All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Poached salmon with an herby Bercy sauce

Spring is here!  Most of the snow has melted, except for random patches here and there, the brook is racing (but not flooding), and the daffodils are showing buds.

And there was salmon at our local market.  I suddenly thought of a sauce I used to make when I worked in a restaurant long ago, which then became modified over the years:  rice vinegar instead of wine, since I rarely have wine around,  tarragon (no, you don't have to use it if you loathe it), and a creamy shallot and butter sauce to spoon over the poached salmon.  So it's not officially a Bercy sauce, but close enough to be cousins.

And how good?  The salmon was gone in a flash, the new potatoes and wilted spinach took perhaps ten minutes more .

Bercy sauce:

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup rice vinegar or a mild dill or tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley
2 pinches kosher salt - about 1/4 teaspoon

Simmer the shallots, lemon juice,  and herbs in the vinegar until the liquid is reduced by half.

Stir in:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Keep stirring over moderate heat until the sauce is creamy and somewhat thick.
Remove from heat.

Poached salmon:

A ten inch stainless steel skillet and lid
1-2 pounds of salmon , mine were medium thickness, with the skin on

Place the salmon in the skillet and pour in enough water to come halfway up the sides of the salmon.

Place on moderate heat until water starts simmering, turn down heat and cover .
Poach for about ten minutes, remove from heat.

Use a spatula to remove individual servings to plates, then top with the sauce and serve. 

My dearest grandchildren are settling in to their new home in Minneapolis,  and there's a great silence and void around here - though yesterday I was able to Skype them , thanks to my computer-literate daughter.  What fun!    I even got a little tour of Izzie, Frankie and Noah's room, and watched them bounce on the beds.

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 31, 2014

lemon poppyseed muffins & March pandemonium

The last day of what-a-March!  The grandchildren and my daughter-in-law are on their way to new lives in Minnesota (my daughter has to stay in NH a little longer for business), my son and his long time girlfriend got married , are expecting a baby, and bought a new house.  Zip, zip, zip.  Everything has happened so FAST.  I'm going to miss those children so much, but they assure me I can learn to Skype and maybe get a little glimpse of them growing up.

I've tried not to make these lemon poppyseed muffins because of the winter chubbiness I'm sporting under that coat, but I know it's there.  But first visit from the newly married couple called for them, and I remembered my son loving them as a boy.  

Perfect choice, and Rachel loved them.

I woke up to a sleet storm this morning, and made another batch - most to give away, but two for me.  I nibbled the sticky golden edges and wondered what on earth April will bring...

Happy end of March and on to Spring!  I actually saw my daylilies popping up next to the house, such a welcome glimpse of green!

Lemon Poppyseed muffins

Makes 10 or 12 Texas size muffins.

Preheat oven to 340F.
Grease two Texas size muffin tins (each tin makes 6)

zest of two large lemons
6 tablespoons poppyseeds
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
6 tablespoons milk
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened, room temperature

Grate the lemon zest into the mixer bowl and add the poppyseeds.  Stir in the flour, sugar, and baking powder.  With mixer on low, add the eggs, vanilla, and milk.  With mixture still on low, add the butter, a little at a time.

Mix until the batter is creamy, with no flecks of any cold bits of butter.

Using a standard ice cream scoop, scoop batter into muffin tins, two scoops per muffin cup. Place the muffin tins in upper third of the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes - the muffins should be fairly firm to the touch if you press the tops gently - and a lovely golden brown.  While the muffins are baking, make the glaze:

Lemon glaze

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
a pastry brush for brushing on muffins

Warm in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved.  Simmer a few minutes, then remove to cool down.  

When muffins are done, remove from oven and brush each top with a little glaze.  Let the muffins cool and remove from tins to a cooling rack set inside a baking sheet - the glaze is sticky!  Brush each muffin mostly on the tops a few times, but also on the top edges.  


Monday, March 24, 2014

roasted chicken thighs with lemon and thyme and wishing for Spring

As I sit and wait for winter to end (hmmm, good luck with that!), I've found myself browsing blogs and Pinterest, which is where I found this delicious pan roasted chicken from Damn Delicious.  I made it last night and it couldn't be easier, though next time I would use half the chicken stock (which is intensely lemony) and twice the thyme.  I also transferred the seared chicken to a sunny yellow casserole dish, just because it was so pretty, but you can make it as she did - in an oven proof skillet.   Ohhh, this was SO good!  And you can find the recipe here.

The sugar snap peas I planted on March 11th are growing by leaps and bounds against the kitchen window  - just seeing something growing makes my gardener's heart happy.

The snow outside is still there - 3 feet of icy, rock-hard drifts that make hiking or walking impossible.  What a winter!  But it IS March, and that snow is going to have to melt sometime, right?  Wishing you all happy springtime thoughts!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

triple chocolate chip cookies

Whenever I visit family, I almost always whip up a little something special, and that was especially true of parental visits.  My father, stepmother, and mother were not bakers, but they ALL had a sweet tooth - and they all liked chocolate.  While I can take one bite of a Reine de Saba and leave the rest,  I would guess it would last a day or two at the most, especially with my stepmother.

When she tasted the first cookie,  her eyes got very big as she looked at me, and then she said, "My god, you could start a business with these!", and then proceeded to eat four more.  And these are BIG cookies, averaging out at 4 inches each.

I never did start a business with them, though I made plenty of muffins for years for a local store - these cookies are less sturdy, and the ingredients can be expensive.  But I always remember her remark, every time I make them.

Today I halved the recipe, but forgot to write down the measurements, so I'll leave that to you to figure out.  If you don't have a drawer full of measuring cups, just fill your one cup measure to , say,  3/4ths, then measure out the amount in tablespoons, then halve it to get half the amount called for.  I thought that was pretty clever for 6 o'clock in the morning:)

Triple Chocolate Chip cookies

This makes about 18 large cookies.
Preheat oven to 325F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or clean foil.

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 and 3/4ths cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk chocolate chips (I used Toll House)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Toll House)

Cream butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs in mixer bowl .  Add the flour, cocoa, and baking soda and mix until smooth, then briefly mix in the chocolate chips.

Use a regular sized ice cream scoop (I use a spring-loaded one) place scoops of dough evenly spaced, 6 to a baking sheet.  The dough should be quite firm, and it was because the flour was cool and so was the kitchen.  If you make this during really hot weather, you can chill the dough briefly in the fridge to firm it up a little.  

Bake for 15 minutes, remove baking sheet to cool another 15 minutes before using a spatula to remove cookies to a cooling rack.  When they are warm, they are a little fragile.  

The sun is out and the snow is melting , a little, anyway -  enough to finally see the top of my birdbath emerge from a snowdrift.  Spring!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

lemon cake puddings with chopped pistachios

Snow again, but this time a pretty, not-too-serious snowfall, with huge snowflakes covering the icy driveway.  If you don't have cleats on your boots, you end up doing the Old Lady shuffle down the path to the driveway and finally, the car.  Better that than the people I see walking around with casts and braces on their arms and legs.

This is the kind of weather that makes me hungry for creamy pastries - eclairs and cream puffs, Napoleons and Boston Cream pie.  But with a firm eye on the calendar , it won't be long before we shed our winter layers - our wool coats, parkas, hats, and puffy vests that hide the winter inches.  So no, no cream puffs.

I decided instead on these airy, lemony puddings that magically transform in the oven into two layers:  the bottom a creamy sauce, and the upper layer more like a souffle.  And rather than use my vaguely remembered recipe from my mother, I used a recipe I found here.

Lemon Cake puddings

This recipe makes 5 standard servings, using various mousse cups.

Preheat oven to 350F.

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 medium lemons
2 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar, divided into 1/2 and 1/4 cups
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Butter 5 standard pudding or mousse cups and set aside.

Grate the lemons and measure out one tablespoon rind.
Juice the lemons and measure out 1/3 cup lemon juice.  Set aside.
Beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form, then continue to beat on low, adding 1/2 cup of sugar a tablespoon at a time .  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form, then transfer to another bowl and set aside.

In the same mixer bowl (no need to wash) beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mix. Add the lemon zest, the lemon juice, the milk, flour, and melted butter and mix carefully, then add the egg white mixture.   Use a rubber spatula to fold the mixture - there may be a few bumps of egg white, but that's fine.

Pour or spoon the mixture into the prepared cups and place the cups in a baking or cake pan filled halfway up with boiling water.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden.  Remove from oven and, using an oven mitt, transfer cups to the counter to cool.

While they're cooling, shell and chop a handful of pistachios and sprinkle over the puddings before serving.

Just remember -  four more days til Daylight Savings time!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Broccoli rabe with sweet peppers and rosemary

I had the most wonderful birthday on Monday,  filled with a shower of birthday phone calls, two visits from my grandchildren and my daughter and daughter-in-law, flowers, and a birthday breakfast coffeecake that was sweet, sweet, sweet.  It was glorious.

And that night, I made a batch of this broccoli rabe ( also known as rapini) and sweet peppers and ate two platefuls.  I've been trying not to eat sweets, so cake-for-breakfast left me feeling like I was jumping on a trampoline.  I was surprised, and next time I'll remember not to eat quite so big a piece of cake.

Broccoli Rabe with sweet peppers

Half a bunch of broccoli rabe, washed and trimmed at the stem ends
4 large, firm orange or red peppers, washed and sliced into strips
3 large cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves (I have two huge pots of rosemary in the kitchen)
kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Pour about 1 1/2 inches of water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Add the pepper slices, garlic cloves, and rosemary to the pot and simmer 5-10 minutes.
With a large knife, slice the broccoli rabe crosswise into two inch pieces.

Add the broccoli rabe to the pepper, adding more water if needed to prevent scorching, cover the pot with a lid, and cook just until wilted.

Uncover and stir in the butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Izzie made me a card - don't you love her bunny slippers?  We spent an hour looking at  pictures of Paris on Pinterest - she is crazy about Paris!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

big lemon cookies

Right in the middle of shoveling and knocking down icicles yesterday, the picture of those Archway lemon cookies floated into my mind.  Have you ever had them?  Those and the hermit cookies were weekly staples in the grocery cart when my children were young, though I admit those weren't the only fingers snitching a cookie.  They were rectangular, and a quite hefty, as I remember.  

You know how it is when you get a bee in your bonnet, as my Mum used to say, so I looked up a lemon cookie I made years ago.  It was good, but I remember thinking I wished I hadn't used lemon extract, or quite so much cornstarch.  So I tinkered with the recipe and ended up with a tangy, 4 inch handful of cookie.  I waffled on the frosting, and ended up just drizzling a little lemon juice and confectioner's sugar icing on top.

Now that's a terrific cookie !

To make 8 or 9 four inch cookies ( or more using a smaller scoop):

Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a baking sheet with clean foil or parchment paper.

1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
1 stick ( 8 T) room temperature unsalted butter
1 + 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
zest from a lemon - about 2 teaspoons

Stir together the flour, salt, cornstarch and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

Place the butter and confectioner's sugar in mixer bowl and mix on low until blended, then increase speed and mix a few minutes more.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla and lemon zest, then switch to low while you add the flour/cornstarch mixture.  Mix until creamy .

Using a regular ice cream scoop, scoop cookies onto baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between cookies.  (I usually fit 6 cookies on each baking sheet).

Bake for twenty minutes, then let cool briefly on a cooling rack, then use a spatula to let them cool further on another rack - important it you want the icing to set.

To make the icing, just mix confectioner's sugar and fresh lemon juice to a medium consistency and either brush on cookies, or drizzle from a fork.  


Remember the apple orchard?  Here it is in winter, where the trees are snoozing under a blanket of snow...