Sunday, February 20, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

Recently a friend of mine asked for a recipe for Swedish meatballs. It took me a while to make them, and for that I am deeply sorry. These little babies are GOOD!! Please don't let the extensive ingredients list discourage you. Once you try these meatballs you'll be hooked.

The meatball is lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. The nutmeg makes the dish have a rich quality, I wouldn't leave it out. I also threw in a bit of ricotta cheese, mostly because I had some, but also for the flavor as well as moisture they provided to the meatballs. You didn't get a 'cheesy' flavor from them at all, the cheese kept them moist and light. They were very well received by the 3 children that were lucky enough to eat them. Knowing that all 3 kids disliked mushrooms meant there were more for the adults. I left the mushrooms large so they were easier to pick around for the kids, however if I were making this again I might dice the mushrooms finer so they were more evenly distributed in the sauce. The choice is yours. We made the meatballs bit size using a small 2 teaspoon cookie scoop. The smaller size allows a quicker cooking time and they are the perfect bite size.

Now the Witch makes no claims at authenticity, I've never been to Sweden and honestly I don't know if 'Swedish Meatballs' are even Swedish. They could be as Swedish as French toast is French. You get the idea. But when I was brainstorming this recipe I thought that a bit of bacon in the sauce wouldn't be a bad thing. Really, when is adding bacon a bad thing?! The bacon was indeed well received and added a great depth of flavor that would have been missed otherwise. I sauteed the mushrooms in the bacon fat for extra flavor and discarded the fat after the mushrooms cooked, so all the goodness of bacon fat flavor was in the dish with out all the bacon fat itself.

The results were very successful! Tender, flavorful meatballs in a creamy rich sauce filled with mushrooms, bacon bits and deliciousness. Swedish meatballs will be gracing our dinner table more often, this I'm sure of! Enjoy!

Swedish Meatballs
makes 6 servings
1.5 lb lean ground beef
1/3 c ricotta cheese
fresh ground nutmeg, about 1/4 t divided (if using preground use a bit less)
1-1.5 t kosher salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
1 egg
1/2 c panko
1 onion, small, fine mince
1/2 c white wine, dry
1/2 t garlic granules
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1 package cremini mushrooms (4 oz), quartered
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/3 c sour cream
1 t worstershire sauce
2-3 T flour

In a mixing bowl place the ground beef with 1/8 t nutmeg, about 3/4 t kosher salt, 1/4 t pepper, panko, 1/2 the onions, granulated garlic and 2 T white wine. In a small bowl mix the ricotta and egg together. Pour the ricotta mix over the meat & other ingredients and mix until very well incorporated. Make small bite sized meatballs, about 2t of meat mixture for each ball. ~*~the Witch used a small 2t cookie scooper, made things easy & uniform~*~

Place formed balls onto a baking sheet, bake for 15 minutes, turn the oven off and allow to rest in oven for 5 minutes before removing tray.

While the meatballs bake start the sauce.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crispy and all fat is rendered out. Remove and drain bacon, reserve for later use.

In the same bacon drippings add the mushrooms and cook until very browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Once browned remove mushroom to drain and reserve.

Discard the bacon fat.

Place the pan back on the heat, add the onions and sautee for a minute or 2, until the onions start to get browned from the cooked on bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining white wine, deglaze pan, scraping up the fond that has cooked on to the bottom of the pan. Allow wine to reduce by half.

In a small bowl combine the milk and flour, whisking well to break up lumps. Once you have a smooth slurry mixture add it to the pan with the onions & reduced white wine. Whisk well, it will thicken immediately. Add the chicken stock slowly, whisking the entire time to break up lumps. Bring to a simmer, add the remaining nutmeg, mushrooms and cooked meatballs to the sauce, taste for season & add more salt & pepper as needed. Simmer covered for 5 minutes to marry all ingredients. Top with bacon just prior to serving, stirring it into the sauce, coating all meatballs with sauce. Serve with pasta or mashed potatoes.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 421.4
Total Fat 28.5 g
Saturated Fat 12.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 11.7 g
Cholesterol 120.1 mg
Sodium 884.6 mg
Potassium 435.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 11.9 g
Dietary Fiber 0.7 g
Sugars 2.9 g
Protein 25.5 g

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pate au choux, pastry cream and ganache AKA Eclairs

Eclairs. You've seen them in the pastry cases of your favorite bakery, their delicate puffed shell, golden browned, filled with a luscious pastry or whipped cream, topped with rich chocolate. They're beautiful delightful little treats. And not nearly as hard to make at home as you might think!! They are labor intensive, however, so plan ahead if eclairs are on your dessert menu. Because they are so labor intensive they're the perfect treat for Valentines Day.

There are 4 recipes for this post:
~the pate au choux (translated is cabbage paste, because the batter is a paste and they resemble cabbages when made in round forms, well at least according to some French person who named them that!)
~Vanilla pastry cream
~Vanilla whipped cream filling
~Chocolate ganache glaze

The whipped cream filling is optional, and really is more of a cream puff filling than an eclair one, but honestly, the Witch household LOVED the whipped cream version a LOT more than the pastry cream filled ones. The Witch recommends trying both and deciding which you like best (and since you need the pastry cream to make the whipped cream, too, you're not really making anything 'extra')

Have fun with your shapes. The Witch made a few round puffs, they were a hit with the Little Witch. She liked the smaller bite sized puffs. Hearts would be really cute for Valentines day, too.

Apologies for the very lousy photos on this one folks. It was a cloudy snowy day, I was alone in the kitchen and really didn't realize how bad they were turning out until it was too late. As dark as the photos are, the eclairs were delicious!

Pate au Choux
Source: Pierre Hermeas via Apple Pie, Patis and Pate
makes approximatively 24 eclairs
1 c AP flour
5 eggs
1/2 c water
1/2 c milk
1 stick (1/2 c) butter
pinch salt
1/4 t sugar

Pastry Cream
makes about 2.5 cups
2 c milk
2 t vanilla
3 T cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1 egg
1/2 c sugar
pinch salt

Whipped Cream filling
makes about 2 cups worth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
about 1 cup pastry cream
1T vanilla
1 T sugar

Ganache, for glaze
makes enough to cover about 24 eclairs
1 c high quality chocolate chips
1/3 c heavy cream

Begin by making the pate au choux
Preheat oven to 375F
In a medium sized heavy bottom sauce pan combine the milk, water, sugar, salt & butter. Bring to a boil. Once it boils add the flour and stir vigorously until it forms a paste. Keep stirring this to cook out excessive moisture as the flour grains hydrate. It will take about 3-4 minutes. You may notice a white film forming on the bottom of the pan, this is normal & completely fine. Don't try to scrape it up.

Transfer the dough ball (which will be very soft and pliable) to the work bowl of a stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment. You can also do this by hand but it WILL give your arm a serious work out!

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing 1-2 minutes between additions. Scrap down sides before adding the next egg. This mixture will look curdled after each egg is added - don't panic - it WILL come together with enough mixing. When the last egg is fully incorporated you will have a thick smooth rich batter.

Transfer the batter to a piping bag (or a large zip top bag with the end cut off) and pipe long thin eclair shapes onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Pipe eclair shaped strips of the pastry dough OR make small rounds for cream puffs. Space them an inch apart from each other to allow room for expansion.

Bake as soon as piping is done. DO NOT ALLOW DOUGH TO SIT LONG BEFORE BAKING OR YOU RISK IT NOT PUFFING. Bake eclair pastry for 20-25 minutes total, rotating tray half way through. Remove pastry when they have puffed and are golden brown on top & bottom. Allow to cool.

Make the pastry cream
In the work bowl of a stand mixer combine the egg yolks, egg, corn starch and sugar. Mix with a flat paddle on medium speed. Mixture will lighten in color and thicken as it mixes. Keep mixing the egg sugar mixture while the milk heats on the stovetop.

Heat milk in a medium sauce pan until it boils. Remove about 1 cup of the milk and SLOWLY add this milk to the egg sugar mixture, to temper the eggs. Once the milk is incorporated add that to the remaining milk in the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and cook pastry cream about 3-4 minutes, until its thickened considerably. Remove pastry cream from heat, pass it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any coagulated egg pieces and allow to cool. Once cool put into a piping bag for easiest distribution into the eclair shells.

Make the whippped cream filling
In the work bowl of stand mixer add the cream, sugar and vanilla. Using the whisk attachment whip cream until it has firm peaks. Add 1 cup of pastry cream to the whipped cream and fold it in. Place in a piping bag for easiest distribution into the pastry shells.

Make the ganache
Heat the cream in a microwave safe bowl until it starts to simmer.
Place the chocolate in a heat safe bowl. Pour the hot cream on top of the chocolate and cover TIGHTLY with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes stir the cream & chocolate. Keep stirring, the heat from the cream will have melted the chips but it takes your stirring to break down the chip shape to make a smooth ganache. This ganache will set up firm making it a nice icing or glaze.

Assemble eclairs
Cut each pastry in half with a sharp knife. The pastry should be hollow inside.

Pipe filling of your choice into the bottom of the pastry. Cover with the top half of pastry. Coat the tops with the ganache.

Allow ganache to set before eating (if you can wait that long!) and refrigerate left overs.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lemon & garlic scented rice

If you own a rice cooker you're about 30 minutes away from one of the tastiest and easiest side dishes ever. If you don't own a rice cooker, well you can still have this delicious side dish, it'll just take a little bit longer. This rice was served with the Greek grilled chicken thighs and it was amazing! Lightly scented, perfumed with garlic and lemon zest. Simplicity at its finest and darn good eats, too.

Lemon and garlic scented rice
makes 4 servings
zest of 3/4 lemon
2 cloves garlic whole, smashed with the back of a knife but left whole still
1/2 t kosher salt
1 cup basmati rice
1 3/4 c water
drizzle olive oil

Rinse the rice well until water runs clear. In the bowl of a rice cooker combine all the ingredients. Cook according to manufacture instructions.

If cooking on the stove top follow the rice instructions, adding the lemon zest, garlic and salt to the water.

Remove garlic cloves and fluff with a fork just before serving.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 190.5
Total Fat 1.1 g
Saturated Fat 0.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.8 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 242.9 mg
Potassium 9.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 40.3 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Sugars 0.0 g
Protein 3.5 g
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