May 4, 2017

Mexican Chicken Chowder

Happy Cinco De Mayo!  Today's recipe is one of my favorite work week lunches.  I'll make a batch of this soup on a Sunday and will enjoy it for lunch throughout the week.   It's a healthy soup with protein and veggies that is very filling, and it gets some spice from salsa.  Most chowders are traditionally thickened by cream, but this chowder is thickened by a puree of sweet potatoes and carrots.

Use your favorite choice of salsa for the soup!  I use 2 jars of salsa from Trader Joe's for the soup because they have some great varieties of salsa.

To make the soup, you cook chicken thighs, chopped sweet potatoes and carrots, salsa, and chicken stock.  Once the chicken finishes cooking, you'll remove the chicken and shred it.  You'll also scoop out 2 cups of the vegetables and add them to a blender with some of the broth and then puree.  This mixture will then "thicken" the soup and give it a chowder like thickness.    Once you return the thickener and the chicken to the soup, you'll add some spinach and cilantro.  Cook for about ten more minutes, and you've gone one delicious Mexican chicken chowder!

This chowder also freezes well, too.  It would make a great light dinner, too!

Mexican Chicken Chowder
Yields 6 servings

2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
3 cups/24 oz. salsa of your choice
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (about 2 sweet potatoes)
2 cups peeled and diced carrots (about 4 carrots)
1 lime
1 tsp. sea salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups chopped spinach
1 avocado, optional
Cilantro, optional

Add the chicken, salsa, chicken stock, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, and salt to a large pot and heat over medium-high heat.  Once the soup reaches a boil, reduce the head to medium-low and cover for an hour.

After an hour, reduce the heat to low, and remove the chicken to a bowl.  Set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, scoop 2 cups of vegetables from the soup and place in a blender with 1/3 cup of the broth.  Puree the vegetables until smooth and then add it back to the soup.

Shred the chicken and add the back chicken to the soup with the chopped spinach and any desired cilantro.  Cook on low for ten minutes or until the spinach is wilted.

After the soup finishes cooking, squeeze the lime in the soup.  Serve with any desired avocado slices.

Source: Danielle Walker's Against All Grain

April 26, 2017

Ham and Comté Wafers

These ham and Comté were one of the appetizers for my wine club night, and they were a hit!  I love having charcuterie, cheese, and bread with wine, and this combines that trio a savory cookie.  It's a cheesey, buttery sable studded with chives and crisped prosciutto.  They are a a little salty, which went well with the Grüner Veltliner wine that I served.

I used Comté cheese, which is a cheese that I recommend for your fridge, but I think a strong aged cheddar or even Gruyere would be great.  Comté has a nutty yet creamy flavor--it's a great snacking cheese that makes you just want more, which makes it great for these wafers.  Make sure to shred the cheese yourself, or have your food processor do it. ;-)  Most pre-shredded cheese is typically coated with cornstarch, so it will not melt well or absorb as well into the dough.

You can freeze the dough for up to two months or refrigerate for a week, which makes this a great recipe to make ahead of time.  It's perfect for an impromptu wine night!  Cheers!

Ham and Comte Wafers
Yields about 30-50 wafers, depending on how thick you slice

4 oz./115 grams butter (8 tbsp.), at room temperature
45 grams/1/4 cup cornmeal or fine polenta
120 grams/1 cup all-purpose flour
7 oz./210 grams/2 1/2 cups grated Comté cheese
50 grams/2 slices of prosciutto or other smoked ham
2 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper ad lay the prosciutto slices on it.  Bake for about 10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.  When the ham looks firm and dry, remove from the oven and allow it to cool until crisp.  Once cooled and crisp, crumble into small pieces.  Note: be sure to keep an eye on your oven!  The baking time may be shorter depending on the thickness of the ham.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter, pepper, salt, and chives on medium speed until smooth and combined.  Then, add the grated cheese into the mixture on medium speed.  Add the flour and polenta/cornmeal and mix on low speed until combine.  Add the prosciutto bits and mix on low speed until the dough comes together.

Divide the dough in half and roll each half on a lightly floured surface into an 8 inch log.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.  (If you freeze the dough, remove it from the freeze and allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight.)

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  With a sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/4-inch thick circles and place them cut-side down on the baking sheets.  Bake for 12 minutes and rotate halfway through baking.  Bake until the sable are golden brown on top.

SourceDavid Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen

April 23, 2017

Savory Bacon-Onion Walnut Gugelhupf

I joined a wine club this past year.  Each month, a different member hosts and selects the wine.  My favorites are good people, good food, and good wine, so this has been a fun club. ;-)  For April, I was so excited to host and made a food pairing to go with each wine.  I wanted to choose a wine that I enjoyed and that was different, so I picked my my new favorite white wine -- Grüner Vetliner.

I first learned about Grüner Vetliner from a Williams-Sonoma wine club shipment.  I was excited to see an Austrian wine in the box as I always drawn to German and Austrian wines, since I'm half German and come from a family where we embrace our heritage. ;-)  I really enjoyed the light and refreshing flavor of this wine.  It was a pleasant surprise--it wasn't sweet at all, and it was a great dry wine.  Since then, I've been on the hunt for this wine.  It turns out that Grüner Vetliner has become the darling wine of more sommeliers.  I've seen it more in Denver, and I enjoyed it while in Austria during the fall.  It was even recommended at the French Laundry!

With hints of lime, lemon, and grapefruit and a touch of white pepper, this wine has become an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.  The name translates to the "Green Wine of Veltlin."  Grüner means "green" in German, and Veltlin was an area in the lower Alps.  This has become the flagship wine of Austria as Austria tries to get back to stardom in the wine market.  Most of the varieties of this wine come from the Danube River area (specifically, Wachau, Kremstal, and Kamptal).  You can find versions with more of a spritz from the Weinviertel (Northeast lower area of Austria).  There are also California varieties of Grüner Vetliner, and I recently discovered a French version, too.

This is not an expensive wine, and it pairs so well with all foods because of its high acidity and fresh notes.  It does not require much time to age.  For my wine tasting night, since I picked an Austrian wine, I wanted to bring in food pairings from the region, too.  I had so much fun coming up with the menu and deciding on the pairings.

Here was my wine pairing menu:

  • Zocker Paragon Vineyard Grüner Veltliner 2014 (California) paired with an Herbed Ricotta and Asparagus Phyllo Tart
  • Loimer Grüner Veltliner  2015 (Austria) paired with an Savory Bacon-Walnut Gugelhupf with creme fraiche on the side 
  • Berger Grüner Veltliner 2015 (Austria) paired with Comte and Ham Wafers
  • Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Pinot Gris 2014 (Grüner Veltiner Blend from California) paired with Chicken Schnitzel on Homemade Mini Pretzel Bun
  • Grüner Veltliner Burgberg 2014 (Austria) paired with Spring Herb Spaetzel with Peas  
  • Salomon Undhof, Hochterrassen, Grüner Veltliner (Austria) paired with Blini with Smoked Salmon
Now, onto the recipe for today: a Savory Bacon-Walnut Gugelhupf.  A Gugelhupf is an old-fashioned yeast cake that was reportedly Emperor Franz Josepf I's favorite cake and was exported to Alsace through the French members of his court.  It originated in the Baden area of Germany which is in southwestern Germany.  There are also rumors that Marie Antoinette--who was Austrian by birth) and loved her cake--brought Gugelhupf to France.  Whatever the origin, I'm glad this cake exists!  It's made in a Bundt like pan.

The gugelhupf is a savory cake made with rye and wheat flour.  It's heartier than a regular bread and is studded with walnuts, bacon, and onions.  Um, yum.  To make this, I first cooked some bacon and then sautéed onions in the bacon grease. While the onions were sautéing, I toasted some chopped walnuts in the oven.  All of these ingredients get eventually added to the bread dough.  This smelled so good while baking!

In Classic German Baking, it was suggested as a "killer hors d'oeuvre" with a glass of white wine.  This was perfect for wine club!  This paired quite well with the wine, and everyone enjoyed it because it was so different.  The bacon and onion flavors were good with the dry, citrus flavor of the wine.  The rye and caraway seed definitely evoked the classic German flavors for everyone.

I'll be sharing more of the food recipes on the blog.  Enjoy!

Savory Gugelhupf 
Yields 1 cake

150 grams (1 1/2 cups) rye flour
350 grams all-purpose (2 3/4 cups plus 1 tbsp.) of whole wheat flour
1 tsp. instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
5 1/4 oz. diced bacon
1 medium diced onion
1 egg
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. sour cream or creme fraiche
1 tsp. ground caraway seeds
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. ground pepper
Butter, for greasing the pan

Creme Fraiche sauce, optional:
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 300ºF.  Toast walnuts for 15 minutes on a baking sheet.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, cook the diced bacon for 5 to 8 minutes, or until cooked. Remove from the pan and transfer to a medium bowl.  Leave the bacon grease in the pan and add the diced onion to the pan.  Cook over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes or until the onions are golden.  Remove from pan, and add to the bacon bowl.  Add the walnuts to the same bowl, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the egg, creme fraiche, caraway seeds, 1/4 cup water, salt, and pepper.  Whisk together and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flours, yeast, and 1/4 cup water.  With the dough hook attachment, mix on medium-low speed.  As the mixture begins to form a shaggy dough, add the egg/creme fraiche mixture.  Mix until the mixture begins to form a thicker dough.  Once the mixture a dough, then add the bacon-onion mixture and knead until evenly dispersed.  Then, form the dough into a round ball and leave it in the bowl.

Cover with a towel and allow it to rise for an hour.  While the dough is rising, grease the baking pan with butter and set aside.  After an hour, pull the dough from the bowl and gently knead it once or twice.  Then, form the dough into a cylinder-like shape and place the dough into the prepared pan so that it lies evenly.  Press the ends of the cylinder together.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  After the dough has finished rising, place the pan into the oven and bake for one hour or until the loaf is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow it to cook on a baking rack for 10 minutes before turning upside down and removing the pan.

For the optional sauce, combine the creme fraiche, rosemary, and lemon zest together.

Allow the cake to cool for an hour before cutting it.  Serve with a dollop of the optional creme fraiche sauce, if desired.

Source: Classic German Baking for the cake, Das Cookbook for the Creme Fraiche Sauce

February 27, 2017

Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

Looking for a twist on shortbread?  Today, I bring you chocolate cherry shortbread.  I'm always partial to a cookie involving chocolate!

These addictive shortbread cookies are studded with chewy bits of dried cherries.  These chocolatey and buttery cookies have another secret ingredient: crushed pink peppercorns!  The pink peppercorns have a spicy floral note which goes well with the tartness of the cherries and sweetness of the chocolate.

Pink peppercorns are part of the cashew family, but they are called peppercorns since they have a peppery taste.  They're actually dried berries from the Peruvian pepper tree.

This is an easy batter to make, and it tastes better if you refrigerate it overnight (the flavors marinate and ripen).  You could also freeze it and have it on hand for any occasion that comes up!

Chocolate Cherry Shortbread
Yields 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. crushed pink peppercorns
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp.) butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, pepper corns, and salt, and set aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer (with the paddle attachment), add the butter and granulated sugar and cream until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Then, add the egg yolks and mix until combined.  Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until combined.  Finally, add the chopped cherries and chocolate chips, and stir until evenly dispersed.

Place a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper on a clean counter.  Transfer the cookie dough to the wrap and form it into a 2-inch-wide log and wrap tightly.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight (preferably).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF.  Place silpat or parchment paper onto a king sheet.  Remove dough from fridge, and using a sharp knife, cut the log into 1/3-inch-thick rounds.  Set the cookies onto the baking sheet, spaced an inch apart, and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake until set, for about 25 minutes.  Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis

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