January 31, 2011

Drum Roll Please... Our Winning Entry! Lobster Salad in Croissants!

Dear readers,

The cocktail hat contest has come to a close and we have an incredible winning post! I can't wait to try this myself! Our winner lives in New Orleans and I think you'll agree that she is a riot and quite an amazing cook! I hope she'll send us a picture of her in her cocktail hat :)

So the steps for a Lobster Roll Croissant are quite simple- assuming of course that you can find a lobster.

If you live outside of New Orleans, and you are lucky enough to be able to find shelled cooked lobster meat, skip to step 8

1. Check Dorignac's, your favorite Metairie Market after work. Empty lobster tank. Phooey.

2. Head down Veterans Blvd. to Winn- Dixie, lobsters, but their steamer is broken. Just because you can boil one at home doesn't mean that you want to. *sigh* Start worrying that the dog hasn't been let out since before you left for work this morning.

3. Check Langenstein's on Metairie Road- Hooray! Lobsters! While your new friends at the fish counter take the 2 lb lobster in the back to whack him, you have 12-15 minutes to pick up croissants and cruise the aisles.

Name the lobster Buddy and contemplate whether lobsters have souls, and why it is different to buy pre-packaged vs. live animals. Thank Buddy and acknowledge the deliciousness of his contribution.

4. Get the lobster home in his plastic bag. Buddy cooled down in the car or else he'd still be too warm to handle. Let the dog out & change into something you don't mind getting spattered with lobster juice.

5. Get the supplies together-

A pan- since Buddy will be a bit messy to dismember.
The plastic bag he came in- perfect for the shell and to discard trash since it will be a bit smelly and getting it out to the trash will be key.
Kitchen shears- a kicky pink pair if you have them. Don't have any kitchen shears? What? Go get some- everybody can wait. Ok- well done. Seriously- a fabulous purchase- you'll use them ALL of the time!
Paper towels- this is a messy, smelly job and you'll want a bunch handy.

6. Here's where you can go your own way- the meat is mostly in the claws and tail. There is an intestine you'll want to discard, as well as some junk in the head that you probably won't want to eat. Snip off the rubber bands on the claws. Twist the tail off of the body and the claws too. There will be some dripping liquid, which is where the pan comes in. There are plenty of resources for the best way to get the lobster meat out of the shell- the Joy of Cooking, Paper place mats in the Northeast, or the Internet. Twisting the joints, cracking the claws (which is difficult with a hard shelled 2 pounder), and cutting the shell open are the basic steps. Watch out for your manicure!

7. Once you have the meat out of the shell, cut it (the kitchen shears again- what did I tell you? There are a million and one uses!) into bite sized pieces.

8. Gather your ingredients-Celery- a few ribs, Mayo, Croissants, Salt, Pepper

9. Mince the celery, drain on a paper towel to get all moisture out. The amount that you use will depend on your taste and how much lobster meat you end up with.

10. Combine lobster meat and celery, add salt and pepper. Add a little bit of mayo to combine- a bit at a time.

11. Slice a croissant horizontally, open and add lobster mixture.

12. Serve with potato chips and a Moxie, if you have one. Yum!

January 27, 2011

Weeknight Family Dinner! Buttermilk Oven Fried Chicken and Asparagus!

Buttermilk fried chicken, given a nice amount of heat courtesy of Texas Pete hot sauce, finished in the oven, and served with roasted asparagus spears- doesn't that sound like a great meal? It's easier than you think and you can whip it up on a weeknight! Our baby did eat the chicken, but not the asparagus. Although, he really surprised me last week- he ate broccoli rabe! I was so impressed! We are, though, having a bit of a throwing food problem, and when I said 'no' very firmly, he started laughing uncontrollably... probably not a great sign? It is hard to keep a straight face myself, though!

On to the fried chicken!

Buttermilk Oven Fried Chicken
(serves roughly 2 adults with one little piece for baby, multiply as needed!)
1 lb. chicken (boneless, skinless breast meat)
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. hot sauce (like Texas Pete)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne (my cayenne is kind of old, so if yours is new, maybe half this?)

In a medium sized bowl, combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, salt and pepper, mix well. This is our marinade for our chicken! Take your chicken breasts, you'll most likely have two halves of a whole breast to make up roughly 1 lb., cut off the fat, and cut each breast half into 3-4 strips, the strips should be roughly 4 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. Why do I cut the meat up like this? One of my favorite things about fried chicken is the crust and this will give you a greater crust to meat ratio... Did I have you at crust? Let's place our chicken in the buttermilk marinade, cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Let's get our crust mixture ready! In a shallow pan or on a plate, combine the flour, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne. The cayenne I used for this has been on my spice shelf in the pantry for a good several years... So if yours is on the newer side, you may want to reduce the amount. Or maybe you like it really hot?

Roasted Asparagus
asparagus
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

This could not be easier- really! Just take a shallow pan that's wide enough for the asparagus to be in one layer, rinse your asparagus, cut off the rough bottom (roughly 1-2" depending on the asparagus), place in the pan in one layer, top liberally with olive oil, sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper. That's it! And now we roast it in the oven with the final step of the chicken and they are done at the exact same time! Easy!

Preheat your oven to 375. Prepare a frying pan with some canola oil. Why are we using something different from olive oil? Olive oil is great, but it has a flavor that we aren't necessarily interested in including. Use a vegetable oil (like canola) that isn't strong in flavor. Place a rack on a baking sheet, this is what you'll use to finish the chicken in the oven. Using a fork, remove each piece of chicken from the buttermilk mixture, pausing to allow the excess to drip off each piece. Place the chicken in the crust mixture, turning to coat evenly. Heat the oil over medium heat and fry each piece of chicken for 2 minutes on each side, the crust should be a light golden brown, but not too dark. If it's dark brown or black, your heat is too high and the crust will taste burned and bitter. Once each piece is cooked for 2 minutes on each side, place the chicken pieces on the baking sheet prepared with a rack.

Both the chicken and the asparagus go into the oven at the same time- bake for 15 minutes and your meal is ready! Enjoy!

Scratching your head wondering what to do with your leftover buttermilk? Make this! If you can't find goat milk, substitute whole milk. Yummy!!!

http://ladolceduchessa.blogspot.com/2010/12/panna-cotta-with-goat-milk-and.html

January 25, 2011

The Scheherazade! (The Bartender is in!)

Dear wonderful readers, you are in for such a treat! My marvelous husband, who is a truly exceptional bartender, is gracing us with a guest post! Without further ado...

I recently obtained some cardamom bitters. The Duchessa is quite fond of cardamom and asked me to make her a drink using them. I also had some rose syrup which I had used, mostly without success, in prior attempts at creating new cocktails. The cardamom and rose seemed like a natural combination. Now, what else should we add?

Gin is my go-to spirit for mixing. I don’t drink gin straight, I don’t care for martinis and I seldom drink gin-and-tonics, but gin really works in cocktails. The botanical flavors of gin add interesting complexity to a drink while letting the other ingredients remain center stage. Often when I tell someone I am going to make them a drink with gin, they say “I don’t like gin.” The Duchessa used to be one of them. The Duchessa has been relieved of her hatred of gin as are most people who taste it in a well-constructed cocktail.

For the last primary ingredient for this new cocktail, I chose lime juice. In creating this drink, I relied on the formula for sours: base liquor, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetening agent. The sweetening agent can take many forms – sugar, a liqueur, grenadine or a sweet fruit juice, among others. A lot of classic cocktails rely on this formula:
Margarita - tequila, lime juice and Cointreau
Sidecar - brandy, lemon juice and Cointreau
Daiquiri - rum, lime juice, sugar
Whiskey Sour - whiskey, lemon juice, sugar
One of the most famous cocktails of more recent creation, the Cosmopolitan, is also a sour; citrus vodka, lime juice and triple sec comprise the three main components with a little cranberry juice added primarily for color.

After tinkering with the proportions, I found something to the Duchessa’s liking, and she christened it the Scheherazade given its Middle Eastern flavor profile. Although cardamom is of Indian origin, it is used heavily in the Middle East, particularly in tea. Our cocktail's namesake, Scheherazade, relates the tales of the Arabian Nights to her husband the king. The king, after catching one of his wives cheating on him and developing a distrust of all women, begins a routine of taking a new wife every day and having her executed the next morning in order to avoid being deceived again. Scheherazade, having devised a plan of her own, volunteers to be the king’s next wife in order to prevent the same fate befalling more women. She tells the king a story but is unable to finish by morning, so he must keep her alive one more day. After finishing that story, she begins another and again leaves the king in suspense forcing him to spare her one more day. She repeats this for 1,001 nights. By this time, the king has fallen in love with Scheherazade and makes her his queen.

Given the name I wondered if I could find any mentions of rose and cardamom directly in the Arabian Nights. I found the following in Husain Haddawy’s translation of the Story of the Two Viziers:

“He had prepared a pomegranate-seed dish, preserved in almonds and sweet julep and flavored with cardamom and rosewater…”

Now for the recipe:
2 oz gin
1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
½ oz Monin rose syrup
¼ oz simple syrup (2:1, see below)
8 drops cardamom bitters
1 oz club soda

Mix all ingredients except the club soda in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Add club soda and strain into ice-filled collins glass. Alternatively, the drink could be served in a cocktail glass. If so, I would express the oils from a lime twist on the surface of the drink. For a more elegant look, the drink could be garnished with rose petals. If served in the collins glass, I would mix a few in with the ice. In the cocktail glass, floating a single petal on top would be a nice presentation.

Simple Syrup:
Bring one cup of water to a boil. As soon as it begins to boil, turn off the heat and add 2 cups of sugar, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. If you add an ounce of 80-proof vodka, it will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Simple syrup is an absolute necessity for cocktails. I use it in margaritas, sidecars, mojitos and many others as well as in my espresso in the morning. It is so much easier to use than undissolved sugar, particularly when dealing with cold ingredients. I make my simple syrup with twice as much sugar as water (2:1). Many people use equal amounts of sugar and water, and most recipes you see calling for simple syrup will probably use 1:1. If you use 1:1 in this recipe, you will probably need a little more than ¼ ounce.

Other Tips:
The gin I use most often for mixing is Plymouth but any good quality gin will work. Hendrick’s is infused with rose petals and so is a natural for the Scheherazade but will make for a more assertive flavor profile.
Fresh-squeezed juice is an absolute necessity for good cocktails. A citrus press makes quick work of juicing lemons and limes. The fruit will yield more juice at room temperature than if it is refrigerated, so microwave it for 20-30 seconds if taken straight from the fridge. Rolling the fruit on a counter top while pressing down with the palm of your hand will also increase the amount of juice you get.
Monin syrups are available from their website. If you find another brand it may work just as well, although you may need to alter the amounts of rose syrup and simple syrup. As an alternative you could experiment with using a small amount of rose water and upping the simple syrup. Rose water can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores and some supermarkets.
The cardamom bitters I have used are made by Scrappy’s. They are available on the Internet. I use droppers to measure my bitters, but two dashes would be a good approximation for this recipe.
For a virgin Scheherazade, replace the gin and club soda with three ounces of tonic water.

January 20, 2011

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage with Pasta (Salsiccia e Cime di Rapa)

This is wonderful! The sweetness of the mild Italian sausage pairs beautifully with the slightly bitter taste of the broccoli rabe, and the combination is enhanced by sauteed garlic, sweet white wine and crushed red pepper flakes. This is a traditional dish (Orecchiette con Salsiccia e Cime di Rapa) that is typically made with orecchiette, ear shaped pasta, I made it with farfalle, bow ties, because they did not have orecchiette at the grocery store I happened to go to. Why did I choose farfalle as a substitute? Not only are the little bow ties too cute, but they are a similar size and shape, making them a great substitute! I am sure you could get creative with other pasta also!

This is also a great dish because it's pretty simple, not too time consuming, and because it has meat, vegetables and pasta, it's a pretty complete meal! I fed some to baby tonight and he mostly ate the sausage and pasta, the broccoli rabe was a hard sell to baby... But some of the pasta and sausage has small amounts of broccoli rabe on them, so we got some vegetables in anyway! Ha ha- vegetables 1, baby zero...

Currently, baby is kind of over bananas and thinks tearing apart bread is kind of fun! Of course, feeding the dog is a big past time as well...

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage with Pasta
1 bunch (1 lb.) broccoli rabe
1.25 lb. mild Italian sausage
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup sweet white wine (such as Riesling)
1/2 box farfalle, orecchiette or other pasta of similar size
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
olive oil

In a heavy pot, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium low heat. Remove the sausage meat from the casings and place in the pot. If you are able to buy sausage out of the casing, that's great, and just do that! If not, taking the sausage out of the casing is not hard and all, just use both hands and squeeze, meat will come out both ends. Just throw away the casings. It is totally ok if when you remove the meat from the casings that it isn't in uniform or small pieces. Use a wooden spoon while it browns to break it up, with a stabbing motion. As it cooks, it will come apart more easily. Brown the sausage until nearly all the sides of the meat are browned.

video

When the meat is almost all browned, add the garlic, finely chopped, and the red pepper flakes. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally, until the meat is fully browned and the garlic is fragrant. When the meat is cooked through, the garlic is nicely starting to turn color, add the wine and let it simmer until it is reduced by about 1/2. Set this aside, we'll come back to it!

Meanwhile, bring enough water to a boil in a large pot. For the amount of broccoli rabe and sausage, I used half of a regular sized box of pasta. I'm sure you've heard me say this before, but wait to salt your water until it is close to boiling! I don't know why, but the salt gets stuck to the bottom of the pot if you put it in too early... This is a nice little time saver right here, we are going to use the same water to boil both our pasta and our broccoli rabe! Go us!

Cook the pasta according to the directions to get it just al dente- one of the best reasons I can think of to cook the pasta al dente is that this is a dish I will either reheat or freeze and when it gets reheated, the pasta won't be as firm. So all the more reason to keep it firm on the front end! Moving on! Once your pasta is finished cooking, remove it from the boiling water (but don't pour out the boiling water in the pot), rinse the pasta with cold water in a colander to stop the cooking. Place the pasta, once rinsed, in a bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil.

Now on to the broccoli rabe! To prepare this, just rinse it, cut off some of the tough stem, but not all, it's not all bad! Cut horizontally into pieces about 1-1 1/2" long. Let's use our boiling pasta water to cook it! See how easy that is? Just boil the broccoli rabe for 3 minutes. When it's finished, it will be a beautiful vibrant green- remove it with a slotted spoon and add it to the pot with the sausage and wine. Turn the heat back on on this pot and combine over a low heat for just a few minutes. Add to the pasta in the bowl, toss and combine, adding sea salt and freshly cracked pepper (you won't need much pepper, remember the red pepper flakes are in it!).
To serve, garnish with freshly grated parmesan. Delicious!

Salted Caramel Tart

Salted caramel, yum! This is delicious, but very sweet, so I like to keep the portions small. The richness of the milk chocolate cream is offset nicely by the sweet caramel. This chocolate cream is so divine- I usually don't like milk chocolate, it just always seems to pale in comparison to dark chocolate, but this is just the right balance of sweet mild chocolate and rich cream. Delightful!

To start, you'll need to make your tart pastry dough.

Tart Pastry Dough
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup flour (unbleached all-purpose)
pinch fleur de sel
1/4 tsp. vanilla powder
1 egg
9 Tbsp. unsalted butter

To start, I remove the egg and unsalted butter from the refrigerator to start bringing them up to room temperature. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, fleur de sel (sea salt is a fine substitute) and vanilla powder. In a food processor, once the butter is sufficiently soft, pulse the butter until smooth. Add the flour mixture and combine, then add the egg. The dough may not completely come together, it may be more of a meal (like cornmeal). You have two options, you can either add ice water one Tablespoon at a time, which will make it combine nicely, or you can just keep it kind of mealy- but the texture of your crust may be ultimately drier. In any event- divide the dough into two balls and wrap them in plastic wrap, chill one hour or overnight. I LOVE using my food processor to make pastry dough, it is so fast!!!

In the meantime, let's make our caramel!

Caramel
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream (I know, crazy, right?)

In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Probably this will be easiest using a whisk! Heat the sugar and water over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the granularity of the sugar seems to have disappeared. It is alright if it is still white in color, though! Increase the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. I usually stir once during the 5 minutes. Uncover, and increase the heat to medium high- boil without stirring for 5 minutes, during which time, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush down any crystallization on the sides of the pot. The next part is important to do very quickly! Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the cream and stir! This will bubble and steam a little and the caramel will at first want to harden due to the temperature of the cream. Stir vigorously and it will combine nicely! Stir in the sour cream also. This will be a very light colored caramel. Place in a small bowl and refrigerate. (Sneak a taste also!)

Let's get our tart pans ready! This amount of dough is enough for two 9" tarts. When I was making this, though, I used slightly more than half of the dough to make one 9" tart and two small tartlets (as shown in the picture). Spray your tart pan(s) with Pam (great, great stuff!) and lightly flour, tapping away the excess. Get yourself a clean work area to roll out the tart pastry dough- either a clean counter top or a large enough cutting board. Using flour as needed, (on the cutting board, on top of the dough, on the rolling pin), roll out the dough, which may need to come closer to room temperature for a few minutes before it's sufficiently pliable. You want about 1/4" or a little more thickness. You may recall from the Apple Pie post, http://ladolceduchessa.blogspot.com/2010/11/amazing-apple-pie.html, how to transfer pastry dough from the workspace to the baking vessel. If so, good for you! I hope you have tried it and agree that it's not terribly hard! If you aren't familiar with the technique, my sister's beautifully manicured hands will walk you through it! (This is pie dough and a pie dish, a tart pan is not as deep)


video

This tart dough is on the crumby side, so what I end up doing is transferring the dough using the rolling pin and then filling in the areas where I need more dough (mostly the edges and crust) just by pressing the pieces of dough together with my fingers. It's sufficiently sticky because of the butter content, so this should work fine! Cut the excess dough- don't want extra hanging over the lip of the tart pan(s). Prick the bottom of the tart crusts with the tines of a fork several times- trust me, this is needed! Place your beautiful tart pastry crusts in the refrigerator to chill for a few minutes while you get these next steps together!

Preheat the oven to 325, make sure your rack is in the center of the oven. Using the Pam spray again, spray pieces of aluminum foil- each of the pieces should be the right size to completely cover each tart. After the tart pastry crusts have chilled for a few minutes and your oven is preheated, place the pieces of aluminum foil, greased side down, over the pans. Use either raw rice, dried beans or pie weights (the picture to the left shows dried beans being used as weights for one of the small tartlet pans).

We recently discovered that my husband has an allergic reaction to white beans. So I use them as pie weights!

With your wonderful chilled tart pastry crusts covered with aluminum foil, bake for 13 minutes. Remove the foil, discard the foil and the beans, then bake uncovered for 8-9 minutes. They won't change color much. Cool the baked tart shells before filling and topping with caramel and whipped milk chocolate cream!

Now- on to the milk chocolate cream!

Milk Chocolate Cream

7.5 ounces milk chocolate

3/4 cup heavy cream (chilled)

pinch sea salt

I usually put my metal Kitchen Aid bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes before whipping cream. Using a whisk attachment, whip the cream until you've achieved firm whipped cream- but not so much you start veering off to the 'butter side,' basically if your cream becomes 'chunky,' things have gone too far... In a small bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Add the milk chocolate and the pinch of salt to the whipped cream using a spatula to fold gently. Try to fold as opposed to mix, this motion will keep it from becoming quite so deflated. Definitely taste this- isn't it great!?

Now, we assemble our beautiful tart! Take your tart shells and pour a thin layer of caramel. Keep it thin- the caramel is very sweet and keeping the layer thin will keep it from overpowering the other elements, your pastry and the milk chocolate cream. Sprinkle a pinch or two of salt over the caramel. Using either a pastry bag, a mechanical pastry bag, or a zip lock bag, pipe the milk chocolate cream on top of the caramel. There is no right design, just something that looks pretty! I covered both small tartlets in a tight spiral, so I didn't have a lot left over for the larger tart- so I just did a few rings in the center and at the outer edge of the caramel. Get creative! Make a happy face or a zig zag line! Enjoy!

January 18, 2011

Don't Miss the Cocktail Hat Contest!

Don't miss your chance to win this beautiful hat! Entries have begun to come in- hurry and get your entry together before the end of January and be in the running for this wonderful and fun accessory! Contest details and rules can be found using the link below. Happy cooking and blogging!

http://ladolceduchessa.blogspot.com/2011/01/win-gorgeous-cocktail-hat.html

January 15, 2011

Carnitas!

I LOVE carnitas! If you're not familiar with this dish, it is slow cooked pork shoulder, which has been marinated and cooked in garlic, fresh citrus juice and hot chilies until it falls apart. It is removed from the marinade, shredded, then fried until parts of the pork are browned and crispy. It's incredibly delicious! We eat it as a soft taco filling topped with salsa verde, this is salsa made with tomatillos, hence the green color, and top it off with queso fresco or sour cream. This is great as a taco filling and you could also use it in a Mexican style salad.

This is a great dish not only because it's spicy, delicious and satisfying, but this recipe yields a LOT! I have fed a dinner party of 8 with this and had some left over. If you're cooking for just your family, you will have enough left over for lunch or dinner the next day. You can make it something slightly different by using a different salsa, or by having it on a salad- adding fresh corn and avocado would be delicious.

Carnitas
10 garlic cloves
2 jalapenos (with seeds)
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tsp. sea salt
fresh cracked pepper (I use 20 grinds from my pepper mill)
2 poblano chilies (with seeds)
2 Tbsp. Asian chili garlic paste
1/2 cup (packed) cilantro
5 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 2-3" pieces

When working with the jalapenos, wear disposable plastic gloves, the kind you see at doctors' offices. The poblanos aren't as hot, so it's probably ok if you don't wear them when working with the poblanos. For both the jalapenos and the poblanos, rinse the peppers, cut off the top stem portion, and place them in the blender. Don't remove the seeds- unless you want the heat level to be more mild (I like this with all the seeds). Place all the remaining ingredients, excluding the pork, in the blender with the hot peppers. The garlic cloves just need to be peeled and have the roots cut off, but they can go in the blender whole, as can the cilantro. It is alright to use the whole stalk of cilantro, this doesn't have to be just the leaves. Blend the ingredients together. Try to use freshly squeezed citrus juice.

Cut the pork into 2-3" pieces, cutting away areas that are predominantly all fat. Don't worry if a piece seems to be 50% fat, that's alright, just discard pieces that are 75% fat or more. This is cooked for such a long time that the fat seems to liquefy and what you are left with is predominantly meat. Place the pieces of pork in a large dutch oven. Pour marinade over the meat, mix with a spoon to coat the pieces of meat. Cover the pot with foil, then place lid on top of the pot.

Bake at 325 degrees fahrenheit for 3 1/2 hours. Toward the end of the cooking time you'll be able to smell this!

Remove from the oven and uncover, allow to sit for about 15-20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat and place in a bowl. Some of the marinade will 'come along,' that's fine, and go ahead and save about 1 cup of the marinade. You can use this later if the meat isn't flavorful enough or isn't moist enough. Using two forks, shred the pork in the bowl. Do NOT use silver or silver plated silverware for any of this- the vinegar and citrus will turn it black (I learned the hard way)!

I usually cook and shred the pork the night before I plan to eat it and refrigerate it overnight. Here's what NOT to do- don't leave it in the marinade after cooking overnight, it will be unbelievably spicy! So if you do refrigerate the cooked meat overnight, remove it from the marinade and place in a separate bowl. You do not have to refrigerate it overnight, you can just proceed to frying it if you're ready to eat it!

In a medium sized frying pan, using medium heat, fry the shredded pork in batches, being careful not to crowd (If you crowd, you won't get the wonderful browned crispy parts). While the meat is frying, heat your tortillas, either in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel or in a skillet on the stove (use medium heat and tongs to flip the tortillas and remove them from the pan).

To assemble your delicious carnitas soft taco, place the crispy shredded pork on the tortilla, top with salsa verde and queso fresco or sour cream. Enjoy!

I buy salsa verde in cans in the Mexican section of the supermarket. Feel free to use other salsas, too!

January 14, 2011

History Never Tasted So Good!

What could be better than an entertaining, interesting read centered around cocktails? Pick up a copy of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails - begin your journey as the New World finds itself with a surplus of molasses (a sugarcane waste product), which is turned into rum- launching first Barbados into a sort of Internet bubble of wealth- strained political relationships between the New World colonies and Europe- rum's role in Paul Revere's ride, pirates, tiki bars- it's all too much fun! Here's the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Bottle-Rum-History-World-Cocktails/dp/0307338622/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295055803&sr=8-1

My sister, who is simply incredible, gave my husband this book for Christmas. He is a big cocktail guy- in fact, he is working on a 'guest post' to bring you one of my favorite cocktails (a delicious combination of cardamom bitters and rose syrup with a healthy helping of gin... stay tuned). Before he has had a chance to read it, I 'borrowed' it and loved every word!

This book is similar to Salt and Cod, which are outstanding books as well, histories told through one central theme- a food ingredient that has shaped our history meaningfully. This book, And a Bottle of Rum, tells the history of rum and it will really surprise you! Here I was, thinking rum was a Caribbean spirit that had little reach elsewhere- not true! The importance of rum in the creation of the United States will astound you! The reinvention and evolution of rum into all its varieties is incredibly interesting as well.

Delicious recipes are included in the book. I look forward to sampling them all!

January 10, 2011

Chocolate Truffles with Lemon and Lavender

I'm on a bit of a truffle kick lately... These are delicious, the lemon and lavender is not overwhelming, in fact, you might not be able to figure out what was in them. The lemon and lavender just make these taste very fresh and slightly floral! I also must tell you that I am a convert to the mechanical pastry bag. I have always been ambivalent to resentful of pastry bags, they are such a pain to use and they are a nightmare to clean... But then I saw this wondrous item:

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/mechanical-pastry-bag/?pkey=e%7Cpastry%2Bbag%7C1%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C1&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCHNoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules-_-

While it is still a bit messy to use, (it can be hard to get the ganache into the tube neatly), the depressing mechanism is so much easier than trying to wrestle with a bag. Hooray! And because it is metal and plastic and comes apart, it is easier to clean than a bag.

Chocolate Truffles with Lemon and Lavender
8.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (>50% cacao)
1 Tbsp. honey
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. lavender flowers
pinch fleur de sel
1 tsp. lemon zest

Coating:
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. lavender flowers

In a metal bowl, place the honey, chocolate (chopped coarsely), salt and the lemon zest. Here's the type of tool I use to zest the lemon:

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/microplane-rasp-grater/?pkey=e%7Cmicroplane%7C7%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C5&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCHNoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules-_-


In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream and lavender flowers at a medium low heat, slowly bringing to a simmer. Once simmering, remove from the heat. Place a strainer over the chocolate, and pour the lavender cream through the strainer, catching the lavender. Discard the lavender. Allow the chocolate and hot cream mixture to sit for one minute. Using a whisk, combine until the mixture is smooth and shiny and no pieces of chocolate remain solid.

Whisk often, allowing to cool down to room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Place the ganache either in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or in an ice bath, stirring often, to cause the ganache to become more solid. When it is the consistency of pudding, using a spatula, fill the canister of your mechanical pastry bag. (You may also use a traditional pastry bag, a zip lock bag, or a squeeze bottle).

On a baking sheet lined with parchment, pipe small mounds of ganache about 1/2" in size. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. In a small dish, combine the coating ingredients. Using clean fingers, roll each truffle in the coating until fully covered.

Keep these in the refrigerator, when you'd like to eat them let them warm up a little out of the fridge. Enjoy!

January 7, 2011

Win a Gorgeous Cocktail Hat!

Dear wonderful readers,

Are you trying these recipes at home? Or do you have recipes you want to share with the readers of La Dolce Duchessa? Now is your time!!! I want to hear from you! Send me an email, including pictures or (short) video, of you trying one of La Dolce Duchessa's recipes or one of your own, and you could win a beautiful cocktail hat! (The hat in the photo is not the specific hat, but an example of the fun that awaits!) Please email me at ladolceduchessa@gmail.com.

The prize for this contest is being kindly donated by KaKyCo, which has an excellent selection of cocktail hats! The stunning hat the winner will be wearing with panache is a red and purple confection of fun!

Here's their cocktail hat selection:

Rules:
1) Have fun!
2) Be creative!
3) Non-La Dolce Duchessa recipes should be original and all pictures and video should be yours to share (not images that belong to someone else).
4) Get ready to wear your cool new hat!
5) I sadly regret that this contest is limited to the US only
6) A hat box will be included
7) Even if you don't plan to wear the hat yourself, have fun and enter and if you win, give the hat to someone else who would like it!

Chicken Saltimbocca and Arugula with Lemon Vinaigrette

We all need 'weeknight' dinners- dinners that can be pulled together relatively quickly, but that are also delicious and elegant, right? Here's one that I think will become a favorite of yours! Chicken saltimbocca (saltimbocca means 'jumps in the mouth' in Italian), this is a pounded chicken cutlet wrapped in thinly sliced prosciutto and fresh sage leaves, it literally has three ingredients. You can do this, AND do it fast! This recipe is also meant for a dear friend who is looking for dishes her children, who have a few food allergies, can eat. I think this will fit the bill!

Chicken Saltimbocca
(serves two adults, just increase proportions as needed!)
2 Chicken cutlets
1/4 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto
10-12 fresh sage leaves
freshly ground pepper

Chicken cutlets, which you can typically buy at the butcher or the meat counter are simply skinless, boneless chicken breast halves that have been butterflied so that they open like a book. So, if for some reason you can't get cutlets, you can either butterfly chicken breast halves yourself, or just use skinless boneless chicken breast halves and adjust your cooking time to make sure your chicken gets cooked all the way through. Let's begin!

Take your chicken cutlets and place a piece of parchment (or waxed) paper on top of the chicken. Using a meat tenderizer tool, beat both cutlets until they are a little bit flatter and uniform. This won't take a lot. Now, cut each cutlet in half vertically, so that you have two relatively symmetrical halves. Place the fresh sage leaves on the chicken pieces, about one sage leaf every 2 inches or so. On some of the pieces I fit three, on a smaller piece only two, you can take a look at the picture and see what I mean. Sprinkle this side of the chicken with some freshly cracked pepper.

Moving on! Take your prosciutto slices and wrap them around each of the four pieces of chicken. Try to keep the wrapping single ply, I have found that there is such a thing as too much prosciutto here. I used a bit less than 1/4 of a pound for two chicken cutlets. If you need to lift up the chicken pieces to wrap them thoroughly, do so, trying to keep the sage leaves where they are. Since the raw chicken is sticky, the sage should stay in place and so should the prosciutto once you place it on the chicken.

A few important thoughts about salt here- you'll notice this recipe doesn't call for salt and that is on purpose. Prosciutto is sufficiently salty and if you add salt to the chicken, it will be too salty. Prosciutto, in fact, is caused solely by salt, which is the agent with which dry cured meats are 'cooked.' So don't worry, your flavor is still going to be great without (added) salt.

On the prosciutto- try, if at all possible, to get very thinly sliced prosciutto. I have tried this with prepackaged prosciutto, which tends to be a little thicker than the variety you can get at the deli counter and the thicker prosciutto was excessively salty.

Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side, eat immediately, this is best when served hot. Enjoy! We gave our baby a few bites of this tonight and he liked it!

Arugula with Lemon Vinaigrette
Baby arugula
Parmesan (freshly grated or shaved)

Dressing:
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh)
4 Tbsp. olive oil
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper

I make all my salad dressings in a mason jar. I do NOT whisk. Why whisk when you can simply shake?! Ok, just put all the dressing ingredients in a jar, put on the lid, shake a few times and you are DONE. Dressing could not be easier!!! The added benefit of making the dressing in a mason jar is that you already have something to store it in, and because it's a container that closes tightly, you can put it on its side in the refrigerator and not have to worry about leaking. Mason jars are very handy! Definitely use fresh lemon juice. Fresh citrus juice tastes much different from bottled. For this lovely salad, just place some baby arugula on the plate, top with some freshly grated or shaved parmesan, then top with some of your delicious lemon dressing. Pairs wonderfully with the chicken saltimbocca! I personally think the acidity of the lemon dressing pairs nicely with the saltiness of the saltimbocca.

I hope this helps- I have heard from some of you that you would like more quick weeknight dinners that are still delicious and that kids might like, too. I don't know if kids will like this salad, but the chicken could be a winner with them!

January 6, 2011

Chocolate Bourbon Truffles

Did I have you at chocolate? Or at bourbon? I have always wanted to make homemade chocolate truffles. We were in the kitchen tonight and I asked my husband what liquor I should put in them and he suggested bourbon, the results I think you'll find quite delicious! Feel free, though, to substitue any other liquor, I would think Grand Marnier or calvados would be quite delicious... (I love calvados) I'm tempted to try them with red wine also... I can see I have many projects ahead of me... To the truffles!

Chocolate Bourbon Truffles
8.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably with cacao >50%, for this I used 72%)
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
pinch sea salt (small)
1 cup heavy cream
1.5 Tbsp. bourbon

For dusting:
equal parts unsweetened cocoa powder and granulated sugar

Chop the chocolate coarsely and place in a bowl. Add the corn syrup to the chopped chocolate. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until it just boils. Alternatively, you could heat the milk in the microwave. It just needs to be hot enough to melt the chocolate. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and corn syrup, allow to rest for 1 minute. Using a whisk, mix until smooth, then add the bourbon and small pinch of sea salt. Mix well. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Put in the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes, go watch some television in the meantime...

Back to your ganache! This is technically ganache, but we've added a few flavorful elements, the bourbon, salt and corn syrup. So for this next step I used a little squeeze bottle, like the kind you see ketchup served in at restaurants, but if you don't have one, a zip lock back will be fine! (Or a pastry bag) Get a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. Transfer the ganache from the bowl, it should resemble chocolate pudding at this point, into either your squeeze bottle, pastry bag, or zip lock bag. If you are using a zip lock bag, cut a very small hole in one of the corners of the bag to create the tip of your makeshift pastry bag. This is messy, so just go with it! The beauty of these truffles is that a) they are not meant to be uniform and symmetrical and b) it's impossible to make them so... So just relax! These are kind of free form truffles... Ok! Depending on the consistency of your ganache, you may need to chill it for a little while longer. When it's sufficiently cooled that it isn't runny, pipe small, 1/2" mounds of ganache onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes (go back to watch television).

After 15 minutes, prepare your coating, which is just equal parts cocoa powder and sugar, I mix 1 Tbsp. of each at a time. With clean fingers, take each little truffle and roll it in the coating until it's well covered. Place back on the parchment paper. The little mounds of ganache will be firmer after being chilled, but they will still be fairly soft. It is ok if they change shape a little while you handle them and roll them in the coating! It makes them interesting! When you are finished coating all your truffles, place them back on the parchment paper and chill until firm to the touch. Well done! You are a home chocolate maker! Look at you!

Some thoughts: Since these are mostly ganache, I'd keep them in the fridge. Before you serve them, though, let them get a little closer to room temperature by taking them out of the fridge.

January 3, 2011

The Writing Corner Has a New Story!

http://ladolceduchessa.blogspot.com/p/writing-corner.html

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! So I was in the drive through of one of my favorite BBQ joints, yes, I'll let that sink in for a minute, we have BBQ drive throughs here in the South- just so right, isn't it? Ok, so I'm in the drive through of this BBQ joint on New Year's Eve, getting some lemonade, fried chicken and collards, and when I pull up to the window to pay, the woman at the window immediately greets me with, "going to eat your black eyed peas tomorrow?" To which I happily responded, "yes, ma'am, they are in the fridge!"

I was unaware of this tradition until we moved to the South a few years ago. My husband explained it to me- collards look like cash and black eyed peas are supposed to look like coins, so Southerners eat both on New Year's day to bring prosperity in the new year. I like wishing for prosperity! I wish it for each and everyone of you!

In addition to wishing you a Happy New Year, I'd like to hear from you how I can help in the new year. What recipes can I bring to you that you'll find either helpful, uplifting or just fun? Either email me at ladolceduchessa@gmail.com or leave your comment at the end of this post. I'll look forward to hearing from you!

xo