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Sunday, February 28, 2010

guest blogger: my mom!

Cena di Sicilia


Golden Risotto
with Shrimp

Seared Tuna
with Sweet-Sour Onions
Salad Greens in
Olive Oil Vinaigrette
Semolina Bread

Regaleali Bianco,
Tasca d’Almerita

Blood Orange and
Kiwi Composition
Almond Thins

I am Drew’s mother, and therefore, Kaytie’s mother-in-law. First of all, that’s fun because I love their medley of wonderful traits and talents, and second, because they love to cook and I love to eat. I like to think that I taught Drew everything I know about cooking, and maybe I did plant some seeds and a few family recipes, but the truth is, he and Kaytie take cooking to new levels as they add their own touches to existing recipes and invent new ones to share on this blog.

So when I told them about a recent “theme” dinner at our house, Kaytie invited me to be a guest blogger on Tiny Biscuits!
For Christmas our friends Cynthia and Bob gave us a copy of a newly-released cookbook written by their sister-in-law. Seafood alla Siciliana, by Toni Lydecker, is a beautiful book, so when I planned an evening with our dinner group (4 couples, including Bob and Cynthia) I thought it would be fun for each of us to cook a dish from Toni’s book. (We may be baby boomers, but our husbands do cook).
I planned the menu and my friends enthusiastically chose the part they each wanted to make. Chris and David started us off with the Antipasti. Their homemade crostini was especially perfect for the eggplant spread, and the herbs and olive oil they added to the mozzarella balls were delicious!
Gail made the Risotto with Shrimp, page 122, once she arrived so it could be served immediately when prepared, and we all licked our plates, partly because the orange zest made this dish so good.
My husband and I chose to do the Seared Tuna, page 183; the sweet-sour onions were a perfect complement to the tuna, along with the mint garnish. This dish was delicious, though next time we’ll be more generous with the sea salt and pepper when we season the fish. I also made the Semolina Bread which was fantastic - so well-worth the time. We found the semolina flour at Jimmy’s, a great Italian grocery store, as well as several of the wines that Toni suggests in her book.

We ended with Cynthia’s dessert – Kiwis and Blood Oranges, page 248 – fresh, light, and authentic since January is blood orange season in Italy, even though to buy them in Dallas in January you have to live with the guilt of carbon footprint. She planned on making the Almond Thins, page 245, but arrived with the Sesame Seed Cookies, page 246, as well, thank goodness! It’s OK to eat all the cookies if you eat your fruit – right?

We ended our gourmet dinner with dessert wine and espresso, ready to get together again with some more of Toni’s great recipes!

Seared Tuna with Sweet-Sour Onions

1 large tuna steak (about 1 lb), cut into 3-4 portions
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper (optional)
5 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs sugar (or to taste)
1 large red onion, cut in wedges
extra-virgin olive oil
several mint leaves, snipped into ribbons

Season the tuna on both side with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt with ¼ cup water. This is the sweet-sour mixture.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet, combine the onion with a little olive oil. Cook over medium-low heat, covered, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the sweet-sour mixture, stirring often as the liquid evaporates and the onions caramelize. Transfer to a bowl.

Wipe the skillet clean. Add 1 Tbs olive oil, and raise the heat to medium. Sear the tuna until well browned. Turn the steaks over, and pile the onions on top. As soon as the second side is browned, reduce the heat and add a little water. Simmer a minute or so for medium rare.

Transfer the tuna to dinner plates. Deglaze the pan by adding a little water, and cook until thickened. Drizzle over the onion-topped steaks. Sprinkle with mint.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

hot chocolate

Success! After a failed attempt at Emeril's white chocolate pots de creme, I went in search of a new, better recipe written by someone who can complete a sentence coherently and whose catch phrase is an actual phrase, not a single syllable. (So I'm not an Emeril fan. His recipe didn't work.)

Anyway, I googled pots de creme and found a recipe that I liked. Then, I fiddled with it. What resulted was a delicious, rich, make-sink-to-the-bottom-of-the-pool-if-you-don't-wait-at-least-an-hour-or-two dessert.

Hot and sweet is a great combination. (That's why I married Kaytie!) Here, you get the sweet bitterness of dark chocolate, followed by the heat from the cayenne. Plus, you get to feel like Montezuma. If, however, you are a spice weenie, you can leave out the cayenne.

Aztec Pots de Creme
(makes 8)

1 1/3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 large egg yolks
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300.

Dump the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. I used chocolate chips, but if you have a large chunk, chop it into small chunks.

In another bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, cayenne, and a pinch of salt.

Combine the cream, milk, vanilla, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Scald the mixture. (Heat over medium high heat until little bubbles form around the edge. Don't bring it all the way to a boil, though.)

Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate, and whisk until well-combined.

Start whisking the yolks, and continue to whisk as you slowly stream in the chocolate. (This is where a buddy might come in handy.)

Pour the mixture through a strainer to remove any chunks of egg that might have formed. (They shouldn't, if you whisk like mad and pour slowly.) Let this sit for 15 minutes.

Get a big baking pan that can hold eight 6-oz creme brulee ramekins and that has sides at least an inch or two high. A turkey-roasting pan worked for me. Line the bottom of the pan with a dish towel.

Divide the chocolate mixture evenly among the eight ramekins. Set them in the pan, on the dish towel. Move the big pan to the middle rack of your oven. Using hot tap water, fill the roasting pan with water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the roasting pan with foil, and poke a couple holes in the foil.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until the edges are set and the centers wobble just a little when you jiggle each ramekin.

Remove the ramekins from the water bath, and cool them on a rack for an hour. Finish cooling them in the fridge for at least three more hours.

Serve with florentine cookies, and garnish with Kahlua whipped cream.

Kahlua Whipped Cream

2 Tbs Splenda (or powdered sugar would probably work)
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs Kahlua

Put your bowl and beater in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

Put the cream and Splenda in the bowl, and whip like mad. You can use a whisk, but an electric mixer is so much easier.

When you've gotten the consistency you desire, gently fold in the Kahlua.

shrimp veracruzana


There is really nothing more satisfying than creating a new dish and serving it to Tott. She is so appreciative! Drew is, too, but he is bound by marriage to like what I do. Tott is not, so when she smacks her lips in approval, I am gratified.

We were digging through my Paula Peck cookbook this weekend when we came across "Red Fish Veracruzana." It sounded wonderful, but it's kind of a pain to get fresh fish around here. It can be done, but it's not cheap or easy. (So many "cheap and easy" jokes could be made right here at either my or Tott's expense; I'll refrain.) Anyway, I decided to make it using shrimp instead. With a few improvisations, it resulted in a dish that I'd serve to real company, not just Tott.

The recipe is quick and relatively light, too. Served with a green salad with some ripe avacado, it was a perfectly wonderful meal.

Shrimp Veracruzana

1 pound of shrimp, heads off, peel on
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 onions, minced
½ onion, not chopped
1 stalk celery, rough chopped
1 lemon
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 can crushed tomatoes (or 2 cups of fresh tomatoes, seeded, peeled, and diced)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
½ teaspoon sugar
½ cup white wine (preferably sauvignon blanc)
½ cup green olives, sliced
½ cup black olives, sliced
½ cup cilantro, minced
olive oil

First, peel the shrimp. Do not throw the shrimp peels away. Put them in a small pot with the ½ onion, lemon cut in half, cayenne, and fill with water to cover. Simmer over low heat while chopping other veggies. This is your shrimp stock.

Take a medium saucepan and heat on medium. Add olive oil to coat bottom. Once oil is hot, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Once veggies are soft, add basil, oregano, chili powder, cumin, and bay. Toss and let cook about 2 minutes longer. In those 2 minutes, strain the shrimp stock. Add ½ a cup to the pan of veggies. Add tomatoes, tomato puree, wine, and sugar. You may add hot sauce liberally at this step if you like things caliente.

Cook down until sauce thickens up a bit and comes together–maybe 5-10 minutes on medium heat. Once you’ve tasted the sauce and you like it, add the shrimp. Cook until the moment they all look white/pink on the outside–NO LONGER. Then, immediately take off of the heat and stir in the olives and cilantro. If you are decadent, and I am, swirl in about 2 tablespoons of soft butter at this point, stirring until completely dissolved. Serve atop rice or pasta.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

deceptively simple

Top Ten Reasons This is the Perfect Valentine’s Dessert

10. Everybody loves crème brulee. Everybody.
9. This recipe makes enough for six. Unless you’re a swinger, you’ll have leftovers.
8. You can buy yourself a Valentine’s present – special kitchen gear!
7. Crème brulee looks great by candlelight.
6. Preparing it ahead of time gives you time to shave.
5. Tastes great. ‘Nuf said.
4. Less filling – won’t make you feel too heavy for that midnight dip in the hot tub.
3. Blowtorches are sexy.
2. A fancy dessert like this can make up for any crappy dinner. Finish on a high note.
1. It’s so much easier to do than it looks.

Fuzzy Navel Crème Brulee

2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbs vanilla
1 Tbs orange zest (I used blood oranges, but any orange’ll do)
1 small egg
3 large egg yolks
7 Tbs peach syrup (maple syrup is an okay substitute)
4 Tbs Sugar-in-the-Raw, for topping
6 (4-ounce) brulee molds
1 kitchen torch (not completely necessary, but awesome)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pour the heavy cream and vanilla into a pan and place over medium heat. Scald the cream by heating it until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat.

While cream is heating, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolks, syrup, and orange zest until well blended.

Continue to whisk while slowly pouring the hot cream into the egg mixture and whisk until the mixture is smooth and evenly mixed. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or through cheesecloth to remove any overcooked eggs and orange zest. (Your next step will be easier if you strain the mixture into a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl with a spout.)

Place the brulee molds on a baking sheet with 1-inch-high sides or in a casserole dish. Fill the molds half-full with the custard and set the sheet in the oven. (It’s much easier to move the sheet with the molds only half-full.) Now, finish filling the molds.

Using hot tap water, pour enough water into the baking sheet (or casserole dish) to reach halfway up the sides of the molds. The water bath will make sure the custard cooks evenly.

Bake about 40 minutes. When finished, the custard should tremble slightly when gently shaken. If it looks like there is any liquid under the skin of the custards, put them back in the oven and shake them every 5 minutes or so until they are ready.

Remove the molds from the water bath and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate for 2 hours (or for up to 3 days) before serving.

Caramelize the sugar topping right before serving. If there is any condensation on the top of the custard, blot it up carefully with a paper towel. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the sugar over the top of the custards. Make sure you spread the sugar evenly; if it is too thick or too thin in places, the caramelization will not be even.

Fire up the kitchen torch. Keep it moving as you caramelize the sugar to a deep, liquidy brown. It will harden as soon as you stop torching it.

(If you’ve spent too much on flowers and silk sheets to buy your own kitchen torch, you can caramelize the sugar in the oven. Put the custards on a baking sheet, sprinkle the sugar, and set the oven on broil. When the broiler is hot, place the sheet about 4 inches under the broiler, and heat until the sugar is caramelized. You’re more likely to burn the crème brulee under the broiler, so you must watch the caramelizing closely! They are finished when they are light brown.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

high steaks

This fire was on purpose. (Not like the oven fire of '08.)

We decided to make a fancy dinner one Saturday night in the recent past. Kaytie made glazed carrots and twice-baked potatoes, and I was in charge of the meat.

Well, in charge of cooking the meat. Kaytie wanted Steak Diane. I, of course, agreed with her. (She’s rarely wrong, especially about food; she always out-orders me at restaurants.) After a bit of research, I combined several recipes and came up with this delicious dish.

By the way, what was for dessert? Fuzzy Navel Creme Brulee! (Coming soon to this very blog!)

Steak Diane

1 lb beef tenderloin, sliced into 8 thin filets
2 Tbs butter, divided
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 Tbs shallot, diced
1 tsp mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup heavy cream
about 2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
about 1 oz brandy
red wine (mostly for drinking, but reserve a splash or two)
½ tsp salt, plus salt & pepper to taste

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Melt 1 Tbs butter. Salt & pepper one side of each filet, and place that side down on the hot skillet. Season the upper sides of the filets with salt & pepper as they cook in the skillet for exactly 2 minutes. Flip the filets, cook for 2 minutes on that side, and remove them from the pan.

Turn down the heat to medium, and melt another tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Add mushrooms, shallots, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and ½ tsp salt, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender.

Add the cream and cook for 2-3 minutes. The sauce will begin to reduce a bit. Use your splashes of red wine if the sauce looks like it is getting too thick or separating.

Stir in the parsley, saving just a little for garnishing on the plate.

Put the meat back in the pan, and squoosh it around briefly in the sauce.

Here’s the fun part! Add the brandy, stir very briefly (once or twice around the pan), and tilt the pan so the sauce gathers at one edge. Light the fumes coming off of the sauce, and let the fire burn itself out. (This is traditionally done at the table. You should definitely have an audience to appreciate how awesome you are.)

Serve immediately, pouring the sauce over the steak and garnishing with parsley.

**NOTE: This method should cook the steaks to medium rare. If you want them more done (though I don’t think you should), just cook them longer on each side.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

breakfast pudding

Every once in a while, Kaytie gets a hankering for pancakes. I make them for her with love, and we always end up with a ton of leftover pancakes. I hate throwing food away, so I started thinking about what I could do with these extra pancakes.

Tah DUM!!

Pancake Bread Pudding

6 cups torn-up pancakes (about 15 pancakes)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbs butter, plus ½ Tbs
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
½ onion, minced finely
6 slices bacon, cooked crispy & crumbled
1 cup pecan pieces

Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat. Melt about half a tablespoon of butter. Add your onions, and sauté slowly, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a golden brown. Oh, and you should salt them when you put them in the pan.

Combine milk, cream, and butter in a small sauce pan. Heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. Take the pan off the stove, and pour into a mixing bowl.

In another bowl, as the milk mixture is heating, whisk together the eggs and vanilla.

Now, temper. Ladle a bit of the hot mixture into the eggs, whisking madly. Do one more ladle, whisking madly. Drizzle the egg mixture slowly into the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Your forearms will be sore, but this is important, because all of this tempering and whisking will keep the eggs from cooking and curdling.

Tear your pancakes up into small pieces and put them in a third bowl. (If you don’t have enough pancakes, you could substitute some white bread.) Pour the milk & egg mixture over the pancakes. Toss gently to combine. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325.

When the pancake mixture is cool, stir in the bacon, onions, and pecans.

Butter a baking dish (about 8 by 11). Pour the pancake mixture into the baking dish, spreading evenly, and then put it in a large roasting pan.

Set the roasting pan in the center of the oven, and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish. (Don’t overfill, or the water might get into your pancake pudding, making it soggy and gross.)

Bake until the pudding firms up and is beginning to turn golden brown, about 30-45 minutes.

Let cool about 10 minutes, and serve with pomegranate syrup (below) or with regular ol’ pancake syrup.

Pomegranate Syrup

½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup water
2 cups pomegranate seeds (1 huge pom, or 2 small)

Bring to a boil, and boil until the seeds burst and the sauce begins to reduce, about 15 minutes. If it seems like it’s taking too long, stick a lid on the pot.