Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fiddlehead Easter: Curried Carrot Soup and Creamed New Potatoes and Peas with Bechamel Sauce

Like many of you, I celebrated Easter by eating a large meal around the dining table together with family and friends. We also threw miniature marshmallows at each other in the backyard, but that's another story. We ate in courses, and a few of the dishes came from the Fiddlehead cookbook. Our first course was the Curried Cream of Carrot Soup. We served it in cups with a dollop (love that word) of sour cream and a sprinkling of green onion.

The soup is carrots, onion, and garlic mixed with with curry powder and garam masala, and simmered in cream and chicken broth. It's then pulsed in the food processor to leave a smooth finished product. It's very tasty, and has quite a kick with just 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne. We had it as a starter, but I'm sure it would stand well on its own as a meal with just a thick slice of bread on the side.

For the main course, we had a non-Fiddlehead stuffed pork roast accompanied by a few dishes, including Creamed New Potatoes and Peas with Bechamel Sauce. This is a fun way to make your typical potato side dish just a little more interesting. Use new potatoes from your garden, and if it's not your growing season, buy small potatoes. Mix these with peas, and drench in a creamy and slightly sweet white "bechamel" sauce.

It's fairly easy to do--the trickiest part is reading through the sauce instructions and understanding how to construct the vegetable figurine which stews: a clove poked into a quartered onion becomes the nose, and a bay leaf stuck in adds a feather in his cap. It was a little bland but I only simmered the onion for 5 minutes and it said 5-10. I would do 10 the next time, just to add more flavor. Or add more S&P. I did double the recipe and it was A LOT! A note for leftover eaters: it didn't reheat very well--it was runny when reheated, and lost its creaminess.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reality Cookies

These melt in your mouth. Buttery, nutty, with highlights of sweet M&M surprising your palette, it's no wonder Reality Cookies were so popular at the Fiddlehead bakery.

They’re easy to throw together. Simply cream butter with brown and white sugars, then add flour and ground almond, and fold in the candies. The signature Fiddlehead finish is to top them with a single M&M. As shortbread, they bake on a low temp—275—for twenty minutes. Just long enough to melt everything together. So good!

Mulled Wine

My dad hilariously calls mulled wine "glue" wine, the Americanized pronunciation of "glühwein," the ubiquitous warm alcoholic beverage of Germany's Christmas markets.

This spicy, warm beverage is something I most look forward to during the Christmas season. And the Fiddlehead adds a secret ingredient: sherry!

Heat your wine (but don’t boil, as you’ll burn off the alcohol, and then what’s the point…), add spices.


Add the concentrated spice-fruit liquid back to the pot with wine and sherry. Reheat and serve. Divine.

Proost (cheers)!

Eighteen-Carat Cake

Orange roots have never tasted this good. Eighteen-Carat Cake is as good as gold! It’s very moist, with oozing cream cheese frosting between layers and smothered around the entire thing.

I’ve never microwaved a carrot. A friend in Colorado always microwaves his corn on the cob (8 minutes and they’re hot like they were fresh off the grill). That’s how this recipe calls for you to cook the vegetable before mixing with pineapple, flour, etc and baking.

Sadly, I didn’t catch a photo of the finished product. But it looks handsome and festive with 28 candles sticking out its top!

Salmon-Mushroom Quiche

I used canned salmon

With its French name and delicious fusion of flavors, quiche is greater than the sum of its parts. A little of this and a little of that is tossed in a pie shell and held together with custard. All together the savory pie melts in your mouth nicely, and the flavors of the onion and mushroom blend well with the salmon, which is complimented by the cream cheese.

Salmon, cream cheese, and green onion inside an unbaked pie shell: almost ready to bake!

It’s a great dish to whip together quickly—it’d be perfect for a weeknight, especially if your crust was made ahead. This recipe is definitely one that will go in the “will make again” folder!

Creamy quiche filling inside a flaky crust

Swirl Bread

How do you bring some sunshine to a rainy weekend? Cook up this playful loaf. It’s Honey Butter Oatmeal Bread and Dark Pumpernickel Bread swirled together to create an eye-pleasing spiral inside your loaf. Too fun!

Baking bread isn’t hard necessarily, but the yeast is a bit particular, and the rising process is time consuming. So make sure you have bad weather, and find some other activities to round out this daylong endeavor. Watch a movie, go skiing, or take a nap, for example. Organize your sock drawer, maybe?

I opted in for the onion in the pumpernickel loaf. Combined with the molasses, rye and whole wheat flours, whole caraway seeds, and cocoa powder, it’s a very flavorful & distinct bread. The oatmeal loaf is considerably more neutral, and the subtle honey and oat get overwhelmed by the flavor of the darker bread. At least it’s there for the color (and would be delicious on its own)…you have to have yin and yang.

Combine the yeast with warm water and sweetener. Let it sit 3-5 minutes to allow it to bloom (it’s really cool to watch it bubble and grow).

Then knead. With no dough-hook on my mixer, I had to put serious elbow grease into the kneading. Ten minutes on one loaf, and half an hour on another. I popped a movie in. The dark loaf was quite sticky, and needed quite a lot of additional flour to be worked in.

Cover and let rise. The dark loaf went wild, rising like crazy. On the other hand, I worried that I had over-developed the gluten in the white loaf, as it remained like a rock in my oiled bowl. So I went skiing...and my patience paid off. The dough had risen—the test is to push your finger in, and the dough should be spongy and not spring back right away.

At this point, it’s time to divide the loaves into balls, and roll out the dough into rectangles.

Then stack one bread on top of the other and roll up jelly-roll style.

Let rise (again) in loaf pans before baking. Brush loaves with egg before going in the oven.

Finally, bake (and nap). And 35-40 minutes later, when the buzzer sounds, you wake to a delightful loaf and heavenly smells.

I enjoyed many reiterations of this bread throughout the week. Slices of swirl bread make a great base to a ham-mustard-cheese-sprouts sandwich. I also enjoyed it toasted with butter, smothered in homemade high bush cranberry and rosehip jam.

Honey Cheesecake

Who invented cheesecake? God bless them, whoever they might be! Pure genius created the simple yet rich (and oh-so-fattening), formula for cheesecake, a classic dessert. This version, the Fiddlehead’s Honey Cheesecake, is—as the name indicates—honey sweetened. That flavor really comes through. Drizzled in a mixed berry sauce, it’s exquisite!

Thorough mixing will be key in your cheesecake endeavors—you don’t want the smooth, creamy texture to be interrupted with lumps! No, ma’am. I mixed on high for ten full minutes. Again, as with the espresso cheesecake, the crust is rounded out using ground almonds. And there’s honey in the base, too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crabby Eggs

The Crabby Eggs recipe is a nice, light, simple meal for breakfast or lunch. It's perfect to use up crab leftovers, or just if you’ve got croissants lying around (there are non-crabby alternatives outlined in the book).

Hollandaise sauce seems fancy, but all it is is egg, lemon juice, and a LOT of butter

I’ve never made Hollandaise sauce before. It’s pretty touchy. I read (and suggest you do the same) the page in the cookbook explaining emulsifying mayonnaise. It helps you understand that the egg yolk has a limited ability to absorb fat, and that it’s consequently quite important to the process that you add the fat in just a wee bit at a time. Yes, grasshopper, it takes patience to pull this one off. First, the egg yolks cook just a little bit on a low simmer. My first go around I managed to scramble them, so I was careful to keep the temp low the 2nd time, and remove it from the heat of the double boiler fairly early. Next add the butter teaspoon by teaspoon, stirring thoroughly between each addition.

Cooking from scratch leaves nothing left to the imagination, and now I can no longer lie to myself about Hollandaise sauce. It’s mostly butter, with a little egg yolk and lemon juice. Oof-da. No wonder it’s good.

Poaching the egg on a low simmer

Poaching eggs is easy once you know a couple of tricks. You want to put your egg in a bowl and slide it into the low simmering water. This is how you avoid making egg drop soup. Four minutes was the perfect cooking time for softly cooked, slightly running yolks.

There’s no bad time for a croissant. Buttery and flaky, they’re good with savory or sweet accompaniments, or just plain. I lightly toasted mine before loading them open face with butter-sautéed crab. The poached egg sits on top and the whole thing is smothered in Hollandaise sauce.

Mm, a delicious bite. That yolk is perfect!
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