Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The reward

This weekend we did a whole bunch of projects around the house to prepare for some holiday guests. To show my appreciation to my husband- who busted his butt, and is a real meat and potatoes kind of guy- I decided to make this special dinner. Pan seared rack of lamb, potato gratin with fennel and onions, roasted baby golden beets and sauteed beet greens.

The gratin was a bit of work but worth it. The rest of the meal was a snap to prepare.

Beets: Cut the greens off, scrub them clean, wrap them in an envelope of aluminum foil, put foil packet on a cookie sheet and put in a 400 oven. Little beets (pingpong ball size) take around 30 minutes, big ones (tennis ball size) take around an hour. Open the packet (carefully- steam will come out) and stab a beet with a knife- if it slides through easily, they are done. Leave the packet open and let things cool a bit. The skins will rub right off with your fingers- no peelers or knives needed.

Although I happen to think the beets are delicious just like that, it can also be nice to have a little acid on there to offset the sweetness So I drizzled over a little honey-balsamic glaze. Also super easy (and good on a whole bunch of stuff). Put about a cup of cheap balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add about 2 Tbs of honey and let it reduce down until it sticks a bit to the back of a spoon. Take it off the heat and whisk in about a tablespoon of butter. Drizzle over just about anything.

Beet greens: Trim off the tops of the beets and slice into 1 inch strips, put in a large bowl of cool water to clean the grit off. Throw in a skillet with some olive oil and shallots, season with salt and pepper. Let greens wilt down a bit and add a squirt of chicken stock, put the lid on for a few minutes.

Gratin: Butter an oven safe dish. Thinly slice one onion and one bulb of fennel. Sautee in a little butter until they are browned a bit and soft. Peel 3 potatoes ( i used russet because its what I had on hand but pretty much any potato will do). Thinly slice the potatoes ( I used this cool ceramic slicer thing). Layer 1 potato's worth of slices in the baking dish, season with salt and pepper, spoon some of the onion fennel mix on top, shave over some parmesan cheese, repeat. Finish off with a layer of potato and shaved parm. Pour into the dish some heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake in a 375 oven for about 45 minutes. The cream should be bubbly and when you stick a knive in it, it should slide in easily. Take off the foil and let the top brown a bit (about another 5-10 minutes.

For the lamb all I did was generously salt and pepper, sprinkle a bit of fresh rosemary on top and a little olive oil. Put it meat side down in a screaming hot skillet. Resist the urge to touch the meat for at least a 5 minutes. Once the meat has a brown crust on it flip it over and put the skillet in a 400 oven. Leave it in there until a meat thermometer in the middle registers 140 for medium rare. Take the meat out and let it rest on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes before slicing into chops.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving- yum. This year we went to Jeremiah's mom's house for the big meal. I brought my secret family recipe Stuffing Balls, some mashed sweet potatoes and a pumpkin cheesecake.
Many people don't get the stuffing ball concept but you have to take my word on this one- delicious. I personally hate soggy stuffing- and this totally fixes that problem with everyone getting their own crispy on the outside, moist on the inside nugget of goodness. It also makes them portable for snacking. Although I cannot divulge the recipe, I can tell you that it has large quantities of sausage in it. And I'm not talking some artisan fancy sausage- this is old school jimmy dean breakfast sausage. And I'm pretty sure that its the porky goodness that always made the stuffing balls the most sought after item of the Thanksgiving meal when I was a kid.
As for the sweet potatoes- they were roasted at 400 until soft, the orange part was scooped out and I added a small pat of butter, a little maple syrup, a pinch of salt, some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice to taste. Easy and delicious.
For dessert I made Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
For a 4 fork recipe I thought it was just OK. The flavors were good but the texture was a little dry. Then again, perhaps it was just my lack of baking skills at work and not about the recipe.