Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ladies Who Lunch & A Kick Ass Dessert

It’s the time of year when I begin brainstorming with my BFF Elizabeth for her annual Spring Luncheon. Sweet Lizzie is all about tempting food but ain’t big on cooking; go figure??? My gain as I get to cater the big event. We’re a great team; she’s a nervous wreck & I get to boss everybody around! For me it’s all about an over the top presentation; gotta have that "OMG" factor. Intense pressure here; I have to outdo myself every year & Dramatic is my middle name!

The ladies who gather are Lizzie’s Book Club which has been meeting for 29 years! They are 12 strong; I believe its 27 kids’, 16 marriages & 21 grandchildren among this tight knit circle. Swear to goodness you will never meet a nicer gang! They are soooo appreciative; one reason I keep coming back is they lather me in praise & adoration; y’all know I crave that…. It’s that middle kid thing….

Another perk is Lizzie’s precious & adorable daughter, Elaine; who happens to be one of my biggest fans! Did I tell you how smart she is? The luncheon gives us a chance to catch up & she gets so excited about the menus. Backing into this year’s selections by doing the dessert first as Elaine loves her something sweet (weighs about 90 pounds… how does that work???) She was less than thrilled with the chicken last week & I need to reel her back in; not to fear I got a couple of tricks up my sleeve!

Officially in obsessive/compulsive mode plotting, planning & charting a manic course for the perfect spread for Lizzie’s Ladies! At this point it’s all about choices; I will be presenting the Mother/Daughter duo with 2 butterific desserts & see what they decide.

This week’s selection is;

Caramelized Pears & Stilton Cheese
Serves 6
My version of Americas Test Kitchen Recipe; great video & tips at; Americas Test Kitchen On Demand; see desserts, you have to sign up for videos; highly recommend!

1/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
3 firm pears; slice in half, leave stem on one si
de & scoop out seeds with small end of melon
baller, cut off bottom of pear; do not peel
1 cup cream

½ tsp course ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
8 ounces Stilton Cheese or any Danish Bleu will work
Smidgen of Kosher or flaky sea salt
Large non stick skillet with lid

Heat skillet over medium/low. Add water & pile sugar in middle of pan & shake pan; do not stir ( this will keep sugar from crystallizing) continue till sugar is dissolved & bubbling. Add pears cut side down, place lid on skillet & simmer medium/low slightly bubbling not full bubbles; (continue to check bubbles during this step & keep them small). Cover 10/15 minutes till pears are semi-tender but still firm to touch; do not overcook, (I did first pass….) begin to check pears at 10 minutes. Note; they still have more cooking time after this step & you don't want them too soft in the end.

Take off lid & crank up heat to medium/high to increase size of bubbles; shake pan to move sauce around & caramelize bottom of pears & sauce about 3/5 minutes or slightly longer. Watch for sauce to begin to caramelize; it will turn pale amber. Watch carefully; check bubbles & continue to watch for color change while you continue to shake pan. Once it has reached warm amber cut heat off & pour in cream; loosen up pears from bottom of pan with tongs; they will have a nice caramel bottom. Continue to move pan in circular motion to incorporate cream; you can begin to scrape down sides with a spatula. Turn heat back on & simmer 3/5 minutes to slightly thicken sauce; scraping sides as you go.

Remove pears & place on cooling rack; skin side down. Watch out sauce is very hot; remove from heat & stir in pepper & butter; pour into dish cooling slightly; it will thicken more off heat. Plate up by drizzling sauce over dish & stand pears upright; if they crash, which they might, drizzle some sauce in the hole; YUM!!! Scatter a little salt over top. Adorn plate with cheese; I added star fruit for drama.

Tips; use firm pears; this does not work with ripe pears. Slant back from center of pear when cutting bottom as they will look better on the plate at a slight pitch. When scooping out seeds move as close up to top of pear as possible as this will give you a stronger base for standing pears.

First let me say; This is divine!!! The sweet & salty thing rocks; the savory pepper & stilton are pure manna from heaven. It's definitely got the "OMG" thing going on. Howeva’ the luncheon is in the spring & after indulging I’m thinking this a bit of a wintery (spell check hated this one….) dish. Lizzie’s passion is her spectacular garden, come time for the party it will be breathtaking; want to be sure the feeling of the dish will compliment her celebration of floral & fauna. Sorta’ pissed as I was “gun ho” on this one; we’ll see what the girls think.
Off to contemplate round 2….. Sorry, gotta keep you in suspense; want you back next week! I have an enchanting surprise!!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Agony Of Defeat & A Brined Bird

How can I face the world of bloggers after the devastation of losing the competitions…….. so humiliating after being all cocky parading around last week telling anyone who would listen that I was a shoe in. It gets worse; I even wrote an acceptance speech…… Drama, theatrics & over reacting …… the shrink says it is classic middle child syndrome.

Quickly found solace by finding another cocktail recipe to use up all the leftover blood oranges over at The Hungry Mouse; the pictures are to die for! Like drowning my sorrows in alcohol would help..... Luckily precious Chelsea at aqua poppy designs emailed my new blog design was ready! Yippee! So excited!!! Have been collaborating with Chelsea; my new best friend & she did this amazing custom design! Check her out! She has stock designs or she will do a custom design that suits your personality; she definitely captured mine! Did you notice how my “hair do” resembles the pat of butter? Cute, huh?

The new design definitely took my mind off my grief from losing the competitions. Not to be a sore loser I have added the link for the winners over at alchemist chef & A Southern Grace; as you can see I was up against some pretty stiff competition; kudos to the winners!

Sought further therapeutic measures from the defeat & looking for a cure for my ginormous hangover turned to one of my favorite comfort dishes; Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & Onions. An exhilarating moment of the preparation is massaging the chicken. My hero Julia Child said “Many aspects of my method are based on my feeling and experience. For instance, I always give my bird a generous butter massage before I put it in the oven. Why? Because I think the chicken likes it—and, more important, I like to give it.” Love her! No doubt she is up in heaven fixing up a scrumptious BĂ©arnaise as I type.

Brining the chicken is key to a moist, succulent bird. Have fun with the brining! I used lemons, salt & sugar to make her quite the diva! I thought about adding a shot or 2 of tequila but I am trying to lay off the sauce. Sweets; my precious Mother always ahead of her time, for years has soaked her chicken overnight in salted water. Let me say she was clueless this process was called brining but she always says “Sweetie Lamb, don’t forget to soak your bird.” A little salt goes along away; for brining tips see What's Cooking America or . Roasting the chicken over the potatoes & onions will have you shouting; “Taste like another.” A lemon placed in the chicken cavity is sheer genius.

Recipe Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & Onions

½ cup kosher or sea salt
¼ cup sugar
¼ lemon juice; add some zest for extra punch!
2 cups warm water
1 ½ quarts cold water
1 Chicken Free Range rocks (about 3/4 pounds), giblets discarded

Other Ingredients
4 large sliced potatoes; I used Yukon gold & left the skin on; if you use red potatoes; quarter
1 Large sweet onion sliced
3 to 4 cloves of peeled garlic (this is up for your discretion- I used 6…..)
4/5 basil leaves
1 lemon
Butter 3 tbsp.
Salt & pepper to your taste

Brine Chicken: Combine salt, sugar & 2 cups of warm water; allow to dissolve, add lemon juice. Place chicken in large container that will fit in your fridge with submerged chicken. Cover with salt, sugar & lemon water & add 1 1/2 quarts cold tap water; cover chicken completely; add more water if necessary. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels; this is important as it makes for crispier skin. Lift the chicken skin (carefully - do not tear skin) under the breast, legs & neck end; give it a good massage with butter, salt & pepper, inside & out; scatter the basil leaves under the skin. Place pierced lemon inside the bird; if lemon is too large cut in half. I added a couple of basil leaves in the cavity. Tie legs together with twine.

Layer onions, potatoes & garlic in oiled roasting pan; salt & pepper as you go. Place chicken on V rack or on top of roasting pan grill breast side up, twist wings under bird to lift up & place over potatoes, onions & garlic.
Roast about 1 ½ hours until chicken is medium golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast and thigh registers about 160 and 175 degrees, respectively (start checking at an hour as this depends on size of chicken & your oven.)

Allow chicken to rest for about 15 minutes. Carve chicken; squeeze lemon over chicken & and serve with potatoes, onions and garlic.

The chick definitely massaged my soul!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Be Still My Heart!!!

Being ADD (ADD DRAMA DAILY) I’ve been all over the map preparing to submit to my first Foodie Blog contests. The choices are endless & the competition is fierce. Let me just say Foodies are a cult to be reckoned with. Usually one with nerves of steel, I am a nervous wreck. My heart is palpitating like a whore in church. Haven’t been this worked up since I tried out for Jr. High Cheerleading.

Have narrowed the field & will enter The Alchemist Chef’s Valentine’s Day Recipe Competition & A Southern Grace’s Cinnamon Celebration. Totally changed gears from last week where I was considering my S’mores Brownies as the entry. Decided I needed an edge with the judges….

Put my investigative skills to work & did a little digging into how to get the attention of the Alchemist Chef. Discovered from snooping around her blog she is a sucker for blood oranges. Also noticed she likes her some lemon curd, hmmm? Bingo! Going with Hearts Afire Blood Orange Curd Meringues. Obviously I consider butter a food group….. another staple in my life is lemon curd; tweaked it by making it with the current darling of the Foodie World; blood oranges.

Sidebar; while doing research on The Alchemist Chef ran across her recipe for Blood Orange Martini. Felt compelled to test last night as I had all the ingredients and figured it would be a bonding experience for me & AC. Fast forward; had to rush out this AM to get more oranges when I awoke to one lone blood orange sitting on the counter next to an empty bottle of Grey Goose. Did I mention the bloody headache?? Inside voice pleeezzzz. The martinis were well worth the mad dash to Whole Paycheck.

For the Cinnamon Celebration over at A Southern Grace I am going to submit Sugar & Spice & Everything Naughty Pastry Hearts. These are loaded up with cinnamon; the key ingredient to get me in the door. Pecans have a special place in my heart & will add the perfect touch. A Southern Grace is a Southern born gal, got my fingers crossed the pecans will capture her heartstrings. She is now residing above the Mason Dixon so I added a little maple syrup as it is made up there somewhere ….

I am shamelessly “sucking up” to the judges….

Blood Orange Curd
4 eggs room temp.
1 egg yolk room temp.
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Juice of 2 lemons
½ tsp lemon rind
Juice of 3 blood oranges
½ tsp orange rind
1 stick butter

Whisk eggs, sugar & salt in metal bowl or pan for double boiler. Place over simmering water. Whisk in juices & rinds. Whisk constantly (not too fast) till thick; 7 to 10 minutes. Don’t freak at the foam that forms; it will reincorporate into curd later. Curd will become a lovely blush color.

Remove from heat & add butter 1 Tbsp at time; whisk till melted & blend thoroughly.

Cool slightly, place in container & cover surface with plastic wrap; chill for several hours.

Meringue Hearts
Do not attempt on humid days as they will be weepy & gooey

4 large egg whites- room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup superfine sugar or 1 cup regular sugar
Preheat oven to 250°F.
I traced 4 hearts around a large heart shaped cookie cutter onto baking liner paper & flipped over.

Beat egg whites until foamy in large bowl with electric mixer. Mix in cream of tartar & salt. Add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating at medium speed until stiff peaks form about 10/15 minutes.

Spread a small amount of meringue within each heart about ½ inch high. Put remaining meringue into pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe meringue in heart shape up outer edge; I went around twice. For plain shells, shape a cloud bowl using the back of a large spoon.

Bake 1 hour until firm. Turn oven off and let dry several hours or overnight. Do not open oven or they will turn brown.
Made 4 hearts

Assembly Hearts Afire

Spoon curd into hearts; try not to eat much so you can fill 4 hearts; I filled 2 ½…..
Hearts are syrup with blood orange juice & cinnamon red hearts; added a little water & melted. Reduced to a syrup. Drop round ½ teaspoonful of syrup on curd & drag a wooden skewer/toothpick through top to below bottom of circle trailing off to make heart.

Option II
Blushing Heart Meringues
Serve with whipped cream & adorn with sliced blood orange quarter to pretty it up.

Sugar & Spice & Everything Naughty Pastry Hearts

These are a spin on Sugar & Spice Straws at Puff

1 sheet Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)

1 egg, beaten with a dash salt
2 Tbs. maple Syrup
2 tbs. melted butter

2/3 cup finely chopped pecans – this is important – you will see why when you roll the dough second time….
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Thaw pastry at room temperature 30 min. Preheat oven to 350°F. Set rack at the middle level of the oven. Line a 15"x10" jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.

Mix egg and salt. Mix sugar, nuts & cinnamon

Open pastry on lightly floured surface. Roll into 12" square. Brush pastry with egg mixture, maple syrup & butter. Sprinkle nut mixture over half of pastry. Fold other pastry half over nut filling. Slide onto a pan and refrigerate 30 min. or until pastry is firm.

Roll pastry on lightly floured surface into 12" square. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough crosswise into 24 (1/2: wide) strips. Twist the top of each strip in one direction and the bottom in an opposite direction several times to form a corkscrew shape. Place each twist into a circle pinching the ends into a pointed tip; Push in center opposite side of tips & press into heart shape, pressing center of heart firmly into pan. Place hearts opposite directions across pan so tips are going in opposite direction across the width of pan. Original recipe says to refrigerate again till firm; I did not, seemed fine…. Probably want to do if weather is warm.

Bake about 20 min. or until well puffed and well caramelized. Cool in pan on wire rack 5 min. Store hearts between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Makes 24 hearts.

Off to dip the pastry hearts into the blood orange curd; lawzy I feel a food coma coming on.

Be Still my Heart!!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super, Super Sunday!!!

Stay Home Sunday ended last week… good thing coz for sure I will be out & about today; gotta get ready for the Big Game! I am clueless about who plays, who wins, who cares, blah blah blah. I am going to bake my mouthwatering S’mores Brownies for my BFF Mary Ellen’s party. Knowing I ain’t a game girl she invites me with the promise I will bring the goodies. These will have everyone screaming "Can I have S'more?"

Doing double duty this AM; baking for the party & taking pic’s of my entry into Alchemist Chef’s Valentine Day Recipe Contest. Surely these decadent morsels are bound to capture the attention of the judges! My pic’s not so much as I have been in “picture taking hell” trying to get photo’s with the proper lighting effects. Always one to seek out experts I consult Cute Chris; IT Guy at work who fancies himself a photographer. After viewing my recent efforts he says to me “BB, these pictures suck….” Esteem building comments like this fire me up to do better. He gives me tips on filtering the light, beaming in lights from all directions & encourages me to buy a tripod; yeah like that will fit in my kitchen…. Being resourceful; one of his “filtering the light tips” had me grabbing a pair of yellow panties from the laundry basket (clean) sitting near the kitchen to add a “glow” to the aura.

SCORE!!! It turned out to be a brilliant twist as you can see the pictures are near perfect.

One of my most sought out recipes is S’Mores Brownies. This recipe came about years ago when I was under pressure to make a last minute offering for an office party. Had 4 of the ingredients for 7 Layer Bars & some marshmallows and as my life goes it was midnight before the gathering. Panic paved the way for this “melt on your thighs” concoction. Sugar buzz from these gems will definitely illicit a little back field in motion!

S’Mores Brownies

Preheat Oven to 325F

One stick of Butter melted and browned for extra flava’
2 packs of Graham Crackers (about 2 ½ cups) crushed- not too fine keep some small bits in there for texture.
1 can of Condensed Milk; I am a Borden’s Gal
6 ounces Chocolate Chips
One small bag mini marshmallows
10.5 ounces

Stir together butter, graham crackers and condensed milk with a wooden spoon; add chips*. Spread in greased 8’x11’ baking pan- for thicker brownies use 8’x8’ bake on 350F for 30 minutes.
* For a more chocoholic experience sprinkle chips on top of brownies

Bake for 30 minutes on middle rack. Change to broil. Dump marshmallows on top & return to oven; toast till golden; about 5 minutes- keep your eye on the prize! Cut brownies while still warm; cool a bit & remove from pan.

Working on a romantic presentation for the contest so the S’Mores Brownies look as sexy as possible. Thinking of cutting in heart shapes!
I am off to the game to cheer for the Redskins!