Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine: December 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Moving Day & Cookbook Giveaway

I’ve moved…thanks to my wonderful husband...the Food Hunter can now be found at .... come on over and check it out. Also, in honor of this change I'm giving away a copy of The Prickly Pear Cookbook, by Carolyn Niethammer. All you have to do to be entered into a random drawing is: update any links you might have to the Food Hunter's Guide and let me know by leaving a comment on this post or just leave a comment on this post letting me know you like what you see. I'll choose a winner randomly on January 5th at 7pm (MST). Looking forward to having you over to my new place…

Friday, December 26, 2008

Over Before We Knew It

We spent hours, days even, planning the menu, shopping for ingredients and prepping for our Christmas dinner and it was over in the blink of an eye; or at least that's how it felt.

This year my husband and I decided to veer from our traditional Christmas feast which would've included several courses; soup, pasta and meat. Instead we did just one large meal with all the recipes coming from the December 2008 Bon Appetit magazine.

Our entree was a very impressive Standing Rib Roast stuffed with spinach and porcini mushrooms and served with an Irish whiskey gravy and horseradish cream. There wasn't a lot of stuffing to this recipe but the flavors of the spinach and porcini mushroom complemented the meat perfectly. If I had to change one thing it would be the gravy. Although we enjoyed it, we agreed that it was a bit much for the meat. A little salty and a little overpowering.

On the side we made

Potato Mushroom Gratin...definitely my new favorite way to make potatoes. Thinly sliced potatoes layered with heavy cream and grated Parmesan topped with mushrooms, sliced garlic and thyme. What could possibly not taste good about this?

For vegetables we did Sherry Vinegar and Molasses Glazed Carrots

and Brocollini with Pecan Brown Butter. Some people say that brocollini is baby broccoli. Others say it's a cross between broccoli and Chinese chard. Whatever it is it's delicious especially sauteed with brown butter and pecans.

And what would standing rib roast be without Yorkshire pudding? These individual puddings were filled with sharp cheddar cheese and chives.

We ended dinner with some chestnuts that we roasted on the outdoor grill

and my husband's famous Oreo Cheesecake with Cherries. He's been making this every Christmas for as long as I've known him. Which, by the way, is a very long time.

Now that Christmas is behind us it's time to start planning for our next big meal....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Just When I Thought I was Finally Finished Baking

Browsing through the December issue of Bon Appetit I saw a Mario Batali recipe for mixed nut brittle. As you've probably figured out, from reading my blog, I'm a huge fan of Batali. I also love almonds and pine nuts (the nuts used in this recipe). So even though I had told myself I was done baking I decided to give this a try. I'd never made brittle before but this recipe was easy enough to follow and took no time at all to make. The toughest part was getting the brittle spread in the pan before it cooled and hardened. I'm sending this over to be included in FoodBlogga's Eat Christmas Cookie Event. Now I'm really done!

Mixed Nut Brittle

Makes about 1 ½ lbs.
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cubed
¼ cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup pine nuts (about 4 ½ ounces)
1 cup sliced almonds (about 3 ½ ounces)
Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.
Mix sugar and water in heavy large saucepan. Add butter and corn syrup. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Attach candy thermometer to pan side. Increase heat; cook without stirring until mixture is deep golden brown, bubbling thickly, and thermometer registers 350°F, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove thermometer. Using large wooden spoon, stir in salt, then all nuts.

Turn mixture out onto prepared sheet. Using large offset spatula, spread to ¼ inch thickness. Cool completely. Break into pieces of desired size.

Do ahead. Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's That Time of Year...

I'm in a baking frenzy trying to get all my cookies baked by Christmas. So far I've made batches of chocolate chip, cinnamon, sponge and rum balls.

We've been making rum balls in my family for as long as I can remember. Normally we'd roll the finished balls in powdered sugar turning them into rum filled snowballs. This year I decided to roll them in chocolate sprinkles instead. I love the way they turned out and will probably do them this way from now on.

It's season two of Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event and I'm submitting my chocolate sprinkled covered rum balls. You have until December 21st to post your cookie recipes.
1 large box vanilla wafers
3 TBS cocoa powder
3 TBS light corn syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup rum
chocolate sprinkles (for rolling)
Process the vanilla wafers in a food processor until finely ground. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and stir until combined. Add the corn syrup and rum and mix well. Chill if necessary and then shape into 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in the chocolate sprinkles. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lola Tapas

I recently met a friend for dinner at Lola Tapas here in Phoenix. Lola's is a small one room restaurant with community tables; but don't let the idea of community dining turn you off. Small bites, like tapas, were designed so that you would have more time to focus on your dining companions rather than on a large meal. Making Lola the perfect setting.
There's only about a dozen options on the menu; but what it lacks in choices it makes up for in taste. We decided on 3 tapas which was plenty for the 2 of us. The first one served was the asparagus. Stalks of asparagus were served along with a roasted red pepper aioli dipping sauce. The asparagus were cooked perfectly; not to soft and not to hard. The sauce was a delicious accompaniment.
Next out was the chickpea and spinach mixture. This is Lolas specialty and special it was. Spinach sauteed with garlic, mixed with chickpeas and topped with toasted bread crumbs; how could you go wrong.
Our last tapa was actually the special for that night. A chicken breast grilled and served sitting on top of a romensco sauce. Compared to the first two dishes I thought this one lacked flavor. It was good but definitely not my favorite of the three.
A different dessert is served each night. The night we were there it was almond cake with a side of fresh raspberries. The cake was really good and was the perfect ending to a delightful meal.
If you don't mind the seating arrangements and can live with a limited menu I would definitely recommend Lola. The food was great and I even made a few new friends.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Italian American Lasagna

My favorite recipe for lasagna is Lidia Bastianich's Italian American Lasagna. (scroll down for recipe) The thing I like most about Lidia's recipe is that she doesn't do the traditional layers of meat, cheese and sauce. Instead she does several layers of sauce and meat with only 1 layer of cheese (2lbs).
I've made this recipe for my Thanksgiving pasta course the past few years. It makes a lot and goes a long way. We usually have enough to freeze for a second time; which is always nice.
I started my holiday baking on Sunday and between that and decorating I didn't really have the time or the energy to cook anything for dinner. So I decided to heat up the frozen lasagna. It held up really well and tasted just as good as it did on Thanksgiving.
I'm submitting this recipe as my entry for this week's Presto Pasta night hosted by Mary over at Baking Delight