Monday, December 28, 2015

Season's Eatings

We are fortunate to be in this country and this part of the world where I prepared an embarrassing amount of decadent food for the holiday.  This year we had a few bumps in the road with our plans but dinner came out great. After a Christmas Eve with good friends consisting of Potato Leek soup, crab legs and shrimp we feasted again Christmas Day on Prime Rib Roast, Duck and various sides. I still feel full after all that but then on Sunday we entertained again, this time I made a Chicken Picatta and sorely burned the baguettes to the point of no return.

The sad part about the season this year was no church service matched our needs (work schedules) and the weather pattern so we missed the services we really needed to attend. 

Roasted perfection

Digging in.
Perfectly medium rare

On the plate we had Mushrooms roasted in duck fat, Gene's Potatoes, Asparagus with hollandaise, Roasted Duck and Roasted Prime Rib.  Whew! That was quite a meal. 

On Sunday we entertained the Kropp's and since I royally burned the bread and made a scene that would blush a teamster,  Bob reenacted the murder from Psycho with a baguette which would have dented steel or clubbed a seal to death. Such a disappointment after spending 24 hours conditioning the dough and then forgetting it in the oven.

Friday, December 25, 2015

New Icon finished and delivered

Sometime last year I was commissioned to paint an icon by a friend for his wife. Since it was not to be delivered until today, I was unable to post anything about it. This is the process and finished piece...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Soup of the French Onion

So we had a craving or at least I did and so did Mackenzie. So she agreed to join us for dinner last night as I put the finishing touches on the French Onion Soup. Brenda had a late lunch so we ate a bit later than usual and we had a visitor who should have stayed and had soup with us but did not. Sorry Mvi,  but you missed a good meal, you should have stayed.

The soup is not really that big of a deal to make. It's hard to screw up really. I did a little research and while most of the recipes called for beef or chicken broth as a base, I was intrigued and found a highly recommended stock made by Swanson. I used the low salt variety as I like to control my saltiness.  Sam's Club had a large bag of even larger sweet onions and I peeled about 4 or 5 of them.

I have a nice 5 quart cast iron that sauteed the onions for me till they were golden and it took a good hour, so don't be in such a rush.  The variety of onion really makes a difference. I thought this might be too sweet but it calmed down after a bit.

French Onion Soup

4-5 large sweet onions but use what you like, red, yellow.
2 cloves minced garlic
4 T butter
1 cup red wine
2 t thyme
1 bay leaf
1 T beef bouillon before I add the salt and I get a little flavor boost in addition.  I use the Better Than Bouillon brand.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
1 t Fish sauce
1 t apple cider vinegar

2 cartons no salt Beef Stock, chicken stock or vegetable stock.

Toasted bread
Swiss, provolone or whatever melt-y cheese you love
White Truffle butter (op) I just happen to have a tub and used it to butter the toast before broiling.  Yes please, there are no rules here.

I used my trusty mandolin and had my way with the onions in short order. I added the butter to the dutch oven and then the onions with a generous dose of salt and then let the onions cook down for about an hour keeping a close watch and very low flame, I added the garlic after a few minutes. They were golden and a nice fond on the pan came up with the addition of the wine. I added the herbs, bouillon and then the broth and allowed it to come to a boil then lowered to a simmer until the onions were good and soft, about 45 minutes. I was in no hurry.  Checked the seasoning, added salt as needed and the cider vinegar and fish sauce. Remove the bay leaf.

Spoon a good dose of soup into a heat proof bowl and top with the buttered toast and a healthy dose of your favorite cheese. Broil till the cheese is bubbly.  How is that for decadence? I read a recipe where they dosed the soup with cheese then added the crouton and more cheese on top. Too much to hope for? I think not. Great warming no meat meal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pumpernickel on a Whim

Not much to do on Saturday with no plans so time to make some bread. I had to run out and get Rye Flour since Brenda's request was for Pumpernickel. I had heard it was a tough bread to make but it actually turned out rather nicely.  We had the Baumer's come over for a bit of soup and the bread went well with the cheese soup.

As usual, I searched a bunch of recipes looking for common ground and settled on this one although since making this loaf, I have found some even more interesting recipes. Brenda asked for no caraway but now I think its essential for flavor and I will grind them in the future to add to the dough.  I used the big mixer for this as the dough can be stiff.  In the future I might make this in a loaf pan as it spreads  a bit and I wanted a thicker sandwich slice for Ruebens.

From Smitten Kitchen 

Makes 2 loaves
2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 cups medium rye flour
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup bran
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
Special equipment: Spice grinder (optional), instant-read thermometer

1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside and let cool to lukewarm warm.
3. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.
4. In bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth and beat at medium speed for three minutes. (If you don’t like whole seeds in your bread, grinding them in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle allows their flavor to come through without the texture. I always make my black bread this way.)
[Note: This, or any bread, can also be made by hand, simply mixing the ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon and kneading the dough on a counter until springy and smooth.]
5. At low speed, add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins to work its way up paddle. It will be very sticky but firm.
6. Scrape dough off paddle, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
7. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Combine cornmeal, flour and remaining caraway seeds, if using, and set aside.
8. Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds or loaves. Loaves should be placed in a loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray, while rounds should be placed seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal mixture, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it; no such slashing is needed for bread in a loaf pan.
9. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer. Baking time in your oven may vary — check in on the bread when it is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the baking time to make sure it has not super-speedily baked. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Painting Progress

Many of you might have seen I started a new page just for my studio. Please 'Like' the page and you will get updates as I post photos of works in progress if that interests you.  I was working again last night making more refinements to the 5 Saints for the Narthex Project.

What Do You Buy a Cook?

So for Christmas, why waste your time with silly, non functional gifts? What do you buy the cook? The real cook, the everyday cook?  Or that non sports guy, who has eclectic tastes and odd likes?

Lately I have been following posts regarding this, I have not really expressed any desire for myself in this regard but any of these items would make my top ten list:

I have a lot of cookbooks but I follow and really like this guy. He writes Serious Eats and this is not so much about recipes as it is the science of cooking.  I always cook my hard boiled eggs according to these instructions and am never disappointed, same with soft boiled or poached. Love, love, love.

My delightful bride and I went shopping for a gift card at a local nursery, Mulhall's,  last weekend. Kind of a high end joint with a lot of great stuff in the gift portion of the shop. A lot.   One of the things I kinda smiled at was this little kit for flights. I don't usually imbibe on a plane but if I did this would be cool. Make your own craft cocktail in a TSA approved set up. How cool is that?  I would definitely buy this for Brenda if we were jetting off somewhere soon.

Tool & Garden Tote in Olive Twill - Garden / Tool tote in olive twill

Another eye opener at Mulhall's was these bags  made locally right down the street from me at Artifact Bags. So nicely crafted and beautifully appointed with a hefty price tag's Christmas them too.

I love these little guys. Nicholas got me and air plant ( Tillandsia) and a terrarium to place it in similar to the photo. So cool I had to buy another with a pink bloom at Mulhall's while we were there.

This year for my birthday Mackenzie took photos with her photography friend, Heidi,  in my studio while I was working. If that wasn't enough, it's what she did with the photos that impressed everyone.  She picked her favorites and went to Artifact Uprising and made a Layflat album of her dear old dad. How sweet is that?  Love love love!!!

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