Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Seeing as I am now between seasons eight and nine of Good Eats, I figured this was a good time to do one of the special episodes. It’s hard to believe that I last did a special episode over two years ago! This special was fun for me to do because it was an episode I had never seen before and all four of the recipes were super intriguing. I can say that I have definitely left this episode with some recipes that I will be bookmarking for long-term use/memory, so read on if you want to discover some great food.

Salt Roasted Shrimp

Shrimp are not my favorite protein, but I was still excited about trying this cooking method. The recipe begins with placing two pounds of rock salt in a 9×13″ metal pan. Place two more pounds of rock salt in a metal bowl.

IMG_2830

Four pounds of rock salt split between two vessels.

Place the two vessels of salt in a cold oven and set the oven to preheat to 400 degrees. When the oven hits 400, let it continue to heat for an additional 15 minutes.

IMG_2831

Four pounds of rock salt split between two vessels, and stuck in a cold oven to preheat to 400.

Once the 15 minutes are up, place a pound of jumbo shrimp on the surface of the salt in the 9×13″ pan and pour the hot salt from the bowl over the top of the shrimp. Smooth the salt over the top of the shrimp and place them back in the oven for 7-8 minutes, or until pink and opaque.

IMG_2837

Alton’s salt roasted shrimp.

To rinse off the salt, you can dip the shrimp quickly in white wine. First off, this is about the easiest method of cooking shrimp I’ve ever tried, and I thought the flavor of the shrimp was very positively accentuated by the salt. These shrimp had a sweetness that reminded me more of crab than shrimp, and I really liked it. For whatever reason, my shrimp were extremely difficult to peel, and I don’t know why that was. I really do want to try this method again because these were some of my favorite shrimp I have had, as far as flavor is concerned. The salt did season the shrimp, but not overly so, and I did not even try Alton’s wine rinse step post-cooking. If anyone has a theory as to why my shrimp were so difficult to peel, I’d love to hear it. Aside from the peeling difficulty, this was a fantastic recipe!

Perfect Fingerling Potatoes

I think we have all had potatoes cooked in myriad ways, but I have to say that Alton’s recipe here was a new one for me. For this recipe, place 1 1/4 pounds of Kosher or rock salt in a large pot with two quarts of water and two pounds of fingerling potatoes.

Bring the whole pot to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender enough to pierce with the tip of a sharp paring knife, which took about 20 minutes for my potatoes. Be aware that smaller potatoes will cook faster.

IMG_2488

Potatoes, brought to a boil and cooked until tender.

Transfer the cooked potatoes to a rack over a sheet pan. Once all of the potatoes have cooked, serve them with butter and chives.

IMG_2490

Cooked potatoes cooling on a rack and forming a salty crust.

IMG_2494

Alton’s fingerling potatoes with chives, pepper, and butter.

These potatoes are like a fun science experiment because they transform during cooking, and form a sparkly salt crust as they cool. The insides of the potatoes are perfectly cooked, while the outsides provide the perfect amount of salty seasoning. These are fun, easy, and delicious!

Sauerkraut

I find fermented food fascinating, and the idea of making my own sauerkraut was super exciting to me. Keep in mind that this recipe takes a full month, including the fermentation time. This starts with chopping five pounds of green cabbage and placing the cabbage in a large bowl.

IMG_2509

Ready to chop 5 pounds of cabbage.

Add 3 T pickling salt to the cabbage, along with 1 T juniper berries and 2 t caraway seeds. Toss everything together with clean hands. Let the cabbage sit for 10 minutes.

Pack the cabbage and any accumulating liquid into a tall plastic container, packing it down.

IMG_2519

Cabbage packed into a plastic container.

Alton likes to use a tall plastic container designed for holding a loaf of bread. You want to keep the cabbage free from air, so place some type of lid on the surface of the cabbage. Next, place a weight on top of the lid (Alton uses a mason jar full of water). I read some of the online reviews of this recipe and used ziplock bags full of water, as they also help to form an airtight seal. A layer of plastic wrap also seems to help to keep air out.

IMG_2520

Weighing the sauerkraut down with bags of water.

Store the sauerkraut at 65-70 degrees for four weeks. Be sure to check the sauerkraut every couple days and discard any scum from the surface. Alton says you really only need to be concerned about dark-colored mold, and ammonia-like smell, or lots of active bubbling; if you see any of these things, it’s time to start over. Otherwise, your sauerkraut will gradually secrete more liquid, turn yellow, and start to smell sour.

IMG_2608

Sauerkraut gradually fermenting over time.

I was out of town for part of my sauerkraut’s fermentation, so I arrived home to sauerkraut that was ready to eat.

IMG_2766

Sauerkraut after four weeks of fermentation.

We opted to eat our sauerkraut on bratwursts with mustard, and I was highly impressed.

IMG_2768

Sauerkraut served on brats with mustard.

This homemade sauerkraut has much more texture than any you can buy in the store, which I really appreciate. I also really like the pops of spice you get from the caraway seeds and juniper berries, and it has just the right amount of tang. We still have some sauerkraut in our refrigerator right now, as this recipe makes a pretty large amount. Add this one to the list of fun things to try in your spare time, as it really requires almost no effort!

Beef Tenderloin in Salt Crust

Since it’s Father’s Day, it only seems appropriate that this next recipe is one I would love to be able to share with my dad. I’m pretty sure my dad never saw this Good Eats salt episode because he would have jumped all over trying Alton’s beef tenderloin recipe. My dad was always one to test a recipe before trying it for a holiday or occasion, and he likely would have invited me to his house for his test run. Beef tenderloin is always a special occasion meal for us, as it is a pricey cut of meat, but last week we had a delicious tenderloin simply for the sake of this project. For Alton’s tenderloin, you first need to make a salt-based dough. To do this, place 5 C flour, 3 C Kosher salt, 3 T pepper, 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley/thyme/sage, and a mixture of 5 egg whites with 1 1/2 C water in a bowl.

IMG_2784

Flour, Kosher salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.

IMG_2785

Flour, Kosher salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and a mixture of egg whites and water.

IMG_2786

Egg whites and water added to flour/salt mixture.

Use a potato masher to loosely combine the dough, and then mix the dough with your hands until it is smooth and uniform. Place the dough in a plastic bag and let it sit at room temperature for 4-24 hours; according to Alton, if you try to use the dough immediately, it will be a crumbly mess. I opted to make my dough a full 24 hours ahead of time.

After your dough has rested, roll the dough to a large rectangle that is 3/16″ thick. You can trim the edges with a pizza cutter to make the dough into a nice rectangle.

IMG_2799

Dough after 24 hours.

Next, coat a 6-7 pound beef tenderloin (my tenderloin was in the 3-4 pound range) with ~1 T olive oil and sear the meat until it is browned on all sides; Alton likes to use an electric griddle to sear, but I just used a large skillet.

Let the tenderloin rest until it is cool to the touch, which took about 20 minutes for my beef.

IMG_2797

Letting the seared meat rest until cool to the touch.

Sprinkle the center of your salt dough rectangle with an additional 1/4 C of chopped fresh parsley, thyme, and/or sage, and place your cooled tenderloin on top of the herbs.

Fold the dough up over the tenderloin crimping the edges together to create a sealed package. You do not want the dough to be super tight on the meat. Trim the ends of the dough and crimp them up also, and seal any holes with extra dough. Transfer the wrapped tenderloin to a sheet pan and insert a probe thermometer into the center of the beef. My dough stuck to my countertop a bit, so I had to do some mending.

IMG_2807

Wrapping the tenderloin in the salt dough.

IMG_2808

My wrapped beef tenderloin.

IMG_2810

Tenderloin in the oven until it reaches 125 degrees.

Put the beef in a 400 degree oven, letting it cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Once at 125 degrees, remove the beef from the oven and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.

IMG_2817

Tenderloin removed from the oven at 125 degrees.

After resting, slice the meat with a serrated knife and pull the tenderloin out of the salt dough, discarding the dough. Serve the meat immediately.

IMG_2819

Tenderloin after resting for 15 minutes.

IMG_2821

Alton’s beef tenderloin.

In the episode, Alton appeared to let his tenderloin rest for a full hour, which will result in over-cooked meat. Since the meat is still in its dough envelope, its temperature continues to rise quite quickly after removal from the oven, so I cut my meat after a mere 15 minute rest, and it honestly would have been better a few minutes earlier. Next time, I will probably pull the meat from the oven at 120 degrees, and let it rest until its temperature hits 135-140. I did use a smaller tenderloin than what Alton used and my tenderloin was done after 45 minutes in the oven, so this is a pretty fast cooking method. Aside from those notes, this recipe is awesome. There is a reason Alton stated at the end of this episode that this was his favorite Good Eats beef recipe. I already hope/plan to make this for the next holiday we host, as it is easy, quick, and delicious. The meat comes out of the dough perfectly tender and seasoned to perfection. Seriously, if you want a special beef recipe, make this one. I only wish I could make this for my dad.

The 96th episode of Good Eats originally aired in December, hence the Christmas cookie theme. I say, however, that Christmas cookies deserve to be eaten at any time of the year, and March seemed like a perfect time to crank some cookies out of my kitchen. First up?

Sugar Cookies

This is a recipe that I actually made years ago (maybe in 2005?) for Christmas at my parents’ house. It was the first Christmas Ted spent with my family and I remember decorating the cookies on Christmas Eve prior to Ted’s arrival. My brother and I were going to head to Christmas Eve mass with our parents, and we somehow ended up with two martinis in our systems prior to church. Let me just say that mass was a little more entertaining than usual, and I ended up with very brightly (and abstractly) decorated cookies. The cookies were a hit then, so I knew they would be good when I made them this time around. This recipe begins by sifting together 3 C flour, 1/4 t salt, and 3/4 t baking powder.

Also, in a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 T milk.

IMG_6626

Wet ingredients – egg and milk.

Oh, and place a sheet pan in the freezer. Next, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together 1 C butter and 1 C sugar until light and fluffy.

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the mixer until mixed in.

IMG_6629

Wet ingredients added to mixing bowl.

Then, slowly add the sifted dry ingredients on low, mixing until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough forms a ball.

Divide the dough in half, patting each half into a flat slab. Wrap the dough in plastic or wax paper and place it in the refrigerator for two hours.

IMG_6633

Dough, divided into two equal slabs, and ready to head into refrigerator.

When you are ready to cut out your cookies, sprinkle your work surface with powdered sugar (Alton prefers sugar to flour because flour causes the dough to develop more gluten). Roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, lifting the dough every so often to be sure it isn’t sticking; I found that I needed quite a lot of powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking to my counter.

Remember that frozen sheet pan from earlier? Place it on your rolled dough for 10 minutes to re-chill the dough before cutting.

IMG_6638

Cold sheet pan placed on top of rolled dough.

Use cookie cutters (FYI Alton likes plastic ones) to cut cookies from your dough, transferring them to parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for four minutes at 375, rotate the pans, and bake them for four to five more minutes. I found that my cookies needed a little more time than this. Let them cool completely on racks before frosting.

IMG_6643

Cookies, after baking.

This sugar cookie recipe is fantastic. The dough comes together super quickly and is very easy to work with. The resulting cookies are crispy on the outside and slightly tender on the inside, and they have a rich, buttery flavor. I highly recommend this one! Oh, and how should you decorate said cookies? With Alton’s recipe for royal icing, of course! See below.

Royal Icing

If you are looking for a way to decorate your sugar cookies, look no further than Alton’s royal icing recipe. To make his icing, beat four egg whites or three ounces of pasteurized egg whites (I used pasteurized egg whites) with 1 t vanilla, using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer.

Gradually add 4 C of sifted powdered sugar until you have a smooth, lump-free icing.

Divide the icing among small bowls, adding coloring as you desire. As far as coloring goes, Alton prefers powdered food coloring because it lasts the longest and has no additives. I only had liquid food coloring, so that is what I went with.

IMG_6650

Royal icing, divided and colored.

Frost your cookies and let them sit until the frosting has set up. Oh, and if you end up with a bad color, Alton recommends adding cocoa powder until you have covered it up.

IMG_6651

My decorated sugar cookies.

This icing could not be easier to make and it sets up beautifully. Since royal icing is thin, it can be a bit messy to deal with, but it looks and tastes great. This is a fool-proof royal icing recipe that pairs perfectly with Alton’s sugar cookies. I threw a bunch of my frosted cookies in the freezer for later enjoyment, so you can always make these ahead.

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies

Last in this episode was Alton’s recipe for chocolate peppermint pinwheel cookies. I actually made this recipe years ago also, but for a cookie exchange when I was in graduate school. I remembered liking these cookies then. These cookies start with a batch of Alton’s sugar cookies.

Divide the sugar cookie dough in half (it is best to do this by weight), and place the dough in two bowls.

IMG_6576

Dividing sugar cookie dough in half by weight.

One half of the dough will become peppermint dough, while the other half will become chocolate dough. Add 1 t vanilla to one of the bowls of dough, and add 1 t peppermint extract to the other.

To the peppermint dough, add 1/2 C crushed candy cane (or peppermint candy).

To the dough with vanilla extract, add 3 ounces of melted unsweetened chocolate (you can melt it in the microwave, stirring until melted).

Use gloved hands to mix the peppermint and chocolate into the two doughs. Additionally, add 1 egg yolk to the peppermint dough, mixing it in by hand.

IMG_6584

Crushed peppermint and egg yolk added to dough with peppermint extract.

Chill the two doughs for five minutes. Roll out the two doughs to 1/3-1/4″ thick rectangles, using powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking. You want your chocolate rectangle to be slightly longer and thinner than your peppermint rectangle. Place the chocolate dough on a non-stick mat or a pliable cutting board (I rolled my dough out on a non-stick mat, so I wouldn’t have to transfer it).

Place the peppermint dough on top of the chocolate dough, pressing the doughs together.

IMG_6594

Peppermint dough placed on top of chocolate dough and the two are pressed together.

Use the edge of the non-stick mat or cutting board to roll the doughs into a log. Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least two hours.

When ready to bake, slice the log into 1/2″ slices, placing them on parchment-lined sheets.

IMG_6602

Dough sliced into rounds.

Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes at 375-degrees, rotating the pans once during baking. Cool the cookies for two minutes on the baking sheets before transferring them to racks.

These cookies are chewy and dense, and have little pockets of crunchy peppermint. They are pretty and fun to make, and they definitely have a seasonal feeling to them. That being said, though, why is peppermint only popular at the holidays? Peppermint ice cream is one of my very favorite flavors, but you can only find it for a couple months each year. Anyway, these cookies are worth a bake, and, yes, you can freeze these too!