Friday, January 18, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

What could be better than a steaming, hot bowl of sweet, rich butternut squash soup topped with salty, crispy bacon bits?

Butternut squash soup
1 whole butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
6 strips of bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp. curry powder
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup milk or cream
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a pot, fry bacon until it renders its fat. Reserve bacon bits and remove all but 1 tbsp. of the bacon fat.
2. Saute onion and carrots.
3. Deglaze pan with chicken broth.
4. Add the squash, nutmeg, curry powder and bay leaf.
5. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until squash and carrots are tender.
6. Puree with a hand blender (or use a real blender or food processor).
7. Add milk and season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve topped with bacon bits.

I love making this for dinner and bringing the left-overs for lunch the next day. It's also a great way of getting the boys to eat more veggies. It's true the bacon makes it slightly evil, but it's definitely worth it! :-)

Pork Braised in Milk

Milk?! Pork in Milk?!!!

That was my first reaction too when I read this Marcella Hazan recipe. But pork was on sale (2 lb roast for $5) and I had a liter of milk on the verge of its expiration date so I decided to jump in and try it. And boy am I glad I did. I will never doubt Marcella Hazan again. Ever. Tomato sauce with butter and, now, pork with milk. Two super simple recipes that have worked wondrously well. Thank you to my Secret Santa for the Marcella Hazan cookbook. I can't wait to try more of her food!

2 1/2 lb. pork rib roast or 2 lb. boneless pork roast
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. cooking oil
freshly ground black pepper
6 whole garlic cloves (not in the original recipe)
2 1/2 cups milk (the recipe called for whole but I used 2%)

1. In a heavy pot (I used an enamelled cast iron one), heat butter and oil over medium high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper and brown well (and I mean well..don't be impatient, this step is VERY important) on all sides.
2. When meat is nicely caramelized on all sides, throw in the garlic cloves, brwon for a minute or two then pour in 1 cup of milk.
3. Bring to a simmer and turn heat down to low just until you see bubbles breaking the surface. Cover partially and simmer for about an hour until almost all the milk has evaporated and all that is left is this wonderful sauce of browned milk solids.
4. At this point, add another cup of milk and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Partially open lid and simmer for another half hour until once again most of the milk has evaporated.
5. Add the last 1/2 cup of milk and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan every so often to make sure that there are no burnt parts. Adjust seasonings at this point too.
6. Once all the milk has evaporated into this nutty, thick sauce, turn off heat and remove pork. Transfer to a cutting board.
7. Let the pork rest for about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, spoon off the fat from the sauce.
8. Slice pork and spoon milk sauce on top.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Meyer lemons used to be the "it" thing in the culinary world for a while. It seemed like all the cooking shows on The Food Network and all the menus of all the restaurants (ok, I exaggerate, not ALL) had some Meyer lemon thing or other. Because I was back home then and Meyer lemons couldn't be had, I could only imagine how this citrus fruit, described as a cross between an orange and a lemon, tasted.

A few days ago, I saw a bag of Meyer lemons at the local grocery store. One bag of 8 lemons for $1.50. How could I resist, right? And that's how my very first Meyer lemon venture came into fruition.

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Muffins

1/2 c. milk
zest of 2-3 Meyer lemons
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp. Meyer lemon juice
1 c. frozen blueberries

1. Heat milk but do not boil. Remove from heat and add zest. Let cool.
2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, add milk and lemon juice to butter mixture and mix well.
5. Add flour in 2 batches and mix just until incorporated.
6. Finally, fold in blueberries.
7. Fill 12 muffin cups and bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
8. If you want, you can glaze the muffins with a mixture of Meyer lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Baked Brie

This is my new favorite "fancy" appetizer. It's super easy, looks impressive, and tastes wickedly delicious. There's really no recipe. Just buy a wheel of double cream brie, wrap it in 4-5 layers of phyllo (also store bought), bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes until the phyllo turns golden brown. Serve with flatbreads or crackers with a fruit jam/jelly on the side. Yum-yum.

For our Christmas dinner, we started with a plate of arugula salad with pears and walnuts plus the baked brie with lingonberry preserves (from Ikea...sshhh, don't tell anyone). This was followed by a roast served with rosemary potatoes and asparagus and dessert was cheesecake with blueberries.