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Friday, January 27, 2012

Cider & Shallot Mussels-Oh My!

Up until today I was under the impression that mussels were some sort of fancy and difficult dish that I could only have at a restaurant; that all kinds of timely preparation and secret ingredients were involved. I guess that's what I get for growing up in the Midwest! I could not have been more off, you pretty much just throw the mussels in a pan, wait a few minutes, and then voila! Make this, you're friends will be fooled and whisper derogatory remarks about you being a 'fancy-pants' and you will glow with pride about your daily victory. Yay you.
Crispin Brut & Shallot Mussels with Fresh Thyme: (enough for 2) 

1 1/2 lbs. Mussels, cleaned 
  1 Large shallot, thinly sliced
  1 Small bunch of thyme, leaves removed from stems 
  2 Tbsp. butter 
  Loaf of crusty bread (warm/toasted) for soppin' up sauce 
1) Start out by making sure of a couple things: 
      -Your mussels are alive. Just because they are opened before cooking does
        not mean that they are dead. Give the open mussel a firm couple knocks 
        against the table or a bowl, if they don't close within a minute, toss em'.
       Also, if there are any cracks, toss em'. (see picture below for example)
     -Your mussels are well cleaned. If they are not already debearded, remove the 
       beards by simply pulling them off. If your mussels have any barnacles on 
       them, use the back of a knife to scrape them off. When those things are 
       accomplished, wash mussels individually in a bowl of cool water with a scour 
       pad until dirt and debris are removed. 
Naughty mussel, no cracks allowed.
2) In a pan large enough to fit your mussels, with a tight fitting lid, melt the butter 
     over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for one minute, add the thyme 
     and cook for a minute more or until the shallots are tender.  
3) Add the mussels to the pan and pour the cider over. Put a lid on it and give them
     a good shake, turn up the heat and let simmer for 5-7 minutes. 
4) When the mussels have all cooked, remove the lid and transfer mussels to a strainer 
     placed over a bowl with a slotted spoon. Return the drained liquid to the pan and 
     simmer sauce for another few minutes. 
5) Place mussels in a serving dish and pour sauce over them. Eat.
     Tip: They say to not add any salt due to the briny liquid the mussels release; I still 
              think a  pinch of salt and a bit of fresh pepper would have really set it off

Did you know that the difference in color of the mussel's flesh is indicative of its sex? Truth.

So easy. Look at that delicious treat! I didn't think I could, but I did, and so can you. I always like to take risks in the kitchen, I'm no expert and there are new things to learn all the time. Our world of food is vast and delicious and it just so happens that I'm in the mood for an adventure...
  Join me?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Crispin & Fox Barrel at the Nosh

Last Friday I was honored to be able to be a part of the North Coast Nosh III. The Nosh is an event put on by The Heavy Table-a popular Twin Cities magazine.  These events are all about showcasing the endless local talent of Minnesota's food and drink purveyors. Held at the new Open Arms of Minnesota facility, around 300 guests made their way around the room to sample the delicious fare from the 20 different businesses that attended the 'sip-and-sample' event. 
Jamie and I all set up!
I was able to be at the event as a sampler for Crispin and Fox Barrel, and lucky me, I was also able to make some snacks to hand out that I made showcasing Fox Barrel's Pacific Pear Cider. I cannot tell a lie though, getting there was a lot of work. Feeding 300 people and not running out of food is no easy task! I decided on making the Fig and Pear Tarts that I made for my New Year's Eve Post for the following reasons: 1. They are easy to store/assemble 2. Cold holding safely is a lot easier than hot holding 3. They really showcase the product 4. They're delicious. Well that and I tried like 5 other test kitchen ideas that all fell through and I ran out of time, ack! In the end though, I think it was a great call and I was pretty happy with the way they turned out.
370 mini filo shells + a lot of patience & butter
2 sauté pans at a time x5 - this was definitely a labor of love
After hours and hours of chopping/cooking/baking, one emotional/worried/nervous breakdown and 20 minutes of snowy driving later, we arrived.

Borrowed this pic from The Heavy Table-hope you guys don't mind! 
--> By the way, Open Arms is a truly inspiring organization, you should look into it! 

 First thing we did was set up all of the product and made sure everything looked presentable. We decided to sample only our line of Pear Ciders from Fox Barrel to show people what a great product it really is (I think I'd cry if they ever got rid of the Ginger & Blackcurrant Cider!) and also because it related directly to the food we were sampling. Then we got to work on assembling a bunch of the snacks in preparation of the guests arrival, people come hungry and that's a fact.
 Once we were all set up we took a little stroll around to check out everyone elses' setups and devised a game plan about what we were going to snack on later ourselves...bahahaha! 
Bogart Loves Bakery-yummy

Natedogs- a classic done right!

Beez Kneez- deeelicious honey treats
Patisserie 46- they had me at chocolate

We also stopped by to say hello to Burnett Dairy Cooperative, Faribault Dairy (they make a cave aged blue cheese that's to die for) and a personal fave-Peace Coffee

Back to our spots, we got in gear as people started to arrive; thirsty, hungry, and full of questions about our products. Overall it was great night and a nice reminder of how much talent there is all around us. We were so happy to be a part of it, big thanks to The Heavy Table and Open Arms of Minnesota for all the work they put into this event!

Alex was the biggest help with snack assembly!

Pete from Harriet Brewing stops by to say hello-LOVE their beers! 
Celebrating their 1 year anniversary on the 27th-here
Not to be missed, go!
Snacks anyone?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pizza Night!

I really like pizza. All the time, always. Red sauce, white sauce, just cheese, ten toppings...I could go on forever. In my opinion it's the perfect indulgent meal. So when I put this together I really wasn't expecting something fantastic given the amount of pizza I've eaten in my lifetime. I was so wrong, this pizza goes down as one of the best I've consumed, and for me to say that about something I made...well, it says a lot. I think you'd better give this a try the next time your pizza craving hits. 
Apple, Sausage, Caramelized Onion, Arugula & Cider Cream Sauce Pizza: (14")

1/2 lb. Italian Hot Sausage
1/4 Apple, cored and sliced very thin
1/2 Yellow Onion, sliced thin 
1/2 c. Arugula 
3/4 c. Shredded Mozzarella
1/4 c. Shredded Parmesan 
1/2 tsp. Fennel Seed, crushed
 1  Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
 1  Tbsp. Dark Brown Sugar 
1/2 c. Heavy Cream 
  1  Small Garlic Clove, minced 
  1  tsp. Corn Starch 
Make Your Own Crust (or buy one...)

 1/4   oz. Pack Active Dry Yeast
1 3/4 c. All-Purpose Flour
 3/4   c. Warm Water (105-115 F)
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Olive Oli 

1) Stir together the yeast, one tablespoon flour, and 1/4 c. warm water. Let stand 5 min.
    Or until the top of the mixture appears creamy.
2) Whisk together 1 1/4 c. flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture, oil, and remaining 1/2 c.
    warm water and stir until smooth. 
3) Add the remaining flour (1/2 c.) or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4) Turn out onto a dry surface and knead with lightly floured hands until the dough becomes   
    smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
5) Form a ball and let rest on a floured surface, generously flour the top, and loosely cover
    with plastic. Rest in a warm, draft free space until the dough is doubled in size, 1 1/4 hrs. 
6) When the dough is done rising, do not punch down, pick up and gently but quickly turn 
    in a circle until you form a large circle. Lay on a floured surface and continue to pull out 
    the sides until the crust reaches 14" 

Make Your Fixings:
1) So while you are waiting for your dough to finish its rising process you can start prepping 
    your toppings. Preheat the oven to 425.
2) Apples-set the slices in a bowl or glass with a 1/2 c. of the cider and let rest for at least 20
    minutes or up to one hour. Drain before putting on pizza, reserving liquid.
3) Sausage-in a pan over medium-high heat, combine the sausage and fennel. Cook, breaking 
    apart frequently until the sausage is browned on it's edges. Using a slotted spoon, transfer 
    the sausage to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve the cooking juices.
4) Onions- in a skillet over medium heat, melt the 1 Tbs. butter with the 1 Tbs. brown sugar. 
    Stir to combine and then add onions. Cook until tender and slightly browned on the sides, 
   10 minutes or so.
5) Sauce- Combine reserved cider from apples, 1/2 c. heavy cream, tsp. cornstarch, garlic, 
    1 Tbs. liquid from sausage, and a 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper in a small saucepan. 
    Simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
6) Assembly! I like to do: sauce, apples, some cheese, onions and sausage, some more cheese.
    Bake on a sheet pan or pizza stone for 10-15 minutes. Yank out of oven, top with arugula, 
    and wait at least a few minutes before slicing into that pie of love-joy-cheese-time.

 For the love of pizza-make this, I beg of you. Actually, I shouldn't have to beg, it's totally your loss if you pass this one up. And don't expect to show up on my doorstep looking for leftovers either, I assure you there are none. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

There's some old saying about 'when life gives you apples, make bread pudding.' Ok, so that's a lie, I totally made that up. But at least admit that it sounds good. Well life did happen to give me apples today, as well as a loaf of stale bread, heavy cream on the brink of non-existence, and a pantry full of dried fruits. I did the only logical thing I could think of doing and made a bread pudding using the bottle of cider I had in my mini-fridge. Duh. 
 Apple Bread Pudding: Serves about 9
1 1/2 c. Heavy Cream 
 4      Eggs, at room temperature 
10     oz. French Bread-day old, tore into 1" pieces 
 1      Large Apple-peeled, cored and cut into 1/4" pieces (I used Braeburn)
1/2    c. Dark Brown Sugar 
1/4    c. Golden Raisins 
1/8    c. Dried Currants 
 2      tsp. Crystallized Ginger, finely chopped 
1/2    tsp. Cinnamon
1/2    tsp. Vanilla Extract
1) You'll want to start by preheating your oven to 350 and buttering an 8x8 in. square
    baking pan on all sides. 
2) In a large bowl; combine your bread,  raisins & currants, ginger, and apples. 
    Set aside.
3) In a small bowl; whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and heavy
    cream. Quickly whisk in the cider and immediately add to the bowl with the 
    bread mixture. 
4) Toss all of the ingredients in the bowl until the bread is well saturated and then 
    transfer to the prepared baking dish. 
5) Bake for 30 minutes, rotate pan, and continue baking for another 30-40 minutes. 
    The pudding will be done when the top has become golden brown and a fork 
    inserted in the middle comes out with slightly wet crumbs. 
6) Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting. (This may be the 
    hardest part). 
I'm really serious about adding the cider quickly, there's enough acid in the cider that it could curdle the cream mixture, keep it moving and get it on the bread in a hurry like.
It looks gross when you add the liquid, just have faith.
 Caramel Sauce (if you fancy it):  Makes about 1/2 cup 
1/2 c. Brown Sugar
1/4 c. The Saint Cider 
 2   Tbsp. Unsalted Butter 
 1   Tbsp. brandy/bourbon/dark rum (pick your poison) 
 A pinch of salt 

You can totally see me taking the picture in that giant bubble.
1) In a large saucepan, heat the sugar, salt and the cider over medium high heat. 
    Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and then let the mixture come to a boil. 
2) Cook undisturbed, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan for 3-5 min.
    Since the sugar is already really dark, I used my nose to make sure the sugar was
    not burning. Try that or swirl the pan to check out the consistency, it should be 
    slower moving. 
3) Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and booze. Whisk to incorporate, 
     serve immediately with the pudding or store covered in the fridge and reheat 
     later when needed.

I also opted to make a bit of whipped cream with the leftover heavy cream I had. I didn't add a thing to it because there is so much flavor in the sauce and bread pudding already. I simply took an immersion blender and let it do it's thing for a minute or so and then slapped a big spoonful on top of my pudding prize. Sprinkle with some cinnamon and my friend, it's now your lucky day.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Brunch We Must

There is nothing more satisfying than rolling out of bed late, putting a pot of coffee on and reveling in the glory that is your day off. Nothing. I live for my days off and I bet a lot of you out there do as well. In celebration of this glorious occasion I invited a couple cool kids over to brunch and day drink. The outcome: delicious perfection accompanied by good gossip and giggles that lasted into the late afternoon. Go ahead and give your next day off the celebration that it (and you) so rightfully deserve. 
On The Menu:
-Egg Sandwich with Crispin Honeycrisp Béarnaise 
-Sweet Potato & Apple Hashbrowns (as prepared by the incomparable Jamie Giles)
-Cocktail: St. Germain Dupree
Tip: Drink first, then cook. Food will always taste better this way. 
St. Germain Dupree: Recipe is per drink (name cred per Brieann Thelen)

1/2  oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur  
  4   oz. Crispin Brut Cider (chilled)
1.75 oz. Grapefruit Juice (chilled)
1) Simply layer the ingredients above starting with the St. Germain, then the Crispin, 
    and finally the Grapefruit. 
2) Sip, smile, and start cooking. 
Sweet Potato & Apple Hashbrowns: Serves 4-6 
2    lbs. Sweet Potatoes, shredded 
1/2 Large White Onion, diced
1    Large Green Apple, shredded 
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbsp.  Canola Oil
1) After slicing and dicing your ingredients, heat a large skillet on medium-high heat 
   and add the 1/4 c. Honeycrisp and cinnamon.  Let heat for 2 minutes and then add 
   your apple and onion. Reduce heat to medium and let cook for about 10 minutes or 
   until soft and beginning to caramelize. Reserve in a large bowl, covered.
2) Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 1/2 Tbsp. canola oil. Add your 
    giant pile of sweet potato shreds and cook until they begin to turn golden brown 
    on one side. (This would be a perfect time to start your béarnaise if you're making 
    both)  Add the apple and onion mixture, flip and repeat cooking until the other 
    side is equally as delicious looking. Season with salt and pepper till your heat's 
    desire. Serve immediately. 
Jamie. Ain't she pretty? 

Egg Sandwich with Honeycrisp Béarnaise Sauce:  Enough sauce for 8 

  1/4  c. +2 Tbsp. Crispin Honeycrisp Cider
  1/4  c. Apple Cider Vinegar 
   2    Tbsp. Shallot, diced 
   4    Egg Yolks
   1    c. Clarified Unsalted Butter 
   Juice from half a lemon 

   -As many eggs as sandwiches desired, I like mine cooked over easy,     
    cook em like you like em.
  -One veggie or regular sausage pattie per sandwich, warm in pan or on griddle 
  -Half a whole wheat english muffin per sammie. 
  -Adorn them with fresh snipped chives. 

1) Get a double broiler started, heat water to simmering. 
2) In a small sauce pan, bring the 1/4 c. vinegar, 1/4 c. cider, and shallot to a boil. 
    Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the liquid has
    reduced a bit. Let the mixture cool slightly and then strain into the bowl of your 
    double broiler. 
3) Set the liquid over the simmering water and add the egg yolks and 2 Tbsp. cider. 
    Cook while whisking until the mixture becomes light yellow and begins to 
4) Remove from heat and blend in a blender until smooth. Let cool a minute. With 
    the motor running, slowly add the clarified butter and then the lemon.
5) Season with salt and pepper, keep warm on the double boiler over low until ready 
    to use.

When you're all ready to eat; toast up your muffins, fry up those eggs, and make sure you're drink is full before getting down on that glorious plate of food you just created. Hey, might as well enjoy it to its fullest. We all know we'll be back at work before we know it. A toast to you, you've earned this day, soak it up!