Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Apple Tart Tatin

In my last post I mentioned I always wanted to cook Tart Tatin. Lara mentioned one of her friends from out of town was going to be in town this week and she wanted to know if I would make dinner. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.

First you make up the dough. It is a tart dough, which is like a pie dough only it has sugar and an egg in it. When the dough has been rolled out it goes in the fridge and you start on the apples. The recipe called for Granny Smith. A lot of recipes call for Granny Smith because they are good for baking, they are available all year, and they are available everywhere. If it is apple season, feel free to support your local farms and buy any good baking apple. I am using Braeburn here.

You quarter the apples and cook them on top of the stove in butter and sugar. You cook them on high heat until the butter/sugar starts to caramelize a bit and the apples brown. This takes 10-15 minutes. At this point you flip all the apples over with a fork. As you can see from the picture it looked nice at this point.

Once the apples have been flipped you continue cooking on high for another five minutes to brown the other side of the apples. This is where everything went wrong.

It doesn't take very long from the point where the apples look great and the caramel starts to burn and turn very black. I took a quick taste to make sure it was really bad and it was. I didn't have enough apples to start over and no other options for desert so I decided to try and fix it. It was only about a quarter of the apples that burned - it was mostly just the caramel. I took each apple out, cut off anything that looked black, and carefully placed it into a new pan. Some of the apples fell apart and it didn't look nearly as nice, but I saved most of the apples. I then quick cooked up some butter, sugar to make a new caramel (not burnt this time) and poured it over the apples.

At this point I continued on with the recipe by topping it with the crust and baking it in the oven. Overall it didn't turn out too bad. It definitely didn't look as nice as it should have. It is supposed to be the nice ring of apples all perfectly spaced - but that is hard to do when cutting off burnt pieces while burning your fingers on 500 degree caramel. You could also taste a little bitterness in spots because of the burning - but not bad considering. I would make this again for sure but next time I will keep a better eye on it near the end.

Apple Tart Tatin
(Source : Cook's Illustrated Feb 1996)
Serves 8


Flaky Egg Pastry
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 large egg, cold and beaten
Caramelized Apples
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 pounds Granny smith apples (six large), peeled, quartered, and cored
Tangy Cream Topping
  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, cold

  1. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter over dry ingredients; process until mixture resembles cornmeal, 7 to 12 seconds. Turn mixture into medium bowl; add egg and stir with fork until little balls form. Press balls together with back of fork , then gather dough into ball with hands. Wrap with plastic, then flatten into 4 inch disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (Can be stored overnight; let stand at room temperature to warm slightly before using).
  2. Unwrap dough and turn onto well floured surface. Sprinkle with additional flour. Roll into 12 inch circle, strewing flour underneath to preven sticking. Slide lightly floured, rimless cookie sheet or pizza peel under crust, cover with plastic, and refrigerate while preparing apples. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle; heat oven to 375.
  3. For the filling: Melt the butter in a 9 inch oven safe skillet; remove from heat and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Arrange apples in a circle around outside of skillet. Lift each quarter onto its edge while adding the next apple so that the quarters stand almost straight up. Fill the middle of the skillet with the remaining quarters.
  4. Return skillet to high heat; cook until juices turn from butterscotch to rich amber color, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and using fork or paring knife, turn apples onto uncaramelized sides. Return skillet to high heat; boil to cook uncaramelized sides of apples (about 5 minutes).
  5. Remove skillet from heat. Slide prepared dough over skillet, and, taking care not to burn fingers, tuck dough edges against skillet wall.
  6. Bake until crust is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Set skillet on wire rack; let cool about 20 minutes. Loosen edges with knife, place serving plate over skillet, turn tart upside-down, then remove skillet.
  7. For the topping: With electric mixer, beat heavy cream and sour cream until mixture thickens and holds soft but definite peaks. Accompany each wedge of tart with generous dollop of topping.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eating out at the Bayport Cookery

I enjoy cooking but I enjoy eating out as well. Lara and my eighteenth anniversary is on the 27th - which is a Monday - so we decided to go out and celebrate on Saturday. I have had the Bayport Cookery on my lists of places to try for a few years now. It is a nice restaurant that gives you the option of 9, 6, or 3 courses. We had to pick nine of course. Here is what we got for our $85:

We started with a Wild Mushroom soup - topped with puffed wild rice. It also had what they described as a mushroom grilled cheese with it. It was all very good. Lots of mushroom flavor.

Next came a Wilted Escarole salad. Not really much "salad" here. The main part of the dish was a chicken liver agnolotti (a stuffed pasta). It was topped with roasted pear and hot bacon dressing. Neither my wife or I like liver but these were good. The liver was very mild - especially when mixed with the dressing.

Third course was a tempura shrimp. This was probably the best tempura I have had - very delicate coating. It was on top of an apple slaw - which had a mild curry flavor.

Next we were served chicken stuffed with coppa and figs. This wasn't real exciting if you ask me. It did have some spiced port wine au jus on the plate that was tasty.

The 5th course was a braised pork belly. It was sitting on butternut squash and topped with a crabapple chutney. This was not bad - but I like the chutney and squash better than the pork belly.

The bison short rib was my favorite of the main courses. It was topped with a horseradish creme fraiche. It had some gnocchi on the side that were pan fried - very good that way.

The seventh course was a cheese plate. The cheese was pleasant ridge - an artisanal cheese from Wisconsin. It came with some candied walnuts and some carrot raisin bread.

Finally - time for desert. The first desert was an apple tart tatin - I have always wanted to try making this. On the right is a maple flan.

The ninth and final course was a Chocolate Genoise cake and some pumpkin ice cream. I'm not a big chocolate guy but the cake was very good - it had a hazelnut mousse filling. The pumpkin ice cream was very good (Better than the cheese ice cream I had at my last nine course meal).

While the Bayport cookery was not as fancy of a setting as other nine-course meal places we have gone - the food was definitely on par and the setting was very nice. The restaurant does different theme menus during the year (Chocolate, wild game, mushroom...) so it would be a good place to go back to in the future.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Butternut Squash Risotto

Since I joined Barefoot bloggers halfway through the month I figure I only have to do one recipe this month. Normally I suppose I should do the second recipe which is Vegetable Pot Pie. While the recipe sounded good, I just made Chicken Pot Pies. Hopefully it is OK if I make the first October recipe instead.

This is a night of firsts for me. This is my first barefoot bloggers recipe. This is my first time making risotto. This is my first time cooking with saffron.

I had always thought that risotto was a little difficult to make. It is not really that difficult. A risotto is just a short grain rice (normally Arborio) that is cooked slowly. You add a little liquid and cook until it is absorbed, then add a little more liquid and cook a little more, repeat...

I noticed a lot of the other Barefoot bloggers skipped the saffron. There is good reason for that. Saffron costs about $10 for 1/2 gram. It comes in a spice bottle - inside the bottle is a little envelope - inside the little envelope is a littler envelope - inside that is a small amount of the red threads which are saffron. It takes an acre of flowers ( a crocus) to harvest 5-7 pounds of saffron. Saffron is the most expensive spice by weight - but I have read that is is not the most expensive by use since it takes such a small amount. Anyway, saffron was on sale at Target this week. It still cost me $11 but I got 1.5 grams of it - now I need more recipes for it - if you have any good ones let me know.

It is a good time of year for this recipe. It uses butternut squash which is plentiful in the fall. You dice up the squash and roast it in the oven. It turns nice and brown on the edges and looks very nice in the rice. I would not have thought of adding squash to a risotto but it added a little bulk to the rice that was nice - I would have been satisfied with this as my main dish.

I wish I had made one without the saffron so I could compare and see if it was worth it. I am sure it would be great without the saffron but in my opinion the saffron probably made it better. Saffron has kind of a fragrant flavor. My wife said it took some getting used to but she ate seconds so I guess it was not too bad for her.

Thanks to Rachel from Rachel Like to Cook for this recipe.

Butternut Squash Risotto
(Source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style)

  • 1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
  3. Heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned.
  5. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
  6. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Maple-Orange Glazed Chicken

I just started a subscription to Cook's Country. I used to subscribe to Cooks Illustrated - which I loved - a great cooking magazine and you can't fail using any of their recipes. Anyway, the same company publishes Cook's Country. I decided to get it for a change. It seemed like it might have more "everyday" recipes. It has a section with 30 minute recipes every month. These are not the kind of 30 minute recipes that have a can of Campbell's soup as the main ingredient, not that there is anything wrong with that occasionally.

Anyway my first magazine just came last week and it has quite a few recipes I want to try. I tried their Beef Stroganoff, a crockpot recipe, last week and it was very good. This week I decided to try the Maple-Orange Glazed Chicken. This was one of the 30 minute recipes and it was very easy to make.

You start out mixing the ingredients for the glaze - just five ingredients. Then you season the chicken breasts and fry them on one side. Then you put them in the oven to cook the rest of the way. When done cooking you take the chicken out and cook up the sauce in the hot pan.

I thought it was kind of silly that the recipe mentioned that the handle on the pan would be hot after it comes out of the oven, duh. Well guess what I did. Unfortunately the recipe didn't mention that the handle is still incredibly hot 3 minutes later after cooking the sauce. Yes - I burnt my fingers pretty good.

The recipe came out good. I wasn't expecting it to be very orangy since the only orange was a small amount of zest. Well it had good orange flavor and nice sweetness from the maple. It was messy and sticky, Lara thought we needed wet naps.

Maple-Orange Glazed Chicken
(Source: Cook's Country October/November 2008)

Serves 4
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, halved crosswise
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Whisk maple syrup, mustard, zest, vinegar, and thyme in bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat until oil is just smoking. Cook chicken skin-side down, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken skin side up and transfer chicken to oven. Cook until chicken is deep golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate and tent with foil.
  3. Wearing oven mitt (pan handle will be very hot), pour off any fat in pan. Add maple mixture and cook over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits with spoon, until thick and syrupy, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Off heat, return chicken to pan and turn until well coated with glaze.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who are the Barefoot Bloggers

I think one of the first food blogs I started following was breadbasketcase, a blog by a local Minneapolis woman, who started out her blog with the idea of cooking all 82 breads in the Bread Bible in a year. She was successful and has gone on to make many more interesting breads. I liked that idea but I am not sure I need that much bread.

I liked the idea of a food theme like that. Well I started looking at a lot of food blogs and I found a few groups of bloggers that made the same recipes using some theme and blogged about them. This seemed like a good way to motivate myself to make some new things. I found groups that focused on baking, and groups that made just pie. I would love either of those but my diet would not.

I then ran across the Barefoot bloggers. I first discovered it on The Brown Eyed Baker - a very good food blog. According to the site this is what the Barefoot Bloggers are about:

We're an [extra]ordinary group of cookers and bakers with a love of all things Ina. We'll be testing (and retesting) Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa) recipes as a group and blogging about them on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month.

I think that is a pretty good description. For anyone that doesn't know Ina Garten has a cooking show on the Food Network called the Barefoot Contessa. I think she has six cookbooks and a lot of recipes available on the food network. The blog group has over 100 members (I think at least two other men). Each month the next two bloggers in line pick a recipe from Ina Garten's collection. Everyone is then supposed to make each of the recipes that month and blog about them. It sounds like fun to me - most of the recipes they have done so far look good to me.

I will be starting my posts in the Barefoot bloggers this month, and hopefully I will be able to keep up with my two posts a month after that. Hopefully everyone, including my wife Lara, will enjoy.

It's my Birthday!

Let me start this by saying that my wife is not really a cook. She is not really detail oriented when it comes to cooking and usually ends up skipping a step or two. When she mentions that she might cook breakfast she usually means oatmeal. So when ever she asks if I want breakfast I say I would like a Pannekoeken or something that I know she will never make.

Today is my birthday and Lara decided to actually make pannekoeken. Somehow we actually had all the ingredients so she was able to do it. I think the only mistake she made was the oven temp and this was corrected before it was too late. As you can see it came out nicely. The apples were very good - a little sweet - a little tart. It is apple season now and I think it was Braeburn apples that were used instead of the Granny Smith called for in the recipe. The recipe wasn't in the breakfast section of the cookbook - it was in the dessert section - so you know it was going to be good. I ate the last piece later on with a little vanilla ice cream and it was just as good for dessert as it was for breakfast.

German Apple Pancake

(Source: The New Best Recipe)

Serves 4

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples (about 1 1/4 pounds) peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • Maple syrup, warmed, for serving
  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 500 degrees. Combine the eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt, and granulated sugar in food processor or blender and process until well combined, about 15 seconds. Add the flour and process until mixed and free of lumps, about 30 seconds; set the batter aside.
  2. Add the butter to a 10 inch non-stick oven-proof skillet and heat over medium-high until butter is foaming. Add the apples and sprinkle brown sugar on top. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples turn light brown, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until apples are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from heat. Quickly pour the batter around the edge of the pan, then over the apples; place the pan in the oven. Reduce the oven heat to 425 degrees and cook until brown and puffed, 16 to 17 minutes. With a heatproof spatula loosen the pancake. Invert the pancake onto a serving platter, dust it with confectioners' sugar, and serve immediately, accompanied by the warm maple syrup.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Lets get this started with a real food post. I have been trying a lot of new recipes since I have been a stay at home dad - a lot of them scrounged from different places on the web. This one is from the Simply Recipes blog.

The recipe is pretty simple. You start with a pretty standard pan fried chicken. You then put the chicken into a roasting pan and pour some broth over it and stick it in the oven for 40-50 minutes. I think the oven time is only so you have time to make the pan sauce - otherwise it would be good if the chicken was just cooked in the pan. I did make a modification to the recipe since 40-50 minutes sounded awfully long after being cooked on top of the stove. Perhaps I browned on top of the stove longer than the recipe intended, but my chicken was done at 25-30 minutes.

The recipe also mentioned using a rich chicken broth over the chicken - even describing how to make one quickly with the giblets. I normally do have some homemade chicken broth around but I am currently out. I used some low-sodium canned broth. I would not use canned broth where it is the major component of a recipe but in this recipe I hardly think it mattered.

The pan sauce was nice and easy. You save 2 Tablespoons oil from cooking the chicken and fry up some onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Then add sour cream and cream. I made a few changes here as well. The recipe has you remove your garlic at the end. I just ran my garlic through a press and there is no need to remove it at the end. I also did not have cream but used half & half instead. I was still plenty rich and creamy - I think you could probably even use milk with good results to save a few more calories.

The final results were very good. The sauce was very flavorful and rich. The recipe makes a lot of sauce so make sure to serve with potatoes or noodles or something. We had it with mashed potatoes.

I just made Beef Stroganoff the other day and my wife Lara wanted it without sour cream. She is not real adventurous with food so recipes can be difficult to adapt at times. I made her try some with sour cream but she thought it was too "tangy". With this recipe I decided to make it with the sour cream and not tell her (is that wrong?). Well she took seconds of both the chicken and mashed potatoes and put sauce on both. She said the sauce was really good. When I asked her if the sauce was too "tangy", I think she got the hint - the sauce is 50% sour cream.

Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce
(Source: Simple Recipes)


  • 1 5-pound roasting chicken, cut into serving pieces (bone-in, skin on)
  • Flour, salt and pepper
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil, or canola oil (or other high smoke point oil)
  • Butter
  • 1/4 cup rich chicken broth
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Put a cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper in a brown paper bag. Piece by piece, put a piece of chicken in the bag and shake to coat the chicken with flour mixture.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. On the stove top, in a large frying pan, heat oil to medium high heat. Place the chicken pieces in the pan. Watch the oil carefully, you don't want the oil to be so hot as to burn the chicken, you just want to lightly brown it. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides, turning when necessary.
  3. Butter a roasting pan generously. Arrange the chicken pieces in it, pour broth over it, and bake at 350°F until the chicken is tender and cooked, about 40-50 minutes for pieces from a 5-pound chicken. (See my note above 40-50 minutes may be too long). You know that the chicken is done by poking a thigh with a meat fork (the thigh meat is dark meat and takes longer to cook than white breast meat). If pink or red juice runs out of the hole made by the fork, the chicken is not done. If only clear juice runs out, the chicken is done.
  4. About 20 minutes before the chicken is expected to be done, start cooking the onions and mushrooms. In the same frying pan as was used to cook the chicken, empty the pan of all but 2 Tbsp of oil. Add the onions to the pan and saute on medium heat until softened. Add the crushed garlic clove and the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are no longer crisp. Remove and discard the garlic, and add the sour cream and the heavy cream to the onions and mushrooms. Lower the heat. Keep warm, but do not boil. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When the chicken is done, remove from oven. Serve on a platter with the mushroom sauce spooned over it, or served on the side.
Serves 6 to 8.

Serve with noodles, rice, or Spanish rice.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My new blog

I got my taste of blogging while doing my blog on Victor's adoption.  I kind of enjoyed it but since the adoption is done it doesn't make much sense to continue with that.    

Since the adoption Lara took three months off work to stay home with the baby, then I took three months starting in June.  At the end of August we decided we liked that arangement and I quit my job in order to become a full-time stay at home dad.  

Being a stay at home dad has been a wonderful expirence.  Besides being able to spend the time with my son - I think being able to cook more is my favorite part.  I have always enjoyed cooking but when both of us worked it was hard to make the time and we ended up eating out all the time.  Now I am able to cook most days of the week.

I am not a professional cook and my only training was my Foods III class in high school, a couple of community classes, and my time at TJ's Big Boy cooking breakfasts on the line.  I do enjoy cooking though and I like trying new things.

I am not sure how much I can add to the food blogging community - there are a lot of great blogs out there now - but I'll do this as long as it is fun for me.  I am hoping it helps motivate me to keep doing new things.  

As far as what I will be blogging about - you probably guessed it - Food.  I would like to blog about new recipes I try.  I might throw in some Restaurant articles if I go some place I really like.  If I ever get to travel again (might be hard with the new baby) I might blog a little on that if I go anywhere interesting.

Thats enough for now.  Hopefully there are some people that enjoy this - let me know if you do.