Friday, December 30, 2011

Boozy Cranberry Sauce

I'm one of the many who bought more cranberries than I needed this season.  I fell for the trap of  "Gee, just throw the extra package into the freezer and use it later" advertising.   Actually not, but it sounded good.   I just like cranberries and yes I did buy more than I needed this year, but that was because I was trying a new recipe and wanted a back up package just in case the recipe tanked.   Well, it didn't, or at least I don't think it did.   I mean, I had to make some changes, due to my own lack of making sure I had all the ingredients on hand.   Famous last words, huh?   I thought I had everything I needed to make _______  and I didn't.   Oh well, it was a happy accident this time.
Boozy Cranberries ready for the oven
Sugared and ready to go in the oven, see the Anise and orange peel?

I found this recipe for Cranberry Sauce with Bourbon at Brooklyn Farmhouse and thought that it sounded good.   I mean I knew  I had a half bottle of Bourbon and there was a package of Anise sitting in the spice drawer that needed to be used in something.   I've been listening to it for awhile now, it keeps asking me 'Why did you buy me?   Why don't you use me?   Sad...   At any rate, I figured that with all the ingredients in house as it were, I could try this recipe out.   Imagine my surprise when I went to pull the bourbon out so it could be ready to pour, and it wasn't there!  I had it in our camper and wasn't about to drive 14 miles for a lousy 1/4 cup of bourbon.  sheesh, I mean I'm willing to do a lot, but this was beyond me.   At any rate, I looked in the liquor cabinet and spotted the bottle of Brandy I had sitting there, barely touched.   Got one of those AHA!!!! moments and decided to substitute Brandy for Bourbon.   They both start with the same letter, don't they?   So when the Cranberries came out of the oven the second time, I poured the Brandy over it and WOW, gotta say the scent of the HOT BRANDY that came off of those berries was enough to clear my head out.   But I persevered and stirred the sauce and let it sit for awhile to cool down, not.   I had to taste it, I mean I am a cook, and really wanted to see if it would be OK.   I burnt my tongue, but it was worth it.   The brandy taste was a little harsh, but I let the whole thing cool down and tasted it again.  And felt as if there was something lacking, so I grabbed my bottle of Grand Marnier out of the cupboard and poured in about a tablespoon or so and stirred it up again.   This time, the flavour was spot on.   It was good.   So I stuck it in the refrigerator and brought it with me to Christmas dinner at a friends house.    Asked people for their honest opinions, but the proof was in the empty container, it got et!  No leftovers, or at least very little.     
I did modify this recipe a little, so I can't say it's the same as the original one I started with so I've renamed it.    And here's the recipe:

Boozy Cranberry Sauce.

1 package fresh cranberries, rinsed and sorted (they come in 12 oz packages)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 star anise
1 piece of orange or lemon peel, about 1x3 inches, wash this real well if it's waxed.
1/4 cup Brandy
1 tablespoon or more, to taste, of Grand Marnier

Mix the cranberries with the sugar and dump into a 9x13 casserole dish, add the orange peel and the star anise.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
After 30 minutes in the oven.

Take out of oven, give it a stir, so that the undissolved sugar has a chance to meet the rest of the cranberries and the peel and the anise.

Ready for the booze.
Cover it again, and place back in the oven for another 30 minutes.   Take out of oven, remove the orange peel and the anise and discard them.  They've done their job, thank them and let them go to their rest now.

Stir the cranberries and pour the Brandy over them and mix in well.   They'll look a little like they've been candied at this point.  The aroma right now will be a smidge overpowering, but that's OK.

Let it sit until cooled, and then stir in the tablespoon of Grand Marnier.   Taste at this point (well, you can taste at any point actually, it's all good), and add a little more Grand Marnier if needed.  Chill for a couple of hours or longer and serve with your turkey.

When I made this the other day I portioned it out and froze it.

I'm going to take some out and use it on a pork roast in a couple of weeks, I think this would be great on a turkey sandwich, or with roast chicken.  Any place you want a sweet fruity, boozy note.  
I'm ready for that pork roast now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Boxing Day stuff

I posted about making Sildesalat the other day, but didn't include in that posting some of the other stuff I made that day and knowing as I was preparing the Sildesalat that my brother was also preparing for Boxing Day in his home.  I felt a little closer to him and my sisters while I was in the kitchen, just knowing we were all preparing for Boxing Day together, even if we were separated, one of us in another country and on the opposite coast.   I   didn't do as elaborate a spread as I've done before, but thought I would share a little here with you .

In my family, it was also the day we gathered together for a Smorgasbord, the whole family came, and sometimes a couple of close friends.   It was so nice because the frantic-ness of the season was done, and we could sit down and relax with some pickled Herring, a couple of snaps, a beer and a lot of good food.
Ready for the food, Snaps glasses at the ready.

Akvavit on the table, fresh out of the freezer,  ready to pour

We always started the meal with Kryddersild  (Pickled Herring) served on a piece of rye bread and accompanied by a Snaps (Akvavit), then there were other courses, and all in all we probably sat at the table for at least 3 or 4 hours. 
Ham, Italiansk Salat, Herring, Smoked Oysters

  It was a lovely, leisurely meal.   The fish courses were served first, and always, always the Pickled Herring started out the meal.  We ate the pickled herring on a side plate, otherwise everything else we ate would have tasted of herring. 
Eggs and Tomatoes, Ham, Herring and Sildesalat

  There were always plates of cured meats, some Rullepølse, some Salami, a lovely homemade Leverpostej, (Liverpaste or Pate), 

a plate with some hardboiled eggs cut in half with a slice of anchovy on it, and some tomatoes.   A bowl with Makrel i tomat Sauce (Canned Mackeral in Tomato Sauce) suspended over some home made mayonnaise.   There would be a small bowl of canned Shrimp in mayonnaise, as well as some canned crab.   After we'd have our Herring, suitably toasted with a glass of Akquavit or Akvavit, Mom would head out to the kitchen and fry up some slices of Cod Roe and serve it with some homemade Remoulade sauce, and would also make some fresh fried Sole fillets, dipped in fresh bread crumbs and lightly fried.   This would only take a few minutes and gave us all a chance to sit and relax and visit for a few minutes.  I can see the platters of Sole and Cod Roe now, setting so pretty on a platter, decorated with some sliced lemons.   And the appearance of the fish was cause for another round of Akvavit, and a toast to Mom or just a plain toast.    One of the toasts made was this one  "Til vores forældres børn."  (To our parent's children).    Sometimes there would be a platter of Frikadeller brought out.  Other times a platter of Ribs.   The Leverpostej would make an appearance somewhere along the line, brought out triumphantly, with a garnish of mushrooms topping it, hot from the oven.   My brother makes the best Leverpostej now.    
Along the way, another toast was made.   And a lot of laughter and love was also shared.   
And at the end of the meal, we'd have a fresh fruit salad, and a cheese plate, garnished with grapes.  

I didn't make the fruit salad, but I did have a cheese plate and we ended our meal with a lovely cup of coffee.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sildesalat (Herring Salad)

Herring Salad?  HUH! was the response a friend had to my introducing them to this dish.   She was amazed that she had actually eaten pickled herring and not even known it.   I kinda laughed to myself because if you don't know what you're eating, sometimes you might even like it.
Sildesalat

Sildesalat was a staple dish at our Boxing Day lunch.   We always made it fresh in the morning and then put it into the fridge so that the flavours could marry and mellow out a little together.    Every family has their own recipe for making this dish, I make it the way my Mom did, cause that's just the right way to make it.  So there!   I love making this for new people, as they get totally amazed at what a few simple ingredients can do when they're introduced to each other in the right proportions.
One thing I do want to stress (nothing like the holidays for a little stress is there?) in this recipe, is that it is important to keep the proportions equal.   In other words, equal amounts of the four main ingredients, with the exception of the herring, with that one you can fudge a little.    And also important, make sure that the dice for all the ingredients are about the same size. And a very small dice is the best.   This time round I got the dice a little big, for my taste, at any rate.   You really do want to make this almost a mince, but not quite.

To start with, you need pickled herring.  
The Stars of the Show
One variety that's widely available in the stores is the wine herring, and that's the one I use.
One jar of this, measured out, I used about 18 pieces, finely diced.(small dice)
1 cup apple, peeled, cored and finely diced (small dice)
1 cup chopped meat (leftover turkey, beef, chicken or pork), finely diced (small dice)
1 cup pickled beets, drained and finely diced (small dice)

It is important to note that all the ingredients should be about the same size, all a small dice.
Dump all these into a bowl and give it a toss, just enough to combine.



Mayonnaise, about 1/2 cup, sufficient to moisten the salad (I like Duke's Mayonnaise, it's closest to my own home made mayonnaise)
1/2 teaspoon yellow prepared mustard
1 teaspoon onion juice, prepared by grating a whole onion over a fine grater.
1-2 teaspoons of the Beet pickle juice, just for color.

Mix together, taste.  Sometimes the beets aren't very strong and you can add just another slice or two of beets, finely chopped.
Sildesalat

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then take out of fridge, place in a pretty bowl and decorate with a hard boiled egg or two cut into quarters.   Serve with some fresh french bread and some good butter.
Sildesalat
 Now, you'll have to pardon me, there's still a little Sildesalat left in the fridge and I haven't had lunch yet.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Home Made Caramels

I love Caramels, and have been known to buy a bag from time to time, but haven't really bought any since I found this recipe.   This really, really easy recipe.    In fact it's only 5 ingredients and you don't need a candy thermometer, which is actually good, since I don't have one.   It takes only a few minutes to make and you can be eating caramels in just about an hour or so.  You do have to wait for them to cool down.  Which I do, sometimes... Only downside I can see is burning your tongue on the hot caramel.  Sorry, I got sidetracked there.  Since we have a function to go to this evening I thought a plate full of homemade caramels would be a nice hostess gift. (please see my note at the bottom of this post).  I always have the ingredients for these in my kitchen, never can tell when you'll need to bring a hostess gift, and they're home-made which makes them even more special.
Home Made Caramels

Here's the ingredients.   And please note, that I use the Dark Corn Syrup, because most of the other recipes I use corn syrup in call for Dark Corn Syrup.   But you can use whatever you have in the cupboard.

Microwave Caramels
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup White Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Corn Syrup
1/2 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk, Eagle Brand is best.

In a 2 quart microwave safe dish, (I use a loaf pan, melt the butter and then add the rest of the ingredients.
Microwave on High for 2 minutes and then stir.  The mixture will be nice and foamy.   Cook two more minutes and stir it again.   Please, please be careful when removing it from the microwave, this mixture can cause some really severe burns if spilled on you.   And I'd hate to have your Christmas messed up by recovering in the burn ward at the local hospital.   That being said, go ahead and microwave the mixture again for another couple of minutes.   Or if you like them softer, just hit it for one more minute.
Honestly this takes longer to set up and clean up than it does to make.


When you've cooked it long enough, pour it onto a buttered pan and let it set up.

   When it's almost set all the way, score it in the sizes you want.  You can hasten the setting process by putting the pan into the fridge, and then cutting them.  While the pan of caramels are setting up, cut up some squares of parchment paper and get ready to wrap up the luscious squares of caramels.


( I learned the hard way, you do need to wrap them, other wise they just ooze together back into a large lump of caramel.)
If you have some toasted pecans handy, you can pour the caramel over them, and cut them into squares.

And top them with some chocolate.  Do I hear Home Made Turtles?   

UPDATE:

Well, I learned my lesson.  Don't try making this with a store brand milk, I just made a batch and it curdled.  Never had that happen before, and the end result, while tasty, is just not up to my standards and I'm going to keep it for myself.   And since it's Christmas Eve, and I don't feel like driving 7 miles into town for another can of milk, I'll just have to bring something else as a hostess gift.     But in the meantime, I recycled the pictures from the last time I made this.  Waste not, want not.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Puff Pastry, Part Two

I finally, got around to baking the second batch of Puff Pastry I made over a week awhile ago.  Life's just been a little bit busy this month.   I don't know why I get surprised at that, December's always been a busy month, this month just feels a little busier than usual.

I had frozen the second batch of pastry I'd made and then thawed it in the fridge, and was ready to take it out and bake it, when Life got in the way again.  So, it sat in the fridge for a few couple of days, and I finally got around to baking it the other day.

This time round, the butter didn't run off and pool in the bottom of the oven, yeah me!  However, the patty shells I cut out didn't rise as much as the first batch I made.   And some of them went slip sliding around on the pan, sigh. 

But that's OK.   I also think I may have gotten too enthusiastic about folding and rolling out the dough.  In other words, I made it so that there were a lot of layers, lots and lots of layers.   The end result though, it tasted good.

And I had them for dinner the other night covered in one of my favorite toppings,  Mushroom soup with chopped chicken and mushrooms mixed in.   I know there are many more elegant toppings and I've explored them in the past, but for sheer comfort food, this is my go-to recipe.    I even had the leftovers for lunch the next day.   ( I think I hit my fat allowance for the week and exceeded it in two meals, but it was worth every bite).

So,  if you're interested in my version of filling for the Patty Shells, here it is:  
Open one can of Cream of Mushroom soup, or if you're not challenged that way, make your own Mushroom Soup/gravy.    Cut up a couple cups of cooked chicken, I used a chicken breast I'd cooked and had waiting in the freezer.   Saute about a cup or so of Mushrooms, again, I had some in the fridge, about 4 oz.   Then dump them all together in a pot and heat through.    Spoon onto the Patty Shells, and serve.  You can even fancy it up a little by adding some Asparagus, either fresh or canned. YUMMY!!!!  Sorry, got a little excited there, but honestly, I think I could eat this pretty much every day.
Home Made Patty Shells with Chicken topping

This is even great served over rice, on toast, or just by itself.     I've even been known to eat this by the spoonful.  Hmmm, just got an idea.  How about just adding some cooked chicken to the mushroom soup, and some sauteed mushrooms, and then eat it like that.   I'll try it for lunch and let you know how it worked out.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Klejner (Smalls)

There are some tastes or flavours of foods that  will be forever associated with Christmas to me, and one of those is that wonderful, cardamomy taste of Klejner.   I made some on Saturday, took one bite of the first one fresh out of the fryer, and was transported back to my childhood.   I don't remember if Mom made these more than once a year, but they are Christmas to me.   Well, alongside most of the other cookies we made as well.
Danish style Christmas Tree with hearts and flags

I wanted to make these for our guests, OK, mostly for me. The fact that we were having Tapa's night was just an excuse to indulge myself.   I did notice that people would try one and then go for seconds.    And they made inroads on the big bowlful I placed on the table.
Klejner

So many good memories are tied up in the making of Klejner for me.  Mom at the stove frying the Klejner while the rest of us tried to keep up with Mom.   One of us would roll out the dough, then we'd cut it, and twist the little diamonds into the shapes, hand them to Mom and she'd fry them on up.   This dough is very soft, and so you only roll out a little of it at a time.   The recipe suggests dividing it into fourths and only working with a quarter of the dough at a time.   I would say that if you've only got an assembly line of one, like I had, to divide the dough up a little more.   I ended cutting each quarter of the dough in half again.  Otherwise it warmed up so much it was hard to handle.

First off, let me give you the directions, then I'll write out the full recipe.
Start by creaming together the butter and sugar, add the eggs, flour with baking powder, cream and vanilla, and cardamom and mix together in a stand mixer.   The dough will be very sticky.
Don't panic, it's supposed to be that way.    There's a lot of butter in here, as well as eggs and cream.
Tip it onto a lightly, very lightly floured piece of plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for at least an hour to chill.  You can also place it into the freezer if you like.  Won't hurt it.
Divide the dough into quarters, and take out only one portion, return the rest to the fridge.
Lightly flour your counter top, and roll out the dough to a roughly square or rectangular shape.   I find if I shape the dough just a tad in the beginning, it's easier to make it square.   You do want to use a very light hand with the flour.  Roll it out to about a 1/4 inch thickness.
Then the fun begins.
Cut the dough into long strips,

then crosswise again into diamond shapes.
Dough rolled out for Klejner
Cut a slit into the middle of each diamond, then with a twist of your hands, pull on corner of the diamond through the slit in the middle, making sure you don't pull too hard or stretch the dough out too much.

I found out it's really hard to do this and take pictures at the same time, so you'll have to forgive me.  But I think you get the drift.
Keep on going with them, until you've done this for all of those little diamonds.  And as you can see, it's been awhile since I've made Klejner so they don't look all neat and pretty.   Actually, the more I did the better I got, but I was running late so I just hurried up and kept on going.  And those little bits and pieces of dough that got left over, just throw them back in the fridge and roll them all out after you've done the main batch of dough.   I guess you don't need to make the knots, but they're traditional for me so that's the way I do it.
Klejner frying in oil


If you've got a Frydaddy, use it.  Best invention ever for frying Klejner.   Dump them into the hot oil and fry them til they're golden brown.  You'll need to turn them over once or twice so that they cook evenly.   Then take them out and drain them either on a rack or use my trick of coffee filters.
Klejner right out of fryer

Finished Klejner
This works really well for me.   Then as they cool, pile them up in a bowl and serve them up.   These are best eaten the same day,  just like doughnuts, but I find they taste pretty darn good for a couple of days.   If they last that long. 

Here's the recipe, it's from Karen Bergs cookbook Danish Home Baking.

Klejner
1 cup butter
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup sugar
3/4  teaspoon baking powder
4 cups Flour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
* 3-4 whole cardamom seeds, peeled and the seeds crushed in a mortar and pestle, to a fine powder.
or a 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom.
 4 cups oil, for frying the Klejner   (if you can handle lard, these do taste best cooked in lard)

Cream the butter and sugar together for a minute then add the rest of the ingredients and mix into a dough.  Set into the fridge to cool for about an hour, or until the dough feels a little firm.   This is a very soft dough.
Dust your counter or rolling surface very lightly with flour.   Take out a quarter of the dough, and roll out thin, and cut into long strips about 1 1/4 inches wide.   Cut the strips diagonally into smaller strips about 3 1/2 inches in length.   In the middle of these smaller pieces, make a slash with the point of a knife.  Pull one end of the piece through the slash to form a half knot. 

Heat oil to 375 degrees after making the knots.  If you have a Frydaddy, this is excellent for maintaining the right temp., if not then just use a good solid pan on top of the stove. Drop into boiling fat and cook until golden brown, turning to cook them evenly.   Lift out with a perforated spoon and place in a strainer or on brown paper (or my trick, some coffee filters) to allow the fat to drip off. 



December Tapas Night with Cheese Balls

We had our monthly Tapas night last night and as usual it was fun.   But it's been a busy week for me so I really didn't do anything major this time.   I did make Klejner, but I'll post about those later, and just let you wonder what they are.
Getting set up


Table's ready.
And as usual, our guests outdid themselves.   I love doing this Tapa's night, I get to taste and experience so many different dishes.  Just one thing, I really should be rude and take pictures right up front, maybe next month I will.  In the meantime, here are some pictures of the decimated plates of goodies.  
Cream Cheese with preserves, Tapenade and Cheese Balls

Artichoke Spinach Dip, sliced meat, chips and salsa, Pinwheels, Egg salad
And then there were these plates...

Biloxi butter, really yummy shrimp spread.

Chips and Salsa, homemade salsa no less.
And...
Sliced veggies, some more egg salad, (Klejner hiding behind the wine glass).

Some...
Marinated Shrimp
I know I say this every month, but it bears repeating at least that often, the incredible variety of foods that people make and bring are wonderful.  (and I wonder why I can't lose weight?).    At any rate, I made the cheese balls and the Tapenade which I've made in the past, and seems to be well received as well.  You can follow this link for the recipe if you like, Tapenade.   And I tried something new with the Cheese balls.
I made my usual cheese ball, but then divided it in half and took some pointers from the Homesick Texan website for her Bacon-jalapeno Cheese ball  and added some bacon and jalapeno's and cilantro to half of the cheese ball.   I didn't have any pecans in the house, so didn't roll it in the pecans as she suggested, but the whole effect of the cheese ball was very festive looking.   And since there is some left over, I'm going to try it melted on some chips later on or even swirled into some pasta as a kind of sauce?   I'll let you know how that one flies.

Cheese Ball ala Sid (with a nod to Homesick Texan)

8 oz. package Cream Cheese
8 oz. grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp. Cumin
3 or 4 shakes of Pepper Sauce. (I used Frank's Red Hot Sauce)
4 green onions, diced

For half the cheese ball:
1 whole jalapeno, seeded and diced fine
3 slices crisp cooked bacon, diced fine
1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Mix all together and let sit for a bit, taste for seasonings, adding more pepper sauce or other spices if you like.   Then divide the cheese into halves.  Shape one half as you like and refrigerate it.  This is for the vegetarians or those who don't eat meat.    With the second half, add the diced jalapeno, bacon and cilantro and mix it well.   Taste for seasonings, if you want to add more of anything, do it here.   Shape into a ball, refrigerate for a while so that the flavors can meld and marry.    Serve with crackers or good bread.   

We also had some fun doing a Grinch Christmas Gift exchange, but since that's not really food related, I won't bore you with the details, just know we had fun.
So, I'm going to go and relax today.  This has been a busy week, starting with Boat Club last Monday, then we had a do on Wednesday at the Grill, dinner with friends on Friday, culminating with Tapas last night, whew, no wonder I'm tired.      We always enjoy getting together with friends, sharing a meal, some laughs and good times.
And I hope for the same for all of you.