Friday, December 31, 2010

Treacle Tarts and Thoughts

Yes, what you see is my version of Treacle Tarts.  When I knew my 11 year-old grandson, Josiah, would be here for Christmas, and that the family  would be going to see Harry Potter at Universal Studios, I told him that I had found a recipe for Treacle Tarts, Harry's favorite treat, and we would make them together. 

I could not find the English golden syrup and the recipe said to substitute a combination of Karo white syrup and molasses.  Josiah's reaction when he smelled the molasses told me this would be a bumpy ride.  We did work together to put the tarts together.  Yes, he ate a couple, but even I was not fond of them.  The filling also included lemon juice, ginger, and bread crumbs.  I am not posting the recipe.  If you really want to try this, you can find it on the Internet.  Personally, I think a nice pecan pie would be so much better.  Sorry, Harry.  We also passed on the Butter beer.  Josiah, maybe you can talk your mom into trying that.  (wink)

2010 was again a busy year for a couple of retired folks.  Our dear old friends became grandparents for the first time, we went to a wedding, we went to a funeral and sadly, we had to say good-bye to our dear friend, our little dog, Kippy, in October.  Today, December 31, she would have been 15 years old.  We still miss her every day, but realize we have too much traveling to do and it just would not be fair to another pet.

We had a wonderful trip to France in May and once again, spent our summer in beautiful Montana.  We put many, many miles on our automobile, The Trout caught over 700 trout and I started sewing American Girl doll clothes.  There is one special dress, almost finished, and after my granddaughter has it, I will publish a picture.  It actually is rather special, if I say so myself. 

I have befriended so many people on Face book; we have always been friends, but now are reconnected.  And blogger goodness!!  I will not even tell you how much time I spend on the computer reading each and every blog that I follow.  In fact, I have been reading more blogs and writing less.  I hope to correct that in 2011.  Still reading lots of blogs, but writing more also.

I don't like saying it, but my year is ending with a splat on the driveway!  I have the worst cold I have had in over 5 years.  Our plans for this evening, eating at a very special restaurant in Tampa, will be cancelled.  But, there are birthdays coming up, so we can get to that restaurant soon.

So, 2011, what will you hold?  Another birthday...they are coming faster, aren't they?  A trip to Provence in May-June, and back to Montana on July 1.  I hope to see some old friends this year as they are traveling around Florida.  I am also hoping to go back home, to the Amana Colonies, and do some genealogy work in the museum where the records are kept. 

I wish for good health, and the same for all of you.  And then, one more wish.  I have so many people reading my blog, but they do not comment.  I am hoping that will change this year, because those that do are becoming such good blogger friends.   God Bless you all.  Let it be a very safe 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Prime Rib and a great wine

Not quite sure where I have been.  Actually, I have been here the whole time, but just a little lacking in enthusiasm for blogging.  Our youngest daughter and family arrived on Christmas eve, and we have been spending a lot of time together.  It is nice to see how the grand boys have grown in the last two months.

As usual, for Christmas Day dinner, I roasted a prime rib.  As far back as I can remember in my childhood, this is what my mom always put on the table.  She worked as a cook in the local restaurant, and meat was her speciality.  She baked very little, but she knew her way around the butcher shop and any cut of meat was always placed perfectly on the table.

I let this 3 bone roast stay in the oven just a little longer, since the boys don't like it too rare.  Here is mom's unusal recipe which always works.  It is in her translated words from German, and I did make some corrections...(smile)


Buy a bone-in prime rib, any size.  Try to have the roast at room temperature, definitely not icy cold.  Sprinkle well with Lawry's seasoned salt and pepper. 

Perheat oven to 375 degrees F and roast for 1 hour in a shallow roaster, uncovered.  Turn off oven.  DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.  (Use the best German accent you can muster at this point!)

About 45 minutes-1 hour before serving, turn on the oven again to 375 degrees.  For example:  If you are planning to eat around noon or 12:30 p.m., roast from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and then turn off oven.  Start again around 11:30 or so for another 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Only draw back, you cannot use the oven for anything else.  Adjust your roasting period according to roast size.  You'll love it.  Crisp and well done on the outside, medium rare in the center.

And then the wine.  The Trout keeps a running log of his wine collection.  He thought he was getting out a Whitehall Lane 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, but it turns out that it was a 1998, mistakenly labeled by him.  It did not have quite as high a rating at the '99, but the wine was excellent with the prime rib.   WINE SPECTATOR rated the wine an 89.  "Harmonious and well-balanced, integrating anise, cedar, currant, mocha and mineral flavors.  It picks up intensity and complexity on the finish." 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sausage and Red Pepper Ragu

This fall while The Trout was sitting in a doctor's waiting room, he came across a recipe in a magazine, tore it out (is there a law or something?) and brought it home.  Tonight we made this for the second time and we really do like it a lot.  The aroma while it is cooking is outstanding and the flavor is top notch!

We served this over a slice of grilled Ciabatta bread.  It is simple to put together and tastes so very good.

Sausage Fest, Italian Style
by way of Chef Victor Casanova
Culina restaurant, Los Angeles

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp red dried red pepper flakes
3 Italian sausages (we use Johnsonville)
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell peppers, seeded and cut in strips
14 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the pepper flakes and swirl.  Immediately add the sausage (which we have skinned and cut into chunks) and the onions.

Cook the sausage with the onions for 5-7 minutes to caramelize well.  Add the garlic, peppers, tomatoes, wine, fennel seeds, salt and pepper.

Cook over low heat for 30 minutes.  Serve with rustic Italian bread.  We also topped the ragu at the end with chopped fresh basil.  This could also be served over pasta or polenta.  A quick and very, very nice meal.

A very good Snickerdoodle

For years I have not enjoyed baking cookies.  One batch would always turn out too dark for sure.  It also took me years to figure out what was going on.  It was my darn frugality that was stopping the show. 

A couple of weeks ago, The Trout and I went to a restaurant supply store to "check it out."  I found beautiful, heavy baking sheets for under 8 dollars.  I feel they are of a much better quality than what you can buy in the typical baking department of a store.  I immediately went home and threw those old sheets out.  I have plans to go back and get more of these beautiful baking sheets. 

Then another item I have wanted for a long time is a "Silpat."  It is a remarkable sheet made in France that is placed on the bottom of a baking sheet.  It is made of silicone with fiberglass mesh.  Nothing sticks to it and nothing BURNS!!  No greasing of the pan is needed.  I am so happy!!!  I just might have to get another one to fit the second baking sheet I plan to buy.  I am slow to change, but I am so happy I did.

And on that note, I was ready to start baking cookies.  Velva at "Tomatoes on the Vine" had a Snickerdoodle cookie recipe that sounded very different from all others.  I remember tasting very bitter cream of tartar years ago in these cookies.  Velva had the same ingredients but in different portions.  They taste out of this world!  In fact, The Trout thought they tasted like cinnamon custard.  Here is Velva's recipe and "I approve this recipe!"

Makes 24 (I got 36 cookies 2" diameter)

2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine 1/2 cups sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs.  Mix well.

Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  Blend well.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.  Roll dough in sugar-cinnamon mixture and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until the cookie is set.  Immediately remove from cookie sheets and cool.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sardalaise-Lyonnaise Potatoes

Several years ago, my brother asked me why he couldn't fry potatoes that tasted as good as our mother made.  I immediately knew the answer.  Mom would get rendered lard from the local meat market and she fried everything in it.  It definitely made fried food taste better.  The Trout and I eat very little fried food.  But when we do, we want it to be the best. 

My last posting talked about the wonderful goose confit we brought back from France.  The cassoulet we had was so good, but we were very excited about the goose fat that was in the can that I saved.  We knew we would have to have fried potatoes.

In France, chickens and ducks are roasted on a rotisserie and on the bottom of this large cooker potatoes are sliced and piled high.  The drippings from the poultry drip onto the potatoes and this makes the potatoes taste wonderful. 

I fried the Yukon Gold potatoes (I doubt any one of these potatoes has ever had a root in the Yukon) and added some sliced onions.  So not only did we have Sardalaise potatoes from the Dordogne where the ducks and geese are raised, but also Lyonnaise potatoes from the city of Lyon where they add onions to the potatoes.  They were outstanding.  

I want to share with you what the goose fat looks like.  It is almost perfect.  Creamy white and very pure.  We will be using every bit of it.  This fat also freezes nicely. 

Thank you for joining us on our journey in remembering some wonderful times in France.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cassoulet our way

 Two years ago we spent two weeks in the Dordogne region of France, exactly as we had the previous year.  And once again, as in 2007, we went to the farm where they fatten ducks and geese for foie gras and confit.  The can of goose confit came home with us as did a can of gizzards for salad.  The gizzards will be another posting someday.  They are dear to my heart and stomach and I am making them last as long as possible.

We found this farm in the village of Tursac in the Dordogne.  Unfortunately, I did not write down how much this can cost.   I am guessing 7 Euro which would be about $10.  You can't imagine my fear of not getting this through customs, but it was professionally canned at this farm, so it passed.  Of course, there is always that little clause on re-entry papers asking if you spent any time on a farm.  Actually, no...just in their sales room, right?

In this can was the cutest and fattest goose leg you can imagine.  It had been roasted to perfection and tenderness and was absolutely swimming in goose fat.  (Be still my heart!)  The fat was carefully drained off and put in a container in the refrigerator.  This is like gold.  Unless you have been to France, you cannot imagine how out of this world fried potatoes taste fried in this goose or duck fat.  It is beyond belief good!!  The potatoes will come later this week.  

The recipe we used for our cassoulet today comes from Gourmet Magazine and we have made it our own with little changes.  Above you see the herbs harvested from our garden this morning to be included in our cooking.  Rosemary, parsley, sage and thyme.  (I changed the order so as not to get you all singing!)

The cassoulet was as great as last time.  Imagine, living in France and being able to eat this as often as you want.  To my blogger friends in are so fortunate.  As for us, we are once again looking forward to being back on your roads and in your shops and eating your food in June.

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet with Confit

2 bratwurst (from Whole Foods...excellent taste)
1 goose leg - confit
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1/4 cup of fresh herbs; rosemary, sage, and thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 chopped Roma tomatoes or use canned
1 can white beans such as cannellini, drained and rinsed

In a medium skillet cook the sausages in oil over moderate heat, turning until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to drain on paper towels.

In fat remaining in skillet, cook onions and garlic, stirring until golden.  Stir in herbs and bay leaf, tomatoes with juice (I add a splash of chicken broth if using fresh tomatoes), salt and pepper to taste.  Boil mixture, stirring, 5 minutes.  Cut sausages into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Add sausages and beans and goose leg which has been cut into small pieces to tomato mixture and heat through.  Discard bay leaf and transfer to a casserole dish.


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices firm white bread, crusts discarded, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 small clove of garlic, chopped fine
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

In a small skillet, heat oil and saute bread cubes until pale golden.  Stir in garlic and parsley, stirring one minute.  Top the casserole with this mixture.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. 

We enjoyed this with a beautiful French Beaujolais cru from Chiroubles, 2009.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gravlax for breakfast

 I doubt there would be many beating down our door to join us for breakfast.  You have to have a real love for all foods and possibly a little bit of Norwegian in the blood helps also.  Nearly 10 years ago, we found a recipe from Emeril Lagasse for Vodka and Citrus Cured Salmon.  Since that time, The Trout has tweaked the recipe quite a bit and now just makes it by guess and feel.  That being said, I will try to explain how he makes this lovely piece of salmon taste like something very outstanding.

I also toasted the bagel, topped with cream cheese, gravlax, capers and a few chopped chives.  I used the thin bagels now available at only 110 calories compared to 270 for the regular sized bagels.  After all, this is about the salmon and not the bread.  I do like these thin bagels a lot.

Vodka and Citrus Cured Salmon
by way of Emeril Lagasse

1 (2 pound) salmon fillet with skin
1/2 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup vodka
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

Place salmon skin side down on several sheets of plastic wrap.

In a small mixing bowl, combine salt, sugar, dill, vodka and lemon zest.  Spread over the fleshy side of the fish, pressing into the fish.  Wrap the salmon tightly in plastic wrap and place in a large baking dish.  Place a flat glass or heavy ceramic dish on top of the salmon and weight the dish with several heavy cans or a brick.  Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.

Unwrap the salmon and rise all of the cure off under cold, running water.  Pat dry and slice diagonally into paper-thin slices. 

We cut this recipe down and kind of guessed at the amounts for curing.  It turned out lovely, tasty and was well-received.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The German Pickle

When my ancestors came over to America many years ago, they brought with them lots of traditions, recipes and memories.  One thing they left behind was the German pickle.  It was not until many years after they reached our American shores that I came across the history of the the pickle.

I made sure years ago, that my daughters had a German pickle for their Christmas trees.  Somehow, I did not have one for mine.  This spring when The Trout and I were in the Black Forest of Germany, we stopped in a glass blowing factory.  There on the counter where baskets of German pickles.  I knew it was finally time for me to have my own.

In case you do not know about the pickle, let me tell you about it.


A pickle used as decoration on a Christmas tree seems odd at first, but it is an old German tradition.  It is customary to hide a pickle among the branches of the tree on Christmas Eve.  The first child Christmas Day to find the Christmas pickle receives an extra gift!  The reason for the different sizes of the pickle are for the age of the children.  The largest pickle is for the toddler.  As children grow up, the pickle size gets smaller. 

Let there be no doubt, the pickle on my tree is the largest I could find.  It is also already hanging on a branch.  I am going to enjoy my German pickle all season.  Merry Christmas.