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Salted Butterscotch Pots de Crème

Salted Butterscotch Pots de Crème

Pots de Crème is a beautiful French dessert dating to the 17th century. It quite literally translates  to “pot of cream”.  With 3 basic ingredients – eggs, sugar & cream –  this dessert can be transformed into so many flavors. Salted butterscotch is  addictive and perfectly complex with the smoky caramel, creamy custard and that lovely bite of sea salt. My second favorite is this version with lime and dark chocolate.

Salted Butterscotch Pots de Crème – Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 9 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Arrange eight ramekins or custard pots with a ¾-cup capacity in a large, shallow baking pan. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large liquid measuring cup or pitcher. Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and set aside.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, cook the brown sugar and butter, without stir¬ring, until the sugar turns a deep amber color and develops a nutty smell, about 10 minutes. Use you nose and don’t let it burn. Pour the heavy cream into the mixture gradually, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat. Add the sea salt and vanilla into the mixture. Stir to combine.

Slowly pour the hot butterscotch mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Strain the custard through the sieve into the measuring cup. Pour into the ramekins, dividing the custard evenly. Pour hot water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the outside of the ramekins, and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to bake for 15 minutes more, or just until the custard has set and doesn’t jiggle with you shake the pan. Remove the pan from the oven, uncover, and, using tongs, carefully lift the custards from the water bath and set on a cooling rack.

The custards can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving or serve slightly chilled.

Ham Bone Soup

Ham Bone Soup

Not many options to use a big old ham bone if you don’t want to make a pot of beans. Which I definitely don’t. Thank you New York Times for this amazing soup recipe so I didn’t toss it.

I made a few changes, of course. I found really cooking the heck out of the ham bone is the way to get the marrow to release into the broth, which is stunning. The cabbage turns into something deliciously unrecognizable and silky.

I didn’t add the beans and didn’t miss them. Admittedly, they would add a little more heartiness if you so desire.

Ham Bone Soup – Serves 10

INGREDIENTS

4  strips bacon, thick cut, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
3  large carrots, peeled and sliced
2  celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
1  large onion, peeled and diced
3  garlic cloves, finely chopped
1  ham bone, most extra meat trimmed off, but keep it and add it to the soup at the end
1  bay leaf
8-10 springs of thyme, tied up into a bundle
2 ½  teaspoons salt
head green cabbage, cut into 1/2 pieces
1 box chicken stock
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
1  small bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves chopped into bite-size pieces, 6 cups
Juice of 1 lemon
Black pepper, to taste
Hot sauce or sherry | balsamic | apple cider vinegar, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pot. Stir until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cabbage and cook 3-4 more minutes. Drop in the ham bone, bay leaf and thyme. Cover with 8 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Remove the bay leaf, thyme bundle and ham bone.  Your liquid should be reduced quite a bit. Add the chicken stock, beans, lemon juice, any extra ham meat from the bone and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in the kale and simmer until soft, but vibrantly green, about 15 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve with hot sauce or sherry, balsamic or apple cider vinegar. Serve with crumbled bacon on top.

Dad’s chicken pot pie

My dad claims he “finally found a chicken pot pie that came out perfect”.  No idea where he found this recipe, but if I had to guess it was the Lake Fork Fishing Forum… his most visited website. I adapted a few things (call me a food snob but canned mushrooms aren’t in my life) to get the ingredients,  seasonings and consistency just right. It’s really good and so much better than the one in the little tin I grew up eating!

When I was in Prague last year I found this beautiful dish. It’s not perfectly round and the blue painted design is flawed… and it weights a small ton.  It’s perfect imperfections couldn’t be passed on… I had to have it. I padded it up and carried it on my 15 hour flight home.

I’ve made only 2 dishes in this Bohemian beauty… tiramisu and this chicken pot pie. My next challenge will be a proper British meat pie… I need to some more research and tasting in jolly old London in 2018.

Some tips on selecting the right dish:

  1. To make this full recipe your baking dish needs to hold 8-10 cups. A large cast iron skillet or large round/oval baking dish will work. I measured out water in mine to see the volume… it was 8 cups with room to spare and this recipe filled it to the top.
  2. The bottom crust had to be rolled out to fit up the sides of my dish. The top crust is perfect size with extra to fold over the edges.
  3. If you want to 1/2 the recipe, it’s easy to 1/2 the ingredients. Then you could use a regular pie plate or even a square glass baking dish (get creative with the crust to make it fit). Reduce the baking time to 30 minutes and check to see it it’s bubbling at the edges.

Dad’s Chicken Pot Pie – Serves 8-10

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
15 crimini mushrooms, sliced thick
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3 cups chopped cooked chicken (2 large bone-in, skin on chicken breasts, baked 425 for 45 minutes – meat removed and into large cubes)
12 ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
2 cups frozen diced hash brown potatoes (not shredded)
½ cup milk to thin mixture
2 flat sheets of refrigerated pie crust (2 rolled per box)
Egg wash: 1 egg + 2 Tablespoons of water, beaten in small bowl

INSTRUCTIONS

Baking dish needs to hold 8 -10 cups –  deep dish pie plate or cast-iron skillet

Prepare crust:
Unfold 1 refrigerated pie crust. Place one crust in bottom of buttered/nonstick sprayed deep-dish pie plate or large cast iron skillet.  I had to roll mine out to reach up the sides. Place in refrigerator until done with filling below. Keep 2nd crust in fridge, unrolled.

Prepare filling:
In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil. Once hot, add onion, celery, mushrooms and thyme. Season with salt & pepper and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and place into a bowl. Set aside to use later. Wipe out skillet to use in next steps.

Melt butter in the same large pot over low heat. Add flour stirring until smooth. Add chicken broth and whisk until smooth and bubbly. Add half & half, seasonings, frozen vegetables, frozen potatoes, chicken and onion/celery/mushroom mixture. Add milk (or water or stock) and turn heat up to medium-high.  Stir until mixed thoroughly heated through, about 10 minutes. Taste mixture for seasoning and add salt/pepper as needed. Transfer to your baking dish (place on a cookie sheet in case the sauce leaks over the edges). Top with 2nd crust and crimp edges.  Cut slits in top crust. Brush top crust with egg wash to create a nice golden crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 -60 minutes until bubbly and crust is starting to brown. I covered mine after 45 minutes so the crust didn’t over brown. Let sit for 20 minutes to cool slightly and let sauce set up.

Chicken with shallots, white wine and dijon

Wow, this was better than expected. 

With only a few ingredients. this one pot wonder didn’t disappoint. The only chopping required was halving a few cherry tomatoes. Thanks Andrew Zimmern!

The recipe is simple to double or triple, but as written is perfect for a cozy dinner for 2.

Chicken with shallots, white wine and dijon – Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS

boneless skin-on chicken thighs or 2 boneless skin-on chicken breasts cut into 4 pieces
tablespoons flour
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
tablespoons unsalted butter
6 to 8 whole medium shallots, peeled
cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
tablespoon Dijon mustard
sprigs tarragon
cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 package egg noodles

INSTRUCTIONS

Pat chicken thighs very dry with paper towels. Sprinkle over them the flour, salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, cook the chicken, in batches if necessary, until well browned and crisp on all sides. Set chicken aside on a plate.

In the same pot, add the whole shallots to the pot and sauté them in the butter and chicken fat until they begin to soften and caramelize, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Skim off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, whisk any brown bits off the bottom, then whisk in the mustard and 1 cup chicken stock. Add the sprigs of tarragon and the chicken thighs to the pot. Cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is finishing, cook the egg noodles according to the the package directions.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1/2 cup chicken stock. Remove the lid from the chicken, turn the heat to high and add cornstarch mixture.  Bring to a boil until thickened and then turn to low heat.

Add the cherry tomatoes to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve immediately on top of the egg noodles.

 

Caramelized Onion and Butternut Squash Tart

The best thing about this recipe… I was able to get every last ingredient at Trader Joe’s. The onions take some patience, but well worth the wait. It’s impossible for anything topped with cheese & crème fraîche to be anything but delicious.

It’s rich, decadent and perfect as an unexpected Thanksgiving side.

Caramelized Onion and Butternut Squash Tart – Serves 8
adapted from Vanessa Larson, Food52

INGREDIENTS

1 pie crust – rolled out slightly larger to fit an 11″ tart pan
medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed small (about the size of a chicklet)
tablespoon olive oil
large yellow onions, halved and sliced
tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
eggs
7.5 ounces crème fraîche
ounces Gruyère, grated
ounces Parmesan, grated
teaspoon sea salt
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
sprigs thyme – leaves removed

INSTRUCTIONS

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring to mix. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until dark golden brown, about 30 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and cook an additional 5 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450° F. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and spread out on baking sheet. Bake until browned and very soft, stirring once, about 20 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 375°. On a lightly floured surface roll out store bought pie crust into a 12-inch round. Fit dough into an 11” tart pan with a removable fluted rim. Prick all over with a fork. Freeze pastry shell 20 minutes.

Line pastry shell with foil and fill with pie weights or raw rice. Bake shell in middle of oven until edge is pale golden, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights or rice and bake shell 10 minutes more, or until bottom is golden. Leave oven on. Cool shell in pan on a rack.

Reduce oven heat to 350° F. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, crème fraîche, gruyère, Parmesan, and black pepper.

Spread caramelized onions in bottom of tart and top with butternut squash. Pour gruyère mixture over the squash, making sure to spread it evenly over the tart.

Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Pumpkin jam bruschetta

On a recent trip to Porto, Portugal I frequented a 16th century chapel turned into a beautiful wine bar, Capela Incomum. The name means “uncommon chapel”.  It’s perfectly situated at the bottom of a hill on a cobblestone street in the Cedofeita neighborhood. They have a wide selection of Portuguese wines and ports by the bottle or glass. On the menu of small plates to enjoy with your wine, was pumpkin bruschetta. Intrigued, I ordered and have been obsessed since.

Doce de Abóbora (Pumpkin Preserve) is plentiful across Portugal and traditionally eaten on toast with cream cheese for breakfast. They also pair it often with walnuts and queijo de cabra, a hard goat milks cheese from the region.

You can’t find this jam in the US and I needed a fix, so I made some. If I shared  a jar with you keep it in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. See recipe below for how to prepare the bruschetta. Open a nice bottle of red wine and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

Rustic bread –  1/2 inch slices
Olive oil
Manchego cheese, or any goat/sheeps milk cheese, sliced
Pumpkin Jam
Walnuts, toasted
Arugula

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush bread slices with olive oil, place on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until toasted. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Top the slices of bread with the sliced cheese, plenty of pumpkin jam and sprinkle toasted walnuts on top. Garnish with arugula.

 

 

My best Beef Bourguignon

Guys, this shit is crack. Dip your bread all day long, crack.

It’s Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, Dinner party worthy. Or stay in your PJs on a cold day and eat it all yourself worthy.

Be prepared, this isn’t a quick meal. I always make it the day before and finish it the next day. Or I start it in the morning and finish it right before dinner. It gives time for those flavors to develop.

This recipe has been through years of tweaks and it’s now My best Beef Bourguignon.

There are a few secret weapons to share and they can all be kept in the pantry.

  1. Cognac. Get the small bottle, it’s cheap.
  2. French Demi-glace, 1.5 Ounce
  3. Kitchen Basics beef broth. Available at Kroger and Central Market.
  4. Mutti Italian Double Concentrate tomato paste.
  5. Fresh pearl onions, so special. 2nd choice – Cipollini onions. 3rd – frozen.

My best Beef Bourguignon – Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

2.5 – 3 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 large yellow onions, quartered (will be removed after braising)
2 large carrots, unpeeled and cut into large pieces (will be removed after braising)
2 cloves garlic smashed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup cognac
1 bottle pinot noir
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Classic French Demi glace -1.5 ounces, 1/2 container
6 cups beef broth (2 boxes total needed)
—–
1 pound fresh boiler/pearl onions (or frozen)
1 pound mushrooms brown crimini
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
1/4 cup arrowroot flour (or corn starch – but use 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup beef broth

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on both sides. Remove the seared cubes to a plate until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Add the onions, carrots, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Turn the heat down and carefully add the Cognac. Cook for a few minutes until the onions have absorbed a good amount of the cognac.

Add the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Put the meat back into the pot with the juices from the plate.

Add the bottle of wine plus 6 cups of beef broth to cover the meat. Stir 1/2 container of demi-glace.

Add thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

—–

In the meantime, prep the fresh pearl onions. Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the onions for 2 minutes. Drain onions in a colander and use a small paring knife to remove the skins. The slight blanch makes this easier!  Set aside.  (If making ahead, store in a plastic bag in the fridge). If using frozen, skip all together and add onions as stated below.

Remove the stew from the oven when meat is tender. (This is where I let it come to room temp & place in the refrigerator overnight, as it’s always better the next day. If you are making and serving same day, pick up below.)

With a slotted spoon, remove large onion pieces, carrots, thyme and bay leaves. They were simply being used to develop the broth. Now they are cooked to death. Get rid of them, we are adding new ones next.

—–

Place dutch oven on burner on medium heat and let come to a simmer slowly.

Saute the mushrooms and carrots in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew.

Add the pearl onions.

Combine 4 tablespoons of arrowroot flour and 1/4 cup beef broth or water and combine until a paste forms. Stir into the stew to thicken. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

Serve with tons of bread.

Pasta with sausage, butternut squash, kale, caramelized red onion & walnuts

This recipe is for the butternut squash lover. The sweetness from the squash with the spicy sausage and crunch from the walnuts, is the perfect combination of textures and flavors. Goat cheese on top, would also be a tasty addition.

INGREDIENTS

  • large butternut squash, cut into small cubes
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, mild or hot
  • red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 pound orecchiette, mezzi rigatoni, 0r small pasta
  • large cloves garlic, minced
  • cup chicken broth
  • bunch tuscan kale or regular kale, stems removed
  • tablespoon chopped sage 
  • 1/2 cup white wine 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh Parmesan
  • tablespoons Toasted walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and the nutmeg. Roast until butternut squash pieces are tender and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add sausage and sauté until cooked through. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the sliced red onions and a tad more olive oil, if needed, to the same pan and cook until caramelized, about 20-30 minutes, on medium-low heat.
  4. In the meantime, heat a pot of water over high heat until boiling. Salt water generously. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente.
  5. Add garlic to the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the kale, sausage and sage to the pan.
  6. Add white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and reduce, about 10 minutes.
  7. Turn heat to low and add the heavy cream. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan with the sauce. Add the roasted butternut squash.
  8. Loosen sauce with pasta water if needed. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and walnuts.

Welsh rarebit

Welsh rarebit

Welsh rarebit… there is nothing quite like it. My introduction to this decadent dish was years ago at a pub just over the Oklahoma border in Kansas.

Fast forward 14 years and chef Fergus Henderson, of the infamous St John Bar & Restaurant in London, is on my ever-growing list of must haves.

Initially, I was only after one thing…. roasted bone marrow. But then I hear…. “Welsh rarebit to start?”… from the angel in white standing next to my table. You can’t pass on the opportunity to devour, what has to be, the best thing on sliced bread: beer and cheese.

I walked in and out with the same thoughts… this place is perfection: the ambience, the food, the wine, the patrons.

Fergus, I’ll be back for more. Until then, I’m surviving winter with my best rendition and a nice glass of red wine.

Welsh rarebit (to feed six)
Extract from Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating Published by Bloomsbury in 2004

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp mustard powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup Stout beer
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
16 ounces mature strong Cheddar cheese, grated
6 pieces of sourdough wheat bread

INSTRUCTIONS

Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour, and let this cook together until it smells biscuity but is not browning. Add the mustard powder and cayenne pepper, stir in the beer and Worcestershire sauce, then gently melt in the cheese.

When it’s all of one consistency, remove from the heat, pour out into a shallow container and allow to set. You can keep in the fridge for a few days at this point.

In a cast iron skillet, butter one side of bread and cook util toasted on one side – 2-3 minutes.

Spread cheese mixture generously on un-toasted side of bread. Place bread slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and broil for for 2-3 minutes on the middle oven rack. Eat when bubbling golden brown.

Portuguese caldo verde with cauliflower & kale

Today will be the 4th time I’ve made this soup since Fall arrived. Can’t get enough of it!! It’s incredibly flavorful and guilt free at 380 calories per serving.

Sometimes I puree it completely and sometimes I leave some cauliflower bits in the soup. It’s perfect either way. The vinegar on top should not be skipped :).

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds cauliflower (from 1 medium head)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra for roasting)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (1/2 is nice & spicy)
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound smoked turkey kielbasa, sliced
  • 1/2 bag Tuscan Kale, shredded (I like more so I use 3/4 of the bag)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Sherry Vinegar, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 F. Slice the cauliflower into large slices and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Season cauliflower with cumin, smoked paprika, and liberal amounts of salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Set aside once cooked.

Sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-medium high heat until tender and translucent and beginning to brown. Add garlic and pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about an hour. Remove from heat and purée.

In a skillet, brown sliced kielbasa and set aside.

Return the puréed soup to low heat. Add the kale and sausage and simmer another 10 – 15 minutes until the greens soften a bit. Remove from a drizzle of olive oil & sherry vinegar.