Fix me a sammich

I do enjoy a good sandwich. It has to be made with excellent bread and fresh ingredients mind you, which is why most pre-packaged triangular “sandwiches” so rarely come up to snuff. Making your own is more satisfying on many levels – you make it yourself, and you make it exactly the way you want it;  can’t be bad.

While adding condiments can be the way to go, think mustard on ham, or horseradish on roast-beef, there is one sandwich that requires no condiments at all, just great ingredients and a bit of seasoning. As a kid, growing up in Holland, I used to regularly head to De Bruine Boon in Leiden, and order a koffie-verkeerd (Basically a coffee made “wrongly”, lots of milk) and a broodje-brie. The Bruine-Boon is still there today, but seems to have been renovated, so to me, has lost some of its charm. Of course, it may be exactly the same, and I have become jaded, who knows? If you are in Leiden, I recommend it for a spot of lunch (or brunch with a hangover – I seem to remember doing a lot of those at the Boon).

So for a broodje-brie, or Brie sandwich, take a fresh, crusty, French Baguette ( I believe they’re called Freedom Baguettes over here), some Brie (the most delicious is invariably a triple-cream, but for the sake of your weight or your heart, any will do), and a fresh, ripe tomato.

Slice about 6 inches diagonally from the baguette, and split it down it’s length. Cut slices, about 5 mm thick of the Brie and cover the bottom slice of bread with it. Then thinly (or however you want) slice the tomatoes and lay them on the Brie. Season with salt and freshly ground black-pepper. That’s it!

This sandwich really hits the spot at lunchtime, and goes well with a crisp, dry white-wine like a Sancerre, or a New-Zealand Cabernet-Sauvignon. Or a nice dry cider, or a beer, or a glass of water, or a koffie-verkeerd. You get the picture.

Maw Maw’s Dirty Rice

I know everyone brags about their grandmother’s cooking, but I’ve had several non-relations comment that this is the best dirty rice they’ve ever had. There’s no tricks or secret ingredients. It’s just incredibly good. It’s practically a public service writing it down. However be aware that since this is the first time it is written down so I might need to come back to update some of the quantities given.

Roux is made with equal weights flour to fat. The fat can vary; vegetable oil is best for this recipe. Heat the oil on low, slowly add the flour, and stir, stir stir. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot as you go. It will initially bubble and then smooth out as it cooks. It will need to be stirred about every fifteen seconds. Be sure to keep the oil below the smoke point. As the roux darkens lower the heat. Don’t go wandering off either because if it’s burnt it’s ruined. How long will it take? Longer than you think. The darkness of the roux can vary based on recipes and personal preference. I like to get mine to the color of a penny. Roux requires vigilance. Luckily it can be made in large batches and frozen.

1/2 cup roux
2 pounds ground beef
2 pounds ground chicken liver
2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
6 cups cooked white rice
Finely chopped parsley
White Pepper
Cayenne Pepper

So starting off like all good Cajun recipes, first make your roux (see above).

In another pan, brown the beef and strain off the grease. Add scallions and salt and pepper to taste. Add roux. It should be a little watery. If not add water. Simmer 15-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add rice and taste again. It should be salty and meaty with a slight hint of pepper. Let sit 10 minutes. Add parsley and serve.

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Quiche

I always go to Julia Child for my pastry because not only is she always right, but if you screw up she gives you helpful instructions on how to fix it. Pie pastry is especially handy to make a main dish for a vegetarian meal. It is easily made in the food processor, but as with many doughs made in the food processor it still requires a final human touch. The final blending is called fraisage and achieves an even blending of fat and flour. The trick is to work quickly and keep the dough as cool as possible.

Pie Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
6 oz chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch bits
4 Tb chilled shortening
1/2 cup iced water
Measure all dry ingredients into food processor. Pulse 4 times. Add water all at ounce. Pulse until dough begins to form a ball on the blade. Do not overmix.
Scrape onto lightly floured pastry board for the fraisage. With the heel of one hand rapidly press the pastry down the board away from you in small bits. Then gather the dough again with a scraper for a brief knead. Sprinkle with flour, wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Butter inside of quiche pan.
Roll out dough as quickly as possible into a circle about 1/8 inch thick so that it is 2 inches larger than your quiche pan. Place pastry in pan gently working inside edges of mold. Trim excess. Prick bottom with fork at 1/2 inch intervals. Place buttered parchment paper inside the pastry and weigh it down with dry beans.
For a partially cooked shell bake at middle level of 400F preheated oven for 8-9 minutes. Remove beans and parchment and prick bottom again with fork. Bake another 2-3 minutes, until shell is starting to cover and shrink from sides.
Depending on the firmness of the shell or your confidence you can either unmold it, allow it to cool, and then fill and bake it, or you can keep it in the pan for the final filling and baking.

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Quiche

1 partially cooked pie crust
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
1 1/2 Tb flour
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh chopped marjoram
2 eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven 375F.
Cook onion in a heavy skillet over low heat with 2 tablespoons of butter and oil until caramelized, about an hour, being careful to not burn. Sprinkle with flour and cook slowly for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan.
Add remaining tablespoon of butter and mushrooms to pan. Once mushrooms have released juices and begin to brown stir onion back in with marjoram. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Whisk together eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in onion and mushroom mixture. Check seasoning. Pour into tart shell.
Bake in upper third of oven for 25 to 30 minutes until quiche has puffed and browned.
Can be served hot or cold.

Brown Sugar, Mustard, and Beer Glazed Ham served with Herbed Fingerling Potatoes

This is a fun cooking with beer recipe and I imagine the effect isn’t too dissimilar to the notorious Coca-Cola glazed ham, although I’ve never tasted one myself. Of course whatever beer you choose will influence the taste of the ham so I recommend you drink one while preparing the food to give you a good idea of the flavor profile.
The potato salad was developed to go along with the ham served cold. The capers give it a nice kick. No mayonnaise keeps it picnic friendly.

Brown Sugar, Mustard, and Beer Glazed Ham

1 fully cooked smoked ham
12 ounces dark beer
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground mustard, such as Coleman’s
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Place ham face down in shallow roasting pan. Pour beer over top, reserving 2 tablespoons. Cook uncovered at 350F for 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes.

In small bowl combine sugar, mustard, and beer so it forms a thick paste. Score fat on ham in crisscross pattern. Spread sugar mixture over ham. Bake another 30-45 minutes until internal temperature reaches 140F.

Herbed Potato Salad

2 pounds fingerling or small new potatoes, halved or quartered if large
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped capers
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cover potatoes with cold salted water, bring to boil, and simmer until just tender. Drain potatoes and allow to cool to room temperature.
Combine rest of ingredients and toss with potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chocolate Loves Beer Tiramisu

I recently had a banana pudding with the cookies soaked in wheat beer which gave rise to this creation. I wonder how many other desserts benefit from a beer soak?

The beer, coffee, and sugar mixture for the ladyfingers is only approximate in this recipe and would be modified depending on which strong ale you choose (no light beer here). Depending on the beer choosen and personal preferences more or less sugar might be used. Also the coffee can be left out and pure beer to saturate the ladyfingers instead. It is fabulous with a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout or a Real Ale Coffee Porter, if you’re lucky enough to have some.

If you don’t have a double boiler a heat proof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water does the trick.

Chocolate Zabaglione Cream
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons whipping cream
5 large egg yolks, from large grade eggs
1/4 cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream, chilled
4 tablespoons sugar
1 lb mascarpone cheese
1 cup freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
12 ounces dark beer
1 tablespoon vanilla
14 ounce package Alessi Savoiardi cookies
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
chocolate curls

First make the Zabaglione Cream:
Melt chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons whipped cream over low heat in double boiler until chocolate is melted. Keep warm. Beat egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is pale yellow in color. In a double boiler of simmering water beat egg yolk mixture continuously for 6 to 10 minutes or until soft mounds can be formed, occasionally scraping bottom and sides of pan. Transfer to bowl, fold in chocolate mixture, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Whip cream with 2 Tbsp sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in Mascarpone and Zabaglione and mix until well blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
In a separate bowl, mix espresso, beer, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and vanilla.
Arrange cookies on the bottom of a 9″ by 13″ pan. Carefully spoon about 1 Tbsp. of the beer mixture over each cookie so they are well saturated but not falling apart. Spoon 1/2 cheese mixture over cookies and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. cocoa. Repeat one more time ending with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight so that cookies can soften as they absorb moisture. Garnish with chocolate swirls and serve.