Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Creme Fraiche Quiche, and my new appliance.

I may never get married again.
Friends, I have news.  This Christmas, I welcomed a new arrival into my life: a Cherry Red, sexy, delicious, KitchenAid mixer.  It is the love of my life.  And to christen it in, I made Joy the Baker's Creme Fraiche Quiche.  Man alive, it was a good day.

Then, to top it all off, Joy mentioned my Christmas baking in her latest post.  (I know.  Some people get excited to meet someone like LaBron James.  I get all nerdy about virtual baking buddies.)

But back to this quiche.  I know puff pastry and creme fraiche are expensive, but sometimes I just can't help myself.  I need to know what that thing tastes like.  And it was worth it.  The egg part bakes up to be all fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth good, and the puff pastry crust is the perfect soft texture to compliment the delicate middle.  And, well, you add bacon and gruyere to anything and it's gonna be fabulous.

My brother refers to this as
"Wake and Bake".
I'm on a quiche quest now.  First I'm going to learn how to make puff pastry, then I'm going to experiment with plain yogurt instead of creme fraiche (cheaper), and then I'm going to start putting wild and crazy things in there.  Like whole cloves of garlic.  Or fresh thyme.

Brunch invitation coming soon.


If you've read a few of my posts, you know that I'm easily distracted.  Case in point: these caramels.  My brother wanted me to make him some chocolate chip cookies, but on my way through the "C"s in my recipe index, I came across the instructions for caramels, which I have never made before.  "Oooo!  I'm gonna make caramels!" I said, and I pranced off into the kitchen to find the ingredients.   Not until several hours later, when my brother was hunched over with gut rot from too many caramels, was it mentioned, "Hey, weren't you going to make chocolate chip cookies?"  Oops.  Next time.

My dentist is gonna be pissed.
I only got one picture of this process, partly because I was busy with a candy thermometer, but also because you really don't want to know what goes into caramels.  (Hint: Everything bad for you is on the list.  Except bacon.  But I don't see why you couldn't throw a little of that in there, too.)  What you see in this picture is brown sugar and an ungodly amount of corn syrup.  What you don't see are the two sticks of butter and the can of sweetened condensed milk that I added later.  Lord help us all, they were delicious.

You can make them, too.  I promise all you need is an accurate thermometer and a decent attention span.

Quick Caramels

1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of the pan. Butter foil, and set aside.

In a heavy 3 qt saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add brown sugar, condensed milk, and corn syrup, mix well. Cook and stir over medium high heat to boiling. Carefully clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook and stir mixture over medium heat to 248F or firm ball stage. (10 to 15 minutes)

Remove the saucepan from the heat; remove thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Immediately pour caramel mixture into the prepared pan. When firm, use the foil to lift it out of the pan. Use a buttered knife to cut into 1 inch squares. Wrap each caramel in waxed paper. Makes about 2 pounds.

Props to my former co-worker, Jane, for this recipe.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wild Rice Stuffed Pumpkins

I'm handy with a whisk and a screwdriver.
 I am really excited about this recipe.  Not only because it's orange and involves tucking food inside more food, but because I made it up!  I know.  I'm awesome.  (And I was inspired by several awesome friends and cooks who have made other pumpkin-stuffed beauties.)

So here's what you'll need, and be prepared for a larger-than-usual grocery bill:

2 medium-sized pumpkins, about the size of a kindergartener's head
1 cup wild rice (or wild rice blend, like the one I used)
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp butter + more for smearing and sauteing (total? about 4 Tbsp)
1 Tsp salt + more to taste

7 garlic cloves, hacked into big chunks (just do it)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, diced
20ish mushrooms, sliced
1/3 lb Gruyere cheese, grated
3/4 cup hazelnuts
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (as fresh as you can get it)

Before they get their rice filling, those pumpkins need to bake for a while at 350.  I'd say an hour is a good amount of time.  But scrape out the guts first.  How?  After surveying a group of my most serious foodies on Facebook and using my imagination, I decided to carve it... well, like a pumpkin.  Saw around the top with a paring knife or serrated knife, then find some sort of thin metal object to catapult the lid across your kitchen.  I used a flathead screwdriver, but a crowbar would work, too.

Once the guts are out, smear the insides of the squash with butter, put the lids back on your squashes and place them in a 9x13" pan (I prefer Pyrex).  Open oven, insert pan.  Bake - like I said - for an hour.  While you wait...

Hazelnuts.  Pretty.
Throw the rice, butter, stock, and salt into a pot and cook yourself some grain.  I'm not gonna walk you through this process.  You're no dummy.

Next, saute up the following the garlic and onion, adding a swish of salt (because that's what fancy cooks do).  When the g & o are glossy and starting to get soft, add the celery and mushrooms.  When that's all about halfway cooked (not fresh, but not wilty), transfer the works to a bowl.  Stir in the nuts, Gruyere and nutmeg.  Taste it to see if it needs salt.  It probably does, so add some.

There.  Your stuffing is done.  Pull out the squash, stuff with stuffing, and stuff stuffed squashes back into the oven for another hour.  Remove from oven.  Stuff squash and stuffing into self.