Thursday, September 30, 2010

cock-a-leekie pie

One of my BFF's, Cathy, and her hubby John, made me a birthday feast for my last birthday. Last week it was Cathy's birthday, so it was my turn to feed them. John is a chef (lookit him on the t.v.!!), so I had a tough act to follow. One of Cathy's favorite places to go is The Scottish Arms, and I have seen her on more than one occasion order the Cock-a-Leekie pie. In fact, local food publication Sauce Magazine had published the Arms' recipe for this amusingly-named pie a couple of years ago, an I remembered cutting it out to give to her. That's how I knew I could find the recipe for an awesome birthday dinner!

This pie took a few steps, but it was not difficult. A good special Sunday cookin' kind of a meal. Special also in that it contains 9 cups of heavy cream. NINE CUPS. It makes 10 pies (well, my pies were kinda big... I made 8 pies in 16 oz. chili bowls). And, no surprise, these are GOOD pies. So rich and comforting. Mmmmmm... a crowd pleaser to be sure.

Cock-A-Leekie Pie
Courtesy of The Scottish Arms’ Carl Hazel
Published by Sauce Magazine

10 servings

2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white pepper
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups white wine
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 cup flour
2 1/4 quarts (9 cups) heavy cream
1 box frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

• Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
• In a large stock pot, combine the chicken stock and white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the chicken breasts and poach for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through.
• Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid; reserve the liquid. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken.
• In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the leeks and sweat until just tender.
• In a large sauté pan, make a thick roux by melting 8 tablespoons butter, then adding the flour and stirring constantly until lightly golden.
• Add the cream to the poaching liquid and bring to a boil. Whisk in the roux and reduce to low heat.
• Add the leeks and shredded chicken and simmer for 20 minutes.
• Preheat the oven to the called-for temperature on the box of puff pastry.
• Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
• Fill soup bowls to within ½ inch from the rim with hot Leekie.
• Top each bowl with a square of puff pastry and brush each with melted butter.
• Bake per the instructions on the puff pastry box or until the pastry is golden brown.
• Serve hot.

I made a trio of bruschettas for appetizers... my roasted garlic ricotta spread (from my own Sauce mag article), a simple roasted tomato, and, my new favorite, artichoke bacon, which was simply a can of artichoke hearts (drained), cooked bacon and raw garlic thrown into the food processor!

Speaking of BFF's, I'm very excited to go with most of the Food Blog Mafia to see Anthony Bourdain speak live tomorrow night!! Here are some past posts in which I swoon over Tony... (these are extremely old-skool... don't laugh too hard).

Nasty Bits
Vietnamese food
Mushroom Soup
Coq Au Vin

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oktoberfest bratwurst pizza

I am very fortunate to work for a company that encourages it's employees to learn about food. So much so that they provide free classes! The other night I attended a beer tasting class, focused on Oktoberfest style beers, also called Mårzens. We tasted six different domestic Oktoberfests (Schlafly Oktoberfest, Dundee Oktoberfest, Great Divide Hoss Rye Lager, Tin Mill Oktoberfest, New Belgium Hoptober and Avery "The Kaiser" Mårzen).

From what I understand, Oktoberfests are Lagers, which generally have a lighter body than ales, due to the bottom fermenting malts that are used which ferment at lower temperatures, where ales ferment at room temperature and tend to be heavier. In Oktoberfests, the malts are toasted, so a characteristic of this style beer is caramelized, toasty flavors and a deep amber color. These beers go well with grilled sausages, what with the caramelilzation and saltiness of the meat and the carmelization and contrasting sweetness of the beer.

We were fed in this class, complimentary sausages and cheeses to each beer. It was fun and inspiring. Beer and food pairing is pretty simple, really. Our homework? "Drink when you eat and eat when you drink." Oh, twist my arm. So I made an Oktoberfest-themed dinner. Originally I thought of doing some kind of traditional potato, sausage, sauerkraut skillet dinner... like my Grandma makes. But I've been wanting to play with pizza lately, so, at the risk of making it onto This Is Why You're Fat, I decided to make a bratwurst pizza. (Bratwurst nachos? been there, done that. Check out the epic Bratcho Battle.)

I decided to still use potatoes, considering how good potato pizza can be. I skipped sauerkraut, and went with caramelized onions instead, to match the maltiness of the beer. I made a quick skillet sauce with a bit of mustard to give the pizza a slight tangyness to counteract all the potatoey sausagey richness. Also adding a bit of tangy was a goat milk cheddar. Overall the pizza was fantastic with my Oktoberfest beer(s). Welcome, Autumn. Welcome, indeed.

Oktoberfest Bratwurst Pizza

-1 large yellow onion, sliced
-about 3 Tablespoons Olive oil all together
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 large shallot, shopped,
-1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
-Oktoberfest beer
-1 pizza crust (use your favorite... if you can make your own, great.... mines' from the grocery store deli)
-1 baked potato, sliced
-1 smoked bratwurst (fully cooked), sliced
-Good, sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)

In a skillet, cook the onions in a splash of olive oil, stirring often, until they are soft, brown and sweet. remove from skillet into a bowl. In the same skillet, cook the garlic and shallot in a couple Tablespoons of olive oil until translucent and starting to brown. De glaze with a splash of beer, cook down for about 20 seconds, then add the mustard, and stir, adding more beer if it needs thinning out into a spreadable consistency.

Spread the mustard sauce on your prepared crust. Top with a layer of sliced potatoes, salt, then the bratwurst, onions and cheese. Bake according to the crust's directions.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

bruise salad

Tonight was a big night for me and my fellow roller derby newbies. We've been practicing for more than a month in our yellow shirts. Yellow shirts mean that we are not allowed to hit or be hit by the more experienced derby girls. Yellow is safety. But tonight, one of the league's best blockers lined us up single-file and clobbered us in order to see if we could take hits and fall safely. And you know what? We are now out of the yellow shirts! My dinner is a nod to all the future bruising I am sure to get now that people will be pushing me around more. Derby girls wear bruises with pride... a little rainbow of blues, purples and blacks that says "I am a bad ass."

For my "Bruise Salad," I basically tried to find as many black, blue and purple foods as I could. Red bibb lettuce, radicchio, purple potatoes, black beans, black olives, beets, and, of course, blue cheese. It is simply dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and plenty of BLACK pepper. It's a fun salad, and it was really good! For one, I love the combo of beets and blue cheese. And potatoes on a salad? I should do that more often.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Walnut Ricotta Pesto

I love me some Lidia Bastianich! I have had a signed copy of her book Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy for months now. I flip through it every once in awhile, getting all lustful for Italy. It's neat how the book is set up. Each chapter talks about a different region of Italy, then has a bunch of traditional recipes from that region! Educational, romantic and tasty! One that caught my attention as I looked for a good weeknight recipe was Tagliatelle with Walnut Pesto. Seeing as how I love making pestos almost as much as I love tacos (see end of post for links to previous pesto recipes), this was a winner.

I did not make the tagliatelle that went along with it, as I have yet to get my own pasta machine. I bought some good fettuccine instead. I also used less walnuts and more ricotta than the recipe called for, simply because I was going by package size (heh)... Ricotta comes in 2 cup tubs, and chopped walnuts come in 1 3/4 cup bags... so 1 1/2 cups of ricotta and 2 cups of walnuts was inconvenient. Since this is cooking, not baking, adjustments like this are not a problem. I also added more garlic, as is my M.O. Oh, and Lidia finishes the dish with butter. I forgot, and it was really rich and flavorful anyway. And so quick! And I have a lovely amount of the pesto itself left to use as a dip or spread... it's actually pretty similar to the roasted garlic ricotta spread from my Sauce magazine article.

Fettuccine With Walnut Pesto
adapted from Lidia Bastianich

-1 3/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
-3 or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
-small handful of Italian parsley leaves
-16 oz. tub of whole milk ricotta, drained
-6 tablespoons olive oil
-6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
-salt and pepper
-9 oz. pkg. fresh fettuccine

-Bring a big pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, pulse the walnuts, garlic and parsley in a food processor until well-chopped, but not too fine/powdery. Stir the nut mixture together with the ricotta, olive oil, cheese, salt & pepper until well combined. This is quite a thick pesto. And the recipe made way more than I needed to dress the pasta... it would make a fantastic spread on toasted bread slices!

-Cook the pasta according to the directions, making sure to reserve a good cup or 2 of the cooking water before draining it. Right after draining the pasta, return it to the pot and add about 1 1/2 cups of the walnut pesto, toss with the pasta, adding pasta water as you need to get everything combined ( I used almost a cup and half...).

Past Pestos:
Jalapeno Peanut Pesto
Pistachio Arugula Pesto
Pepita Pesto