Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Baking

Food for the Gods
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Christmas baking is a new concept for me. I started doing this a few years ago out of necessity. I basically cook round the clock when I stay at my cousins and if I spend Christmas alone, I feel the urge to bake and ship my baked goodies to select friends. I have a few favorites and that includes the perennial Food for the Gods, Butterscotch bars (Blondies) and for this year, I chose to try two new recipes from Dave Labovitz blog, the Gluten-Free Brownies and the Very Chocolate Cookies that he adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier, a French pastry chef.

Butterscotch Bars
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The first two recipes are trade secrets and I am not at liberty to share them in my blog. The latter two however are posted in Dave Lebovitz's blog but I'll post them here in my blog anyway. I hope you give these two recipes a try to spread some merry cheer to your friends over the holidays.

Very Chocolate Cookies - Adapted*

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
½ cup flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
5 oz bittersweet or 

  semisweet chocolate, 
¼ cup dark chocolate 

  coffee beans or cocoa 
½ cup, plus 1 tbsp 

  unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
cinnamon salt or fleur de sel (
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper 
    or silicone baking mat.

2. In a small bowl, sift both flours, cocoa powder and baking soda.

3. In another clean dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt half of 

    the chocolate and let cool to room temperature. Mix the other half of the 
    chocolate chunks in a bowl with the cocoa nibs or coffee beans.

4. Beat the butter with a standing electric mixer, or by hand, just until 

    smooth. Beat in the sugar, salt and vanilla or chocolate extract.

5. By hand, stir in the melted chocolate, then the flour-cocoa mixture. 

    Finally, add the chocolate chunks and nibs or morsels.

Dark Chocolate Coffee Beans
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
6. Scoop the dough into 
    rounded tablespoons 
    and place evenly 
    spaced on the 
    prepared baking 
    sheet. Sprinkle with 
    cinnamon salt or 
    fleur de sel, if 
    desired, then bake 
    for 20 minutes or until 
    the cookies take on a 
    slightly dry sheen to 
    the top. 

The cookies may feel soft coming out of the oven so cool them in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. The cookies firm up just fine when cool.

Gluten-free Brownies - Adapted*

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
6 tbsp salted butter
8 oz bittersweet or 

  semisweet chocolate,    
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room 

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa 

3 tbsp corn starch
1 cup nuts, toasted and 

  coarsely chopped 

Preheat the oven to 
    350ºF. Line the inside 
    of an 8-inch square pan with foil so that it goes up the sides to the rim. 
    Lightly grease the foil with butter or non-stick cooking spray.  

2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over very low heat 

    on the stove top, stirring constantly until smooth.

3. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time.

4. Sift together the cocoa powder and corn starch in a small bowl then stir 

    them into the chocolate mixture. Beat the batter vigorously for at least 
    one minute, until the batter is no longer grainy and smooth. It will pull 
    away from the sides of the pan a bit.

5. Add the nuts, if using, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

6. Bake for thirty minutes, or until the brownies feel just set in the center. 

    Do not overbake. Remove from oven and let cool completely before 
    removing from the pan and slicing.

Storage: The brownies can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen for at least 1 month.

* Dave Lebovitz's My Life in Paris blog

Spicy Tuna Salad

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This recipe is one I came up with after falling in love with the Breakfast Tuna Melt sandwich of Dunkin' Donuts. This was back home as I don't think they serve it here in the US. It was really easy for me to recreate the tuna filling due to the availability of really good canned tuna back home. My favorite in terms of flavor is the Century Tuna Hot & Spicy variety. Canned in oil, it is flavored with spices verging on the hot side and is actually delicious straight off the can and eaten with warm bread or hot steamed rice. Is it obvious that I survived on this as a college student on a tight budget? 

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
My recipe is a bit on the healthy side with grated carrots and onions which add a crunchy texture to the salad. I have also made this with tuna canned in water which I had to drain to make sure the salad does not get watery. If you do find canned tuna in oil, do not completely drain the the oil but rather, save a few teaspoons, enough to imparts its flavor. Usually eaten as a sandwich, you can also snack on this with celery sticks. I was lucky enough to find the Century brand tuna during my visit to Seattle last week so I'm very excited to feature this recipe. 

Spicy Tuna Salad

3 6-8 oz canned tuna, plus the oil
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 celery stalks, diced finely  
1 small onion, diced finely
2 tbsp sweet pickle relish
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup mayonnaise

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Combine all the ingredients and adjust the flavor with salt and pepper. Keep cold in the fridge for about 2 hours before serving. As a sandwich filling, this will go well with a slice of cheese and lettuce leaves on two slices of whole wheat bread. A few slices of gala apples in the sandwich also goes well with it.   

Friday, November 25, 2011

Baked Ham in Spicy Sauce

My pre-sliced ham, to my dismay. I was hoping for an uncut kind.
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Every Christmas when I was growing up, the ads for Christmas ham on television always made me wonder what they tasted like. They always look really tasty all shiny and moist and falling off the bone tender. Our family was never big on ham although my Dad would occasionally buy ham from the market on rare occasions but never on Christmas. As a result, I just never thought of serving ham during the holidays but I never really minded. We cooked enough dishes that it never left a void in our Christmas spread. 

My cousin in Illinois is actually the one who reintroduced me to this holiday tradition when I spent Christmas with them a few years back. Since then, I try to celebrate Christmas with a ham and this was repeated last year as well. At that time, I did not have my blog yet but I took pictures to post on my facebook page. However, I could not find a really good picture to showcase just how good a perfectly cooked ham can be. Enter my cousin Gracie in New Jersey asking for a good recipe for a ham she will be serving I assume as part of their Thanksgiving feast. I had to dig up the recipe I used last year that I really liked and since I'm not making turkey this year, I figured, now is the best time to showcase a ham recipe for the coming Christmas holiday. 

Baked Ham in Spicy Sauce - Adapted*

2 cups pineapple juice
½ cup brown sugar
4 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4  tsp ginger
2 tbsp rum
6 - 8 lb cooked ham
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix the first 6 ingredients and bring to a boil. 
    Simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon of the rum 

2. Cover ham with the marinade and let stand for 4 hours while 
    occasionally basting with the marinade. 

3. Remove the ham, put in rack in a roasting pan and bake for one hour. 
    Remove from the oven and score with knife and stud with cloves. 

4. Increase oven to 425°F and bake for 30 minutes more basting with the 
    marinade sauce. Remove the ham and collect the marinade. Add the 
    cornstarch, lemon juice and the water and cook, stirring until thick. 
    Add the remaining rum. Serve sauce with the ham.


Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
While roasting the ham, line with foil another baking pan and bake potatoes dressed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of Herbes de Provence in the rack below with the ham during the initial baking process. Move the potatoes around during the second baking step to avoid burning them. Take them out early if they are done.  
If you get a ham that is pre-sliced, go ahead and skip the part where you score and stud the ham. If you get an intact ham though, make sure that you trim off the skin and excess fat prior to scoring and studding with cloves. It may not seem much but the cloves really infuse the meat with an aromatic flavor.   

* Tighe, Eileen: editor, Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 6, Fawcett Publications, Inc., New York: 1966.

Fyldt Svinemørbrad (Stuffed Pork Tenderloin)

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
To start off my Danish experience, this will be my first recipe to kick off this theme. This recipe of stuffed pork tenderloin is from my Encyclopedia of Cookery and I'm really not sure how authentic this recipe is but it looks pretty good to me. It bears a similarity to the Dave Lieberman's stuffed pork tenderloin recipe I featured a while back but this dish is braised instead of roasted in the oven.

Pictured with Brunede Kartofler
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Pork apparently is the meat of choice to the Danes, but turkey, veal and beef have become popular as of recently. A dish that I also need to try out very soon is meatballs in curry sauce. This is a favorite in Denmark and is usually served with rice, celery and cucumber salad. For my stuffed pork tenderloin, I plan to serve it with Brunede Kartofler (sugar-browned potatoes). 

Fyldt Svinemørbrad - Adapted*

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
2 lbs pork tenderloin
2 large Granny Smith 
   apples, peeled, cored 
   and chopped
12 prunes, pitted
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup beef broth
1 cup heavy cream

1. Butterfly tenderloin the 
    long way and open flat 
    and pound to an even 
    thickness. Season with 
    salt and pepper. 

2. Layer the apples and top with the prunes and roll like a jelly roll along the 
    longer side.

3. Tie securely with twine and brown on all sides in butter. Add the broth 
    and the cream and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and 
    simmer for one hour. Rotate meat occasionally to avoid sticking to the 

4. Remove meat to a warm plate and scrape the bottom and sides of the 
    pan to collect the brownings. Increase the heat to medium high and boil 
    sauce until thick and glossy. Check for flavor and if too salty, thin out 
    with water. Press the sauce through a fine sieve and transfer to a gravy 

5. Loosen the meat and slice into 1-inch thick slices. Arrange on a serving 
    platter and drizzle with the sauce. Serve the remaining sauce on the side. 

* Tighe, Eileen: editor, Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 4, Fawcett Publication Inc., New York: 1966.

Brunede Kartofler (Sugar-browned Potatoes)

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
A seasonal dish, this dish makes a good accompaniment to stuffed pork tenderloin although traditionally, this is paired with roasted chicken at Christmas time. This actually rminds me of a gnocchi dish I made some time ago following Giada De Larentis' recipe where the gnocchi is flavored with a sugary sauce. Very simple to make, I'm glad I found this recipe just in time for the holidays. Another surprise is that the dish is actually not overly sweet and goes really well with savory dishes. 

Brunede Kartofler - Adapted*

2 lbs small potatoes
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter

1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Cool slightly and peel. 

2. In a wide saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar 
    and stir until melted. 

3. Add the potatoes and mix well until the potatoes are glazed. Serve 

* Tighe, Eileen: editor, Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 4, Fawcett Publications, Inc., New York: 1966.


Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Lassi is one of my favorite Indian dishes not just for its flavor but also for the ease of preparation. I used to serve this as a starter whenever I was hosting an Indian or Moroccan inspired dinner when I was still living in Atlanta. The availability of mango puree and even fresh mangoes back in Atlanta made this a regular favorite in my dinner parties. Unfortunately, it was a bit harder to find mangoes in Tennessee until my Indian friends told me where they go to buy Indian spices and products. Here in Montana, it is even harder but I was happy to know that one of the grocery stores here actually carry canned mangoes. Maybe not the best quality if you ask me but it is the next best thing. 

Lassi is made with yogurt and if I am correct, it is a breakfast dish in India. The favorite amongst my friends is the mango version although it also comes with a banana flavored version as well. A must however is a good blender that is strong enough to cut through ice as it is basically a smoothie but much healthier especially if you use low-fat yogurt. I prefer to serve mine a bit thick but still pourable enough that you can drink it without using a straw. So far, I have yet to meet anyone who did not like Lassi.

Mango Lassi - Adapted*

8 oz fresh mango or canned mango puree
1 cup ice
16 oz yogurt (you can use fat-free)
2 tbsp sugar

1. Mix all ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. 

2. Check for flavor and adjust by adding a tablespoon or two of sugar. 
    Also, add small amounts of cold water if the lassi is too thick to pour. 
    Serve in tall glasses like a champagne flute. 

Banana Lassi - Adapted*

3 ripe bananas
1 cup ice
16 oz yogurt (you can use fat-free)
2 tbsp sugar
pinch of cardamom

Follow the procedure as directed above. Serve right away. 

* Vijayakar, S., 30 Minute Indian, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego: 2000

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Part Deux

Leftover Turkey Salad Sandwich
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This is one of the few times in almost 15 years that I did not host Thanksgiving dinner. It was a relief actually and although I enjoy the cooking part of this holiday, it was a nice change to be the guest this time around. I spent the holiday with friends and we feasted on turkey breast and the fixins that go with it. It was a simple lunch but it was delicious. I also took home the turkey carcass since I was willing to dispose of it. 

The plan was to actually make a broth out of the carcass but upon further inspection, the bones actually still had enough meat that I was able to make a Turkey salad from it. I ended up with about 2 cups of white turkey meat which I flavored with a teaspoon of sweet pickle relish, 1/2 tsp dried tarragon, a few turns of black pepper and combined with about 1/3 cup of mayonnaise. The sandwich is completed with lettuce leaves, a few slices of Dubliner cheese and a tablespoon of cranberry sauce on a wheat bread. Delicious!

Triple Layer Chocolate Mousse

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
My second favorite cake at the Red Ribbon bakeshop is the Chocolate Mousse. Topped with whipped cream rosettes, it was always hard to decide if I wanted to get the Black Forest cake or the mousse. So after figuring out my version of Black Forest, my next mission was to make my version of the Chocolate Mousse. This cake has undergone quite an evolution but I think that by now, I finally perfected a version that I can truly call my own.

Why triple layer? Well, the cake has three layers made up of the cake base, the actual mousse, and the final layer of whipped cream. The cake base is a flourless cake that holds its own when combined with the mousse. It is very dense which gives the cake a solid foundation in contrast to the light and airy mousse layer. The mousse in itself is not overly sweet and is actually on the bitter side to balance the sweetness of the cake. The cream topping is just the finishing touch to marry the two layers. A final addition is a cake ribbon to hide all the layers. I just think that it needed this touch to give it a clean look. One word of advice, read the recipe thoroughly and make plans with regards to what you will need at the specific moment. Each layer of the cake has to be prepared just at the moment that they are needed and cannot be prepared ahead of time.  

Triple Layer Chocolate Mousse

flourless cake just off the oven
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
4 large eggs

1. Preheat oven at 350°F. 
    In a glass bowl, 
    combine butter and 
    the chocolate and 
    melt in a microwave. 
    You can also do this in 
    a small pot over low 

2. Add the sugar and salt until melted and set aside until it cools slightly, 
    about 5 minutes. Add the cream and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time 
    mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. 

3. Pour the batter in a 8-inch springform pan that has been greased and 
    lined with a parchment paper. Make sure that the parchment paper goes 
    all the way to the sides. This prevents the batter from seeping out of the 

4. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. The 
    cake will rise but will shrink as it cools down. Cool to room temperature 
    and cover with foil. Store in the fridge overnight. 

2 1/4 cups cold cream
5 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 packet gelatin
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp rum (heck, it's Christmas!)

 1. Heat 1/4 cup of cream and chocolate in a glass bowl for about a minute 
    in the microwave or until the chocolate is soft and the cream is barely 
    simmering. Whisk until the ganache is smooth and shiny. Set aside. 

2. Bloom the gelatin in the hot water until fully dissolved. With the mixer 
    running at medium high speed, beat the 2 cups of cold cream and drizzle 
    in the gelatin. Keep beating until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar 
    and the cocoa powder. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff 
    peaks form. Add the vanilla and the rum, if using and mix well. 

3. Take about a cup of the mousse and fold into the chocolate ganache. 
    Transfer the loosened chocolate mixture and fold into the rest of the 
    mousse. Do not overmix. 

Whipped cream topping:
2 cups chilled heavy cream
1 packet gelatin
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Bloom the gelatin in the hot water until fully dissolved. With the mixer 
    running, beat the cold cream at medium high speed. Drizzle in the 
    gelatin and whip until soft peaks form. 

2. Slowly add the sugar and increase the speed to high until stiff peaks 
    form. Add the vanilla and mix. 

Chocolate ribbon:
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
plastic liner (measured to span the cake and wide enough to cover the 
  3 layers)

Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Keep warm. 

To assemble:

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
1. Take the cold cake 
    from the fridge and 
    loosen from the pan. 
    Invert into a cooling 
    rack and peel off the 
    parchment paper. 
    Transfer the cake to a 
    lined cakeboard and 
    snap the sides of the 
    springform pan around 
    the cake. The cake can 
    be adjusted at this 
    point to make sure it is 
    even. The cake is dense
    and pliable so use a spatula to make the necessary adjustments. 

2. Add the chocolate mousse layer and smoothen the top. Cool in the fridge 
    for at least two hours. 

3. Run a clean knife around the insides of the pan and unsnap the springform 
    side. Carefully pull up the sides without damaging the mousse layer. 
    Spread a thin even layer of the melted chocolate on the plastic liner. 
    Wrap the ribbon around the cake and return to the fridge to cool for 
    another two hours.

4. Spread a thin layer of the whipped cream topping over the chocolate 
    mousse layer and pipe the remaining topping into rosettes. Store the cake 
    in the fridge until ready to serve. 

To serve, remove the plastic liner protecting the chocolate ribbon and sprinkle finely chopped chocolate to top off the cake. To get clean slices, use a warmed sharp knife when slicing through the cake.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clementine Cranberry Sauce

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Cranberry sauce is one of those dishes that is always a part but is never really the star of any Thanksgiving feast. It does play an important role as it really enhances the flavor of roasted turkey. I once thought that the sauce was just a waste since my first introduction to it is the gel version that you get in grocery stores and are sold in cans by the truckload. Not a very good introduction to an already maligned dish, I might say. It took me some time to realize that when you actually take the time to make one yourself, the flavor is a lot different and the taste is really a very good foil to the rich flavor of turkey and the fixins that go with it. 

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
My recipe is from the Bromberg's Thanksgiving Feast spread on Food and Wine with a bit of a twist. I like to cook it a little bit longer since I have a hard time eating food that squirts when you bite into it so I made sure that the berries are at least cooked to the point where they retain their shape but is also soft and gooey. The recipe recommends that the cranberries be whole and just bruised and it seems just a tad raw for me. The sauce also improves with time so make it at least a day ahead. The acrid taste from the clementines mellows down and the sweetness of the sugar syrup and the tartness of the berries are enhanced.  

Clementines Cranberry Sauce - Adapted*

12 oz fresh cranberries
4 clementines
1 cup sugar
2 cups orange juice

1. Wash the clementines and cut into quarters. Take one half of the sugar 
    and sprinkle over the clementines. Seal with cling film and store in 
    the fridge overnight. 

2. Heat the orange juice in a deep pot over medium heat and add the 
    remaining sugar. Once it starts to boil, add the sugared clementines and 
    simmer for about an hour until the clementines are soft and the liquid is 

3. Add the cranberries and keep an eye on it and cook until it just starts to 
    bruise. Keep simmering until most of the berries have softened while the 
    rest still retain their shape, about 15 minutes. 

4. Spoon out the cranberries and the clementines and set aside. Increase the 
    heat to medium high and boil the syrup until it is thick. This will take 
    about 15 minutes. Return the berries and clementines and mix well. Allow 
    to cool.   

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The sauce can be made ahead of time and can be stored in air-tight jars in the fridge for up to one week. Serve warm or at room temperature. The sauce is also good served with roasted pork and chicken although it is traditionally served as an accompaniment to roasted turkey. It can also me made pretty enough to give as gifts which is what I did for two of my friends. 

* Food and Wine, November 2000, p 232

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Queen Grill City

Lechon Kawali*
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen
Yesterday, we had lunch at one of the newly established Filipino eateries in Seattle. It was of the style familiar to Filipinos back home which is to point at something you like and they will serve it to you. To point at something is "turo" in the Filipino language and these food stops are referred to as turo-turo or "point-point". The one at Seattle boasts quite a bounty of traditional Filipino dishes, mostly the meat stews and the grilled/deep fried/roasted meats that are very popular back home especially the lechon kawali that was really very tasty and crunchy.

Over the last two days, I have been stuffed with really good Filipino food it felt like I was home even for just a moment. However, reality sinks in and you see these Filipinos who are now mostly American citizens wearing their new citizenship proudly. Well, a bit too proudly it bordered on arrogance although I'm excluding my friend and her family and her in-laws who were all very nice down to earth people. It was weird watching a bunch of Filipinos acting way more American than Americans. There was an instant I wanted to clobber this lady who had her three kids falling in line for her while she chatted on her phone and at the very last minute, decided that she wanted more stuff at the checkout counter while still conversing on her phone. So basically, she is now an obnoxious Filipino who thinks she can do anything she wants because she is now an American citizen. Argh! This is a very normal thing to witness back home but the newly acquired citizenship seems to have given her an air of "I can do what I want" in the worst sense ever. If it were not for the good food being sold at the counter, I would have said something. But then again, what is the point?

Dinuguan or Pork Blood Stew
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Now that I have vented, I'm featuring a stew that will make most people's blood curl (pun intended). Traditionally made with pork offal, this dish can be made healthier by using regular pork meat. The most interesting part though is how this dish is completed by the addition of either pork or ox blood giving the dish its unmistakable brown color. To the unlearned, they might mistake the dish for chocolate sauce until they figure out what it is really made of and they usually end up spitting the dish out. It took me some time to really love this dish but I prefer to cook my own version to be sure that I use really good ingredients giving me a sense of peace that I'm eating something that is really well prepared. Since then, I only eat this stew in restaurants or in homes of people I know. Traditionally, it is also eaten with a steamed rice pudding just like corn bread is the perfect match for meat chilis.

* I had to switch to a picture of the lechon kawali that I made myself a couple of months ago. I would like to feature the one that I ate at Queen Grill City but the picture taken with my Balckberry was not of good quality and I just cannot let go of how badly it translated in the blog. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Seattle, Washington

Pike Market
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This weekend, I'm in Seattle getting my passport renewed and staying at my friends house as well. So far, I've eaten my fair share of authentic Filipino food, either home-cooked by my friend's mother or from Filipino restaurants in the city. It was like being at home even for just a few days. It was a surreal moment and yet, very comforting having been away from home for so long. It has been such a gastronomical feast a day after arriving in Seattle after my 15 hours of bus ride through snow, sleet and rain. Today was beautiful and the sun managed to make its presence known even for just a couple of hours after leaving the place where they were holding the passport renewal in town. Those few hours waiting in line to get my papers processed were a bit unusual as the hall where they held the interview was shared with a group of Vietnamese-Americans dancing to their traditional local music that for a while, I got totally confused if I was in the right place to get my passport renewed. First stop after leaving the renewal office though was Pike Market via the space needle. We strolled around the market and drank coffee at the first Starbuck's coffee shop which I thought was very fancy it bordered on being pretentious but the coffee was great so no complaints there. We just drove by the needle and that was good enough for me.    

San Miguel pale pilsen
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
 A bonus is what I found in one of the stores in the city. No, I'm not talking about Macy's although I did take a short trip to the mother ship, but rather, the Seafood Center where their grocery aisles looked like I was transported back to the grocery aisles in the grocery stores back home. The pièce de résistance, they sell San Miguel beer in bottles. I know, I'm not supposed to be drinking beer but I had a sip and it was just so wonderful to taste the best beer from back home after almost 15 years. They even have the dark lager variety which I hope to bring back with me for my friends. I'm jealous already.

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
We ended the night having Japanese food for dinner in a casino and it was a combination of everything Asian from sushi rolls to sashimi to Vietnamese Pho and even Chinese dishes. It had been fun but the best part so far has been seeing my friend Ruby whom I have not seen in over 10 years. It was good to see her and get to meet her family and talk about the good old days. So far, this trip has been a journey back in time and a glimpse of good times ahead. I still have one day to kill and I'm already very excited to see what tomorrow will bring. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen Blogs
This is my one and only pumpkin pie recipe. I've made this numerous times and this is the only pumpkin pie that I like. Not that I've done the comparison test since I am not a big fan of the pie. Still, the things that makes this unusual is the use of cream cheese in the crust. This was after all, written by a Cordon Bleu chef, Eric Bromberg, who almost did not complete the program unless he mastered this dessert. 

The recipe makes two pies but you can halve the recipe and it will work. There is just the issue with the topping where you need to learn how to make cooked icing. If you follow the steps though, you'll be okay and this topping does bring the pie to a whole new level. What was once an ordinary pie is now an elegant dessert. 

Pumpkin Pie - Adapted*

Cream Cheese Pastry:
2 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 stick 4 oz unsalted butter, diced in small pieces
3 tbsp ice water
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine the dry ingredients with the spices and using a paddle 
    attachment hook, mix at medium speed. Add the cream cheese and 
    continue mixing until you form a sandy mixture. Add the butter and mix 
    until you form a coarse meal. Switch to the dough hook. 

2. Combine the liquids and slowly add with the mixer running at medium low 
    speed until the dough forms a ball. Turn the dough into a lightly floured 
    surface and cut into two. Wrap each dough with a plastic wrap and let it 
    rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or overnight. 

Pie Filling:

Pumpkin Pie after baking. Cracks are normal and expected.
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
1 quart heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks or a tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
20 oz can pumpkin puree (3 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven at 350°F. 
    On a lightly floured 
    surface, roll out each 
    pastry disc to about 
    1/8 inch tick. Fit the rounds into two 10-inch pie plates. Trim the 
    overhang to about and inch and fold under and trim decoratively.

2. Line with foil and fill with driend beans bake in the oven for 30 minutes or 
    until lightly browned on the edges. Remove the weight and foil and bake 
    for 5 minutes 
    more. Let cool. 

3. In a medium saucepan, simmer over medium low heat the cream with the 
    spices until reduced to 2/12 cups. This will take about 30 minutes. Let 

4.In a mixer bowl, beat the eggs yolks with the brown sugar until thick and 
   pale. At low speed, add the pumpkin puree. Gradually add the cream and 
   beat until blended. 

5. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until osft peaks 
    form. Gradually add the white sugar and continue beating until glossy and 
    stiff. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture to lithgten it. 
    Fold the rest of the egg whites. 

6. Pour into the pie crusts and smoothen the tops. Bake for about an hour or 
    until the custard is lightly golden and just beginning to crack. Let the pie 
    cool completely. 

Meringue topping:

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
4 large egg whites

1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Stir 
    just until the sugar dissolves. Boil withour stirring, until the temperature 
    reaches 220°F on a candy thermometer. 

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites at medium speed until firm. 
    With the mixer running, add the syrup in a steady stream and increase 
    the speed to high until the meringue is stiff and glossy and slightly cool.

The meringue layer is double the required amount. I forgot to 
use half the recipe. No wonder it started to resemble a tower. 
Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
To finish the pie, preheat the oven to broiler setting. Starting from the edge of the crust, spoon the meringue over the pie and spread with a spatula. Broil the pie for about 30 seconds. 

The pie can be served at room temperature but I personally prefer it cold. You can cool the pies in the fridge prior to topping it with the meringue.  

*Food and Wine, November 2000, p233