Chanterelle Mushroom and Chicken Wellington

Chanterelle Mushroom and Chicken WellingtonOn The Chopping Block
Over the weekend, my family held another Chopped competition. We did this once before and it was so much fun that the kids have been asking to do it again. And, since we didn’t have anything else to do, we switched up the teams for another round.

Since there are only four contestants to make up the teams choosing isn’t hard—except that my daughter is the ringer. Any team with her on it is going to have an advantage because she cooks on a regular basis and spends much of her time watching shows on the Food Network. Last time she was paired with her brother and they ended up making a pork bun and stir-fry dinner that took first place. That happened because my son, smartly, just went with what she said and did her bidding.

This time she was paired with her other brother. But, I was adamant that he had to actively contribute to the recipe discussion. No riding her coattails. I was pleasantly surprised at what he brought to the discussion given his penchant for eating whatever is the easiest to prepare. This is why we call him the Cereal Killer.

For this round the ingredients consisted of the following:

One whole chicken
Canterelle mushrooms
Purple sweet potatoes (a.k.a. Ube)
Blood oranges
Frozen puff pastry

Now, as someone who has been cooking for over 30 years, there are a number of recipes I could think of to make with this mix of ingredients. However, the dish that ultimately won the competition was one I never would have thought of—or, at least never would have thought my family would think of. I knew the puff pastry was going to present a challenge. I figured I would get at least one puff pastry empanada, and I was right. What I didn’t think I would get was a Wellington.

Wellington is traditionally made by wrapping puff pastry around a fillet of beef with a little fois gras and baking it. I’m simplifying things, but that’s the basic idea. It is not something I make often. In fact I don’t think I have ever made it. And, I am not entirely sure that my kids have even tasted it. So it came as a big surprise when my daughter made a chicken and mushroom Wellington for her Chopped dish. I can only assume she saw it on one of her favorite shows. Either way I was beyond impressed.

The final dishes were a Blood Orange Braised Chicken with Purple Sweet Potato Purée and Asparagus Mushroom Empanada and a Chicken and Mushroom Wellington with a Blood Orange Purple Sweet Potato Puree and Baby spinach salad with Blood Oranges and Balsamic dressing.

Both dishes were outstanding. We all agreed on that. Everyone upped their game and it was a good night of eating. Ultimately, the Wellington dish was the winner—but it was by a razor thin margin. It was the level of difficulty of making a Wellington that did it.

So, my daughter is now two for two in Chopped challenges. My husband was so closeto getting his first win. But alas, it was not meant to be. Next time, they will be paired together which should be entertaining as all get out.

Since no one used actual recipes, I adapted one from the Food Network if you would like to try making a Wellington.

Chanterelle Mushroom and Chicken Wellington
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Gougères

New Year’s Noshing
The Christmas holiday was different. There was no house hopping. No loud boisterous parties.

What wasn’t different? We ate too much. I mean, we ate well, but with all of the focus basically on the food we definitely ate too much. For that reason, New Year’s Eve is going to be on a much smaller scale. Instead of something fabulous like lobster, or *sigh* crab, our plan is to do a bunch of small bites—a variety of appetizer-sized portions that we can set out on the kitchen island and grab as needed.

Appetizers have this way of making things feel festive even when they are not. This is especially true when you are in your sweats sipping champagne on the couch. There are multiple categories of appetizers. You have your dips, your cheese balls, crostini, hot appetizers, crudités and, of course, the Cheese Plate. My plan is to do at least one from each category.

Crostini are a no-brainer because you can pretty much do anything with them. Just slice up a baguette, toast the slices and finish with your favorite toppings. I like using fresh ricotta as a base because it works well with anything. One of my summertime favorites starts with fresh ricotta and some freshly cracked pepper, then I top it with a ripe peach slice and some lightly dressed arugula. It’s December though so I am going to try it using a sweet slice of Honeycrisp apple and see how it goes. A sprinkle of toasted, chopped hazelnuts would take it to another level.

For a dip, I am going to make a hot crab dip for a couple of reasons. The first is because I love crab and the second is because I am impatient and can no longer wait for the fisherman to bring in the crab. So, I will rebel and go with crab meat. I’m planning to try this artichoke version because adding a vegetable automatically makes it healthy, right? And, don’t forget the array of fabulous dips and spreads from our cheese department.  They add great variety to the flavors you serve. As a bonus you can use the same sliced and toasted baguettes to eat the dip.

For the hot appetizers, I am torn—which means I may just end up making both recipes. The first possibility is this recipe for cranberry brie bites. I still have leftovers of both cranberry sauce and brie so it would be an easy way to use those up. All I would need would be some puff pastry from the freezer and we’re good to go. I’m not a fan of walnuts so those will be left out. (Another variation is our recipe for Baked Brie, its easy to make with your choice of savory jam and herbs.)

The second recipe requires a bit more effort, but the result is worth it. If you have never had French Gougères you are missing out. They are essentially cheese puffs that are made everywhere in France and are served with a local aperitif but also go extremely well with champagne—which makes then perfect for New Year’s Eve. I like Dorie Greenspan’s recipe the best. You can use any cheese you prefer like Gruyère, Emmentaler, Gouda or to make things super easy, extra sharp cheddar. The recipe makes approximately 36 Gougères but they go fast so plan accordingly.

I think it goes without saying that we are all looking forward to a new year. I wish you a very happy, very healthy, full of hope and laughter New Year! Bring on 2021!

Gougères Recipe
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan and Epicurious
Yields about 36 gougères

Although you must spoon out these little puffs onto the baking tray as soon as the dough is made, they can be frozen and baked straight from the freezer at a later time (see below). This makes a great do-ahead for a busy day. Read more…

Classic Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Classic Cinnamon Swirl BreadGive It a Whirl
Usually at the end of the year you start to see articles or news stories about what they big trends were in during the past year and what they will be going forward. I have not seen any yet…but if I had to pick a big trend for 2020, it would be bread baking.

The shelter-in-place order in March caught a lot of people off guard and put a huge strain on the food supply chain. On top of that we were bored. So, many people turned to bread making, not only out of necessity, but as a mean to pass the time and, frankly, for some much needed therapy. Suddenly people were sharing sourdough starter and trading baked goods for yeast.

Now that supplies have normalized, there are still several “new” bread makers that have embraced the hobby, but might need some new equipment to take them to the next level. A good bread pan can make a fantastic holiday gift either by itself or filled with something freshly baked and yummy. Quick breads like Banana Bread or a Cranberry Tea Loaf make great gifts—and an even better snack with a hot cup of tea on a chilly afternoon. Decent bread pans can cost $15-$18 depending on how serious you want to be. The fancy ones with different shapes and designs on them are, obviously, a bit more but a good basic loaf pan is always a good piece to have in your kitchen.

For those who want to show off their newfound bread making skills, this Classic Cinnamon Swirl Bread is a perfect choice. (High-end cinnamon would make a great stocking stuffer too!)

It’s an easy enough recipe that a novice bread maker can handle it, but it looks like it is much harder to make. The flavor is divine. I like to toast my slice, but my kids cannot wait that long. They just slice and eat. A double batch of this for Christmas morning would also make some tasty French toast….

Classic Cinnamon Swirl Bread Recipe
Adapted from King Arthur Flours
Yields 1 loaf Read more…

Dark Chocolate Toffee

Dark Chocolate ToffeeCookie Palooza
It’s Cookie Palooza this weekend. For those of you who may be confused, Cookie Palooza is the weekend that my daughter and I make an insane amount of holiday cookies and other treats to give to our family and friends. This year my sister is joining in on the fun so I am expecting any number of crazy shenanigans and a whole lotta sprinkles. (Don’t worry. My sister and her family have been in our pod since Day 1).

There will be Gingerbread Men with scarves (my sister), there will be Macarons (my daughter) and there will be Toffee and Caramels (me) as well as an explosion of other cookies from Swedish Ginger Cookies to home made Cranberry Orange Biscotti  (I like the dried cranberries and some grated orange peel to make them more festive.)

Cookie Palooza could not happen if I didn’t have decent cookie sheets. Of course, everyone’s definition of decent will be different. Some bakers prefer the double-layer cookie sheets that allow the air in the pocket between to heat up. Others like the heavy duty rimless sheets that allow your cookies to slide right off. Personally, I like my heavy duty half sheet pans they’re just so versatile. You can make drop cookies or bar cookies and of course, you can make an excellent dinner. At an average of $20 for a quality cookie sheet, they also make a useful and cost-conscious holiday gift for your favorite baker. And if you really want to treat them, pre-cut parchment sheets can be life changing.

While my family has already enjoyed the first batch of our traditional ginger cookies, (You can’t trim the tree without ginger cookies.) what they are really waiting for is the toffee I make every year. It’s melt-in-your-mouth happiness and must be kept under lock and key if you want to have it around for more than an afternoon.

With the latest stay at home order in full swing, now is the perfect time to plan a Cookie Palooza of your own…

Dark Chocolate Toffee Recipe
Yields 24 pieces
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

This toffee is a lot like a Heath Bar—both tasty candy and delicious crumbled over ice cream and other desserts. Read more…