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Monday, December 16, 2013

Melanie's Biscochitos

I've lived in New Mexico for nearly seven years. I find much that is endearing about the state but one of my favorite things is New Mexico's official state cookie, the biscochito. While I was familiar with red and green chile, ristras, and sopapillas, I'd never heard of the cookies before moving here. As soon as I tasted biscochitos I became an instant fan. These gems are melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies studded with anise seeds and dipped in cinnamon sugar while they are still hot. It's a spectacular flavor combination.

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Melanie's Biscochitos


Source: my sister-in-law, Melanie Peterson, who grew up in Albuquerque.
Makes about 6 or 7 dozen

2 c lard
2 eggs
1 1/4 c sugar
1/4 c milk
1 T vanilla extract
5 1/2 c all purpose flour
5 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 to 2 T anise seed according to taste
cinnamon-sugar (mix cinnamon into sugar to taste)

Cream the lard, eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla together until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and anise. Add to the wet mixture and stir well. This will become a rather stiff dough. At this point you can refrigerate the dough or you can roll and cut immediately.
On a very well floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut with a cookie cutter. Bake on an un-greased cookie sheet at 350F for about 10 minutes or until the cookies are just barely starting to turn light brown on the edges. Remove from the cookie sheet immediately, and while they are still warm, dip cookies in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. I find this is most easily done in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Place on rack to cool. 

Note: You may be somewhat dismayed at the amount of lard this recipe calls for but it is the lard that gives these cookies their pleasing texture. I'd rather eat lard than shortening especially if it is leaf lard. (I'll admit I worry that shelf stable hydrogenated lards have the same problems as shortening.) I have rendered my own lard from pork fat when I can't find leaf lard. You can find all sorts of instructions for rendering online, but here is a good one.

About altitudes: I've only cooked this at high altitude so I know it works. If you bake this at a lower altitude than 4,000 feet, let me know how they turn out. I know we could tweak it, but sometimes cookies don't need to be changed much.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dad's Guacamole

Growing up, my dad was the one who made the guacamole. His recipe is simple, but perfect. I've never tried a more complicated recipe that I like better. Dad's guacamole features in a family favorite on Christmas Eve, which we will post shortly.

As with most guacamole, the quality of your avocados is key. And after years of using avocados and making guacamole myself, I still make mistakes and open avocados before they're ready or after they've gone south. But it's happening more infrequently. You want the skin to be black, and the fruit to give a little when you push on it. But too much give means the avocado is past its prime! 



The trick to the correct texture is to whip the guacamole with a fork for a long time. I made the batch above, and my dad, the guacamole master, made the batch below. You can see that his has a smoother, creamier texture.


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Dad's Guacamole


1 ripe Hass avocado
1 teas lemon or lime juice (fresh is tastier, but bottled works just fine)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste, fairly heavy

Mash the avocado with a fork. Add lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Mix until somewhat smooth. Whip with a fork by hand for a minute or two for a smoother and creamier texture. 


i lick the bowl, every time

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Whole Wheat Croissants

I'm pretty excited today. I baked my first homemade croissants. They are pretty darn good, but I'm not bragging if I give credit to the original poster, David Lebovitz (my favorite ice cream recipe author). All I did was follow a recipe which took attention 3-4 times, but really wasn't very time consuming. It was a bit of a rolling pin work out, though. Since I'm enthused about this, I'm just going to include the link and hope you'll go there. I plan to post the recipe sometime, but not today.

One of the great things about this recipe is that it has some whole wheat flour which helps me feel less guilty about tearing into a croissant.


 

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 Whole Wheat Croissants


Source:  David Lebovitz: living the sweet life in Paris

Yield: 6 large, rich croissants

For the recipe, please click on the link above. Lebovitz gives great directions. However, one thing I noticed was that he instructs you to leave the point on the top of the croissant but none of his photos of his croissants show that he did that himself. I found that in at least one case the point slipped off towards the back. Next time I will try it with the point underneath, or nearly.

Here's another photo to tempt you:

These aren't quite as beautiful as Lebovitz's but not bad for a first try.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Making broth from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass makes all the holiday work even more worthwhile. What a fragrance! This is my favorite way to use the broth I make a couple of days after the big feast. I don't feel like I'm eating leftovers when I eat this soup.


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Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Soup


Adapted from: Cook' Country Magazine
Serves 6-8

for the broth:

2 T unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 turkey or chicken carcass, cut into large pieces (this is particularly nice if it has been smoked)
3 c white wine (if you prefer, use water but add 1-2 T white wine vinegar just before serving)
6 c low-sodium chicken broth, canned is fine

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook onions, celery, and turkey carcass until lightly browned. Add wine (or water) and chicken broth and simmer over medium-low heat for at least an hour. Strain broth, discarding solids.


for the soup

1 c wild rice
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 teas dried thyme
1/4 teas baking soda
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 c heavy cream
3 c chopped cooked turkey
salt and pepper

Wipe out the Dutch oven and toast the rice over medium heat until it begins to pop, 5-7 minutes. (Last time I made this, the rice didn't pop and almost scorched. At that point, I figured it was ready so I went ahead without the popping.) Stir in the turkey broth, carrots, thyme, and baking soda and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about an hour. Whisk the flour and cream in a small bowl until smooth. Slowly whisk the mixture into the soup. Add the turkey (and vinegar if you didn't use wine) and simmer until the soup is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Note:

I think making broth from a turkey carcass will yield more than what this recipe yields (about 2 quarts of broth). When I made this last week, I had cooked the broth the day before, so I substituted 2 quarts plus a cup or two. It wasn't completely accurate, I imagine, but it worked.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Classic Turkey Stuffing

About 34 years ago we learned about roasting a turkey on a Weber grill and have done it every year since. Colette doesn't even know how to cook a turkey in an oven. We love the taste, the smell, the moist texture of the meat and we enjoy having the oven free to cook everything else that accompanies a Thanksgiving meal. The turkey and the stuffing have become my jobs, spreading the work out, which goes a long way towards making the last Thursday in November a happy day.

on the stove top before going into the bird
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Classic Turkey Stuffing


We can't remember the source, but its likely an old Betty Crocker cookbook.
Stuffs a 12-pound turkey with little or none left over for cooking outside the turkey and serves around 6

9 cups torn or cut bread pieces, preferably sour dough or another dense bread
3/4 c chopped onion
1 1/2 c chopped celery
1/2 c butter
1/2 teas salt
1 1/2 teas rubbed dried sage, the fresher, the better
1 teas dried thyme
1/2 teas pepper

Melt butter and add the onion and celery, cooking over medium low heat until they are translucent. Add the seasonings and stir for 30 seconds. Add the bread and toss. Stuff the turkey cavities lightly. Secure with kitchen twine and or skewers. Place turkey on the grill and cook.



Stuffing is one of the Thanksgiving essentials in our family so we have always made more than will fit in a turkey. We cook it on top of the grill during the last hour of turkey roasting and mix it with the stuffing that comes out of the turkey. We find the mixture of wet (from inside the turkey) and dry (from the grill top) best. Heat the stuffing that was in the turkey in the microwave to make sure the stuffing has reached its "safe" temperature of at least 165F and then mix with the "dry" stuffing.  Keep it in a 200 degree oven until serving time.

For excess stuffing, make rectangular foil pans so you can fit stuffing around the turkey on top of the grill. Place these on during the last hour or so that the turkey is roasting.

Note from Colette:

For years, I've torn the bread and left it out to dry a couple of days before Thanksgiving. However, Cook's Illustrated scientists indicate that stale bread and oven-dried bread aren't quite the same and the end result is better if you dry your bread pieces in the oven, rather than allowing them to go stale on the counter. Apparently stale bread will end up soggy compared to the oven-dried bread. To dry the bread, heat oven to 325F and place bread (about a pound of bread) in a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45-55 minutes stirring occasionally and turning the tray once. Cook until the pieces are golden brown and dry. See this link for more information.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal

I live in a high desert that is becoming more desert-like all the time. Unlike many places, it is noteworthy when we get a snowstorm in December. This storm is beautiful but cold enough for me to want to eat comfort foods. I tried this oatmeal this morning. I'm certain it can take other tasty additions like chocolate chips, chocolate nibs, and/or some chopped peanuts.



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Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal


Adapted from The Washington Post which adapted it from French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (a great read, by the way)
Serves 2-3

1 c old fashioned oatmeal
2 1/3 c water
1/4 teas salt
2 T honey, optional (a good use for any honey that has crystallized--eyeball the measurement in that case)
2 T creamy or chunky peanut butter
1 banana, cut into 1/4-inch slices (if you like more fruit add a second banana; I'm going to next time)
1/3 c milk
1/2 teas unsalted butter

Combine the oatmeal, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until thickened and creamy. Add the peanut butter, banana, milk and butter; mix gently to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Serve while hot.

The flavor improves overnight so double it and eat it again the next day. Stir in a little milk to loosen it up while warming the oatmeal. 

The view from my back porch this morning.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cranberry Pomegranate Salad

This fruit salad comes from a Spackman family cookbook my mom compiled about 15 years ago. It includes favorite recipes from my Grandma Spackman, her 14 children (of which my dad is number 3), and their spouses. Specifically, this recipe is from my Uncle David and Aunt Kim, who called it Thanksgiving Cranberry Salad. I agree with my Uncle David that it's good anytime, so I changed the name. This salad is a tasty accompaniment to pie for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving.



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Cranberry Pomegranate Salad


Source: David and Kim Spackman

4 c fresh cranberries
2 c sugar
2 c red grapes, halved
1 c heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 c pineapple tidbits
1/2 c walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped
seeds from 1 pomegranate (separating the seeds from the peel and pith is easier in a bowl of water--the seeds sink and the pith floats)

Finely chop cranberries, in a food processor if possible (it's much easier). Add sugar and let stand 8 hrs or overnight. Place in colander and drain for 1 hour. Prep the remaining ingredients, stir everything together, chill, and serve.