Category Archives: Meat

Easy Tomato, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Tarts

There is something about the word ‘tart’ that evokes thoughts of elaborate, complicated food. Innately elegant dining fare, whether savory or sweet, tarts always carry with them a little bit of wow factor. The good news for you and I is that most of the tarts that I make end up being some of the easiest dishes to prepare, making them perfect for entertaining: packing maximum impact with as little work as possible.  We all know by now that individually sized food just sets my heart aflutter, so when I first saw Ina Garten’s recipe for her Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts, you know that I was on board. I mean, buttery puff pastry topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, tomatoes, basil, thyme, and Parmesan?  As Ina would say, “How bad can that be?”

I followed her recipe carefully, substituting plain goat cheese and tossing in a half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes in with the caramelized onions, for just a little bit of heat. As I was assembling the tarts I remembered that I had some prosciutto di Parma leftover from an event, and I decided what better way to use it than to place a  deliciously buttery, salty slice on each of them (atop the caramelized onions, and underneath the goat cheese and tomato); because, after all,  what isn’t improved by the addition of cured pork?

I love the rustic, earthy look of these tarts. They are equally delicious right out of the oven or at room temperature, and can be assembled before your guests arrive and baked off right before serving. The flaky pastry, sweet onions,  salty prosciutto, grassy thyme, tangy goat cheese, nutty Parmesan, and juicy tomato are all harmonize together beautifully; and  no one has to know that making them requires little more than caramelizing some onions.  Serve it with a simple green salad and you have the makings of a perfect lunch or light dinner.  Simple enough for everyday, yet special enough for company. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

This post made the Foodbuzz.com Top 9!!!

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Filed under Breakfast/Brunch, Foodbuzz Top 9, Meat, Other

Playing Catch-up Part 1: Thanksgiving (Better late than never?!)

Disclaimer: After recently loosing literally thousands of my most recent food and holiday photos off of my new SD card due to a “card error,” I was discouraged to say the least.  But we  must march on nonetheless, so we will all just have to use our foodie imaginations as I describe these foods to you, since all visual record of them has been lost in time (at least for now).

This year we had a small thanksgiving gathering at home. Ten guests, delicious food, and Mother Nature even provided a little bit of snow, just for charm. Our menu was as it typically always is: various seasonal appetizers served with Pilgrim’s Punch (a cocktail that we invented several years ago which is comprised of sweetened, mulled cranberry juice, a splash of freshly squeezed orange juice, vodka, and triple sec), and a litany of holiday favorites including herb roasted turkey breasts, dressing (I adore a mixture of sourdough and cornbread, with celery, onions, mushrooms, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, fresh herbs, and homemade turkey stock), mashed potatoes and gravy (I use Ina Garten’s trick of making the gravy two days in advance using drippings that I have frozen from a previously roasted turkey), candied sweet potatoes (which I always flavor with amaretto and orange zest), parmesan roasted asparagus, a big green salad (so we can justifiably pretend that we are eating healthfully), fruit salad (which is a classic in our family that has been at every holiday gathering in my entire life… which is funny because no one really eats it at the meal itself, save for a tiny requisite spoonful. But it is classic morning-after-thanksgiving leftover fair, and tradition dictates that it must be there) and last but not least, no family meal would ever be complete without my great great grandmother Browning’s dinner rolls.

For the table I decided to go with matching chocolate brown table clothes and napkins, copper chargers, my everyday white dishes and flatware, and my absolute favorite “old lady” napkin rings (of the twenty or so sets that we own). To add a little sparkle and whimsy I scattered some colorful autumn leaves and decorative acorns, and lined the center of the table with small arrangements of flowers and glass votive holders filled with fresh cranberries and unscented candles: easy, festive, and elegant.

The one dish that is always a stand out at my holiday feasts is the turkey itself. My guests often comment that it is the moistest turkey they have ever had (no, seriously!). For Thanksgiving, I don’t mind taking a little extra time and care to make sure that the turkey comes out deliciously moist and flavorful. This process is multi-stepped, but each step is really easy. And, for the record, I make no apologies for the preposterous amount of butter used. I mean hey, give me a break, it’s Thanksgiving! I always make two large whole turkey breasts rather than one large turkey, since the demand for white meat in our house far surpasses that of the dark, but this process would work equally well with a whole bird (though I would still, personally, stick to turkeys weighing  twelve pounds or less.)

I start by brining my two breasts (approximately seven pounds each) in vegetable stock (you will want to be sure to buy breasts that do not say that they have been “enhanced with a solution of…” which means  they have essentially already been brined. Brining one such bird will result in mealy/rubbery meat, which is not what we are after on Thanksgiving, or anytime of year for that matter.).To a gallon of stock, I add a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage, a tablespoon or so each of whole black peppercorns and allspice berries, eight or nine bay leaves, one cup of kosher salt (or one half cup of table salt), one half cup of dark brown sugar (salt toughens the meat, while sugar softens it, so it is important to have a balance of both in a good brine, not only for flavor but also for texture), one head of garlic cut in half, one large yellow onion quartered, two stalks of celery, and one large carrot. Bring that mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat and allow it to come to room temperature. Divide the mixture between your two largest pots, add one turkey breast to each, and fill with ice water to cover the birds. Brine in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.

Remove from the brine and thoroughly rinse the breasts under cold water, and pat them dry with paper towels. Using a kitchen syringe, inject each breast with a healthy dose of garlic and herb infused melted butter (which bastes the breast meat from the inside out). Next, make a garlic and herb butter paste by combining three sticks of softened butter in a food processor along with a small handful of garlic cloves, a sprig or two each of fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme, about a tablespoon of ground mustard, a dash of chipotle powder, salt and freshly ground black pepper). Divide this mixture between the two breasts, spreading it under and over the skin. Stuff the cavities with fresh rosemary, thyme, and quartered onions, and place in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 24 hours (but up to 48). Before baking I add an entire bottle of dry white wine to the roasting pan (along with a few bay leaves and any extra celery, carrots, onions, and garlic cloves that I might have on hand) and bake the breasts at 325 degrees for one and a half to two and a half hours, basting periodically, until the internal temperature registers 160-165 degrees at the thickest part.  Tent the breasts with aluminum foil and allow them to rest for twenty minutes.

When I remove the entire breast from the bone for carving, if I happen to see that the meat is still slightly pink near the bone, I return the cut breast meat to the pan juices and poach in the oven for an addition ten minutes (especially on Thanksgiving, I would personally always much rather risk under-cooking the turkey and then correcting it, rather than overcooking it and being forced to serve a dry bird!).

And there you have it, my perfectly moist, flavorful, fool proof, herb roasted turkey breasts, guaranteed to be a hit at your next holiday gathering (or any day of the year!). Enjoy!

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Filed under Beverages, Meat

Jacob’s Kitchen: Classic Reuben on Rye (Project Food Blog – Challenge 5)

This post is my fifth entry for Project Food Blog, foodbuzz.com’s quest to find the next food blog star. (Click here to see my contestant profile.) In this round we were challenged to put our own spin on pizza. Voting begins Monday, October 18, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me in the first four rounds, I appreciate all of your support more than I can say!

Is there any food in the world more ubiquitous or more universally loved than pizza? I doubt it. No matter where you go around the globe you’re likely to find some local pizza specialty ranging from the more traditional to exotic flavors that you might never have thought to combine. And while we each certainly have our own preferences, in my world the perfect pizza has a thick crust that is crisp on the outside, and tender and chewy on the inside. It has just the right amount of toppings, all of which harmonize together, with no one ingredient overpowering the others. I think the reason that we all love pizza so much is because it’s so simple and casual. A few ingredients, thoughtfully prepared, flash baked, and enjoyed together with our hands; delicious, informal, and satisfying, pizza is the bread that we all break together.

This week, challenged to give you my own spin on pizza, I pondered the infinite possibilities. I thought of the incredibly delicious Philly cheese-steak pizza at the California Pizza Kitchen, and wondered how I might also reinvent a classic combination. Suddenly the idea came to me of recreating a Reuben, one of my all time favorite sandwiches, into pizza form. Yes! What a truly inspired concept. I could just imagine the great flavors, and the no doubt prestigious awards that would follow. “This invention will likely change the course of history,” I told myself, “I am the smartest human being ever to live!” Two minutes and a quick internet search later, I discovered that I was, in fact, no where near the first person to stumble upon this combination. But that’s just how it goes most of the time. It’s difficult to reinvent the wheel in the kitchen these days with such amazing foodies out there in the world.

Unwavering in my conviction, however, I scoured the recipes thinking of a way to make this dish my own. Most of what has been done with Reuben pizzas to date has consisted of a standard pizza crust, thousand island salad dressing, mounds of sauerkraut and corned beef, a mix of Swiss and mozzarella cheeses, and a sprinkling of caraway seeds. And while that all sounds perfectly delicious, most of what I found seemed more like an open faced sandwich than a pizza. I wondered how I might elevate these ingredients to create something even more special.

To start, I decided I would ditch the standard pizza dough altogether and make my own pumpernickel rye crust instead. And in lieu of using salad dressing as my sauce, I thought I could create a thick thousand island inspired béchamel. Building from there, why not throw in a little more flavor with the addition of caramelized onions, which I could sauté with the sauerkraut, laying a flavor packed foundation for the entire pizza. And what can I say? It was a tremendous success.

It really does have all of the great flavors of the classic Reuben sandwich, while still being a pizza. The flavors hit you in waves: first the tangy sauerkraut and corned beef, then the earthy crust, caraway, onions, cheese and sauce. It all comes together beautifully to create a really round, familiar flavor that we all know and love. The crust bakes up perfectly, with just the right consistency, and the thick sauce and sautéed sauerkraut prevent it from being too moist.

To make the Reuben pizzas, begin by preparing the ingredients (all of which can be made up to two days in advance and assembled right before baking):

The Dough – In the bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or, alternatively, you can choose to mix the dough by hand), combine the dry ingredients (four cups of white bread flour, a fourth of a cup of cocoa powder, two tablespoons of granulated sugar, four teaspoons of salt, two teaspoons of onion powder, and two tablespoons of active dry yeast) and the liquid ingredients (two cups plus two tablespoons of prepared coffee, six tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and six tablespoons of unsulfured molasses, warmed together for ninety seconds in the microwave) and beat for four minutes on medium speed. Gradually add two and two thirds cups of dark rye flour and enough bread flour (up to one and one third cups) to form a stiff dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead for seven minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add two heaping tablespoons of caraway seeds and mix until evenly incorporated. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and allow it to rise in a warm place for one hour or until it has doubled in volume. (This recipe yields enough to make four large, thick crusted individual pizzas.)

The Sauce – To make the sauce, melt eight ounces of butter in the bottom of a saucepan and whisk in one half of a cup of all purpose flour, cooking this mixture for two minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Slowly whisk in three cups of whole milk, and simmer until the mixture is thick. Off of the heat, add one third of a cup of Parmesan cheese, a half a teaspoon of granulated garlic, a half of a cup of ketchup, a half of a cup of sweet pickle relish, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of chipotle flavored Tabasco, three tablespoons of coarse grain Dijon mustard, and a half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

The Onions/Sauerkraut – In the bottom of a large saucepan add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Over medium low heat, slowly cook three sliced, large yellow onions, a half a teaspoon of salt, and a half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper for approximately thirty minutes, or until the onions begin to turn a deep golden brown. Add fifteen ounces of sauerkraut with its liquid, and continue cooking until the mixture is dry, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan along the way.

The Meat – Purchase one pound of thinly sliced corned beef at your favorite local deli counter, and cut it into long strips.

The Cheese – Grate one pound of good quality Swiss cheese, and have two tablespoons of caraway seeds at the ready.

To assemble the pizzas, start by heating a pizza stone in a 500° oven. (Don’t have a pizza stone? Never fear. Turn a thick, stainless steel baking sheet upside down, and place it on the middle rack of your oven, and allow it to heat for fifteen minutes.) Divide the risen dough into fourths, and roll out each into approximately nine inch rounds (the dough should be thinner in the middle and thicker along the outside edge). Place the rounds on a rimless baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread the dough with a generous amount of the sauce (three or four tablespoons), and a thin layer of the caramelized onion/sauerkraut mixture. Top that with a layer of corned beef, a fourth of the shredded Swiss cheese, and a sprinkling of caraway seeds. Brush the outside crust with extra virgin olive oil, and transfer the dough onto your preheated pizza stone (or baking sheet) and bake for approximately twelve minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, firm to the touch, and the cheese is melted. Serve it with a sprinkle of freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, a frosty pint of your favorite beer, and dinner is served.

The rich flavors, brown bread and beer really say autumn to me.  And in a continuation of those flavors, inspired by all of the perfectly ripe fresh local apples filling up the farm stands, I decided I would drive home the tastes of fall by creating little apple cheddar dessert pizzas. But after making the Reuben from scratch, I wanted to give myself a break and so I took a little help from the store.

To make the apple cheddar pizzas, roll out store bought pizza dough to one fourth of an inch of thickness. Cut out four six inch rounds (I use a sharp knife and a saucer as my template) and line them up on a corn meal sprinkled, parchment lined baking sheet. Dust each round of dough with approximately a teaspoon of granulated sugar. Spread a tablespoon of good quality apple butter on the top of each, leaving a half an inch border around the edge. Top that with thinly sliced apples (which have been par cooked for about one minute in boiling apple cider and tossed with freshly squeezed lemon juice). Brush the apple slices with real maple syrup (preferably grade A dark amber), and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Add a handful of grated sharp white cheddar cheese to each, along with a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves. Bake at 500° for ten minutes or until the crusts are golden and the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

These apple cheddar pizzas strike  just the right balance between sweet and savory. The sweet maple syrup, spicy apple butter, crunchy pecans, tangy apples, grassy thyme, and salty cheese all compliment one another beautifully; and the crispy thin crust provides the perfect platform, and a terrific contrast of textures. They are simple, rustic, easy to prepare, and make for the perfect, delicious end to any autumn meal.

I am reminded at times like these that food doesn’t have to be groundbreaking in order to be delicious. When I am looking at recipes I often find that I am not searching for a dish to prepare as much as I am looking for inspiration for a dish that I’m making. Recipes are like road maps. You can follow them, and they will certainly get you to where you need to go, but it’s when you finally put them down that the real fun of the adventure begins.  By re-imagining ingredients, mixing and matching flavors, juggling spices, and tasting along the way, you can create your own fantastic new spin on any recipe.  Here in my kitchen, this is how I spell delicious. In your kitchen, it’s entirely up to you!

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Filed under Breads, Desserts, Jams/Spreads/Sauces, Meat, Project Food Blog

Melon and Prosciutto

Before dinner begins, it’s always nice to have something to offer guests with cocktails. And while I am perfectly happy to make all kinds of hors d’oeuvres for a cocktail party, when I am preparing a full meal, it’s best to relegate myself to those appetizers that only require assembling.  Luckily, in the kitchen, sometimes it is the simplest things that wind up being the most delicious. Perfectly ripe pears, aged Stilton, and Port wine, for example, is an amazing flavor combination, that requires no cooking whatsoever. Here, too, in a classic combination, wedges of farm fresh CSA cantaloupe are wrapped in slices of prosciutto di Parma. The sweet melon and salty ham are made for one another.It is perfectly delicious, and elegant in its simplicity.

I begin by slicing both ends off of the melon (I used a cantaloupe, but honeydew, casaba, or galia would work equally well). I then stand it up on the cutting board, and, with a sharp knife, follow the contours of the melon down and around, removing the rind completely. I then cut the melon in half, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. I chose to slice the melon into wedges, but you could also easily ball it, cube it, or do half slices depending on which presentation you find most appealing. I then take paper thin slices of prosciutto, and wrap them around the center of each of the wedges. A sprinkling of sea salt (fleur de sel, if you have it) and freshly ground black pepper, is all that you need to finish it all off. Simple, fast, and satisfying.

Whether as an appetizer, first course, or light lunch, melon and prosciutto is a  delicious combination that you will come back to time and time again. Enjoy!

This post made the Foodbuzz.com Top 9!!!

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Stuffed Cucumbers with Smoked Salmon Roses

We had a small, intimate cocktail party gathering at our house last night for fifteen people. Nothing terribly fancy, just laid back, casual fun with friends. When I was coming up with ideas of which hors d’oeuvre to serve, I came across the ever inspiring White On Rice Couple’s post on stuffed cucumbers. They were so beautiful, and so simple that I decided I would borrow the concept and make something similar, only with smoked salmon instead of prosciutto.

I began by peeling stripes into two English cucumbers (select the straightest ones you can find of similar size) with a vegetable peeler (I do this for no other reason than to make them look prettier, as English cucumbers are thin skinned and not waxed, and therefore need not be peeled).  I then sliced the cucumbers into about one inch thick coins. And with a melon baller, scooped out about a teaspoon’s worth of the seeds, creating a little cup in which to put the stuffing. For the filling I combined one eight ounce package of softened cream cheese, with about a cup of sour cream, one garlic clove (which I grated on my microplane zester), a couple of heaping tablespoons of chopped fresh dill (though I imagine chives or tarragon would be equally delicious), some freshly grated lemon zest, a dash of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and about a half a teaspoon of prepared horseradish (the cucumbers themselves aren’t seasoned so you want the filling to be extra flavorful). I made little smoked salmon roses by cutting long, thin triangles of the smoked salmon (maybe two and a half to three inches in length), and rolling them up from the tip to the base into little spirals. Once rolled, with the back of a pairing knife I gently fold back each of the “petal” layers, and set aside. Right before I was ready to serve I lined up the cucumber cups on a large white platter, and piped in about a teaspoon and a half  or so of filling (using a zip lock bag with the corner snipped off) into each. I then topped each of them with a dill frond, and then with the little smoked salmon roses. (Keep in mind that the cucumbers, filling, and roses can be prepped up to two days in advance, carefully wrapped, refrigerated, and merely assembled before serving… which makes them great for entertaining.) They are beautiful, rich, creamy, and delicious. They have an almost tzatziki like flavor to them which is a perfect backdrop for the salty smoked salmon. Simple. Easy. Beautiful. Delicious. Enjoy!

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Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna

I have a deep and profound love of tuna.  There, I’ve said it. Not only is it amazingly delicious, but it is also incredibly easy to cook, and takes only minutes to prepare. Here I start with fresh, good quality ahi tuna, which I thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. I then season it with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and dip each side into a plate full of sesame seeds, to form a deliciously nutty, sesame seed crust. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan I heat up equal parts of low sodium soy sauce and honey (about a third of a cup each), to which I add a couple of slices of fresh ginger, a couple of smashed garlic cloves, and a pinch of chipotle powder (or cayenne pepper). Allow this mixture to simmer until it is nice and syrupy (about 5-10 minutes), then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool a bit. Heat a skillet over high heat until it is very hot. Add a couple of teaspoons of vegetable oil and then your crusted tuna steaks. Sear each side for about ninety seconds or so (depending on thickness), but do not over cook it. You want the inside to still be rare to medium rare depending on your taste. Serve it with a drizzle of your sauce (from which you have removed the ginger and garlic) and dig in. The tuna is moist, succulent, and surprisingly almost beefy in flavor. The sesame seeds add a delicious nutty flavor and crunch, which is beautifully counterbalanced by the sweet and salty sauce. It is perfection. So simple, so fast, yet so incredibly decadent. (To save even more time for week night meals or entertaining, the sauce can be made days or even weeks in advance, stored in the refrigerator, and warmed just before serving.) Enjoy!

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Hors D’oeuvres Buffet

I am often asked to do hors d’oeuvres tables for events of all different sizes. And, I have to say, there is something about little, bite sized food that really speaks to me. It’s like cupcakes, or individual desserts served in ramekins. Somehow it just feels special. For this particular event, for two hundred, I decided to go with the following menu: shrimp cocktail (because, no matter how simple it is, people really love it), chicken satay with a spicy peanut dipping sauce (which is one of my signature hors d’oeuvres), hummus with pita and assorted crudités, Prosciutto di Parma and cantaloupe, a cheese board [Brie (Fromage de Meaux), Aged Cheddar (Barber's of England), Bûcheron (Chevre du Poitou), and Shropshire Blue (Colston Basset)] , pecan bars, palmiers, and strawberries. Like a little mini meal in one to two bite portions.  I usually always forget to bring my camera, or when I do, as was the case last night, I am usually in a rush, and typically only wind up with a few hurried (which is to say blurry)shots. But you get the idea. I find that several things are important when putting together a table like this. First, I like to use big white platters, because we all know that white really makes the food the focus. Second, whenever possible, I like to add height to the table,  which just makes it more visually interesting, by adding pedestaled bowls, or elevating a tray or two. Some green leaves (like lemon or galax leaves  ordered from your florist) really make a table come alive (I also happened upon some fresh grape leaves, which always make a cheese board look especially delicious). And finally, when designing a menu, choose as many dishes that can be made in advance as possible, leaving items that only really need to be assembled for the day of the event. This makes life a lot easier, and limits the amount of last minute stress. And there you have it. An easy, beautiful, delicious spread for two hundred people. Happy Eating!

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