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Archive for November, 2010

Chai-Spiced Orange-Cranberry Sauce

Still trying to figure out side dishes for tomorrow’s turkey dinner? Ever thought of making your own cranberry sauce? I know it sounds daunting, but it is really the easiest thing in the world and you can make it up to four days in advance, so you can get it done the day or two days before. I saw this in Yankee Magazine’s November/December 2010 issue in a article extolling the virtues and flexibility of this New England fruit, and the fact that it was spiced with chai tea pushed it over the top and I just had to try it. Conveniently timed was a birthday party/holiday buffet for a friend’s one-year-old daughter!

You can buy cranberries when they’re in season and stock them up in the freezer for up to a year, so buy four or five or six bags when they’re on a really good sale at the grocery store, then use them straight from frozen in your recipes. Just be sure to pick them over quickly before you add them, to get out the “bad apples” and take out any stems that tagged along! A few never hurt anyone but too many is too many.

Yankee Chai-Spiced Orange-Cranberry Sauce
makes 6 cups of sauce

1 1/2 c. water
2 1/4 c. sugar
5 bags black chai tea (I used Tazo)
8 c. fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 c. fresh orange juice

Combine water and sugar in a large pot (I used the 5-quart pot) over high heat. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and add tea bags. Simmer with tea bags for exactly two minutes (set the timer!), then remove the tea with a slotted spoon or mesh scoop. Pay close attention to the timing, though–too much steeping will bring out the tea’s bitter notes.

After the tea bags have been removed, add the cranberries and increase heat to medium-high. Simmer, stirring frequently, until cranberries soften and their skins split and the sauce thickens a little, about 10 to 15 minutes. It will tend to foam up as the berries release juice and pectin, so make sure it doesn’t foam over (this is also why I used a larger pot than Yankee called for). Also watch out because the bubbling mixture is HOT and will splash you. Don’t wear white.

Remove from heat, stir in orange juice, and let cool to room temperature before serving (the sauce will thicken further as it cools). Or cover and refrigerate up to 4 days. Once it had cooled a bit I transferred it to a 2-quart souffle dish, which was a perfect size. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. I made this the night before our dinner party so I could just pull it out and serve it when the buffet was laid.

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Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

The very name strikes fear in to the hearts of even the most intrepid cooks and bakers: SOUFFLE. But I was really excited, because I thought the recipes were all well written, easy-to-follow, and confident. And some of that confidence leaked over to me. And since I already had a packet of frozen artichokes in the freezer, I chose to make the Crab & Artichoke Soufflé. I had to buy white pepper and a 2 quart soufflé dish, but I had everything else. And that made me feel good too, that my kitchen is getting better stocked with tools and ingredients!

You can download the PDF with the directions for all three soufflés (Crab & Artichoke, Watercress, and Chocolate) here.

I gathered all my ingredients together in prep bowls before I began, since the directions recommended working as quickly as possible once you get going to take advantage of the souffle’s chemistry. Because I was zipping around the kitchen grabbing bowls and things, my assistant had to be excluded from the room. I think I tripped over her five or six times before I made her go in the other room.

And stay there!

Here’s my crab and my chopped artichokes waiting to be employed. Note also the annotated sheet of directions. I took the motto “Be Prepared!” very seriously here because I knew I could turn out a passable soufflé if I didn’t make a dumb mistake.

To make a savoury soufflé you start with a roux of butter and flour, then add in the milk, herbs, and cheese to build a cheese sauce. Watching the cheese sauce develop was like magic, as the grated soft gouda melted and smoothed out at the same time as the sauce thickened.

(Yes, the recipe calls for gruyere cheese, but I can never find gruyere very easily, and when I do, I don’t like the flavor. So I substituted the same young gouda I used for the Broccoli and Mushroom Quiche.)

My soufflé did not rise fantastically — my baked goods almost never rise correctly, so I did not get upset over this. But once we had cut in to it, it did deflate. So it did se souffle a little bit.

Upon exiting the oven:

A few minutes later after Jim took the first bite:

I was a little bit disappointed in the texture of the finished soufflé. I found it very wet and wished it had been fluffier; perhaps what it really needed was to be baked a bit longer to release the moisture and steam, and therefore rise, a bit more. I also found it MUCH too peppery, so the next time I make it — and it has been requested! Will wonders never cease — I am going to halve or perhaps even quarter the amount of white pepper that the recipe recommends. Jim did not think it was too peppery, and says he can always add a bit more if he feels like his needs it.

Amy wants the soufflé very badly. She loves seafood.

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Roasted Chicken Sausage and Potatoes

I love one-pan dishes. It makes cleaning up afterward so much easier. And filling dishes are always welcomed at the Eatery, as are leftovers. This meal is all those things in one. If you have the energy available to make it a fully balanced meal, a Caesar salad on the side is wholeheartedly welcomed.

Roasted Chicken Sausage and Potatoes
serves 4

1 1/2 lbs smoked chicken sausage*
1 1/2 lbs small white potatoes
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves**
2 Tbsp olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper

*I used Al Fresco roasted garlic chicken sausages. They came 4 to a 12-ounce package, so 2 packages gave me 24 ounces and 8 sausages.
**Why do I never seem to have rosemary in my spice rack? I used dried tarragon.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pierce sausages all over with a fork and place on a rimmed baking sheet surrounded with the potatoes and rosemary (or herb of your choice). Drizzle all with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. No, go on, add some more salt. A little bit more. Ok, now a bit more. BELIEVE ME, just salt and pepper the bejeezus out of those potatoes. They can handle it. Toss to coat, and make sure all is spread in an even layer.

Roast, tossing occasionally, until sausage is browned nicely and potatoes are tender, about 30 to 35 minutes (but beware of overcooking, or the sausage might dry out). Halve the sausages crosswise before serving.

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