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Archive for the ‘Progressive Dinners’ Category

Last month we hosted dessert for our fifteenth(?) progressive dinner. Our neighbour, John selected Georgia State as the theme because of the Golf that was going on (what golf?) at that time so food had to be a Georgia favourite or something connected to the PGA. Of course, I went straight to the expert, my dear friend Betsy of Bits and Breadcrumbs for her advice and she really came through for me, Thank you, Betsy. I made three mini desserts, one of which, the Chocolate Pecan Pie is traditionally served at the Open, the other two were Southern favourites, Peach Crumble (recipe below) and Chess Pie, that I really just wanted to make. All of the desserts are miniatures because we always tend to over do it at these progressive dinners and I served them all in the living room at the coffee table, take as many or as few as you wish. I followed some tried and true recipes for the Chocolate Pecan Pie and the Chess Pie (see links above) and I loosely followed Betsy’s recipe for the crumble. Hope you don’t mind, Betsy, I combined a few ingredients from various southern recipes on your blog and I think I scored a hole in one! And that concludes my golfing puns!

So, let me tell you about our dinner! For the first course, Tom and Iona (read Iona) did a bunch of things, we began with an Arnold Palmer (with vodka)! I’d never heard of this concoction before this past February when we were in Arizona visiting friends, it was very tasty! Then, the food: Iona made Pimento Cheese sandwiches (OMG, so GOOD!), jalopeño Poppers (baked) and a wonderful bean and rice dish served in a glass. Then we had the main course, it was Mike Weir’s (Canadian) signature Master’s Dinner (I had no idea the winner can choose the dinner menu!) It was Elk and Arctic char (that’s a fish), with Canadian beer (I had some of his wine!). And, of course, there was dessert! We also set up a little putting green for fun!

 

Mini Chocolate Pecan Pies and Mini Chess Pies. How many would you have?

The putting green was quite successful!

Bourbon Peach Crumble: Progressive Dinner #15(?)

Makes 4 60 mL (2 oz) ramekins and 4 30 mL (1 oz) ramekins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups roughly chopped peaches (I used frozen because it is not peach season)
  • Bourbon, to cover peaches for soaking
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (reduce if your peaches are sweet, mine were not)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp soaking bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients for the crumble:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp toasted pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp Skor® bits
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Chop the peaches into wedges and then into thirds so they fit better in the ramekins.
  2. Add the peaches to bowl with a cover, and pour the bourbon over it so it covers all of the peaches, Soak peaches overnight in the fridge.
  3. The next day, strain the liquid from the peaches reserving 30 mL (2 tbsp), reserve the remainder for another use.
  4. Preheat the oven to 175° C (350° F).
  5. Spray the ramekins with non-stick baking spray.
  6. Combine the flour, cinnamon, reserved bourbon from soaking liquid, vanilla and salt and mix well. Sprinkle over the strained peaches and stir well to coat.
  7. Add roughly 15-30 mL (1-2 tbsp) of the coated peaches to each prepared ramekin.
  8. Combine the brown sugar, toasted pecans, oats, flour and cinnamon and mix well, cut in the butter until the butter is well mixed. Top each ramekin with about 15 mL (1 tbsp) of the crumble and then sprinkle about 1.5 mL (1/4 tsp) Skor bits over the top.
  9. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly to serve or reheat when ready to serve. Serve with stabilized Bourbon Whipped Cream (to stabilize whipping cream, please click here).

Oozy, boozy goodness. I intended for the sauce to drip and bake down the sides. No, really, I did!

Notes:

  • For the mini tarts, I used Martha Stewarts cream cheese pastry recipe, but I doubled it. You can freeze left over pastry dough.
  • I made 1/2 of this chess pie recipe and I netted about 20 tarts various sizes (although I only show the tear-drop shape in the photo. If I make this again, I’ll make half of the recipe.
  • I made 1/4 of this pecan pie recipe (I melted 10 g of semi-sweet chocolate, allow to cool, into the recipe) and netted about 14 small tarts (muffin tin-sized).

We added a few tee’s and golf balls but it was too dark for a pic.

MiniMeringueTarts_Rev

This shot is part of a creative collaboration I recently did with a professional photographer and prop stylist for our portfolios. I also served the little bite-sized lemon curd meringues for the progressive dinner just because you can’t have too much dessert! Photograph by Paula Wilson and Props by OK Props, Oksana Slavutych.

 

 

 

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TrioThaiDesserts_First

Last month we had another progressive dinner (number 11 to be exact) and we decided to make up some new rules. In general, we alternate clockwise for the courses and this time it was neighbours John and Nancy’s turn to make the main course. The first new rule is that the couple who has the main course chooses the theme. The second new rule, is that the main course couple may also invite a “guest couple” to participate in the eating but not in the making; having four courses has put the main course much too late in the evening (around 10:30-11) because we inevitably stay too long at each house! For this progressive dinner, John and Nancy chose Thai food because Nancy was recently in Thailand and had a marvellous time. It was our turn for dessert.

There aren’t too many desserts in Thailand and I recently learned that they generally don’t serve a sweet after dinner, desserts are usually saved for celebrations, like weddings. Thai desserts are often not sweet and sometimes even savoury (don’t you worry, I didn’t choose savoury (you know who you are!)). I did have a rather difficult time landing on three desserts that would WOW our party because I wanted to choose something obviously Thai and put my own spin on it. I finally chose a baked Coconut Custard Slice (from my Easy Thai-Style Cookery from the Australian Woman’s Weekly, published in 1996), also from the same cookbook, a Sticky Rice Pudding infused with Kafir Lime Leaves with a Coconut and Lime Custard and lastly a Mango Mousse garnished with a Mango Rose (from Epicurious). All three desserts were served in small portions, as above. I made all three in advance and portioned them out so that on the evening I needed only to plate them. These dinners always get out of control with the volume of food so small portions is all anyone ever wants, but I had made enough for leftovers in case someone wanted more. I really like coconut so both the custard cake and the rice pudding were high on my favourite list, but I have to say the mango mousse was also refreshing and delicious. Which one would you choose as your favourite?

A very nicely textured coconut lemon custard.

A very nicely textured coconut lemon custard.

Baked Coconut Custard Cake

Makes one 24 cm (9.5 inch) tart, about 1 cm (0.5 inch) deep.

For original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) coconut cream
  • 1 cup 18% cream
  • eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut, toasted
  • Lemon or Lime zest for garnish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F. Prepare an 24 cm (9.5 inch) removable bottom scalloped tart pan by lightly greasing and lining the exterior bottom in foil making sure it comes up more than half way on the sides and is waterproof. Set aside.
  2. Combine coconut cream, cream, eggs and brown sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and stir over medium-low heat until warm; do not boil (the coconut cream will separate).
  3. Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Place the tart pan into larger pan that can accommodate enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the tart pan.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the centre of custard is just set. Cool custard for 30 minutes and then refrigerate custard 1 hour or 1-2 days before serving.
  5. Cut into wedges and sprinkle with extra coconut and lemon or lime zest, if desired.
RicePuddingCustard

A delicious rice pudding scented with kaffir lime leaves and a baked custard topping.

Kaffir Lime Sticky Rice Pudding

Serves 4 individual portions or 9 mini portions.

For original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients for the rice pudding:

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) short grain rice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) coconut milk (including the cream)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 10-20 dried kafir lime leaves (depending on how much you like kafir limes)
  • 2 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted

Ingredients for the custard:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (250ml) coconut milk, including the cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • juice from 1/2 a lime

Directions:

  1. Lightly grease nine 125 mL (1/2 cup) capacity ovenproof mason jars with coconut oil. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine rice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, coconut milk and water in a thick bottom pan, and slowly bring to a boil while stirring. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed (about 30 minutes). Cool slightly. Remove Kafir lime leaves, discard.
  3. To make the custard, combine the milk with the eggs, sugar and lime juice and whisk together. Set aside.
  4. To each prepared mason jar, add 2 slightly heaping tablespoons of the rice pudding and press into the bottom of the jar. Pour the prepared custard evenly into each of the nine jars.
  5. Place jars into a large rimmed pan and fill the pan with warm water to about 1/2 way up the mason jars. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until custard has set.
  6. Remove jars and allow to cool. Refrigerate until 2 hours before serving, then remove from fridge and serve at room temperature garnished with the toasted sesame seeds.
MangoMousse

A lightly set mousse (not heavy on the gelatin) with a good punch of mango and a dash of lime.

Mango Mousse

Makes one 23 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan of mousse.

For original recipe please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
  • 500 mL (2 cups) fresh mango purée (about 4 small mangos)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek)
  • 3 egg whites, beaten until stiff but not dry (you may substitute whipped cream for the egg whites, about 1 cup whipped)
  • 1 mango for rose garnises and lime zest

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water, let it soften for 1 minute, then heat the mixture over low heat, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved.
  2. In a blender or using an emersion blender, blend together the mango purée, sugar, vanilla, and yoghurt and add the gelatin mixture and blend the mixture well.
  3. Beat the egg whites (or whipping cream) until they hold stiff peaks, fold it into the mango mixture gently but thoroughly.
  4. Pour into a plastic-lined 23 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan.
  5. Chill the mousse for at least 4 hours or overnight. Freeze for 30 minutes before serving (improves both the flavour and texture, and makes it much easier to handle).
  6. Cut 9 servings using a flower cookie cutter and place carefully on a plate, garnish with mango roses. To make mango roses, I simply used my vegetable peeler and peeled slices about 30 cm (12 inches) long from each mango and then rolled into a rose. I prepared the roses in advance to make serving easier.

 

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Tiropitakia_First

Our tenth progressive dinner was this past Friday and the theme we chose was Greece. We chose Greece for a couple of reasons: we figured we would be knee deep in snow and a tip of the hat to the warm climate and mediterranean cuisine would be just what the doctor ordered and the other reason is that two of our neighbours were just there this summer visiting family!

Fortunately, winter has been somewhat mild this year (shhhhhhh)…not overly cold and although we have had a few flakes, we certainly don’t have the (any) accumulation we have had in the past. Here is a little blast from the past (December 11, 2014) for good measure! Click on the images to see a larger version.

So you can see why the Mediterranean cuisine seemed appropriate. I didn’t want to make something predictable and when I was chatting with the neighbour who went to Greece this summer, she suggested the slightly lesser known phyllo triangle called Tiropitakia which is like Spanakopita but without the vegetables, it’s just cheese! You had me at cheese! I decided to splurge and use butter to coat the phyllo sheets (I usually skip it because of the calories) and it really made the pastry beautifully crispy and flaky. I read quite a few recipes on line, some ven used gruyère and ricotta so I made some changes and used Greek Feta, goats cheese and a little parmesan. The combination made a lovely cheesy filling. I used an actual imported Greek  feta (Alra Feta) which is pretty difficult to come by in Toronto (we have a very strong cheese board in Canada) made with sheep and goats milk, it is far tangier than Canadian feta (and more expensive).

This hors d’œuvres freezes very well but you have to be very careful as the pastry becomes very brittle over time in the freezer. With all the holiday cheer going on in the next few weeks, I’m sure I’ll be popping a few in the oven every weekend for visitors.

Tiropitakia_7695

It’s a deliciously crispy hors d’œuvres. Please help yourself to one (or two).

Tiropitakia

Makes 48 5 cm (2 inch) triangles

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Greek Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 160 g goats cheese, crumbled
  • 25 g Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 8 sheets phyllo pastry, cut into 5 cm (2 inch) strips, long side.
  • 150 g unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, add the two eggs and pulse to beat slightly. Add all of the cheese and pulse a few times to combine well (do not turn into a paste). Add the parsley, nutmeg and freshly ground pepper and pulse to incorporate. Set aside.
  2. Cut each phyllo sheet into six, 5 cm (2 inch) strips along the long side. Brush generously with the melted butter. Add one tablespoon of the filling to one side of the long strip and begin to fold into a triangle as the diagram below suggests. Continue until you have used up all of the filling. I was able to get 48 triangles.
  3. Bake in a pre-heated 400° F (200° C) oven for 13-15 minutes or until nicely browned. Freeze on a piece of parchment and then gently place into a ziplock bag for future. Reheat frozen triangles at 350° F (176° C) for 10-12 minutes or until warmed through.

Folding Tiropitakia

Tiropitakia_7698

I usually don’t put egg into my spanakopita so these ones puffed up quite a bit more than the spanakopita does.

Notes

  • This recipe can also be made into squares. Use 5 sheets of Phyllo, generously buttered, in a 9″ x 9″ square pan. Add the filling and top with 5 additional, generously buttered sheets. Fold in the edges to make a neat square, add 2 more sheets, generously buttered, cut to the exact size (to make it pretty). Butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned on top.
  • If you wish to save calories, skip the butter on each strip, just butter the triangle, both sides.
  • Some recipes added dill, but it was not comment.

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BourbonStreetMudPie_1

We had another Progressive Dinner a short time ago and because it was in such close proximity to Mardi Gras, we decided it would be a perfect theme! JT and I had dessert so I experimented with King’s Cake, a brioche style pastry roll with pecans and sugar, decorated with yellow, green and purple sanding sugars, but honestly it tasted like breakfast to me and not dessert (sorry Southerners), so back to the drawing board I went. JT suggested Mississippi Mud Pie and after a little research I agreed. Definitely decadent enough for a Mardi Gras dessert and it can be classed up, restaurant style. I found a delightful warm chocolate tart recipe on Anna Olson’s website and altered it a bit to include some of the warm spices reminiscent of King’s Cake. OK, I am fully aware that mud pie is usually made from ice cream and whipped cream, but hey, I’m taking artistic licence!

This was our 9th progressive dinner, we’ve been having them since 2012! It’s the BEST group of neighbours and everyone gives it their all to make the evening fantastic, which often lasts until the wee hours of the morning…

Here is the menu from this time around, everything was incredibly DELICIOUS!

House #1 Appetizers:

  • Spicy Cajun Shrimp
  • Fried Andouille Sausage
  • Crab Cakes

House #2 Main Course:

  • Blackened Chicken Thighs
  • Corn Maque Choux
  • Rice and Beans

House #3 Dessert:

  • Bourbon Street Mud Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream
  • Limoncello
  • Late night snack: homemade potato chips with sour cream (Greek yogurt) and onion dip
BoubonStMudPie_2687

It’s a tasty, chocolate tart.

Bourbon Street Mud Pie

Makes 8 servings of 10 cm or 4 inch mini tarts. Original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 80 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 160 g cake & pastry flour
  • 24 g Dutch Process cocoa powder
  • 20 g cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bourbon

Directions for the pastry:

  1. Cream the icing sugar and butter until smooth, then add the yolks and bourbon all at once and beat until fully encorporated.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt) into the butter mixture and stir by hand until evenly combined. The dough is much looser than most pastries. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment until just less than 2mm (¼” thick). Cut circles of the pastry to line eight 10 cm (4-inch) fluted tart shells with a  removable bottom, pressing the dough into the shells and trimming away any excess. If the dough softens, just pop it back into the freezer to harden up for a few minutes. Prick the pastry with a fork. Chill the tart shells for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chilled tart shells onto a baking sheet and bake them for about 15-18minutes, until you see that the pastry has an even, dull finish. Allow to cool while preparing the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:

  1. 3 large egg separated
  2. 112 g sugar, divided
  3. 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
  4. 1 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 12 g Dutch Process cocoa powder, sifted
  7. 86 g bittersweet chocolate, melted (but still warm)
  8. 30 bourbon

Directions for the filling:

  1. Whip the remaining 3 egg whites until foamy then slowly add ¼ cup of the sugar and continue whipping on high speed until the whites hold a soft peak. Set aside.
  2. Whip the 3 egg yolks with the remaining ¼ cup (112 g) of sugar, the vanilla and orange zest until pale and thick. Fold in the egg whites and gently whisk in the cocoa powder, melted chocolate and bourbon. You may refrigerate this overnight (I did for 1 night and 1 full day and it was fine).
  3. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shells and bake for about 8-12 minutes at 350°F until the tarts just begin to lose their shine around the edges, but the centre is still dark and glossy. Allow the tarts to cool 2 minutes, before carefully removing them from their shells to serve warm or allow to come to room temperature. Serve with whipped cream.
BourbonStreetMudPie

You may have noticed that this one has ganache on top…we determined was a bit excessive as it’s a very chocolatey tarte.

BoubonStMudPie_3 copy

This was my first try for a friend’s dinner but it turned out way too rich.

 

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ArgentinianChorizo_1_4091

The long one’s are mild and the short one’s are hot!

Remember the group of neighbours with whom we share a progressive dinner from time to time? Well, we’ve had two such dinners since my last post about them, one was at the cottage of one of the neighbours and the other was just a couple of weeks ago back in the city. The one at the cottage had a European theme and because we had it at the cottage, we left it pretty loose for interpretation and it was fantastic! We were in charge of the hors d’œuvres and appetizers and because it was held dock-side we did an antipasto platter with lots of meat, cheese and roasted vegetables. We snacked on them for a few hours while the Bœuff Bourguignon simmered in the kitchen. For dessert, the other neighbour had the most incredible S’mores with belgian chocolate bars and decadent chocolate chip cookies (instead of graham crackers) by the fire pit. We slipped in dessert just before the skies opened and the rain poured and poured!

The most recent progressive dinner had Latin America as the theme and boy did it ROCK! We started with Cassava and cheese fritters, delicious empanadas and of course, nachos with guacamole and salsa. JT and I had the main and we went all out. I wanted Argentinian because I just love how they adore their meat! I made home-made Argentine Chorizo, we grilled steaks AND ribs! (OK, I confess, I just really wanted to make sausage and that’s why I picked this platter!) We also roasted small yellow potatoes (we were going to have Fried Papas Criollas but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it) and stir-fried a variety of coloured peppers; I even caramelized some onions in case someone wanted to eat Choripan (chorizo in french bread with caramelized onions and peppers) and of course we had Chimichurri sauce (both hot and not!). We had WAY too much food and now we’re enjoying variations of this feast for lunches, dinners and snacks! Dessert was a very tasty and refreshing lime ice cream.

The Argentine Chorizo sausage recipe is slightly different than other Latin American recipes in that it contains nutmeg; it’s not a lot but it does give it a slightly different flavour. I used this recipe with some minor alterations. What I didn’t skimp on was the garlic, it seems like a lot, but it’s not and it’s totally worth it! I made a sweet version and a hot version (sweet was longer and hot were the short ones) and I think both went over excellent. Even though I did use some pork belly, it was still a little dry but more than a couple of people said they preferred it to a greasy sausage. I know I will experiment with other flavours in the near future (like spinach, chicken and feta for example!)

ArgentinianMeat_1_4103

We grilled steaks, ribs and home-made sausages!

ArgentinianMeat_1_4105

It was a meat-lovers heaven.

Argentine Chorizo

Makes about 6 mild Chorizo (15 cm or 6″ long) and about 10 hot Chorizo (8 cm or 3″ long)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red wine (we used this wine)
  • 1 entire head of garlic
  • 5 whole cloves, crushed
  • hog casings
  • 1 kg of pork
  • 400 g of beef
  • 150 g pork belly
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp (heaping) nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp hot chilli pepper flakes (reserve for hot portion)

Directions:

  1. On low heat, gently boil the wine with the whole head of garlic and crushed garlic for 15 to 20 minutes and allow to cool. Strain and reserve the liquid (discard the garlic) should be about 1/2-3/4 cup.
  2. Cut the pork, beef and pork belly into small cubes and pass through the meat grinder set on coarse grind. Mix meat with hands until well blended.
  3. Pour the cooled wine over meat mixture and mix thoroughly. Combine all of the spices together with the exception of the hot chilli pepper flakes and sprinkle over meat mixture. Add the finely chopped garlic and mix into meat well. Divide the meat into two equal portions and set one portion aside. Over the second portion, sprinkle the hot chilli pepper flakes and mix well with hands. Refrigerate both hot and mild sausage meats overnight to allow flavours to develope and mature.
  4. Prepare your sausage casing by rinsing in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Any unused portions may be resalted with seasalt and frozen for future use.
  5. Untangle a reasonable portion of the casing and feed it onto the sausage stuffer attachment, tie a knot at the end. Then in small portions, slowly feed the meat mixture through the sausage stuffer into the casing making sure that it’s relatively evenly filled (it should really fill on its own). Tie off the other end and twist into portion sizes. Poke a lot of small holes throughout the sausage to allow any air bubbles to dissipate (this step will also prevent the sausage from bursting open when grilling). Allow the sausage rest in the refrigerator uncovered for 2- 3 days before cooking or freezing. Once the casing has time to dry out, you should be able to cut the sausages into individual pieces without unravelling the casing.
  6. Grill on a charcoal grill over indirect heat for 30 minutes or until internal temperature is 71° C or 160° F. Serve hot off the grill with french stick and mustard.
Casing_1_4080

This is the natural casing. Someone on-line said it smelled really bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to smell it.

ArgChorizo_1_4081

The meat fills into the casing relatively easily. In fact, you hardly need to help it.

ArgentinianChorizo_1_4083

This is a really long sausage.

ArgentinianChorizo_1_4084

This is the sausage twisted into portions. I made two sizes so I could easily tell which one was hot. As the sausage dries in the fridge, the twisted ends will also dry out and be strong enough to cut through without it unravelling..

Notes:

  • Whenever I grind meat, I always prepare a medium-sized bowl which I submerged in an ice bath to ensure the meat remains cool as I work it through the grinder. My hands are always cold, so I don’t worry about mixing the meat but if your hands are hot, you may wish to use a wooden spoon.
  • To gage how much casing you’ll need, just tell the butcher how much meat you have, I had about 2 kg (4.4 lb) and he portioned out the casings which ended up to be about 2X too much. He suggested I could salt it and freeze it for next time. Casing are not expensive.

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GuinessStew_1287

The biscuit was the perfect flaky texture to sop up the lovely gravy from the slow roasted Guinness Stew.

As you know we had our fourth progressive dinner on our street and you already know that I made this amazing Guinness Stew but what I didn’t tell you is that I had a major meltdown about four hours before the dinner was to begin. The stew was going perfectly smoothly, the aromas as it finished cooking on the day of filled the house, it was heavenly; the meat was fork tender, the vegetables still had a touch of bite to them and the cauliflower celeriac mash was creamy and wonderful. But I still needed to make the puff pastry topping.

I had fully intended on learning to make this wonderful laminated dough a few days before but as luck would have it, things got busy (I’m assisting more and more these days, but I’ll tell you about that later) so the day before I pulled out the emergency puff pastry dough from the freezer. I had a few errands to do that day and I finally got back to the house around 2pm which would have given me plenty of time to roll out the dough, cut and bake it ready for assembly for the dinner. But things would not go that smoothly.

ButterBiscuit_1297

A very flaky biscuit indeed

As I pulled the dough out of the fridge, I found it looked a little odd, and then when I opened the package, it had gone off. I was stunned. When I checked the expiry date I realized my error, it was expired!!!! Well, that was that. Or was it? I tossed the package and quickly went to work; several weeks before I had read about a ‘quick’ laminated pastry dough that Liz (from That Skinny Chick Can Bake) made. So out came the iPad and I went to work! The ‘quick’ laminated pastry dough still required more hours than I had to allow the dough to rest in between foldings, but I was determined! I reduced the resting times significantly and I turned Liz’s sweet pastry dough into a savoury one, the results were exceptional. I didn’t use the entire batch so I stored the leftovers in the freezer, resting and I’ll get back to it in the near future, but this quirky version of ‘quick’ laminated dough exceeded my expectations and best of all, it was a hit at the dinner table. Thank you Liz, you saved the day!

Butter Biscuits — a ‘quick’ laminated pastry dough

I made 10 biscuits and put the remainder of the dough in the freezer for another time. Please check here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp bread maker quick dissolve yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 cm or 1/4″ thick slices
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp merlot sea salt (I received the merlot sea salt as a gift from my friend Kristy at Our Family Food Adventures when we met up )

Directions:

  1. Add the warm water to a bowl and gently mix in the yeast and sugar. Allow to stand until frothy and then add the milk, egg and salt; set aside.
  2. Add the flour to a food processor with metal blades. Drop cut butter and the finely chopped rosemary into the flour, pulsing 8 to 10 times, so that the butter is cut into 1 cm or 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. Combine the flour mixture with the yeast mixture and gently fold the two with a rubber spatula,  just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t be too energetic, the butter must remain in pieces so that you will produce a flaky pastry, not a bread dough or cookie.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  5. Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out onto it; dust very lightly with flour.
  6. Gently roll out the dough to 41 cm or 16 inches along one side and fold it into thirds similar to how one would fold a letter.
  7. Turn dough clockwise 1/4 turn. Roll out again into a narrow rectangle and fold into thirds again.
  8. Roll dough one more time into a 51 cm or 20 inch square and fold into thirds again to make a narrow rectangle, then fold up the ends to make a square. Cover with plastic wrap and put into the freezer for another 30 minutes. Note, it is very important to keep the dough cold so the butter doesn’t begin melting, if you find it’s warming up, put back into the freezer for a few minutes to cool down.
  9. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  10. Roll the dough out to a 1 cm or 1/2 inch thickness and using a desired cookie cutter (mine was a triangle that was about 20 cm or 4 inches wide).
  11. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle merlot sea salt on top.
  12. Place triangles onto a cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden.
ButterBiscuit_1305

I decorated the biscuit with Merlot Sea Salt

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We celebrated our fourth Progressive dinner a few weeks ago with our lovely neighbours. During the last dinner the boys dreamed up our next theme: Beer! I was lucky enough to be next up for the main course so I was excited because I don’t often cook with beer and I don’t often make stew; I was thinking Guinness Stew!

We started at house one with a variety of beer cheeses and beer candied bacon (definitely on my list to make!), they also served a delicious Steam Whistle Butternut Squash Soup garnished with bits of the candied bacon and a splash of cream, very tasty indeed. Then of course it was our place and then at the third house we enjoyed dessert which was a fantastic Beer Brownie, it was definitely moist and flavourful. All of the dishes were wonderful and the company was great. We’ve even determined our next theme: Mad Men! We’re going to have fun with that as far as I could tell, all they did was eat cake and drink. Should be an interesting party!

Guinness is by far my favourite beer; thick, creamy, caramel tones and even a little liquorish flavours are a perfect pairing with the hearty, earthy beef. My friend Angela (of Titanic Anniversary, Truman Capote’s Black and White, James Bond 60th Anniversary dinner parties) served up this Beef and Guinness Stew for the Bond party and I knew it would be the recipe I wanted to make. Plus it has Guinness in it. Did I mention it has Guinness in it?

I made this stew the day before because stews always taste better the next day and I would urge you to do the same. JT confessed he likes this stew better than his Bœuff Bourguignon! Make sure you refrigerate overnight and then bring it to room temperature before you reheat. I also added carrots because one of our neighbours is not a mushroom eater so I wanted another vegetable in it and it tastes and looks amazing. I used eye of round which is a rather tough cut of beef, but I wanted to bake it longer at a lower temperature and I wanted a meat that would stand up; it was amazing, totally fork tender keeping its shape for serving. I also added a bit of beef stock when I reheated because the sauce thickened up a bit too much, use your own discretion on how thick or watery you want your sauce to be. Guinness’ website offers up a recipe that looks very watery but it’s entirely up to you.

GuinessStew_1292

The biscuits were perfect for this type of stew

Guinness Beef Stew

Serves 6-8 (it’s a filling meal, so you may even get 9 out of it!)

(original recipe is by Executive chef John Cordeaux of The Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto as published in Canadian Living) I have altered the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb (907 g) eye of round beef roast, trimmed and cut into 5-8 cm (2-3″) cubes (I like bigger chunks of meat, serving size is 2-3 per person
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetabIe oil
  • 6 slices chopped bacon
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely sliced
  • 4 cups (1 L) small mushrooms, either halved (if large) or whole (if small)
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced in 2-3 cm (1.5″) chunks
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) all purpose flour
  • 1 can (440ml) Guinness draught beer
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) grainy mustard (I made my own here)
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) white pepper
  • 1 cup of beef stock (to be added when reheating the stew)
  • Fresh Rosemary to garnish

Directions:

  1. In ovenproof Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown the beef in batches, transferring to bowl using slotted spoon (don’t drain, you’ll want the liquid from the beef too).
  2. Once the meat has been browned and removed, cook the bacon until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes; remove bacon with slotted spoon to a piece of paper towel to drain and then reserve.
  3. Drain off the pan fat and melt the butter over medium head. Add the onions and sweat until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms (I was concerned that they would over cook over the 3 hours in the oven).
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and cook continually stirring for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook stirring for another minute. Whisk in Guinness, grainy mustard, salt and pepper until smooth.
  5. Return beef and bacon and juices to the pan, cover and bake at 250°F (121° C) until beef is tender, about 2.5-3 hours.
  6. In the meantime, peel and cut carrots into chunks. Roast on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour (not 100% done).
  7. When beef is cooked, add the carrots and mushrooms and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until day of serving.
  8. Remove beef from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature (2-3 hours).
  9. Pre heat the oven to 200°F (93° C). On the stove top, warm beef slowly to boiling, adding beef stock as required. Fold instead of stirring to avoid breaking apart the meat.
  10. Cover and put into the oven until ready to serve.
  11. Serve with Cauliflower Celeriac “Mashed Potatoes” and a Butter Biscuit (recipe).
GuinessStew_1287

Thick, rich Guinness Stew, I know you want some!

Note: Don’t be concerned that the stew might be bitter, the long cooking process, sweet tomato paste and onions certainly round out what ever bitterness there may have been. Allowing to rest overnight also helps round out the flavours.

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