Thursday, November 27, 2008

No Knead Yeast Rolls

I've loved baking ever since I was a small child and used to make cookies and yeast bread for my family. Here I am in our 1950's kitchen checking on the latest experiment I was already infliciting on people. ...bread, I think, in this photo.

The following recipe is one that I've had for years, probably since the 70', so I have no clue where it came from. It has been a holiday staple because it is so easy to make. As it says, no kneading, simply shaping the dough into balls and plopping into prepared pans. We have enough to do on Thanksgiving, so let's take it easy with the rolls.

No Knead Yeast Rolls

1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 large egg, beaten
4 1/2 cups flour, sifted

Sprinkle yeast over the 1/4 cup water and set aside in a warm place. Combine shortening, salt and sugar in boiling water. Stir and cool to 105 to 115 degrees. See Notes Add shortening mixture to the yeast then beat in the egg.

Mix in the flour about 1 cup at a time to make a soft dough. Place in a warm place in a greased bowl and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch down and let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough in half. Divide each half into 12 equal portions. Shape gently into rounds (like golf ball sized) and place into 2 cake pans. 12 rolls in each pan. Let rise again for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes

Makes 24 rolls.

NOTES: Be sure the mixture is cooled to at least that temperature or you will kill the yeast and have dough balls instead of fluffy rolls. Believe me, I've learned this from experience and by being impatient. If you don't have an instant read thermometer, test it like you would a baby formula. Opps!! I guess I just dated myself since people probably don't boil their baby's formula anymore. LOL

In the olden days, I would use a big wooden spoon and beat the dough until my arms were sore. Probably good excercise, but now, I just use my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer. My husband bought one for me for Christmas several years ago and I couldn't live without it. Love love love it. Everyone who is a serious cook should have one. I use it with the paddle attachement to mix the dough which basically is the substitute for the actual kneading process.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Part One

Thanksgiving is a big cooking holiday and it is always good to get as much of the preparation out of the way in the days leading up to the big event. Planning will keep you from going insane and trying to cook everything last minute. Plus if most things are done ahead, I can relax with a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Day before Thanksgiving: I made the marinade for the Brined Turkey, used the last (thank God) of the Asian Apple Pears for a Gingered Pear Pie and made seasoned broth from the turkey neck and giblets to be used as a base for gravy.

The turkey is happily marinating in a small ice chest and sitting on the back deck where the temperature is just as good as any refrigerator in the evening.

Tomorrow- Thanksgiving: In the morning start the No Knead Yeast rolls that are a favorite every year. Very easy to make and as it says. No kneading. Those take about 4 hours from start to finish. It doesn't hurt if they are done early, just wrap in foil and keep warm on the back of the stove.

Mid day. Assemble the stuffing casserole. Assemble the green bean casserole. Sometime around 2pm put the turkey in the oven. Have a glass of wine. Make the glaze and let it sit on the stove. About half way through the turkey....pop in the casseroles. Three quarters of the way through the turkey, cut up the carrots and par boil, set aside and mix up the orange glaze ingredients for the carrots. Hmmmm ....maybe a glass of wine would be in order here to reward me for my hard work.

Sometime during the day, set and decorate the table.

While the turkey is resting, cover the casseroles in foil. Finish off the carrots. Have another glass of wine. Whip up some gravy. I don't want it but if we don't have gravy it just isn't Thanksgiving for my hubby. I refuse to have cranberry sauce this year.

Carve the turkey in the kitchen. Mound the stuffing in the middle of the platter and arrange the turkey around the stuffing. Carrots in a decorative serving bowl and bring out the gravy boat. Schlepp it all over to the table... MORE WINE for everyone.

Dinner is served. is going to do all these dishes and clean up this mess????

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Smoked Brined Turkey

Brining your turkey will keep it moist and full of flavor. As I mentioned in my post about our smoked deli operation, we would brine the chicken and turkey before smoking, deep frying or baking by using a commercial vacuum brining machine.This is a recipe that I think came from a Sunset magazine. But who knows, I clip and keep so many recipes I can't remember. I just know it is very good.

It must be prepared early in the day before you plan to cook because the bird should brine overnight at least. I use a small clean ice chest. Since it's pretty cold at night here (20 degrees this morning), I can just put the bird the the ice chest,fill with the cooled brine and set outside on the deck.

Smoked Brined Turkey

6 quarts water
2 large onions quartered
1 cup coarse salt (non-iodized)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped fresh ginger
4 bay leaves
4 star anise
12 whole peppercorns

1 whole turkey (10 -12-lbs)
2 oranges quartered

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs sesame oil

4 cups hickory chips soaked in water

3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup dijon mustard
3 tbs butter

BRINE: Bring to a simmer in a very large pot ,the water and all ingredients up to the turkey in the list. Simmer until sugar and salt are completely disolved. Cool brine COMPLETELY. Do a day ahead if needed. Completely thaw turkey. Rinse and pat dry. Submerge in brine and chill. Marinate overnight or longer. Turn turkey twice.

Before smoking, place oranges inside bird. Brush with oils. Smoke at a low temperature according to your smoker or BBQ directions, (about 220) breast side up unitl reaches 160 degrees. Approx 3 hours. Brush with glaze and cook until temp reaches 180 in the thigh areas, about 1 to 2 hours or patient. Cover any parts of turkey that are getting too dark with foil

GLAZE: Mix syrup, wine, mustard and butter and simmer, stiriing in a small pan until thickened. Brush over the bird for the last half hour or so.

If your bbq has a temperature gauge, check occaisonally to make sure the temperature doesn't rise over 22o and use an instant read meat thermometer after an hour or so. Depending on the size of your turkey it could take several hours to cook to the desired temperature. I use a Polder temperature gauge like this one.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pot Luck Worry? Ricotta Pineapple Pie. No Problem

It's a pot luck for the holiday and YOU have been asked to bring a dessert. Panic!!!

Don't like to bake? Can't make pie crust. Don't have much time? No problem. Here is a dessert that is a snap to make and is impressive. No need to tell everyone how easy it is......just bask in the praise that will be heaped upon you.

After watching the Soprano's on television for a while and watching them shovel food into their faces after they had committed some horrible crime or two.... I discovered that there was an actual cookbook The Soprano's Family Cookbook. Carmella Soprano's solution to everything was food: either some nice manicotti or a ricotta pie.

Ricotta Pineapple Pie

1 tbsp butter softened
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla

20 oz crushed pineapple
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan or springform pan. Add the crumbs, turning the pan to coat the bottom and sides. (note: I usually use 1 to 2 tbsp butter. Spread it thick and pat in lightly the graham craker crumbs)

In a large bowl stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Ad the ricotta, eggs, cream, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until the pie is set around the edges but the center is stll slightly soft. Cool on a wire rack to room temperture.

TOPPING: Drain the pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup of the juice. In a medium saucepan, stor together the sugar and cornsatrch. Stir in the 1/2 cup of pineaple juice and lemon juice. Cook, stiring constantly, until thickened... about 1 min. Add the pineapple. Remove from the heat and let cool until just warm. Spread the topping over the pie. Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving.

TIPS: Use whole milk ricottoa cheese that has been aged a bit in the refrigerator. I let it age until after the experation date, which is usually just a suggestion anyway. The skim type of cheese will make a pie with a grainy texture. If you have a diabetic in the family, you can use Splenda in place of sugar in this recipe and it won't have any affect on the pie.

The texture of this pie is even better if refrigerated overnight, without the topping if you can. I found that the ripened pie is smoother and the topping tends to 'weep' a bit if you refrigerate for too long.

A few thinly sliced strawberries strategically placed on the pie as decoration makes a lovely presentation.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our Adventures in Smoking

Smoking meat, fowl and fish that is.

For several years, we owned and operated a deli that specialized in smoked foods. Our specialty was a hot smoked trout and the name of our little establishment was Rainbow's End. Every other week we would go directly to the hatchery, about 20 minutes away, and obtain hundreds of pounds of trout that were all about 1 1/2 pounds. The hatchery could sort them by size with a screen. The fish were then transported alive in tanks of water to the "fish shop". You can't get product any fresher than that!!

My poor husband was the "gut and cut" part of the operation and processed the fish by gutting and filleting the fish. We figured he was the best man for that operation since he is a plumber and used to ick. LOL. Guts and fish remainders were sold to a local ranch that used them as a fertilizer source. The next step was to season the fillets with our own secret special recipe and marinate them in our cold room until ready for the smokers that we had designed specially for the fish. They were cooled and vacuum sealed in packages of one to two fillets.

Everyone loved the fish and we actually won first prize in Seattle for the hot smoked category. We sold many to a local restaurant who also loved the fish because they could reheat them and serve as an entree. The fish could be served as appetizers or processed into a tasty trout pate. Andronico's in the Bay Area carried our products.

We then branched out into hickory smoked hot wings (very very popular with the resorts in our area for their bar snack menu), brine smoked turkey, deep fried turkey, smoked whole and half chickens. Commercial vacuum tumblers and commercial smokers were used for the meat and chickens to get the brine and marinades deep into the meat to create a juicy and flavorful product.

Hooking up with a local buffalo rancher, we soon started serving smoked buffalo tri tip type roasts, barbequed buffalo burgers, and smoked pork ribs in sauce every Friday. The staff would prepare various side dishes (corn bread, cole slaw, potato salad, beans) and a dessert (giant cookies, sheet cake cut into individual serving squares) People would order ahead and pick up an entire meal to take home Friday after work or just stop in and have an early dinner.

We sold the business after 5 years. Why did we stop?? Oh my God, were we ever tired!!! Not only were we doing the deli, I was operating a full time financial planning office and my husband was still operating his plumbing/pump/water system business. Operating a restaurant, overseeing employees, marketing product is a full time occupation and anyone who plans to go into business needs to be able to devote their full attention to it and be prepared to NOT make any money for the first couple of years.

Every now and then I miss the business, and then come to my senses. I do miss the product. Loved the hickory smoked wings and occaisonally we make a small batch for ourselves. This year for Thanksgiving, I'm making a smoked and brined turkey that was very popular in our brief deli career.

Anchovy Bell Pepper Spread

If you are going to host an early afternoon cocktail or wine event, it is a wise idea to include finger food, nibbles, appetizers to accompany the alcohol. We keep the event rather small and have only 6 to 8 guests. I like to have a cheese and cracker plate with wedges of Brie, Smoked Gouda and various types of spreadable or sliced cheeses. Sliced fruit: like pears or apples to go with the cheese. Perhaps some salami or prosciutto. Bowls of olives of different types, garlic stuffed are very popular, pimento, blue cheese, Kalamata and your basic black olives. Pickled asparagus spears. All available from your local grocer and require nothing more than slicing and arranging on serving plates.

Small tartlets of mushrooms or mini quiches baked in those tiny muffin pans can be prepared early in the day and reheated in the oven.

Dips and spreads are nice to have for dipping fresh crunchy veggies and spreading onto sliced baguettes. Here is a tasty spread that is one of my favorites.
Anchovy Bell Pepper Spread

2 large red bell peppers
2 oz can of anchovies with olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Char the bell peppers over a gas flame or on the barbeque turning until blackened on all sides. Place in a paper bag and let stand for about 10 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers and coarsely chop.

Place peppers, anchovies and oil ,onion , parsley and vinegar in a food processor and process until the onion is finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight to allow flavors to mellow.

Serve with baguette slices and/or cucumber rounds.

TIP: If you don't have the time or access to fresh red bell peppers, you can also buy roasted red bell peppers in jars. Just be sure to drain well and blott off as much of the oil as you can or esle your spread will be less spreadable and more like a thick soup. I highly recommend doing the bell peppers yourself. While I'm taking the time to roast a mere two peppers, I go ahead and make more roasted peppers than I need for just this recipe and slice or chop the remainder, place them in olive oil and refrigerate for a few days to use in other recipes during the week.

Tis the Season to Cook

For a person who likes to cook, this is the best time of the year. The Holiday Season!!! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. The season for entertaining and having friends over for cocktail and hors d'oeurves (also known as appetizer) parties. A chance to create interesting and tasty morsels like Anchovy-Bell Pepper Spread on Baguettes, and try them out on your tipsy friends. Tiny savory tartletts of sherried mushrooms and cheese.

Giving gifts of food, cookies, candies, jams. Dry mixes for soup or quick breads in decorative containers, gaily wrapped up with the recipe card attached. Wonderful gifts that don't cost much money and are a thoughtful gift of time and love.

The weather is cool and baking not only warms the soul, it also warms the home. Cakes, pies, cookies, cheesecake, bread. Baking a turkey, ham, leg of lamb or even that most wonderful cut of meat....a prime rib of beef.

In the next few months, I'll be posting some of my favorite holiday recipes and sharing what we are cooking for the season.