Halloween Treats!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays! John and I love to dress up, carve way too many pumpkins, and eat plenty of candy while enjoying a comedy/scary movie. This year we decided carving 3 pumpkins is a better idea than last years 12.

Last Halloween I made vanilla cupcakes with crushed oreo cookies and gummy works coming out of the top. Dirt Cupcakes. This Halloween I’m making Witches Fingers!

Witches Fingers are almond shortbread cookies in the shape of a witches finger, and the nail is a toasted almond. I did not color my cookies since I was serving them with pumkpin ice cream, but you can if you wish.

I’m also including a simple, yet wonderfully delicious cocktail for adults.

Witches Fingers – 16 fingers
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
16 whole almonds
Green food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Mix in almond extract and egg white, and food coloring if desired. Reduce the speed to low, add flour and salt, continue to mix until combined. Adjust coloring and mix until incorporated.

Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough into your palm, and shape the dough to resemble a finger. Place on prepared baking sheet, prick finger with a fork and top with an almond, press slightly, pointed end facing away from finger, it will look like a pointy nail (look at photos below).

Bake shortbread in for 14 minutes, rotating the sheet midway (7minutes) Remove from oven, and cool on sheet.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for three days!

Whiskey and Cider
1/2 ounce whiskey, Pendleton or Jameson’s
3/4 cups fresh apple cider, chilled
Ice
Sugar for frosting glass (optional)

For the ladies: Pour a little cider in a bowl large enough to dip a martini glass in to coat the rim. Pour sugar into a bowl, and dip glass into the sugar to coat the rim. Combine whiskey and cider and enjoy.

For the gentlemen: Place a few ice cubes in a scotch glass and pour whiskey and cider over, stir and serve.

Cheers and Happy Halloween dear friends.

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Pictures before Halloween, and preparing treats! Oh! and of course Archibauld!
We line our driveway with glow in the dark pumpkin, and add glow sticks Halloween night, since it can be pretty scary to walk 300 ft up a pitch black driveway! (You might want to consider this if you have small trick-or-treat’ers!)

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Coq au Vin

So for photography, I was required to create 15 photos that tell a story. Well I made dinner, and thought that it had a pretty fantastic ending. Luckily I documented every bit of it to tell the story, and here you have it Coq au Vin.

So Coq au Vin is chicken braised in red wine with pearl onions, mushrooms, and lardons (bacon). It’s a good idea to prepare rice and serve the chicken over it. Also, if you have a enameled pot I highly recommend using it for this recipe.

Coq au Vin – Serves 4
8 ounce bacon slab, cut into lardons (1/4inch thick/1 inch long)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lbs whole chicken, cut up, plus extra legs if need be
1/4 cup cognac
1 bottle Chianti
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/4 teaspoon dry thyme
2 bay leaves
40 pearl onions
1/4 cup dry vermouth (optional)
1 lb bella (crimini) mushrooms, cut in half or 1/4 if large
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In your enameled pot, combine lardons and 2 cups of water, bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes, and drain. Meanwhile season chicken with salt and pepper, and set aside. Place enameled pot back over heat, and melt 2 tablespoons butter, add the bacon and cook until lightly browned. Remove the bacon and set aside.

With the heat still on the pot, place seasoned chicken in the bottom of pot and cook until browned all over, turning chicken a few times, about 10 minutes. Add the bacon. Stand back! Add cognac and ignite with a long match. I hope you didn’t lose your eyebrows! Let the flames go down, and shake the pot a bit for a few seconds to help it die out.

Pour the wine over the chicken and bacon, add 2 1/2 cups chicken stock. Your chicken should be covered, if not, just add water. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs, add half the mushrooms. Bring to a simmer, and cover. Continue to simmer for an hour. The chicken will be perfectly cooked and the flavors with have had time to become very good friends. Meanwhile prepare pearl onions and remaining mushrooms.

To peel the pearl onions, blanch them and place in an ice bath. To blanch, bring water to a rumbling boil, add pearl onions for about a minute, and remove to ice bath. With a sharp knife, cut the root and peel towards the tip of the onion. Place the peeled pearl onions in a saute pan, add 1/4 cup vermouth and 1/4 cup chicken stock, bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until liquid is cooked down. Turn off the heat and about 10 minutes before the chicken is done add the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken stock to the onions and bring to a simmer, cook until onions are glazed.

To cook the mushrooms, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over low heat, saute onions until lightly browned, add 1/4 cup chicken stock and bring to a simmer, cook until liquid is cooked down. Turn off the heat and about 10 minutes before the chicken is done add the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken stock to the mushrooms and bring to a simmer, cook until mushrooms are glazed.

Once the chicken is done, remove chicken from the pot and set aside. Bring the sauce to a boil. With the flour and butter you will create a beurre manie, you do this by smashing the flour into the butter until you have a smooth paste. Once the sauce has reduced a bit, whisk in the beurre manie, and simmer sauce until it leaves a thick coat on the back of a wooden spoon, about a minute or two.

Add the chicken to the sauce, and cooked for a minute or two to rewarm. Arrange the chicken on a large dish, and garnish with pearl onions and mushrooms around. Top chicken generously with sauce, and if there’s extra sauce remaining, serve on the side in a warmed gravy boat.

Bon Appetit!

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Autumn Molasses Bourbon Cookies

Before my post this week, I wanted to apologize for not posting anything last week, it was Canadian Thanksgiving and I had two exams.  Unfortunately this delayed post will happen from time to time, so just be patient, and I will get to it the moment I have free time. Oh I also changed the header to one of my favorite tarts, Cranberry Maple Tart…it’s a picture with my old camera so forgive the glare!

Fall in Cincinnati is nothing like fall in Canada.  Trees here take forever to turn color, and the weather is a mild summer in Canada. And since today is the first cool day of October so far, I decided to make Molasses Cookies with Bourbon Caramel …this reminds me of the fall season. 

Autumn Molasses Bourbon Cookies – 40 cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
Sugar
Kosher salt, for garnishing

Bourbon Caramel
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Pinch of kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons bourbon (replace with vanilla extract for kid friendly cookie!)
————–
Sift together flour, baking soda, all the spices, and salt into a bowl.

In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk, on medium speed, beat together butter and brown sugar until well combined and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and molasses, until well combined, and with the speed on low, add flour mixture until well blended. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Meanwhile make the Bourbon Caramel: Heat the sugar in a 10inch saute pan over medium heat, stirring the sugar with a fork, and swirling the pan occasionally so that the sugar melts evenly. Continue to cook until all the sugar has melted, and it’s a dark amber color. Lower heat, add water (BE CAREFUL! – STAND BACK) and salt, continue to cook, stirring occasionally to melt the caramel. Add the butter and bourbon, and stir until incorporated. Remove from heat, and let cool until thick. (Refrigerate if need be.) Continue to prepare cookies.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and prepare two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Pour about 1/4 cup sugar into a bowl and set aside.
Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, scoop up cookie dough, and release it into the palm of your hands to roll a a more uniform ball. Drop into sugar bowl and swirl around to coat. Remove dough ball and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing balls about 2 inches apart. At the center of each cookie, using your thumb make an indentation.

Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and if necessary use the end of a wooden spoon to gently indent cookies once more. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then remove and place onto cookie rack to cool completely. Once caramel has proper consistency, not liquid like, should be thick. Spoon enough to fill the indentation, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Once caramel has settled, enjoy with a glass of milk. Place in a container, and cookies will keep for about 5 days.

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I heart sushi!

Oddly, whenever the air starts to get crisp, John and I start “jones-ing” for sushi, or actually in John’s case, sashimi. But I wasn’t willing to spring for sashimi grade tuna, so we went for the classic Maki rolls and Temaki. Sushi Faq is a great website with information on safety, and other important things.

I do not recommend eating SUSHI POPPERS. It’s much scarier to eat sushi from a popper than to make this recipe at home.

Below is a recipe for the most perfect rice…I have tried so many and failed, until one day I decided to ignore everything and go with a few recommendations and wing the rest. In a couple of weeks we are going to try and make tempura shrimp rolls, and John is planning on getting different types of fish for sashimi – I’m also afraid he may be pickling conch.

Also, since next weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, keeping up with our usual tradition we’re having friends over for dinner, and instead of the usual but delicious turkey, I’m going with Duck a L’Orange and I will make sure to document and post everything the following day.

Alright, feel free to use whatever fillings you would like, we stuck to the basics for this post.

Sushi – makes 24 pieces (maybe more)
For the rice: Makes 4 cups cooked rice.
2 cups sushi rice
2 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Place sushi rice in a strainer and run under cold water until the water runs clear. Transfer to a medium sized saucepan, add 2 1/2 cups water and cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce heat to low, simmer for 15-18 minutes, or until water is absorbed and rice is transparent. Remove from heat and keep covered. Set aside and work on vinegar mixture.

For the vinegar mixture, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan over medium high heat, and stir until sugar and salt have dissolved, remove from heat.

Transfer the rice to a large metal bowl, use a spatula to break up the rice. Pour half the vinegar mixture over the rice, and fold with spatula to combine. Taste rice, and continue to incorporate vinegar mixture until desired flavor is reached.

To prepare the sushi:
1 package nori
1 English cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise, remove seeds, and cut into 1/4 inch thick sticks (6-8in long)
1 avocado, 1/4 inch thick slices, tossed with a bit of lemon juice
8 ounces crab meat (we used crab legs, imitation…find one made with Alaskan Pollock)
1/4 pound smoked salmon
Brick of cold cream cheese, cut into long strips to desired thickness
Scallions
Mayonnaise
Toasted sesame seeds
To taste: Soy sauce, Wasabi, Pickled Ginger

Special Equipment: Bamboo rolling mat

Crab, Cream Cheese, Avocado, Cucumber and Scallion Mayonnaise Maki Roll
In a small bowl combine 4 tablespoons mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions. Set aside.

Place a sheet of Nori, shiny side down, on the bamboo mat and cover it evenly with about 1/4 inch thick rice, or thinner! You should be able to see some of the nori through, or in between the rice. And don’t forget to leave an inch of the nori sheet on one end empty.

About midway of the rice, rub desired amount of mayonnaise mixture on rice, place the crab down in a straight line, top with avocado slices, slightly overlapping. Add cucumber matchsticks, and strips of cream cheese. When all of the ingredients you want are in place, lift the end of the bamboo mat nearest you, and fold it over the ingredients, in a rolling motion, Try to keep your hands steady and don’t push down too hard. When you have rolled one end, continue to slide the mat while rolling the rest of the sushi roll. You’ll create a roundish tube.

Remove the sushi roll and place on a cutting board, using an extremely sharp knife – Trim both ends (chefs pieces), and cut the roll into desired pieces. Place on tray and serve with hot tea.

Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Cucumber Maki Roll
Place a sheet of Nori, shiny side down, on the bamboo mat and cover it evenly with about 1/4 inch thick rice, or thinner! You should be able to see some of the nori through, or in between the rice. And don’t forget to leave an inch of the nori sheet on one end empty. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

About midway of the rice, place strips of cream cheese and on one side place cucumber matchsticks, slice smoked salmon into long strips and place desired amount on top of cream cheese and cucumber. When all of the ingredients you want are in place, lift the end of the bamboo mat nearest you, and fold it over the ingredients, in a rolling motion, Try to keep your hands steady and don’t push down too hard. When you have rolled one end, continue to slide the mat while rolling the rest of the sushi roll. You’ll create a roundish tube.

Remove the sushi roll and place on a cutting board, using an extremely sharp knife – Trim both ends (chefs pieces), and cut the roll into desired pieces. Place on tray, garnish with sesame and serve with hot tea.

To make a Temaki roll, which looks really cool filled to the brim with yummy fish and veggies. Cut a sheet of nori in half, and hold it in your hand. Place a small amount of rice on the side of the sheet in your hand, and spread it out but don’t go to the edges. Place your fillings on top, and roll the nori into a cone by taking the bottom of the corner in your hand (where all the ingredients are) – and roll the sheet over into an arc – like your making a cone with paper. If your not eating it right away, dampen your fingers with water and seal the edge.

As you can see it’s the same method no matter what ingredients you use so be playful and try other fillings.
Also, remember that sushi is a finger food, so don’t act like your cool because you can pick up a roll with chopsticks, use your clean hands.

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