Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ice Cream #12: Blood Orange Sherbet

When I was a kid, I remember going to Baskin-Robinns 31 Flavors and falling in love with their rainbow sherbet. I haven't had sherbet since my childhood, so I figured it was high time I made some. While eating a particularly juicy blood orange the other day, I thought that it would make for a delicious seasonal sherbet. Turns out I was right!

While on the hunt for a good sherbet recipe, I was surprised to find that few exist in cyber space or in cookbooks. I'm still not entirely sure why; perhaps sherbet has fallen out of favor. In any case, I eventually landed on a recipe in Joy of Cooking. You might be surprised to learn there's gelatin in this recipe. It seems odd, I know, but there's a method to the madness. Sherbet is unique in that it's basically a cross between ice cream and sorbet. Ice cream usually contains egg yolks and cream, while sorbet contains no eggs or dairy at all, simply fruit and sugar. Sherbet is essentially a sorbet with the addition of milk or sometimes half and half. With the lack of eggs and heavy cream, sherbets run the risk of becoming too icy. To alleviate this concern, emulsifiers such as egg whites, pectin, gums, and gelatin are often added to the sherbet base for a smoother mouth feel. The gelatin granules expand and prevent the formation of large ice crystals in the sherbet; it's the key to smooth and creamy sherbets. Trust me, it works like a charm.

I love this sherbet. The blood oranges give it a vibrant and beautiful pink color and elevate ordinary sherbet into something seasonal and special. A wonderful winter treat, indeed. Baskin-Robbins, eat your heart out! 

Adapted from Rombauer, Becker, Becker, Joy of Cooking

1 1/4 tsp. unflavored gelatin (see notes below)
1/4 cup cold water
1 3/4 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest from 1 blood orange, finely minced
3/4 cups sugar (see notes below)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup half and half or whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract 

Fill a large metal bowl with 1 to 2-inches of ice water. Place a slightly smaller bowl inside and set aside. 

In a small measuring cup, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let stand for 10 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, in a medium size saucepan, combine the blood orange juice, lemon juice, zest, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin, stirring until it has completely dissolved. 

Transfer the mixture to the prepared bowl and stir over the ice water until cool. Stir in the half and half or whole milk and vanilla extract. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the base, and place another sheet over the bowl. Refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight. 

Once the sherbet is properly chilled, give it a good stir (it will be gelatinous and a bit lumpy- never fear, it will become smooth and creamy once churned). Process the sherbet in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to plastic containers and freeze until ready to use. 

Yield: about 5 cups

  • To keep the sherbet vegetarian, omit the gelatin and water and increase the blood orange juice to 2 cups. Note that the sherbet will have a more icy texture without the added gelatin.  
  • Keep in mind the sugar content of oranges can vary, so taste the base to see that its sweetness is to your liking. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mini Meyer Lemon Eclairs

This is a continuation of my previous post on Meyer lemon curd. Curd, while delicious on it's own is particularly wonderful as a filling for eclairs. The pate a choux dough used to make the pastry is almost identical to the one I used for making gougeresit's straightforward and reliable. This is a delicious desert that showcases the short-lived season of those glorious Meyer lemons. What could be better than Meyer lemon curd layered with freshly whipped cream and sandwiched between a crusty, flaky shell? 

I think these mini eclairs are so darn cute and intensely flavorful to boot! You can serve one or two for desert after a dinner party, or prepare a plate of them to put out at a cocktail party. Even though they're fairly simple to prepare, something about them is so elegant. I think they'd be great treats for an upcoming Oscar party.

If you're unfamiliar with Meyer lemons, they're believed to be a cross between a regular lemon and a Mandarin or sweet orange and are prized for their intensely floral qualities. They were brought back to the U.S. from China around the turn of the century and became commonly grown in California. Meyer's had a resurgence in the 1980s when Alice Waters began using them at her famed restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, CA. It's fitting that this recipe comes from Water's own Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook. Enjoy!

Adapted from Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook


Pate a choux:
1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Whipped cream filling:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the pate a choux:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium size saucepan combine 1 cup water, the butter, salt, and sugar and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the flour all at once. Vigorously stir the flour with a wooden spoon and cook until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 30 seconds. Continue to cook and stir the mixture to remove excess moisture, about 1 1/2 minutes more. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the dough to a medium size bowl to cool for a couple of minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, using an electric mixer (be sure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next egg). Transfer the dough to a pastry bag (or gallon-size zip-top bag) fitted with a 1/2-inch round pastry tip. Pipe the eclairs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet into 3-inch long strips. Lightly moisten your finger and smooth out any "tails" on the eclairs. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for about 20 minutes more, until the eclairs are lightly golden and dry. Can be made a day in advance and reheated in a 350 degree F oven for 5 to 7 minutes to re-crisp before serving. Let cool on wire racks before filling. 

To make the whipped cream filling:
Place a mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to chill. Remove the bowl from the freezer and add the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whip the cream using an electric mixer (or by hand if you want the workout) until soft peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag (or gallon-size zip-top bag) fitted with a large star-shaped pastry tip. 

Cut the eclairs in half lengthwise using a serrated knife. Fill the bottom half with Meyer lemon curd and then pipe a layer of whipped cream over the curd. Gently place on the tops of the eclairs and dust with confectioner's sugar. Serve immediately.   

Yield: 30 mini eclairs 

  • If making the eclairs for a dinner or party, have all of the elements prepared in advance and assemble just prior to serving. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Curried Egg Salad

I have to admit, for years I hated egg salad. I remember every Easter after hunting for eggs in the front yard, my family would get so excited to make egg salad, but for me the fun stopped with the hunt. I was a picky eater, and on top of that the smell of sulphur from a couple of badly cooked eggs sealed my hatred of egg salad forever. Or so I thought. After making this curried version a couple years ago, I'm happy to announce I've changed my tune! 

Aaron has always loved egg salad, and I think this version stole his heart. He was away visiting family for the past week, so I thought I'd welcome him home with one of his favorites.

This is such a simple recipe, there's nothing to it. It makes for a delicious lunch; I particularly love it as a sandwich on toasted whole wheat or sourdough bread. Its Indian flare makes this egg salad a great companion to naan. Try it as a wrap filling or a snack with pita chips!

Adapted from Gourmet, March 1991

1/4 cup mayonnaise 
3/4 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 to 4 drops Tobasco (or other hot sauce)
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice
6 or 7 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped  (see notes below)
1 stalk celery, minced
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 tsp. minced cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium size bowl, combine the mayonnaise, curry powder, salt, Tobasco, cumin, mustard, and lemon juice and stir to combine. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chopped hard-boiled eggs, celery, scallion, and cilantro. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 

  • To hard boil the eggs: place the eggs in a medium size saucepan and cover with 1 to 2-inches of cold water. Bring just to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 12 minutes before submerging in a bowl of ice water. Peel and place in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon: that classic French stew made popular in America by Julia Child. It's popularity is well deserved and a perfect "warm you up" dish to make throughout the winter months, filling your home with heavenly aromas. It had our dog Lady's nose working overtime, so I knew I was doing something right!

I've slightly adjusted Juila's recipe and added a few flares from Ina Garten, both of whom share very similar recipes to begin with. I particularly like Ina's addition of Cognac, as it adds another depth of flavor to the dish. However, if you don't have any on hand the stew is perfectly delicious without it.

While boeuf bourguignon is really just a "peasant" stew, I find it's robust flavor to be worthy of kings (and certainly any dinner party or celebratory event)! In terms of entertaining, there's really nothing simpler as it can be made in advance and reheated just before dinner. The flavor only gets better after a day or two in the fridge.

I however, did not serve this for company when I made it because I (selfishly) knew I wanted all the leftovers. Aaron and I enjoyed it together along with a lovely bottle of wine and some crusty French bread to sop it up. So comforting and delicious! Tis the season for braises and stews and it doesn't get much better than this. 

Adapted from Child, Bertholle, Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and an Ina Garten recipe

Olive oil
8 oz. thick cut dry cured smoked bacon, diced
3 lbs. chuck beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
All-purpose flour to coat beef
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Cognac (optional) 
1 (750 ml.) bottle red Burgundy (or any dry red wine will do)
2 to 3 cups beef broth
1 tbsp. tomato paste
A small handful of fresh thyme
2 small (or 1 large) bay leaves
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 lb. fresh or frozen pearl onions (see notes below)
1 lb. mushrooms, stemmed and quartered 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. 

In a small saucepan, bring the beef broth to a simmer, shut off heat and cover pot. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and add the bacon. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon has begun to brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a large plate or casserole dish. Set aside. 

Thoroughly dry the cut beef with paper towels (to ensure good browning) and generously season with salt and freshly ground pepper. In a large bowl, or casserole dish, toss the beef with flour, just enough to lightly coat. Saute the beef in small batches in the hot oil and bacon fat until it is evenly browned on all sides. Transfer the meat to the plate or casserole with the bacon. Continue sauteing in the same manner until all the beef is browned, adding more olive oil as necessary. Set aside.

In a large bowl, season the carrots and sliced onions with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add the vegetables to the Dutch oven and stir to coat in the oil and fat. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Shut off the heat, pour in the Cognac, stand back, and carefully ignite the liquor with a match to burn off the alcohol. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef and bacon back to the pot along with any juices that may have accumulated. Pour in the bottle of wine and enough warmed beef stock to almost cover the meat. Stir in the tomato paste. To make the bouquet garni (herb bundle), tie the thyme and bay leaves together using butcher's twine (for ease in removing later) and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover the Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork. 

While the beef is cooking, prepare the pearl onions and mushrooms. Add 2 tbsp. of butter to a large skillet and saute the pearl onions just until they are nicely browned. Remove onions from pan and set aside. In the same skillet, saute the mushrooms until lightly browned and tender, about 8 to 10 minutes (adding more butter if necessary). Set aside. 

When the stew is done, transfer it to the stovetop. Make a beurre manie (a thickening agent of butter and flour): combine 2 tbsp. butter and 3 tbsp. flour in a small bowl. Blend until smooth using a fork. Stir the beurre manie into the stew and add the pearl onions. Bring the stew to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue simmering for 15 minutes more. Check to see that the stew has thickened nicely and that the pearl onions can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove bouquet garni. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. Alternatively, let the stew cool, cover and refrigerate. To reheat, bring to a simmer on the stovetop, stirring occasionally. Cover pot, reduce heat slightly and simmer gently for about 10 minutes prior to serving. 

Yield: 6 servings 

  • If using fresh pearl onions, you'll need to remove their skins. Start by trimming each end of the onions with a pairing knife. Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove using a spider and transfer to an ice bath to halt their cooking. Their skins should slide off with ease. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Meyer Lemon Curd

I first discovered lemon curd a few years ago when creating a friends birthday cake. I ended up making a white cake with lemon curd as the filling and frosting it with whipped cream. Everyone at the birthday party raved about the intensely lemony flavored filling and wanted to know what it was. When I said it was lemon curd, I got some funny looks. Many Americans are unfamiliar with lemon curd. Basically, it's a more flavorful version of a custard, as it contains more juice and zest. 

In doing some reading on lemon curd (you know, as one does) I learned that it was a popular alternative to jam at afternoon tea in England in the 19th and early 20th century. I remember when I was buying the lemons at the store to make my friend's cake, an English women standing behind me in line asked if I was making lemon curd. I said yes, and she then wanted to know if I had an English mother, because why else would an American be making lemon curd? She was delightfully British. 

I figured since Meyer lemons are in season right now I would try making Meyer lemon curd. My God is it good! The Meyer lemons elevate ordinary curd with their delicate floral undertones. Try it as a spread on toast and scones, as a filling for cakes or other sweets, or stirred into yogurt. 

Adapted from Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook

2 whole large eggs
4 large egg yolks 
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
1 tbsp. tart lemon juice (from 1 regular lemon)
Grated zest from 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces 

In a medium size heat-proof glass bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, lemon juice, zest, sugar, and salt. Place the bowl over a medium size saucepan filled with 2 to 3-inches of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes (adjust the heat to maintain a constant simmer).

Remove curd from heat and whisk in the butter one piece at a time, seeing that each piece is fully incorporated before adding more. Transfer curd to a clean bowl. Place a sheet of plastic directly on the surface of the curd and another sheet over the bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use. Meyer lemon curd can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for longer storage. 

Yield: About 2 cups

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ice Cream #11: Maple Pecan

For many, New Year's resolutions have begun in full force. You may think it's too soon to start in with the sweets again right after the holidays, but I'm behind on my ice cream challenge and have no choice! After making this maple pecan ice cream, I can't say I'm complaining. Personally, I can't think of any better way to kick off the New Year! 

To me, anything maple flavored fits nicely into the fall and winter months, but can of course be made anytime of the year. Using pure maple syrup and a bit of maple extract gives this ice cream a beautiful flavor. And for those who are "sugar-free," you'll be glad to know there's no added refined sugar used to sweeten this ice cream. It's all syrup, baby. 

Maple and pecans are a natural combination, they sort of just roll of the tongue don't they? The buttery and slightly salty pecans provide a great crunch and nuttiness to that coveted maple flavor (if you're allergic to nuts, never fear, feel free to leave them out as the maple is heavenly all on its own!). Yum!

Recipe from Gourmet, August 1997

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
3 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. maple extract or flavor 

Begin by filling a large metal bowl with about 2-inches of ice water. Place a slightly smaller metal bowl inside. Put a fine mesh strainer or sieve over the two bowls and set aside. 

In a medium size skillet, melt the butter over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add the pecans, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt to taste and set aside to cool. Transfer pecans to a well-sealed container or plastic zip-top bag and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a medium saucepan, add the cream, whole milk, maple syrup, and salt and stir to combine. Bring the mixture just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Add the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Return the mixture back to the saucepan and cook the custard over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a spoon or rubber spatula, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 170 degrees F. Pour the custard through the prepared sieve and stir until completely cool. Stir in the extract. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and another sheet over the bowl. Refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.

Process the ice cream in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Stir in the chopped pecans. Transfer the ice cream to quart containers and freeze until ready to use. 

 Yield: About 1 quart 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Spiced Pickled Beets

On a particularly frigid day in NYC, I made my way to the farmers market and spotted these lovely looking beets. It was so cold all I wanted to do was race home and lock myself inside for the remainder of the day! I did just that, and it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to pickle my beets. 

These pickled beets are wonderful right out of the jar or in a salad. The aromatic spices give them such a wonderful flavor, a perfect treat for the winter months. These would make great gifts around the holidays, and seeing as I've yet to send my family all of their Christmas presents, I think I'll be sneaking a jar into their box I'm sending home. My dad will be overjoyed and my mom will reel in disgust. That is the way with beets: you either love 'em or hate 'em! 

Adapted from Ellie Topp & Margaret Howard, The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving 

2 1/2 lb. fresh beets
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup red vinegar (5% acidity)
1/3 cup reserved beet water
16 whole cloves
16 whole allspice berries
16 whole black peppercorns
2 large cinnamon sticks (about 4-inches long)
2 tsp. pickling salt (see notes below)
4 pint jars suitable for canning 

Thoroughly wash beets and remove the root and stem end. Place beets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover pot and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Ladle 1/3 cup beet water out of the pot and set aside. Drain beets, remove skins (while the beets are still warm) and cut into large pieces. 

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegars, and beet water and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. 

Place 4 cloves, 4 allspice berries, 4 black peppercorns, half a cinnamon stick, and 1/2 tsp. pickling salt into each jar. Pack the beets into the prepared jars. Pour the hot liquid over the beets, leaving a headspace of 1/2-inch. Wipe rims with a clean cloth before placing lids and rings on jars. Process for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. For more detailed information, see my step-by-step guide to canning here.

Yield: 4 pint jars 


  • Most grocery stores don't carry pickling salt, so look for it at specialty food stores or online. Pickling salt differs from other table salts in that it is free of additives that darken food or turn the pickling liquid cloudy (such as iodine and anti-caking agents). In a jiffy, you can substitute pickling salt with kosher salt, but since the size of kosher salt is slightly larger than pickling salt, the measurements will differ when measured by volume. So if using kosher salt for this recipe, use 2 heaping tsp. of kosher salt in place of 2 regular tsp. of pickling salt.