Saturday, February 12, 2011

Quick Pear Crumble

Last night I made dinner and had a few people over to help me pre-celebrate my birthday (actual day is Tuesday the 15th).  I was really excited to be serving up a new braised short ribs recipe I'd come up with, and some really tasty kalamata olive-sage polenta fries -- so excited, in fact, that I forgot that no birthday bash would be complete without some vehicle for some drippy wax b-day candles.

The mission: to come up with a dessert that is easy, made up of ingredients I mostly already have stocked, and that you can hold a candle to (literally) - or 26 candles, to be precise!

The result: Melt-in-your-mouth success!  Pear crumble to the rescue...

Easy Pear-Ginger Crumble (printable version)

(serves 8)

3 lb. pears, ripe but firm, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 half lemon)
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter
birthday candles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly greasy a 9 by 13 in. baking dish (or some equivalent).  Combine the ingredients for the filling in a medium bowl, mix well, and pour into the baking dish.  Cover the surface with plastic wrap while you prepare the crumble so the pears don't turn brown.

In another bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender, or two knives (or just your hands).  Combine until the butter is mixed in and resembles little pebbles.

Uncover the filling and cover the top completely with the crumble.  Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until the topping is a golden brown and crunchy and the pears are soft and cooked through.  Serve warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New Website

Hey folks - Just a brief update: I've launched my business website, it's at  Go check it out and feel free to comment on it here or send me a note through the "Contact" form on the site.  I'd love to hear what you think!

And happy Sunday!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Chicken in a sausage suit

Today I did it: I deboned a whole chicken (well, two whole chickens, in fact) a la Jacques Pepin, as seen on TV here.  And then, I stuffed them!  One with a spinach-mushroom mixture, sauteed with shallots, sprinkled with nutmeg and black pepper, and finished with marsala wine.  The other, which came out on top as the reigning champion of deliciousness, was full of sweet Italian pork sausage cooked with garlic, sage, smoked paprika, and a dash of chili flakes for heat.  Take a gander at my precious poulet:

I won't explain how I butchered the chicken (the butcher can do it for you, so don't sweat it - I'm just crazy), but I will divulge what I stuffed it with, because it was really something.

Chicken Ballantine with Sausage
(serves 4)

Note: If you ask the butcher to debone the chicken for you, this dish is a breeze to make on the fly.  If you don't, you'll work up a sweat, but you'll have something to brag about to your totally impressed dinner guests!

- 1 whole oven roaster chicken, cleaned and deboned
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 sage leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera)
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.  Place the deboned chicken skin-side down on a large cutting board and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a 12-inch saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the sausage.  Using a wooden spoon, break up the sausage as it browns.  Once no longer pink, add the garlic and sage.  Turn heat down to medium and cook 5 minutes.  Stir in the spices and transfer to a dry bowl. Let cool.

Add breadcrumbs, pecorino, and egg, and mix well.  Spoon three-quarters of the filling onto the center of the chicken and spread evenly across.  Stuff the remaining filling into the leg and wing cavities.  Carefully fold the leg and wing flesh carefully in towards the center, so that the chicken takes on its former, pre-boned shape.  Cross the leg flesh and gently flip the whole bird over, seam side down.  Tie the ankles together with kitchen twine, leaving a long length attached, and tie the bird as you would a roast, making successive loops until you reach the neck opening and flip the bird over again to do the same down the back.  Cut the twine, tie it off.  (If you are unsure how to do this, watch the video that I link to above.)

Place the tied chicken breast side up in a medium roasting pan.  Sprinkle the entire exterior with salt and pepper, and rub with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Roast in the oven, rotating half way through, for 45 minutes or until the juices run clear when cut.  Remove to a carving platter and let rest at least 10 minutes.  Cut into thick slices and serve warm, with its pan juices.