Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crispy Shallots

These are addictive!  They are good as a topping on salads, vegetables, even meats and seafood.  And they are good just to snack on, too.

1 cup thinly sliced shallots
3/4 cup pure olive oil

Place the shallots and oil in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook the shallots, stirring occasionally, until dark golden brown.  This will take about 15 minutes, but watch closely.  It could take longer to reach the color you want.  Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  The shallots will get crisper as they cool.  You could sprinkle with some salt, but they don't really need anything extra.

Holiday Eggnog

I don't know anyone who drinks eggnog at any time other than Christmas and New Year's, but I love it and make it religiously each year.  In these days of concern about raw eggs, I suppose some people would be hesitant to make it but I have never had problems.  In fact, I've read some articles which suggest the alcohol in the eggnog probably kills any salmonella.  And eggnog keeps - some recipes suggest aging it for weeks, even a year - as long as you keep it refrigerated.  If you choose eggs which are locally grown rather than from a large commercial egg producer, that probably also reduces the odds of problems.

For those of you still concerned, you might want to try a cooked eggnog (go to and search for eggnog), use store made eggnog and spice it up a bit, or use pasteurized whole eggs, which you can sometimes find in stores, especially around the holidays.  I don't recommend using Egg-beaters or similar products.  It will not be the same!

12 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups superfine (baker's) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart light cream (half and half)
1/4 cup each of rum and brandy
Bourbon (the original recipe recommends a fifth, but that is WAY too much, in my opinion - try a couple cups, taste and add more if you prefer it stronger)
1 pint whipped cream

In a large bowl, beat yolks until light.  Gradually beat in 1 cup of sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Stir in next 5 ingredients.  Beat whites until frothy, gradually add remaining sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form.  Fold in egg whites and whipped cream.  Chill.  Before serving, stir thoroughly and sprinkle with nutmeg.

24 servings

Mrs. Mills' Cheesecake

The mother of a former boyfriend gave me this recipe.  The relationship is long over, but this has been my cheesecake of choice for over 30 years.

8 eggs
6 8-oz packages of cream cheese
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 pound ricotta (8 ounces)
1/2 pint sour cream
2 cups sugar
NOTE:  I do not make a crust of any kind, but if you want to, graham crackers or chocolate cookies could be crushed and pressed into the prepared springform pan.

Mix all ingredients in order listed.  Do not overmix.  It helps if everything is at room temperature.  Heavily butter a 10" springform pan and coat with crumbs (if using).  Pour batter into pan and bake 1 hours at 375 degrees.  Let sit in oven 1 hour with heat off.  Cool.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours.

You can make this more festive by garnishing with fruit or making a fruit, caramel or chocolate sauce to pour over.  I have tried making this recipe with low-fat ingredients but it is not nearly as appealing.  It does freeze well, so cut small, indulgent pieces and freeze the rest.

Walnut Torte

Pastry (for 9" tart pan - with removable side)
   1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
   1 2/3 sticks butter - chilled
   2 1/2 cups sifted flour
   Pinch of salt
   1 egg plus 1 yolk (save egg white)
   1 tablespoon rum
   1 grated lemon rind

Walnut filling
   3/4 cup sugar
   1/4 cup water
   Small amount of lemon juice or corn syrup
   1/2 cup heavy cream

   5 ounces walnuts, coarsely chopped
   1 rounded teaspoon honey
   1 tablespoon kirsch (optional)

Royal icing
  1 egg white
  3/4 cup powdered sugar
  1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place flour, chilled butter cut in 1/2" dice, sugar and salt.  Pulse to coarse meal stage.  Combine eggs, rum and lemon rind.  Sprinkle over mixture and pulse briefly, until blended.

Turn out onto work surface, gather together and work until the pastry holds together.  Gather into a ball, cut in half, and shape into disks.  Flatten each disk to a 1/2" thick circle.  Refrigerate approximately 15 minutes to firm.  Roll one disk to 1" larger than the pan.  (Rolling between plastic wrap is a good way to do it.)  Peel off wrap (refrigerate if sticky) and line pan.  Chill until ready to fill.  Roll out top pastry to a circle 1/2" bigger than pan.  Chill.

In a heavy, fairly deep saucepan that is light in color, place water and sugar (and a little corn syrup or lemon juice).  Bring to a boil over low heat, swirling sugar to dissolve.  DO NOT STIR.  Then raise heat, watch closely and take to a deep golden color.  In the meantime, heat cream just until warm.  When the caramel reaches the desired color, pour in the warm cream, slowly at first (it will rise in the pan and steam), stirring constantly.  Add walnuts, honey and kirsch.  Stir and set aside until cool.  Pour into pan lined with pastry.  Top with the remaining pastry, seal edges, and cut off excess.  Brush top with royal icing.
NOTE:  I find it works well to add a little corn syrup or lemon to the sugar and water.  Some chemical process makes the caramel process more consistent if you do.

Royal icing
Mix egg white, powdered sugar and cream of tartar.

Bake at 350 degrees approximately 45 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes and remove outer ring of tart pan.  Continue to cool, remove bottom of tart pan, and wrap in plastic.  Can be made ahead.  Ages well!

Winter Solstice Ham

For years, even decades, I have made this ham every Christmas holiday season.  We call it Winter Solstice Ham because originally I made it for a Winter Solstice party we hosted.  Now, I just make it for Christmas each year.  We slice it paper thin and what we don't eat on Christmas Eve is saved/frozen for use throughout the coming months.

The ham for this should be a bone-in ham - not spiral-cut, honey-basted, in a can, or otherwise manipulated, but a regular, old-fashioned ham.  I'm sure the original recipe (which came from the south) used a country ham but those aren't readily available in the Pacific Northwest, so I use a smoked ham.


Whole ham, usually 15-17 pounds (you can use smaller pieces, but be sure there is a bone)
3-4 quarts of ginger ale (not diet)
Brown sugar
Sweet wine (Madeira or Marsala)

Fill a large stock pot or other container into which the ham will completely fit with water (leave room for the ham!).  Heat the water to just about boiling and add the ham.  Let it boil for 10-15 minutes.  This step gives the ham a good cleaning and removes excess salt from the outside.  Remove ham and discard water.  NOTE:  You might find it easier to ladle out the water at least partially before trying to remove the ham.  Be careful!

Place ham back in pot and fill with ginger ale (not diet ginger ale).  Cover the top loosely.  Bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 30 minutes.  The ginger ale helps bring out the flavor of the ham.

Prepare a spot for the pot with the ham in it to steep.  I use several layers of newspaper on the floor of the kitchen, out of traffic, but you could also put the newspapers or towels on a kitchen counter.  Put the ham (still in the pot with the ginger ale) on top of the papers and wrap with blankets or towels.  Let sit for 10 to 14 hours, depending on the size of the ham.  A 12-13 pound ham requires 10 hours.  I usually just let it sit overnight until I'm ready to deal with it again.

The ham will still be slightly warm after uncovering.  Remove the bone.  This is best done while the ham is warm.  My husband does this and it usually requires some kind of cut in the ham (be neat about this), despite the original recipe saying parts of the bone could be "wiggled out."

Remove skin but do not cut any of the fat from the ham.  After the bones have been removed (save them for soup), pack the cavity with brown sugar.  Tie ham tightly with twine, using enough to hold the ham together.  Score fat lightly.

Place ham in a heavy roasting pan with the fat side up.  Place pan in preheated 400 degree oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, basting often with sweet wine (Madeira or Marsala work well).  Do not overcook.  The purpose of this step is to make the fat sizzle and get crisp.  Remove from the oven and cool.  Refrigerate until thoroughly cool.  Slice thinly.  We use a slicer, but an electric knife or a very sharp long knife would also work.  If you want thicker slices for dinner, that's fine, but cut some thin slices as well for sandwiches or to use in omelets, scrambled eggs, or souffles, as well as other uses.