Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup, Take 2

One evening, a couple of months ago, I made a terrible beef stew. I mean REALLY terrible. We tried for two days to add stuff to it, to improve it, but finally we just threw it away. During this whole ordeal, my darling husband finally told me that although he generally loves my cooking, my soups and stews leave a bit to be desired. He said that they lack flavor. This is constructive criticism at it's best.
I went to one of my favorite on line communities, Reddit, to ask for help on improving this recipe, and I was given so many great ideas! Here is my new, and (hopefully) improved version of this soup...

 2 lbs of beef, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups barley
3, 32 oz containers of beef stock
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 shallots, minced
8 cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 lb button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 heaping tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 12 oz beer (Something dark or medium. I used Resurrection by "The Brewer's Art")
fresh ground pepper and coarse sea salt, to taste
olive oil
the juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon

Start by putting the barley, Worcestershire, thyme and 2 of the containers of beef stock into a large pot and set it to start boiling. While the barley is getting started, add some olive oil to a large pan around medium-hot setting and when it gets hot, add the beef chunks.

Brown the meat on all sides, then using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to the pot with the barley. Add the dried thyme and the bay leaf. Each time you stir the mixture, remove the bay leaf so that you don't lose it, then put it back on top of the soup while it simmers.While the meat is browning cut up the onion, shallots, and garlic.

Add the onion, shallots and garlic to the beef fat in the pan, and cook until softened. About five minutes. Then add this to the large pot.

If needed, add a little more olive oil to the pan, then add the baby bellas, and brown on both sides.

When they are nicely browned, add them to the large pot, then start adding the button mushrooms to the pan to brown, a little at a time.
Add the button mushroom s to the pot as they brown.

Add the last container of stock as needed. While the soup simmers it will slowly begin to lose liquid, some of which, needs to be replaced.

When everything is done in the pan, you should de-glaze the pan. I used a half of a  beer to do this, and added the left-over half beer to the pot of soup.

Add the de-glazed-beer mix to the pot and simmer for about twenty minutes, then serve hot with some bread.  Just before serving the soup, add the lemon juice. I was told that it would add a "brightness" to the soup, and it really did.

 At the end of the meal everyone was satisfied, but Hubby did suggest I leave out the beer next time. I guess I'll have to find something else to de-glaze with, but I think I'll manage.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Baked Brie with Honey and Berries

Brie is great! It can be savory or sweet, depending on what you serve it with. I really like it sweet.

1 wheel of brie
2 sheets of puffed pastry
1 egg yolk
Water crackers

Defrost the puffed pastry according to package directions. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. When it's defrosted, lay the sheets of pastry out flat. Put the brie wheel on one sheet.

I don't bother to take off the rind. It doesn't bother me. Start wrapping the brie in the pastry. Make sure the whole thing is covered by pastry. I didn't need the second sheet this time, but sometimes I do, so I'll use some of the other sheet to be decorative.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, the place the brie, seem side down on the sheet. Add any decorative touches to the pastry, then get the egg wash together.

Beat an egg yolk in a bowl, mix in just about a tablespoon of water, then beat a little more. Use a pastry brush to brush the sides and top of the brie with the egg wash. This will give the pastry a nice, golden brown color. Now put the brie in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed up.
I like to put it on a platter, then drizzle a generous amount of honey on top. I serve it with berries, water crackers and sliced baguette.

Buffalo Chicken Dip (Take Two)

Okay, this is my second recipe for buffalo chicken dip, and this one isn't so spicy you can't eat it. I've made it before, so I'm  sure about this, and every time I make it, people ask me for the recipe. 

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 12oz bottle of your favorite hot sauce (I prefer Frank's Red Hot)
1 8oz block of cream cheese
1 cup of shredded cheddar
1/4 cup of ranch dressing
Tortilla chips
Celery sticks
Carrot sticks

The morning of the gathering put the chicken and hot sauce in a crock pot. I set mine on low for about 8 hours. This may seem like too much sauce at this point, but trust me, once you shred the chicken later, it will get absorbed.

After the 8 hours are up, start shredding the chicken with two forks. mix it back in with the sauce, then add the cream cheese and mix well. Next add the shredded cheddar and ranch and mix it all in.

Serve this with celery, carrots and tortilla chips.

I usually just leave it in the crock (I use a small one for this), but for the pictures I put it in a bowl this time. 

Cranberry Cream Cheese Spread

I had something very similar to this at a friend's wedding and had to recreate it. Here is what I've come up with...

1 8oz brick of cream cheese
1 6oz bag of craisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp sugar

Let the cream cheese sit out for a bit to soften. When it gets to the point that you can start mixing the other items in, add about half of the craisins.

Using a fork, fold the craisins into the cream cheese until well incorporated.

Next, add the other half of the craisins and mix them in. (It just seems to be easier to do it a little at a time, instead of all at once.) Now add the cinnamon and sugar and mix those in really well.

By now the bowl you are using is probably pretty messy looking. Spoon the mixture into another bowl so that it looks prettier for presentations sake.

Either serve it immediately or cover it and put it in the fridge for later use. I serve this with crackers, graham crackers, or a sliced baguette.

Bacon Jam

Again, I'm sorry that I'm such a bad blogger, but to make it up to you, let me present my recipe for bacon jam! It's savory and sweet and WONDERFUL!!!

2 lbs bacon
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
1 small head of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of light brown sugar, packed
3 tsp of instant espresso powder in one cup of very hot water
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
1 cup of bourbon
generous sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper

Cut the bacon into little pieces and cook them in a pan until they are just ready, in batches. They will cook more in a later step, so they don't have to be really crispy yet. When each batch is ready, drain it and let it rest on a plate lined with a paper towel.

While the bacon is cooking slice the onions and mince the garlic.

Put the cooked bacon into a medium sized dutch oven, then cook the onions and garlic in the bacon grease, over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until they are soft and translucent. Use a large slotted spoon to move the onions and garlic to the dutch oven, draining the fat as you go.

Try not to eat all the cooked bacon while you are doing the other steps. Instead, distract yourself with some bourbon!

Add the remaining ingredients to the dutch oven. Then simmer on low heat for 3-4 hours. Stir every 30 minutes. It needs to reduce a lot before you can go to the next step.

Let the mixture cool for about 30 minutes. Put the mixture into a food processor, and mix it to your desired texture. I want mine a bit chunky, so I only let it go for a few seconds. This step really only takes a few, quick pulses. You can always do more, but you can't do less!
 I'm sorry I don't have more pics, but next time I make it, I will take more and add them. It's just so hard to take a picture when you're too busy stuffing your face! I have enjoyed this on something as simple as toasted baguette, but it has sooo many other uses!I made some biscuits and used this as topping, I've made grilled cheese sandwiches with either brie or Gruyere with the bacon jam, I put it in a baked brie with puffed pastry, I add some to chunks of butternut squash that I roasted, and I gave a lot away. I'm sure the next time I make it I'll come up with many more uses for it. I really hope you enjoy it!