Friday, October 24, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Cream of Chestnut Soup

I am so happy it's Friday.  I know you understand.  And I feel like this every week.  Because Friday means I (usually) have two days where I don't have to put out fires.  Or deal with ridiculously complicated situations that pop up.   I always imagine the weekend means I'll have time for myself, and even though that rarely happens, the fantasy persists.

This weekend we're prepping for Halloween!  Decorating the house, watching movies, carving pumpkins.  It's my most favorite time of year.  Along with the seasonal food that comes along with it.  

I wrote earlier that Kim Sunee uses chestnuts a lot in the book, often in ways I'm not accustomed to.   This is a recipe that I can get behind though.  Chestnut soup.  So perfectly autumnal, right?  Doesn't it just sound like something you would serve at Thanksgiving? 

The soup is sweet, a combination of the roasting of the chestnuts and the creme de marrons.  And with the warmth, it really brings to memories those street-corner roasted chestnuts.

Cream of Chestnut Soup (From Trail of Crumbs)
1 tsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
14 oz roasted chestnut
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 to 4 sprigs thyme
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 to 2 tsps creme de marrons 
  1. Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium high heat.  Add shallots and apple and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add chestnuts, salt, pepper, and thyme.  Stir and let cook about 1 minute.
  3. Add broth and bring to a boil, skimming fat as it rises.  Reduce heat to medium low and let cook about 25 minutes or until chestnut and apple are tender.  Remove from heat.
  4. Remove thyme sprigs and discard.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer chestnut, apple, and shallot to blender nad puree until smooth.
  5. Add a little broth if too thick.  Pour back into the soup pot.  Heat to low. 
  6. Stir in cream.
  7. Stir in creme de marrons.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: La Daube Provencale

This is not a weeknight meal.  This is a hang home all day and let things simmer kind of meal. Which is one of my favorite kinds.  Because it means I get to be home all day.  And that rarely happens.  Last weekend we had an uncharacteristically empty weekend.  Just a birthday party Saturday morning.

And yet, somehow we ended up going to a pumpkin patch, getting Thatbaby's hair cut, running some errands, painting tombstones and attending a street fair.  You know, your basic do-nothing weekend.

I much prefer the weekends where I can hang out at home with my family, smelling the wafting scent of marinated beef cooking and listening to the little bubbles popping as it gets softer and more tender over the hours.

Red wine adds depth and complexity to this relatively simple dish, and the orange adds a new flavor element.  Sunee adds tapenade to thicken it, but I didn't find it to really add anything.  Served over polenta, it's the perfect way to end a lazy day at home.  If those actually happened.

La Daube Provencale (From Trail of Crumbs)
3 lbs beef chuck
3 medium onions, quartered
3 to 4 carrots, cut lengthwise and cut into thirds
bouquet garni
3 cups dry red wine
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 orange
1 1/2 to 2 cups beef stock
2 to 3 Tbsp black olive tapenade

  1. Combine beef and 2 of the onions and next 3 ingredients in large bowl.  Let marinate 5 to 6 hours.
  2. Heat bacon on medium high in a large heavy-bottom pot about 5 minutes.
  3. Place flour in a shallow bowl.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove beef with a slotted spoon and drain well.
  6. Lightly dredge beef chunks in flour, adding a little more flour, as needed.
  7. Add beef to pot and let brown, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  8. Add remaining onion and let cook about 5 minutes.
  9. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and a strip of orange rund, and stir.
  10. Add reserved wine marinade (reserve onions, carrots, and bouquet garni)  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium high and let wine reduce, skimming fat, about 15 minutes.
  11. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups beef stock or water, stir.
  12. Add reserved onion, carrot, and bouquet garni.  Stir and cover pot and let cook on low heat about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. 
  13. Remove orange rind and bouquet garni and discard.
  14. Zest remaining orange and add to pot.
  15. Squeeze juice from the orange, add to pot and stir.  Let cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  16. Heat on medium to warm before serving and stir in tapenade.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Gratin de Salsify

If I learned one thing from my experience introducing Thatboy and Thatbaby to vegetables it's that everything is better gratin-ized.

If I learned two things, it would be that bacon gets most people to like vegetables.

These are two very important rules to keep in mind when you are embarking on a new adventure with a new vegetable.  Which is why I was only a little scared when I saw this recipe for salsify.  Salsify is a new one for me, and not an especially attractive vegetable, since it looks like a stick.

Sunee says that this is a twist on a Belgian dish using endives and ham.  Between you and I, I think I might like that version better, based on my experience with celery gratin.  But this wasn't bad, which is to be expected when you have a vegetable wrapped in prosciutto and buried in a cheesy creamy sauce.

Gratin de Salsify (From Trail of Crumbs)
4 to 5 stalks salsify, trimmed, peeled, and rinsed
2 to 3 lemon slices
2 to3 bay leaves
1/2 to 1/2 tsp salt
6 to 8 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 to 2 cups Mornay sauce
12 slices prosciutto

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Cut salsify into 4 inch pieces.
  2. Combine salsify and next 3 ingredients in a large pot.
  3. Add enough chicken broth or water to cover.  Bring to a boil and let cook about 8 minutes or until salsify is tender but not mushy.  Gently remove salsify with a slotted spoon and let cool.
  4. Spoon a third of the mornay sauce in bottom of a baking dish.
  5. Wrap each salsify with prosciutto and place seam side down on top of sauce in baking dish.
  6. Cover with remaining mornay sauce.
  7. Top with grated cheese and a crack of fresh pepper.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: French Fry Po-Boy with Horseradish Creme Fraiche

Certain areas are known for certain food specialties.  In San Diego, it's Fish Tacos and Carne Asada fries.   When I lived outside of Pittsburgh, it was pierogies and Primanti Brothers sandwiches.  What separates a Primanti Brothers sandwich from elsewhere is the inclusion of french fries, IN the sandwich.  For the first 30something years of my life, I was under the impression it was a specialty unique to Western PA.  It's a genius idea, but really, who needs french fries sandwiched between bread?  Crazy midwesterners, that's who.

But in reading Trail of Crumbs, Sunee introduced me to the Southern variation.  New Orleans is known for a variety of food specialties too, including the "Po-Boy"  (which is one of Thatboy's favorites) a sandwich on a french baguette.  Typically I've had po-boys filled with meat, or shrimp, but according to Sunee, french fries are also a traditional choice.   She speaks of bars that had these delivered to patrons, and really, that makes sense too.  What sounds better after a night of drinking than french fries, slathered with horseradish cream, between a buttery french roll?

French Fry Po-Boy with Horseradish Creme Fraiche (From Trail of Crumbs)
2 large yukon gold potatoes
1 cup canola oil
sea salt
fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp horseradish
hot sauce
1 loaf french bread

  1. Peel potatoes then cut lengthwise into quarter-inch-thick sticks.  Rinse potatoes in several changes of cold water.  Drain in a colander, spread cut potatoes in a single layer on several paper towels, and pat very dry.
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until it begins to shimmer.  Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Once oil is ready, fry potatoes, turning occasionally, about 6-7 minutes per batch, until golden.  Transfer fries with a slotted spoon to a baking pan lined with several layers of dry paper towels.
  3. Sprinkle fries with salt and pepper and keep warm in oven.
  4. Combine creme fraiche, mayonnaise, lemon juice and horseradish in a small bowl. 
  5. Season with salt to taste.
  6. Add a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired.  
  7. Pile onto french bread.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mommy Mondays: The Third Birthday

When we originally started thinking about Thatbaby's birthday, we thought perhaps Dinosaur Train would be the way to go.  And then started the obsession with Shrek.  

It happened right before we moved.  He was home sick and I popped on the movie, since we surprisingly own few child-friendly movies.  But Thatdad and I had a thing about Shrek, so I owned almost the entire series, up until the one that came out after he died.   And we watched them.  All of them.  Over and over again.  Thatbaby loved Shrek and everything about it.  He literally watched it every day.

So it only made sense for him to have a Shrek-themed birthday party, so we invited our guests to join us at the Swamp.

Which meant turning our home into a swamp.  Thatboy took this as his cue to stop mowing our lawn so everything would be overgrown and swamp-like.  I kind of thought decorating the driveway would be enough.

It ended up being a bigger thing than I was expecting.  So we spread out our dirt, reeds, lily pads.  Hung swampy nets and scattered moss.  Set up a fog machine and a soundtrack of fog noises.

After our guests made it through the swamp, they were greeted at the gate with a warning.

Although what they saw when they entered the yard didn't really need that kind of a warning.

The kids spent a lot of their time in the bounce house, but of course we had refreshments for both Thatbaby's friends and their families.

I got completely swamped once the guests arrived, so I didn't have time to take a picture of the completed table, but the menu included:

Swamp Rat Skewers - chicken tender skewers

In The Morning We're Having Waffle (Fries) - Waffle Fries

Fish Eye Stew - Yogurt Bar

Ogres Are Like Onions (Dip) - Veggies and Onion Dip

Swamp Balls -  Green Cheese Balls (courtesy of Halloween at Target)


Swamp Water - Water

Fuzzy Navels For All My Friends - peach nectar, orange juice, and sparkling water

We sent the kids home with little goodie bags, filled with gifts from the Fairy Godmother (Happiness is Just a Tear Drop Away bubbles), Shrek (Shrek ears), and Gingy (Gingerbread Cookies).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Runday: CHOC Walk

I've got a soft spot for children and Disney.  Put the two of them together, and well, you have a sweet deal.  Which is why every year when I get the notification for the annual CHOC (Children's Hospital of Orange County) Walk I donate a little something.

The theory of the walk warms my heart.  Disneyland opens its doors and CHOC's children, their families, and supporters.  The walk itself is filled with shirts proclaiming the names and ages of children who passed through its doors, and some who passed beyond. 

I've been donating since before Thatbaby was born.  But now that he's 3, and actually might get something out of Disneyland, I thought participating in the walk would be a good introduction for him.  And then we could spend the day in Disneyland after.

I told my family that we were doing the walk, and everyone wanted to join in.  So early last Sunday morning, we all met up in the Mickey and Friends parking lot (Coincidentally.  We were supposed to meet at Downtown Disney but ended up parking right behind Thatbrother.)

To say this walk was popular would be an understatement.  It was wall to wall people.  So much so that it took us almost an hour to actually enter the park.  And once inside, you could barely move as people shuffled along slowly.  Pushing two strollers through this madness was exactly what Thatbrother and I would call a nightmare.  I have to say, I adore my brother so much because of our similarities.  It's nice to have someone to grouse with as you try to steer past hundreds of people who aren't moving.

On the plus side, Thatbaby got to see so much of the parks.  We were only planning on visiting Disneyland that day, but because of the walk, we got to visit California Adventure too.  Which was especially exciting because that's where Lightning McQueen lives.

It also had gotten much lighter in flow of people by the time we got to California Adventure, which meant we had some breathing room and could enjoy ourselves more.  But we were also tired by that point because this little 5k was nearing hour 2.

The other good part of the walk was that he got to see so many characters.  Some he knew, some he didn't.  He got up close and personal with Minnie and was thoroughly impressed with Sleeping Bue-lee and the fact she had a castle right there.  The one complaint I had was that the big mouse himself was no where to be found.  Really?  No Mickey?  I had one really disappointed kid.

In general, the walk was overwhelming and disappointing for me.  With the crowds and lack of organization (and Mickey) I think we'll go back to just donating instead of participating.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Kimchi Soup

When you have a child, you inevitably hope that some of your best attributes get passed on to them.  "I hope he has your kindness."  "I hope he has my sense of humor."  

Inevitably though, you also pass on some of your less best attributes.  It appears I have passed on my faulty tonsils to Thatbaby as we are dealing with his second round of strep throat since September.  That's once a month, for those of you bad with math.  Exacerbated by the fact that we discovered he has a Penicillin allergy during the last go-around.

As a child, I had strep throat so often that I ended up having to get those faulty tonsils removed.  And if Thatbaby continues on this path, I forsee a similar future for him.  For now, it's time to stock the fridge with ice cream, orange juice, and soups.

Personally, although Thatbaby didn't appreciate it, I think this Kimchi soup is perfect for sick days.  The ginger, garlic, and kick of the kimchi helps to clear up sinuses.  And of course, soup just slides right now sore throats.  Plus leafy greens are great for iron - and just ask Popeye what that does for you.

Kimchi Soup (From Trail of Crumbs)
1 tsp peanut or vegetable oil
 1 1/2 to 2 lbs boneless pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
3 to 4 cloves garlic
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
6 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 cups kimchi
4 green onions
  1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat.  Season pork with 1/2 tsp salt and add to pot.  Let pork brown 8 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and ginger and stir.
  3. Add stock, stir, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Skim fat as it starts to simmer and froth.
  4. Add 1 to 2 cups kimchi, stir, and let simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours until pork is fork tender.
  5. Stir in the green onions and remaining kimchi.  Taste and add more salt, as needed.