"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chocolate Eclair Cake

This dessert is one of Kent's favorite recipes that his grandmother made while he was growing up.  His sister made it around Christmas and added peanut butter.  We found a copy of the recipe recently while looking through one of her cookbooks, and Kent thought we definitely needed to share it!

Chocolate Eclair Cake
1 box plain graham crackers
2 boxes vanilla instant pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1 (12 oz) container of cool whip

Glaze ingredients:
2 squares semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioners sugar

Butter at 13x9 inch pyrex dish.  Mix the pudding with the milk as if you were making the pudding, then add the cool whip.  Let stand for just a minute to get firm.  Line the bottom of the dish with a layer of graham crackers.Then add 1/2 of the pudding mixture on top of this.  Put another layer of graham crackers, then the rest of the pudding.  End with a layer of graham crackers.

Glaze directions:
Melt chocolate squares and butter.  Stir in confectioners sugar until smooth, then add milk.  Pour this on top of graham crackers  This is best if done two days before it is to be served.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Sauce

My in-laws made this wonderful Southern Living dish for Christmas dinner.  It was a big hit with the whole family!  This would make a great meal anytime you're entertaining for a large crowd - it serves 16!

Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Sauce
1 pound shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 (8-pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed (see note)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups beef broth
1 cup dry Marsala wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Garnish: fresh thyme

Toss shallots and 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl; stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside. 

Stir together 1 tablespoon salt and next 4 ingredients.  Rub tenderloin with 1/4 cup olive oil; sprinkle seasonings over top and sides of tenderloin, pressing gently with fingers.  Place tenderloin in a large lightly greased roasting pan; arrange shallots around tenderloin. 

Bake, uncovered, at 500 degrees for 25 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of tenderloin registers 145 degrees (medium-rare) or 160 degrees (medium). 

Meanwhile, stir together beef broth and Marsala in a large skillet.  Bring to a boil; boil 8 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 2 cups. 

Remove tenderloin to a serving platter, and cover with aluminum foil; reserve shallots and drippings in pan.  Add broth reduction to pan, and place over medium heat on cook top, stirring to loosen particle from bottom of pan. 

Whisk together flour and water until smooth; stir into sauce in roasting pan.  Cook over medium heat 3 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring constantly.  Add butter, stirring just until melted.  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Thinly slice tenderloin and serve with sauce.  Garnish if desired.

Note:  Find beef tenderloin sealed in plastic in the meat section of your super market.  Once you trim the tenderloin, you should yield about 6 pounds of meat.  To save time, ask your butcher to trim it for you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wine Wednesday - E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone

I first became interested in Cotes du Rhone (a type of wine produced in France) when I was studying in Provence.  We spent a day at a vineyard near Arles, which is just on the tip of the area that is allowed to make Cotes du Rhone, studying production of the wine.  I bought several bottles that I packed very carefully to bring home!  Cotes do Rhone can be red, rose, or white - though most I've found for sale in the US have been red.

A few days ago, Kent and I tried the 2007 E. Guigal red Cotes du Rhone that we'd had in our cabinet for a while.  In doing research on this wine, I found that it was given 90 points by Robert Parker on his 100 point scale (for more information on the Parker wine rating system, click here).  I really liked this wine because it wasn't too overpowering.  The websites I looked through describe it as having smells "of jammy black raspberry, cherry, cassis, pepper and floral notes".  It is said to be the best wine ever produced by this maker.  It can be purchased on-line and at some Whole Foods locations for $12-15.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Croque Monsieurs

In December, I blogged about making French onion soup.  I was worried that soup might not be enough for dinner, so I made croque monsieurs to go along with the soup.  Croque monsieurs are French sandwiches that can be found at nearly every French cafe (they are served in Birmingham at Chez Fonfon).  They are similar to Monte Cristos that I've posted about before.  I remember having my first croque monsieur in my high school French class.  There are many variations of the croque monsieur, most notably the croque madame (a croque monsieur with a fried or poached egg on top).  They can be really simple but can also be "done up" a little fancier, like this recipe topped with a mornay sauce that comes from Ina Garten. 

Croque Monsieur

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Sally sent me this recipe several weeks ago, but I've been waiting to publish it.  I feel like after so much filling food in December, January is always a great time for soups.  This one looks really yummy!  I can't wait to try it!

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
2 t. chili powder
1 t. oregano
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 (10.5-oz.) can chicken broth
1 & 1/4 C. water
1 C. cooked corn kernels (or canned)
1 C. white hominy (same section as canned corn)
1 (4-oz.) can chopped green chilis
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained & rinsed
1/4 C. chopped cilantro
2 chicken breasts, cooked & cut into small pieces (or use a rotisserie
chicken, would use 1/2 of the chicken for this serving size, give or
take depending on how much chicken you want)

Garnish: tortilla chips, avocado, Monterrey jack cheese, sour cream, green onions, whatever sounds good!

Sauté onions in olive oil with garlic on low heat for awhile to cook down (I like to cook out onion flavor). Transfer to large pot & stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, broth & water. Bring to a boil &simmer about 10 minutes. Stir in corn, hominy, chilis, beans, cilantro & chicken. Simmer another 10 minutes. Serve and top with garnish.
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