Sharing a seriously fun love for food

Month: August 2017

Emily’s Bacon Bourbon Jam

Emily’s Bacon Bourbon Jam

Bacon Jam made the rounds several years ago but good things are worth repeating. First, let’s be clear this is more of a slightly sweet but savory condiment rather than a spread for your morning biscuits. It’s a lively topping that can be added to any number of dishes, from soups to grilled cheese or as a side on a cheese board. Whatever the use, it’s sure to be a hit.

Grilled pimento cheese with Bacon Bourbon Jam!

Most people I know love bacon and will eat anything with bacon in it. I’ve seen even the fussiest eaters devour this jam. The first time Emily made this for us we were hooked and we looked for any number of ways to add a spoonful. This takes a bit of time to prepare but one bite will convince you it was worth the effort. This makes a big batch and keeps up to two weeks in your fridge.

A few quick tips. Spreading the bacon out in a large pan allows it to cook more quickly and evenly. Cook the jam in a pan with a large surface area and also with some depth to it, a Dutch oven works well. Use the best bacon you can find; this is bacon jam so you want the flavor of your bacon to shine through. And the bourbon in this recipe, well the same rule applies as when you’re cooking with wine-if it’s not good enough to drink, it’s not good enough to use in your dish.

Bourbon rocks, bacon jams!

Emily’s Bacon Bourbon Jam

2 pounds bacon, cut into small pieces

2 large, sweet onions, thinly sliced

½ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup chopped garlic

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup good bourbon

1 cup freshly brewed coffee

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup maple syrup

¾ cup chili sauce

In a large pan cook the bacon over medium heat until the bacon is brown and starts to crisp.

With a slotted spoon remove the bacon and set aside.

Skim off the bacon drippings and reserve. Add about 4 tablespoons of the drippings back into the pan along with the onions. Cook the onions over medium heat until they are translucent and softened, adding more bacon drippings if needed.

Add the brown sugar to the onions and continue cooking until the onion mixture has thickened slightly.

Stir in the garlic and cook for about five minutes. Add the pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne pepper, stirring to combine well.

Pour the bourbon, coffee, vinegar and syrup into the onion mixture. Toss the bacon back in and stir into the jam.

Continue cooking over medium low heat until the mixture has reduced down and is thick, about 30-45 minutes. Add the chili sauce and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.

If you don’t have chili sauce on hand, you can use ketchup or tomato sauce.

Serve warm or chilled.

Top a bowl of rustic tomato soup with warm Bacon Bourbon Jam!

 

 

Cornbread Muffins

Cornbread Muffins

One of the greatest things about the South is the genuine hospitality of the folks who live here. It’s in our nature to share food with others. My Mom and my Grandmothers were always taking food to welcome a new neighbor, to share a new recipe or to provide a bit of comfort when it was needed. The recipe for these wonderful cornbread muffins was shared  with me by a dear friend who graciously delivered a batch along with a wonderful vegetable soup during one of life’s challenging times.

Cornbread. Perfect with soups, stews, or split and used for sandwiches it is a much loved bread and screams comfort. I love having “go to” recipes that I can whip up and enjoy now, then freeze a portion for later. This is one of those “go to” recipes and it takes the convenience of a pantry staple dressing it up tenfold.

Mom frequently made cornbread and would often use a mix from “Jiffy” which she always kept on hand. Starting with this cornbread mix as a base, adding two types of cheese, sweet onion, eggs for extra richness and of course butter, you’ll end up with cornbread muffins that are simply delightful.

The bonus to this recipe, it makes two-dozen scrumptious cornbread muffins and they freeze beautifully!

Cornbread Muffins

2 boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, 8.5 ounces each

1 tub small curd cottage cheese, 16 ounces

1cup diced sweet onion

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

5 extra large eggs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

8 tablespoons butter (1 stick) melted

Line 24 muffin cups with paper or silicon liners.

Silicon muffin liners are great to have on hand. They are inherently non-stick and can be used again and again.

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well blended.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full. Using a large ice cream scoop makes this step quick and easy.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden on top.

If you have extra muffins leftover, drop them in freezer bags and freeze for up to six months. To reheat, thaw and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 8- 10 minutes.

Makes 24 muffins.

Cornbread Muffins, courtesy of Preserving Good Stock

August 28, 2017
: Makes 24 muffins.

There is something about soup in the South that calls out for cornbread. These corn muffins take a pantry staple and dresses up the flavor up tenfold!

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, 8.5 ounces each
  • 1 tub small curd cottage cheese, 16 ounces
  • 1cup diced sweet onion
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 5 extra large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick) melted
Directions
  • Step 1 Line 24 muffin cups with paper or silicon liners.
  • Step 2 Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well blended.
  • Step 3 Using an ice cream scoop fill the muffin cups 2/3 full.
  • Step 4 Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden on top.
  • Step 5 If you have extra muffins leftover, drop them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer for up to six months. To reheat, thaw and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 8- 10 minutes.

 

Strawberry Tart

Strawberry Tart

Strawberries have to be one of the summer’s most popular fruit and certainly one that touches multiple senses. They are gorgeous in appearance, their scent is unmistakable and the sweetness of this luscious berry comes with just a hint of tartness.

There are so many ways to capture the essence of this wonderful berry, but their starring role in this glorious tart is a showstopper. The beauty of this dessert- it’s perfect to serve any month of the year. Refreshing in the late heat of summer it is also spectacular on a holiday table.

Whole, plump strawberries sit on a creamy layer of mascarpone cheese, blended with a touch of Cointreau and a hint of almond. Then a layer of sweet, thick crushed strawberries smothers those whole berries, all of which are cradled in a buttery graham cracker crust.

Looking for something to make your guests feel special… Look no further!

Strawberry Tart

For the crust:

2-1/2 cups graham crackers crumbs

6 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoons kosher salt

2/3 cups melted butter

In a medium bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and the kosher salt.

Add the melted butter and mix well into the graham cracker crumbs.

Press the crumb mixture into a 10” deep-dish tart pan that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray.

Start by pressing the graham cracker crumbs into the fluted edge of the pan, then the bottom.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until the crust begins to lightly brown and becomes fragrant.

For the tart:

2 cups sliced strawberries plus 3-4 cups whole berries, preferably similar in size

2/3 cup water

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons Cointreau, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract, divided

1 carton mascarpone (8 ounces), at room temperature

Add the 2 cups of sliced berries and the water to a saucepan. Gently crush the berries with a pastry knife or potato masher. Whisk together the cornstarch and the sugar, stir into the berries and water until well blended.

Cook the berries over low heat, stirring frequently until thickened. Add 2 tablespoons of the Cointreau, the vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of the almond extract. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl combine the mascarpone cheese, the remaining 1 tablespoon Cointreau and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, blending together until smooth. Spread the mascarpone cheese mixture evenly across the bottom of the graham cracker crust.

Place the whole berries evenly over the top of the mascarpone cheese.

Pour the thickened strawberry mixture over the top of the whole berries, spreading to cover the tart. Cover and chill overnight or until well set.

Strawberry tart served with my Mom’s crystal and silver makes this dessert even more special!
Mom’s Meatloaf

Mom’s Meatloaf

We seem to have a love it or hate it relationship with meatloaf. My Grandmother made a fabulous meatloaf. I remember her soaking breadcrumbs in half and half before mixing the meat, eggs and spices together, then covering the top with a sweetened tomato-based sauce. My Mom also made wonderful meatloaf. And anytime Mom made meatloaf, she would always make two, sending one home for Emily and I to dine on later. With the influence of my history with meatloaf, I’ve always been in the “love it” camp.

I understand why some are in the “hate it” camp. I’ve tasted meatloaf that was simply that, a loaf of meat. Two fundamental mistakes with meatloaf, no seasoning and using the wrong type of meat. Meatloaf needs seasoning and spices. Plus using more than one type of meat brings a tenderness and flavor you can’t get using just ground beef.

For starters, you need to remember we’re not making hamburgers. You want lean meat, not the 80/20 (80 percent lean to 20 percent fat content) you find with ground chuck but instead choose a ground sirloin, which is typically 90-92 percent lean. Adding ground lamb, veal or pork brings the depth of flavor. I use three types of meat. You can substitute the lamb, veal or pork with ground turkey or ground chicken, but don’t use both ground turkey and chicken, it will make the meatloaf too dry and do little for the flavor.

Then instead of ketchup or tomato sauce I use Heinz chili sauce. Herbs, seasoning and spices bring out the best of these meats. Wrapping the seasoned tomato-based sauce into the meat deepens those layers and keeps the meatloaf from being dry.

This recipe makes two; I usually cook one and freeze one for later. This is comfort food at its finest. Thanks Mom.

Mom’s Meatloaf

2 bottles chili sauce, 12 ounces each

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon dry mustard

½ teaspoon ground allspice

3 extra large eggs

2/3 cup half and half

1-1/2 cups bread crumbs

½ cup finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon dried sage

½ teaspoon lemon pepper

1 pound ground sirloin

1 pound ground lamb

1 pound ground veal or pork

In a small bowl combine the chili sauce, the brown sugar, dry mustard and ground allspice. Stir well making certain the brown sugar and spices are mixed together evenly.

In a large bowl add the eggs, the half and half, the bread crumbs, chopped onions, parsley, kosher salt, black pepper, dried sage, lemon pepper, and 2 cups of the tomato-based sauce. Mix well.

Add the ground meat. Using a large spoon (or your hands!) gently mix together.

Handle the meat gently to keep it from becoming tough. Blend together until the mixture is well combined.

Divide the meatloaf mixture between two loaf pans that have been sprayed with a cooking spray.

Smooth the tops and spread the remaining tomato-based sauce over the tops.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until the meat is cooked through.

Let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Thanks Mom!

Note: If you freeze one before cooking, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking. Add an extra 15 minutes cooking time.

 

 

Madeira Wine Sauce

Madeira Wine Sauce

Most nights I try to cook and frequently I will pan sear a beef filet mignon or two. They’re easy to cook, don’t take much prep time and always satisfy. (And yes, we have a great “how to” for pan searing steaks on our blog!) Occasionally I’ll pull a sauce together to pair with the filet. Madeira Wine Sauce is one of the bests.

The last time I cooked beef filets I made this sauce and my Engineer asked if we were celebrating. It’s that good! This is a great addition to beef tenderloin or any gorgeous steak. It takes just a few steps, none are difficult and it can be made ahead and reheated with ease.

Madeira wine is a “fortified” wine named for the island of Madeira. It was a product developed out of necessity to preserve wine as ships traveled long distances at sea during the 1600 and 1700s. The wine is put through a unique process that includes aging in a gentle heat for a period of time, then finished in a cool environment.

Madeira wine has a wonderful nutty, fruity quality that makes it perfect for a sauce. The wine and the mushrooms are the stars in this sauce. For the mushrooms, I use cremini (also commonly spelled crimini), which are actually baby portabella mushrooms. If you can’t find cremini mushrooms, white button mushrooms will also work. Quick note-the trick to cooking mushrooms, don’t salt them until they are browned. Salt often results in mushrooms releasing their moisture causing them to steam, not brown. Fresh thyme, shallots and a bit of tomato paste simmered in the rich beef stock finish this delectable sauce.

As the great Julia Child said, “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food…”! Well yes, so true. Your family will think it’s a celebration!

Madeira Wine Sauce

8 ounces, cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 small shallot, sliced thin

2 tablespoons butter

¼ freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

¼ kosher salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried

¾ cup Madeira wine

2-1/2 cups beef broth

3 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons tomato paste

In a deep skillet, heat the butter over medium heat until the butter is foaming and just starting to brown. Add the sliced shallot, the mushrooms and the black pepper but not the salt.

Sauté until the mushrooms are golden and the shallots are translucent, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the kosher salt, the thyme, garlic and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Pour the Madeira wine into the mushrooms.

Continue cooking over medium heat until the wine has reduced down and almost all of it has been absorbed into the mushrooms.

In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and the beef broth, whisking until smooth. Add the beef broth to the mushrooms along with the tomato paste and stir to blend all the ingredients together.

Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened. Serve warm over beef tenderloin, beef filet mignon or steak of your choice. This sauce is also a great to serve with pork or poultry.

Pan-seared filet topped with a beautiful Madeira Wine Sauce… Add a piping hot baked potato, crusty French bread and you’ve created a memorable meal!
Tomato and Bacon Quiche

Tomato and Bacon Quiche

When most of us think about quiche we flashback to the 70s, to bellbottoms and the Bee Gees. Quiche actually originated centuries ago and this dish’s history has various stories-some say the quiche has roots in England, some say Germany.

Quiche is an often-overlooked brunch dish that is also wonderful for lunch or dinner. A freshly baked crust provides the best vessel for this savory egg dish. My Mom, who was quite industrious, would make several pie crusts at a time, freezing the extra pastry dough for use at a later time. I confess, I have not adopted her wise practice! (But if time is tight, don’t be afraid to use a store-bought pastry crust.)

When I make the pastry for a quiche I pull out the same recipe I use for pies and tarts, minus the sugar. (Check out our recipe for Blueberry Tart.) For convenience, I’ve included it with this recipe. The great thing about quiche, you can use the basic recipe for the custard then add the vegetables or meats you or your family like.

Tomato and Bacon Quiche

For the pastry:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup unsalted butter, 1-1/2 sticks

1/3 cup cold water

For the quiche:

1 prebaked 9” pastry shell

5 extra large eggs

2 cups half and half

½ cup Gruyere cheese, grated

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

5 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp, then chop

½-3/4 cup diced tomatoes

Cut the butter into cubes, if it’s not really cold chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Combine the flour and kosher salt in a food processor, mix for about 5-10 seconds. Scatter the cold butter cubes on top of the flour.

Pulse about 10 times, just until the butter is the size of peas.

Add the cold water and process for about 10-15 seconds, or just until the water is blended into the flour and butter. Don’t over process or your pastry will be tough. Turn out the mixture on a lightly floured surface and lightly dust your hands with flour.

Gently pull the dough together and press into a disc.

Roll out the dough, shaping into a round about 15”-16”, turning occasionally so the dough doesn’t stick to the surface.

Roll the dough around the rolling pin and gently unroll into a pie pan that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray.

Carefully line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with either dried beans or pie weights.

Bake the crust on the lowest rack in the oven at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until the edges are just beginning to brown. Remove the pastry shell from the oven, take out the dried beans and parchment paper then continue baking for about 15-20 minutes, or until the center is just starting to brown. Cover edges if they start to brown too quickly.

While the pastry shell is baking make the custard for the quiche. Whisk together the half and half, the eggs, shredded Gruyere cheese, kosher salt, black pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper.

In the bottom of the prebaked pastry shell, evenly spread the bacon and the tomatoes.

Place the pastry shell on a baking sheet and pour the egg mixture into the pastry shell.

Set the pan on the center rack of the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the quiche is just set in the center.

 

Remove and let cool for 10 minutes to allow the custard to fully set.

Skillet Blonde Brownies

Skillet Blonde Brownies

I have my Mom’s cast iron skillets and also some that belonged to my Grandmother. There have been hundreds of dishes cooked in those skillets, from steaks to fried chicken to cornbread. Truthfully, I cherish those as much as the china I inherited from both these ladies.

Lodge Cast Iron has been around since the late 1800s. Baking in cast iron is nothing new but it is a pan we often skip over when making desserts. I was sorting through some of my Mom’s old recipes last week and I ran across this one for Blonde Brownies. Popular during the 60s and early 70s, my Mom and many of her friends frequently made these wonderful bar cookies.

There are many iterations of this recipe, some without the chocolate chips though I’m not sure why you would do such a thing. Brown sugar and butter with a splash of pure vanilla extract lend a caramel like taste to these brownies. Toasted pecans provide that wonderful extra layer of  flavor and crunch.

I baked this batch in 6-1/2” cast iron skillets. If your cast iron hasn’t been used a lot or hasn’t been seasoned, wipe the inside with shortening and add a coating of cooking spray.

This recipe fills five skillets this size. They can be served as individual portions but are large enough to share, if anyone is willing to do so!

Skillet Blonde Brownies

¾ cup butter

2-1/4 cups brown sugar

3 extra large eggs

2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 package dark chocolate chips

1 cup toasted chopped pecans

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan.

Cook over medium heat until the butter has melted and the brown sugar is combined, stirring until smooth.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add eggs, one at a time mixing well after adding each one.

Combine the flour, the baking powder and kosher salt together.

Stir the flour into the butter and brown sugar mixture, mixing just until the flour is blended into the batter.

Add the vanilla extract. Stir in the chocolate chips and the toasted pecans.

Mix just until the chips and pecans are blended into the batter.

Divide the batter between five- 6-1/2” cast iron skillets, which have been sprayed well with cooking spray. You can also bake the brownies in a 9″x13″ baking dish.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Don’t over bake.

Serve warm or at room temperature. And a little ice cream doesn’t hurt!

One skillet brownie serves 2 to 4 people.

Skillet Blonde Brownies, courtesy of Preserving Good Stock

August 16, 2017
: Each skillet brownie serves 2 to 4.

There are many iterations of this recipe, some without the chocolate chips though I’m not sure why you who do such a thing. Brown sugar and butter with a splash of pure vanilla extract lend a caramel like flavor to these brownies. Toasted pecans provide a layer and crunch.

By:

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 2-1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 package dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
Directions
  • Step 1 Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, cook over medium heat until the butter has melted and the brown sugar is combined, stirring until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  • Step 2 Add eggs, one at a time mixing well after adding each.
  • Step 3 Combine the flour, the baking powder and kosher salt together. Stir into butter and brown sugar mixture, mixing just until the flour well blended.
  • Step 4 Add the vanilla extract.
  • Step 5 Stir in the chocolate chips and the toasted pecans. Mix just until the chips and pecans are blended into the batter.
  • Step 6 Divide the batter between five 6-1/2” cast iron skillets that have been sprayed well with cooking spray. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Don’t over bake.
  • Step 7 You can also bake the brownies in a 9” x 13” baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray.
  • Step 8 Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Corn Bisque

Corn Bisque

As a kid, corn was one of my favorite vegetables. My Grandparents grew large crops of corn. When we were young, we would weave our way through the cornfields playing and hiding from one another. Our Grandparents would send us out to gather bushel baskets of those plump sweet ears of corn that they either sold or put up for the winter ahead. Corn on the cob or creamed corn was almost always a part of the dinner menu.

Corn evokes the image of summer. Those beautiful, tall stalks growing towards the sun. Luckily this summer vegetable is at our fingertips year-round and this soup makes the most out of fresh or frozen kernels of corn. I love the quality of organic vegetables and keep corn in the freezer for recipes like this one.

This is an incredibly simple soup to make. It only takes about 30-40 minutes to pull this luxurious dish together. The sweetness of the corn pops. You can dress it up by topping it with fresh lump crab meat, but it’s quite wonderful on its own.

Corn Bisque

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 small shallot chopped, about 4 tablespoons

3 tablespoons flour

¼ teaspoon curry powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

4 cups milk

1 cup cream

3 bags frozen corn, 10-ounces each, thawed or 4 cups fresh corn, roasted

In a large stockpot, melt the butter with the olive oil, and then add the onions and shallot. Cook over medium heat until the onions and shallot are translucent and tender, about 5-10 minutes.

Add the flour stirring well to prevent lumps from forming. Then add the curry powder, kosher salt and pepper and blend together into the onion mixture.

Add the corn, stir to coat in the flour mixture.

Add the milk, stirring until well combined. Cook for about 10 minutes until the corn is warm.

Using an immersion blender, purée the corn and onions until the soup is somewhat smooth in texture. Add the cream, heat through, serve and enjoy!

This soup is great as the main dish, but also shares the stage with a salad or a hot panini!

 

Cherry Clafoutis

Cherry Clafoutis

This dish reminds me of three wonderful women: two I have known and loved, all I’ve admired. First, Julia Child. Who hasn’t been inspired by Julia Child? I have many of her books, including a copy of her classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” with her recipe for cherry clafoutis. Julia had so many words of wisdom but who can forget her classic statement during the butter-is-bad hysteria, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream!”?

On a more personal level, there was Mrs. Mena, who lived next door to us when Emily was little. Mrs. Mena lived with her daughter and another friend- it was like living next door to the Golden Girls! We all loved to cook and food was constantly going back and forth between our homes. Originally from Mexico City, Mrs. Mena made the most incredible flan, with crushed almonds on the bottom.

And my favorite of these three women, my dear Grandmother. Grace Pearl was a delightful woman who loved to entertain and who herself was very entertaining! She loved cherries and as luck would have it, she had a cherry tree in her yard. We would climb the cherry tree as kids and she would make incredible pies with our haul.

Clafoutis is a comforting blend of these memories, as any good comfort food should be. It’s a classic dessert, and is quite easy to make. Pitting the cherries is easier with a good cherry pitter – OXO makes one that works really well.

The finished dish is loaded with cherries, baked in a creamy custard complete with toasted crushed almonds nestled in among the fruit.

Cherry Clafoutis

1-1/2 cups half-and-half

¾ cup sugar

3 extra large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup flour

3 cups pitted cherries

¼ cup toasted slivered almonds, slightly crushed

Lightly coat a deep-dish pie pan or small baking dish with a cooking spray. Sprinkle the crushed almonds across the bottom of the baking dish.

Spread the cherries out in a single layer over the almonds.

In a blender, add the half-and-half, the sugar, the eggs, vanilla and almond extract, kosher salt and the flour.

Blend on medium low speed about 1 minute until smooth.

Pour over the cherries and almonds.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until golden around the edges and just set. Be careful not to over bake.

Serve warm or room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Warm Cherry Clafoutis with just a bit of vanilla ice cream!

 

Pork Chops and Wild Rice

Pork Chops and Wild Rice

Casseroles in some form have been around for years and there has been a rebirth of sorts in their popularity. Juggling careers and family limit the time we have to prepare a home-cooked meal, and options you can cook while on the run provide a welcome break from our busy schedules.

My Mom had two versions of this casserole, one with chicken and this one, using pork chops. The chops are braised along with a nutty wild rice, sweet bell pepper and onion. The result is, flavor-infused pork chops and creamy wild rice all in a rich sauce.

The original recipe calls for baking this dish in the oven at 350 for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. There are times I need dinner cooking while I’m out and about, and the slow cooker saves the day. I have several slow cookers, since different sizes come in handy for holidays and entertaining. One of my favorites is from All-Clad that lets you brown in the insert then switch to the slow cook method.

I always use bone-in pork chops becuase they have such wonderful flavor. Make certain to rinse each chop carefully under cold water before you start cooking. The bones in pork can splinter while being trimmed by the butcher, leaving gritty pieces on the meat. You can use thinner cut pork chops if you prefer, just cut the cooking time back.

I’m also a big believer in brining, which great for pork, poultry, and seafood. Brining infuses great seasoning into the meat and keeps it from becoming dry. If you have the time, take this extra step. A recipe for brining is listed below. When the holiday season rolls around, keep an eye out for the brining blend sold at Williams-Sonoma. You can stock up – it keeps and it’s great to have in your pantry.

Pork Chops and Wild Rice

4-6 bone-in pork chops, about 1” thick

5 slices of bacon, cut into pieces

½ green bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 medium sweet onion, sliced

1 cup wild rice

1 can cream of chicken soup (10.5 ounces)

1 can cream of celery soup (10. 5 ounces)

4 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Brine solution:

3 cups water

¼ cup kosher salt

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons dried rosemary

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

3 bay leaves

2 cups ice cubes

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, kosher salt, brown sugar, dried rosemary, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the salt and sugar have completely dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes. Add the ice cubes and refrigerate until the liquid is cold.

Place a large food storage bag inside a pan or dish (in the event of a leak!) and carefully pour the brining liquid into the bag. Add the rinsed pork chops, seal the bag and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight.

Remove the pork chops from the brining liquid, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Sprinkle the chops with freshly cracked black pepper, but no need for salt if they’ve been brined.

Cook the bacon over medium heat until the fat has been rendered and the bacon is starting to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan sear the pork chops until golden on each side, remove and let rest.

Next cook the bell pepper and the onion until slightly soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add extra olive oil if needed.

Remove and set aside. Return the bacon to the pan with the wild rice, cooking for about 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine the chicken stock with the soups. Whisk in the sage, parsley, sugar, kosher salt and black pepper. Combine the wild rice, bacon, stock mixture, bell pepper and onion in the slow cooker.

Place the pork chops in the rice mixture and cook on low for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until the pork chops are tender. Check after about an hour of cooking, stirring the rice and adding extra chicken stock if needed.