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Posts Tagged ‘cognac’

JT and I were sipping wine in the living room by a roaring fire, we were discussing the Christmas “Do-Over” dinner that we decided to host in January. I had just done all the shopping for the menu and then JT mentions that his family are not much stuffing lovers. THAT in itself is blasphemous, but what made it worse is that I had just done all the shopping. Did I mention that I had just done all the shopping? I had bought a lot of mushrooms. A LOT. And they weren’t cheap so they were not going to be omitted from the dinner!

So instead of making a stuffing of mushrooms and chestnuts I created a pilaff! And what a success it was; the earthy mushroom flavours with the slightly chewy texture of the wild rice and the sweet chestnuts and brown rice complimented each other so well, I decided to blog about it so I don’t forget to make it next time. This recipe is really just a combination of suggestions, so if you don’t like something, omit it and add a bit of something else. Even the volumes of everything are a suggestion, so put on your recipe developer hat and make this pilaff your own!

Another great thing is that you can make it the day before so you’re not in a panic the day that  6 people descend on you!

WildMushroomRicePilaf_1946

Even my Nephew who is not fond of mushrooms had a generous helping!

Wild Mushroom Rice Pilaff with Chestnuts and Cognac

Serves 8-10 as part of two other side dishes.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g – 1 kg wild mushrooms (I used 1 Portobello, ~5 cremini, ~12 shitaki, ~1 large bunch oyster), chopped roughly
  • 300 g (3.5 oz) roasted chestnuts, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, diced rather small
  • 1/2 sweet onion (about 1 cup), chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup wild rice (cooked, as per directions)
  • 1/4 cup sweet brown rice (cooked, as per directions)
  • 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp thyme

Directions:

  1. In a very hot Dutch oven, cook pancetta until crispy, remove and drain on paper towel and set aside. You may use the pancetta grease to cook in, but it you’d rather be a touch healthier, wipe out the pan and spray with a little non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Cook onions until translucent. Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the cognac. Add the butter to the hot pan and once melted add the chopped mushrooms. Cook with the top off until the mushrooms are no longer chewy.
  3. Stir in the pancetta, chestnuts and cooked rice until well blended. Spray non-stock cooking spray in a decorative casserole dish which can be put into the oven and pour the mushrooms and rice into it. Don’t pack it down.
  4. If you are making this the day before, allow to cool completely and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, remove the pilaff from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and reheat for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.
WildMushroomRicePilaf_1945

The chestnuts are such a sweet and creamy surprise!

Tips:

  • You may ‘chop’ the mushrooms in a food processor to save time, but be careful not to chop too finely. I did not use this method because I wanted larger, identifiable mushroom pieces.
  • You may also use barley, wheat berries or any other sturdy grain instead of wild rice.
  • Cooking sherry may be substituted for the cognac or brandy, but I prefer cognac with mushrooms.
  • I like to buy already peeled and roasted chestnuts like these, but you can roast and peel your own.
  • To add another layer of texture and flavour, add 1/2 cup of chopped roasted pecans.
Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 11.55.51 AM

Based on 10 servings

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I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a recipe developer by a colleague from my previous position and as it turned out they needed a Recipe Tester right away! How serendipitous is that? And cool. The experience is amazing! I know I’ve talked about what it is to be a recipe tester briefly so here is a more detailed synopsis. And no, I won’t be posting any of those recipes here.

You read the recipe thoroughly with a highlighter in hand and highlight any discrepancies or things you need clarified. You ask the Recipe Developer questions re your highlights. The recipe is hashed out. Now switch to a different coloured pen. Start your stop watch, you need to time how long it takes you to prep (mise en place) and cook the ingredients. Follow the recipe to a “T” making notes along the way, there is no “a little this and a little that” when you’re testing! Once you have finished cooking the recipe, stop the stop watch and make a note of the time it took. Baking time is noted separately than the prep and cooking time; there is always a bake time on the recipe but you need to confirm that it’s accurate, one of the recipes I recently tested had to have its bake time doubled!

When the recipe has finished cooking or baking, you review it for appearance, texture and taste (yes, you have to taste the recipe!). Sometimes you are required to take a volume measurement of a product after its cooked for reference. Usually there is more than one recipe tester and the results are accumulated and assessed by the recipe developer. The finished recipes are usually for your consumption but sometimes they are just not your taste so your neighbours get lucky! My recent testing was baking sweets and I divided the bounty up between two friends who were very happy to receive the food!

Just before Christmas my Recipe Developer asked me to participate in a client tasting; I had to shop for the product, prep about 1/2 day on a few recipes and then finish cooking the recipes on the day of the tasting. We had 10 recipes in total. We cooked each recipe to its full volume and then spooned out small portions for tasting, I kept the tasting portions warm while the previous portion was discussed and evaluated. Each recipe was discussed for about 10-20 minutes and the discussion resulted in approved recipes with minor changes or complete revisions. The full portions are prepared to show the size the recipe yields for a family dinner. It’s actually quite an interesting process. Photos of the tested recipes are only used as reference. When the recipes are finally approved, the client will hire a photographer, a prop stylist, a food stylist and hopefully a food stylist assistant ;-)! The food stylist will prepare the final approved recipe and make it pretty for the photo.

I suspect that when you develop a recipe for your blog you work in much the same way that a recipe tester would work. It really needs to be buttoned down otherwise there may be disappointment if someone tries to make the recipe and it doesn’t work out. I really appreciate the detailed photos some bloggers do to show each and every step but I decided at the beginning of my blog that my photos would be only of the final product.

When I started blogging I came to realize how undisciplined I have been cooking, a little of this, a little of that; blogging makes you button down really well, measure, measure, measure and write it down — it has been a great starting point for my recipe testing. I am going to be doing more recipe testing in the new year!

But now, back to what we really eat! I’ve been making a lot of soups lately and this soup came together beautifully; the nutty roasted garlic and the earthy and sweet mushrooms were a great combination. I don’t think I would change a thing but I won’t mind if you do!

RoastedGarlicMushroomSoup_1354

The cognac butter really made the soup

Roasted Garlic Mushroom Soup with Cognac

Ingredients:

Makes 4 servings, about 250 mL each

  • 35 g or 1 1/2 cups of dried mushrooms (I used Chinese Mushrooms with the crackle-like tops and Chinese Black Fungus)
  • 2 cups water
  • About 1/4 cup of puréed roasted garlic (1 head)
  • 3-4 tbsp EVOO
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 85 g or 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 200 g (2 cups) Fresh Cremini and Shitaki Mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 fresh thyme branches
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp cognac
  • 2-4 fresh finely sliced Cremini and Shitaki mushrooms for garnish.

Directions:

  1. Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water (about 2-4 hours). Drain through a fine sieve and reserve the drained liquid. Chop mushrooms finely.
  2. Roast 1 head of garlic in a small ramekin with about 4 tbsp EVOO and sea salt, about 45 minutes at 350°F. Cool and remove the softened cloves and the olive oil and set aside.
  3. Sauté the shallots in the butter until soft. Add the all of fresh mushrooms and rehydrated mushrooms to the shallots and cook until soft.
  4. Add the reserved rehydrating liquid and 2 additional cups of water. Add the thyme and lemon zest and bring to a boil.
  5. Using your immersion blender, blend until very smooth, add the roasted garlic cloves and roasting EVOO. You may wish to press it through a fine sieve so that it is silky smooth. Set aside until you are ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, reheat the velvety smooth soup.
  7. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a frying pan, add the remaining sliced Cremini and Shitaki and sauté until soft. Remove from heat and add the 2 tsp cognac and stir well.
  8. Serve the hot soup in a warmed rimmed soup bowl, garnished with the softened mushrooms and drizzled with the cognac butter.
RoastedGarlicMushroomSoup_1353

There is no cream in this lovely soup

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HAPPY ST PATRICK’s DAY. I have NOTHING green for you, other than this, hope you enjoy it.

I had my hair appointment this week. I book it as early as I can in the afternoon, without having to leave work early. I got 6pm. I had a couple of things done (I won’t divulge my secrets ;-)!) and although I do love my stylist, Jordan, he does have the gift of the gab. A simple cut can take over an hour. I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth, and then some. I wish they served wine, just saying. The appointment this week would be at least two hours long. Good old JT figured I’d be starving by then, so he whipped up an old favourite for cocktails (yes, we had cocktails before my appointment even though it was Thursday. We had time for cocktails but not for dinner. So, what of it?). This recipe is quite forgiving so the quantities are not exact. I urge you to try it to your taste. It is one yummy combo, that’s for sure!

We had this appetizer quite a few years ago, in a place that no longer exists; we up’d the anti, of course!

Sizzling Mushrooms

Serves 2-4

Careful, they are called sizzling for a reason

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced coarsely (we had white ones that needed to be used, but forest or wild would be incredible as well)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced onions
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled sheeps milk feta
  • 2 tbsp cognac
  • a few slices of French stick, or crackers

Delicious lightly buttery shrooms, sweet onion, tangy garlic and sheeps milk feta...oh wait, there is a splash of cognac in that too!

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a cast iron pan (cast is best as it holds the heat longer, after all, it is called SIZZLING!)
  2. Add the onions and sauté until slightly translucent, add the mushrooms and sauté until they have a bit of colour. Add the garlic and sauté just until you can smell its delicious aroma.
  3. Pour the cognac in all at once, you may flambé at this point or not.
  4. Sprinkle the feta into the mushrooms and give it a stir. You can add a bit of Thyme into it at this point, we didn’t, we forgot (having got into the martinis already ;)!)
  5. Serve immediately with Vodka Martinis (I don’t care if you shake or stir, just do it!).

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