Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caramelized Pear Ice Cream

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Caramelized Pear Ice Cream

I've never had pear ice cream, and didn't know it could be this good.  The pear is refreshing, but the caramelization gives it a buttery flavor and creaminess, without any butter.  For this recipe in The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz recommends Comice or Bartlett pears, which he says have a heady, roselike aroma when ripe.  I found beautiful and fragrant red Comice pears at the grocery store.

I also made his recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Sauce to drizzle on top, but it's totally unnecessary and kind of redundant.  Joe's really been enjoying the caramel as a topping for vanilla ice cream, and the sauce is really easy to make.  But the Pear-Caramel Ice Cream is delicious all on its own.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Chipotle Chicken and Rice

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Chipotle Chicken and Rice Square

This dish has gone through several incarnations, but its origins were in a dish called Pollo Estofado.  I liked this chicken and rice dish from my sister's ex, and made some changes for convenience and personal taste.  He served rice on the side in addition to potatoes in the dish; I was looking to avoid carb overload so I threw out the potatoes, and decided the green bell peppers should go too.  In the end, I browned the chicken with aromatics, then cooked the rice in the same saute pan -- the chicken ends up infusing the rice with its flavor.  Frozen peas are stirred in at the end and warmed through, adding a bright green.

But now I have one more revision.  Inspired by a similar Martha Stewart recipe I saw online that looked hopelessly fussy, I added chipotles to my dish for added flavor and heat.  The two chipotles made the spice level barely warm, so I would use four next time.  Point of reference: I'm a spice wimp, so if you like it hot you may want to amp it up with even more chiles.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shredded Pork in Red Chili

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Shredded Pork in Red Chili
As much as I complain about the ending of summer, it's always exciting when the time to make cold-weather comfort food arrives.  This recipe seemed like the answer to that pork loin stashed in my freezer, and I was intrigued by the idea of a pork chili.  In my hurry, I shaved an hour off the cook time and the meat was still fall-apart tender.

I made a few changes.  For one, the recipe doesn't say how much hominy to use, so I just left it out.  Also, I'm not fond of yuca and didn't have any, so I substituted a sweet potato.  I felt the sweet potato absorbed too much salty flavor, and might be inclined to leave it out or cook it separately next time.  And as a spice wuss I cut down on the dried chiles and chipotle.  The verdict: Joe was crazy about this dish, and I thought it was OK.  It was good, but I didn't feel wowed, like something was missing.  And not just the tongue-sear from omitting some chiles.  I might give it another go, now that we're officially in Dutch oven season.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sarabeth's Maple Muffins

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Maple Muffins

Muffins often don't impress me, but the recipe for these Maple Muffins caught my eye right away.  Joe got me Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Home to Yours as one of my Christmas gifts a year ago, and I was drawn to the photo with the golden sides and crackly tops.  I also love maple syrup as a flavoring.  On first bite, I was surprised because I expected a more assertive maple flavor.  But it's more subtle, kind of lightly perfumed with maple, and the walnuts taste a little salty by comparison.  Winner.

Sarabeth's Maple Muffins

An additional bonus was how easy the recipe was.  Especially compared with the Pains au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) and Pains aux Raisins I made from the book earlier this year!  A negative?  Pure maple syrup is an expensive ingredient, and the Grade B (it's superior to Grade A) this recipe calls for isn't always sold in supermarkets.  My tip is to buy it at Trader Joe's if there's a location near you, since it had the Grade B available and was more affordable.

Maple Muffins in Pan

Also worth mentioning is that I made these in a cupcake pan, and the leftover batter in mini brioche molds.  I don't own a muffin pan, and even I have a limit with how much I cram in my kitchen.  Sarabeth writes that she's not a fan of paper muffin liners, and I have to agree because the muffins got the most beautiful, golden brown sides without them.  If you also opt for a cupcake pan, cut the cooking time short by 5 minutes.

Finally, the recipe also calls for some whole wheat flour.  I like King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour because it's got all the nutrition of whole wheat, but its taste and consistency are closer to plain white flour.  The difference is that it's made from the white wheat berry instead of the red wheat berry, which is used for the more common whole wheat flour in stores.

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Tea Party Tuesday
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Sweets for a Saturday