Thursday, November 22, 2012

gluten-free thanksgiving feast

Look, I don't like turkey. I know, it's un-'Murrican, it's the whole point of Thanksgiving dinner, blah blah. Judge me how you want, I don't care. I don't like turkey, and I don't eat it unless I have to. Since I was hosting Thanksgiving this year, I didn't HAVE to make I didn't. I made a pork rib roast instead, rubbed with sage and garlic. It was epic, visually stunning, and REALLY damn tasty:

sage and garlic rubbed pork rib roast
My only (trivial) complaint was that it was somewhat hard to carve even with the rib bones pre-cut by the butcher, but it was so juicy and flavorful that it kind of cancelled out all the flailing around with the knife that I had to do to get it onto the plates.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of my pictures of the feast came out really blurry (apparently a combination of low light and quaking with anticipation is not conducive to good photography), but I can still regale you with descriptions of what I made!

With the pork roast, I served my much-asked-for-in-my-family roasted veggie mix, which consists of carrot, potato, radish, and Brussels sprouts. I tossed the prepped veggies with sea salt and black pepper and some fresh thyme and rosemary, then spread them evenly over two parchment-lined baking sheets. I cooked them for about 20 minutes at 475 degrees (because that's what my roast was cooking at, at the time) and then another 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees. Cooking them at high heat first gives the surface a nice crisp crust, then cooking them at a lower heat for longer allows them to cook through without losing the crust or getting burnt.

For other sides, I made a wild and brown rice dressing with lots of fresh thyme, dried cranberries and chopped pecans, some whole-berry cranberry sauce made with maple syrup and orange zest, kale sauteed with shallots and bacon, and I also did a twice-baked winter squash. For the squash, I used buttercup squash which I hadn't used before. I cut it in half and cleaned the seeds out, then cooked it on a foil-lined baking sheet at 375 for about an hour. I then scooped the flesh out into a bowl and added several (I, uhhh...lost count...hehe) tablespoons of butter, a splash of maple syrup, a pinch each of ground clove and ground nutmeg, and a couple pinches of sea salt. I used a stick blender to combine the ingredients and smooth the consistency of the squash out. The squash puree went into a baking dish and was topped with chopped walnuts, a sprinkle of brown sugar and dots of butter. It was then baked again at 350 for about an hour. All the sides except for the kale were actually made ahead last night and just reheated / baked in the oven while the roast finished cooking, and it worked out really well and saved me a lot of stress today!

We had two desserts today - crustless pumpkin pie and a flourless chocolate cake. The pumpkin pie is super easy - I just mix up normal pumpkin pie filling and dump it straight into a glass pie plate - no greasing, no crust, nada. I bake it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and it always comes out great. I've never had a problem with it sticking in the pan, and I honestly don't miss the pie crust one bit.

The flourless chocolate cake, on the other hand...that was a bit of a project. I actually used this recipe from Epicurious - the name of the cake is "La Bete Noire", which means "The Black Beast". I mean, how could I find a a recipe called The Black Beast and NOT make it, right?! So. The recipe is pretty straight-forward: melt chocolate and butter, beat in some eggs, make a sugar syrup, beat that in, dump into a springform pan and bake in a water bath. Can you see where things might go wrong? Yeah. Springform pan + water bath. I know, I know, people do it all the time and it works just fine....good for them. I followed the directions to a T - wrapped the bottom of the pan in layers and layers of foil, carefully poured the hot water into the roasting pan around the springform pan, etc. I thought it was slightly weird when the springform pan started to float in the water bath, but I saw no leakage / seepage, so I threw the whole thing in the oven for an hour. When I took it out, it was entirely apparent that shit had gone awry. There was a layer of water all over the top of the cake! I let it cool enough that I could pull it out and open the latch on the pan, and all the chocolatey goodness came sliding out in a giant placental sploooosh. Thankfully I had had the presence of mind to open the pan over the sink, or I would likely still be scraping chocolate sludge out from between my floorboards. Anyway - so the first try was a miserable fail. The store was already closed at that point and I didn't have enough chocolate to re-do the cake last night, so I had to wait until this morning to re-stock and try. For the re-try, rather than use a traditional bain marie, I instead took the roasting pan half-full of water and put it on the bottom rack of the oven, then put the springform pan full of cake batter on the TOP rack. An hour later, it was done and beautiful. It did develop a rather large crack across the top as it cooled, but the ganache that I poured over the top filled the crack quite nicely!After the ganache set, the finished product looked like this:

La Bete Noire. La Bete, indeed! 
I got a little over-zealous while mixing the ganache, which is why it ended up with a lot of bubbles, but you know what? Bubbles made of chocolate still taste like chocolate!

This cake is truly ridiculous. It's so incredibly dense and rich. It's like a truffle in cake form. Look at this.

 I just followed the recipe and made it plain chocolate (I did add a pinch of salt to both the cake and the ganache because they needed them), but my mom and I spent the whole of dessert talking about different ways you could flavor this thing, and they ALL sounded good. I can't wait to make this again and play with flavorings. I want to get some smaller pans and make mini-cakes though. It's just so dense and rich that there's no way anybody would want to eat more than about a 1/16th wedge of it. My family are hearty eaters and we can put away some serious cake...and we only slayed a quarter of this beast. Whew!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I know we did, and with not a trace of wheat gluten in sight.

spinach, sausage and caramelized onion quiche

Pretty much what it says on the tin. I had a pound of sweet Italian pork sausage that needed to be used up ASAP and a package of frozen chopped spinach. I've always got eggs in stock, and usually have an onion hanging around, so this was no sweat to make.

I didn't really measure much - I know I used 6 eggs, probably a cup of cream, just a pinch of nutmeg, a pound of sausage, a medium onion, salt and pepper, some Parmesan cheese and a package of frozen chopped spinach. The sausage was removed from the casings and browned in a pan, then I removed it to my pie plate while I cooked a sliced onion in the accumulated fat in the pan, letting it get nicely browned. The residual sugar from the sausage caramelized the onion well. Onion went into the pie plate with the sausage, then I added the spinach, (which I had cooked in the microwave according to directions on the package and then squeeeeeeezed all the moisture I could out of it). I beat 6 eggs with a little salt and pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and the cream. I grated about half a cup of Parmesan cheese into the eggs, beat well, then dumped it into the pie plate over the sausage, onions and spinach. It went into a 350 degree oven for...I'm not really sure how long, honestly. I just kept checking it to see if the middle was set, and when it was, I took it out and let it cool. It was very yummy!

Monday, November 5, 2012

green meatloaf

We are fans of meat in this house, as I'm sure you've noticed. I'm always interested in finding new and interesting flavor combinations for meatloaf, especially ones that don't require bread crumbs. I've often had good luck using minced mushrooms in place of bread crumbs in my meatloaf mix, and a recipe I recently found on NomNomPaleo incorporating spinach looked really tasty so I figured I'd give it a try.

The problem with me and recipes, however, is that I tend to find them and think "oh boy that looks good, I'll try that!" and then proceed to basically not follow said recipe at all. It kind of sits there off to the side, looking forlornly up at me and trying to catch my attention as I go totally off the rails, usually in the opposite direction. Fortunately, I tend to end up with things that taste good none the less.

So, having made that point, I will tell you the details of my loaf:

I finely chopped three ribs of celery. three smallish carrots, and about a dozen small button mushrooms, and sauteed them with three chopped slices of bacon until the veggies were soft and the mushrooms had released their liquid. Meanwhile, I microwaved a package of frozen spinach until it was thawed but not super hot. I dumped it into a strainer and let it drain, and put about a pound and a half of ground beef into a big bowl. I added onion powder (I didn't have any fresh onions on hand, which is crazy, I know) and garlic powder, some thyme, some chopped parsley, salt, black pepper, and ground mustard. I cracked in a couple eggs, then added the sauteed veg mix and the well-drained spinach that I had squeezed as much liquid as possible out of. I squished it all together with my hands (my favorite part!), formed it into a loaf, and set it on a rack fit inside a lipped cookie sheet. I took a few extra strips of bacon and carefully laid them across the loaf, smoothing them down to wrap the meatloaf. It went into a 350 degree oven for about an hour - I pulled it when the internal temp hit 150 and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Loaf of meat wrapped in bacon? Don't mind if I do!

For a side-dish I did roasted butternut squash, which is super simple. I used to HATE squash of all descriptions because the only way my mom ever made it was pureed and the texture just gagged me (sorry, Mom). When I discovered that many winter squashes could be roasted and would get a little crispy on the outside but stay soft and fluffy on the inside, I was a happy camper. Butternut squash is a good candidate for this treatment - you just have to make sure that a) you toss it in plenty of oil before it goes in the oven and b) you cook it long enough at a hot enough temperature. I did mine on the bottom rack of the oven at 450 degrees for about 35 minutes, flipping all the chunks about halfway through, and it came out perfectly - nice and crisp on the outside, soft inside. I actually dusted the squash with cumin before roasting, which was good, but next time I think I might use garam masala or regular curry powder, even.

Tasty, veggie-laden meatloaf
The addition of the spinach to the meatloaf didn't really effect the taste at all, but it did add extra nutritional goodness. As you can see from the picture, I could have diced my carrots a bit more tidily and smaller, but it tasted good, chunky carrots and all.