Butternut Squash Soup

December 6th, 2017

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While staying with our family over Thanksgiving, my DIL Kristen made this flavorful soup for our lunch preceding our Thanksgiving dinner. The butternut squash is combined with a few parsnips and potatoes and simmered in chicken broth. Once cooked it is puréed with an immersion blender.  There is no need for heavy cream.  The soup is thick and velvety.  The smoked almonds and chopped scallions add a bit of crunch and flavor.  I will be making this butternut squash soup all through our chilly December.  If you want to make it vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

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We got our tree right after Thanksgiving because our home was on a Christmas Walk on December 2nd. I scrambled to get all of the decorations out before the end of November.  But now it is done and I can sit back and enjoy the season in peace. Here are a few pictures of the results.

Christmas Mantel

The mantel and chairs in their Christmas adornment.

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The den, ready for a fire and a good book.

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I have been busy making cookies, but on this day the Crock Pot is busy next to the sink making our dinner.  So much to do.

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Oranges in my hearth pot next to the fireplace.

Christmas Kitchen

Another view of the kitchen.

Christmas Porch

Christmas porch on a beautiful sunshiny day.

Christmas Lower Porch

Lower porch with my new reindeer pillow.

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My talented Mother’s Christmas Carolers.  I think everyone in our small town had a set of her carolers and I have fond memories of her making them in the hundreds.  She “lives on” in many households through her work.

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My husband has never grown up.  Fortunately we built bookshelves along the stairwell to our downstairs area.  I have given David free reign with all of his collectible toys.  When the Grands were younger they marveled at all of the mechanical toys (except for the bug-eyed monkeys that scared them).  The shelves seem particularly festive at Christmas.

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Enjoy the festive season and this velvety butternut squash soup on the countdown to Christmas. I am happy to have time to relax.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP (RECIPE FROM KRISTEN KLETT)

INGREDIENTS

    • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
    • 1 medium yellow onion – rough chop
    • 2 cloves of garlic – rough chop
    • 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
    • 1 medium butternut squash, cut into approx. 1” cubes (3 to 4 cups)
    • 3 small parsnips – cut similar to squash
    • 2 very small yukon potatoes (fingerling okay) – peeled and cut similar to squash and parsnips
    • 3 cups of chicken broth (I prefer making mine with “better than boullion” chicken base – much richer flavor)
    • 3 shakes of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

FOR GARNISH

  • Smoked almonds – chopped/crushed
  • Scallions – chopped

In a medium pan, saute the onions in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper until the onions are translucent.

Add the dijon mustard and garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes

Add the squash, parsnips and potatoes and stir to combine and coat with oil/onions/garlic. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Season with another sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Add the chicken broth. The broth should just cover the vegetables (too much broth will make your soup more watery/runny). Cook for 20 minutes on a low simmer until all vegetables are fork tender.

Turn the heat off and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pan until silky smooth.

Add a few dashes of cayenne pepper to taste.

Serve soup topped with crushed smoked almonds & green onions.
TIP: Root vegetables pair very nicely with Gruyere cheese. If you want a tasty side for your soup, make grilled cheese or crostini with Gruyere.

Printable Recipe

The Perfect Beef Brisket

November 25th, 2017

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My Son, Michael, decided to forego the Thanksgiving turkey this year in favor of a smoked beef brisket.  We are so glad that he did.  The recipe came form Myron Mixon, winner of more competitive barbecue contests than anyone else in the world.  My husband David has smoked brisket before.  See the technique here.  Some recipes for smoking a brisket can take up to 18 hours.  But the recipe suggested by Myron Mixon in his cookbook Smokin’, can be done in 6 to 8 hours after the initial marinating time.

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Instead of cooking the brisket low and slow, the meat is injected, marinated, spice rubbed and cooked at a constant temperature of 350 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.  The pan is then covered with aluminum foil and put back in the smoker to cook for another 1 1/2 hours or until the temperature reaches 205 degrees. From this point you wrap the pan in a  blanket, put it in a large cooler, and leave it to rest for 3 to 4 hours.

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Our brisket weighed about 6 pounds. Just a note on the cut of brisket you should use.  Butcher shops usually break the meat down into two pieces.  The first cut is called the flat and is what most grocery stores sell because it is leaner.  But the second cut, called the point, is rounder and fattier and has more flavor.  This is the preferred cut.  Also notice in the above photo the toothpick in the end.  There is another one on the other end.  Michael put them in the meat when it was raw to show the direction of the grain.  When cooked it is less obvious. To slice a tender brisket, it is important to slice it against the grain rather than with the grain.

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The recipe below is for a 15 to 20 pound brisket.  Since ours was much smaller, Michael felt the beef injection and marinade should be reduced.  The cooking time may also be less, although the resting time is quite flexible.IMG_0020

Michael served the brisket with a local barrel aged beer from Southern Peak Brewery called Midnight Conductor.  With hints of chocolate and dark fruit, it was the perfect accompaniment.  Next up, some delicious side dishes.

PERFECT SMOKED BEEF BRISKET

Ingredients

For the beef injection and marinade:

  • 1 quart water
  • 3 tablespoons beef base

For the beef rub:

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
  • ½ teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated dried onion

We used a double recipe of the rub to ensure the meat was coated in rub.

For the meat:

  • One 15-20 pound whole untrimmed brisket, preferably USD Prime

Tools:

  • 2 aluminum pans
  • Injector
  • Blanket

Directions

For the beef injection and marinade:

In a large stockpot over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the beef base and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat. If reserving for a later use, let the liquid cool then pour it into a jug or bottle. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

For the beef rub:

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients thoroughly. You can store this rub in an airtight container indefinitely.

For the meat:

Trim your brisket. Place the brisket, fat side up, in an aluminum baking pan. Inject it by eyeballing 1-inch squares all over the brisket and injecting half of the beef injection in those squares. Flip the brisket over, fat side down, and pour the remaining injection/marinade over the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. 30 minutes before you are ready to cook the brisket, heat a smoker to 350 degrees. (You can also use a gas grill, but you’ll need to prepare it for smoking.)

Remove the brisket from the marinade and discard the marinade. Using your hands, apply the beef rub all over the meat. Place the brisket in a clean aluminum baking pan, place the pan in the smoker, and cook for 2 ½ hours at 350 degrees. Remove the pan from the smoker and cover it with aluminum foil. Put it back into the smoker and cook for another 1 ½ hours at 350 degrees or until the temperature in the point end of the meat reaches 205 degrees. Remove the pan from the smoker and wrap the pan, still covered with aluminum foil, in a thick blanket. Let it rest at room temperature for 3-4 hours. Unwrap the pan, discard the foil, and remove the brisket, taking care to save the the accumulated juices. Set the brisket aside. Strain the juices of all grease, and pour the juices into a medium saucepan. Warm the juices over medium heat, and allow them to come to a simmer.

Meanwhile, slice the brisket against the grain; try to make the slices as consistently sized as possible. Place the slices on a warm platter and pour the juices over them. Serve immediately.

Printable Recipe

Crock Pot Pork Stew Agrodolce

November 19th, 2017

Pork Stew Agrodolce

The days are counting down until Christmas; Christmas Tour that is.  My home will be on the tour with three other homes in my neighborhood on December 2nd.  All of this means that Thanksgiving has barely registered as I have been pulling out the Christmas baubles.  Thankfully, we will be having Thanksgiving at the kids’ home, so much of the responsibility is not on my shoulders.

When I am busy, I like to rely on my Crock Pot for meals.  This pork stew has the addition of raisins and vinegar which give the dish a sweet-and-sour (agrodolce) tang that is very pleasing.  The recipe comes from one of my favorite Crock Pot cookbooks, The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone.

Pork Stew Agrodolce

The pork was very tender and it was delicious with Basmati rice.  I substituted dried cranberries for the raisins.

Christmas Mantel

We will get our tree after Thanksgiving but all of the rest of the decorations are in place.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone.  Christmas will be here (for some of us) before we know it.

PORK STEW AGRODOLCE

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions, chopped
2 large celery ribs, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 large carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup golden raisins (I used dried cranberries)

Pat the pork dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pork, without crowding the pan.  Brown the meat on all sides and transfer it to the slow cooker.

When all the meat has been browned, reduce the heat to medium.  Add the onions and celery to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until golden.

Add the wine and vinegar and bring it to a simmer.  Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker.  Add the carrots and raisins.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or until the pork is tender.  Serve hot.

Great with rice or polenta.

Printable Recipe

 

Birthday Dinner and Beer Pairing

November 9th, 2017

Birthday Menu

Our Son Michael recently celebrated his 40th birthday at Crawford and Son restaurant in Raleigh.  It was a food and beer pairing executed by Chef Scott Crawford and Full Steam Brewery Executive Sean Wilson.

Birthday Michael and Kristen

Our wonderful Daughter-In-Law Kristen organized everything and it was a magical evening with 40 of Michael and Kristen’s friends and family.

Frisee Salad

The first course was a Frisee Salad with Smoked Trout, Honey Crisp Apple and Ramp Vinaigrette.  It was paired with Full Steam’s Deep Chatham Wild Paw Paw Ale.  The woodsy ale complimented the wild ramp and smoked trout salad.

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The main course was Braised Beef Cheeks with a Mushroom Ragout and Campo Cheese Grits.  It was paired with Fullsteam Igor Imperial Stout.  The beer was deep and rich.  I loved the beef cheeks.  They were fork tender and cushioned by the very best cheese grits that I have ever tried.  Campo cheese is a semi-hard Spanish cheese that is a combination of cows’ milk, goats’ milk, and sheep’s milk. It is very similar to Manchego cheese.  I will be experimenting with this recipe.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

The dessert was a Pumpkin Cheesecake with Toasted Meringue, Hazelnut Praline and Caramel.  It was paired with a 2016 Persimmon First Frost.  The beer is fruit forward with hints of holiday spices, so it went very well with this pumpkin cheesecake.  Scott Crawford is an amazing chef.  Each course was executed flawlessly.

Chef Scott Crawford

We have a long history with Chef Scott Crawford.  At one time he was the Executive Chef at Heron’s Restaurant in Cary.  Since opening his own restaurant in Raleigh, Crawford and Son has gained a loyal following.  Kristen’s Mom, Darla and I have had our picture taken with him before.

Chef Crawford seven years ago.

This was taken 7 years ago at Heron’s.

Michael

As a beer enthusiast and home brewer, Michael was in his element at the restaurant.  Happy Birthday Sweet Son.  We enjoyed your celebration so much.  Some pictures courtesy of Darla A. and David W.

Dining in France

November 1st, 2017

Rabbit

The above picture was taken in our kitchen last night.  It was an evening of dining by candlelight with a wood fire crackling.  It was not an intentional romantic meal, but a necessity because of loss of power from rain and a wind storm.  David made braised rabbit. It is an old recipe from Marcella Hazan that he has made before. The meal put us in mind of the food of France even though it was an old recipe from Italy. Europeans eat meat that some of us in the USA ignore.  While in France we ate Lapin (rabbit), Snails, Pig Snout, and Beef Cheeks.  I should say, one of us ate the Pig Snout and it wasn’t me.  But it is always interesting to eat in France.

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While onboard our Viking Ship that sailed from Avignon to Lyon on the Rhone River, we dined very well.  Here is a sample menu:

Escargots a la Bourguignone: baked escargots with shallots, garlic, parsley and butter, pictured above.
Kir Royal: cassis sorbet with sparkling wine
Beef Tenderloin with four warm spices, Vitelotte potatoes mousseline, oyster mushrooms
Tarte Croustillante au Chocolat Noir de Valrhona: Crisp dark Valrhona chocolate tart with mango salad

Chocolate Tart

The beautiful dishes went on for a week and we enjoyed every one of them. My compliments to our chef Daniel for outstanding service.

Viking Chef

Sorry for the blurry picture.  The staff was very open to satisfying our every need.  Chef Daniel was kind enough to make a special escargot dish for me to photograph.

Le Petit Chatelet

We arrived in Paris on Oct. 4th, my birthday.  We chose to eat at a small restaurant across the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral called Le Petit Châtelet.  Steaks were cooked over an open fire by our friendly hostess.

Le Petit Chatelet

If you get a chance to visit, try to get a table in either of the second floor windows with a beautiful view of Notre Dame.

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Another evening, we discovered a small 16 seat bistro called Le Coup de Torchon.  It was very close to our apartment in the Latin Quarter.  I learned something on this trip.  After walking all day, it is smart to have good dinner options close to where you are staying.  We no longer have the stamina for evening jaunts and navigating the Metro system.  Le Coup de Torchon was a quiet oasis in the busy Latin Quarter.  Coup de Torchon translates loosely to ” Clean Slate”.  I have to admit that I was curious about the one quiet, but helpful, waiter and the one chef in the kitchen.  By the way, I just checked out the restaurant on Trip Advisor.  Someone snapped our picture while we there and posted it along with his dinner pictures.  Check it out.

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The Veal Stew was delicious and the prices were very reasonable.  We actually ate there twice and ended our second visit with a hug and handshake to our sweet waiter.

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No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to Cafe Varenne, one of Ina Garten’s favorite hangouts in the St. Germain des Pres region.  We met a couple from our cruise ship there.  They also followed up the cruise with time in Paris. Jen and Renon were so much fun to be with and we are hoping that they will come to visit us in Lake Lure from their home in Houston.

cafe-varenne

Slow roasted lamb shank is one of the entrees on the menu.  Also we saw several people sharing Cafe Varenne’s famous 7-hour leg of lamb.  It is presented whole and then sliced into serving pieces in the kitchen.

Pig Snout

I will end this with David’s dish of Pig Snout.  He said it was good.  But I prefer to leave you with the rabbit recipe.

RABBIT WITH ROSEMARY AND WHITE WINE (Marcella Hazan)

3 to 3 1/2 pound rabbit, cut into 8 pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup celery diced fine
1 garlic clove, peeled
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Salt and Pepper
1 bouillon cube and 2 tablespoons tomato paste (or mustard) dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water

Soak the rabbit in abundant cold water overnight, in an unheated room in cold weather or in the refrigerator.  Rinse in several changes of cold water, then pat thoroughly dry with cloth or paper towels.

Choose a sauté pan that can contain all the rabbit pieces without overlapping.  Put in the oil, celery, garlic, and the rabbit, cover tightly, and turn the heat on to low.  Turn the meat occasionally, but do not leave it uncovered.

You will find that at the end of 2 hours, the rabbit has shed a considerable amount of liquid.  Uncover the pan, turn the heat up to medium, and cook until all the liquid has simmered away, turning the rabbit from time to time.  Add the wine, rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Allow the wine to simmer briskly until it has evaporated, then pour the dissolved bouillon cube and tomato paste or mustard mixture over the meat.  Cook at a steady, gentle simmer for another 15 minutes, or more, until the juices in the pan have formed a dense little sauce, turning the rabbit pieces over from time to time.  Transfer the entire contents of the pan to a warm platter and serve promptly.

Printable Recipe

 

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.