemon aside.
.
Place the unchopped half of the jalapeno into a small saucepan. Add the vermouth, water, bay leaf, peppercorns, and coriander seeds. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Add the green onions and fresh salmon cubes. Reduce the heat to low, cover,  and simmer for three to five minutes. Drain in a colander. Discard the vegetables and place the salmon in a medium bowl.
.
Mash the salmon roughly with a fork. Add the smoked salmon and mash with a fork.  Add the butter and blend with a fork.  Add some of the juice from the lemon, the lemon zest, along with some salt and pepper to taste.  Add the shallots, minced jalapeno, crushed pink peppercorns, and crushed red pepper. Mix thoroughly. Stir in more lemon juice, to taste.
Pack the mixture into a canning jar or other container. Press the top with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to a day before serving for the first time. The rillettes will last up to 3 or 4 days.
.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

rilletecollage

Comments: This was incredibly tasty, just as Karen promised it would be, and got better each day.  The mixture of smoked salmon with the lightly poached fish, the lemon, the spices, everything works together in perfect harmony. It is surprisingly mild in flavor. Plus, what a fun recipe to make!  I don’t know why I never attempted rillettes at home, but now that I did, I feel like trying my hands at some pork rillettes, served ‘comme il faut’, with those small cornichons, and a crusty baguette. I will be catapulted straight back to Aux Artistes, although between you and me, the place brings mixed feelings. Yeah, the food was awesome, prices affordable, great atmosphere. but the owner, a gorgeous blonde, tall, bright-blue-wandering eyes, could not – I repeat – could not stop flirting with Phil. Oh, well… as a mentor of mine used to say… attractive people attract.  I took it all with my best smile, sips of Bordeaux, and a few discreet but assertive kicks under the table.  Let’s keep in mind though, that two can play that game. Not that I would ever… you know, I am just not the vindictive type…

😉

I hope you try this recipe on your next dinner party. Not only it is unusual and elegant, but you will be better off making it in advance. It’s the hostess’ dream come true!
.

Karen, once again I should thank you for the constant inspiration!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Special Important Announcement

TWO YEARS AGO: Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad

THREE YEARS AGO: Keema Beef Curry

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin with Soy, Ginger, and Lime

FIVE YEARS AGO: No-Fuss Coffee Cake

SIX YEARS AGO: Swedish Limpa

 

CREAM CHEESE MINI-PANCAKES WITH SMOKED SALMON

Remember our Nobel Reception that happened a few months ago? I still have a few items from that event to share with you, as cooking goes by at a fast pace in the Bewitching Kitchen, but blogging takes a little longer. Good thing my readers seem to be quite patient…  Lucky blogger, yes I am.  These mini-pancakes were a big hit at the party. I’d say of all the things I prepared, they were the most involved, but quite a fun project to tackle.  I found the recipe during a session of Pinterest hopping on the week before our get-together, and the decision to make them happened in 3.8 seconds. A phrase that sums me up well: I am hip about time (be ready for a quiz).

MiniPancakes

CREAM CHEESE MINI-PANCAKES WITH SMOKED SALMON
(from Evil Shenanigans)

For the pancakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
8 ounces cold smoked salmon
Freshly chopped chives, for garnish

For the sour cream sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon horseradish
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and chives. In a small bowl cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the egg and whisk until completely incorporated.  Whisk in the milk.Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until just incorporated and no large lumps remain.  Do not over-mix.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Spray lightly with non-stick spray then scoop the batter by the tablespoon into the pan.  Cook for one minute on the first side, flip, then cook for an additional thirty seconds, or until the cakes are golden brown and spring back when gently pressed in the center.  Remove to a plate to cool while you prepare the rest.

While the cakes cool prepare the sour cream sauce by adding the sour cream, horseradish and salt to a small bowl.  Whisk to combine then let stand ten minutes.

To prepare, spoon a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of the sauce onto the center of the cakes.  Top with a piece of the salmon.  Garnish with the chives.  These can be assembled up to one hour in advance.  Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositepancakes

Comments: There’s something to be said about practicing recipes before a big event, however, it’s not always possible. Still, a recipe such as this makes me admire caterers, because small details are so important in that business. If I had to make these again, I would try to make each pancake a little smaller. They puffed up more than I expected, so in the end my appetizers were a tiny bit too big.  I was so involved in frying them that I did not realize the problem until it was time to assemble the sour cream topping and the salmon. So, if you make them for your next dinner or cocktail party, run a little test, fry different portions and settle on the amount that will be perfect for your topping. Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to smoked salmon, but let’s face it: it’s a classic topping with the dill and all.  Capers would feel totally at home also…  just sayin’….

PancakesReady
You can make these pancakes ahead of time, and I am sure they freeze well too with all the cream cheese in the batter.  I think a salmon mousse would be superb topping these babies, with a sprinkle of fresh dill all over. Come to think of it, I’ve never made salmon mousse. Once, years and years ago, before my blogging life, I made a fish mousseline that shaved a few years off my life.  It was a recipe from a special cookbook I own, one written by Vincent Price. The recipes are amazing, but soooo involved and complicated. That fish mousse tasted wonderful but  hell will have to freeze over three times before I attempted it again.  These pancakes?  A walk at the beach by comparison… try them and you will not be disappointed!

And now it’s time for the quiz… do you know which movie the expression “I’m hip about time” comes from?  It’s as much of a classic as smoked salmon on a horseradish cream with dill and capers….

😉

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MOROCCAN CARROT DIP OVER CUCUMBER SLICES

Those who follow my blog might remember we hosted a very special reception at our home a couple of months ago. So far, I only shared one of the recipes here, a focaccia that pleased me even more than my usual version. But my favorite appetizer by far was a carrot dip served over cucumber slices. A contrast of colors, textures, and flavors that pleased every single guest, in fact many asked me for the recipe.  If you are hosting a dinner party, please make a batch of these babies to open the evening. They are light enough that no one will feel overly stuffed before the real meal, and if you go the extra mile and pipe the dip over the cucumber, the presentation is quite stunning. Even if I say so myself…

Carrot Dip Cucumber

MOROCCAN CARROT DIP APPETIZER
(inspired by this recipe)

tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
Salt
Pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground ginger
 cup water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
sliced English cucumber
black sesame seeds for decoration (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet.  Add the carrots and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the coriander, cumin, cinnamon and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the carrots are fully tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the cooked carrots to a food processor and process until smooth. Stir the remaining tablespoon of oil and vinegar. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until the dip is chilled, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Pipe mounds of the dip over cucumber slices, arrange on a serving platter, sprinkle black sesame seeds on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Appetizer1

Hello there!  We are not only cute, but Paleo-friendly too!  
😉

And now for something completely different. Let me share a small drama associated with the preparation of this plate. Keep in mind that I was already quite stressed and running out of time to get it all ready for the guests. I used a disposable piping bag coupled to a plastic star-shaped piping tip. When I finished piping the last round, I went to the sink to recover, wash and store away the tip. Well, the tip would NOT come out of the bag. I pulled, and pulled, and twisted and pulled.  Just as I told myself I really did not need that grievance, the tip exploded off and behaved like a golf tee after a perfect driver shot: it twirled up in the air, up, up, then down down, falling next to my feet on the floor.  I suspect you know where this is headed. Buck was way faster than me. He grabbed it, ran away to his bed, and started munching on it. I was terrified that he would choke on the tip, but I know better than trying to stick my fingers inside the mouth of a feasting Jack Russell.  Granted, once the tasty carrot stuff was gone, he let go of the tip, good doggie that he is (yeah, right). The piping tool was laid to its final rest in the trash can, totally ruined. But, can you imagine the odds of that? Unreal.  My kitchen must be a really bewitched spot… And I was not even baking a cake this time!

Back to food.  This was definitely one of the tastiest appetizers I’ve ever made, there’s something about the mixture of spices and the sweetness of the carrots… wow!  I tried the dip on Ak Mak crackers, it is great that way too, but please match it with the cucumber slices for a real treat.  I guess we could call it a nobel treat…

😉

Small platter

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GOUGERES

Cover of "Around My French Table: More Th...

Cover via Amazon

The classic amuse-bouche from Burgundy, gougeres, is not very complicated, and even better,  it can be prepared in advance and frozen. When it’s time to entertain just heat the oven and bake them straight from the freezer. This recipe from Dorie Greenspan‘s  masterpiece, “Around my French Table,”  brings fond memories of Paris with every  page. Her love for French food and culture  echoes my own feelings.



GOUGERES

(adapted from Around my French Table)

1/4 cup water (2 oz)
1/4 cup whole milk (2 oz)
1/2 stick butter (4 T / 2 oz)
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour (2.2 oz)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (3 ounces)

Heat the oven to 425 F.

Place the water, milk, butter, salt and pepper to a boil in a heavy saucepan. When boiling and the butter is fully dissolved, add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon until the whole mass is homogeneous. Keep over medium heat, stirring often, until you notice a light coating forming on the pan as you move the dough around.

Remove from heat, transfer the dough to a bowl and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Have a hand held mixer ready, and add the first egg to the dough, beating well. Once the egg is incorporated, add the second egg and continue beating until a very smooth dough forms. Add the grated cheese and mix well. Drop tablespoons on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a silicone mat), and bake for 12 minutes, reducing the oven temperature to 375 F as soon as you place them in. After 12 minutes, switch the tray position in case of uneven browning, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes more, until they are well puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.

(makes 18 gougeres)

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The original recipe makes a double batch, with 3 eggs. When I halved the recipe, I tried to use two and a half eggs (admittedly, it is tricky), but the consistency of the dough was too soft.  Instead, 2 large eggs will be perfect, so that’s how I wrote it down.  Since my dough wasn’t dense enough I used a mini-muffin tin and placed 1 tablespoon of dough in each spot. It worked great: the gougeres baked as nice, well formed balls, airy inside and gooey with melted cheese. Pure heaven!

Because I’m cooking in a  small kitchen, I made them early in the morning, froze and baked them right before our Christmas dinner. That’s definitely the way I’ll make them in the future.

Around my French Table goes on my list of all-time favorite cookbooks! Not only do the recipes fit our cooking style, but her presentation, with comments and stories about her time in France, makes this book ultra special. If you’re on the fence about buying it, jump over to the sunny side and GET IT right away!  You won’t  be disappointed.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpernickel Bread

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SUN-DRIED TOMATO AND FETA CHEESE TORTE

I first made this torte in 2001, for a large cocktail party to celebrate  my beloved’s Birthday.  We’d  never hosted quite so many people  (perhaps 60),   and this layered appetizer was one of the highlights of that memorable night.   The recipe came  from  Chiqui, a caterer from New Orleans, whom I “net-met” many years ago.    I hope you’ll consider it for your next dinner party, or for a potluck.  I recently made it again for another birthday party, so I might have to start calling it “Birthday Torte”.   😉

FETA CHEESE TORTE
(adapted from Chiqui)

1/2 cup slivered pine nuts, toasted (I substituted slivered almonds)
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1/2  garlic head, roasted
8 ounces feta cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 tsp white pepper, ground
2 Tbs vermouth
1/2 cup arugula pesto (or regular basil pesto, preferably homemade)

Prepare the ingredients for all layers:  toast the nuts in a dry skillet or in the oven, being careful not to burn them.  Coarsely chop the sun-dried tomatoes, drain of most of their oil, and mix them with 1/2  of the roasted garlic.  Mix the feta cheese at room temperature with the butter, cream cheese, pepper, vermouth, and the remaining roasted garlic.  Add to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and fluffy.  Adjust seasoning if necessary. If using commercial pesto, drain it to reduce the amount of oil.  If using homemade, make it with less oil than the recipe calls for.

Line the mold of your choice with plastic wrap, leaving 6 inches overhang on all sides.
First layer:   toasted nuts.
Second layer: Sun-dried tomato mixture.
Third layer: Half the cheese mixture. Spread it gently over the tomatoes.
Fourth layer:  Pesto sauce.
Fifth and final layer: Remaining cheese mixture.   Spoon gently, and smooth the surface well.

Cover it with the plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, overnight is best.  Unwrap it, invert the torte on a serving dish.  Serve with crackers of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You can make this layered torte in any kind of container.  Sometimes I prepare it in mini-loaf pans:  the full recipe is enough for two completely full mini-loaves, or three smaller (shorter) ones.   For a Valentine’s dinner, a heart-shaped container sounds interesting, but keep in mind that the dish is rich, so the full recipe is way too much for two people.

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