Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year and Glorious Mushrooms

Our New Year's Eve Table
I hope everyone enjoyed the turn of the year 2014. When I was a child  back in the 1950s, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think of anything beyond 2000. And here I am, still young, and still enjoying each year as it passes. 

Some of my appetizers
Last evening was a very quiet one in our household. We are not great party-goers, my husband and I. It has been so frigidly cold here that it does not seem inviting to try and venture outside. Tonight it is supposed to get down to -24 yet again. Brrrrr! My sister-in-law would have been here to at least eat with us, but she had a tooth problem, got it fixed and stayed at home to let the numbness wear off. So, just the two of us, but I still made lots of little snack foods, as usual. I made more of the Smokies in Puff Pastry, Red Pepper Hummus with Caramelized Onion, another of those pre-made pizza shells with spinach dip, some sweet and sour meatballs (those made with chili sauce and grape jelly), a relish tray of sweet gherkins, hearts of palm and assorted olives, and one of those rolls of mozzarella with prosciutto. I had pita chips and carrot sticks for the hummus and some of my Herbed Onion Bread to go with the meatballs. It was all delightful, and we had more of the holiday cookies for dessert.

Smokies in Puff Pastry
Smokies in Puff Pastry
Smokies in Puff Pastry

Makes about 75 (one package of "Lit'l Smokies")

1 (14 ounce) package "Lit'l Smokies"
1 (1.1 lb) box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets

Remove puff pastry from freezer at least 45 minutes before working with it. Remove one sheet to thaw on a flat surface. Check after about 15 to 20 minutes. If the first flap begins to lift a little (do not force it or it will break off), set the pastry up like a little tent with the flap lifted out, allowing for air flow. As the dough thaws, open the flap more and allow the inner flap to drop down. Once sheet is completely thawed, flour a large surface and roll out the sheet to about a 14 - 15-inch square.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. With a pastry cutter, cut strips one way a little less than the width of the Smokie. Measure length of strip needed by using one Smokie. Set it at one end and roll until there is enough to overlap. Cut the piece there, then use this as an approximate measure for all the rest. The length will be between 3 - 4 inches.
How to cut and roll Smokies in Puff Pastry
How to cut and roll Smokies in Puff Pastry

Roll one Smokie, and moisten the far end with water, so it will adhere. Set the rolled Smokie on a baking sheet, seam side down and continue until all the Smokies are used. Bake the wrapped Smokies for about 25 minutes, or until they are puffed and brown.

NOTES: Do not try to re-roll any scraps from the puff pastry, as the dough will not puff up the same way.


One of the appetizers I made for last night was the Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms. I love mushrooms. I do not love them quite so much as my husband, who, it seems, loves them "the more the merrier." I love them IN things, but not so much alone. Stuffed mushrooms are good, but there is too much mushroom to filling ratio, so they just seem flat. Mushrooms all by themselves are pretty bland, and need things to spice them up. Boursin Cheese is a very high fat content cheese, smooth and creamy and most excellent flavor. There are various herb combinations available. In my town, the only one available is garlic and herb. One of my favorites (eaten elsewhere) is black pepper. Anyway. looking up the fat content in Boursin cheese, I noticed that someone (many someones) had used Boursin to stuff mushroom caps. I thought, hmmmmm....I have some Boursin in my refrigerator.... So this is what I did:

Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms

1 (5.2 ounce) container of Boursin (I had garlic and herb) 
Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms
1 pound "Baby Bellas" or Creminis
1/2 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 small cloves garlic
a few grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (I used Alder Smoked Salt)

Set the Boursin in a bowl to soften. Brush clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Chop the stems finely and put them in a skillet with the butter to saute until lightly browned. While the mushroom stems are sauteing, mince the garlic and thyme. (I also ran my finger around the inside of the mushroom caps, removing gills, for no other reason than that it allowed more room for the filling!) When the mushroom stems are light brown, add in the thyme and garlic and saute for another 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add this mixture to the Boursin in the bowl, along with the few grinds of pepper. With the salt in the palm of one hand, with the other hand take pinches of the salt and drop them into the dry mushroom caps, using a slightly larger pinch for the larger caps and smaller pinch for smaller caps. Mix the Boursin and mushroom stem mixture thoroughly and use all the mixture to fill the mushroom caps. Set them on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake them in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes. 

Yum!  These have to be the best stuffed mushrooms I have ever tried. The little pinch of salt in the mushroom cap seems to have helped with the blandness of the mushroom, too. It is an easy recipe and Gluten-Free too.

Today I am going to be making a dinner, and my sister-in-law will be attending, now that she is feeling better. I am making a Prime Rib Roast as the main event, with twice baked potatoes and Green Beans with Gorgonzola as the sides. I found online a few years back a high-roast method for making the roast and it works so perfectly, I will be using it again today. In essence, you set the oven to 500 degrees put the roast in and time it for 5 to 7 minutes per pound (5 minutes being rare, 6 being medium and 7 being well), then when the time is up, leave the roast in the oven, shut the oven off and do not open the oven door for 2 hours. The roast is so perfect so following that recipe is my go-to these days.

High Temperature Roast Prime Rib 

High Temperature Prime Rib Roast
High Temperature Prime Rib Roast
1 prime rib roast between 4 - 8 pounds
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, smashed into paste
2 teaspoons rosemary leaves, minced
2 teaspoons thyme leaves, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

The night before, unwrap the roast and leave uncovered in the refrigerator, to better brown in the oven later.  Remove the roast from the refrigerator at least 4 hours before roasting, to come to room temperature. Mix together the salt, pepper, garlic rosemary, thyme and mustard and rob all over the roast.

To calculate the roasting time: multiply the weight of the roast in pounds. Multiply this number by 5. This number will be the amount of minutes the roast will be in the heated oven. This will yield a beautifully medium rare roast. If you prefer your meat at medium, multiply the weight by 6 minutes.

Examples: For a four pound roast, medium rare: 4 x 5 = 20 (minutes). For a 4½ pound roast, medium rare: 4½ x 5 = 22½ (minutes). For an 8 pound roast, medium rare: 8 x 5 - 40 (minutes). For a 5 pound roast, done medium: 5 x 6 = 30 (minutes).

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Yes, 500 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil (far easier to clean up later). Set a roasting rack into the pan and set the roast, fat side up, onto the rack. Once you place the roast in this extremely hot oven, begin the timing you have calculated for the weight of your roast. Once this time is elapsed, time the roast for another 2 hours and shut the oven off. At this point DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR ANY REASON, until those two hours are up. 

Once the time has elapsed, understand that since the roast has been "resting" for two hours, it has reached the best temperature and needs no "resting period" beyond this. Carve the roast at once and serve.

For dessert I am serving the Dulce de Leche Turtle Cheesecake I described in my last post. I will be finishing the toppings on the cheesecake a little later today. 

Right now I have my potatoes baking. They need to be out of the oven before I need to have the roast going in, since I cannot use the oven for approximately 2 1/2 hours. I will scoop out the potato and mix it with fried bacon, sour cream, chopped scallions, and shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper, waiting to fill the potato skins until later in the afternoon. Once the roast comes out of the oven I can reheat the oven and bake the stuffed potatoes for a little bit to get them warm and delicious. Somewhere in between I will get the green beans prepared.


Green Beans with /Gorgonzola

Green Beans with Gorgonzola

Serves 4

1 pound fresh green beans or yellow wax beans

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or through a garlic press
1 teaspoon salt, more if needed
¼ cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

In a very small saucepan combine the butter, oil and garlic and set the pan over the lowest setting possible, or even half off the burner. The desired end is a very low and slow heating of the oils and garlic. The garlic is gently poached in the oils. Allow the garlic to steep for about 20 minutes, never boiling.

Snap off stem ends and cut the green beans as desired, whether French cut, blunt cut, or left whole. Place them in a steamer basket and bring the steaming water to a boil, lower heat to medium and steam for about 10 - 12 minutes, or until just tender. Drain off the water and return the beans to a pan. Add in the butter and garlic mixture (you may, if desired, strain out the garlic at this point) to the beans and toss well, with the salt. Pour the hot beans into a serving bowl and strew the Gorgonzola over top. Once the cheese is on top it will begin to melt, so serve immediately.

I give my very best wishes to all my readers for a most wonderful New Year's Day and a terrifically blessed year 2014.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.