Sunday, November 30, 2008

Leftover Turkey Soup

On a cold November day after Thanksgiving, nothing is better than a warm hearty bowl of turkey noodle soup. The roasted turkey carcass was converted into nectar of the gods and the noodles were homemade. Thick, rich and creamy, this was the perfect thing to warm the soul. Not much too it, really. I cooked all the leftover turkey bones and carcass with carrots, celery and onions to make the broth. Strained it off. Peeled whatever meat was left on the bones off and cooked it all together with more fresh vegetables and noodles.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Divine Dining Redux #5 - Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream

I have an on-line friend from California who contributes regularly to the recipes and cooking forums over at This year she has started her own fantastic blog where she shares her little piece of heaven in California. If you haven't seen Jain's Once in a Blue Moon, you MUST. Last year on Gardenbuddies she shared a recipe for ice cream made from fresh lavender and blueberries. Can I say, this recipe is truly divine? The perfect ending for my Divine Dining dinner. Another Gardenbuddies contributor, Mary, has posted her recipe on her outstanding blog, Once Upon a Plate. You can find all the recipe details there. I only made slight changes.

It starts with 1 cup of blueberries. I used frozen blueberries. Fresh or frozen, it doesn't really matter. They are both excellent. These are cooked with sugar and just a bit of water until the blueberries begin to pop open.

Once the blueberries have broken down I pureed them in a blender and strained it using a fine sieve. The blueberry liquid was returned to the sauce pan. Recipes call for just the flowers but I didn't have enough flowers in my garden so I just chucked in lavender leaves as well. This was cooked gently for a few minutes ton infuse the lavender flavor into the blueberry syrup. This was strained once again and vanilla and cinnamon were added.

Once the blueberry syrup was well chilled, half and half was added and the mixture was frozen in the ice cream maker.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Divine Dining Redux #4 - Meatballs in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce

It's been two months since my Divine Dining dinner and I have yet to post all the details of that wonderful meal. I can't believe I've let this lag so long. I have another dinner to tell you about too so let me finish this up so I can move on. Let's talk about the main course we enjoyed back in September. I served a homemade meatball on top of a bed of garlic rutabaga and potato mash with a rather simple sage-infused creamy mushroom sauce. They were excellent if I do say so myself and really not hard to make.

The meatballs were made from a mixture of ground beef and ground pork. I used 2 pounds of beef and 1 pound of pork. To this I added 2.5 cups of bread crumbs, 4 cloves of chopped garlic, 8 chopped sage leaves, 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley, salt, pepper and Italian herb seasoning to taste. I also accentuated the flavors with a dash of worschester sauce, a dash of nuoc mam Vietnames fish sauce. This sauce smells really strong but you don't notice it in the dish. It just ads a dimension to the overall flavor that is almost imperceptible. Don't be afraid of nuoc mam. Finally I added a dash of hot sauce. I used a homemade habanero sauce I had on hand.

It couldn't be simpler. I just mixed all these ingredients together well in my KitchenAid and formed good good-sized meatballs by hand. They were placed on a baking sheet and cooked in a hot (425 °F) oven until browned. Be careful not to overcook them as they could get dried out.

The sauce was made by first sautéing chopped mushrooms, onions and garlic. You can use as much or little as you like of these ingredients. I don't recall exactly my proportions but I guess I used one small package of white mushrooms, one small onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic. Season with salt and pepper as these are cooking down. Once the mushrooms and onions were softened, I added a healthy branch of sage to the pan and added heavy cream to cover the mushrooms. This was cooked for just a few minutes until the sauce thickened a little bit. You could added white wine to this dish also. That would be good.

I was fortunate this year to have a bumper crop of rutabagas in my garden. I love the combination of this hearty root vegetable with potatoes. I just diced up both the rutabas and potatoes and boiled them until tender. To that was added a healthy dose of roasted garlic, milk and cream, salt, pepper and butter. Mash just like you would do to the potatoes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lamian Noodles, sort of

Lamian (also called la mien) are hand-pulled Chinese noodles. I have been fascinated with the plethora of youtube videos showing Chinese artisans stretching and pulling these noodles. I so wanted to try this myself. The dough is seemingly simple but if you don't have the right ratio of gluten in the flour it will never have the right stretchy consistency to pull the noodles no matter how much you knead it. It also needs a pretty high hydration to be pliable enough to stretch. I tried this just using all purpose flour but it was not stretchy enough. I need to get some lower-gluten pastry or cake flour to make these noodles. I resorted to rolling out the dough and cutting the noodles with a knife. They turned out really tasty but I still want to try pulling them some day.

I made the dough using about 3.5 oz of all purpose flour and 2 oz of water. The dough was kneaded for about 25 minutes the allowed to rest for a few hours. It was kneaded by hand again for 20 or so minutes but it just wouldn't become stretchy and relaxed enough to pull. It was silky smooth though and made for a great texture in the final product.

I made this soup very simply. I used a Korean beef dashi powder to make a broth and cooked some sliced carrots and celery in the broth for just a few minutes before serving. The noodles were cut and immediately thrown into a pot of salted boiling water. They were cooked for about 3 minutes, strained out and placed into large bowls. The soup was ladelled on top of the noodles. Meanwhile I quickly stir fried some thinly sliced sirloin tip, garlic and a bit of chili sauce. This was placed on top of the soup. It was YUMMY, filling and perfect for a cold winter's day.