Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pork Potstickers with Sesame-Ginger Dipping Sauce - A Great Holiday Appetizer

Pork Wontons
I used to watch Alton Brown on the Food Network. If I hadn't, I probably would never have tried these potstickers. But sometimes it just takes watching someone else making something to realize, "Hey, I could do that!" Finding the wonton wrappers in the grocery store might just be the hardest part! (You can find wonton wrappers in the produce section of the grocery store in a refrigerated case.)

There are many ways to shape potstickers and this is how I assemble them...
1. Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center of the wonton wrapper.
2. Fill a small bowl with water. Dip a pastry brush in water and brush along two sides of the wrapper. This will act as the "glue"
3. Fold the wonton in half, lifting the unmoistened sides over the filling to meet the moistened sides. Press the sides together with your fingers while trying to remove any air that is inside the potsticker.
4. Brush across the top of the folded potsticker and fold the two points over to make the little envelope shape.
Pork Wontons
Line your wontons on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Cover these with a damp cloth until ready to cook, or you can place them in single layers in an airtight container, placing plastic wrap between each layer. I don't recommend freezing them in a freezer bag because the "tips" of the shaped potstickers get brittle when frozen and will break off when jostled around in the freezer. You can cook the potstickers right from the freezer without thawing but I would add a minute or two to the cooking. This makes these little morsels perfect for a make-ahead holiday appetizer.

Pork Wontons
Carefully follow Alton's directions for cooking these and you'll get perfect potstickers with a nicely browned underside. Serve warm with dipping sauce and chopsticks. Delicious!
Pork Wontons
Perfect Potstickers
From Alton Brown's Good Eats, 2004
Makes 35 to 40 potstickers

Ingredients
1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
Water, for sealing wontons
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/3 cups chicken stock or water, divided (I use water)

Directions
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Combine the first 11 ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl (pork through cayenne). Set aside.
To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush 2 of the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center of the wrapper. Fold over, seal edges, and shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.

Heat a 12-inch saute pan (not a non-stick pan) over medium heat. Brush with vegetable oil once the pan is nice and hot. Just a thim coating of oil is needed. Add 8 to 10 potstickers at a time to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, without touching or moving the potstickers (this is important!). Once the 2 minutes are up, gently add 1/3 cup chicken stock or water to the pan, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove wontons to a heatproof platter and place in the warm oven. Clean the pan in between batches by pouring in a little water and allowing the pan to deglaze, then wipe clean with a paper towel. Repeat until all the wontons are cooked. Serve immediately.

Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce
from Cooking Light

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Combine all ingredients, stirring well with a whisk.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pumpkin Eggnog Pie

Pumpkin Eggnog Pie

It's almost Thanksgiving and I am headed over the river and through the woods to Grammy's house for Thanksgiving dinner. One of the things I'll be bringing is this Pumpkin Eggnog Pie. (Well not this particular pie because it's long gone, but I'll make a new one...) I've tried a few other pumpkin pie recipes but I always went back to the recipe on the Libby's Pumpkin label - until my friend Megan told me about this recipe. It's so smooth and creamy and delicious - yet still traditional for those traditionalists out there. It really begs for a dollop of whipped cream but this was only the dress rehearsal after all. For the big show there will certainly be plenty of whipped cream to be dolloped! Happy Thanksgiving!
Pumpkin Eggnog Pie

Pumpkin Eggnog Pie
adapted from Good Housekeeping

1/2 recipe Pate Brisee
1 15-oz can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 1/4 cup eggnog (from a carton such as Land o' Lakes)
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
(or use 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice in place of the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg)

Prepare pie crust and place it into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan and crimp the edges as desired.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, with wire whisk, mix pumpkin, eggnog, sugar, spice, salt, and eggs until well blended. Pour pumpkin mixture into the pie crust. The mixture will come up to almost the top of the piecrust. (Any extra custard can be baked in a custard cup. It is done when the center no longer jiggles.)

Bake pie 60 to 65 minutes or until filling puffs up around edges and center is just set but not puffed. Cool pie completely on wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to serve or up to 1 day. Garnish each serving with whipped cream sprinkled with pumpkin-pie spice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Italian Semolina Bread

Semolina Bread
Here it is...the final piece to round out the dinner party menu. In case you missed the other parts of the menu, check out the links...

Italian Semolina Bread (see below)

There was nary a crumb left on anyone's plate, and everyone helped themselves to seconds, so I'll call that a successful dinner! Even better was the fact that nothing on the menu was too difficult or time-consuming. If you weren't into bread-baking, you could pick up an artisan loaf from your local market and save yourself the trouble of making it yourself. But if you know about Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day, you'll know that you can make the dough a few days ahead and bake it up a few hours before your party. It doesn't get much fresher than that! The authors of that book have come out with a sequel called Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It explains how to make whole grain and gluten-free breads the "5 minute" way. I'll be adding that book to my Christmas wish-list! You will need to use a pizza stone to get the best results.

Italian Semolina Bread
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe can be doubled or halved.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast (1 ½ packets)
1 ½ tablespoons salt
3 cups durum semolina flour
3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Sesame seeds for top crust, approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons
Cornmeal for the pizza peel
Cornstarch wash (see below)

Cornstarch Wash: Using a fork, blend ½ teaspoon cornstarch with a small amount of water to form a paste. Add ½ cup water and whisk with the fork. Microwave or boil until mixture appears glassy, about 30 to 60 seconds on high. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks; discard if it has an off smell.

Mixing and Storing the dough:
Mix the yeast and salt with the lukewarm water in your 5-quart bowl electric mixer bowl. Mix in the flours without kneading with the dough hook of your heavy-duty stand mixer until the mixture is uniform. The dough should be wet. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days.

On Baking Day:
Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball to form an oval-shaped free-form loaf. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes.

Twenty minutes before baking time:
Preheat the oven to 450° F with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread. Just before baking, paint the surface with cornstarch wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and slash the surface diagonally, using a serrated bread knife. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until deeply browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustment in baking time. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sauteed Mushrooms

Sauteed Mushrooms
Sauteed Mushrooms and crusty Semolina Bread are the final additions to the dinner party menu. Serve these alongside the Grilled Filet Mignon, and Cranberry Walnut Salad. End the dinner with a Pear Custard Galette for dessert and this delicious coffee and you'll have the makings of one successful dinner party!
Dinner Party Menu

I'll post the semolina bread recipe tomorrow so come back and check it out!

Sauteed Mushrooms
Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2-3 shallots or 1/4 cup red onion or scallions, minced
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
a splash of dry vermouth
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet. After the butter stops foaming, add the shallots, sliced mushrooms and thyme springs and saute over med-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add some salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms are slightly browned and caramelized. Add the vermouth and cook for a few more minutes while scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Remove the thyme sprigs before serving.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cranberry Walnut Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Cranberry Walnut Salad
I wanted to share with you one of my favorite salads. It's a quick salad that requires no chopping of veggies and can be on the table in no time. It's sweet and tart and just plain delicious. Toast up some crusty bread and have yourself and healthy and delicious lunch!

Cranberry Walnut Salad
Spring Greens Mix (I use Earthbound Farms)
dried cranberries
walnuts, crumbled with your hands
crumbled blue cheese

Place all ingredients in a bowl in the amounts you desire. Now that was easy!

Vinaigrette
from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar, or your favorite vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. While whisking, add the olive oil, a little at a time, until the dressing tastes balanced. Toss with your salad and serve immediately.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pear Custard Galette

Pear Custard Galette
Some may think it's a bit excessive to have shelves and shelves of cookbooks. I haven't counted them lately, but I have somewhere between 50-100 cookbooks (and two more are on the way from Amazon). There are definitely some that I turn to more than others, but when I'm looking for a recipe to make that uses the ingredients I have on hand, it's great to have a variety of books to peruse. This was the situation: I had pears on the counter, and a single pate brisee crust in the freezer. I wanted a quick but impressive dessert to serve at a dinner party and this one fit the bill, perfectly.
Pear Custard Galette
The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home To Yours. It is a recipe that can use just about any fruit you have and Dorie suggests a few in her book. These in-season Bosc pears held their shape and tasted sweet and delicious. There are no added spices so you really experience the pure taste of the fruit itself. The recipe calls for assembling and baking the pear galette for a little while and then pour the custard mixture wherever there is room between pears and bake for a little longer for the custard to set up. Serve the galette while still slightly warm with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche on the side. I loved this dessert more than I thought I would and I can't wait to make it again.

Pear Custard Galette
adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Single Pie Crust (I use Martha Stewart's
Pate Brisee recipe)
2-3 tablespoons apricot or other flavor jam
about 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs or vanilla wafer crumbs
8 ripe but firm pears
Coarse or granulated sugar, for dusting

For the Custard
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat to oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
Working on a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a large 1/8 inch thick circle. Using a pastry wheel or a paring knife, trim the dough to a 13 inch diameter circle. Using a cake pan or a pot lid as a template and the tip of a bunt kitchen knife as a marker, lightly trace a 9 inch circle in the center of the dough- this is the area for the filling.
With the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula, spread some of the jam over the circle- how much will depend of the jam flavor you want. Sprinkle over the crumbs, adding a little more than 2 tablespoons if you think you’ve got particularly juicy fruit. Put a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper over the dough and refrigerate it while you prepare the fruit.
Peel the pears, cut them into quarters or eighths if they're large and remove the core.
Arrange the fruit on the dough as desired, then gently lift the unfilled border of dough up and onto the filling. As you lift the dough and place it on the filling, it will pleat. If you’re not in a rush, freeze the galette for 15 minutes to give the crust a rest.
Brush the dough very lightly with a little water, then sprinkle it with a teaspoon or two of sugar. Bake galette for 25 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the fruit is soft.

Meanwhile, make the custard:
Whisk together the melted butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in a bowl; set aside until needed.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven (leave the oven on), and carefully pour the custard around the fruit. Depending one how much juice has accumulated and how much space you have between the fruit, you may not be able to pour all the custard into the galette, but even 2 tablespoons can give the right effect. Pour in as much custard as you can, then carefully return the pan to the oven.
Bake for another 12 to 15 minutes, or until the custard is set- it shouldn’t jiggle when you gently shake the pan. Cool the galette on the baking sheet on a rack for 10 minutes.
Very carefully slide a small baking sheet or cake lifter under the galette and slip the galette onto a rack to cool. The galette can be served when it is just warm when it has reached room temperature.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Prize-Winning Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie
Last month, I attended the Second Annual Pie Contest in Slippery Rock, PA, sponsored by my amazing mother-in-law (Happy Birthday by the way!) and a few of her neighbors. There were at least 25 pies entered in 5 pie categories - Cream, Fruit (except apple), Apple, Nut, and Custard.

Ellen and I both entered a pie. I baked a new recipe for pumpkin pie and topped it with whipped cream. It was pretty good but maybe a little too sweet.

Ellen found a recipe on Epicurious for this phenomenal Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie. I wish I had taken a picture of an individual slice. Imagine from bottom to top - vanilla wafer crust, a layer of vanilla custard, sliced bananas, a layer of peanut butter mousse, and garnished with bananas and peanut brittle for a little crunchy contrast in texture. After a while, the peanut brittle started to dissolve a little and looked like drizzled caramel on top of the bananas. It was unbelievably good! Her pie won the cream pie category! Congratulations Ellen! You rock!

Here are some photos from the day - notice the aprons hanging on the clothesline for decoration. It was a great time to socialize while eating lots of pie. We were all judges and rated the pies we chose to try by assigning a number from 1 to 5 in five categories including appearance, taste, originality, and crust. The organizers tallied all the ballots and the pies with the highest score won for each category. After the five winners were announced, there were several overall judges who again tasted each of the winners' pies and rated them again. The winner of this won Best of Show. The Apple Raisin Streusel Pie won the Best of Show this year. Each participant was given a handmade knitted dishcloth and each winner was given a handmade apron. It was a terrific day.
Pie Contest Mosaic

Now for some of the pies...Mixed Berry, Pumpkin, Strawberry, Apple Streusel, Pumpkin Meringue, and Coconut Cream just to name a few. How do you choose which ones to try? Try them all!
My creation

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie
From Bon Apetit, May 2009
recipe courtesy of Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Vanilla wafer crust:
6 ounces vanilla wafer cookies
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons sugar

Vanilla pudding filling:
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 firm but ripe bananas, peeled, divided
3 tablespoons orange juice, divided

Peanut butter layer:
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)
2/3 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
Purchased peanut brittle, coarsely chopped (optional)

For vanilla wafer crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in processor; blend until mixture resembles moist crumbs, about 1 minute. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish and press mixture onto bottom and up sides (not rim) of dish. Bake crust until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven; press crust with back of spoon if puffed. Cool crust completely.

For vanilla pudding filling:
Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy medium saucepan until no lumps remain. Gradually whisk in cream, then milk. Add yolks and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; whisk to blend. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until pudding thickens and boils, about 5 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted. Spread warm pudding in cooled crust. Chill until filling is cool, about 1 hour. Thinly slice 3 bananas on diagonal. Combine banana slices and 2 tablespoons orange juice in medium bowl; toss to coat. Transfer banana slices to paper towels and pat dry. Arrange enough banana slices in single layer over vanilla custard filling to cover completely.

For peanut butter layer:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla, then peanut butter. Beat cream in another medium bowl until firm peaks form. Fold large spoonful of whipped cream into peanut mixture to loosen, then fold in remaining cream in 2 additions. Spread peanut butter layer evenly over bananas. Chill at least 3 hours.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep chilled. Thinly slice remaining banana on diagonal. Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon orange juice, then pat dry with paper towels. Arrange banana slices around top edge of pie. Sprinkle peanut brittle over bananas, if desired, and serve.

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