Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

Recipes from My Kitchen

Recipes from my kitchen – either from my cookbooks or recipes tested for events or for upcoming books I’m working on.

Ricotta and Yogurt – A Match Made in Dairy Heaven

Thank you to The Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, Inc. for inviting me to be a guest blogger for this month’s recipe. The delicious recipe is listed below. To see the complete blog, please visit: www.southeastdairy.org. Here’s an excerpt:

In this recipe, ricotta forms the bulk of a refreshing dip, while plain yogurt softens it into saucy texture and adds a bit of acidic bite. The combination of curry and basil gives  a nod to Thai cuisine and an edge to standard crudité dipping sauce. After tasting this  dip, I promise you, you’ll never think of ricotta and yogurt the same way again. Enjoy it with fresh, beautifully arranged spears of fresh vegetables, such as cucumber, carrots and cherry tomatoes. You can feel good about serving this to friends and family knowing that it provides many of the nutrients that many Americans are lacking.

Creamy Curry Basil Crudite Dip

Creamy Curry Basil Crudite Dip

Creamy Curry Basil Crudite Dip

(Yield: 2 1/2 cups)

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup 2 % plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons red curry powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
  • Generous pinch white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 large cloves garlic, smashed and pureed with the edge of your chef’s knife
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 scallions, ends trimmed and discarded, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, yogurt, curry, salt, pepper, honey, garlic and lemon juice until smooth and well-combined. Stir in the scallions. Allow to sit at room temperature for one hour before serving. Stir in the basil just before serving. Serve in a pretty bowl and garnish with a few leaves of fresh basil. Arrange fresh vegetables around the bowl and dig in. This is perfect fare for entertaining during spring and summer months.

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Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

These beautiful little cream puffs actually look a bit like pumpkins, are light as air, and practically whisper “autumn” in every bite.

Creamy sweet marscapone, ginger, nutmeg, ginger and a splash of Cognac recall the classic flavors of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top. The pastry gets a colorful pumpkin flavor glow from the addition of pumpkin puree to classic choux pastry.  And, finely chopped pecans in the filling deliver an unexpected crunch surprise. On top? A fuss-free,  fluttery dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon.

What’s  not to love? These would make a lovely,  light ending to any meal and are sure to please. Give them a go for Halloween or Thanksgiving or any time simple and delicious sounds just about right.

(Adapted from The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs, Gibbs Smith, October, 1, 2013, by Holly Herrick)

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

(Makes 22 – 24 “petite” cream puffs)

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

Begin by preparing the pastry.

Sweet Pumpkin Choux Pastry

Special Equipment Needed: 2 silicon baking sheets or parchment paper, 2 half-sheet baking pans, one 12” piping bag, #806 round pastry tip, pastry brush.

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted, cold butter cut into 1/2”-cubes

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

Generous pinch kosher or sea salt

4 room temperature large eggs (about 1 cup), beaten together

Egg wash: 1 egg, splash water and pinch kosher or sea salt, beaten together

Preheat the oven to 425F. Have everything measured and in place in before starting to actually prepare the choux.

In a medium, sturdy sauce pan, melt the water and butter together over medium high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Whisk in the pumpkin puree until blended. Reduce the heat to medium. Sift together the bread flour, AP flour, sugar, and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, reserving the bowl nearby. Stir the mixture (roux) vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring the dough together, initially. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball. This should take about 1 – 2 minutes.

Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl. Allow to sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 15 seconds. Add 1/2 of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy (about 1 minute). Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.

While the pastry is still warm, pipe and bake the pastry using a 1/2″-round tip (#806)  onto a silicon or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Pipe so that the choux puffs are all the same size, about 1 1/1″ wide (round) and about 3/4″ high. Brush the top of each pastry with a light coating of egg wash, being careful not to allow the wash to drip down the sides of the pastry.

Bake the choux puffs for 22 to 25  minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let the pastry stand for 5 minutes. Pierce the bottom of each choux gently with the tip of a knife. Allow to cool completely before filling. (Note: The pastry can be prepared ahead and baked several days before filling. Store in the freezer in plastic freezer bags for up to three weeks).

Creamy Spiced Pecan and Mascarpone Filling

1 cup mascarpone cheese (or substitute regular cream cheese), room temperature

1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon best-quality vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon Cognac or bourbon

3 tablespoons whipping cream

Pinch kosher or sea salt

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Whisk together all of the ingredients, except the pecans,  in a medium bowl until smooth. Fold in the pecans and blend to combine. Reserve cold until ready to use (Note: The filling can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, covered. Sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before filling the cream puffs).

Putting It Together – Assemblage

If you’re not inclined to fuss with a pastry bag, simply cut each choux puff in half horizontally with a serrated knife. “Plop” a teaspoon of the filling on the bottom half of each puff and cap each with its respective top. Or, fit a clean pastry bag with a clean #806 round pastry bag, and fill the halved choux, piping about 1 teaspoon of the filling into the center of each, and capping each with their respective choux hoods.

Spiced Sugar Garnish

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the sugar and the cinnamon in a small sifter. Sprinkle generously over the top of the filled cream puffs.  Serve immediately and watch ’em swoon. These are first-place-delicious-good.

Bon appetit!

 

 

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Why I Love My Le Creuset

I have an unusual appreciation for my two Le Creuset Dutch Ovens. I think it’s fair to say I love them. Walking around the Charleston Wine & Food Festival the last few days under the constant assault of sponsor Le Creuset’s orange bags and banners, has given me added cause to ponder just why I so love my Le Creuset.

Cast iron, enamel-coated beauties, they’re loyal, dependable and will last forever, unlike a lot of people (and definitely some men)  I know.  Even though they’re heavy and situated in a very high, inconvenient cupboard, I go to them at least once a week, navigating an awkward step ladder to get there. Heck – I sometimes think I would navigate Everest, or at least try to, to get to my Le Creuset. I know without a shadow of a doubt they would be just behind my cat and dog to rescue if ever the house caught on fire.

I reach for these large pot friends when I need reliability, comfort, and some long-cooked soothing food goodness that makes the house smell soulful and fragrant. That’s exactly what these vessels are made for – braising, or long, slow cooking in liquid with aromats and seasoning, my favorite kind of food. I know that when I’ve made the effort to get out my Le Creuset, I’m in for a few hours of blissful, cooking delight and will be rewarded with something delicious in a few short hours.

They come in happy colors, too, like my French blue and lime green beauties. Once they’ve done their job, a good cleaning and air dry returns them to their clean, practically indestructable state. I once faltered in my loyalty to my fairer Le Creuset Dutch oven cousins, swayed by the similar colors and shapes of a much lower priced copycat variety I saw at a Harris Teeter display a few years ago. I bought a couple of casseroles and one cute, round, petite wanna-be Le Creuset Dutch oven.  Within a matter of three or four uses, their cheap teflon coating was scratched and they’d lost their luster. I still use them, but I bring out my Le Creuset for the big gun cooking, like this delicious braised pork stew to follow. Making it always makes me and my guests very happy. I hope it will you, too.

My trusted Le Creuset Dutch ovens, big blue and bright green delights.

My trusted Le Creuset Dutch ovens, big blue and bright green delights.

Sweet and Soulful Pork and Apple Stew

(Adapted from Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith) by Holly Herrick)

(Serves 6)

Boston Butt comes from the tough, working muscles of the pig’s shoulder and is a perfect candidate for braising and an open-ended backdrop for myriad flavorings from sweet to spicy and everything in between. Here, the round, even flavor of the pork dances with the sweetness of the fall apple harvest that lasts long into the winter months. I love a sweet/tart apple, such as a Winesap variety, but mix it up with whatever you have on hand.  Don’t substitute processed cider for fresh, however. It just doesn’t deliver the same results. If you’d like to add a last minute pungency-punch, stir in 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard just before serving. Served over grits, this is the consummate winter or cooler weather comfort food that you’ll remember long after the last spoonful is savored.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 pounds Boston Butt pork shoulder, cut into 2” cubes

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried sage leaves

1 medium onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

2 celery stalks, cleaned and cut thinly

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons All-Purpose flour

2 cups fresh apple cider

1 cup water or chicken stock

2 Winesap apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½” chunks

3 sprigs fresh rosemary bound with a string

In a large Dutch oven or Crock pot, heat the olive oil and butter over high heat until bubbling. Add the pork, sage, and season generously with salt and pepper. Brown the pork well on all sides, stirring occasionally, until the meat is colored a deep, golden brown. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook until just translucent and softened (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Return the browned pork to the pan. Dust with the flour. Stir to coat and cook through about 3 minutes. Add the cider to deglaze the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir to release all of the browned edges from the pan. Add enough stock or water to cover by a little over half. Add the apples and rosemary bring up to a boil and reduce to a very low simmer over low heat. Cover loosely with a lid and cook until very tender and thickened, 3 to 4 hours. Remove the rosemary bunch and taste to verify seasonings before serving.

 

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No Stopping the Versatile Choux Train

I’ve been having fun in my kitchen testing choux recipes for my upcoming book, The French Cook – Eclairs and Cream Puffs (Gibbs Smith, Fall 2013). I’ve just concluded the savory portion of the book and these little choux gnocchi treats were one of my favorites to eat, and so much fun to make.  I shared a taste with my neighbors, inspiring one of their darling young daughters to declare me “a good cooker.” It’s the little things that make one smile. I thought you might enjoy the recipe. Next stop on the choux train: all things sweet and delicious starting with cream puffs.

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron & Butter Sauce

(Yields 10 generous appetizer portions, or 4 to 6 entrees)

Infinitely less complicated than traditional gnocchi, piping choux directly into simmering (but not boiling), well salted water yields little logs of tender, gnocchi-like dumplings. They take the time of preparing the choux and just minutes to cook; roughly 20 – 25 minutes. After the choux hits the water, it drops to the bottom and then pops to the top. A few more minutes of fattening and plumping up, they’re ready to drain, toss with seasoned butter and serve. The ease and bubbling drama of the preparation make it perfect for a dinner party or an evening of casual dining with friends or family. Kids will love them! If you’re not a big saffron fan, just take it out of the mix. These need to be served fairly quickly but can stay warm in the cooking water, off the heat, for 15 or 20 minutes.

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron Butter Sauce

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron Butter Sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the choux gnocchi:

Master Recipe Savory Choux Pastry (with variations)

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted, cold butter cut into 1/2”-cubes

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

3 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

4 room temperature large eggs (about 1 cup), beaten together

Plus:

1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Before starting the pastry, have a large pot of well-salted water on a very low simmer. Fit a pastry bag with the #806 round tip and have the ingredients measured and ready to go before preparing the choux.

In a medium, sturdy sauce pan, melt the water and butter together over medium high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium. Sift together the bread flour, AP flour, cornmeal and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, reserving the bowl nearby. Stir the mixture (roux) vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring the dough together, initially. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball. Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl. Allow to sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 15 seconds. Add 1/2 of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy (about 1 minute). Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.  Stir in the chives, parsley, thyme and lemon zest.

Fill the prepared pastry bag with 1/2 of the pastry. Pipe the pastry over the simmering water into 1/2” to 3/4” lengths, about 1/2”-thick, cutting with a kitchen scissor or paring knife once the desired length has been met to “plop” it into the water. Continue piping until the pastry bag is empty. The choux will rise to the surface after about 3 to 4 minutes, and will continue to plump and cook another 6 to 8 minutes, or until set. Drain with a slotted spoon onto a clean, cloth towel-lined baking sheet. Fill the pastry bag with the remaining choux and repeat with the second batch.

For the butter sauce:

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into large cubes

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the butter, shallot, saffron, lemon juice and seasoning. Melt over medium heat, reduce to low. Reserve warm over low heat.

To serve, arrange the gnocchi on individual plates and drizzle with a generous amount of the seasoned butter sauce. Or, serve on a platter and let everyone serve themselves.

Here’s another fun way to use these darling little choux gnocchi:

Choux Gnocchi Gratinee

(Yields 8 side-dish portions)

The same choux gnocchi (using the master recipe above), dressed with Parmesan and butter and baked off in a hot oven, yields a cheesy, pasta-like delight that is perfect with roasted chicken, pork or a juicy steak. Simply poach the gnocchi as in the previous recipe and arrange the cooked, drained gnocchi in a large baking pan. Top with 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese and a couple pats of butter. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately. (Note: Any left-over gnocchi from the previous recipe can be stored overnight in the refrigerator and served gratinee style the next day).

Bon appetit!

 

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Fun with Choux: Bacon, Avocado and Tomato Eclairs

Most people think of eclairs as something filled with cream and topped with chocolate, or another decadent sweet flavor pairing . But, the pastry they’re prepared with, the ever versatile choux pastry, is an excellent casing for savory ingredients, as in these tasty and beautiful eclairs.

Verdant as a garden with a bright green avocado mousse, layers of finely sliced tomatoes, and shards of crunchy, salty bacon, these little bundles are packed with heart and soul satisfying flavor and texture in every bite while delivering an elegant play on a good, old-fashioned American BLT. Make the pastry a day ahead or a few days ahead and freeze, for quick, easy assembly for a fun cocktail party with a choux twist. This would even be a great, sexy treat for your main man or gal on Valentine’s Day.  Dress them up with a flute of Brut Champagne. Cheers!

Petite Eclairs with Avocado Mousse, Bacon Slivers and Tomatoes

(Yields 26 petite eclairs)

Bacon Avocado and Tomato Petite Eclairs

Bacon Avocado and Tomato Petite Eclairs

1 Master Recipe Savory Choux Pastry (to follow)

For the avocado mousse:

1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and skin removed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon heavy cream (Do NOT substitute a lesser fat cream or it may curdle with the lemon juice)

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons very finely chopped shallots

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

8 slices bacon, browned, drained and cut into 3”-lengths

14 grape tomatoes, rinsed and thinly sliced

Master Recipe Savory Choux Pastry

Special Equipment Needed: 2 silicon baking sheets or parchment paper, 2 half-sheet baking pans, one 12” piping bag, #806 round pastry tip, pastry brush.

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted, cold butter cut into 1/2”-cubes

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

4 room temperature large eggs (about 1 cup), beaten together

Egg wash: 1 egg, splash water and pinch kosher or sea salt, beaten together

Preheat the oven to 425F. Have everything measured and in place in advance of starting to actually prepare the choux.

In a medium, sturdy sauce pan, melt the water and butter together over medium high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium. Sift together the bread flour, AP flour and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, reserving the bowl nearby. Stir the mixture (roux) vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring the dough together, initially. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball (This should take about 1 minutes). Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl. Allow to sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 15 seconds. Add 1/2 of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy (about 1 minute). Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.

While the pastry is still warm, pipe and bake the pastry using a 1/2″-round tip onto a silicon or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Pipe so that the eclairs are all the same length and width, approximately 2 1/4″-long, 1/2″-high and 1/2″-wide. Brush the top of each pastry with a light coating of egg wash, being careful not to allow the wash to drip down the sides of the pastry.

Bake the petite eclairs for 22 to 25  minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let the pastry stand for 5 minutes. Pierce the bottom of each choux gently with the tip of a knife. Allow to cool completely before filling.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine the avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, cream, and mash with the tines of a fork or a potato masher until smooth and fluffy. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Fold in the shallots and chives and combine until smooth. Set aside. (Note: The mousse can be prepared a few hours in advance, tightly covered and refrigerated). Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Arrange the bacon in a single layer in a large sauté pan and cook until well browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Cut the bacon into 3” lengths (approximately) and set aside.

To assemble, slice the prepared eclairs  in half, horizontally, cutting all the way through each éclair. Reserve the tops and bottoms alongside their matching half. With a small spatula, spread a heaping 1 tablespoon of the avocado mousse neatly on the bottom of each éclair. Top with a trimmed piece of bacon and 3 slices of tomato, arranged prettily along the length of the éclair. Top each éclair and serve immediately on a serving platter or individual plates garnished with fresh chives.

 

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Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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