Thinking Ahead: Cook All The Things!

I am a bit of an obsessive about lists, so I love this time of year. Lists of presents to buy, places to go, gifts to ship, and my very, very favorite: goals for 2018. I love that!

I don’t feel bad if I don’t conquer that last list right away; I look at resolutions for the new year ahead as pleasant aspirations, not mountains to conquer. Even if I never quite hit the actual mark, I’ll have made some forward progress in my life nonetheless. My biggest challenge is to not over-commit; I get so enthusiastic about all of the things I would love to do, and the delight of that fresh start of a new calendar…I want to tackle everything!

Not a good idea, of course, so I’m publicly proclaiming my intention to focus on…FOOD.

More specifically, cooking for The Global Reader. Despite the very best intentions, I’m exiting 2017 18 countries behind – kind of dilutes the power of my tagline, doesn’t it?
“Reading (and eating) my way around the world super slowly and out of sync” just doesn’t have a compelling ring to it…

Procrastination

So. Time to tackle the backlog. I’m going to invite people over to help me cook, photograph, and eat all of the good things waiting on my attention.
Global Sunday Suppers!

Here’s a list of the countries we’ll be working through over the first half of 2018:

Albania
Trinidad & Tobago
Costa Rica
Djibouti
Australia
Panama
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Cayman Islands
Romania
Bolivia
Cyprus
South Africa
Hong Kong
New Zealand
Portugal
Japan
Guatemala
Libya

That’s a lot, but because I am who I am, I’ll also wrap up a list of recipes from a British Monarchy Cooking class I took last year, and possibly an Ancient Roman dinner, and a Harry Potter-inspired menu as well. I hope to add more fun stuff like those to my cooking experiences, so if you happen to have a time period/literary character/movie/anything you’d like to tackle…let me know. Let’s cook all of the things!

let-the-feast-begin

 

 

The Culinary Adventure of Cookbook Club: My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Introducing a whole new side trip for this blog: a cookbook club! In truth, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been cooking with this great group of people for over two years now, and it’s one of the great pleasures of my life. The culinary experience of our little gang ranges from professional chefs, to enthused hobbyists (hello!), to a some very busy moms who love to have an excuse to cook up a storm once in awhile. We embrace whatever everyone brings to the table, because it is all good.

Selection of cooked dishes on a countertop
Cookbook Club! (image by The Global Reader)
We meet once every other month, and hosting duties rotate. The current host picks the cookbook, and then everyone selects their dish or dishes from there. It’s a great system, and we are clicking along nicely with the format. We’ve also started to add more informal dinners on the off-months, but that’s a post for another time…

This month, the cookbook was My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz. If you’ve caught any of the of the hype around this book, go ahead and believe it because it is EXCELLENT.

The first dish I brought to the party: Chicken with Mustard. Straight-forward ingredients, relaxing to cook, so good to eat; this is a keeper.


Chicken with Mustard (adapted from My Paris Kitchen)

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika ( I used smoked)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 8 pieces dark-meat, bone-in, skin-on chicken (separate thighs and drumsticks; 4 to 5 pounds total) ( I used boneless thighs, since I knew some folks prefer that)
  • 1 cup diced smoked thick-cut bacon
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme) I used dry
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed (may substitute coarse-grain mustard)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or heavy cream ( I used heavy cream)
  • Warm water (optional)
  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives, for garnish
Directions

Mix 1/2 cup of the Dijon mustard in a bowl with the paprika, a few generous grinds of pepper and the salt. Toss the chicken pieces in the mustard mixture, lifting the skin and rubbing some of the mixture underneath. Note: I had a combo of drumsticks, and then boneless thighs. I knew that a few of our group preferred chicken off the bone (as does my husband), so I wanted to see how that would go. Tastes just as good!

Line a plate with a few layers of paper towel. Heat a large, wide skillet with a cover, or a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until it has crisped and browned and most of its fat has rendered. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon pieces to the lined plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet.

Add the onion and stir to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion is softened and mostly translucent. Stir in the thyme; cook for a few minutes, until fragrant, then use a spatula to scrape the contents of the skillet into a large bowl.

Return the skillet or Dutch oven to medium-high heat; once it’s quite hot, add the chicken pieces skin side down; if they don’t fit, work in two batches, adding oil as needed. Cook until well-browned on the bottom, then turn the pieces over and cook to achieve good color on the second side; this might take 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the onion.

Pour the wine into the pan to deglaze it, keeping clear of the steam that rises. Use a firm spatula to quickly dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. (This is the key to the whole dish. Get all of that browned up goodness into the sauce!)

Return all of the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet or Dutch oven and add the onion mixture and bacon. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over a few times during cooking. To check for doneness, insert the sharp tip of a knife into the meat next to the thigh bone; if the meat is still pink, cook for a few more minutes.

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the skillet or Dutch oven from the heat. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, the mustard seed and the crème fraîche or heavy cream to form a sauce. If it seems too thick, stir in a little warm water.

Sprinkle chopped parsley or chives over the top. Serve hot.

Chicken with Mustard in an orange Dutch oven
Chicken with Mustard from My Paris Kitchen (image by The Global Reader)

 

I also made the Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse. Hello! SO GOOD! I’m sort of sad to know that I can make this, because now I always will and there’s no chance of ever being skinny again.  Oh well!

I’m just going to link out to Epicurious for this one, since my photos of the mousse are terrifying. Note to self: chocolate doesn’t look awesome just flatly photographed on a white plate. One note before I send you on your way: I made this twice, once with semisweet chocolate, and then with bittersweet. Both are fantastic, but I recommend the latter. The mousse is already very sweet with the caramel sauce; you don’t need the extra sugar at all.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse

An absolute 5 star rating for this cookbook! Go buy it now, and cook happy!

Tudor Cooking: Tarte Owte of Lent

I’m just getting started with a really fun online class, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, a collaboration between University of Reading and Historic Royal Palaces.

I’ve been a history nerd most of my life, and I’ve always had a very soft spot for those most rowdy of English monarchs, the Tudors. All those good stories…and as luck would have it, the first week of this course is focused on foods that appeared on the tables of Henry VIII, so I’ve been super excited to dive right in.

The lesson focused on a savory cheese tart that was one of the first dishes served right after Lent, because it’s loaded with goodies folks had been denied for 40 days: cheese, cream, butter, eggs. You know, the stuff of life.

Very easy to make, and so tasty. It certainly isn’t low-calorie, but it is the definition of respecting high-quality ingredients in a very clean, simple way. This will be going into the regular rotation at my humble home…

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Tarte Owte of Lent (image by The Global Reader)

Tarte Owte of Lent (Tart Out of Lent)

adapted from a recipe from Historic Royal Palaces

Ingredients: to make 6-8 portions

For the filling

  • 1/3 pound  Cheddar cheese (I used a really good Welsh Cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 medium sized egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste ( I wanted this to be peppery, so I used a couple big pinches)

For the pastry case

  • 1 package frozen deep-dish pie crust (2 crusts), thawed
  • Egg yolks for glazing

Instructions:

  • Chop or shred the cheese and then pound in a mortar
  • Add cream, egg and butter and mix together to make a thick cream (about the consistency of Cottage Cheese – add more cream if too dry, more cheese if too wet)
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter a 9 or 10 inch tart pan
  • Roll out your bottom crust, and press into prepared tart pan
  • Fill with cheese, cream, egg and butter mixture
  • Roll out the second crust, a bit thinner this time then fold out as a lid.
  • Seal and glaze with egg yolks
  • Bake at 375°F for 35-40 minutes, or until golden
  • Allow to cool a little and serve

I served it with a simple salad of lettuce and mint (herbs were commonly used in salads during that period), dressed with oil and vinegar. I also put a little cherry ginger jam on the side of the tart. We learned in our class that Henry was particularly fond of fruit jellies and jams, and cherries and ginger were ingredients commonly encountered at his court. I also just got back from a trip to Northern Michigan (cherries everywhere!) and was thrilled to come across this wonderful stuff from a company called Cherry Stop while I was there. You should get some; nicely gingery, and not too sweet.

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A serving of the tart with cherry ginger jam on the side, and a simple salad (Image by The Global Reader)

And to finish this up, I have to toss in some pics from my recent trip to Hampton Court.
An overcast, blustery day in late January. Hardly anyone there. My husband and I just wondered around, taking it all in. We even got to be alone with this crackling fire for a few minutes. Total and complete bliss.

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Kitchen fireplace at Hampton Court (image by The Global Reader)

And finally, where Henry and his most honored quests would dine: The Great Hall. A tart very similar to this was probably served there!

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The Great Hall of Hampton Court (image by The Global Reader)

Sweetness from Niger

Been intrigued by that $10 box of hibiscus tea that seems to be popping up everywhere lately? Just keep walking, to the nearest African or Latin market, and buy the real stuff. Known by many different names (sorrel, flor de Jamaica, roselle, arhul ka phool, and on and on), this little red flower is beloved just about everywhere.

In Niger, it’s called bissap, and is the basis of this super pleasing drink. You should make it. Right now.

Dried hibiscus flowers
Dried hibiscus flowers
(image by The Global Reader)

Bissap Juice

Adapted from a recipe at Seeking the Songhai

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dark red, dried hibiscus flowers
    2 cups sugar*
    2 teaspoons of vanilla
    2 cups pineapple juice

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, bring 2 quarts of water to boiling.
    Remove from heat and add the hibiscus.
  2. Steep for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Separate the flowers and leaves from the water with a strainer.
  4. Add the sugar, vanilla, and pineapple juice. Let cool.
  5. Transfer to a pitcher, and serve over ice with few fresh mints leaves as a garnish.
Hibiscus leaves steeping
Hibiscus leaves steeping
(image by The Global Reader)

This also makes GREAT ice pops. I plan on having some bissap pops in my freezer at all times. I’m eating one right now, as a matter of fact.

  • Just pour into ice pop molds, or ice cube trays, freeze, and enjoy.

*Hibiscus is tart, which I really like. I personally found the above amount of sugar to be overly sweet. The next time I make this for drinking, I’ll use less. For the ice pops however, the sweetness level works really well as-is.

Bissap ice pop
Bissap ice pop
(image by The Global Reader)