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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Grilled Lamb & Pear Compote

Lamb is not an everyday meal in my book. It is reserved for special occasions, fancy dinner parties and when Mom comes to town. However, you must understand that when one lives in Minnesota, a special occasion is also widely known as simply 'a very nice day'. 

This day, this special-occasion-make-a-rack-of-lamb-day, was simply one of the few- but ultimately glorious, beautiful days in Minneapolis. A celebration in its own right. So celebrate we did. 
A quick trip to Whole Foods, a couple bottles of Crispin's Organic 'Bare Naked' Cider, and a few friends later, we had ourselves an outright feast. 

Now you might be thinking that lamb is a bit daunting; too easily overcooked and so on. But trust me, you can do this. We'll go step-by-step and I promise you delicious results! 

Make your list and check it twice!

2-3 lb Rack(s) of lamb
2 Tbs Fresh Rosemary
1 Tbs Fresh Thyme
3-4 Cloves garlic
Zest from 1/2 a lemon
Olive Oil
1 Tbs Sea Salt (Coarse)
2 tsp Freshly cracked black pepper

2 Bartlett Pears, just ripe and peeled
1 c. Crispin Bare Naked Organic Cider
1/2 Yellow Onion
1 Clove garlic
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1/4 c Dried Apricots
1 Tbs Chicken Base (low sodium)
1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
Pinch Nutmeg
1/2 lb Ricotta
1/2 cup-ish Heavy Cream
Zest of 1/2 a Lemon
1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Pepper
Salt to taste 

  • 1) Ready your lamb. Mince rosemary, garlic and thyme, combine with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Rub the lamb with olive oil and then the herb mixture. Let sit at a cool room temperature for up to an hour (at least 20 min) or wrap with cling wrap and refrigerate for up to overnight. 

  • 2) Prepare you compote. Begin by reducing your cider by half over medium heat, set aside. Dice pears, onions and apricots into 1/4 inch pieces and mince garlic. In a medium pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add in onions and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add in the apricots and cook a couple minutes more before adding in the cider, chicken base, diced pears and spices. Allow to simmer about 5 minutes or until the pears are quite soft and the sauce has reduced. You may want to add a little more cider if you'd like it saucier.

    3) Combine the ricotta with heavy cream, pepper and lemon zest. Add salt to taste and set aside.

    4) Preheat your grill to 400 degrees with half of the grill on low and the other half on medium high. If using a charcoal grill, make sure to pile the coals toward one side so you have a hot side and warm side.

    5) Sear the lamb for about 2-3 minutes per side on the hot side of the grill. Move over to the low side and allow to cook about 5 minutes more per side or until they register 125-130 for medium rare chops and have browned nicely. Set aside and allow to rest 10 minutes before carving. *Cooking time will vary greatly depending on the size of your rack, just make sure it gets a good sear on the hot side and reaches the proper temperature using a thermometer.

    6) Serve each plate or chop with a dollop of the ricotta cream and a bit of the pear compote. Enjoy!

    [Serves 4]

I can't with this one. It was really something else. Simply delicious and uncomplicated flavors; bright and fresh herbs, creamy ricotta, juicy lamb. It paired so well with the cider and really lent the dish an even more mouth-watering quality. It was the perfect meal for a perfect day and it came out wonderfully. The next time a beautiful day is upon you, I trust you'll know what to do.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sweet Potato Shepard's Pie

Sometimes all I want from this world is a little comfort food. A meal that can set me down, pat me on the head and say, "There, there, Katie. It's ok now." Tell me you don't feel me on that...actually, don't tell me that. I'd like to go on thinking that this is a normal occurrence for everyone. 
Well this week was one of those such weeks that makes you want to curl up into a little ball and pull the covers way over your head. I needed my food soul mate to tell me everything would be ok. And if it wasn't going to just show up on my doorstep, then I would be forced to coerce it into being myself. 
I guess that's just what you have to do in life now and again. Occasionally you just have to make it what you want it to be if it's hell-bent on refusing to cooperate with you. Nothing some sweet potatoes and ground turkey can't handle I'm sure...

Sweet Potato Shepard's Pie: Servers 6ish

2  sweet potatoes (or yams), about 1 1/2 lbs. cut into 1 inch cubes 
3-4  small parsnips (big parsnips have woody stems, always look for thinner ones) 
4-5  small carrots
1  medium-sized yellow onion 
2  stalks of celery 
1c. frozen peas
2  eggs
2 Tbs. milk
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. flour 
1  lb. ground turkey; love the ground dark meat from Whole Foods Market! 
2  cloves garlic, minced
1 c. chicken stock
1 Tbsp. each freshly chopped rosemary and thyme (optionally delicious) 
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
Sprinkle of nutmeg
2-3 Tbsp. worcestershire
2 tsp. Kosher salt
Pepper to taste 

1) Preheat your oven to 375. Start out by filling a large pot with cold water and chopping
    up your sweet potatoes/yams. Place the potatoes in the pot and set over high heat. Allow 
    to cook while you:
2) Chop up your parsnip, carrot, celery, and onion into pieces. See pictures below for size 
    and procedure. 
3) In a large dutch oven or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, brown your turkey bits 
    with a tiny bit of cooking oil  until browned throughout. Remove from pan and set aside. 
4) Drizzle another Tbsp. full or so of oil in the pan and toss in the parsnip, carrot, celery, and 
    onion. Cook until the carrots and parsnip are tender and begin to caramelize slightly. Add 
    in the garlic for the last couple minutes or so. Reduce the heat to medium. 
5) Melt the 2 Tbs. butter and mix with the 3 Tbs. flour. Add the butter/flour mixture and
    stir well into the veggies. Allow the flour mix to brown lightly
6) Toss in your cider and stock, make sure to scrape up all of the delicious bits from the
    bottom of the pan. Add in all of your spices and worcestershire. Allow to simmer for 
    about 10-15 minutes or until the mixture slightly thickens. Season to taste (salt & pepper).
7) Add your peas, fresh herbs, and turkey and cook an additional 5-10 minutes. 
8) Drain and mash up your sweet potatoes/yams. Add in 2 Tbsp. butter and 2 Tbsp. milk. 
    Salt and pepper to taste. I added a little extra nutmeg too! Crack your eggs into a little bowl 
    and slowly add in bits of the potato mix, stirring to combine, until the eggs are tempered
    Add it back into the mash, stir well and spread over the top of the veggies/turkey mix.  
9) Pop it in the oven and let it go for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool a sec, dish up 
    and enjoy! 
Whenever you're cooking like this you'll always want to make sure your bits are uniform. Check out the breakdown of how to get even pieces of carrot, parsnip, or celery above. Halve it, halve each piece again, and then one more time...then chop it into pieces! Easy-peasy.  

Whenever you're adding eggs into something hot you have to 'temper' them first! 

This already smells amazing! Instant mood-lifter!  

Captain! We've been breached! All's fair in love and cooking, it tasted just as good so who cares? :) 

Soul saver! I loved this dish, came from the heart you know? So maybe it didn't take the blues totally away, but it sure helped ease the pain. Enjoying the extra cider while eating it also didn't hurt ;)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Quick & Easy Chickpea Soup

This soup seriously takes 20 minutes. If nothing else, you should make it for that reason alone. I had a few people stop by the other day unexpectedly and nothing to make for them. What I did have though was a pantry full of junk and luckily a few fresh herbs. My choice was obvious, it was soup time. That right there is why I love soup, you can literally make it out of anything! Soup lets you step up and be the boss; direct it, own it. Tweak it to your hearts desire. 
When I was making this I got to a point where I thought, "Ok, that seems good, I'm done!" And then I tasted it [....meh...]. It was just ok. It didn't beg me to eat it, did not sing to my soul, I could hardly even pick out any distinct flavor in the pot. So was I going to let my soup push me around? Oh hey nah! All I had to do was fill in my blanks; ask myself, 'what is this missing?' and then adjust it until I wanted to gobble it up. And that's exactly what happened. Bam. 
Journey with me, I'll show you...
Sort of Spicy Chickpea Soup: (Serves 4) *Derived from Pam Anderson for Food & Wine 
**Food processor or blender needed! 

2 Cans of Chickpeas (19oz.), drained
1 Can light coconut milk (13ish oz.), go ahead and get full fat if you wanna get crazy
1 Can whole tomatoes; reserve liquid and quarter the toms
1/2 c. Crispin Honey Crisp Cider, reduced over low heat to 1/4 c.
Cilantro! As much as you want, but 1/2 c. as a guideline
4 Green onions, finely chopped
1 c. or so Chicken/Veggie Stock
1/2 tsp. Garam Masala
1/2 tsp. Ground ginger
Greek Yogurt to top
Salt & Pepper and other things to taste

1) So I don't know if you can tell yet, but I've intentionally left out a ton of ingredients to force you to
    interact with this dish. Go put your chef pants on, we're doing this together.
2) So just start off by gathering everything you need: Get your cider on the stove and cook it down
    really slow until it's reduced by half. Chop your onions, tomatoes, pull off a bunch of your cilantro,
    open your cans and measure your spices (to start anyway).
3) So souper simple (had to..); toss in your chickpeas, coconut milk, tomatoes and sauce, spices
    cilantro, white parts from the green onion and cider into the food processor and blend it until
    smooth. Now I had to run mine in two batches because my machine is just too small, that's ok,
    just make them sort of even amounts and then transfer the blended batch to a soup pot.
4) With the heat on low-med, add in your stock and heat the soup up till it's hot enough to eat.
    Great. Now taste it. What does it taste like to you? Anything? What do you want it to taste like?
    Should it have more zing?
5) Let's add. Salt and pepper first. Whenever you're adding anything outside of a recipe you'll
    always want to start small and work your way up. It may take longer, but once it's in there you
    can't take it out. Now I'm not exactly suggesting that you work pinch by pinch, but no more
    than 1/4 tsp. full a time or less.

    Ok, did you get the salt and pepper? Good, what else? Some people may want to stop here, this
    may be enough for you and that's great, garnish and eat up. I was not so pleased yet though,
   the soup tasted flat to me. I wanted zip and zing, full and rich flavors. Here's what I added:
    -Orange Juice (I was out of lemon, this worked great)
    -Hot sauce, Tapatio! My personal fave
    -Ginger infused vinegar (apple cider would work well too)
6) So why? Why did I choose those things? For the first three listed there; acid. Acid is the zip and
    the zing in food. It activates our saliva glands and gives us that 'give me more' reaction. I chose a
    fruit acid because it has a bright and fresh flavor to it that would match the bright fresh flavors
    from the cilantro. Hot sauce for the tomato and vinegar based acid properties as well as a little
    spice to liven things up. And finally the ginger vinegar to further drive home that spicy, bright,
    ginger flavor and to further drive up the acid profile. Does that make sense? I hope so. Try
    saving a little bit of the original soup to compare apples to apples when you feel like you've
    reached a good acidic base.

    In the end I probably had put about a tsp. of Tapatio, 1/4 c.-1/3 c. of OJ, and maybe about 1/4c.   .
    of vinegar. Cumin I added to boost the spice from the Garam Masala (look on the label, it's
    already in the spice mix), I just wanted more. And nutmeg to bring a bit of earthiness back into
    the soup to interact with the chickpea base.
7) When you are happy with your soup, ladle it up and top with some yogurt (or sour cream)
   the greens from the onion as well as a little more cilantro. If you want to thin out your yogurt you
   can mix it with a little bit of the Honey Crisp to smooth it down. I did this and it was a nice
   addition to re-state that the apple flavor was in the soup. Yay! Now give yourself a high-five or a
   nice pat on the back, you did it!

I hope that I didn't bog you down with too much stuff, I just saw this as a perfect example for the easiest way to learn how to trust your taste and learn to ask questions about what you're making. The more you ask the more you can answer and the more you will learn about food and cooking. Food is fun! And when you gain the confidence to push it around instead of letting it manhandle you, it's a lot easier to remember that :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cider Brined Pork Chops

Ok, so remember last week when I was riding some sort of delusional high about fall and seasons and snow and blah, blah, blah. Well this girl most definitely got her reality check today. Yesterday: Partly sunny, high of 67, late night thunderstorm. Presently: Cloudy, windchill of 12 (actually 25), snowing. And just for fun, toss in a very broken boiler. Awesome. I love winter. 
I take it back, I take it all back. 
But we all know the saying, so let's make some lemonade shall we? Bust out the blankets and robes, crank up the heat on the stove and let's bang out a cider laden feast fit for Kings. Cold Kings, like back in the day with their big cold castles. Yeah, just like that...where's the whiskey? 

Bare Naked Brined Pork Loin Chops: (Brined 8 Chops cut 1" thickish)

6-8 Pork Loin Chops, bone-in, purchased mine from my local Whole Foods 
1 bottle Crispin Cider's Bare Naked Organic Hard Apple Cider (22oz.), found
   easily at Whole Foods stores! 
10 oz. cool water 
1/4 c. Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. sugar 
1 tsp. Allspice berries, barley crushed
1 tsp. Tellicherry peppercorns, barely crushed 
2 Tbsp. olive oil 
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. chopped, fresh thyme and rosemary
Pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper 

1) Combine cider, water, salt and sugar in a large container and stir until most of the salt
    and sugar are dissolved. 
2) Add in the peppercorns, Allspice and pork chops, making sure the brine covers the pork. 
    Let the mixture sit for 40 min. or an hour before grilling. Remove from the brine and pat
    dry with paper towels. 
3) Make the glaze by combining the herbs with the oil, vinegar, and honey. Stir to combine.
4) You can use an indoor grill or an outdoor grill, just make sure that you have enough room 
    to cook indirectly on the grill space over medium heat. Oil the grill and sear each side of the 
    chops for 2-3 minutes. 
5) Brush the chops with the glaze on one side, turn over onto indirect heat and cook. Glaze 
    the other side, turn over and finish chops until you reach an internal temperature of 145. 
    Pull off the grill and rest 5 minutes before serving. 

A crowded grill...don't be like me. The more space the better; they still turned out great though! 

Served my chops alongside some roasted organic carrots with thyme and honey, simple greens and a parsnip and yukon gold potato mash. A great fall meal! 
This was a fantastic meal! Just what we needed to warm the house and our bodies up from the cold. My Crispin Honey Crisp cider with Bulleit Bourbon on ice didn't hurt much either...
That's all for now cider friends! I'll be hitting you up next week with my very exciting 'The Cider Kitchen' video and all the recipes I made for my first filmed Cider Dinner. See you soon! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mulled Cider

Bring on the fall! I for one am all about it this year. I've always really enjoyed the fall, but rarely do I enjoy thinking about what comes after...cold. Lots and lots of cold and snow and then a little more cold and snow after that. So even when I'd really like to enjoy the fall, I was always brought to a halt  thinking about my imminent doom soon thereafter. But this year, for some very welcome reason, I opened up my arms and embraced it without pause. 
This new-found joy over fall put me into a tizzy of needing to do all things fall related. One such activity resulted in this fortified-mulled-cider-in-an-apple cocktail. I rejoiced, reveled, and slipped into a happy stupor of autumnal joy. 
 Mulled Cider Cocktail:

3/4 c. (or more) Apple Cider 
Mulling spices like: Allspice (4-6), cinnamon sticks (2-3), star anise (3) or clove(4-5). You could also add a little orange or ginger if you want to get wild. 
3-6 apples, consider that you may mangle them (I know I did, and then adjust accordingly) Also, you'll want to pick large apples with good flat bottoms. 
A little lemon juice so the apples don't brown when you cut them

If you want to make the apple cups:

1) Grab an apple and cut just the top off. Rub liberally with the lemon juice to prevent browning 
    while you're working. I found a handy dandy grapefruit knife that was curved that came in 
    very handy here. I cut the core out first by simply cutting around it, be careful to not put a 
    whole in the bottom like I did on my first one!
2) Slowly start to cut your way further around where the core was until you've got most of the
    inside out but still have a good sturdy vessel for people to hold. When you're happy with your   
    artwork you're done! Ta-dah! 

If you just want the drink already:

1) Pour the Crispin cider and regular cider into a heavy bottomed pot. Add the mulling spices and   
    slowly heat over low to med-low heat until it just begins to steadily steam. 
2) After the batch starts to steam toss in the bourbon. Serve right away or put a lid on it to keep it 
    warm.  Once the cider starts to steam it is more or less losing its alcohol content, so put a lid on 
    it and keep that booze safe! 

My first failed apple cup, wa wa waaaa! 

Cheers! Here's to you and here's to me, apple loving friends we shall always be!