Monthly Archives: April 2009

Easter Dinner – Sticking with the Favorites.

At least, sticking with the same menu I’ve been serving on Easter since I started hosting this holiday in 2006. My brother Steve and his wife Lorraine do Thanksgiving and Christmas. My Steve and I do Easter and July 4th – and now also New Year’s Day. I added that – it is too long between July 4th and Easter. I needed another excuse to clean the house. I am not kidding.

So – Ham. I always get a Cook’s spiral – sirloin end, versus shank end, this year (I am going to stick with the sirloin end from now on so I can use my Dutch oven. More on that later. Chicken Tarragon, Baked Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus, and, new this year, Mini Crab Cakes for an appetizer to go along with the shrimp that Lorraine and Steve brought and the delightful artichoke dip my long-time friends and upstairs neighbors Lori and Joel brought.

Liz and Joe brought fabulous Matzah ball soup, which I had never had before – I am now a fan! Matt and Liz were going to bring biscuits to serve the chicken over, but apparently the biscuit muse was taking a day off. They brought extra beer instead and I am glad that they did. Here is why:

Have you ever tried Peak Organic IPA? It is superb – VERY bitter, which I love. Thanks Matt and Liz! Now I need to find a local source.

Lisa and Pauline brought a lovely fruit platter, Meggie brought delightful chocolate trifle, and Suzanne is brought wine – she has most excellent taste in wine!!!! and beer. Dave came early and was a big help with last minute setting up.

Lori and Joel, who live upstairs, hosted the egg hunt. We have one every year, whether or not there are children in attendance. In fact, there were no children the first year. It is great fun – very silly. And, it is chocolate!

I managed to plan things so all was pretty much low stress. On Saturday, I borrowed Lori’s big slow cooker and did most of the Chicken Tarragon cooking and prep – de-boning and removing the skin after cooking – and storing the juices separately. I also prepped the potatoes – boiling and then mashing them with cream cheese and other goodies before spreading them in a 9×13 pan and refrigerating overnight.

I bought the asparagus on Friday and left them sitting in water like cut flowers to stay fresh until Sunday.

I also prepped the crab cakes on Saturday – the batter/crab part – leaving the crust part for Sunday.

– I prepped the asparagus after church – easiest recipe in the world! AND, the crab cakes – a la bon appétit magazine. I prepped the rest of the ingredients after church, also – just need to add some butter and panko (breadcrumbs) before baking in mini muffin tins for 30 minutes. They can be cooked and reheated within an hour or two, so I wasn’t concerned about them getting done early. I used my toaster oven/convection oven for them since my oven was still busy with the ham. I have one of those Krupps ovens and I love it! Lori generously provided oven space for the potatoes, which I had simply taken out of the fridge when I got home from church so they would not be cold into the oven at 2:15 p.m.

I reheated the chicken

Appetizer time started at 2:00 p.m. with dinner a bit after 3:00 p.m. and then the egg hunt. THEN dessert.

I had two surprise – and very welcome! – guests – yet another Liz, who has been a close friend of the family for years, and Andrea, Lorraine’s niece. I love a crowd!

Okay – I started this post the night before Easter and had to edit the tense, fix it up and finish it – just didn’t have much time – but here it is, with all its imperfections! AND:

Here are my recipes:

Crabcakes – click HERE for recipe

Cook’s Spiral cut ham – 275 degrees for a few hours, etc. – but I did make a tasty glaze from Cook’s Illustrated – really quick and easy! I’m not providing a link because it is a subscription site, and well worth it, I will add!

Maple-Orange Glaze:
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside – until ready to glaze.

The potatoes: Click HERE for recipe
Always a hit. This year I used just about 6 lbs AFTER peeling, with half Idaho and half Yukon gold, with a bit more of the other ingredients – 5 Tablespoons butter, ¾ cup half and half, and a bit extra garlic salt.

The Chicken Tarragon: Click HERE for recipe
I used just about 6 lbs of chicken – mix of legs, breast and thigh – bone in and with skin albeit some skin trimmed.
I used 1 plus ½ ingredients in prep, and ended up adding hmmm…maybe two cups chicken stock for the “gravy” and I also added about 2 cups frozen peas when reheating on Sunday before putting it in the crockpot.
Asparagus: Just coat lightly with olive oil and a touch of kosher salt, roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, then sprinkle with freshly grated parm cheese. YUM.
Anyway – if I keep re-reading and double-checking, this or actually finish it, I’ll NEVER get around to posting it. So, here it is, albeit a few weeks late…

Spicy Meatballs – and not from that old TV ad!

Ah – blogging once more – hopefully I can stay back at it for a while! Actually, I think I am getting close to finally taking a running leap and making food service a career. I am thinking Personal Chef or the like. I am looking into joining the Personal Chef Network for support. I must say that learning about the local http://www.grandmaschickensoup.com/ lady from Wakefield MA is very inspiring, too. I want to cook, write about cooking, and share good food with others.

But – in the meantime – here I am actually posting again!

So, I’ve been making meatballs for a while. They are tasty – baked to lower the fat content, and containing diced onion and green pepper and some grated then chopped carrot – and an egg and oatmeal . When Steve was still having reactions from eggs and I was not using them, I would grind flax seed to get that binding thing going. No difference in taste or texture, but I started using eggs once Steve could handle them because it is way easier and less messy than grinding flax seeds!

I know that all sounds way too healthy to taste good, but they are quite tasty, as I said above. I have a committed carnivore husband as a quality control person, remember? [grin] – but Steve started saying he wanted “spicy” meatballs. Okay – so I started by searching for and then selecting a recipe for Spicy meatballs online.
Click HERE to see what I picked as a base. I added veggies and stuff – so this was just the starter recipe. But, one must start somewhere….(with apologies to Paul Valéry)

BUT, while poking around, I also found another recipe on the Cooks’s Country website that suggests using part sweet sausage meat “for a more intense pork flavor.” This is suggested as being more effective than using plain ol’ ground pork.

Their recipe called for 2 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck (80 percent lean) to 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed.

AND – I kept coming across recipes saying to soak fresh bread crumbs in milk to make a paste….It was time for me to experiment!

The first time, I totally guessed and bought and used two sausages – turns out that is about ½ a pound if you buy them at The Farmland, my FAVORITE market. And, I soaked breadcrumbs in milk, but, I am not sure if they were fresh or dry or of the proportions. That will teach me not to write things down when I cook!

But, bottom line is – the meatballs came out most excellent!!!! Not to be a Rachel wannabe, but YUMMO.

However, I didn’t write down what I did – and I did adjust the recipes…SO, here is what I did the NEXT time:

1 lb ground beef (I actually had in the freezer a pound of beef that I had ground myself in the food processor a few weeks ago from chuck or the like that was on BIG sale. – my next option is ground beef from Farmland because they grind their own – so not from many cows.)

½ pound sweet sausage (I had forgotten whether I should get sweet or hot sausage and when I explained to the gentleman behind the counter at Farmland, he told me I wanted sweet sausage and that they had it available to buy all ground but not yet in the casing. That was easy! I got ½ a pound since I liked that proportion the last time.)

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
½ cup milk
½ cup oatmeal
¼ cup grated and chopped carrot
¼ cup diced onion
1 egg
2 tsp Worcester sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp fresh ground pepper (well, 50-60 twists)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or the like)
1 tsp chili garlic sauce

I started by mixing the breadcrumbs and milk first and letting them sit while I did the rest of the prep. I put everything but the meat into a smaller bowl and mixed it up – then added the soaked breadcrumbs and then mixed it all with the meat.

It made 15 meatballs around 2 ½ + inches in diameter. To bake – in a regular oven, I would preheat to say 375 or so, place the meatballs on a cookie rack over a cookie sheet or on a broiler pan, and bake for 30 or so minutes, turning once at 15 minutes – then check the internal temperature of one of the meatballs to make sure it is close to 160. You might need to adjust cooking time and temperature.

You see, I have one of those Krups toaster/convection ovens (this was a $200 investment but WELL worth it! It makes great toast, works great as a regular oven, and the convection option is super.) I usually do meatballs on convection at 350 for 30 minutes, turjing at 15 minutes – although I did this batch at 400 for the first 7 minutes. They were bigger than I usually make. But, just bake them until they are brown and a little crisp and have a safe internal temperature. Although, they get more cooked if you put them to simmer in sauce for a while. FYI – I used a 26 oz jar of prepared sauce and had to keep back 4 of the meatballs since I made no extra sauce this time. Now I have to find the recipe I used for quick but REALLY great sauce from diced tomatoes, etc., that I used last time! It was better than the one I have from Cook’s illustrated.

BOTTOM LINE: They were very good – excellent, even. And, as spicy as my husband had imagined and wanted. BUT, I liked the texture of my first try better. And I know why. Turns out I did use breadcrumbs from fresh (well, day old but not dried out) bread the first time.
So – next time, I will use fresh bread crumbs. No, I don’t know how much or the amount of milk! I am trying to remember……But I am convinced that it will make the texture softer without decreasing the firmness, and adding a touch of smoothiness/creaminess…

Hopefully I’ll remember to post subsequent experiments! : )