Thursday, December 28, 2006

Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

I made extra duck breasts when I made dinner for Christmas Day just to have this hearty gumbo on the day after Christmas. A one pot meal after days and days of cooking for the holidays gave me a chance to rest and to serve a casual, but very tasty meal after the big formal meal on Christmas Day.

There are probably as many different variations on gumbo as there are stars in the sky. Gumbo is basically a hodgepodge of food cooked in a pot, but nearly all are based on the Cajun "holy trinity" which consists of bell pepper, onion and celery. Other ingredients important to a gumbo are garlic, cayenne and green onions, plus other spices such as thyme and bay leaves. A good roux, made of drippings and flour, is cooked slowly in the pot until a nutty brown color is achieved. Some recipes call for a blond roux, but the darker roux flavors the gumbo and the blond roux simply thicken it.

I pan-fried the duck breasts and served a sauce on the side for Christmas dinner so I could use the breasts for the gumbo, but you can smoke your duck breasts which I have done in the past when making this gumbo.

Ingredients For Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

4 Cooked whole duck breasts, diced large
1/2 cup cooking oil
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
1 cup chopped ham chunks
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons creole seasoning (homemade or purchased)-my recipe included here
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Worcheshire sauce
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth

Warm the oil in a Dutch oven and add the flour. Over medium heat, cook and stir the roux until a nutty brown, about 12-14 minutes. Do not let burn. Add sausage, duck,ham, onion, green pepper, celery and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, creole seasoning, bay leaves, Worcheshire and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, simmer 30-45 minutes. Adjust seasonings.

Creole Seasoning
recipe here

My Creole Seasoning
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablesspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
1/2 tablespoon ground chipotle powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

To serve: hot cooked rice, chopped green onions, creole seasoning and Tabasco

Friday, December 22, 2006

Espresso Gelee With Candied Walnuts

A nice low fat, low calorie dessert to have after a rich meal. I doubled the ingredients for the gelee and served it in small cups. The candied walnuts add a nice sweet crunch and the Greek yogurt gives the gelees a wonderful creamy richness.

Espresso Gelee With Candied Walnuts
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine recipe here

1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup freshly brewed espresso

1/4 2% Greek yogurt
1/2 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Candied Walnuts
See December 13, 2006 post here

In a small glass bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir the sugar into the espresso until dissolved. Stir in the gelatin until dissolved and pour into 4 espresso cups. Refrigerate gelees until set on top, about 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until thoroughly set, about 4 hours.

For the topping, stir the yogurt with the confectioners sugar until thoroughly mixed. Top each gelee with a dollop of yogurt and the candied walnuts.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cranberry Apple Walnut Yeast Bread

Not another apple recipe! My half bushel of Arkansas Black apples bought at an apple orchard in Tennessee seems to be like the proverbial definition of eternity----two people and a ham! I've made baked apples, candied apples, apple coffeecake and now, I swear, this is the last apple recipe for a long time. I must say they have been delicious and a keeper. The old man at the orchard gave us a bit of a history lesson on the Arkansas Black apple saying it originated in Benton, Arkansas in the late 1800's and its beautiful red color deepens to almost black on its exposed side. With great care and storage he said they would be at their best even in February. As you can see from the photo, it is a beautiful apple.

This bread is not a sweet bread, but one that makes great toast and is very good eaten with a wedge of cheddar cheese.

Cranberry Apple Walnut Yeast Bread

Adapted from Bread For All Seasons by Beth Hensperger

1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F.)
1 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees F.)
6 to 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose of bread flour
2 medium-large cooking apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped (2-3 cups)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Grated zest of one large orange
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon salt

In the work bowl of a heavy duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine yeast, brown sugar, warm water, warm milk and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until bubbly, about 1 hour.

Add apples, dried cranberries, walnuts, orange zest, oil eggs, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, salt and 1 cup more of the flour. Beat until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed and leaves the side of the bowl.

Turn out on lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and springy, but still firm, about 3 minutes. Place in a greased container, turning to coat once to coat the top, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 2 pieces. Place loaves in 2 greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until 1 inch above the rims of the pans, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. twenty minutes before baking. Bake in the center of the oven until loaves are browned and sound hollow when tapped, 45-50 minutes. Remove from the pans immediately and transfer to racks to cool completely before slicing.

Makes 2 9x5 loaves.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sugared Walnuts

A great sweet snack or a garnish for a dessert, sugared walnuts are easy to make and take about 15 minutes from start to finish. I always have a sugared or savory spiced nut for the Holidays and they are great as an addition to a gift basket.

Combine 4 ounces of superfine sugar or caster sugar as it is sometimes called and 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy pot. Dissolve sugar over low heat, then raise the heat and boil until the syrup is just beginning to turn golden. Careful, as it turns dark quickly and will burn. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts and 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar. Pour out quickly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread walnuts out into a single layer. Let set. Store in a container for up to a week.

Adapted from BBC GoodFood Magazine, November 2006

Friday, December 8, 2006

Green Pozole With Chicken

For Tami Hardeman's Running with Tweezers Super Souper Challenge Blog Event

This colorful and tasty soup has become a mainstay in my household as a warming winter dish- perfect as a main course for a casual meal or Sunday night dinner. Not only have I served it for an easy Christmas Eve dinner, but also as a dinner party meal with several appetizers added and a super rich dessert to finish.


9 cups water
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 large white onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup hulled (green) pumpkin seeds (not roasted; 2 1/4 oz)
1 lb tomatillos, husked
2 fresh jalapeño chiles, quartered (including seeds)
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried epazote or oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 (15-oz) cans white hominy, rinsed and drained

Accompaniments: diced radish; cubed avocado tossed with lime juice; shredded romaine; chopped white onion; lime wedges; dried oregano and chopped cherry tomatoes
Special equipment: an electric coffee/spice grinder

Cook chicken:
Bring 8 cups water, bay leaf, half of onion, half of garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil, covered, in a 6-quart heavy pot, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add chicken and poach at a bare simmer, uncovered, skimming off any foam, until just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to cool. Pour broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, discarding solids, and reserve. When chicken is cool enough to handle, coarsely shred with your fingers.

Make sauce while chicken cools:
Cook pumpkin seeds in a dry small skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until puffed but not browned (seeds will pop as they puff), 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool completely, then finely grind in coffee/spice grinder.

Simmer tomatillos and remaining onion in remaining cup water in a 3-quart saucepan, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain vegetables and purée in a blender with jalapeños, 1/4 cup cilantro, epazote, remaining garlic, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add purée (use caution as it will splatter and steam). Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in pumpkin seeds and 1 cup reserved broth and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in shredded chicken, hominy, and 3 more cups reserved broth and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes.

Stir in remaining 1/2 cup cilantro and serve pozole in deep bowls with accompaniments.

In a pinch, I use 10 ounce cans tomatillos, drained and to add a bit of red for the holidays, try substituting 2 red jalapenos for the green ones. I also have toasted cumin seeds to garnish soup.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine
February 2003


Sunday, December 3, 2006

Brandied Figs

The brandied figs are infused with Earl Grey tea, orange rind and cinnamon and are fabulous spooned over a rich, creamy Greek yogurt.


2 pounds ready to eat dried figs
5 cups Earl Grey tea
Rind of one orange
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brandy

Put the figs in a pot and add the tea, orange rind and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the figs from the pan and drain.

Add the sugar to the tea and heat gently until sugar is dissolved. Boil rapidly for 2 minutes until syrupy.

Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in brandy. Pack figs and orange rind into warmed sterilized jars and pour in the hot syrup to cover. Tap jars to remove any air bubbles, then seal and store for 1 month. If jars are properly sealed, you will hear a pop as they cool. If not, refrigerate.

From The Complete Book of Preserves and Pickles-Jams Jellies, Chutneys and Relishes by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew
A very informative book on the art of preserving with beautiful photos, step by step instructions and sources for equipment.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Rosemary Focaccia

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
Robert Browning (1812-1889) English poet

Focaccia starts with a simple dough and can be formed into many shapes and topped with a multitude of fragrant ingredients, the easiest one being olive oil, coarse sea salt and just about any fresh or dried herb. Eaten just warm or at room temperature, focaccia can be served at any meal, as a snack or split as bread for a sandwich or shaped into a roll. My favorite sandwich is with the rosemary focaccia split and spread with tomato chutney, romaine lettuce and leftover grilled pork tenderloin. The tomato chutney came from my sister who made it with tomatoes from her vegetable garden this summer. Maybe she will share the recipe with me for a future posting.

This focaccia is topped with fragrant rosemary, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.

Focaccia with Rosemary

Sponge or Starter

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water, 105-115 degrees
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour


1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt

1 1/4 - 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Chopped fresh rosemary and sprigs for garnish

For the sponge, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bow or mixer bow, whisk and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour, cover tightly and let rise until bubbly and is doubled in size-about 45 minutes.

In a heavy duty mixer, add the dissolved yeast and the olive oil to the sponge in the mixing bowl. Mix in with the paddle attachment until well blended. Add the flour and salt and stir until thoroughly mixed, 1-2 minutes. Change to the dough hook and knead until dough is soft and slightly sticky, 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle flour on your work surface and knead the dough briefly.

Place dough is a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

Flatten dough on an oiled 11x17 baking pan and press it out with wet or oiled hands. If dough doesn't cover the pan, cover and wait 10 minutes for dough to relax. Cover and let rise 45 minutes to an hour. Just before baking, dimple dough with knuckles leaving depressions. Drizzle olive oil over the dough, letting some pool in the depresssions. Sprinkle with sea salt and chopped rosemary.

At least 30 minutes before you bake the focaccia, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Farenheit with a baking stone. When focaccia has risen and is ready to bake, place pan on baking stone and spray the oven walls with cold water from a spritzer bottle 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking. Continue baking until crust is crisp and the top is golden brown. Remove from heat and place on rack. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 10-12

From Focaccia-Simple Breads From the Italian Oven by Carol Field