Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Appetizer Party

We had the neighbors over to an appetizer party.  It's great for us, because we can cook beforehand then sit down with people and eat, drink and be merry for the party.  Otherwise, we're always in the kitchen working hard to get everything out.

Our menu?  The Deconstructured Easter Ham.  Each dish had pork or ham of some sort in it...

Onion Tart:  a butter-tart shell with a creme fraiche spread and topped with caramelized onions and bacon - thanks to for the recipe which was originally from Bon Appetite.

Thai-flavored spare ribs: pork ribs marinated in a ginger, garlic, cilantro concoction which was just heavenly.  Now, the recipe - again thanks to - just said to marinate in the sauce, but I poured the marinate on top of the ribs for cooking which gave it some great punch.

Ham BBQ on Polenta Squares: the concept here was to create a mini version of BBQ sandwiches complete with the coleslaw on fried polenta squares, but that became too much.  The BBQ was literally pulled ham with BBQ sauce.  The polenta squares were made by pouring fresh polenta on baking sheets on the thin side and then set up in the fridge.  I then cut them into squares, removed a couple of them, coated them in olive oil and baked them until they were golden brown on top.  Flipped them and continued to bake until golden brown.  I topped some with sauted mushrooms for the none meat eaters.  They were quite good.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies (From Cook's County)

The daughter was in need of a sugary concoction recently and I didn't want to make the standard chocolate chip cookies.  Don't get me wrong, they are the gold standard for a reason!  But I wanted something different, so I went to the recipe holder and grabbed the Fairy Gingerbread Cookies recipe.  And, yes, you should have noted that I left Fairy out of the headline...didn't want anyone to get the wrong impression!  They are light, airy and so delicious that you shouldn't be persuaded to not make them because of the word.

Plus the recipe was so easy, the daughter could mix, pour and spread the cookies herself.

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
9 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature

1) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray.  It asks you to cover with parchment paper, but we skipped that step.

2) Combine the flour, toasted ginger (the recipe asks you to toast the dry ginger in a pan for 1 minute - we thought that was overkill), baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

3) In a mixer, mix well the butter and brown sugar until "light and fluffy" - we did it for about 2 minutes.  Add fresh ginger and vanilla, mix well.  Turn mixer on low and slowly add the dry ingredients along with the milk.  Alternate the two, so it isn't too sticky or too dry at any time.

4) Evenly spread 3/4 cup of batter on baking sheet with an offset spatula (used for spreading frosting on me it is easier.)  It is going to be really thin and likely have open areas where you can see the sheet.  Don't worry, it will expand and fill the space.  Plus, they will be nice and thin and light...The daughter did one and I did the other.  Both came out great.

5) Bake until deep golden brown - about 16-20 minutes.  Switch and rotate the sheet half way through to cook evenly.  Once out of the oven, immediately score with a pizza roller or knife into graham cracker shapes.  Let cool completely, then break cookies along the score marks.

You won't be able to eat just one!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The best endorsement I get is the "Dad, can you make ____ for our _____ celebration at school?"  So the latest ad-lib fill-ins were Empanadas and Spanish...  Now, I'm a Midwestern boy through and through, so the recipe is tricky.  It actually comes from the snack bar manager at Fords baseball field where the kids play a tournament every summer.  The guy is nice and the empanadas are fought over.  Here is my approximation of the recipe.

I made the dough this time, although you can buy the dough at most grocery stores.  The filling is a great thing for the kids to help with - from cutting to cooking to filling.  Alex helped on this project and we had a good time, even if the whole process is a little long.  The results were worth it.

Empanada dough -
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 stick frozen butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg
1/3 cup cold water
1 Tbsp white vinegar

Filling -
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced or passed through a garlic press
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb ground turkey
2 Tbsp raisins (my kids don't like the raisins, so out they go)
Chopped olives, a generous amount
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained although reserving 2 Tbsp
Large bag of grated mozzarella cheese

1) Put flour, salt, and butter in food processor until butter is chopped into fine pellets
2) Lightly beat egg, vinegar and water, then pulse into flour a few times
3) Turn onto a floured surface and lightly work the dough until it forms a loose ball.  Don't overwork it or the butter will melt.  Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate an hour.
4) Cut dough in half and roll out to 1/8 of an inch.  Cut out 6" circles from the dough.  Re-roll out and re-cut circles until both halves of the dough is used.  Put circles on sheet trays, cover with saran wrap and back into the fridge they go.
5) Prepare the filling.  Saute onions and garlic in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes.  Add the spices, cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).  Add the turkey, cook until browned.  Don't cover or it will be too liquidy.  Add the tomatoes and olives, cook until warmed through.  Take of the stove and cool.
6) Make the empanadas - put a tsp of filling in the middle of the empanada dough, top generously with cheese, wet the edges of the circle, fold and press ends together with a fork.  Set aside and make the next.
7) When the empanadas are completed, brush top and bottom with olive oil, place on the sheet pan and roast them until the dough is a light golden color.  You could deep fat fry them, but they become too oily.  Baked they are deliciously buttery.  Enjoy.