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March 2014 Cookbook of the Month - Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition: Starters and Small Bites Pg. 1-56

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  1. Quick Chicken Liver Pate, p.15

    I immediately craved a bite of this when flipping through the book as I haven't made pate in ages, and with an open bottle of Port in the fridge (which was only good for cooking at this point), I only needed to pick-up some chicken livers.

    To begin, sliced shallots are sauteed briefly, the livers are added for a time, then the pan is deglazed with Port (or any fortified wine, as suggested in the headnote). The mixture is then pureed in a food processor with a bit of cream cheese. At this point the recipe suggests passing the mixture through a sieve, but I chose to skip this step having never done it in the past (I don't mind the rough texture) while also heeding Barbara's warning "this is easier than it sounds".

    The end result was pleasant enough - after a few hours of chill time the mellow sweetness of the shallots and Port nicely balanced out the liver, but if you are a fan of this dish and have a favorite recipe this one probably won't replace it. I would consider it a good base recipe, however, in which herbs and other seasonings (I'm quite sure I used thyme in the past) could be added to suit your taste.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lesliej

      Quick Chicken Liver Pâté, p. 15

      Since we love chicken liver pâté and I had enough chicken livers left from the pound I bought for the Butcher Shop Bolognese as well as half a bottle of madeira (Lynch suggests it as an alternative to port) languishing in the fridge, I decided to give this recipe a whirl.

      I agree completely with lesliej--this is "pleasant enough," not very complex but enjoyable. I do have a favorite pâté (Union Square Cafe's from "Second Helpings"), and this won't replace it though it is an easier recipe and, as promised, pretty "quick."

       
    2. Brioche Pizza with Roasted Potatoes and Rosemary - p. 52

      I've only cooked two recipes from this book so far and I've already used a pound of butter. A very promising start.

      Start by making brioche dough (p. 54); once it's properly chilled, you can begin. Slice two potatoes 3/8" thick, toss with some olive oil and roast them at 375F for about 6-8 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, lightly brown half of a thinly sliced red onion with two cloves of finely chopped garlic in a saute pan. At this point you need to roll out four-ounce balls of your brioche dough to the size of your pizza trays. Four ounces did not look like very much at all to me, but I found that this dough was wonderfully stretchy, and rolled out nice and thin. As will be obvious from my photo, I couldn't get the dough to stay in a circle, but the recipe tells you that the pizzas are meant to be rustic so I just rolled until my rustic blobs were about the right size to go onto the trays. My daughter had to fold over the edges in a few places where they were hanging off the round tray. More practice is clearly needed here. :-)

      The dough is topped first with the onion/garlic mixture, then with slices of the roasted potato. Next you sprinkle on finely chopped rosemary, red pepper flakes, fleur de sel, and freshly ground black pepper. Finally, shave over some parmigiano-reggiano and bake the pizzas for about 8 minutes. Just before serving, add dollops of creme fraiche (I substituted full-fat greek yogurt.)

      This was a seriously good pizza. The wonderfully thin crust was crispy, bubbled up in a few places around the potatoes and tasted distinctly of brioche without being overpoweringly sweet. A nice balance of sweet, salty, savoury and spicy flavours. The potato, rosemary and creme fraiche (or greek yogurt) topping was new to us, and we really liked the combination. The creamy tartness of the yogurt brought all the other flavours together, but the pizza also tasted great without it. Brioche dough does require planning ahead (and a lot of butter) but I can definitely see myself using this again as it's miles better than the thin crust pizza dough that I normally make.

      This is a two-day process, but it can be a light weeknight meal (if you want, you can serve with some steak or chicken, or a salad... we just ate the pizzas on their own). I got the dough going in my mixer on the counter while making dinner on Wednesday night, put it away in the fridge, then on Friday evening I pulled the dough out and away we went.

      (And best of all, the brioche dough recipe makes such a generous amount that there's plenty left over to bake a loaf of bread... I sense French toast or bread pudding in my future.)

       
      1. TOMATO CONFIT – p. 28

        Though I’d love to try this in the summer, my love of tomatoes got the better of me and when I saw organic Roma tomatoes at the Italian market yesterday, I just had to toss some into my cart to give this recipe a try. As I read through it this morning, I appreciated that BL had anticipated that folks may be preparing this dish off-season and for those circumstances, she offered and adapted recipe.

        This is quick and easy to prepare. Tomatoes are quartered then cored and de-seeded. They are then placed in a baking dish and topped with S&P and fresh thyme (or basil in my case). EVOO is then drizzled atop and the tomatoes bake in a slow oven until done. I prepared these in advance to accompany an iceberg salad recipe later this week but with the wonderful aromas wafting from the oven, we couldn’t resist a little try today. These off-season tomatoes were sweet and deeply flavoured. As BL suggests, I’ve reserved the oil to re-purpose…likely in a pasta sauce. BL’s off-season secret you ask? Sprinkle the tomatoes w a little sugar before baking. Yum!

        Oh, and btw…for those w feline friends. These pages of Stir a kitty-approved!!!

         
         
         
        1 Reply
        1. re: Breadcrumbs

          What a cute kitty, and a lovely photo of the dish. Sounds great.

        2. Brioche Pizza with Black Olives and Fresh Ricotta Pg. 51

          Much like Geekmom I was immediately drawn to these brioche pizza recipes. I have never made brioche dough before but I have enjoyed quite a bit of it, and I thought it would be a great pairing with the salty olives and smooth ricotta for this specific recipe.

          I have to say unfortunately that this wasn't a great success for me, but I believe this isn't really the recipes fault. The toppings were lovely, and paired very well together, but my brioche crust just wasn't any good. I think there were two issues: firstly the dough was super sticky and hard to work with when doing the final kneading so I over compensated with flour and likely added far too much at the end, and secondly I don't think I rolled it out thin enough. The result was a crust that had a touch of flakiness to it, but that was somehow still a bit doughy and not crisp or cracker like as she states.

          I am not the best when it comes to pasty/dough, but I would like to improve so I might try my hand at this again.

           
          8 Replies
          1. re: delys77

            Oh man, how disappointing that your crust didn't work out as well as it could have. I'm curious, did you use a stand mixer to prepare the dough, and how long did you refrigerate afterward? I am thinking you're probably right that adding too much flour at the end may have been the culprit. I kneaded very very gently after it came out of the mixer, just enough to get a feel for the dough and then I left it alone.

            1. re: geekmom

              Yup I used the trusty kitchenaid and it got all the butter worked into the dough in about 12 minutes. Ms. Lynch then says you can use up to 1/2 a cup of additional flour in the final kneading to get the dough to a "supple" state. I think I ended up using closer to 2/3 cup of flour and then realized I didn't really know what she meant by supple dough, so I stopped kneading and refrigerated for about 6 hours. I do think it would be good to have a touch more instruction on what the dough should look like before it goes into the fridge, but I am sure I used too much flour.

              One quick question for you Geekmom, what brand of flour did you use.

              1. re: delys77

                Ooh, that makes sense. I don't think I added more than another tablespoon or two of flour at the end - just whatever the dough picked up from the liberally floured bench. I think this recipe falls short on instructions for those who don't have a lot of experience working with yeasted doughs. I have spent the past few months baking 3-4 loaves of bread every weekend and I think that helped enormously even though this was my first attempt at brioche and I had no idea how to deal with such a sticky dough. If you've ever changed a diaper, the dough should feel smooth like a baby's bottom when it's ready to rest.

                I used no name unbleached AP flour from the Superstore :-)

                1. re: geekmom

                  Thanks Geekmom, I'm using Robin Hood unbleached AP but I am definitely not cranking out the loaves like you so I'm sure the culprit is the amount of flour I used vs. your few tablespoons.

            2. re: delys77

              Just for reference, the brioche recipe in FLOUR by Joanne Chang is wonderful, and also has excellent instructions. [Because you don't own enough cookbooks.]

              1. re: smtucker

                Thanks sm, I may also look through some of my books to see if I have one with better instructions. According to EYB I have 12 recipes on my shelf already for Brioche dough, I'm sure one of them will be helpful.

                1. re: delys77

                  Of course! Joanne Chang won a throw down, so her brioche recipe is on foodnetwork.com. This is the only brioche recipe I have ever made that is totally worth every, single, lovely, buttery calorie.

                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jo... .

                  This recipe even has the weights, which ensures you have correct amounts.

                  1. re: smtucker

                    Weights thank goodness, so much easier for me. Thanks for the link sm.

            3. HAM and CHEESE PUFF PASTRY BITES with HONEY MUSTARD, p. 07

              Puff pastry, ham, gruyere, homemade honey mustard--really, could anyone object? (Maybe if one is counting calories . . .)

              Dramatic when it first come out of the oven, domed and brown, and still impressive after it settles, this is perfect for a party.

              And it's relatively easy: You roll out puff pastry (I used Whole Foods brand, which is all butter and about 50% cheaper than Dufour's), and lay into a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and spread it with honey mustard (a puree of slow-sauteed thinly sliced onions, honey, and dijon), then layered with thin-sliced ham (I used "Black Forest") and grated gruyere. Then you top with another layer of puff pastry, brush w/egg wash, seal edges, sprinkle w/sea salt, and top w/a sheet of parchment paper and another cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes @ 375F.

              You then remove cookie sheet and parchment and bake another 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven; transfer to cutting surface. Rest for at least 10 minutes. Then cut into bite-size pieces. (One recipe yields lots of "bite-sized" squares--60 in my case)

              My first thought was that the "homemade" honey mustard was a fussy step, but in fact that turned out to be pretty easy, adding an extra layer of flavor well worth the extra bit of effort. I took this to a social event, where it was definitely a hit. Highly recommended.

               
               
              2 Replies
                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                  Looks great NMC, I also really like the puff pastry from Whole Foods.