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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wretched excess, grapefruit style

Sauteed Grapefruit Chicken with Salad and Grapefruit Honey Dressing
It's that season...big boxes of all manner of citrus fruit everywhere...in the grocery stores, being hawked by your local high school band members, in the mail from far-away relatives.  Tangelos, tangerines, big navel oranges, small blood oranges, and of course grapefruit.

Personally, after one grapefruit breakfast, I'm done for the year.  But I've still got plenty to use up in the pantry.  The obvious secondary use for excess grapefruit is cocktails, but one Greyhound (like a Screwdriver, but with grapefruit juice) is also enough for me. 

And so I start marinating stuff.  Shrimp, chicken, salad...grapefruit brings a surprisingly sparkly and probably novel flavor to the party.  Here is a recipe I've previously blogged about for grapefruit marinated shrimp.  Today I've zested and juiced 2 medium grapefruit and I plan to get 3 dishes out them for 2 meals. 

Juice and zest divided: 4 tbsp zest with salt and pepper
for Sauteed Chicken (bottom left), 1/2 tsp zest and
1/4 cup juice for salad dressing (top), 1 cup juice
for Un-Buffalo Chicken Tenders (bottom right)

The salad dressing is a variation of a recipe from the classic red gingham Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and makes enough for 8 servings, so you can serve it with 2 separate meals.  The Un-Buffalo Chicken Tenders is a variation of this recipe that I created for my husband's grandmother so that I could "split" the recipe between a spicy version and non-spicy version without needing to cook a totally separate meal for those who prefer to skip the heat.  An overnight marinade in any type of acid (like hot sauce, citrus juice or apple cider vinegar) makes for beautiful fork-tender sauteed chicken. 

Both meals can be prepped ahead, though only the zest-marinated chicken can be frozen for any significant length of time.  The dressing will keep several days in the fridge.  The dressing will also require an immersion blender, electric whisk, food processor or stand blender to properly combine the honey with the other ingredients.

Be sure when you season your dishes not to go overboard with salt.  Citrus hits the same points on the tongue as salt so even a moderate amount of salt will be intensified in combination with citrus zest.

A tip about juicing any citrus fruit...put the whole fruit in the microwave for 10 seconds before juicing, especially if you've taken it straight from the fridge.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deviled crab hors d'oeuvres

I did not plan to write a post about this one, but it was SO good and SO easy, I find that I can't resist sharing.  This was, in my opinion, far and away the tastiest part of our Christmas dinner, baking up with a lighter texture than you might expect and just extraordinary flavor.  As it prepped quickly the day before for no-work Christmas Day cooking, the dish falls easily within the purview of this blog :D

The recipe is from (where else?) the Reader's Digest A Family Christmas.  It's a recipe from James Beard, though I've ofc tweaked it to accommodate food allergies and my cooking preferences.  I used scallops instead of shrimp and omitted celery, adding more green pepper and onion in its place.  I chose to use a pound of pre-picked crab claw meat, but if you have access to fresh crab, you can certainly pick your own.  Real crab meat is not a cheap ingredient, but if you can catch a sale this would be a very special treat to make for your family. 

This makes a LOT (a full 1 1/2 quart casserole), especially for appetizers, and you could halve the recipe or freeze it in smaller portions for future cooking.  I'm thinking individual ramekins that you could bake off while making dinner for a quick starter course for 2...that sort of thing.  You can serve it plain, with crackers, on lettuce leaves or, as I did, with thin slices of cucumber.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Sausage Apple Pie

This is one of my husband's favorite dishes, and has become a favorite of everyone I've shared it with.  Sausage, apples and cheese may seem like a strange combination, but think about it...pork and apples are a pretty common combination as are cheese and apples.  There's a culinary syllogism here, and trust me, it works! 

I like using hot sausage to offset the sweetness of the pie filling with extra sharp cheddar, but feel free to substitute mild sausage or another type of cheese.

This pie reheats beautifully, so it is ideal for make-ahead breakfast, brunch or dinner.  Serve with fruit salad before noon and green salad after noon :D  It also can be frozen in its assembled-unbaked state or after baking.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sweet potato ravioli

A great way to use up leftover sweet potatoes.  You can freeze the baked sweet potatoes (especially if they're leftovers), the made-up filling or the made-up ravioli.  I use wonton skins because I don't want to fool around with rolling pasta dough for ravioli, but you can make your own pasta if you want.  You can also choose to oven-fry these for a crunchy finish or boil them, if you feel more confident that your ravioli are sealed well. 

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Pfefferneuse Cookies

I don't sprechen much Deutsch so while due diligence has been done on spelling and noun morphology, please forgive the errors that certainly remain.

When I told my husband that I planned to make pfeffernuse (pronounced feffer-noose), he looked alarmed.  I think he related the name to the famous German game meat stew hasenpfeffer and thought I was proposing he eat rabbit-meat cookies.

What the two recipes have in common is pfeffer, "pepper" (not rabbit, hasen).  These are little spice cookies that do indeed include pepper along with cinnamon, cloves and candied citrus peel.  This the traditional "peppernut" flavor combination, but you can use this recipe as a jumping-off point for several flavor variations which I'll include at the end of the recipe.  I've made some of these variations before, and some are notes for things to try in the future.  The original recipe is from Reader's Digest's "A Family Christmas".

They are the perfect make-ahead holiday cookie as they must be baked 2-3 weeks before eating.  They come out of the oven hard but soften with storage.  They are ideal if you want to make holiday cookies but don't want to be baking in the thick of December.

Today's I Screw Up So You Don't Have To...when you toss the cookies with confectioners sugar at the end, don't knock excess sugar off the cookies by throwing them on the floor.  Or by letting a 3yo help you with that step. 

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011


A beef roast that's been marinated in spiced red wine, then braised in the crockpot with gravy thickened with gingersnaps...that so says "holiday season" to me!  My recipe is a mash-up of a recipe from a 1975 cookbook called The Crockery Pot Cookbook by Lou Seibert Pappas and the Frugal Gourmet's Immigrant Ancestors recipe.

Sauerbraten can be made with a variety of beef roast cuts...I used a rump roast, but eye round, chuck pot roast, bone-in, bone-out, it all works.  It does need to marinate for at least 3 days, if not longer, so making this up and freezing it works well.  The marinade recipe I use is about 2 parts wine to 1 part vinegar, and I'd be comfortable freezing it for up to 3 weeks before I'd start to worry about the acid level of the marinade making mush out of my roast.  You can also leave the beef and marinade in the fridge until you cook it, if you have the space.

A word on browning meat before putting it in the crockpot.  It's a pain.  It completely detracts from the no-fuss appeal of using the crockpot.  It's usually not *really* necessary.  In this recipe though, I think you need to brown at least the top side of the roast.  Reason being that when you take the roast out of its 3-day booze bath, it will be purple.  Purple.  Not purple-y.  Purple.  Like Violet in Willa Wonka.  Purple.  Browning, well, makes it brown instead of purple.  Now if you don't brown the roast, it's not like you'll end up with a roast that looks like a grape popsicle at the end of the day, but it won't be quite as roast-colored as usual either.

To slice a roast well, let it rest several minutes before touching it.  Look for the direction of the grain of the meat...if you see long ridges in the meat, that's the "grain".  Don't cut directly across the grain, or you'll wind up with shredded beef.  Don't cut with the grain or you'll have tough slices of beef.  Make slices at about a 45 degree angle to the grain for the right balance of tenderness and cohesion.

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