Pork (or Boar) Stew with Prunes and Armagnac

I prepared this stew with boar meat, because boar reminds me of autumn in Europe when it’s the season of la chasse – or hunting season.  Like most game, boar is lean and has a slightly gamey flavor. It benefits from slow cooking and pairs well with powerful aromatics such as juniper, winter fruit and spirits, such as Calvados and Armagnac. If you cannot find boar meat, pork is a good substitute.

Pork (or Boar) Stew with Prunes and Armagnac

Serves 6

20 prunes, pitted
3/4 cup Armagnac brandy
3 pounds pork or boar shoulder, excess fat trimmed, meat cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
2 bay leaves
1 bouquet garni: 4 juniper berries, 3 rosemary sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, and a handful of parsley leaves wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with a kitchen string

1. Combine the prunes and Armagnac in a bowl and let stand at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
3. Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a lid. Add the pork in batches, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining pork.
4. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon pork fat from the pan. Add the bacon and sauté until its fat renders. Add the carrots and onion and sauté until the onions soften and the carrots are crisp tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the prunes and Armagnac, the wine, bay leaves, bouquet garni, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
5. Remove the stew from the oven, discard the bay leaves and bouquet garni, and taste for seasoning. Serve warm with mashed potatoes or polenta.
(The stew may be prepared up to two days in advance. Warm over low heat or in a 300 F. oven before serving.) 

Mushroom Barley Soup with Miso and Kale

Mushroom Barley Soup with Miso and Kale

If you are anticipating a holiday food hangover this season, then take note of this recipe. Mushroom Barley Soup with Miso and Kale is the perfect antidote to excess. Not only does it put to use any left over turkey stock you may have, this healthy, economical soup is loaded with vegetables and high fiber barley. Handfuls of nutrient-rich kale are added to the soup in the end, so there is just enough time to wilt the leaves without overcooking. The extra ingredient to this wholesome soup is a spoonful of red miso paste, which adds depth and that elusive umami quality which keeps you coming back for more. Luckily, this is one meal you can indulge in seconds without feeling guilty.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Miso and Kale

Chicken stock may easily be substituted for turkey stock. Serves 4-6.

Olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
Salt
8 ounces sliced assorted mushrooms, such shitake, cremini, cepes
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup barley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
8 cups chicken or turkey stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups kale leaves, tough stems removed, leaves shredded
1 tablespoon red miso paste

Heat oil in a medium sized stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and 1 teaspoon salt; sauté 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and carrots; sauté 3 minutes. Add barley and thyme and stir to coat. Add stock, bay leaf  and pepper. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until barley is tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in kale. Simmer until kale turns bright green and wilts, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the miso. Taste For seasoning. Serve garnished with fresh thyme.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

Buttermilk Pound Cake, Cranberries, Candied Walnuts, Orange Mascarpone Cream

Here is a holiday trifle that I couldn’t wait for Christmas to make. The good news is that it’s perfect for Thanksgiving, too. This sumptuous dessert is sweet, tart, crunchy and creamy at once. Buttermilk poundcake is blanketed with layers of cranberry compote, orange infused mascarpone whipped cream and candied walnuts. (Do you see why I couldn’t wait?) Each bite is light and airy with the pop of sweet-tart cranberries and the crunch of cinnamon dusted nuts, so be sure to get a little bit of everything in each spoonful. And, even better, the trifle can rest in the refrigerator overnight, so it’s a perfect do-ahead holiday dessert.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

While there are several components to this trifle, each one may be prepared in advance, and each one is stand alone good, so feel free to use them on their own. Serve in a trifle bowl or individual goblets. Makes 8-10 servings.

For the buttermilk pound cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Line bottom with parchment; butter parchment. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl; set aside.
Beat sugar and butter in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add half of the flour, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour, mixing well to combine after each addition. Pour into loaf pan. Bake in oven until wooden skewer inserted in center comes clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and cool completely. Pound cake may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until use.

For the cranberry compote:
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop and release juices. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

For the candied walnuts:
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange walnuts on a baking tray. Bake in oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Heat sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as it begins to dissolve, stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is liquid and amber colored. Add walnuts and stir to coat. Add salt and cinnamon. Remove from heat and pour walnuts onto a baking tray lined with parchment or silpac sheet. Allow to cool completely. Break into pieces. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For the orange mascarpone cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, chilled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine cream and mascarpone in bowl of electric mixer. Beat until traces of whisk are visible. Add remaining ingredients and continue to beat until peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made 4 hours in advance.)

Assemble the trifle:
Reserve a few whole cranberries from the compote for garnish. Pour a thin layer of cranberry compote into the bottom of the trifle dish or individual glasses. Cut the pound cake in 3/4 inch cubes. Arrange a layer of pound cake over the compote. Top with a layer of cream. Sprinkle with a few of the nuts. Repeat layering process, finishing with a layer of cream and nuts. Garnish with reserved cranberries and finely grated orange zest. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered up to 24 hours before serving.

Optional: Brush each layer of pound cake with Cointreau or Gran Marnier for an adult version of this dessert.

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas


~ Orecchiette, Roasted Cauliflower, Oven Dried Prosciutto, Peas, Parmigiano ~

This recipe might best be called the “Calm before the Storm.” Thanksgiving is looming with its promise of feasts, indulgences and lots of leftovers. In anticipation of the predictable holiday chaos and our subsequent food coma, I aim for a moment of zen and economy, creating simple and efficient meals, deliciously comforting while using lurkers in the refrigerator as inspiration and freeing up space for turkey-centric leftovers. In this case, I unearthed a head of cauliflower from the vegetable bin, patiently waiting (as crucifers are so inclined) to be put to use from last week’s farmers market splurge. A chunk of pancetta gamely joined in, skirting its banishment to the freezer, along with a bag of well frozen peas eager for a defrost. Suddenly, I had an easy and healthy dinner on hand with no whiff of leftovers, stuffing or cranberry sauce – that will come later.

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas
Serves 4.

1 medium head cauliflower, cut in 1 inch pieces
Olive oil
Salt
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375 F. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Arrange in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on lowest rack in oven until tender and bottoms are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to top rack and broil 2-3 minutes until tops are tinged brown. Remove from oven.
While the cauliflower is roasting, arrange prosciutto in one layer on another baking sheet. Bake in same oven on middle rack until dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, break into shards.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, peas and 1 teaspoon salt; toss to warm the peas. Add cauliflower, prosciutto and 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, gently tossing to combine. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper and additional cheese on the side.

Holiday Pumpkin Pecan Roulade

Pumpkin Pecan Roulade with Orange Mascarpone Cream

The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to get dressed up. The silver needs polishing, the shoes need shining and the kids need scrubbing. Even our food gets dressed up, with stuffings and dressings, garnishes and twists. Nothing escapes scrutiny, including dessert where dustings and dollops are par for the course. And, in the spirit of fancifying, what is known as the ordinary cake roll becomes an elegant roulade at the Thanksgiving table.

What is the difference between a cake roll and roulade? you may ask. Well, nothing. Both terms describe a light cake which is rolled in a spiral with a creamy filling. Yet the blandly descriptive cake roll is what I might consider an afternoon dalliance. For my Thanksgiving dinner, I am inviting the roulade, a French term which elegantly and aptly sums up the nature of the dessert as the word itself rolls off the tongue. I want that dessert at our dressed up holiday table.

Language aside, there are other reasons to include a roulade on your menu. It’s elegant yet uncomplicated, remarkably easy to prepare with stunning results. It’s a no-fail recipe, which is a welcome relief during the holidays and frees up more time to dress ourselves up for the guests.

Pumpkin Pecan Roulade with Orange Mascarpone Cream
Inspired by a recipe from Ina Garten. Serves 8 to 10.

For the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin or butternut squash puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting

For the filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Butter a 12 by 9 by 1-inch sheet pan. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper and dust with flour.
Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk eggs and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer until light and thick, 2 minutes. Add pumpkin and vanilla; mix until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients until combined without over-mixing. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle pecans over batter. Bake in oven until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 12-14 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack 5 minutes. While the cake is cooling, lay a clean kitchen towel on the work surface. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sifted confectioners sugar. Invert cake onto the sugared towel. Carefully peel away the parchment paper and discard. Starting at the long end, carefully roll up the cake, jelly-roll style, in the towel. Cool completely on the wire rack.

Prepare filling:
While the cake is cooling, combine mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, cream and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Stir in orange zest.

Assemble roulade:
Gently unroll cake on work surface. Spread filling evenly over cake with a spatula. Carefully roll the cake back up in the same direction, using the towel. Arrange seam-side down on a platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cut in 3/4 inch slices to serve.

Orange, Chocolate and Almond Biscotti

Orange, Chocolate and Almond Biscotti


~ Orange, Chocolate and Almond Biscotti ~

Biscotti are a twice-baked crisp Italian cookie, famously crunchy and perfect for dipping in coffee or milk. Many variations exist, including the traditional anise or almond biscotti, as well as cocoa infused chocolate biscotti. In this recipe I threw in everything I like in a cookie: chocolate, raisins, toasted almonds and orange zest. It sounds like a busy list of ingredients, but the resulting cookie was delightfully simple and not overly sweet.

Orange, Chocolate and Almond Biscotti
I added raisins to the biscotti as an afterthought for a little sweetness and texture; they may be omitted if you prefer a drier biscotti. I recommend using golden raisins for their color and flavor if you can find them.

Makes  approximately 30 biscotti.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping tablespoon orange zest
3.5 ounces (100 g.) finely chopped or grated dark chocolate
1 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
3/4 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a bowl of an electric mixer. Mix briefly to combine. Whisk eggs, oil, orange liqueur, vanilla and zest together in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the flour. Beat on medium speed until combined, 1 minute. Stir in chocolate, raisins and almonds.
Divide dough in half. Transfer to baking sheet and shape each half into a log the length of the baking sheet. Flatten each log into a 2 inch wide strip. Bake until firm and beginning to color, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes.
Reduce oven to 300 F. (150 C.)  Transfer biscotti to a cutting board. Cut in 3/4 inch strips with a serrated knife.  Arrange cut side down on baking sheet. Bake until they are lightly golden, about 20 minutes, turning them halfway through cooking. Remove from oven and cool completely on racks. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

 

Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries

Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries

~ Salad with substance: Kale, Carrots, Shallot, Pecans, Dried Cranberries ~

Fall and winter salads differ from their light and cooling summer cousin. Cold weather salads should be filling and comforting, hardy with fruit and nuts, cheese and dried meat. While served fresh, these salads should give warmth in substance. The base of this bright fall salad is kale. In it’s raw form kale is tough and bitter, best shredded in a slaw or sautéed in olive oil. For this salad I’ve softened the kale  by quickly blanching it just to soften its edges without wilting. The other ingredients fall willingly into formation, adding sweetness, crunch and a vibrancy of color pretty enough to decorate any holiday table.

Winter Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries
Sliced persimmons would also be a nice addition to this salad.
Serves 4 as a side.

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large bunch curly green kale, tough vein removed, torn in large pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pecans, halved
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add kale and blanch just until the color brightens and the leaves still hold their shape, 20 seconds. Drain immediately and rinse under cold water. Spin dry in a salad spinner or blot dry with a kitchen towel. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Toss with half of the dressing and taste for seasoning. Serve with additional dressing to taste.