Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Got Leftovers? Make Fried Rice!

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That's what I did after two days of eating Christmas ham. You can only eat so much leftover ham! After all, fried rice is a dish of leftovers -- throw in whatever meat and vegetables you have in the fridge. The rice, in fact, must be at least a day old or you get gluey fried rice. So save the white rice from your takeout order, or make a pot of rice the night before.  Then throw it all together, and you've got yourself a new meal.  If you don't have or don't eat ham (or shrimp), try chicken, roast pork, or your favorite vegetables.  I was also only too eager to break in the new wok I got for Christmas, and I've been wanting to cook more Chinese food (you know, heritage and all).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Has Anyone Seen My Linzer Cookies?

Photo updated December 2012
I can finally publish this post now that my sister knows I sent her a package of linzer cookies.  Bad news is, she still hasn't received them, and I sent them by priority shipping over a week ago!  I told her that some neighbor has to be chewing on them now.  At least I have this photo here, so she can see what her batch looked like.  (I don't think she'll find that funny.)  Hazelnuts give the linzer cookie its great flavor, sweetened by raspberry jam, and cutout centers make them fun.  I bake them for her every year, but they can be a pain to make.  But this year, I have a recipe resulting in less swearing and other language not in the spirit of the holidays.


This King Arthur Flour version calls for hazelnut flour (essentially smushed-up nuts), eliminating the need the grind up my own nuts.  Never mind cracking them, like the first time I made these cookies.  Not fun.  It also doesn't call for repeatedly freezing the dough like my old Martha Stewart recipe.  Really, who has freezer space to devote to sheets of cookie dough, anyway?  As for the taste and texture, they're really so similar I might not be able to tell the two recipes apart in a taste test.  My vote is for this simpler one!  Merry Christmas, everyone!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Potato Gratin

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This is a great dish for just a regular steak night, like we had tonight, but fancy enough to be a holiday dinner side dish with guests.  I was excited when I saw it in the newest issue of Martha Stewart Living, since I just got a mandoline as an early Christmas gift.  We already own a standard one -- it wasn't sharp enough to slice vegetables properly but it was sharp enough to slash our fingers.  It's collecting dust.  This ceramic blade mandoline is less fancy and doesn't come with a standing end and all sorts of blades, but it does exactly what I want it to.  The potatoes slice up just thin enough to layer in a creamy sauce topped with a cheesy crust.  And it's very possible that for the first time mashed potatoes might take a hiatus from my Christmas table in favor of another potato dish!

Potato Gratin
From Martha Stewart Living January 2010 Issue
Serves 6
2½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (I had Russets, which worked fine)
1 garlic clove, halved
1½ cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (I used 1%)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated, about 1 cup (I had white cheddar on hand)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Peel potatoes, and place in a bowl of water to prevent discolorng.  Rub inside of a 9-by-12-inch oval baking dish with cut sides of garlic.  Heat cream, milk, nutmeg, and 1½ teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around edge.  Season with pepper.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile slice potatoes ⅛ inch thick; transfer to a bowl.  Pour warm cream mixture over top.  Mix well, using your hands to separate and coat potatoes, then transfer to prepared dish.  Gently push potatoes down, and pour cream mixture from bowl over top.  Sprinkle with Gruyere.  Bake (with a baking sheet placed on the rack below to catch drips) until potatoes are fork tender and top is bubbling and brown, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

A mandoline helps you create thin, uniform slices.

In dish before cream is poured on top.

Cheesy and crunchy on top.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bacon Cheddar Chive Scones

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These scones were SO good after shoveling snow up to my knees outside, with flakes still falling everywhere.  I trudged back in, chilly and worn out, and baked these up.  They were delicious warm out of the oven, flaky but slightly gooey with the cheese.  I've only eaten sweet scones before, but this savory recipe has won me over.  Salty bacon, sharp cheddar, and fresh chives make the perfect wintry breakfast.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Cookies, Take 2

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My second try with royal icing came out a zillion times better!  It dried up hard and shiny in about an hour, unlike that goopy mess from the first batch.  The keys to my success: a new recipe and gel food coloring.

The liquid food coloring just thins out the icing so much that it takes forever to dry.  And when it did dry, the icing became separated and grainy.  These gels worked out great, along with the squeeze bottle with piping tip.

I let the base coats dry before piping decorations on top.

The green set.

This time, I went to Baking911's page on Royal Icing and used the recipe for Outline Consistency.  Here's how I adapted it:

2½ tbs meringue powder (in the baking aisle, or at party or craft stores)
8 oz. confectioners sugar
¼ cup lukewarm water

Mix for 10 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment.  Spoon out a third of the mixture into an airtight container -- this will be your portion for piping.  Turn the mixer back on and add 2 tbs water.  Scrape that into other airtight containers and stir in colorings.  If it's too stiff for your needs, add a tiny amount of water; if it's too runny, add confectioners sugar until it gets to the right consistency.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Decorated Christmas Cookies

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To kick-start the spirit of the season at home, we made these decorated butter cookies in ornament shapes.  The dough was easy to make and we took turns rolling it and cutting out the shapes, assembly-line style.  I like it more than the standard sugar cookie, which often has no flavor except plain old sugar.  These have a sweetness offset by just a hint of saltiness and a nice buttery flavor.  Decorating them was a pain.  If you use royal icing, set aside a lot of time to dry, and know that colors darken as they sit.  Using half a bottle of red coloring was an error!  And use powdered or gel coloring if you can -- I have a feeling the liquid coloring added lots of hours to the drying time.  More on that later.  I had planned to mail these out to someone, but 24 hours later some still were not dry.  Oh well, more cookies for us!