Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey Soup with Mushrooms & Wild Rice

I don't know about you but I looked through dozens of use-up-leftover-turkey recipes before throwing up my hands, getting out a pot and doing it my way.

After Thanksgiving, the last thing I want to do is make a casserole with a block of cream cheese, or a soup with a pint of half and half. I want something easy that uses my leftover turkey, tastes fantastic, isn't over the top in calories and doesn't make me feel like I'm eating Thanksgiving dinner again.

If you have leftover rice, toss it in instead of making wild rice. Don't have leftover turkey? A rotisserie chicken would be great here. Just remove the skin and strip the meat from the bones. Save the carcass for making stock later!

This soup is easy, earthy, healthy, and deeply satisfying on a cold, rainy (or snowy) night. I like to cook my carrots, onions and celery down so they're lightly browned and very soft. Otherwise, I think the vegetables are too vegetal and they detract from the mellow flavor of the soup. To make it even faster, look for mirepoix (a combination of chopped celery, onion, and carrot) and cleaned sliced mushrooms in your produce section, and cook your wild rice before work, or the night before. Otherwise, you can start the wild rice, then chop your vegetables and make the rest of the recipe. By the time you finish with the rest of the recipe, your wild rice will be done and ready to add to the pot.

Turkey Soup with Mushroom & Wild Rice
Printer-friendly recipe

1 cup wild rice, uncooked

Prepare the wild rice according to package directions. Then chop the vegetables and prepare the rest of your soup:

3 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional if your pan gets dry)
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 ribs of celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium-large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or grated on a Microplane
1/8 teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper (optional)
3 leaves of sage, finely minced
4 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked turkey, chopped

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large, deep saucepan (I made this in a 12" non-stick sauté pan, so you can go that route, too) over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to soften and give off their juices, stirring only occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a plate and set aside. 

Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pot, and add the celery, carrots and onion. Stir to coat with the oil and cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetable have started to soften but are still firmish. Add the garlic and stir into the vegetables. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5-8 minutes, until the vegetables are quite soft, medium brown and cooked down considerably. Stir in the cayenne, sage and thyme branches, add salt and pepper to taste. Pour in 6 cups of the broth and cook until mixture is bubbling around the sides, stirring occasionally. Once all is hot, add your cooked wild rice and chopped turkey. If needed, add more broth (I like my soups to be more stuff than broth, but it's totally up to you). Heat through, then remove the thyme branches before serving.

Makes 8 servings

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Normandy Apple Tart

This week, the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers are making Dorie's Normandy apple tart, selected by Tracey at Tracey's Culinary Adventures. More than any other individual blogger, Tracey's site is the one I check first when searching for something to make on a whim. She's a sweet, generous person and has helped me so much in the past with questions I've had about blogging and photography. I simply couldn't miss her final pick, one of the last ones we'll make with the group.

I was fortunate I had a tart shell premade in the freezer. I don't know if it's Dorie's recipe but it was there and that made this recipe even easier. So too for the apple sauce (I actually substituted apple butter). I used a recipe I learned when I went to canning school at Happy Girl Kitchen last month. I had made it a few weeks ago and I was so pleased with myself that I left the jars out on the counter to bring me a smile whenever I passed through the kitchen.

With the two most time consuming steps already out of the way, this recipe came together in minutes. I made a mini, because that was what the crust in the freezer was, and because I didn't have time to peel a couple of apples. I took the cheek off of one Gala apple, peeled that, thinly sliced it, arranged the slices on top of the apple butter, brushed it with some egg wash and off to the oven it went. 

Mine baked quite quickly because the tart shell was still hot when I loaded it up with the apple butter and apple slices, so I had to cover it with foil to keep the edge of the crust from browning too much. After just 25 minutes, it came out of the oven and I brushed it with a little quince jelly (which was one of the recipes Jordan made at the canning workshop). It gave the apple slices a lovely glow, and the combination of apples and quince is such a natural.

This was a delicious and, yes, even easy dessert with a little advance planning. The mellow tang of the apple butter contrasted nicely with the crisp-tender apple slices and the crunch of the tart shell. The star was truly the apple butter, so I encourage you to use a good quality filling.

If you'd like the recipe as Dorie intended it, Tracey has the recipe posted for you here. And be sure to check out what the other TWD bakers can find their tarts here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bittersweet Brownies

I joined Tuesdays with Dorie with the expectation that I would become a better baker, that I would enjoy working through a massive cookbook with many fabulous recipes, and the self discipline that comes with that would be a bonus.

Somewhere on the road of Become a Better Baker my journey changed, almost imperceptibly. See, I never set out to form friendships. Indeed, I liked the behind-the-scenes nature of the closet blogger. An insanely private person, I had no desire to get close to people.

Yet in spite of my best attempts at standoffishness I found friends, yes friends, whom I've never met. That is until about a week ago.

Enter Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs and the Nancy pan. Nancy was on the West coast and we arranged to meet up. In an opportune twist, Nancy hadn't baked these brownies yet, and neither had I, so she came to the house and we made them together.

It's always interesting to meet someone whom you know and yet don't. The voice, the face, the mannerisms all fill out the impression you have of that person. Nancy already had my sincere admiration (she seemingly never sleeps, rarely misses a week baking with the group even when traveling, and is among the kindest and most solicitous of a very kind group of gals) but getting to know her was like staying up late talking with a friend at summer camp.

Baking together was a joy (especially for me since Nancy is a champion nut chopper). We traded tips and ideas as we attempted to focus on the recipe and remember to take photos. Because we're coming to the end of the book, we were less concerned about being perfect and more comfortable enjoying the process.

It is bittersweet that our days of Baking From My Home to Yours are coming to an end. I have loved this book, loved 95% of what I've made from it, but the sweeter gift has been the friendship of a group of women whom I love and respect.

And so it was that the recipe that I had chosen for this week became the perfect metaphor. The sadness of finishing the book and knowing that many of the TWD bakers will be going their own way was sweetened by the friendships that have eclipsed the book. Bittersweet indeed, yet the perfect opportunity for two friends to share a brownie.

Bittersweet Brownies - from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Printer friendly recipe

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (we used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chips)
1 1/2 cups/150 grams sugar (we cut it back to 125 grams)
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup/140 grams all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pecans, chopped (my choice, optional)

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet. (we used parchment paper, which doesn't need buttering)

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Put the butter in the bowl, top with the chopped chocolate and stir occasionally until the ingredients are just melted - you don't want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

With a whisk, stir in the sugar. The mixture might get grainy, but it will even out. Whisk in the eggs one by one, then add the vanilla and whisk enthusiastically to smooth the batter. Finally, gently whisk in the espresso powder, if you're using it, salt and flour, stirring only until incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the pecans (if using) on top of the batter and lightly press into the batter, just enough to anchor the nuts.

Bake the brownies until the top is dull and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, usually about 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the brownies to room temperature.

When they are completely cool, turn out onto a rack, peel away the foil and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 32 slender rectangles, each roughly 2 1/4 x 1 1/2 inches.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jacques Torres's Mudslide Cookies

If ever there was the perfect chocolate cookie, this is it. If I stopped my search for the perfect chocolate experience with this cookie, I wouldn't feel like I was missing anything.

I've tried a lot of chocolate cookies in my time. Many I've baked but I've also bought. Some were mediocre, some good, some delicious, a few fabulous.

This is an extraordinary cookie.

I found them on the Crepes of Wrath (great name!) and I knew I had to make them pronto. I dreamt about them. I daydreamed about them. I plotted to have a free evening to make them. And finally, I managed to put together a few hours (not that they take that long, I just wanted to be able to savor them when not in a work-induced freak out).

I pulled out my Valrhona chocolate and flaky Malden sea salt to get the best result I could. Use the very best chocolate you can afford. You'll use a lot of it, but you won't mind a bit once you've had that first bite. Promise.

Chocolate Mudslide Cookies - adapted from Jacques Torres
Printer-friendly recipe

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 pounds chopped bittersweet chocolate, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped
fleur de sel or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
parchment paper, for lining the baking sheets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Melt 16 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate with the unsweetened chocolate in a medium pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Beat together the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until it has the texture of wet sand. Add in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in the flour mixture, and mix on the lowest speed until just moistened, then beat in the melted chocolate, until just combined. The dough will seem very wet at this point, but it will come together.

Fold the walnuts and remaining 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate into the batter. Refrigerate the dough for 15-30 minutes before scooping the cookies.

Use a 2-tablespoon sized scoop or two spoons to drop the dough onto the baking sheets (it will be too wet to actually handle with your hands), then sprinkle with a bit of fleur de sel or sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or so. Allow to cool completely before removing from the sheets. Also delicious warm if you can't wait.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


If you follow the goings on of the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers, you know these are supposed to be mini madeleines. But you also know I have a hard time following instructions.

I had something of a madeleine epiphany a while back when I mentioned my disgust with my silicone madeleine pan to my friend Kayte, and she gently referred me to her seminal post on madeleines (you can find it here). She won the blue ribbon at the county fair for her madeleines, and the post she wrote was the equivalent of a thesis on the delightful little cakes made famous by Proust. She eschews all mad pans other than the classic tinned steel, and I promptly bought two and donated my silicone madeleine pan to Goodwill.

These were a last minute project before work this morning and took longer than I thought they would. Of course, everything is taking longer now that I have my buddy with me again:

So yeah, I needed a little something something to cheer me up today. I was a bit preoccupied, and when the recipe said "whisk," I put the whisk attachment on my hand mixer and beat the poor batter like crazy. Oh, and I forgot to add the butter until the very end. But I buttered and floured my pans to the extreme and my exceedingly fluffy but bumpless madeleines popped right out of their pan. They were light, fluffy, crispy on the outside and did I mention they were fluffy? Nothing at all like the dense madeleines you may be used to from your neighborhood coffee shop.

This week's first recipe was selected by another buddy, Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook. I play Words with Friends with Di, and every once in a while she feels sorry for me and lets her eldest daughter fill in for her so I stand a chance of winning a game. If you'd like the recipe for these madeleines, Di has it for you here.

This week's second recipe was chosen by Valerie of Une Gamine dans la Cuisine. She chose Fall Butternut Squash Pie, which I'm sorry I didn't get to. Her pie is GORGEOUS. You can find it here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

My recent windfall of Meyer lemons paid another dividend when I decided to adapt a recipe I originally saw on Tracey's Culinary Adventures. Tracey made hers with caramel but they were screaming to me to be the destination for my leftover lemon curd.

The recipe is from Alice Medrich's book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, which I own, but as with so many of my cookbooks I needed Tracey to point me to the right recipe. This is one of my favorite crust recipes, more like a thick batter that you spread in the pan rather than struggling with crumbly pastry. I use a piece of plastic wrap to tease it into place.

For me, cheesecake and lemon are a natural together as so many classic cheesecake recipes call for lemon zest. These bars, with their easy crust and no nonsense filling, are super simple. With the lemon curd swirled in they were delicious. The lemon was a lovely surprise in the creamy filling, with the crisp, buttery crust coming together in the perfect bite.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars - adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, thanks to Tracey
Printer-friendly recipe

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour

1 cup lemon curd (homemade or jarred)
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1.75 oz) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon Fiore di Sicilia (optional)
2 large eggs, at room temperature

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a 13x9 baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang so you can lift the bars out after they've baked. If using foil, spray it with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the flour until just incorporated - the mixture will be soft, that's fine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let cool completely. Turn the oven down to 325 F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl in between. Pour the cheesecake batter over the cooled crust and spread evenly.

Dollop the lemon curd over the filling. Use a knife to gently swirl the lemon curd into the cheesecake mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are puffed and the center is just barely set.

Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably 24. Use the sling to lift the bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares with a long sharp knife. The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Mine weren't in an airtight container and they cracked but were still delicious.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Honey Pecan Scones

Just like a book you read which you come to with no expectations yet end up falling in love with, these scones are a sleeper hit. I made a couple of changes, used my favorite easy mixing technique, and they were a knockout. Absolutely a top three scone, maybe top two.

I might never have gotten around to making these if Jeannette at The Whimsical Cupcake hadn't chosen them for Tuesdays with Dorie. I made them when the November recipes were first announced, and I've been craving one ever since. Try them and you will to.

Honey Pecan Scones - adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours
Printer-friendly recipe

1 large egg
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup cold whole milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Lightly flour a counter.

Stir the egg, honey and milk together in a measuring cup or small bowl and set aside.

Measure the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Drop in the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture is pebbly. With the mixer on low, pour in the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until the mixture is not quite combined. You should have some streaks of flour but no pools of milk. Stir in the chopped pecans with a spatula. The flour should now be almost entirely worked in though streaks are fine (better in fact than no streaks).

Turn the dough onto your lightly floured counter and shape it into a circle about 1" high. Using a 2" biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out the scones, dipping the cutter in flour before each cut and making each cut close to the previous one; place on the baking sheet. Gently gather the scraps together and cut out the remaining scones. You should have about 12 scones.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops are deeply golden and firmish to the touch. Transfer them to a wire rack. Best served warm, still delicious at room temperature.

Note: My favorite way to make scones is to cut them out, put them on baking sheets, wrap well with plastic wrap and freeze them. To bake, place a few on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake them, still frozen, for 20 minutes.