Sunday, February 23, 2014

ChezCindy: Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream & Chocolate Sauce

Profiteroles are a French pastry dessert which are filled with ice cream and served with warm chocolate sauce.  Kind of a grown-up ice cream sandwich.  The dough, called pate a choux or choux pastry, is easy to make even for beginners.  The pastry dough is formed into round mounds onto a baking sheet.  While baking, it puffs up creating big air bubbles, that form the inner space to be filled.  

Choux Pastry Dough
1 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
pinch of kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the milk, butter and pinch of salt over medium heat until the milk is scalded, and the butter is melted.  Add in the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes, until it comes together to form a dough.  The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan. 
Transfer the hot flour mixture to a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Pulse 2-3 times to disperse some of the heat.  Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick and smooth. 

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Secure the parchment paper by placing a tiny bit of dough on each corner of the baking sheet, pressing the paper to stick to the dough.  This step will keep the paper in place and prevent it from sliding.  

Working with the 2 prepared baking sheets, pipe the dough into mounds, spacing about an inch apart, or you can use 2 spoons to scoop out the dough and shape into round mounds.  With a wet finger, lightly press out any tips or peaks to create a smooth surface top.  

Place each baking sheet into the preheated oven.  Bake for 18 minutes, rotating the pans, halfway through the baking time.  Turn off the oven, allow the puffs to remain in the oven for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. 

Chocolate Sauce
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cognac (optional)
Place the cream into a small saucepan.  Over medium-high heat, heat the cream until it just begins to boil.  Remove from the heat. 

Place the chopped chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.  Add the honey to the chocolate.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let the mixture sit for 30 seconds allowing the chocolate to begin to melt.  Whisk the mixture until smooth.  Add the teaspoon of cognac, if using, whisk to combine.  

To make the profiteroles:  Cut the profiterole puff in half across the middle to create a top and a bottom.  Fill the bottom half with a small scoop of ice cream.  Replace the top and drizzle with warm chocolate sauce. 


Sunday, February 9, 2014

ChezCindy: Beef Pot Roast...a Perfect Winter Meal

When the weather forecast calls for big snow, many of us scurry to stop at the grocery store to pick up bread, milk and other basic necessities.  Be sure to include a big chuck roast and plan on enjoying a perfect winter meal. 

The pot roast recipe I use is truly basic.  But, by following a few tips you will create a perfect pot roast dinner. 

Use a heavy bottomed oven pan with a tight-fitting lid.  My go to is Le Creuset.  Expensive, but worth it.  A solid cast iron oven pan with a lid that seals in the moisture is a must-have for any braising meal. 

Deeply brown the meat.  Take your time with this step as this always takes longer than you might think.  Browning provides the depth of flavor and makes great gravy.  Deeply brown on all sides.

Add a bit of acid once the meat is brown.  I use a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, plus a half cup of red wine.  This will deglaze the bits of brown goodness that have crusted on the bottom of the pan.  The acidity balances out the richness of the fatty meat. 

Add enough liquid to come up 2/3 of the way up the sides of the meat.  Never cover the meat completely.  You can use water, wine or stock.

Cover with the tight-fitting lid, and slow roast for 2-3 hours, turning the meat over a few times during the braising time.  Again, take your time with this step.  This is where the braising magic happens.

Perfect Pot Roast
1 3 to 4 pound boneless chuck roast
Salt & ground black pepper
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup of coarsely chopped onions
1 cup of coarsely chopped carrots
1 cup of coarsely chopped celery
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry red wine
4 cups beef stock
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pat the roast dry and season with salt and pepper.  Working with a heavy bottomed oven pan, heat the oil over medium high heat; add the seasoned roast to the pan.  Deeply brown on all sides, about 20 - 25 minutes.  Once completely browned, transfer the roast to a plate; set aside. 

Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery to the pan, cook until the vegetables begin to brown, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the sprigs of thyme and tomato paste, cooking about 2 minutes.  Add in the red wine vinegar and the dry red wine.  Cook until the wine is reduced in volume by half. 
Place the roast back into the pan, including any juices that have collected on the plate.  Add in enough beef stock to come up 2/3 of the way up the sides of the meat.  Cover with the pan lid; place in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 to  3 hours.  During the braising time, turn the roast over 2-3 times .  If the liquid reduces while cooking, add an additional 1/2 cup of broth or water to the pan. 

Remove from the oven, transfer the roast to a plate covering loosely with foil.  Strain the liquid from the pan into a large bowl.  Discard the vegetables as they have given up all of their goodness.  Pour the liquid back into the roasting pan.  Place over medium high heat, bringing to a boil.  In a small bowl, mix together the soft butter and the flour to form a paste.  Whisk about half of the butter paste into the boiling liquid, whisking vigorously until the paste is dissolved into the liquid.  Continue adding more of the butter paste until the liquid has thickened into a glossy gravy. 

Serve the pot roast with roasted vegetable, mashed potatoes and biscuits for a hearty winter meal.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

ChezCindy: Yummy Brussels Sprouts... really

I like brussels sprouts.  No one else in my house does.  But that's okay.  I make them quite often for myself.  Roasting them, or a quick sauté over high heat, brings out the best flavor.  The high heat gives them color, turning the outer leaves into crispy bites, making them delicious and not over-cooked.  

I have a small collection of recipes that I switch up depending on my mood.  Roasting the brussels with chopped pecans or sautéing them with crisp bacon and dried currents are two favorites.  I recently discovered a recipe using Asian sauces that was unique from my usual list of ingredients.  The results were quite yummy, served with brown rice made a light weekday meal.  But just for me. 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Thai Chile Sauce

1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon fish sauce or soy sauce
2 heaping tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut the larger brussels sprouts into halves or quarters, leaving the small ones whole.  Place them into a bowl, tossing them with the vegetable oil.  Transfer the sprouts to the foil lined sheet pan; reserve the bowl to make the sauce.  

Cook the brussels in the hot oven for about 7 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Set the oven to broil.  Meanwhile, combine the garlic, fish sauce and sweet chili sauce in the reserved bowl.  Place the partially cooked brussels back into the bowl with the sauce.  Toss to coat evenly.  Transfer the brussels back to the sheet pan, broil for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.