Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lemony Sour Cream Pancakes with Caramelized Apples

There are some weird people out there that do not like breakfast for dinner.


What could be better than pancakes and bacon and orange juice (or a mimosa!) at 6:00 p.m.?

We had this the other night.  I got the idea from the Lund's and Byerly's "Read Food" magazine.  They are a local grocery store chain and the magazine comes out quarterly, free for the taking.  Always great recipes!

I changed things up a bit, but stuck to the general idea of the tart and fresh taste of lemon and the creamy goodness of the sour cream.  The caramelized apples were very easy to make, and I cooked the bacon and sausage in the oven.  Everything can be made ready ahead of time and kept in a warm oven until serving.

My gang gobbled them up.  There were 3 pancakes, one sausage, and a few apples left for Eric's lunch the next day.

Lemony Sour Cream Pancakes

2 cups full-fat sour cream
4 extra large eggs (I used 5 large)
1/2 cup milk
zest from one lemon
a few drops of lemon essential oil (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or use all white)
butter for frying
maple syrup for serving

Put all ingredients in a large, deep bowl.  Using a wire whisk, stir and whip quickly, but a few lumps are ok.  You can refrigerate the batter for a few hours or overnight if necessary.

Heat a griddle and grease with the butter.  Pour 1/4 cup amounts of batter and fry until golden.  Serve with the apples and maple syrup.

Caramelized Apples

4-5 large apples (gala, granny smith, honeycrisp, whatever you like), room temperature
4 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter.  Wash and cut the apple into 8 wedges, leaving the peel on.  Arrange wedges in the skillet so they are crammed in, but not on top of each other.  Sprinkle with the salt and sugar.  Stir from time to time until they are browned and syrupy, but still intact.  It should take about 7-8 minutes.

If there are any apples leftover, they are great in oatmeal or crepes!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Valentine Cake

This is basically a yellow cake.

From scratch, please.

But it's filled with NUTELLA.

And it has pink frosting and strawberries.

For something like this, trust the Betty Crocker cookbook.  Yellow cake recipe.  And a basic buttercream frosting.

But please, try the Nutella filling.  If you haven't experienced the glory of this product, run - don't walk - to the grocery store and head to the peanut butter aisle.  Look up on the top shelf.  Get the big jar, because you'll want some leftover to put on toast or crepes.  What on earth could ever be wrong with chocolate hazelnut spread, right?

It may or may not be good eaten directly from the jar with a spoon, but Sassy will neither confirm nor deny such a claim.  You and your thighs are on your own in that department.

Oh, look!  There's Eric and the kids, assembling and decorating the cake.  I bake, he does the hard part.  I have no patience for such work when there's a handy man around to do it for me.  He can't work with a chainsaw ALL afternoon.  Aren't they cute kids?

Sassy Valentine Cake

2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs

In a large bowl, beat all ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly.  Increase speed to high and mix for 3 minutes, scraping occasionally.

Pour into pans that have been buttered and floured (one 9 x 13, two 9 inch rounds, or three 8 inch rounds).  Bake at 350 (40 minutes for the large pan, 25-35 for rounds) - testing with a toothpick in the center that comes out clean.

Cool before frosting!

Buttercream Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 drops red food coloring

Beat until fluffy and smooth.


Assemble cake:  Spread Nutella between layers.  Frost top and sides with buttercream frosting.  Decorate with strawberries.

Happy Valentine's Day from the Sassy Sweathearts!

Balsamic Venison (or Beef)

The last of our venison steaks and chops got eaten the other night.  It's a very sad day when that happens around here.  The mighty hunters only got one deer last fall, which is better than none, but it doesn't last very long around these parts!

This is an easy-peasy recipe you can make with beef or venison.  Small steaks (or chops) work the best, and they need to be of the tender variety because they don't cook for very long.

I served these with wild rice, steamed baby carrots tossed with butter, honey and Dijon mustard, and a green salad.  My kids have grown up eating all sorts of wild game, so they are not only used to it, they LOVE it.  We all do.

Of the 8 pieces of meat I cooked, there was one left for Eric to take for lunch the next day, lucky man.

 Balsamic Venison

6-8 small venison steaks or chops
2 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper
1 large shallot, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons butter

In your largest skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Dry the meat with paper towels.  When the oil is shimmery and very hot, add the steaks without crowding them in the skillet.  Season the top side with salt and pepper and brown for 2-3 minutes.  Turn, season again, and brown for another 2 minutes.  Remove to a plate.

Add the shallots and mushrooms to the pan.  Turn the heat down to medium and saute for 4-5 minutes until just browning.  Add the wine and vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter.  Return the steaks to the pan and turn them over in the sauce.  Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes, turning the steaks once or twice.

Taste the sauce, add more salt and pepper if it needs it, and the extra tablespoon of butter if you want a bit more rich, silky texture.

You know you do.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Hi - I've missed being here!

Today, the Sassy Family celebrated Valentine's Day.  I was out of town on the actual day (sunning on the beach in FL, visiting my parents, mmm hmm), so we postponed our fun until today when we all together.

I wanted to make a special meal for my loves, and it's been ages since I've made Julia Child's famous "Burgundy Beef," and I rather enjoy spending an entire day in the kitchen, and, well, here it is!

If you want to really go for it, I recommend following Julia's recipe (or my version below), not caring that it takes a good part of the day to make and way too many pots needing to be washed.  It's such a nice process, there's so much basic cookery to learn by doing each step, and the end result is luxurious and completely worth all the trouble.

Get a great mix of Pandora stations going and get to it!

It's a good idea to make sure you have all your ingredients assembled:

And then you ought to taste the wine you're using in the recipe - just to see if it's the right one - and I am serious when I say you do NOT have to use Burgundy, nor does it have to be expensive, nor does it have to be French!  It has to taste nice and be something you'd drink with the finished dish.  In fact, I recommend you get two bottles - one for the pot and one to serve.  We like L'Authentique (a French red table wine) and we get it at Trader Joe's for all of about five or six dollars a bottle.

This recipe comes mainly from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" with a few modifications of my own.  You can watch the very fun and charming episode from "The French Chef" which also helped me through making it (and skipping some of the steps from the cookbook). .

(I used 4 pounds of stew meat and this made enough for our family of 8 for dinner and enough for another set of lunch meals tomorrow.  I served it with buttered egg noodles, a green salad, and French bread.)

Boeuf Bourguignon

6 ounces of thick-cut bacon, diced
1 tablespoon grapeseed or light olive oil
5 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 pounds beef stew meat (chuck is nice)
more oil, if needed
3 cups red wine
2-3 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (crimini or white button), cleaned, stemmed and quartered
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 - 1 pound bag frozen pearl onions
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup dry white wine (or just use all beef broth if you like)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
fresh flat-leafed parsley, chopped
boiled potatoes or egg noodles for serving

In a large skillet, brown the bacon in the oil.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a large dutch oven (enameled cast iron if you have it!).  Pour off most of the fat, then saute the carrot, shallot and garlic in the skillet for just a few minutes.  Add to the dutch oven and season with salt and pepper.  If a bit more oil is needed, add it to the skillet now and turn up the heat to medium high.

DRY the pieces of beef which will help them brown in the skillet rather than steam.  Add them to the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan, and brown them on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove each  batch with a slotted spoon and add to your dutch oven.  Repeat until all the beef is browned.  Pour off any remaining fat/oil from the pan, return it to the heat and pour in the red wine.

Scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen up all the good brown bits.  Pour all the liquid from the skillet into the dutch oven, plus enough of the beef broth to come just to the top of the meat and vegetables.  Add the thyme, bay leaves, tomato paste and a bit of salt and pepper.  Bring this a simmer on the stove top, then cover and place in a 325 degree oven.

This will now take about 2-3 hours to simmer, depending on the size and cut of stew meat.  While the stew is cooking, prepare the mushrooms and onions.

Rinse and dry your large skillet, place on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons butter and one tablespoon oil.  When the "foam of the butter subsides" add the mushrooms (do it in two batches, don't crowd the pan!).  Shake the pan a bit, do NOT add salt yet, and let them brown for 4-5 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan.  Remove to a bowl, and sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Rinse and dry your skillet again, placing over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil.  When the foam subsides, add the bag of onions and a bit of salt.  Shake the skillet a bit and try to get the onions evenly browned but handle them gently so the skins stay intact.  When they are nicely browned, add the beef broth and the wine, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the liquid is evaporated and the onions are glossy and brown all over.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

(onions before, and after)

When the stew is done (tender meat, flavorful sauce) remove it from the oven.  Pour it carefully into a strainer set over a sauce pot.  Put the meat and vegetables back into the dutch oven, add the onions and mushrooms. Skim the fat off the top of the sauce and heat to a simmer over medium, skimming any fat that rises to the top.

In a small bowl, mash together the 2 tablespoons each of butter and flour, making a paste.  Add this to the simmer sauce and whisk it well.  Pour the sauce over the stew and you're essentially done!

Heat the stew over low for a few minutes, tasting the sauce and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Before serving, sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

It's even BETTER the next day.