Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cinco de Mayo de Barnes!

Hello everyone!  I have my computer back!  Yeah!!  I feel like I am back in the 21st century…although the lap top I was using while my computer was being fixed was only from 2005….it felt ancient;)
Cinco de Mayo is quickly approaching!  It is actually a week from today.  It is the day that you must eat Mexican food!  It is not Mexican Independence Day like most of us gringos think….it actually celebrates a Mexican victory over the French during the Battle of Puebla.  It isn’t even a Mexican holiday….it is totally American.  And that is Ok with me. 
 Because I am like a boy scout, and always prepared…I already created a really cool recipe for your Cinco de Mayo.  It’s not what you are thinking!  It’s not tacos, burritos or even nachos….It’s a torta!  A torta is a Mexican sandwich and they are phenomenal.
When I was in college, at Chico State, there was a taqueria across from my favorite bar.  It was called Tacos De Acapulco, or “Tacos De” if you were a regular.  And oh boy, I was.  I was there every Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday night….around 2am.  It is a wonder that I didn’t have a heart attack in college, or weigh 500 pounds.  I always got a vegetarian burrito.  I found the meat to be somewhat questionable, so I never, and I mean NEVER, got meat.  But I was always fascinated with the torta.  They had pictures of it on the walls and it looked amazing!  But alas, I never got it.
When I was out of college, I finally had a torta…..from a taco truck.  Apparently, I found this better then Tacos De in terms of meat?  Weird.  But I digress, the point is…I had a torta, and it was all I had hoped for and more.  It has a crusty roll, refried beans, avocado, cheese and the meat of your choice.  They have become my favorite Mexican treat, so for our Cinco de Mayo de Barnes…..the menu choice was obvious.
For my meat choice, I chose short ribs.  Beef short ribs are one of my favorite cuts of meat.  I cook them in the slow cooker, and they are perfect every time. They have a good amount of fat on them, and that is probably what makes them good!
 I start by browning them on the stovetop in a bit of oil.  I placed them in the slow cooker and poured about ½ a jar of Gourmet Rooster Smoky Chipotle BBQ Sauce over the top.  I cooked mine on high for 4 hours, but you could cook them on low all day…..then you have a yummy treat waiting for you when you come home from work!
This is what mine looked like when they came out of the slow cooker.  Most of the meat had already fallen off of the bone.
I shredded the meat with two forks.  It pretty much falls apart on its own……I also added a bit more of the Smoky Chipotle Sauce for flavor.
To assemble the sandwiches, I used Mexican rolls called bolillos, refried beans, mayo, hot sauce, Mexican cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and guacamole. 
Bolillos are the rolls most commonly used for tortas.  I easily found them at my local Walmart.  If you can’t find bolillos, any white roll will work. 
The cheese I used is called “Quesadilla” cheese.  It is a mild cheese that melts really well.  I found it in my Latino section of the grocery store.
I chose to use guacamole instead of sliced avocado because the avocados weren’t looking too good at my store.  The refrigerated guac seemed like a better choice.
Here is an up close picture of a bolillo.  They are crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.
I heated the beans on the stovetop briefly.  I wanted to thin them out a bit and make them easier to spread.  I used some of the Smoky Chipotle sauce to thin them out.
I preheated my oven to 400 degrees.  I spread a thin layer of beans on one half of the roll, and topped that with some of the cheese.  I put a smidge of olive oil on the other half to help it crisp up.  I put them in the oven at 400 degrees for a few minutes.
While the bread was in the oven toasting up….I made a spread out of mayo and hot sauce.  I made mine very mild since I was feeding children. 
Once the roll was out of the oven, I topped the naked half with the mayo spread.  I put some of the short ribs on the other half.  And then I stuffed my face with extra short ribs…..I couldn’t help it.  Short ribs kick ass.
I continued the topping with guac, lettuce, tomato and red onion.  Jalapenos would be good here too.  You can dress up your sandwich however you want;)
Finished product!  This is the messiest, yummiest, best sandwich I have ever had.  Seriously…I think Tacos De should hire me.  But I can’t stay up till 2am anymore, so I need a day shift;)
I also made a side of delicious corn to serve with these tortas.  In Mexico, they eat something called “esquite”.  It is a common street food, and really all it is is corn.  They cut it off the cob and serve it in a cup with butter, lime, chile powder, mayo and cheese.  It is a favorite at my house, and we eat a lot of corn here.
I used frozen corn since it really isn’t corn on the cob season yet.  I also used butter, chile lime seasoning and queso fresco cheese.  I bought my chile lime seasoning in the Latino section at Walmart.  If you can’t find it, you could always use a squeeze of lime with chile powder.
Queso fresco is a crumbly dry-ish cheese.  If you can’t find it, you could substitute Feta.
I cooked the corn first on the stovetop.  I did this because it was frozen.  You could always just defrost it instead…..since it goes into the frying pan next.
I started with butter and oil in a sauté pan.  I like the flavor of butter, but oil has a higher cook temperature.  I really want to get some color on this corn, and butter on its own would burn.
I sautéed the corn for a few minutes, until I hear it start to pot….almost like popcorn.  It will get some great color and flavor.
I topped my corn with a bit of butter, chile lime seasoning and queso fresco.  I skipped the mayo, but I have tried it with mayo before and if you like mayo….you would love it on this.  My kids gobbled this up!
This was such a fun and festive meal.  We love Mexican food around this house, and we all agreed that this was the best we have had at home.  If you don’t share my love of tortas….first off, you are weird, but secondly….you could use the short ribs cooked in Smoky Chipotle in tacos, burritos, nachos, etc.  But you have to make the corn!  No substitutions!
I hope you all have a great weekend!  If you are near Clayton, CA…come see us at The Royal Rooster during the Art and Wine Festival.  We will be sampling!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

God Save the Queen!

‘Ello!  Please read all of this blog aloud to yourself with your best British accent.  Please know I am writing it with my best;)  So, I think we all know that the Royal Wedding is right around the corner.  And yes, I have Royal Wedding fever.  I come by it honestly….my mom always had a thing for the royals, and my grandma even proudly displayed her Charles and Di wedding memorabilia.  Seriously, she had a Charles and Di tin (maybe a cookie tin?) on her end table until she moved out a few years ago.  I like to think that she still has it on display in her nursing home.
I think all girls are brought up with the knowledge that being a princess is the very best you can do.  It really must be a girl thing because I know my husband does not want to be a Prince;)  It is even more magical when you realize that Kate is a commoner!  She isn’t a Royal from another country, or even a cousin (ew).  Like Frankie from “The Middle” said…”She starts the day as a commoner, and ends it as a Princess.”  Kate gets to marry a real life Prince!
So if you didn’t get it from reading above….yes, I will be watching the wedding.  There isn’t much I will stay up for, or get up early for….but this might be it.  I can’t wait to see the spectacle of it all….and the weird hats. 
I planned a special Brit meal just for the occasion.  As you may or may not know….William and Kate are serving champagne and apps….a couple after my own heart!  They must share my love of apps!  I, however, elected to go another direction.  I made Fish and Chips and a yummy dessert called a “Fool”.  We will get to the meaning of that later.
FYI-I wanted to make Spotted Dick for obvious reasons….then I read what was in it.  No thanks.
I think that Fish and Chips screams English.  It must be British because we sure as heck don’t call French fries “chips”.  That is like calling a cookie a “biscuit”;)  Fish and chip shops started in Great Britain in the late 1800’s.  They flourished during WW2, as fish and potatoes were never rationed.  Anyhoo, I will show you how I made the Fish and Chips, along with homemade tartar sauce (very American) and coleslaw.

For the fish, I used tilapia…because it was on sale.  Cod would normally be used here.  I made a beer batter using Buckbean Orange Blossom beer.  Buckbean is a local brewery, and their beer is fantastic.  I chose the Orange Blossom beer because it gives the batter a super subtle orange flavor that is so yummy.  I also used flour, Old Bay, baking powder and salt & pepper.
This fish is going to get a triple dip, so this is a messy process.  But it is so worth it.  A triple dip gives the fish the best crunchy coating you could imagine.  I started by setting up a “dip station”.  I put plain flour in a shallow dish, and in the other dish, I mixed the remaining flour, the beer, baking powder, Old Bay and some salt & pepper.  I whisked this mixture until all of the clumps were gone.
The fish needs to be thoroughly dried before it gets dipped.  This will help the flour stick.

After I cut my fish into smaller pieces and dried it, I placed it in the flour.  The first flour coating is just to give the batter something to stick too.  I do a light coating of flour…too much will make your coating gummy.

From the flour, the fish goes into the batter. Then, I put it back into the flour for another light coating….triple dip!
I fried my fish in vegetable oil, but peanut oil is another good choice.  This is a “deep fry” so you need a big pot and several inches of oil.  I heated my oil to about 350 degrees.  You can test the oil by putting a wooden skewer into it when you think it is ready.  If the oil bubbles up all around it, it’s ready.
The fish will fry about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  I salted mine as soon as I took them out.  I drained my fish on a cooling rack.
I served my fish with tartar sauce, which is very American.  The Brits would use malt vinegar, but since nobody in my house likes that…..I didn’t use it.  For my tartar sauce, I used mayo, capers, sweet gherkin pickles, red onion and lime juice.
I stirred together the mayo, chopped pickles, drained capers and lime juice.  Then, I grated in some red onion.  I wanted the flavor of onion, but not big chunks.  A micro-plain grater will give you little pieces of onion, and some of the juice….which gives great flavor.  I chilled this while the fish cooked.  Homemade tartar sauce is so delicious….way better then the bottled stuff.
I also served coleslaw with my fish.  I used 3 colors of shredded cabbage, mayo, apple cider vinegar, sugar, pepper and celery salt.  I love celery salt in coleslaw.  It gives it a really distinctive taste….people will ask you what it is;)
I mixed together my sauce, which was all of the ingredients I mentioned above….except for the cabbage.  I poured it over and chilled the coleslaw for a bit before serving.  A proper British side dish for fish and chips is “mushy peas”.  Yeah, not a chance.

If you are wondering about the “chips”, I used store bought French fries.  I bought a bag of frozen steak fries and followed the package directions.  Yes, I could have made my own…especially since I already had oil heated…..but let’s be honest….I was already putting enough effort into the fish.  The fries took a back seat.
OMG-this fish was so good!  I served it in newspaper like a proper “chippy” would do.  We loved it…... even Chris, AKA Mr. Fish Hater.  I would like to think the William and Kate would too.  I know Harry would….especially if I served it with the extra Buckbean;)
Smashing!  Brilliant!  Other random British sayings!
My dessert was the real showstopper, I think.  A “Fool” is an English dessert made with pureed fruit and whipped cream.  I don’t think that the origins of the name of this dessert have ever been figured out.  I pretend it is called that because it is so easy that even a fool can make it…but that might be offensive.  To whom?  Fools, I guess….But it is super easy.  And it looks super fancy;)
I used heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, lemon curd, raspberries and Donsuemor Lemon Zest Madelines.  I chose lemon curd as opposed to pureed fruit because I feel like lemon curd is very British.  They like to use it at tea-time!  It is the almost the consistency of lemon pudding, and it is amazing. 
My lemon curd was a bit too thick, so I thinned mine out by placing it in a small sauce pan and heating it a bit.  You can also add a smidge of water to thin it out.  Since I didn’t want to add hot curd to my whipped cream, I chilled mine down to room temperature after I thinned it out.
I whipped my cream with a teaspoon of vanilla.  Then I whipped my hair bak and forth like Willow Smith......Once it came to soft peaks, I added a bit of powdered sugar to sweeten it up.  Then, I beat it to the consistency I wanted.

I very carefully folded the curd into the whipped cream.  “Folding” will keep the whipped cream from losing its “poof”.  You fold by scraping the bottom of the bowl with a spatula, and folding mixture A over mixture B…..very carefully.  Then, you give the bowl a turn and fold again.  You keep going until the 2 are incorporated, but the fluff is still there.  Oh yea, I reserved about 2 tablespoons of the curd for later;)

I layered the fool into champagne glasses with raspberries.  I used my champagne glasses to be extra fancy.  It’s a wedding, right?  I topped the glass with the extra curd, more raspberries and a Madeline.
Maybe this dessert is called a “fool” because it fools people into thinking you worked super hard on it, when it really was crazy easy??  William and Kate are serving fruit cake that has been soaking in booze for weeks.  I want that about as much as I want Spotted Dick.  I think my “Fool” fit the bill because it looks fancy, and was delicious.  Anything eaten out of a champagne glass is fancy, right?

So let’s say “I do” to getting together next week and discuss the wedding, Ok? (See what I did there?;) I hope that part of the discussion will be about how much you loved the fish and chips you made….and the Lemon Raspberry Fool you munched on during the reception;)  And yes, I will be wearing a tiara and only speaking in a British accent as I watch the wedding…..

Cheerio!  God Save the Queen!

Beer Battered Fish
1 and ½ pounds firm whitefish, such as tilapia or cod-cut into smaller pieces and dried with a towel
2 cups flour
12 ounces Buckbean Orange Blossom beer
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Preheat oil in a large Dutch oven to about 350 degrees.
Fill a shallow bowl with 1 cup flour.  In another shallow bowl, whisk remaining cup flour, baking powder, Old Bay and beer until lumps are gone.
Dip fish pieces in plain flour, then batter, then plain flour again.  Always shake off excess.
Drop fish into the hot oil and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Fry in batches so that temperature of oil doesn’t go down too much.  Remove from oil and place on cooling rack.  Salt to taste.

Tartar Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup capers, drained
½ cup pickles, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon onion, grated
1 tablespoon lime juice

Mix all together, chill until ready to serve

14 ounce coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage)
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons celery salt
Pepper to taste

Place cabbage in a bowl.  Mix all other ingredients together in a separate bowl until thoroughly combined.  Pour over cabbage, using only what you need.  Chill and serve.

Lemon Raspberry Fool
½ pint heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
6 ounces lemon curd
1 pint raspberries
Donsuemor Lemon Zest Madelines

Heat curd in a small sauce pan over low heat.  Curd will become pourable.  Chill to room temperature. 
Whip cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Add sugar and continue beating until desired consistency is reached.
Fold thinned curd into whipped cream, reserving 2 tablespoons for later.  Layer curd/cream mixture with raspberries, topping with reserved curd, raspberries, and a Madeline.  Chill till ready to serve

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Left-over Dyed Eggs??

Good morning!  Have you dyed your Easter eggs yet?  We haven’t, although Addy has asked daily if we can.  I keep telling her that the eggs need to be dyed closer to Easter so that they don’t get rotten.  But the truth is, I hate dying Easter eggs…..almost as much as I hate carving pumpkins.  I don’t mean to be the Scrooge of Easter….it’s just that it makes such a mess, then nobody eats the eggs, and my fridge will end up smelling like eggs every single time somebody opens it.  Who wins in that situation?  Certainly not me. 

This year, I wanted to come up with a solid recipe that uses hard boiled eggs.  We usually dye about 12, so I assume a couple will be eaten as is, and a few will be used for egg salad sandwiches….which Chris loves.  This still always left me with a few extra.  I decided to make a potato egg salad that will use up the rest.  It ended up fantastic! I will show you how I made it….
I used hard boiled eggs, of course…red potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes, cooked bacon, celery, red onion, pimientos, mayo and Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ Sauce. 

The potatoes I bought are little baby potatoes.  They don’t need to be peeled, and they cook pretty quickly.  I chopped them a bit, just to make them more bite sized.  I also chopped the bacon, celery and red onion into like sized pieces.

I started by boiling the potatoes in heavily salted water.  Start the potatoes in cold water….this ensures that they cook evenly.  Once the water hits a rolling boil, set your timer for 15 minutes, and they should come out perfectly.  Drain the potatoes and run cold water over them to cool them off.  You don’t want them completely cold though….lukewarm potatoes will soak up more sauce;)
The sauce for this salad is super easy.  It is just mayo and Carolina Style BBQ sauce.  The Carolina Style sauce has all the spices and seasonings you would want already in it.  This sauce has vinegar, mustard, black pepper and a whole bunch of other secret ingredients that I can’t speak of;)  I used about ¾ cup mayo and ½ cup Carolina style sauce.
FYI-if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, we will be sampling Carolina Style BBQ sauce at the Clayton Art and Wine Festival, April 30th and May 1….inside The Royal Rooster.
While the potatoes are cooking, I mix all the other ingredients together. I like to mix it now so that when I add the potatoes, I don’t have to do a ton more mixing.  I don’t want the potatoes to break apart, and pre-mixing will prevent that.

Once the potatoes are cooled a bit, I stir them into the mix.  I pop this salad in the fridge for at least an hour to let it chill, and to let all of the flavors come together. 
See all of the eggs in there?  This salad is so yummy, it will for sure be your “go to” for this summer.  The bacon and the Carolina Style sauce make it smoky and delicious, which I think is different then a basic potato salad.  Sometimes those are too mayo-heavy and that is really all you end up tasting.  But that is not the case with this salad;) 

I hope you try this recipe….I promise, it is super quick and easy!

Smoky Potato Egg Salad
3 pounds baby potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup red onion, chopped
1  7 ounce jar diced pimientos, drained
3/4 cup mayonnaise
½ cup Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ Sauce
Salt to taste

Boil chopped potatoes in large pot of salted water.  Once water comes to a boil, cook potatoes for 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

Mix mayo and BBQ Sauce.  In large bowl, combine eggs, celery, bacon, onion, and pimiento with mayo/BBQ sauce dressing.  When potatoes are cooled, add to salad and gently mix.  Season with salt.

Chill for at least one hour.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hi! It's Me......Your Grandma.....

..........And I made you a strawberry-rhubarb pie. 
Actually, it’s me, Courtney….but doesn’t strawberry-rhubarb pie seem like something your grandma would make?  Mine did.  She would always have a strawberry-rhubarb pie and a berry pie on hand.  I think that pie making is kind of a lost art….I’m bringing it back, kids…..

But first I have to complain about my computer;)  I know I told you last week that I was having computer issues.  The “issue” was so big, that my 2 month old computer has to take a trip back to the factory to get a new hardrive.  Lame.  So I am typing this on our old computer.  And when I say old… I mean old as in, I feel like I am sitting in my mom’s sewing/computer room typing on the Apple II E.  You know the one….black screen, green font?  And later when I print it will be dot-matrix and I will have to peel the sheets at the perforations?  And then I will print a banner on “Print Shop.”  And perhaps play “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” or “Oregon Trail”.  And then shut it down, turn on the Atari and play Frogger.  Yeah, that old;)  Ok, ok…it is only 5 years old, but you get my point.  Somehow, I will forge on and make this computer work temporarily.

But back to the pie…..Rhubarb is a spring only thing.  As soon as I see it in the grocery store, I know that spring has sprung.  Rhubarb looks like red celery.  It has green leaves that you will hopefully never see……because the leaves are poisonous.  It really can’t be eaten on its own, as it is kind of sour.  Mixed with strawberries, it is fantastic. 

When I bought my rhubarb this year, I decided to do something that I have never done before.  I will now let it be known that I have never made my own pie crust.  Gasp!  I know that you probably expected more of me….and I apologize.  I just really hate anything that involves a rolling pin.  But I busted mine out anyway.  It turns out that if you have a food processor, making your own crust is really easy.  If you don’t, buy a pre-made one and skip to where I start making the filling…..this is like a “Choose your own adventure” story!
To make a pie crust, you need flour, a smidge of sugar, salt, orange extract, ice cold water and ice cold butter.  This is a basic “pate brisee”…..or it would be without the orange extract.  That is my addition;)  I put the butter in the freezer for about an hour, and then I dice it into pieces.  The chunks of butter are what makes a pie crust flaky.  If your butter is soft, it will blend too easily into the crust and you won’t get the flaky texture you want…..so icy cold butter is important.
I started by putting the flour, sugar, salt and butter in the food processor.  I use the “pulse” function instead of the on button.  This will help me get the mixture to the consistency of a course meal….like pea sized pieces of butter.  Then, I add the orange extract and about 2 tablespoons of the ice water.  I pulse the mixture, slowly adding ice water, until the dough comes together.  When you pinch a piece of dough, it should stick together.  This recipe uses about 6 to 8 tablespoons of ice water.  I use all 8 tablespoons because it is dry where I live.
Once the dough comes together, I dump it out onto a floured surface.  I kneaded it just enough to get it into a big ball.  I cut it in half because I will only be using half of it today.  This recipe is enough for a double crust pie, but my version only uses a bottom crust.  I will use a crumb topping instead of a top crust.  This dough needs to be put in the fridge for at least one hour.

Once it comes out of the fridge, I roll it out on the same floured surface.  I roll it just until it is big enough to fit my pie pan, which is 9 inches. 
Once it is in the pie pan, I trimmed the excess.  I baked the excess on a cookie sheet……so yummy sprinkled with cinnamon sugar!
If you are feeling fancy, crimp the edges with two fingers and your thumb to get a scalloped edge.  That’s it…..homemade pie crust.  And it really was easy!

Now for the filling…..And welcome back readers who bought their crust;)

I used strawberries that I had hulled and cut in half, rhubarb, sugar, orange extract and tapioca.  The rhubarb needs to be washed and diced.  I cut off the tough ends and peeled down any tough “strings” that I couldn’t cut through….just like with celery.
The tapioca is a dry powder-like substance that will thicken the juices of the pie.  I like this instead of cornstarch, which can make the filling gummy.  You find it right in the baking aisle.
Do you see how the rhubarb is green on the inside?  Weird.  I like to let this sit for 15 minutes to let the juices start to come out of the fruit.
Once the mixture has sat for 15 minutes, I pour it into the pie shell.  Pat it down to make sure it is even.
For the crunchy topping, I use flour, butter (cold again!), brown sugar, white sugar and pumpkin pie spice.
This mixture gets mixed with your hands.  So wash them and dig in…..You smoosh it together until the mixture is in pea sized chunks.  When it bakes, these pea sized chunks will get crunchy and delicious.
I sprinkled the topping all over the pie.  Now here is an important step…..I placed the pie on 2 pieces of foil that were laid perpendicular to each other.  This is because the edges of the pie crust will start to get to brown before the rest of the pie is baked.  About 30 minutes into baking, the foil can be folded over the edges so that the pie crust edges don’t get too brown.

The pie will bake at 400 for about 30 minutes…..then I bump the heat down to 350 and it bakes for another 20 to 25 minutes.
See how the top gets brown and delicious?  I really prefer the crumb topping over a pie crust for this pie.  I think the sugary sweetness goes so well with the tartness of the rhubarb.  I hope you try it, even if you buy your crust!  Or call your grandma and see if she will make it for you;)  But hurry-rhubarb is only around in the spring!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
1 pie crust (recipe to follow)
2 cups strawberries, sliced
2 cups rhubarb, diced
1 & ¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
¼ cup tapioca
Crumb topping (recipe to follow)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, extract, and tapioca in large bowl.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Pour mixture into a 9 inch un-baked pie crust. 
Top evenly with crumb topping.
Bake pie at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Adjust heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 20 to 25 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly.
Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Pate Brisee (pie crust)
2 & ½ cups flour, plus extra for rolling
2 sticks butter, super cold and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
6 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in food processor.  Pulse to mix.  Mixture will resemble a course meal when mixed.
Add extract and slowly add ice water, pulsing to mix.  When dough comes together, it is ready.
Place dough onto a floured surface and knead into a ball.  Cut ball in half.  Place both halves in fridge for at least one hour. (recipe above only needs one ball, or half)
Place chilled dough on floured surface and roll into 12 inch disk.  Place in pie pan and trim excess edges.

Crumb Topping
¾ cup flour
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4th of a stick of butter, very cold and diced
Mix all ingredients with your hands until mixture is in pea sized pieces.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter Brunch...in Finger Food Form!

Good afternoon!  I am so happy to finally be writing this…..I have been on the phone with Dell, in India, for 3 hours today, and 2 hours yesterday.  Major computer issues.  On the bright side, I do have an open invitation to stay with my new friend, Jenny, in New Delhi any time I want.  And a great recipe for Naan.  I am pretty sure her name isn’t really Jenny, but I wasn’t going to mess with our 3 hour old friendship by calling her on it.  Anyhoo, I am using Addy’s computer, which is my old laptop.  Please excuse any typos….she has gotten quite a bit of goo in the keyboard.  Gross.

We all know Easter is right around the corner….in about a week, in fact.  Everybody loves a good Easter brunch, right?  I do.  This year, I decided to combine Easter brunch with….wait for it….Finger Foods!  Yes, I have managed to combine my love of all things finger food with brunch!  I have reached the pinnacle of my career, people.  I can retire now because I will never do anything this cool again.  Seriously.

I decided to do this combination because I think it will make things a lot easier for people.  You have already gotten up early, perhaps gone to church, searched for eggs, etc.  Do you really want to sit down to a long, heavy meal after that?  No!  With this menu, you can put together a little plate, and you don’t even have to sit down if you don’t want too.  It is finger food!  And on the plus side, if you are hosting and make this menu….you don’t have to make a ton of fancy courses or find a place for everyone to sit.  It’s like a cocktail party, but it’s Easter morning.  Can’t beat that.

I will start with a picture of my beverage bar…
I just did coffee, juice and champagne.  Ok, sparkling cider…you caught me.  It was what I had….sue me.  I only had 4 adults and 4 kids, so my brunch was on the small side.  You will need to adjust accordingly.
I set out cream and sugar and some spoons.  Coffee doesn’t take much.
I also set out 2 different fruit purees for the champagne….sort of a Bellini bar.  I used strawberry and blueberry pomegranate purees.  The purees would also be great in the OJ.

Here is a picture of my buffet set-up…
I served scrambled egg crostini, individual caramelized onion potato gratins, ham wrapped broiled asparagus, mini muffins and fruit salad.  I also had some yummy Madeline cookies that I dipped in different flavors and colors.  So yes, this is a small brunch, but remember…I was only serving 4 adults and 4 kids.  You could also add in bacon, sausage, bagels, croissants, etc.  There are plenty of ways to round out this buffet.  Just remember to keep it all in the finger food family.  Something that you could eat while still holding your Bellini or Mimosa in one hand.
Do you like the ribbon on the table?  I poached that idea right from http://www.celebrationideasonline.com/.  Way easier them putting out a table cloth!

Some of this menu can be made the night before to save time.  The onions can be caramelized in advance, the asparagus can be washed and trimmed so they are ready to go, the cookies can be dipped, the fruit chopped and diced and the bread sliced for the crostini….all the night before.  Nobody wants to get up at 5am on Easter to cook.  If I get up that early it is because I am eating chocolate bunnies out of my kid’s baskets.

I will start with the potato gratins….
To make 8 individual gratins, I used 4 potatoes, one whole onion (diced), butter, cream, and lots of salt and pepper.  I peeled the potatoes and sliced them thinly with the food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can do this by hand.
I put a little bit of butter in the bottom of 8 ramekins.  This whole recipe will use about 3/4th a stick of butter.  I had cut my butter into little pieces to make it easier for myself.  Once the butter was in each dish, I put down a layer of potatoes.  I salt and peppered each layer.
The night before, I had caramelized a chopped onion.  This is the easiest thing to do.  You put your chopped onion in a pan with about 2 tablespoons of butter.  You cook the onions for almost an hour, over low heat.  The natural sugars will come out and make the onions super sweet.  I also salt and pepper the onions, then put them in the fridge till I need them.
I top each original layer of potatoes with a spoonful of caramelized onions, then another layer of potatoes.  I add a bit more butter to each dish, and then about 1 & ½ tablespoons of heavy cream right over the top of each. I salt and pepper again, and pop them in a pre-heated oven.  These babies will cook for about 55 minutes at 375 degrees.  The tops will be bubbling and golden, just like this…..
These were my favorite part of this brunch.  So good!  Aren’t they cute?

For the scrambled egg crostini, I sliced a baguette into slices about 1/3 an inch thick.  I laid them on a sheet pan and cooked them at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes, until they were just starting to brown.
Once the baguette slices came out of the oven, I spread them with goat cheese.  I left a few cheese-less because my kiddos don’t like goat cheese.  Weirdos.
Have you ever scrambled eggs the way it is really supposed to be done?  Like over low heat for 20 minutes?  Yep, it takes an insane amount of patience, but it is so worth it.  I also use cream in my scrambled eggs, which makes them crazy good.  And lots of salt and pepper!!
I top the crostini with the scrambled eggs and then some green onions.  Do you like the shadow at the bottom?  My photographer was busy;)  I was on my own…..

For the broiled asparagus, I laid the asparagus on a baking sheet after I had washed it and trimmed the ends.  I drizzled it with olive oil, and sprinkled on garlic powder, salt and pepper.  I cooked it in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Once the asparagus cooled, I wrapped each stalk with a piece of thinly sliced ham.  Prosciutto would be great here, but not as reasonable for a crowd.

The sauce I served with the asparagus was just mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons lemon to 1 cup mayo.  I like to be fancy and call it “Lemon Aioli”.  I am such a fancy-pants.

We are going through a Madeline obsession at our house right now.  You know….the sponge cake-ish cookies that you always see at coffee places?  Shaped like seashells?  I took plain ones and dipped them!  You can buy them already dipped in chocolate, but I wanted to try something different.  I melted white chocolate and flavored it with lemon extract, orange extract and strawberry extract.  I colored the melted chocolate according to flavor.
They turned out super cute and they tasted great!  So cute and Easter-esque!!
I also set out mini muffins that I had baked the night before......the kids loved the mini muffins.  You can’t see it in this picture, but I put out a big bowl of fruit to round out the buffet.  Something for everyone, right?

We had a great time with this buffet and the food was great!  I hope you take some of these ideas and use them for your Easter brunch.  Take some pictures….I would love to see them!