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Monday, December 27, 2010

Feast of Several Fishes

Since this was our second Christmas together, we decided to try again to honor Ray's Italian heritage. Tradition on Christmas Eve is the Feast of Seven Fishes, a seven course meal of, well, seafood and fish. Since we were pretty sure we couldn't eat a 7 course meal, we trimmed it down to a four course meal, and even then had to hold over two courses to the next day !

I made homemade catsup...yes, I did ! We are trying to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from our diets, and I found a recipe for this. It only takes a minute to make, and has a really unusual flavor. I used my homemade catsup to make homemade cocktail sauce for some shrimp for the first course.

My family tradition was always oyster stew, so that was the second course. The recipe is quite simple:

Oyster Stew
3/4 pound fresh, shucked oysters, in liquid
2 ribs celery, diced fine
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Dash or two of Tabasco sauce (as much as you like)

Saute celery and onions in butter just until slightly soft. Stir in flour until well combined. Add liquid from oysters, milk and seasonings. Continue to stir until slightly thickened. Add oysters and cook just until the edges of the oysters start to curl. Serve with oyster crackers.

Admittedly, we ate too many shrimp and too much oyster stew, but it tasted so good ! We held over the remaining courses to the next night. Swordfish en papillot and lobster mashed potatoes !

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mexican Venison Meatloaf

When I make meatloaf, I never use a recipe. I generally try to use up leftover veggies and sauces in the refrigerator, and hope it turns out well. It always does, miraculously.

We had half a jar of leftover salsa, a red pepper and half an onion that needed to be used up. So, it became meatloaf. Here it is:

Mexican Venison Meatloaf

2 lbs ground venison (any ground meat will work)
2 eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup salsa, divided

Mix all of the ingredients, but reserve 1/2 cup salsa. Put in a loaf pan and our remaining salsa over the top. Bake at 400* for 1.5 hours.

And, the best, easiest potato side dish ever...just dice two large potatoes, place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the top, and generously season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Bake along with the meatloaf, for about 30 minutes. YUM !

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Artisan Vinegars and Venison Fajitas

This summer, in an effort to use up some of the herbs from the garden, I started making homemade vinegars. They are nice to use for gifts, and make some different salad dressings and marinades. I started with a blueberry basil vinegar, which makes an excellent blueberry vinaigrette. Next was a fennel, thyme and peppercorn vinegar, to use up some extra fennel.

I wanted something to marinade meat for fajitas. I made a cilantro, garlic and jalapeno vinegar for this purpose. Since I am always looking for new ways to cook all of the venison we have, I decided to marinate venison steak with a mixture of my cilantro vinegar, some canola oil, grill seasoning and cumin. I let it marinate for 24 hours, so the flavors would infuse the meat. Because of the vinegar in the marinade, it also starts to "cook" the outside of the steaks.

From there, fajitas are simple. I sauteed onion and red peppers. I removed the meat from the marinade and pan seared it for approximately 4 minutes per side, so they were medium rare. Served with some steamed tortillas, homemade salsa (canned this summer), cheese and sour cream, they were as good as anything I have eaten in a restaurant. Ray must have agreed, he had four ! And we had the leftovers for lunch, during a break from the cookie baking extravaganza.

And, I have beautiful, handcrafted vinegars to send as Christmas gifts.

Turkey Spinach Wild Rice Leftover Soup.

As we planned our Thanksgiving menu, I was determined not to have the traditional green bean hotdish. So, I came up with a recipe for a spinach and mushroom gratin, that was a bit less than successful. The flavor was nice, but it had a lot of liquid, so was a bit slimy.

Not wanting to be wasteful, I turned it into a soup ! The gratin was originally fresh spinach and mushrooms, sauteed in garlic, then layered with sliced roma tomatos and parmesan cheese, and topped with buttered bread crumbs. I dumped the whole thing in a pot, added some extra chicken stock, diced up leftover turkey and wild rice. I let it cook for a bit, then thickened it with a roux and added a bit of half and half just before serving.

I seem to have a knack for making a mistake, and then turning it into something really unique. The problem with these dishes is that they are difficult to replicate. But, it is all a lesson on re-imagining everyday foods.

Dutch Babies

Contrary to what this might sound like, this is actually a traditional breakfast, not small children from Holland. Some people remember these from the Pannekoeken restaurants.

It is somewhere between an omelet and a pancake, baked in the oven. I had never tried one until Ray mentioned it was a traditional holiday breakfast in his family. So, the challenge had been issued...

Dutch Baby

Preheat oven to 425. Place a heavy skillet in the oven and heat for at least 10 minutes.

Mix the following in a blender (I use the immersion blender):

4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
Nutmeg or cinnamon to taste (optional)

When pan has been heated, remove from oven and place 3 tablespoons unsalted butter into the pan. Let it melt, then pour in the batter. Return the pan to the oven, and bakeabout 20 minutes, until it is golden brown and puffy. It can be very dramatic to slide the finished Dutch Baby from the pan onto a plate on the table. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh fruit.

We soaked some berries in Grand Marnier the night before. And we always enjoy these with a mimosa, made with mango orange juice. These are simple, and very impressive !