Company’s Coming: Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes

Creme Fraiche Mashed Potato Recipe | Dear Martini

When company’s coming we pull out all the stops and make the creamiest and smoothest potatoes we know how!  The secret is…our mashed potatoes aren’t mashed at all, but put through a ricer or food mill. Instead of a rustic mash the texture is smooth and perfect for making a “gravy lake” in the center.  We know, we know, there are purists who will say you can’t call it mashed if it’s not mashed but potato puree sounds scary so we’ve agreed to call it an elegant mash!

Creme Fraiche Mashed Potatoes | Dear Martini

Call them what you will, this is not the recipe to skimp on the fat and cream.  This dish is all about the little details… The butter, crème fraîche, and heavy cream all play an important role in the richness and texture of the final dish.  If you can’t find crème fraîche in your area you can substitute with a really good quality sour cream or full fat Fage plain yogurt.

Don’t forget to infuse the cream with the aromatics — it’s an extra step but adds depth to the flavors. And, pop the drained potatoes back into the hot pot for at least 30 seconds to dry out the potatoes which makes them even fluffier.

Watch for the tip at the end of the video on how to keep the potatoes warm — it’s worth the price of admission we promise! Happy Start-to-the-Holiday Season!

 

Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4

 2 pounds (about 3 large) russet potatoes

Handful of kosher salt

½ cup heavy whipping cream

4 to 5 peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed

½ stick unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature

½ cup crème fraîche

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Peel and cut the potatoes into quarters and place in a large saucepan. Cover the potatoes with at least an inch of cold water. Add the salt and bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer potatoes until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat with peppercorns, bay leaf, and garlic to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and return potatoes to the pot to allow the potatoes to dry.Process the potatoes through a food mill or ricer. Toss in the butter to the hot potatoes as you work. Fold in the crème fraîche and heavy cream and gently fold until the potatoes are thick and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Aromatics and Cream Infusion | Dear Martini

Fennel Fanatics

 

Everything you need to know about fennel | Dear MartiniBack in our days teaching at Draeger’s Cooking School, we bonded over our love for fennel.  We used to joke that one day we would create a cooking class entitled, “I Love Fennel.”  It was a silly idea, but it was certainly a class we would take ourselves.

Fennel bulb top shot Dear MartiniWhy do we love fennel so much?  It’s versatile, available year round (we are so lucky to live in California), and it goes well with the California/Mediterranean style of cuisine we enjoy. We roast fennel with meats, shave it for salads, braise it or cook it in soups, and even throw it on the grill.  It’s sweet, licorice flavor is subtle enough to compliment pork, chicken and fish and goes beautifully into hearty dishes like ratatouille, our Thanksgiving stuffing, or a comforting soup.  When raw, it’s crunchy texture lends well to slaws and salads; in fact, one of our favorite salads of all is a simple combination of shaved fennel, shredded carrot and dried cranberries.

If you are new to fennel, we suggest you start off with this delicious soup.  It’s a hearty soup perfect for cooler months and we hope will inspire you to add fennel to your other favorite recipes.

Be sure to click on the blue links to watch our bite-sized technique videos.  And let us know what you think!

bean soup

Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup

Serves 4 to 6

 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ yellow onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

½ bulb fennel, cored and diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 15-ounce can white beans (or cannellini beans), drained and rinsed

3 cups chicken stock, or vegetable stock

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional)

3 cups (1 bunch) Tuscan Kale, chopped

2 tablespoons shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish

In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium flame and add the onion, carrot, celery, fennel and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper and toss around to coat with oil.  Cover and let the vegetable become soft and tender, but not browned, for about 7 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Uncover and add the pepper flakes and beans and toss to coat.  Cook until the beans are hot, about 2 more minutes.  Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat to simmer and add the Parmigiano rind, if using.  Simmer for 15 minutes, covered.  Uncover and add the kale. Stir to combine the ingredients and simmer, covered, for another 8 minutes, or until the kale is soft and tender.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Ladle into warmed soup bowls, top with cheese and serve hot.

Fennel_Bulb_Dear_Martini

 

Mojo Verde Sauce

Mojo Verde Sauce Recipe via Dear Martini

Mojo verde or green sauce is a simple and easy to make sauce from the Canary Islands.  You’ll find mojo verde and variations in Spain, Cuba, and throughout the Caribbean.  Start with  fresh and tangy lime juice, a handful of herbal cilantro, a couple of garlic cloves, a little chile for heat (you decide how spicy you want it), and throw it all in the blender and your done.  Seriously, that’s it.  This week, get your mojo working…sauce that is!

Mojo Verde

Serves 4

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (approximately 3 limes)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and finely ground

Pinch of red pepper flakes or 1 serrano chile minced (to taste!)

Pinch of salt and pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or to taste)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

*Kitchen Notes:  If you love the bright green sauce in the photos and video — make and serve the sauce immediately after making.  Mojo verde has a tends to darken in color the longer it sits.

Need ideas for what to put it on?

We love mojo for its versatility…mojo can be used as a sauce, condiment, marinade, even salad dressing, and it practically goes with everything.  Here are some of our favorite ways to use it:

  • Drizzled on an avocado
  • Perfect for grilled Chicken
  • Serve with everything fish and shellfish
  • Garnish lamb chops
  • As a marinade for pork that tends to dry out
  • As a dip for vegetables
  • Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes

Mojo Verde Sauce with Roasted Game Hens | Dear Martini

Don’t have a blender?  Just mince everything up and stir together!  Hit the thumbnail to jump to the video!

mince garlic thumbnail Chop Cilantro Thumbnail jalapeno thumbnail spice blend toast how grind spices thubnail

 

 

Perfect Pie Crust

We admit it, we’ve gone a little overboard in recent years in search of the perfect pie crust.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

We’ve experimented with the food processor, resorted to adding vodka instead of water to our dough, all in the quest for perfection.  We’ve come full circle back to a humble basic pie dough.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

The method relies on a hands-on approach to work the butter into the flour and hand patting and turning the dough to create layers without over working the dough.  The results are a tender-tasty-flaky crust — every time.  And, importantly to us — it’s a method that is as friendly to first time pie makers as those of us looking to return to a simpler method with consistent results.  No fancy gadgets required.  All you need is a bowl and a plastic scraper.  Easy cleanup (woohoo!)

Basic Pie Dough

Makes one 9-inch double-crust pie shell

Want an easy way to remember our recipe without having to look it up again?  3 + 2 + 1!  3 parts flour  2 parts butter 1 part ice water.

2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen for 15 minutes

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

½  teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

½ cup ice water

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the chilled butter and toss to coat the butter with flour.  Quickly rub the butter with the flour between your fingers to make flat pieces of butter. Take care not to overwork  the butter – you want to work each piece, but should still have pea-sized lumps of the butter in the flour.  Sprinkle in the salt and sugar and toss with your fingers to mix.  Add the water and using a plastic scraper and a quick a folding motion, mix the dough just until it begins to clump together.   The dough will look sandy and lumpy at this point and that’s okay.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour and gently pat out the dough into a flat disk about an 1-inch thick.  Fold the dough in on itself until the dough just begins to hold together and is no longer sandy on the edges.  Once the dough begins to come together, fold dough in half, turn it a quarter-turn and pat it out flat again to an inch thick.  Repeat this process 4 to 5 more times.  Butter will still be visible in the dough — it’s these pieces of butter that result in a flaky dough!  Divide the dough in half and flatten each piece into a disk one more time and wrap them in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to an hour before rolling out.

Dough Tips:

Always use cold ingredients — ice cold butter and ice water are your friends in pie dough making.

Don’t skimp on the refrigerator time required in the recipe before rolling out.  While the dough rests in the fridge the water is absorbed in the dough and the butter firms up.  A properly rested and chilled dough relaxes,  making it easier to roll out.

To make pie making easier, we usually make the dough the day before we plan to make pies to spread out the work.  Dough tightly wrapped in plastic wrap will last in the fridge up to 2 days (after that it becomes an unappealing gry color) or throw it in the freezer for up to 3 months.  Want to get a jump on the Thanksgiving feast madness?  Make pie dough this weekend and store in the freezer until ready to use.  Allow dough to thaw in the fridge before rolling.

Ready to Roll?

Rolling Tips

Less is more when it comes to the amount of flour used to roll out the dough.  You need just enough so the dough doesn’t stick to your board or your rolling pin.  Brush off excess flour with a pastry brush (or your hands)  before placing your dough in your pie pan.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

If dough becomes too soft and floppy to work with while you are rolling out (first time pie makers sometimes have this problem) put the dough on a baking sheet and return it to the fridge until it becomes firm enough to work with.  The butter in the dough needs to remain firm (not melted and completely incorporated into the dough) for flakiness.

Keep the dough moving!  After every couple rolls give the dough a quarter turn.  Every quarter turn is an opportunity to make sure the dough is not sticking to your work surface.  Dough stuck to the rolling pin?  Rub off the stuck dough with a little flour until it is clean and then add a light sprinkle of flour to the top of your dough.  Your dough is stuck to your work surface?  A long metal spatula is a pie rookie’s best friend.  Using short strokes run the spatula between the dough and the work surface until it releases.  Dust the work surface with flour and continue rolling.

How to make a perfect pie crust | www.dearmartini.wordpress.com

Scraps!

Hey, don’t throw away those leftover bits of dough.  Here’s a fun delicious Pastry Cookie you can make from the scraps!

Happy pie making!  Don’t forget if you like our videos please LIKE them on YouTube and/or SHARE them with your friends!

The Classic Caesar Salad

Classic Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons. Dear Martini

All Hail Caesar salad!  Most people agree the Caesar salad was invented by Caesar Cardini in his Tijuana restaurant, opened during the 1920s to circumvent Prohibition laws.   The Hollywood in crowd appreciated Cardini’s flare for the dramatic.  Cardini himself would prepare the salad table side with a flourish.   The Caesar salad soon became a national and international hit!

Anchovies, or no anchovies?

How to Make Anchovy Paste for Caesar Salads or Pasta Sauces.  Dear MartiniThe great debate rages on:  anchovies or no anchovies?  Many cooks and food experts debate about whether or not to include anchovies in Caesar Salad. Some critics say the original Cardini recipe did not include anchovies, but instead used Worcheshire sauce, which also contains anchovies. However, others believe that the best Caesar salad include anchovies, and it’s just not a Caesar  without them!  We believe the secret is not to add too many anchovies.  The anchovies give the salad a nice subtle savory note and we promise, our recipe is not the least bit fishy.

Classic Caesar Salad in a Wooden Salad Bowl.  Dear Martini

How to Enjoy Caesar Salad

If you’re having a party, you can serve the salad on a large platter, or prepare and serve it out of a large wooden bowl, just like Caesar Cardini did in his restaurants. But if you want to try something fun, make it portable for a picnic by serving it in individual mason jars.   Enjoy the salad by itself, or add  chicken or salmon for extra protein.  Caesar salad is a great option for lunch or dinner or as Chef Terri prefers for brunch– preferably with a Blood Mary cocktail!

 

Classic Caesar Salad

Serves 6 to 8

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 anchovy fillets, smashed

Pinch kosher salt

2 large egg yolks, coddled (see below)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dash Worcestershire sauce

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large head Romaine lettuce, washed and spun dry

¾ cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese

2 cups fresh croutons, recipe follows

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

In a large salad bowl, add the smashed garlic cloves and anchovy fillets.  Using two forks, smash and rub the cloves and anchovies with a pinch of salt to create a paste.  Add the yolks one by one and whisk to combine with the garlic.  Add the lemon juice and Worcestershire, whisking to combine.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil while whisking constantly to create an emulsion.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Tear the romaine lettuce leaves into bite-sized chunks directly into the bowl with the dressing.  Toss together with Parmesan cheese and croutons.  Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and serve immediately.

* to coddle the eggs, place the eggs in a small saucepan.  Cover with water and heat to just before simmering.  Use immediately.  Note:  Consuming raw or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.  Make sure your eggs are fresh and stored in the refrigerator.  Coddling the eggs will eliminate any bacteria that may be present on the surface of the shell, but will not completely render the egg yolk 100% safe.

IMG_0599

Baked Croutons

Makes approximately 2 cups

½ loaf country bread, such as ciabatta, pulgiese or batard, crusts trimmed and cut into ½-inch cubes

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread cubes together with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread the bread cubes in one even layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake in the pre-heated oven until golden brown, about 9 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow the croutons to cool.

Classic Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Dear Martini

How do YOU like to enjoy your Casear Salad?  Let us know on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DearMartiniCooking

Panzanella Salad – Heirloom Tomato and Bread Salad

Ripe heirloom tomatoes make the best panzanella salad

Welcome to Tuscany!  Panzanella is a traditional Tuscan salad usually consisting mainly of stale bread and tomatoes.  We know it may seem strange to use stale bread, but this dish ingeniously takes advantage of rock-hard-day-old-bread, turning it into a tasty treat.  It’s also a great way to enjoy fresh vegetables – especially heirloom tomatoes which are abundant during the late summer months.

A variety of heirloom tomatoes and rustic loaf croutons make the best panzanella salad

For the bread, panzanella is made with a country-style loaf, like that found in Tuscany. Any rustic Italian loaf of bread from pugliese to ciabatta or even a French sweet baguette or batard (heresy!) will do as long as it’s at least one day old.   While the Tuscans claim it, you will find many variations of panzanella throughout central Italy with varying ingredients according to the region.   Every cook has her version of it. We prefer to toast the bread before letting it soak in the vinaigrette, giving the bread a little more flavor and texture.   If the last weeks of summer are still too hot to fire up the oven, consider leaving the bread out to dry in the sun for a couple of hours.  It’s a lovely entrée salad that requires no cooking!

Heirloom Tomato Basket

When choosing tomatoes, heirloom or otherwise, pick tomatoes that have vibrant color and are a bit soft.  Large, firm, heavy tomatoes tend to have lots of water in them and therefore lack intense tomato flavors.  Dry farmed or older, softer tomatoes tend to have less water and more flavor.

With the best of summer ingredients, hearty bread, and homemade vinaigrette,  panzanella is a delicious way to celebrate late-summer flavors!  Watch our short little video on how we made panzanella right on our front lawn… and while you’re at it, hit the hotlinks we’ve given you in the recipe below to watch our other cooking technique videos!

Panzanella – Heirloom Tomato and Bread Salad

Serves 6 to 8

Break out your best extra virgin olive oil to really make all of the simple flavors in this dish shine!

1 day-old rustic loaf , cut into 1-inch cubes

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 small shallot, minced

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced, diced and or cut into wedges

1/2 cup ripe cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

½ bunch basil leaves, torn into pieces

½ red onion, lyonnaise

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Make the croutons by arranging the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and lightly toast the bread in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and half a pinch of ground black pepper.  Set aside to cool.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the garlic, shallot, vinegar, olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Screw the lid on tightly and shake vigorously to combine.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the dressing together with the bread, tomatoes, basil and red onions.  Refrigerate the salad for 20 minutes for the flavors to develop.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Want to get creative?  While not traditional, try adding any one (or all ) of these ingredients:

Panzanella Salad is a delicious idea for dinner when it's too darn hot to turn on the stove!

Strawberry Social – How to Enjoy the End of Strawberry Season

Everybody’s invited to the end-of-the-season strawberry social!  Strawberries are one of our favorite fruits, and they always taste better when they are in season and picked fresh ( May through the end of summer.)  

how_to_make_strawberry_soda

During the month of August when we are knee-deep in delicious berries, we add them to our morning cereal, smoothies, salads, and desserts.  And another delicious way to enjoy strawberries is the homemade strawberry soda.   Packed with delicious strawberries, it contains  minimal sugar and can be enjoyed without guilt.  Homemade strawberry soda is great for brunch or lovely as an apéritif.  Add vodka?  Better hurry!

Strawberry Soda

Serves 6

1 recipe simple syrup (recipe below)

4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

1 ½ cups club soda or seltzer water

Puree the strawberries using a food processor or blender.  Strain into a glass measuring cup and set aside.

Fill 6 tall glasses halfway with ice cubes.  Equally divide the strawberry puree among the glasses.  Add a 2 tablespoons of  simple syrup to each glass.  Top with sparkling water and add 2 teaspoons of  lemon juice, to taste.  Gently stir and serve.

 

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup or sugar syrup is a combination of sugar and water that is cooked to a clear syrup.    Used for cocktails, poaching fruits, glazing and moistening cakes, and is the base for sorbet.

Makes 1-3/4 cups syrup

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and bring to a full boil.  Boil for 1 minute.   Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool completely before using.  Store syrup in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to use.

 Delicious homemade Strawberry Soda

Want more strawberry ideas?

Check out our previous blog post about strawberries for tips on how to choose the best berries, washing and storing, and a great recipe for roasting strawberries.

https://dearmartini.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/strawberries-rule-tips-for-choosing-and-preparing-the-better-berry/

bowl of strawberries