Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Savory Carmelized Garlic, Spinach and Cheddar Tart

America's Test Chicken consists of two separate chickens, each with her own take on this cooking thing. Chicken One also has a related blog, A Travel for Taste where she shares travel stories and recipes collected whenever she ventures abroad. Not to be outdone, Chicken Two has a new, also-related blog, Poop from the Coop, which presents stories about her personal adventure re-experiencing the kitchen after many years away.

Please join our Facebook group to share your own recipes, kitchen practices and know-how. We are also on Pinterest and Instagram.

This time, we present a savory garlic and spinach tart that takes a bit of work, but the compliments you get will make it more than worthwhile!
The complete recipe appears at the end of this post.

From Chicken One:
This stunning dish was Chicken Two's idea. She'd found the recipe in a bon appétit magazine and raved about it after having made it twice. Of course I had to try it myself.

Because this dish appeared to be very much like quiche, I had to delve into the semantics of the whole situation. What I found was this:

Both a quiche and a tart
  • have a single, bottom crust
  • are baked in a straight-sided, possibly fluted dish whose bottom may be removable

A quiche
  • is always savory
  • always has an egg custard filling
A tart
A pie
  • can be sweet or savory, but in America it's usually sweet
  • is in a deeper dish than quiches or tarts
  • has the same kind of crust as quiches and tarts but also may have a top crust
  • is baked in a sloped-sided dish
That last point is valid, but if you only have a pie pan, use it for this recipe. It's what I did and it's equally good. Ok, I admit I used frozen pie shells from the supermarket, despite usually making them myself. But it was really fine in the end.

I'll let Chicken Two give you the particulars about how the whole thing's made, but here are some tips I figured out along the way.

First, you must bake the crust in advance. For that you need pie weights to keep the dough from becoming a giant bubble in the oven. You can use official pie weights, for sure, but I used rice. You can also use dry beans. Line the crust with foil or parchment first and don't try to cook the rice or beans for a meal afterward:

There is a whole lotta garlic in this tart. By the time it's cooked a couple of times with various enhancing ingredients, it's mild and delicious and totally palatable.

The downside is you have to peel three heads of it to start. Therefore, I recommend using this handy tool, a rubber garlic peeler that Chicken Two gave me. Check out her Poop from the Coop blog for a review of this useful kitchen gadget:
When you cook the garlic you must reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency. You can tell it's at the right stage when it doesn't immediately rush to cover the pan's bottom when you scrape it away with a wooden spoon:
Cheddar is one of the main flavors in the tart. Therefore, spring for a mature, aged, white cheddar. I found mine at the Italian gourmet supermarket near here (read, mecca):
It will look as though there is too much spinach in the dish before you pour in the custard. But the liquid seeps down into the leaves and turns out to be just enough. Unless your dish is too shallow!
I wonder if there will ever be a way to give blog readers a taste of a recipe. If so, rush to this one first - it's really fantastic! It's creamy and moist with several compatible flavors prominent in the dish. It's also very pretty. Check out the marbling caused by the spinach in the dish:
You can serve it warm or chilled. It's a great brunch item that you can make in advance. If you use a disposable pie tin, it's very portable; you can take it to your next pot-luck.

From Chicken Two:
This recipe was a true surprise, unlike what I expected when I started out.
My daughter-in-law had a copy of bon appetit and, though it looked complicated, we decided to give it a shot. It was much easier than it looked!..
After peeling tons of garlic …three heads to be exact.
Boil until tender (about 3 min.)
Cook in heated oil until they turn brown, drain, then add vinegar and 1 cup water and bring to a      boil. Reduce heat and simmer until garlic is tender, 10–12 minutes. 
Add maple syrup, rosemary and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is syrupy and coats garlic, about 5 minutes. 
Scatter cheese over crust...
Whisk together crème fraîche, cream, and remaining eggs in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach. Add garlic and its syrup.
Bake for 35 minutes, until custard is set.

SNAFU Alert: The second time I made this, I didn't have a 9-inch, deep-dish pie pan, so I tried a smaller, less deep pan. The custard spilled over into the oven and, without as much filling, the pie was almost solid garlic. Ok, it tasted great, but looked very odd and the custard is a big part of this recipe, so it was missed! The right pan is essential, in my humble opinion! 

Carmelized Garlic, Spinach and Cheddar Tart Recipe
  • 1 tart/pie crust
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 heads of garlic, cloves peeled
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 ounces (about 2 cups) sharp white cheddar, grated
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream 
  1. Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 350°. 
  2. Line dough with parchment paper or foil, leaving some overhang. Fill with pie weights or dried beans or rice. Bake until crust is dry around edge, 25–30 minutes. 
  3. Beat 1 egg in a small bowl. Remove parchment and weights and brush entire crust with egg. Bake until crust is dry and set, 10–15 minutes. Let cool. 
  4. Meanwhile, cook garlic in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes; drain. 
  5. Wipe saucepan dry and heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until cloves start to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until garlic is tender, 10–12 minutes. Add maple syrup, rosemary, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is syrupy and coats garlic, about 5 minutes. 
  6. Scatter cheese over crust; top with spinach. 
  7. Whisk together crème fraîche, cream, and remaining eggs in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach. Add garlic and its syrup. 
  8. Bake until custard is set and golden brown in spots, 35–40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. 
  9. Serve warm or cold.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Panna Cotta & Boeuf en Croute

America's Test Chicken consists of two separate chickens, each with her own take on this cooking thing. Check out Chicken One's related blog, A Travel for Taste where she shares travel stories and authentic local recipes collected whenever she ventures abroad. And give Chicken Two's new, also-related blog, Poop from the Coop a read. There you can find stories about her personal adventure re-experiencing the kitchen after many years away. Please join our Facebook group to share your own recipes, kitchen practices and know-how. We are also on Pinterest and Instagram.

This time the Chickens cooked an entire meal. The star of the meal was the boeuf en croute, which Chicken Two handled expertly. The star of the dessert was panna cotta, which Chicken One turned out with ease. The whole reason for the meal was to try something that we'd always wanted to attempt but somehow intimidated us. You might say we overcame our chicken-heartedness!
Complete recipes appear at the end of this post. 

From Chicken One:
Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce
I chose panna cotta, the light, creamy dessert from Italy. I'm not sure why this one always intimidated me, but it did. Note: it no longer does!

I got the recipe from my Culinaria Italia cookbook, whose photos alone make me want to go immediately to Tuscany. Squelching my desire to travel, I forged ahead with the recipe. It turns out it's really quite simple. 

Hydrate some unflavored gelatin in some water.
Whisk the gelatin into hot cream. 
The recipe calls for light cream. All I could find in the local market was regular cream, which I used to great success. I've since tried heavy whipping cream, and it yields totally different flavor. I much prefer the regular cream.  
Ya gotta strain it in case your whisking abilities are lacking
The only SCAFU of the day: spilt milk. But I didn't cry; I just poured it into ramekins and put them in the fridge to chill while Chicken Two did her meat thing.
   I did manage to whip up a raspberry sauce for the panna cotta. I put some fresh raspberries and sugar into a saucepan and mashed them over heat until there was only juice and seeds.
I strained out the seeds and returned the liquid to the stove to reduce, adding a little cornstarch and water to thicken at the end.
I turned out the set panna cotta on a plate, drizzled the chilled raspberry sauce around it and garnished with fresh berries and mint leaves. 
A fitting, relatively light end to a wonderfully rich main course.
From Chicken Two:  
Boeuf En Croute

I've always loved the idea of boeuf en croute but was terrified to attempt it. Frankly, every recipe I found made it sound so complicated, I wasn't sure I could pull it off ( at least not if it was going to take all day…short on endurance…very short on patience!)

Finally, bolstered and encouraged by Chicken One, I decided to brave it. Next came picking a recipe! You won't believe the variations! I finally chose one from the Cooking Channel that I thought I could live with, and made a couple of changes/additions. We were so pleased (and I think a little surprised!) with the results. Hope you will be too! The recipe is below the pictures.
Beef tenderloin sprinkled with 
salt and pepper
Mushroom duxelles
Horseradish sauce on top, mushroom duxelles beneath the roast
After rolling out the dough, gently place over the roast
and make sure the sides are pinched tightly
Brush with egg wash
Bake, then remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes
And serve! Isn't it pretty???

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce
For panna cotta
  • 1 packet (1 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 cups light cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 pints fresh raspberries
For raspberry sauce:
  • 2 pints fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
Cooking Directions
  1. Panna Cotta: Mix gelatin with about 2 tbsp water in small bowl – set aside til gelatin absorbs water. Bring cream and sugar to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in moistened gelatin until smooth. Strain and pour equal portions into ramekins. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours until set. Turn out onto serving plate. Drizzle raspberry sauce around panna cotta. Garnish with fresh raspberries and mint leaves.
  2.  Raspberry sauce: Reserve 1/2 pint fresh raspberries for garnish. Combine rest of raspberries, 1/2 cup water and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir constantly and mash berries until mixture is liquid with seeds. Remove from heat and strain out the seeds. Return liquid to low boil. Combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and whisk into raspberry liquid. Boil, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Other suggestions: serve with a small dollop of whipped cream on the side. Garnish with dark chocolate.
Boeuf en Croute
  • 1 1/3 pounds beef tenderloin roast
  • about 1 tablespoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • about 1 tablespoon olive oil for drizzling
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, very finely chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup Madeira (or Marsala, which is what we used)
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 1 handful chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 one-pound packages puff pastry (thaw if frozen)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • about 1/4 - 1/2 cup prepared horseradish sauce
Cooking Directions
  1. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Melt a tablespoon of butter with a drizzle of the olive oil in a saute pan until hot, then sear the beef on all sides. Remove from the pan to a board and let cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  2. In the same pan as the beef, prepare the mushroom duxelles: Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and fry the shallots until translucent. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and cook until very tender. Pour in the Madeira, and bring to a boil. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the  crème fraîche and cook down to a very thick paste. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Stir through the chopped parsley. (OK, I confess - I didn't really chop up the mushrooms. I used my trusty Cuisinart food processor and did the job right! And fast. Short on patience, remember?) We searched the grocery store for Madeira, but because it's fortified, it is only sold (at least here) in a liquor store. However, we found Marsala and used it instead. The result was wonderful, so don't panic if you can't find the Madeira!
  3. Roll out one block of pastry to a rectangle large enough to fit the meat with a roomy border. Place on a baking sheet. Remove the fillet from the refrigerator and unwrap. Spoon the mushroom mixture into the center of the pastry and set the meat on top. Here's where I spread a very generous layer of horseradish sauce on top of the meat. I must say, it really gave the roast a punch! Roll out the second sheet to fit over the whole fillet generously. In a small bowl, beat together the egg and 1 teaspoon water. Brush the margins of the bottom pastry with egg wash, then drape the second sheet over, pressing to seal well. Trim the edge to a 1-inch border. Crimp the edges with your fingers. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  5. Brush the whole surface of the pastry with egg wash and make two slits in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F, and continue to bake 20 minutes, depending on how well you like your meat done. Remove from the oven and let stand about 10 minutes before serving in slices.
  6. Let us know how yours turns out!
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