Jeanette - Off The Cuff
- Off The Cuff
- Blogger at: http://offthecuffhome.blogspot.com and http://offthecuffcooking.blogspot.com -- My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually studied design and photography. I also was a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines from 1998-2005, and had an in-house PR company for a while. Cooking is in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and their father was a pastry chef, my mom's mother was a caterer, who published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries when she was 92. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment. I have a yen for interior design and remodeling.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I have seen and tried and perused a variety of squash soups, (this one for instance looks really good, too: Butternut Squash Soup with Sage) and thought I would experiment with some other spice-combinations. I kept it very simple with the ingredients so that I just let the savory squash do it’s own talking.
So here goes!
Monday, October 25, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
When I was a little girl in Sweden, we went out in the woods to pick Kantareller (or Chanterelles). They peeked out of the moss and pine needles, like little golden trumpets in the woods. They were so delicate and buttery in flavor, especially when sautéed in butter! Fresh chanterelles are hard to find, as they are seasonal, and cannot be cultivated. They seem to only grow in the wild, and only where they choose, but they seem to prefer evergreen forest conditions. About once a year, there is a 4-5 week time frame when I can find these golden fungi at the grocery store or farmer’s market, but usually at a cost of $28-30 a pound. CostCo sometimes has them, and then it’s more like $10-12 a lb, which is much better than $28 a pound. But still, pricey.
So imagine my delight when I heard through the grapevine that a girl from our church lived near a wooded area that seems to have prolific Chanterelle growth every fall. Sure enough, I went out there this morning for about an hour or so, in my rubber boots, and carefully meandered around the woods behind her yard. Carefully, since the mushrooms often were tucked underneath the moss & leaves, and even though brightly colored, they often just blend in with the autumn foliage on the ground. As soon as my ‘chanterelle eyes’ became accustomed to looking beyond and underneath the camouflage hiding these little gems, I started finding dozens and dozens of them, ranging in size from 1/2” in diameter to several inches wide.
I picked almost a whole grocery bag worth. And now that I have had my dinner, I thought I’d tell you what one of my favorite chanterelle-based meals is.
1-2 cups worth of chopped chanterelles – brush off dirt and debris with a pastry brush
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 sprig fresh rosemary, de-stemmed, and finely chopped up (probably about 1 tsp of dried rosemary)
3-5 large sage leaves, finely chopped up (I suspect it would be about 2 tsp worth of dried sage)
1-2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup- 3/4 cup heavy cream
Sauté the mushrooms in the butter, until soft, and then sprinkle flour over them, and stir it in until absorbed. Pour cream, and herbs and seasonings in, and allow to simmer over low heat until the cream thickens a bit from the flour.
Meanwhile, prepare your favorite type of pasta according to directions, and drain it. Stir in the cream sauce over the pasta.
This pasta is particularly delicious when served with grilled poultry, such as turkey breasts or chicken. I had chicken tenderloins (because I always have them in my freezer) so I defrosted them, marinated them with olive oil, sage, rosemary, salt & pepper (probably about 3 or 4 sage leaves, minced, 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped up, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp ground pepper) and grilled them on a very hot grill for about 2 minutes on each side. Then I cut the chicken tenders into bite-size pieces and stirred them in with the pasta. I have also served this with chicken breasts stuffed with brie, and made a similar sauce to drizzle over grilled turkey breast. Roasted rock hens are also excellent with chanterelles.
The chanterelles are so delicate in flavor that you really don’t want to overpower them with a lot of other flavors or heavy meats. I stick with sage, and rosemary as the only real seasonings. I don’t use onions or garlic with chanterelles, because just a couple of woodsy herbs are enough of a good complements, and the cream sauce just enhances it all.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
I eventually remembered to contact my friend in Spain, whose brother gave me some approximates, and then I found an actual Spanish recipe online, which I translated a bit, and experimented some with. This is the closest I’ve come to that magical dish I had once, ten years ago in 2001. It is probably not exactly like the one at the restaurant, but it’s really good anyway. (Updated with new photos Sep. 2011)
Ingredients for Beer Batter:
1 1/4 cups white flour
1/2 – 3/4 bottle of beer – enough to make the batter the consistency of pancake batter. (*I used Alaskan Summer, and find that amber beer lends the most caramel-like flavor to the batter * )
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp paprika
1 clove minced garlic
Salt and pepper (a pinch of each)
Ingredients for Egg-dip:
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper
Bowl of white flour for dredging
1 large Eggplant, thinly sliced (which makes bigger discs) or two narrow Asian-style eggplants
Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice the eggplant. Each disc should be no more than 1/3” in thickness.
Whisk the egg dip in a small bowl, and soak each slice in the egg and milk mixture, and then dredge in flour, which helps hold the batter on the eggplant. If you skip this step, the batter will just slide off and end up in clumps in the hot oil. Lastly, dip it in batter until well coated, but not too thick. Let the excess drip off before you put it in hot oil.
The frying process takes a bit of time so I usually line up another cookie sheet with a couple of layers of paper towels next to my deep fryer to place each slice there … they can be kept hot in the oven at 250 degrees while you’re making the rest. They usually stay fairly hot even if you don’t put them in the oven, if you work fast, and orderly. If you don’t own a deep fryer, you can certainly cook them in a deep skillet with about an inch of canola or olive oil in it. Be sure to let the eggplant get golden brown on one side before flipping it over.
Serve hot with honey drizzled over the top. The honey really adds an extra element of amazing!
Maybe it is the pressure of being challenged to do new things in my cooking, as spurred on by this food blog, but wandering down the Asian food aisle, I think was what inspired me to buy the rice-wrappers for spring rolls. I love so many Asian dishes, but sometimes it just simply doesn’t occur to me to make them myself. That was my incentive to change things up, and make something new.
I always enjoy eating the spring rolls at restaurants, and realize there is no hard and fast rule as to what should go in them.
My process came with a steep and fast learning curve. For instance, those little wrappers are delicate, so I have learned that the kind of lettuce I had on hand was way too stiff to be rolled up without tearing the wrappers up. A few of them had to be double wrapped to be contained properly.
1 package spring roll rice-wrappers
1/4 package rice vermicelli / rice sticks (i.e., pad thai noodles) OR
1/4 package "glass" noodles (they will have different thicknesses / textures so experiment with which type you prefer)
The first step, depending on the type of noodle, can take up to 30-40 minutes. So check the soaking directions on your noodle package, and get a large skillet out, and pour about 2 cups of water in it… heat it up until boiling, turn the heat off, and then soak the rice noodles in it until soft—usually about half an hour. After that, rinse them in a colander in cold water to get excess starch off. Let them sit in the colander in the sink to drain.
In this batch, I used the following--
lettuce (butter lettuce would probably work better than what I had, because it’s softer and rolls up better)
Other tasty ideas would be fresh bean sprouts, red bell peppers, cucumber or zucchini, endives….
While your noodles are soaking, wash and mince your herbs, wash, peel and finely sliver or julienne all the veggies length-wise for easiest assembly. Leave each veggie in a separate pile on your cutting board so you can assembly-line the … uh… assembly. (That’s a whole lot of assembling there. But I guess that is where the art-form is inherent. My spring rolls—not so much! Yet.)
Simultaneously pour some fresh water into your large skillet, and heat it up, and then shut the burner off. Use this hot water to soak your rice wrappers for 15-20 seconds each. Lay out a clean and wetted tea towel on your countertop, and when you pull your moistened rice wrapper out of the skillet, carefully spread it out on the tea towel, and dab off the excess moisture if necessary.
Next, place a lettuce leaf in the center of a rice wrapper, topped with about 1/4 cup of rice noodles, and arrange a pinch of all the vegetables in a stack, leaving about 1 1/2 inches on the ends, plus enough on the sides of the wrapper to roll it up like a burrito. Except it is a spring roll. Not a burrito.
Finally, fold the short ends of the wrapper into the middle, grab one of the long sides, and gently, gently roll it together. The rice wrapper should be sticky enough to seal itself. If you have never had these before, they are served cold, so they make a good side dish for a hot protein, or an appetizer, or – as my husband said – a portable salad!
Serve with your favorite satay peanut sauce, or as I did, Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce, 25-Ounce Bottle (Pack of 2) which is The Goodness in dipping sauce.
Monday, August 30, 2010
There is an overnight-fermented pizza dough that I intend to do next time I think of having pizza 24 hours in advance. But for tonight, I found a 30-minute dough that I was willing to try. I’ve pasted the recipe below, too, for convenience sake.
- 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 2 cups bread flour * I used 1 cup whole wheat, and 1 cup white flour*
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour, olive oil, salt, white sugar and the yeast mixture; stir well to combine. Beat well until a stiff dough has formed. Cover and rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Turn dough out onto a well floured surface. Form dough into a round and roll out into a pizza crust shape. Cover with your favorite sauce and toppings and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
4-5 vine ripened tomatoes (depending on the size)
1/2 yellow onion
6 chicken tenders (frozen or defrosted)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp rosemary, ground
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
1 cup grated mozzarella
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp Caesar dressing (or Ranch)
Once the dough had risen, I followed step # 3 above, and then covered the crust first with a couple of tablespoons of Caesar dressing, about 2/3 cup mozzarella, and then all the sautéed ingredients from above, and a bit more mozzarella and grated parmesan. I baked the pizza about 25 minutes on a pizza stone, and it was good! I regret that I did not take any pictures, but them’s them apples.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I think risotto is something that I always enjoy at restaurants, and even though it’s a fairly easy concept, I’ve generally avoided making it. Why? I don’t know. But I recently read a good risotto recipe over at Butter And Onions: Pea and Bacon Risotto, plus I had these figs, and sometimes I just say something out loud to see if it sounds good. So I said “Fig risotto. Hmm… why not?” I scoured around the internet to find comparable recipes, and found a few, but for most of them, I lacked other critical ingredients, so I basically just gleaned the basic cooking technique from reading several recipes, and came up with this. My technique may not have been totally authentic, but the end result was savory and really good.
5 fresh figs, stems cut off, washed, and diced up
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups brown rice (or traditional arborio rice)
3-4 cups water
1 tbsp “Better than Bouillon” chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
1 oz white wine
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Peccorino or Parmigiano
Since I used brown rice in this recipe, which takes a lot longer to cook, I was afraid of it being very under-cooked if I simply followed a traditional risotto technique. Therefore, I decided to precook it about half way in a rice cooker.
I started up my chicken bouillon with the rice & water in the rice cooker.
While that was going on, I sautéed my almonds in about 2 tbsp butter in a cast-iron skillet, until they were nice and golden and aromatic.
I added my diced onion in, and continued sautéing until the onion was almost translucent, and at the tail end, dumped in my diced figs, and the white wine. When the figs were cooked just a tiny bit, I turned off the heat, and set aside this mixture in a separate bowl.
Once the rice approached a nearly cooked state, I added a little more butter to my skillet, and scooped in the parboiled rice filling up the bottom of the skillet. I cooked this on medium heat until it started to stick to the skillet, and then poured in the remaining bouillon water from my rice cooker about 1/2 cup at a time until it was absorbed. Since that didn’t seem to be enough liquid, I added about another 3/4 cup water into the skillet, and kept letting it absorb as the rice was cooking. Towards the end, I stirred in 1/2 cup cream, the fig-mixture, and about 1/4 cup grated cheese, and a dash of nutmeg.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
What’s always funny to me is when people refer to things as “salad” that to me do not constitute a salad—case in point: the ubiquitous “marshmallow salad.” There are zero vegetables and absolutely no redeeming nutritional qualities to them—they are really a dessert, but I suppose by calling it a salad, people feel vindicated in eating it with their dinner.
A few nights ago I had a “salad with chicken.” It was salad greens, with tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled chicken pieces, sauteed red bell peppers, feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. So was that a chicken salad? Well, it was, but not the kind of chicken salad that this recipe entails.
For most Americans, the “chicken salad” is something like 1 cup of mayo, canned chicken, and some chopped celery and salt & pepper. This is kind of the cholesterol bomb lunch equivalent of the marshmallow salad I mentioned above.
My sister-in-law-once-removed (i.e., my sister’s husband’s sister) makes a really good chicken salad that’s considerably healthier, and I’ve tweaked her version a little, and come up with my own version. Most of the ingredients can be substituted, and I’ll make note of other suggestions that are equally good.
1 - 12 oz can of chicken breast (or approximately 1.5 cups of chopped, grilled chicken, whichever you prefer.)
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled, and grated with a cheese grater
3/4 cup “craisins”
4 green onion stalks, cut into rings, about half-way up the green stem…(fresh chives will also suffice if approximately the same amount.)
1/2 cup slivered or chopped raw almonds – make sure the chopped or slivered pieces are small enough to blend in well with the salad’s texture, and just add a bit of crunch and extra protein. Another option is salted, toasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts
Optional: 1 apple (preferably something like Gala, Fuji, Cameo, Jonagold…) diced, and/or 2/3 cup red grapes, sliced
2-3 tbsp mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard (or try any other deli mustard that you like)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
Mix all together in a bowl until evenly coated, and serve in a tortilla, pita pocket, or with bread or crackers.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The only tips I have for you, especially if you're a grilling beginner, are as follows: soak the grilling plank about 4 hours before dinner time to make sure it doesn’t fully catch fire on the grill; take your fish out of the fridge a half hour before grilling so that it’s temperature warms up a bit, which allows it to grill faster, and not dry out too much; last, but not least, preheat the grill ten minutes (if your grill has a thermostat on the lid, you’ll want it to be around 400 degrees in there) so the fillet will grill on the plank in about ten minutes. The internal temp of the fish should hit 145, if you use a meat thermometer.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
I am by no means any authority on the preparation of a roast. In fact, this roast was the very first one I have ever made. You see, my mother is the one who makes roasts, and so if she makes one, we just go over there and eat. Thus, I’ve never made one. Until today. Considering my lack of experience, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.
1 roast cut of beef. (I happened to have “eye of round”.)
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into halves
1/2 onion cut into wedges and separated
1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh sage
2 bay leaves
4 beef bouillon cubes
2 cups of boiling water
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
First, sear the meat on all sides, on medium-high heat in a cast-iron skillet with about 2 tbsp butter until browned. Put this browned meat in a Dutch oven, or oven proof deep dish. I made beef bouillon with the cubes, and 2 cups boiling water, and added all the herbs and seasonings. Pour this over the meat, and put in the carrots, and onions and garlic. Finish cooking the roast in the oven for about 4-5 hours with a very low heat option (maybe around 200-250). Check the meat with a thermometer every so often. Since eye-of-round can be tough, I just kept it simmering in the broth well beyond the 160 degree internal temperature.
Cut the strings off, and slice the meat across the grain, into the thinnest possible slices.
8-10 potatoes (red or Yukon gold)
1 large yam
1 cup milk
1/4 stick of butter
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp seasoning salt
Boil the potatoes and yams in their peels until fork tender. Drain water off, and then peel them (I stuck a fork in each potato using my left hand, and used a knife to peel them with my other hand.) Mash them up with butter, milk and seasonings. You can also use a hand held mixer to really fluff them up. The yams add vitamins, fiber and a soft, sweet flavor to the mashed potatoes, as well as a little color.
Now ordinarily I’d put a little more effort into a gravy, but since I was in a hurry last night, I just used the recipe on the back of the corn-starch container… I strained the broth from my pot roast through a sieve, and mixed that with corn-starch and simmered it up. But for some reason it didn’t get very thick, so it was almost more like an Au Jus. Nevertheless, it was still really good drizzled over the meat and potatoes.
Granted the ingredients may sound a little peculiar, but trust me, it’s so savory and delicious, it may just be one of your go-to recipes when dinner guests come over.
4 chicken breasts (with or without skin, depending on your preference) (or 12-15 chicken tenders)
1 cup heavy cream
8-12 rings of fresh pineapple slices (or 1 can if fresh can’t be gotten)
1-2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
Fresh ground pepper
First season each chicken breast with some Seasoning salt. You could go all gourmet, but seriously, Lawry’s is really good on here, so the paprika should be a part of the equation. Then the two options are to either pre-bake the chicken in a casserole dish, which you will use again for the completed dish, or to fry the chicken in a skillet with some olive oil until cooked all the way through and reading 160 with a meat thermometer.
When the chicken is prepped, this would be a good time to get some long-grain white rice going in a pot or rice cooker. For four chicken breasts, I’d probably use about 2 cups of uncooked rice and 4 cups of water.
Layer pineapple rings at the bottom of the casserole dish.
Then put the fully cooked chicken on top (I used chicken tenders, because I always have them in the freezer.)
Pour heavy cream into a bowl, and whip it until soft peaks form.
Beat in the egg yolk and Dijon mustard, and whip another minute or so until you get a nice golden colored cream mixture.
Spread out the cream-mixture over the top, like you’re frosting a cake.
Now, put it all back in the oven at about 400 for about 15-20 minutes until the cream bubbles up and browns.
Serve over white rice, and don’t forget to ladle on that creamy goodness all over your rice… (And add a vegetable of your choice, to offset the ultra decadent cream-sauce!)
Friday, July 30, 2010
I love Quiche, and usually have good success in making it… this one turned out a little bland, but I think it was mostly just lack of salt, so aside from that, it was fine. Also, whole wheat flour does not make the best pastry crust, I’ve discovered, since it’s not very elastic and hard to roll out without it just crumbling & cracking. So use at least half of the portion of white flour, if not all.
Soften butter at room temp for easiest crust making. Mix flour and butter together until distributed evenly. Sprinkle in ice cold water, one tablespoon at a time, pausing to knead together in between. Add more water as needed, but the dough should be firm, and fairly dry to the touch, not squishy or sticky like a pizza dough.
Chill the dough for about an hour (another step I lazily and hastily omitted last night for lack of time) which helps it be more malleable. After it’s chilled, roll it out on a flat surface into a round, and place it in a pie plate. Crimp the edges if you are a fancy-pants sort of pie crust maker. Me, I was just hungry and wanted my dinner, so I didn’t bother with a decorative edges last night, plus as I said earlier, the whole wheat flour wasn’t working very well. I basically had to just press it into the pie plate and try to make it hold together… It almost reminded me of a graham cracker crust in texture.
Use a fork to poke lots of holes in the bottom so it doesn’t bubble up too much.
Bake the pie crust at 400 for ten minutes, and then take it back out. If you have fancy fluted edges to your crust, take a long strip of aluminum foil to cover the edges with it so they don’t burn during the second bake-time when you fill the pie.
Approx. 1/2 cup of milk and/or cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup of shredded cheese (I’ve tried various cheeses, and they all have their own benefits. Cheddar, feta, gruyere, Swiss, and last night I used Mozzarella)
Mix all together in a large bowl with a whisk
Vegetable or meat fillings:
Any number of veggies work well, but be aware that most veggies are high in water content and can make the quiche very soggy. I usually solve this by sautéing my veggies in a skillet first, to let some of the water evaporate out. Options on the veggies are bell peppers, chives, green onions, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus… chop them up finely, and sauté them for five to ten minutes in a little bit of oil until they’ve “reduced” a bit.
Meats that are good in quiche could be anything from smoked salmon, bacon, black forest ham from the deli, sliced into thin shavings & slivered, or even shrimp (although I’m not a huge shellfish fan…) Just making suggestions.
In my quiche last night, I used up the rest of the green onions and bell pepper from my Pad Thai the other day, as well as sautéed baby spinach leaves. I didn’t have meat, but bacon would have been really good with this combo.
Half the fun of a quiche is just experimenting with combinations, of cheese, meats and veggies. It’s really just a glorified omelet in a crust, but it’s so good, and can be as good for dinner, breakfast or lunch.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I am seriously a cheese-addict. I eat cheese almost daily in some form or another, and tonight seemed downright autumnal for July (it was about 65 and overcast, and breezy) so I opted for a 'comfort food' meal of grilled pork chops, mac & cheese, and some steamed summer squash.
This mac & cheese is loosely adapted from one that I got from my husband's mother, although I use real sharp cheddar instead of Velveeta, and I usually just put in a pinch of nutmeg instead of pepper.
1/2 stick of butter
2-3 tbsp flour (I actually used whole wheat today with fairly good success)
1- 1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup grated cheese (sharp cheddar makes the most 'classic mac & cheese' flavor)
pinch of nutmeg
8-10 oz of uncooked pasta of your choice (I had bowties, so that's what I used)
Bring water to a boil and cook pasta while you prepare a 'roux' to make the cheese sauce.
(Roux is a flour & butter based sauce which helps emulsify cheese better than just stirring cheese into hot milk -- which, for the record, I've tried once, and got a giant ball of stringy cheese, floating in a pot of milk.)
Melt butter in another small sauce pan over medium heat, and stir in flour one tablespoon at a time, to keep it a smooth texture.
Stir in milk, very slowly, just an ounce or so at first. If you pour the milk in too fast, it will cool off the butter & flour mixture and make it lumpy.
Gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, keeping heat at medium, and taking care not to boil the sauce.
Next add a handful of grated cheddar cheese at a time, stirring it to melt it into the hot milk & butter roux.
Pour cheese sauce over cooked & drained pasta and either serve as is, or bake in the oven for ten minutes at 350 to "congeal it all" into its sticky, cheesy goodness.