Strawberry Shortcake

strawberriesIn my world, strawberry shortcake means and says summer:  it brings to mind hot summer days with picnics, barbecues, 4th of July celebrations.  There is nothing like the taste of a strawberries freshly picked from the garden or the local farm stand:  they are small, plump, red and have the sweetest smell.  The beauty of strawberry shortcake is that from one party to the next it will taste different according to how the host flavors the strawberries, the whipped cream and what biscuit recipe is used.  I have yet to meet a person who does not like strawberry shortcake.  Here is my version … Happy 4th of July!shortcake making

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

  • 8 cups strawberries, washed and halved
  • 1/4 cup lemon verbena simple syrup
  • one recipe whipped cream
  • one recipe baking powder biscuits

Half hour to 45 minutes before you will serve dessert, mix the strawberries and the syrup. If you do not have the syrup, mix the berries with 3 tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.  Let sit.

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS (makes about a dozen)  I get my recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.photo-106

  • 4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted  butter (3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • one egg wash (one lightly beaten egg)

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees.  in a large bowl. whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.biscuit making

Pour in the heavy cream; using a rubber spatula, fold the cream into the dough, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together.  The dough will be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface.  With floured fingers, gently pat the dough into a round about 1 1/4 inch thick, pressing any loose bits.  Do not overwork the dough.  Use a floured 2 1/4 inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits as close as possible, using one cut edge as the edge for the next biscuit.shortcakebaking shortcake

Place the biscuits on an unlined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Before baking, brush rounds with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if desired.  Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

FLAVORED WHIPPED CREAM

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon limoncello (optional)strawberries and cream

In a large bowl whipped the heavy cream until soft.  Slowly mix in the rest of the ingredients   and beat until a bit more soft but not stiff.

When ready to serve, split the biscuits in half horizontally with a serrated knife.  Place the bottom part of the biscuit on a plate, spoon a dollop of the cream, spoon some strawberries and accumulated juice and cover with the biscuit top.  Serve with remaining cream and strawberry mixture.strawberry shortcake

NOTE: If you do not have a biscuit cutter you can use a glass but make sure to do a clean cut without twisting the glass in the dough as it will stop the biscuit from rising when baking.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Braised lamb shank

braisingHere is a recipe for you lamb lovers.  While waiting for summer to arrive so you can set your grill for burgers and kabobs, you can braise in the oven.  This is a very simple recipe, it can be made ahead of time, in fact it is best to make it in the morning or the day before as the flavors intensify as the dish sits.  The cinnamon stick might sound weird but is a must.  Served on a bed or rice or roasted potatoes, green beans and chunks of crusty bread it makes the perfect meal for those cool spring nights.raw lamb shanks

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS (serves 4)

  • 3 lamb shanks (3 to 3.5 lbs)
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 28 oz San Marzano diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or in an oven proof pan.  Salt and pepper the shanks and sautée in the pan until nicely browned on all sides (about 3 minutes per sides).  Remove from the pan and set aside.ingredients

Melt the butter in the pan, add the onions and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).  Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute.  Add the tomato, beef stock and cinnamon.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  Add the meat, return to a simmer, cover and put in the oven.  Cook for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, take out of the oven.  The meat should be soft and coming off the bone.  Let the dish cool down a bit and remove all the meat from the bones. Discard the bones and return the meat to the pot, stirring into the sauce.  Remove the cinnamon stick and cook for another 45 minutes at 350 degrees.lamb shank

NOTE:  should you have leftovers, serve the meat on top of roasted eggplants and topped with mashed potatoes for a moussaka like dishstew

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Meatball sauce

spaghetti and meatballsWhen one thinks of Italian food, spaghetti and meatballs comes to mind. It’s a great go-to recipe when you have a crowd or a pot luck dinner.  It can be made in advance,  it’s easy to reheat, and everybody loves it from the youngest to the oldest member in the family.   If you are vegetarian or want a lighter meal you can skip the meatballs and only have the sauce.  It is simple, fast and I tend to make a big batch so I can freeze it or reheat it later in the week. Make sure you use San Marzano tomatoes as the taste will make all the difference!tomato sauce ingredients

MEATBALL SAUCE

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 2 – 28oz crushed tomatoes 
  • 1- 28oz whole tomatoes coarsely chopped or cut in the pot with kitchen scissors
  • 3 onions diceds
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon italian seasonings or one teaspoon each of dried basil, thyme and oregano
  • salt and pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven.  Add onions and sautée until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, stir and add the wine and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes if you opt not to make meatballs.  If you do, simmer the sauce while making the meatballs and don’t worry about timing.meatballs ingredients

FOR THE MEATBALLS (makes about 30 -2 inches meatballs)

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 lb ground veal
  • 3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 onion minced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley minced
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup flouregg shells

In a small bowl mix the breadcrumbs and milk and let sit for 10 minutes while mincing onion, garlic and parsley.

In a large bowl mix meats, breadcrumb/milk mixture, onion, garlic, parsley, parmesan and egg making sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed without over mixing.  Season with salt and pepper.meatballs

Put the flour in a shallow plate.  Shape the meat mixture into 2 inches round balls. Roll each balls in the flour to get them covered slightly and place in a baking dish.  You should roughly end up with 30 meatballs.  When done, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and brown the meatballs.  Depending on the size of your pan you might have to do this in 2 to 3 batches.  You don’t want to cook the meatballs, only browned them.  As they get ready slowly put them in the simmering sauce.  When all done, continue to simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes to finish cooking the meatballs.meatball makingmeatballs in sauce

Right before serving you can chop 1/4 cup of fresh basil and stir into the sauce. Serve with fresh pasta:  thick spaghetti, bucatin or fettuccine and lots of grated parmesan, nice crusty bread and a bottle of red wine.

NOTE: as this recipe makes a lot, you can freeze some of the leftovers for later or crush the meatballs in the sauce and use it as a base for a meat lasagna.empty spaghetti plate

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Tuscan (inspired) soup

tuscan soupI always feel soup is in order when the days get colder.  Here is a soup I like to serve on a Saturday for lunch.  Served with a big chunk of crusty bread and plenty of fresh grated parmesan it is a welcome meal in front of the fire while it is freezing outside. It is also a great way to enjoy all those winter greens available this time of year.  Experiment by substituting or combining kale, swiss chard or spinach.ingredients in bowls

TUSCAN SOUP (serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced or pressed in a garlic press
  • 1 chopped tomato or 1 cup tomato coulis
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon each oregano and basil
  • 1 cup zucchini diced
  • 4 (loose) cups baby kale
  • 1 can (15 oz) white beans

Heat the oil in a large stockpot, add the carrots, celery and onion.  Cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tomato or tomato coulis, stock and herbs and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the zucchini and simmer another 5 minutes.  Add beans, simmer another 5 minutes.  Off heat add the kale, cover and let sit 10 minutes.  Serve with grated parmesan.bowls and linen

NOTE:  This soup is great as a vegetarian meal but for you meat eaters, if you want a more robust meal you can add 8 oz of cooked sausages or grilled chicken when adding the beans.serving soup

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Boeuf Bourguignon

boeuf bourguignonAs I am moving into the new year and recovering from the flu I am drawn to less complicated foods.  The days are not as short as they were a month ago, but the cold still makes me want comfort food – slow food, braised meats, and sauces I can dip big chunks of crusty bread in.  Boeuf Bourguignon comes to mind, a comfort dish served often in the winter in my childhood.  This dish can be served family-style on a weeknight or for company on the weekend.  I like to serve it with a side of sautéed green beans and roasted potatoes.  It is also good with mashed potatoes or on its own with a tossed salad at the end of the meal.  No matter what, do not forget the bread!! If you have the patience, serve it a day later as all the flavors will be enhanced after sitting an extra day in the fridge.raw beef and bacon

BOEUF BOURGUIGNON                     (serves 6 to 8 )

  • 4 pounds beef chuck (roast or steak) cut into one inch cubes
  • 8 oz bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt, pepper
  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • 4 carrots peeled, cut into 2 inch matchstick
  • 2 cups pearl onions ( I use frozen one that I thaw before using or you can use fresh ones, drop them in boiling water to loosen the skin and peel. Place in a sauteed pan, cover with water half way and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender)
  • 10 oz mushrooms quartered
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degree.

In a large dutch oven sautée the bacon until nicely browned.  With a slotted spoon transfer the bacon to a plate with paper towel to drain.  Transfer all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat to a small heatproof dish.  Sautée the beef in the remaining tablespoon of bacon fat until brown on all sides.  You might have to do this in 2 to 3 batches as you don’t want to crowd the pan.  Transfer the beef into a separate dish as you brown it, adding more bacon fat as needed in the dutch oven.  Once the meat is all browned, add a bit more fat in the pan and sautée the onions until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.sauteed mushrooms

Dust the pan with the 3 tablespoon of flour and cook for about 2 minutes making sure the flour absorbs all the moisture in the pan.  Quickly whisk in the stock and wine, making sure there are no flour lumps and bring to a slow boil while stirring.  The sauce will thicken slightly.  Whisk in the tomato paste.  Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper and the thyme.  Transfer the beef and bacon back into the pan, cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

In the meantime prepare the vegetables. In a pot of boiling water blanch the carrots for 5 minutes, drain in a colander, rinse under cold water, and set aside.  In a large sautée pan melt 2 tablespoon of the butter and sautée the quartered mushrooms until golden and crispy around the edges ( about 15 minutes ), put aside.  In the same pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and sautée the pearl onions until they are a nice golden color ( about 10 minutes) and set aside.

When the Bourguignon is done, stir the vegetables in and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Taste and seasoned with more salt and pepper if needed.   Add the chopped parsley before serving.  Should you decide to eat it the next day, let it cool to room temperature, keep in the dutch oven or transfer to a container, and refrigerate until ready to serve.  You can reheat in the oven or on top of the stove, stirring once in a while to make sure the bottom of the dutch oven does not burn.sauteed mushrooms and onions

NOTE:  Why cut a piece a beef rather than buying already prepared stew meat? The stew meat from the supermarket is often from different cuts of beef that will not cook the same way thus sometime causing “tough” pieces in the stew.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Turkey Stock

thanksgiving dayThe wonderful Thanksgiving feast has come and gone.  In the fridge, the leftovers are practically down to none.  If you still have that turkey carcass, don’t throw it away! (if you have, don’t worry since you can also use this method with a roast chicken.)raw turkey

A while ago, talking cooking with a good friend, he described the making of stock as primordial.  There is something basic about cooking bones, bits of meat, vegetables and herbs in water; extracting all the flavors in order to create a delicious base for soups and sauces.  While making stock, the kitchen warms up and a wonderful aroma starts to permeate the house: comfort food at its best – primordial-.

All you need is a big stock pot and if not, you can cut the carcass in half and make the stock in two medium saucepans.roast chicken

TURKEY STOCK

  • turkey or chicken carcass
  • 4 carrots cut into chunks
  • 2 large onion quartered
  • 4 celery stalks cut into chunks (you can include the green leaves)
  • greens from one leek coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch parlsey
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs sage
  • 2 bay leavesvegetables for stock

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover with water. On high heat bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 2 hours.

Turn off the heat, let cool to room temperature and put in the fridge overnight or until very cold, covered.

Skim the fat off the top and return pot to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for one hour.  Cool down to room temperature.  At that point, the stock has a nice amber, yellowish color.  Strain in a fine mesh colander. Discard all the solids.

You can use the stock right away, store in the fridge for up to a week or divide into containers and freeze until ready to use.

Use as you would any store bought stock.poultry stock

NOTE: Once cold, the stock will look like loose gelatin. Don’t worry! that means you have succeeded in making a nice rich stock.  I don’t call for salt and pepper as I prefer to season the stock once I use it in a recipe.  No time to make the stock? just freeze the carcass until you have the time.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Gratin de Chou-Fleur / Cauliflower Gratin

cauliflowerIt’s not too late to add this side dish to your Thanksgiving table.  I did not grow up celebrating Thanksgiving but this dish from my childhood has all the makings to be part of the feast: creamy, cheesy and easy!  This is my mac&cheese comfort food.  Great on its own with a tossed salad for lunch or add some leftover cooked ham to the cauliflower and you have dinner.cleaning cauliflower in colander

GRATIN DE CHOU-FLEUR

  • Medium size cauliflower cut into 2 inch chunks florets and pieces, you will have about 8 to 10 cups of florets
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 3 cups warm milk
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1.5 cup grated gruyere or cheddar cheese

Put florets in a colander, rinse and clean under cold water.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add a pinch of salt, drop the cauliflower in the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium/high and cook for 8 minutes.  Drain the florets, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk and keep whisking until thick about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Off heat stir in a half cup of the cheese before slowly mixing it into the bowl with the cauliflower until the florets are covered with the mixture.

Butter a gratin or lasagna dish with one tablespoon of butter.  Transfer the cauliflower to the dish and sprinkle with the remaining one cup of cheese. At this point you can cover the dish, refrigerate and bake the next day. cauliflower gratin

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees and bake the gratin for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted and golden.

NOTE: You want to make sure you do not overcook the cauliflower or you will end up with mashed cauliflower.  Be careful with the salt as some cheese can be salty.  Taste the sauce before adding any.gratin cauliflower chou-fleur gratine

From my kitchen to yours!

CK, la fille du boucher