Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Tapa's Night

Can't believe it's already November, and not only November, but it's also after Thanksgiving as well.   Yikes, where does the time go?

We didn't have as large a turnout as usual for Tapa's night, probably had something to do with the fact it was Thanksgiving weekend and people either were visiting family or had family visiting them, so were unable to make it to our little do.   

I'm kinda tired today, not only did we have our monthly Tapa's Night Saturday night, we also hosted a Thanksgiving dinner this week and had a few friends in.   I cooked the turkey, made the potatoes, rolls, gravy and Wild Rice Stuffing, a Pumpkin Pie and this absolutely wonderful Green Bean Casserole from the Pioneer Woman website.  And friends brought in a lot of really good food as well.   

So Saturday night, since I thought that we'd had more than enough rich food I basically just put out cheese plates.  
Olives waiting to be put into dish.

I had bought a Mozzarella Cheese Sheet Unwrap and Roll by Belgioso and thought it would be fun to try it with some of the fresh basil from the plant I have growing on my windowsill, and of course some sliced Roma Tomatoes.   So I tried it.

Next time I will read the instructions, I didn't realize you could make two rolls out of the one.  It did make for a very pretty presentation anyway.  When I was finished I drizzled it with some EVOO and a couple grinds of sea salt.   I also put out a nice little Camembert Cheese and some sliced lunch meats.

And as usual, our guests brought some fun stuff.  From a gourmet 4 cheese pizza, to a really interesting presentation of Ham Puffs,

and I'm getting the recipe for these, they were so tasty, and when I do, I'll share it here.    There was Hummus and some artisan bread as well.   And another friend brought something really good, he called it Pantry Brunswick Stew.

And I made sure I had a bowlful,  (they left me some for later too, giggle).    I've been promised the recipe for that as well.   And I'll share it here, as soon as I get it.   I was very interested that the whole potful had been made out of canned foods from the pantry.   Which is almost the antithesis of Brunswick Stew, in that it doesn't get slow cooked for hours and hours and hours, but then again, who doesn't need a great recipe you can pull out of the panty when you need a meal like this?    I know I do.    I added some hot sauce and it just was wonderful.

Now to think of what to make for Boat Club, which will be coming up the second Monday of Dec., ...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Benløse Fugle (Boneless Birds)

It's time for a Danish meal again.   This time round I'm making some Benløse Fugle or as translated into English, Legless Birds, although in my house we call them Boneless Birds.  And don't get fooled by the name, this is a beef dish.     This is a little more difficult to do than most of my dishes, mainly because you have to be dextrous enough to be able to tie string.  (or use a toothpick to keep it together, just remember to remove the toothpicks before serving).
Benløse Fugle (Boneless Birds)

I usually figure on two pieces of meat per person. 

Basic Ingredient List: 

2 lbs.Round Steak, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Sliced Bacon, about 16 slices
Salt and Pepper to taste
3/4 cup Minced Onion
1/2 cup Flour (reserving 1 tablespoon for the gravy)
3 tablespoons butter
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Beef Bouillion or
1 1/2 cups of  prepared Au Jus mix.  (you know me, I always have this on hand and in fact have been known to keep some already made up and in the freezer). 

 Cut the meat into 12 uniform size pieces and pound thin into approximate square shapes.

Cover each piece of meat with a thin slice of bacon, trimming them to fit, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, adding a rounded tablespoon of minced onion.

Roll up and tie firmly with white thread  (I keep a spool of heavy duty cotton thread in my spice drawer), taking care so the filling doesn't ooze out of the ends.   Or thread a toothpick across the ends to keep it closed.  

Roll in the flour, coating it very lightly, and brown them in the hot butter on all sides in a moderately hot pan.   (I forgot to roll them in flour this day, whoops, tasted OK though).

Add the beef bouillion or prepared Au Jus, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender.  Or place into a 325 degree oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  

Add water if necessary to keep the level of fluid up.   Turn the rolls from time to time. When done, remove the 'birds' from oven or skillet, set aside while you skim the fat and thicken the liquid with a slurry of 1 tablespoon flour to 1/2 cup of ice water.  Cook for a couple of minutes to thicken and to take away the 'raw' taste of the flour,  then serve the 'birds' with the rich brown gravy.   The bacon adds a lovely richness and great mouth feel.

Serve with some potatoes or noodles and corn or your favorite vegetable.  

Serves 2-4

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wild Rice Stuffing, (vegetarian)

I love stuffing, and look for every excuse to have it.   And I'm always up for trying new recipes, and love to taste other people's versions of stuffing every chance I get.   But that being said, when I can I make the following stuffing, it's still my go-to version, and I've been making it and refining it for many years.  And by jove, I think I have it.  Of course that's just til the next time I make it and decide on adding something else, possibly.    One of the nice things about this stuffing is that I think it could be served alongside any kind of fowl, or even a pork roast or, maybe even, all by itself?

Vegetarian Stuffing
Ready for the oven.
Luckily for me, there was a little left from the Thanksgiving feast so I'm having it for lunch today with just a skiff of turkey gravy on top. 

 1)  Cook rice according to package directions and while that's cooking...
2) Finely chop Celery, Carrots and Shallot.
So pretty.

3) Cut Ciabatta Rolls into small dice  (you can use any hearty Artisan bread if you like or even Gluten free bread)

4) Slice Mushrooms.
5) Melt butter and olive oil over a medium heat in a good sized skillet, then add the mushrooms, let them brown a little, then add the celery, carrots, shallot and bread.  Stir around and let it cook together for a few minutes.  Add a little more olive oil if desired, but you want the bread to get a little browned.     Add 1 cup of Vegetable Stock to mixture.  Mix.
Cooking the stuffing a little.

6)  Turn off the heat and add the cooked rice to the skillet and mix it together.
Brown rice mixed in and the dried cranberries are the last add.

7)At the last add the 1/2 cup of dried Cranberries, and mix. 
8)  Grease a loaf pan, and scoop the rice mixture into it, then pour the remaining 1/2 cup of vegetable stock over the whole thing.
Ready for the oven.

Place in a 350 deg. oven and bake for 30 minutes. **

yield: 6-8 Servings
  print recipe

Wild Rice Stuffing (Vegetarian)

prep time: 30 MINScook time: 30 MINStotal time: 60 mins


  • 1 package Uncle Ben's Wild Rice mix, prepared according to instructions
  • 2 Ribs Celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced (Can also use 2 green onions, minced)
  • 3 cups diced hearty Artisan Bread (2 Ciabatta rolls work well here)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 oz. Sliced Mushrooms, (reserve 2 sliced Mushrooms for topping)
  • 1/2 cup Dried Cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups Vegetable Stock (or chicken stock, but then it wouldn't be vegetarian)
  • 1/2 tsp. Poultry Seasoning, opt.


  1. Cook rice according to package directions and while that's cooking,finely chop Celery, Carrots and Shallot. Cut Ciabatta Rolls into small dice (you can use any hearty Artisan bread if you like or even Gluten free bread) Slice Mushrooms. Melt butter and olive oil over a medium heat in a good sized skillet, then add the mushrooms, let them brown a little, then add the celery, carrots, shallot and bread. Stir around and let it cook together for a few minutes. Add a little more olive oil if desired, but you want the bread to get a little browned. Add 1 cup of Vegetable Stock to mixture. Mix. Turn off the heat and add the cooked rice to the skillet and mix it together. At the last add the 1/2 cup of dried Cranberries, and mix. Grease a loaf pan, and scoop the rice mixture into it, then pour the remaining 1/2 cup of vegetable stock over the whole thing. Place in a 350 deg. oven and bake for 30 minutes. ** * You can also use Chicken Stock or Turkey Stock here if you like.
Created using The Recipes Generator
* You can also use Chicken Stock or Turkey Stock here if you like.
** You can prepare this early in the day and then reheat it just before serving.  

I was cooking dinner for a bunch of people yesterday, and didn't get a shot of the finished stuffing, but everyone seemed to enjoy it.   And I have to say, it is one of my favorites.  OK, so far it is my favorite.   Until the next time I make it and see what else I can do with it.

And my table, here's the finished result...   I do like to sit down to a pretty table, it just makes the food taste so much better.
The leaves on the table were some I picked up in Butterfield Canyon many years ago and I had them packed away in my craft drawer, and decided they add a nice Autumnal touch to the table.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving centerpieces...

When setting the table for Thanksgiving this year, give a little thought to how you're going to decorate the table.  If you're like me, the 'good dishes' get brought out, the wineglasses get an extra polish and the serving dishes are set out and ready to use.   And I have to have candles on the table.   And even though the food will look fantastic, think the gorgeous red of cranberry jelly in all its incarnations, the golden glow of sweet potato casserole, the snowy whiteness of the mashed potatoes, the creamy color of the turkey, well you get my drift, the food colors are fantastic.
Why not continue the theme with some candles, some low centerpieces, a little of this, a little of that...     I always have fun making sure my table looks good before the food gets served, I think it adds a lot to the whole dining experience.     I want to give you a couple of ideas here.

Last year a friend made these for a thanksgiving potluck and I gave serious thought to copying them this year, but I already had an idea in mind.    Let me show you an example of an almost totally edible centerpiece.   
If you look closely you can see Viv used some lettuce as the base, then decorated it with some mums, astralagus, mini peppers and some grapes.   And of course in the center is a big fat pillar candle.    I thought these looked really great when I saw them.   Is that not gorgeous?

And here's my idea for my table.   I have several of these plates, some votives, fresh cranberries (which can be re-purposed after dinner) and some leaves I gathered in Butterfield Canyon a few years ago.

I'm going to intersperse them with some green candles in a cut glass holder and twine some yellow leaves on a vine around the candles as well.   There are a lot of these

outside right now.  I just don't want to go out and cut some til the big day.   I promise to try and take a picture of the table when I do.   

How are your thanksgiving plans coming?   I'm heading down to the kitchen in a few minutes to start making the mince pies.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prime Rib Cooking Demonstration.

It's always fun to see how someone else makes and prepares a dish that is one that you prepare yourself.   Last Wednesday at the Crooked River Grill the guest chefs were the "Dixie Chicks", the Griners, Hazel, Kay and Kellie.    Three lovely ladies who obviously love each other dearly, which is a good thing, since this trio were Mother and daughters.   They showed us how they prepare a Prime Rib, and let us in on a couple of their secrets.   One of the most important being to 'get to know your butcher', something I've advocated for years.   I feel very strongly that the training of your butcher is one of the most important tasks as a cook, especially a carniverous cook.   I've been privileged to have had a hand in the training and been trained by some excellent butchers over the years.    I've been known to be a pain in the b*** very picky when it comes to getting a nice piece of meat.  I've rejected more than I've accepted, let me put it like that.   Last year I made a  Prime Rib for Christmas Eve, as per usual, and will probably make one again this year, and I probably looked at 8 roasts before picking the lucky winner.   However I digress, the ladies showed us how they prepare the roast, and the flavor was lovely.   They actually put the seasoning underneath the cap, and let it roast that way.  In other words, cut the fat flap off, then add the seasonings which were some chopped   garlic and peppercorns, something I think I'll try this year as well.  Usually I just massage some butter and seasonings on top of the roast.   They also have the butcher cut the meat off of the bone or ribs, and then tie the whole thing together before placing it into the oven.  Another point they made was to let the meat come to room temperature before putting it into a 425 degree oven for the first 10 minutes to develop a crust.    They also prepared some really scrumptious green beans, potatoes and made some pecan tarts in phyllo dough.   (I didn't get a picture of those, I popped mine right in my mouth and it was good).
These cooking demonstrations are great, you pick up tips, some wonderful recipes, get a good meal and get to hang out with friends.

The demonstration table was laid out very nice,
And the the fun began;
Showing how the roast is to be prepared.

Tying up the roast, you can see the peppercorns

Explaining some of the steps
Here's the menu that was presented:
Prime Rib of Beef au Poivre with Cognac Au Jus
French Onion Casserole
Fabulous Potatoes
Green Beans with Mushrooms and Shallots
Angel Biscuits
Apple Salad with Carmelized Walnuts or Pecans and
Cranberry Dressing
Mini Pecan Pies in Phyllo Shells
Spiced Apple Crisp 
Orange Blossoms (a mini muffin)

I'm not going to share all the recipes here, but wanted to highlight the Prime Rib recipe since that was the point of the cooking demo.   I'll share some of the other recipes another time.

Prime Ribs of Beef au Poivre with Cognac Au Jus

1 (7-8  pound four rib)  Prime Rib roast
3 Garlic Cloves, peeled
1 Tablespoon coarse (kosher) salt
3 Tablespoons mixed peppercorns (black, white, pink and dried green, or any combination) crushed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 shallots, minced
1/4 cup Cognac
1 1/2 cups unsalted beef stock or canned unsalted broth
Salt and freshly ground Pepper, to taste.

Using a sharp knife, cut off the 'cap' from the roast in one piece.   Cut just where the fat is attached to the meat, trimming off as little as possible.  Reserve the 'fat' cap.

On a work surface, sprinkle the garlic with salt. Crush and smear the garlic while chopping to create a garlic paste.  (*my note, this could also be done in a mortar and pestle)  In a small bowl, combine the garlic paste and peppercorns.   Brush the top of the roast with the oil.  Spread the peppercorn paste on top of the roast with the heel of your hand.   Replace the cap and tie it back onto the roast with kitchen twine.   (The roast can be prepared up to a day ahead, covered loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerated).

Preheat the oven to 500 deg F.   Place the roast, fat side up without a rack, in a large roasting pan.   Roast for 15 minutes.   Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F., and continue roasting about 17 minutes per pound (including the first 15 minute period), for medium rare meat, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the roast reads 130 degrees, about 2 1/2 hours for an 8 pound roast.   Remove the roast from teh pan and transfer to a cutting board to rest.  Let it rest at least 15 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pan.   Place the pan on top of the stove over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring until softened, about 1 minute.  Add the cognac.   Averting your face, light the cognac with a match, let it burn for 10 seconds, then extinguish the flame by covering it with the lid of the pan.   Add the beef stock and cut until the liquid is reduced to about 1 cup, 8-10 minutes.  Transfer to a glass measuring cup and let stand 5 minutes.  Skim off any fat that rises to the surface and pour into a warmed sauce boat.  

Now back to the roast;  Discard the kitchen twine.  Remove the fat cap to reveal the peppercorns crust.   Carve the roast and serve with the sauce on the side.   There will be guests who would like a taste of the roasted fat, so place it to the side and make it available to them.
Makes 8 servings.
Apple Salad with Cranberry Dressing, the potatoes, beans and the Prime Rib.

 Can't wait for next month, there's going to be a Madrigal, and yours truly will be one of the performers.   I'm told Roast Suckling Pig will be one of the featured meats and lots of other surprises.   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Boat Club night...

As usual our monthly Boat Club potluck was well attended, and the food offerings were phenomenal.    I made some biscuits, and rolls to go with the ham I brought.   I'll tell you all about the biscuits in a later post.   And I want to apologize cause the battery in my camera died just before I was able to get pictures of all the food so I missed out (note to self, bring the spare battery, everytime you go out).  OK, now that's out of the way, here are the pictures and what they were.  First though, I didn't get pictures of the Chile Relleno Casserole, and believe you me, it's very tasty and a recipe I am going to share here soon.   And I also missed getting a picture of the hot wings, which were also really good.    
Without further ado, here are the dishes:
Taco Dip
Rosemary Potatoes
Ham (and the towel covered dish to the right, the infamous Chile Relleno Casserole.
Hockey Puck biscuits
Goat Cheese with Marinara Sauce and Toast Points
Cucumbers in Sour Cream
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Smoked Fish Dip
Water Buffalo Chile
Chicken and Dressing

Stewed Fruit
Stuffing made with sausage and rice.

So there's the cast for this month's Boat Club.    We always have great food, and good fellowship at this event.     And let me leave you with a picture of something we saw on the way home.   I managed to resurrect the camera just long enough to get the following shot.
Moon rise over the Gulf.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Country Fried Steak

I found some lovely looking cube steak  at the grocers last week and hurried up and grabbed them because we do like a nice Country Fried Steak from time to time.   I'm still perfecting my recipe, but this time I came pretty darn close to perfection.  And maybe, if the meat had managed to stay in one piece as I dipped and floured and tried to redip it, I might actually have reached perfection.  The end result was very tasty however. Chicken Fried Steak
I have to apologize in advance for the pictures, I was having a 'off' day.

The Cast
 Season a cup of flour with Seasoned Salt and Pepper, make sure you can actually see the seasoning in the flour, otherwise all you'll be doing is flouring a piece of meat.  Place into a shallow dish, as you can see here, I use an aluminum pan. (I'm very messy, and like to contain the mess as much as possible.)  Season the meat with some salt and pepper as well. 
Place an egg and a half cup of milk into a shallow bowl, whisk together.  Set aside
Egg Bath
Dip the meat into the egg mixture first, then into the flour mixture, back into the egg mixture and last into the flour mixture.  Patting the flour into the meat, this helps to make a lovely crust.

Heat a cast iron pan with a couple tablespoons of oil or shortening, until the oil starts to shimmer, this tells you it's hot enough to fry your steak.  Place the steak carefully into the pan, and let it brown on each side, this only takes a couple of minutes.   You don't want to almost burn your steak like I did.
When cooked you can make a pan gravy out of the fat remaining in the pan or just serve with some packaged brown gravy.    Serve along side some vegetables or potatoes.