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Monday, December 28, 2009

Apple, Pear and Blueberry Crumble

I'm pretty sure that's the start of a football game. Or a wrestling match. Perhaps basketball. If anyone knows, please send me a note.
My inspiration for this dessert came from my refrigerator. I had a box of beautiful blueberries that had been virtually untouched, and were looking, well, a bit, tired. I also spotted a couple of pears that I bought for salads, but never made, and two Fuji apples, bought for daughter K, who has been gone for two weeks. It was time to use them before they went to the garbage heap.

Here's the fruit you need: 2 apples (tart, like Fuji or Granny Smith), 2 pears, any kind, and soft, 2 cups blueberries, (if you don't have fresh, sub frozen), 1 lemon, and 1 orange.

Start by peeling the apples and pears. I used the "Miracle peeler" and peeled the apples in 25 seconds, flat. Yes. I timed myself. It's kind of like a competition with myself to see how fast I can do this. Wierd.
Then, cut the apples. I used an apple corer thing.

One press of the hands, and...Presto! Sliced apples, core out.

You're not done yet. Now, take these apple slices and cut them into bite size chunks. Throw them in a big bowl. Peel and slice the pears into bite size pieces, as well. Throw in the washed blueberries.
Get out your microplane and zest some lemon and orange, about
 1/2 tsp each. When you reach the white part, STOP! That's bitter, and does not belong in our dessert.

We don't want our fruit to turn brown, and we want to give our crumble some wonderful flavors. So, we'll add the juice of 1/2 lemon.

And the juice of 1/4 orange. I just love this juicer! All juice. No seeds.

Let's give this fruit some savory goodness.
Add about 1/2 tsp cinnamon, about 1/2 palmful.

And some freshly grated nutmeg, (about 1/4-1/2 tsp). You can use pre-grated nutmeg. Just be sure that it's fresh. If it's old, you won't be able to taste this wonderfully flavored spice.

This needs some sweetness, so we'll add about 1/2 cup of white sugar.

And, we need to keep the syrup from being too thin, so we'll add about 2 Tbls flour.

Mix this all up gently with a soft spatula.
Let's make the topping.
First, butter the dish. I used the butter wrapper from the butter in the topping.
I'm frugal that way.

In a separate bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

Add in 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal.

Now, cut up one stick of cold butter.

Mix it into the oatmeal mixture with a pastry wire thingy, or using the paddle attachment of the food processor. I used the wire thingy, as it took less time to clean. I really have no idea what the proper name of the wire thingy is.

Add in 3/4 cup chopped pecans.

Mix it up until the butter is in little balls, and almost mixed with the oatmeal mixture.
Every time I read "mix it until it looks like peas", I think, "It doesn't look at all like peas!" Perhaps that is why I don't bake.

Now, you are ready to bake. Put the fruit into an oblong baking pan, about 10"X12".

Top it with the butter, oatmeal mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees (F) about 45-60 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

Serve with good vanilla ice cream on top, or on the side. YUMMY!

I know this is a terrible pic. I'm sorry. But, I didn't want to re-plate this deliciousness, so I could get a better photo. I just dug right in.
Bon Appetit'!

2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into bite size chunks
2 soft pears, peeled, cored, and cut into bite size chunks
2 cups washed blueberries
1/2 tsp EACH orange and lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/4 orange
1/2 cup white sugar
2 TBLS flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir gently to combine.

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup Old Fashioned oatmeal
1 stick cold butter, sliced into 8 equal pieces

  1. Combine all fruit ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Combine topping ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Place fruit into an oblong baking dish, about 10"X12". Or, use a deep pie dish.  Or, a regular size casserole dish. It doesn't matter. Use what you have that will accomodate the fruit and topping.
  4. Top with the butter / oatmeal mixture.
  5. Bake @ 350 degrees (F) for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until brown and bubbly.
  6. Serve warm with good Vanilla ice cream.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mustard and Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

Christmas is right around the corner. Don't have much time to put an elegant meal on the table? Consider making a Rack of lamb! It's easy, delicious, and can be on the table in 20 minutes, start to finish. If you've had lamb in the past and thought it was tough or gamey tasting, it was probably cooked incorrectly or was it was old.

See how nice and rosy pink these are? That's what you want.
Let's start with what to buy.

Look for "Frenched" lamb racks at the grocery store or Sam's or Costco. They are generally packaged in a vacuum sealed bag. Most stores have them on sale right now for about $10.00 a pound. If you shop at places like Whole Foods, you'll pay about $20.00 a pound.

Figure about 3 ribs per person, unless you have teenagers in the house. In that case, I would probably make a turkey as well. Or a ham. Or both.
See that big layer of fat on the top? Unlike pork fat, it does not taste good and will ruin the flavor of the rack if left on.

Take a super sharp knife and cut it off.

Get as much of the fat off as you can without cutting into the meat.

Now, get yourself some fresh herbs. Always use rosemary with lamb. They just belong together. I used fresh parsley as well. I would have used fresh thyme, but I didn't have any. Mine died. It made me cry.

Strip the rosemary needles backwards, from top to bottom, leaving the stems bare. Chop them very finely, or it will feel like you're eating sticks. Chop the parsley finely, as well. Put the herbs in a small bowl.
I admit it. Sometimes I cheat and use garlic out of a jar rather than chopping my own. Please forgive me, Julia.

Take a big spoonful and add it to the chopped herbs.

Get out the Dijon mustard.

Add a big tablespoon of the Dijon to the garlic and herb bowl.

Stir it up and set aside.
Now get out your cast iron skillet, add about 2 Tablespoons of Extra LIGHT, not extra virgin, olive oil. You want to use an oil with a high smoking point, as you're going to sear these babies in a smokin' hot skillet. You could also use peanut or avocado oil, but they're more expensive, and not really worth the $$$.

Put the skillet over high heat. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees (F). Open the windows and turn on the fans.
Season up the lamb. Start by pouring on some extra light olive oil, both sides.

Sprinkle both sides with Kosher salt.

And fresh ground pepper.

When your skillet is smokin' hot, brown the lamb.

Start meaty side down. Don't touch it, don't move it for 2 minutes. Using tongs, lift the rack so you can see if it is a beautiful, deep brown color. If not, put it back down. If it's browned well, hold the lamb, bones up, to sear the top of the rack.

Sear all sides until brown. I don't know why I can't flip this pic.

O.K. Take the skillet off of the stove. Smear the mustard herb paste all over the rack.

Keep the lamb in the same skillet. Stick a meat thermometer in the center of the lamb rack. Yes. You must use a meat thermometer. Because I said so. And you'll be sorry if you don't. I like the thermometer that has a probe on one end, a long wire that feeds out of the oven door, and the readout on the end. That way, I can see what the meat temp is without opening the oven.
Put the skillet in the hot oven.

The second the meat thermometer reads 120 degrees, take the lamb out of the oven, remove it from the skillet, and place it on a cutting board, covered.

I use a big mixing bowl. Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes. It will continue to cook.

After about 5 minutes, the temp has risen to 124 degrees.

After about 10 minutes, the temp has risen to 135 degrees. Take the bowl off, and let sit 2 more minutes.
Slice lamb between each bone to make ribs.

Spoon excess paste over lamb and serve.
If you want to take this over the top, heat up a jar of mango chutney or hot plum chipotle sauce, put it in a serving vessel, and pass around the table.

1 or 2 Frenched racks of lamb
Extra light olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
3-4 sprigs each fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley, chopped very fine
1 big tsp finely minced garlic
1 big Tbls Dijon mustard
1 cast iron skillet
1 meat thermometer

Remove fat cap from lamb.
Season with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Make the herb paste:
Put herbs, garlic, and mustard in a bowl. Mix it up with a fork and set aside.
Put about 2 Tbls olive oil in the skillet.
Heat the skillet on high until smoking.
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Brown lamb on all sides.
Remove from stove and coat the lamb rack with herb paste.
Insert the meat thermometer into the center of the lamb.
Roast at 425 until the meat thermometer registers 120 degrees.
Remove from oven and put the lamb rack on a cutting board.
Cover and rest at least 10 minutes.
Slice between the bones.
Serve with warmed Mango chutney or Hot Plum Chipotle sauce.

Menu idea:
Rack of lamb
Scalloped potatoes
Roasted brussel sprouts
Green salad with tart apples, spiced pecans, and blue cheese crumbles
Dessert of your choice
7 Deadly Zins red zinfandel

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Super Fast Scalloped Potatoes

It has been way too long since I've posted! That whole flying thing puts a hold on my blog. Well, wait no longer. Today we're going over the top with scalloped potatoes. (Just in time for Christmas).

Here's what you need:

3 pounds Russet potatoes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk (I didn't have any, so I subbed half and half. Oh darn).
1- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
8 ounces Gruyere cheese
1 stick butter (Not margarine. Never. Ever. Ever).
4-6 fresh Thyme sprigs, tied with string
Nutmeg, freshly grated
Salt and Pepper

Now, don't go and substitute skim milk for the heavy cream. It won't work, and your potatoes will be runny and thin. And icky.

Heat up the cream and milk in a medium saucepan. Heat it just to a simmer. Don't let it boil. Toss in the thyme bundle.

Add in the garlic cloves and stick of butter. (Not margarine. Never. Ever. Ever.) Grate in some fresh nutmeg. If you don't have any fresh nutmeg nuts, add about a teaspoon of pre-ground from a jar. If your nutmeg is over a year old, it won't have good flavor. Season the cream mixture with Kosher salt (at least 2 tsp) and pepper.

 While the cream mixture is heating up, peel the potatoes. With my "Miracle Peeler", I was able to peel a potato in 20 seconds flat. I timed myself.
Now, get out your food processor and put the slicing blade in. If you don't have one, use a mandoline. You want nice, thin, even slices. It took less than 30 seconds to slice 3 pounds of potatoes.

Now, change out the blade to the grating disc, and grate the cheese. (5 seconds)

Butter a large casserole dish. I use the wrapper from the stick of butter. Lay out 1/3 of the potato slices so they overlap slightly. After fishing out the thyme bundle, add enough of the cream to cover the potatoes.

Top with 1/3 of the cheese.

Top with two more layers of potatoes, cheese and sauce.

Sprinkle with a bit more nutmeg and bake at 375 degrees (F) until potatoes are tender and top is golden brown, about 50 minutes.

Serve as is, or garnish with chopped green onions and bacon crumbles. It is Christmas, after all.

3 pounds Russet potatoes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 stick butter
8 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
1-2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Heat milk, cream, butter to a simmer.
Add Thyme, 1 tsp nutmeg and garlic to milk. Season with salt and pepper.
Peel the potatoes.
Slice potatoes with a food processor or mandoline, thinly and evenly.
Butter a large casserole dish.
Lay 1/3 of the potatoes, overlapping slightly, in dish.
Cover with 1/3 of the cream mixture and 1/3 of the cheese.
Repeat with 2 more layers of potatoes, cream, and cheese.
Sprinkle with grated nutmeg.
Bake @ 375 about 50 minutes, until potatoes are tender and golden brown.
Rest 5-10 minutes before serving.


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About Me

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
I'm a home cook that can put some good tasting food on the table, most of the time. My family knows dinner is ready when the fire alarm goes off.