Monday, July 28, 2014

No Show at the Arc de Triomphe!

I guess the light show at the Arc de Triomphe was only for last year, which was the 100th Tour de France! Bummer... Well, In case you missed it, here you go! Thanks, Santiago Salcedo!



Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Turtle Shell + the Maillot Jaune = Podium Time

The Tour de France is completing their last mountain stage in the Pyrenees today, starting in the historic town of Pau, the birthplace of King Henri IV of France, who was born in the magnificent Pau Castle. The castle dates back to the 14th century and is now a museum featuring a valuable collection of tapestries, paintings, furniture, Sevres porcelain, and the turtle shell that was King Henri's cradle. Apparently, at that time, a turtle shell was believed to bring long life to bodies placed inside! Who knew?

Although it's almost certain that the Italians are taking home the maillot jaune (yellow jersey), there will no doubt be quite a show at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday. I strongly advise that you check it out! In addition, why not try this super simple and amazingly delicious recipe for "Seared Steak with Red Onions, Spinach, and Roquefort." As long as you have a cast iron pan, this chic meal takes less than 30 minutes and will transport you to a Paris bistro, just in time for the festivities! Vive le Tour!


Seared Steak with Red Onions, Spinach, and Roquefort

Serves 4
*Serve with a crusty baguette and red wine.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 strip steaks, 1 1/2" thick (Buy the best steak you can and have your butcher cut it for you.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red onion, sliced into rounds, rings separated
2, 8 ounce packages of baby spinach, thick stems discarded
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 1/2 ounces Roquefort cheese, broken into 4 pieces

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and cook until browned on one side, approximately 3 minutes. Turn the steak.


Scatter the onion rings around the steaks, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and cook for 3 minutes, turning the rings occasionally to make contact with the pan. 


Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook to desired doneness, 4-5 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.


While the steaks rest, continue to saute the onions for another minute or so over medium-high heat. Add the spinach to the onions in the hot skillet. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and toss with the onions until the spinach is beginning to wilt, 1-2 minutes. Transfer the spinach and onions to 4 plates and drizzle with the vinegar. Slice the steaks and divide among the plates along with the Roquefort. 

Delicious!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Power to the Peaches!

Peaches are one of the most wonderful fruits of summer! I use them mostly to make Texas-Hill Country Peach Cobbler and Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese (which was my favorite recipe find from last summer). However, after a recent trip to the farmer's market, I was a little overzealous and found myself with more peaches than I can handle! James Beard to the rescue, particularly his exceedingly simple recipe for "Brandied Peaches." 

I am not someone who is a "canner," but the thought of peaches soaking in sugar and brandy for months sounded quite tempting. In addition, the recipe does not require the jars to be processed, which I am not an expert of or inclined to delve into. I'm assuming that drowning the peaches in 80 proof brandy should keep any spoilage at bay...but I'll have to wait a few months to see? According to James Beard, "these peaches stood for several months before using and developed a high degree of potency. They were served as a dessert taken from the bottle and they can be delicious when served warm or cold over ice cream." I've also read to store canned peaches in the dark to prevent discoloration, so I've tucked them in the back corner of my refrigerator where hopefully they will provide me potent peaches for desserts and peach brandy syrup for cocktails and sauces! I'll let you know!
 
It looks like summer in a jar!

James Beard's Brandied Peaches

*The recipe calls for 4 pounds peaches and 2 pounds of sugar, but as I was a little apprehensive, I only used 1 pound of peaches and 1/2 pound of sugar, in case I have to throw it out. Hopefully not!

Ingredients:
4 pounds ripe peaches
2 pounds granulated sugar
Brandy, enough to cover peaches

Directions:
Place the peaches in a pot and cover with cold water.


Bring to a simmer, but do not boil, till the skins will rub off easily. (This took me about 3-5 minutes of simmering, until a pairing knife rubbed alongside one of the peaches easily released the skin.) Drain and run under cold water. Peel the skin off the peaches, cut in half and remove the stones.


Put the sugar and peach halves in alternate layers in jars (quarts are best). (For my 1 pound peaches, I used a 24 ounce jar.)


Pour in brandy to cover.


Cork tightly. Store in a cool dark place for at least 6 weeks before using.

Recipe slightly adapted from American Cookery, by James Beard.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Get Along Little Dogies!

Old recipes are often forgotten. Left to stray in the open prairie like a "dogie," meaning a motherless calf. How sad... However, this recipe for "Texas Ranger Cookies" can never be forgotten! Texas Ranger Cookies are also called "Cowboy Cookies," "Ranger Cookies," "Kitchen Sink Cookies," and even "Governor's Mansion Cowboy Cookies," from Laura Bush's recipe that was featured in Family Circle. No one is sure where this recipe originated, but is generally thought of as an easily portable food source, nourishing enough for those cowboys on the plains, like a precursor to the granola bar.

I have to admit, growing up in Texas, I had never heard of or had the great pleasure of eating these fabulous cookies. Thankfully, on a visit to my awesome mother-in-law's in Virginia, she had graciously made these. Loaded with oatmeal, chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, and cornflakes, I was instantly addicted! Although recipes vary, adding raisins, omitting the cornflakes, etc., I think they are perfect exactly as they are! Yeehaw!


Texas Ranger Cookies

Makes approximately 4 dozen.

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans.)
2 cups cornflakes cereal

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Cream together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla and blend to mix. In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture. Blend in the oatmeal, coconut, chocolate chips, and nuts. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the cornflakes.


Using two spoons, drop approximately 1 heaped tablespoon of dough onto a baking sheet, approximately 8 cookies per pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes. (8 minutes will give you a chewier cookie, while 10 will make it more crisp.) Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chocolate and the Yellow Jersey!

While the entire US is gearing up for 4th of July celebrations, I'm looking forward to the 101st Le Tour de France, which begins Saturday, July 5 through Sunday, July 27! The peleton (which refers to the entire group of cyclists, each wearing their team jerseys) will have to battle it out over 21 stages: 9 flat, 5 hill, 6 mountain (that will have 5 altitude finishes - my favorite!), and  1 time-trial. The Tour is a grueling affair, with wrecks (where some will suffer injuries, usually referred to as "road rash"), packs of humorously dressed fans (who are not restricted from getting as close to the riders as they want), and only 2 days of rest! Phew!

At the end of each stage, jerseys are awarded to the overall leader (the yellow jersey), the best sprinter (the green jersey), the best climber (the polka dot jersey), and the best young rider under 25 (the white jersey). The beauty of the Tour is that the standings can change day by day, up to the grand finale where the final jerseys (and prize money) are awarded! An amazing celebration and light show at the Arc de Triomphe wraps it all up! While I am not a true cycling enthusiast, I love to watch the tour to see all the beautiful locations that I have yet to visit! France is a beautiful country!

So, in honor of the Tour, I would like to share this recipe for "Tarte au Chocolat" from Reims, France (one of the Tour stages!), published in Bon Appetit, May 1994. This recipe is fabulous because it makes just enough pastry to create a beautifully thin crust, and the filling is rich and decadent! Please note that I've altered the original recipe by adding a chocolate glaze to give it a glossy top! After all, no one minds extra chocolate!

(They're racing to my tart! Ha! Ha!)

Tarte au Chocolat (Chocolate Tart)

Serves 8
*You will need a 9" tart pan with removable bottom.

Ingredients:
For the Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Chocolate Filling
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 egg

For the Glaze
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:
For the Pastry
Blend the flour and sugar in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add the cream and process until moist clumps form. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap, gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk. Wrap in the plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out on lightly floured surface (or between two sheets of plastic wrap) to form an 11" round. Remove one sheet of plastic wrap (if using). Using the remaining piece of dough/plastic wrap, place the dough (plastic side up) into a 9" diameter tart pan. Press gently into place. Remove the plastic wrap and fold over the edges to form a double thickness on the sides. Poke the bottom of the pastry with the tines of a fork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


After 30 minutes, line the crust with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. (I keep a large jar of beans, which I reuse over and over.)


Bake 20 minutes. Carefully loosen the foil from the edges of the tart crust, then gently lift out the foil and beans. Continue to bake the crust until golden brown, approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Maintain oven temperature.

For the Chocolate Filling
Bring the heavy cream and milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Beat egg in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture into the egg. Whisk in the remaining chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the filling into the tart crust and bake until set, approximately 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.


For the Glaze
Place the chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the cream to a boil, then pour over the chocolate. Stir to melt. Pour over the tart so it coats the top evenly, tipping if necessary, using a spatula to smooth it out. Let set at room temperature for at least an hour to firm before serving.


**See also Savory Swiss Chard Tart and Creme Patissiere for more recipes that honor the Tour!