Tuesday, March 8, 2011

LJ's Disappearing Potato Soup

It's been a while, and I've made a few notable items, but this is the one I feel like sharing the recipe to right now. It is so delicious, it pretty much leaves me at a loss for words.

I couldn't find a potato soup recipe I liked, so I took it upon myself to make one. I scoured the net and found parts I liked, but the over all idea I didn't always care for. I have tried to make potato soup in the past, and it turned out nicely for one day, and one day only. I am ashamed to say, the simplest of facts escaped my notice at the time: pasturization. Doh. This was some years ago though and I have not buried a pot of potato soup in the Failed Recipe Graveyard out back in quite a while. Mostly because I haven't had the heart to try it again. This month has been so rainy and abismal though, it practically begged for a comforting, creamy, tasty potato soup.

And so, my Disappearing Potato Soup is born! I bestow it onto all readers henceforth, for your indulgement and enjoyment. Don't get fat.

Note on the chicken broth. I really love Pacific broths. They're just so much more flavorful and make all the difference. I don't know what they have in stores near you, but you can get it nearly anywhere there is an organic aisle around here, or at Costco. Use whatever you can though.

5 lbs white or gold potatoes (waxy fleshed, not for baking)

3 medium to large carrots

2 small to medium onions

1 clove minced garlic (or 1 tsp pre-minced)

1 LB thick cut bacon (about 1/8 inch if possible)

1 and 1/2 quarts chicken broth

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup sour cream

4 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

1 & 1/2 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

fresh cracked black pepper (& grains of paradise - optional) to taste

garnish of fresh parsley, chives or dill, your choice

Preheat oven to 300, place bacon on sheet tray in one layer. Cook in oven for 1 hour, check every 15 minutes for progress. As bacon gets closer to being done, reduce oven to 250-275 for the last 15 or 20 minutes. Turn all pieces at least once and rotate tray in oven. Bacon should have enough "chew" so that it can be rough chopped without absolutely crumbling apart when cut.
While bacon is cooking, peel and small dice the carrots and onions. Peel and cube your potatoes.
If bacon is not done by this time just go ahead and pour 4 tbs (1/4 cup) of bacon grease into your 6 quart pot and return bacon to oven to finish.
Saute onions and carrots for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, add garlic, saute 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add potatoes and chicken broth to pot. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer for 25 minutes or until all veggies are very tender.

When done reserve about 2 cups of the potato cubes aside. Reserve less if you want a thicker soup.
At this point you want to puree what remains in the pot. Use a blender, stick blender, mixer or even a hand masher if necessary. Work in batches if needed.
Once all smooth, add all the creams, salt and spices mix well, and taste. Adjust as necessary. Add reserved potato cubes.
Add chopped bacon to individual servings. Garnish with herbs if desired.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lemon Curd-a-licious

It just takes a little time, but making your own lemon curd couldn't be more simple. In looking up recipes to follow, I decided in favor of Ina Garten's for ease of preparation and small ingredient list. Alton Brown's had all this egg separating to do, but I hate slimy or sticky things on my hands (and I'm a cook, go figure).

Probably what took longest besides heating was peeling the lemons. I found that in using the veggie peeler, if I peeled away from me with a light touch, kind of wiggling in a saw motion left and right as I went, that it was effective at keeping most of the pith out of the cut and yet allowed me to cut longer and bigger pieces so I wasn't spending forever trying to get it off.

Don't Freak Out. It will curdle when you add the lemon juice to the butter-sugar-egg mixture. It will really make your eyes bug out as you try to stir it to make it stop separating, but there is nothing you can do. Just mix it up a while and then follow the rest of the directions.  As it heats up it slowly begins to melt together and become cohesive once more.

Since I did a double batch, it took about 15-20 minutes to heat up to 170 degrees at a slow creep with constant stirring. It's really a fantastic thing to see the sudden thickening of the sauce as it hits near the 170 mark. At that point I turned mine off and just kept stirring until it was under 160. How do I know it was under 160? I was using my trusty digital thermometer, as evidenced by the picture, it is in the pot just behind my scraper handle.

If I was going to do anything scientific for a job in my life, it would have to be some sort of food chemistry. That way, I could eat any mistakes :P
I can now mark this off my list of things to learn how to make and not stare at it with trepidation any longer. Now..to tackle that pate a choux....

The color is so purdy. Right up there with creamed butter, sugar and eggs.

Two quarts of curd from six lemons, 10 large eggs and 3 cups of sugar

Lemon Curd

1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All rights reserved

Prep Time:20 minInactive Prep Time:--Cook Time:10 minLevel:

EasyServes: 3 cups.


•3 lemons
•1 1/2 cups sugar
•1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
•4 extra-large eggs
•1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
•1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

spice spice baby

I just made the most perfect cake I have ever made in my life I think. It is moist, has a fine crumb, excellent balance of textures, spices and the frosting is fantastic.

 It is called "Gigi's Carrot Cake" and it's by Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network. I'm not much of an Emeril fan, but occasionally he has a recipe or two that I have all the ingredients for and it sounds good, so I make it. One other recent by him was a cornmeal cake I think, but that's another post.

I have made this cake before, but it never turned out quite as nicely as it has now. I don't have a fine shredding blade for my food processor, so in favor of laziness I always use the medium shred blade. This time, however, I took pains to shred 5-6 cups of carrots by hand ( I was going to make two cakes), and it was worth it. The smaller shred gives a better mouth feel and disperses the carrot more evenly throughout the entire cake.

Also, I opted to try out my new "Cake Spice" from The Spice House instead of using just cinnamon in it like Emeril does. Though, I did add an extra 1/2 tsp of cinnamon anyway. Either way you shake it, cinnamon or cake spice, both are delish.
In my mind, I know that the amount of frosting he has listed for this cake is technically enough, but somehow, I just want a smidge more between the layers, so I would recommend making an extra half batch of it to have an ample amount for applying to suit your taste.
His measurements of sugar are spot on, however, not too sweet. I do add a few shakes of salt, probably equal to a pinch. I think I'd add 1/8 tsp if I was making a batch and a half. I feel like it just adds a little somethin' somethin'.

Do NOT forget to toast your pecans! It brings out the buttery sweet nut flavor and really adds "oomph" to the overall taste of the cake. Emeril says to mix the pecans INTO the frosting, but I opted to send them through a little nut grinder and apply them liberally to the outside. In my mind, it made it look nice and rather expensive ($8.99/lb for pecans!), but feel free to experiment however you like.

If you have had trouble in the past like I have, with getting your cake to come out of the round pans, either butter and flour the pan, or for extra insurance, use some parchment, set the pan on it and take a tracing around the bottom and cut them out to make circles to fit inside the pans. Do this for each individual pan or it may not fit properly. Alton Brown had a really handy easy way of doing this, but I can't remember what it was, sadly. I have only 10 inch pans, but 30 minutes still seemed to do fine for me in my propane oven. You may wish to reduce the baking time depending on how your oven cooks.

This is the kind of cake that makes the house smell great and is awesome enough to serve to guests or give as a gift. It's decadent and classic yet homey and comforting. Made to be shared (if there's any left).

Gigi's Carrot Cake

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2002

Prep Time:35 min Inactive Prep Time:10 min Cook Time:35 min
Level: IntermediateServes: 1 cake, 8 to 10 servings.

•3 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
•2 cups granulated sugar
•2 cups all-purpose flour
•2 teaspoons baking soda
•2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
•1 teaspoon salt
•4 large eggs
•1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•3 cups grated carrots
•1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Pecan Cream Cheese Icing:
•8 ounces cream cheese
•1 stick unsalted butter
•1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar
•1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•1 cup chopped toasted pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 3 (9-inch) cake pans with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the sugar, and beat. In a medium bowl or on a piece of parchment, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the eggs, beating well after the addition of each. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Add the carrots and beat on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Fold in the nuts. Divide between the 3 cake pans and bake until set and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest in the cake pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, remove from the pans, and let cool.
For the Frosting: In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, beating constantly. Add the vanilla and pecans.
When the cake is cool, place 1 cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread the top with cream cheese frosting and top with a second and third cake layer, spreading the icing between each layer. Spread the icing around the sides of the cake and let harden slightly before serving. To serve, cut into wedges.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Multi-Faceted Fruits

I was watching an episode of "Chopped" tonight, a show on the Food Network channel (basically: 3 chefs compete to make good food with mystery ingredients in an insanely short amount of time to win 10k.)

For the dessert round tonight, they had several mystery ingredients, one was "Cherimoya", which I was surprised I even spelled correctly when I did a web search on it. It is apparently a creamy fleshed fruit that has tones of banana, strawberry, mango, pineapple and even some others. !!I want to try this fruit!!

Sadly, the season is over with for now and it's pretty pricey if you ask me. From http://www.calimoya.com/  $30 for 3-5 fruits maximum 4lbs, but then on another page it says $42. A little confusing. If I end up really liking the stuff, it might just be cheaper for me to fly out there for a day to get my fill.  *..,*  'scuse me, was just drooling a little as I dreamed about it.

Cherimoyas ready to eat
picture borrowed for example purposes from the calimoya website

Friday, September 24, 2010

Random Art Class

I don't have time or energy to take a traditional art class up at the local museum (and pay their outrageous prices) so when I saw this little downloadable game for the Nintendo DSi (handheld game system) for like $8, I was intrigued.

It's called "Art Academy - First Semester" and it's just what it sounds like. It's a step by step of the basics with a little bearded cartoon guy that looks like Grumpy of the seven dwarves and his name is "Leonardo" - of course! He has a black and white puppy dog that pops on screen during loading and lesson introduction times, just like my dogs, so it connected with me on that level immediately.

Since I have never had art lessons except once in first grade and once in 6th grade, this is rather enlightening for me and gives some excellent tips on how to get shadows and shapes to look the way you want them. Below you can see my slowly improving technique with each lesson. The first two are pencil sketches obviously and then it moved into painting skills. I love the fact that the DSi lets you upload it to an SD card so you can save it or show it like this. It's surprisingly accurate for being a touch screen, and a whooole lot cheaper than buying art supplies.

I Really labored over this lime half. :P

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quote Note

"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie."

Jim Davis, "Garfield"