Monday, September 24, 2018

An Idea for Leftover Turkey or Chicken

I realize that not everyone has leftover turkey in September. I did happen to bake a turkey breast recently, and even with just the breast, there were leftovers. Plenty of them, really. 

I have a very old cookbook, "Better Homes and Gardens Favorite Ways with Chicken, Turkey, Duck and Game Birds," copyright 1967. Long title, but the part that is biggest and boldest is just "Favorite Ways with Chicken." Chicken and turkey can be interchanged in a recipe, so this book has been very handy over the years. The difficulty lay in the fact that when I began learning to cook, I was in Guatemala, where many of the things called for just did not exist. Like canned soup. If anyone is fond of reaching for a can of soup to make a sauce or gravy, not having them is a distinct disadvantage. 
Turkey Crepe Casserole
Turkey Crepe Casserole

When I went to Guatemala, I was just 20 years old. Just barely out of teenage, and still very full of myself, with all the pride and hubris only a teenager can have. It is only later, when one looks back on her life that this becomes very apparent. And yet, without all that, I may never have managed to learn all that I did. I learned, not just to cook things I knew of from home, but new foods, some I'd never heard of prior to my time there. I went about learning all I possibly could. I felt I needed to prove myself. Prove I was a good housewife and mother. Learn the language, so I could understand and be understood. I applied myself diligently, although sometimes kicking and screaming.

So, when looking through this cookbook, I found the idea of making crepes quite interesting. I didn't generally have access to turkey, but chicken? Yes, of course. And then I ran into the problem of canned soup. I did know that a creamed soup straight from the can was thick, and had to be diluted. So, I felt I could create a similar product by making a roux and adding less liquid to keep it thick. The liquid would have to be well flavored, to be able to flavor the casserole. At that time I did use bouillon cubes. The ones most commonly available in Guatemala were "Maggi" brand. As it turned out, this approach worked out well, and I have made the recipe the same ever since. Except I don't use bouillon cubes anymore, because of the amount of salt and MSG. Instead, these days I use either a chicken "base" or a chicken demi-glace for the chicken flavor I am looking for. 

Back at that time in Guatemala, I kept milk in the house, as I had growing kids, and I did eat cereal. These days, I don't keep milk in the house, as we don't drink it. What I do have is either heavy cream or evaporated milk, and usually both, in case of need, such as this. So when mixing milk into some of the faux "can of soup" mixture, I either dilute the cream or the evaporated milk with half water and use that. 

Ultimately,  the recipe is fantastic, making use of some leftover cooked chicken or turkey, albeit in very small portion. It is delicious, and with a salad and some green beans alongside, a very nice and satisfying meal indeed, whether as a dinner or as a brunch.

Turkey (or Chicken) Crepe Casserole

Turkey Crepe Casserole
Turkey Crepe Casserole

Serving size 2 - 3 crepes

1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup finely diced cooked turkey or chicken
1 (9 - 10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
¼ cup Panko crumbs
¼ cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup finely minced shallot

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon chicken "base" or chicken demi-glace
1¼ cup hot water
1 cup milk
½ cup sliced almonds

Make Crepes: Beat egg, milk, melted butter and flour, either with a whisk or a blender, until smooth. Do not over beat. Heat a small (7 to 10-inch) nonstick skillet. Lightly grease the skillet (nonstick cooking spray works well). Pour in 2 tablespoons of the batter and lift the pan, swirling the batter to as large a circle possible. Set pan on heat and allow the top of the crepe to become dry, similarly to a pancake. Remove the crepe to a plate and repeat this procedure, 2 tablespoons at a time, until you have 12 crepes, lightly browned on the bottoms but not the top. Set them aside.
Making Crepes
Making Crepes

Make the Filling: Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Make the Bechamel: Mix together the hot water and the chicken "base" or demiglace, stirring until dissolved together. Set aside to cool while beginning the sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in the flour, salt and white pepper until smooth. Add in the chicken base mixture, stirring, until the mixture is thick. Pour half of this thickened mixture into the Filling mixture, as a binder, stirring to incorporate.

To the remainder of the bechamel, add the last cup of milk and stir well. Set aside.
Filling crepes and arranging in casserole
Filling crepes and arranging in casserole

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a 9 x 13-inch casserole, lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Set one crepe, unbrowned side upwards. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling onto one end of the crepe and roll up. Set into the casserole, then repeat with the remaining crepes and filling. 

Once filled, pour the remaining bechamel mixture over top of the crepes. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake the casserole for 30 minutes, until bubbling. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Chow Chow aka Cha Cha aka Green Relish

Whatever you choose to call it, and whatever choice of ingredients and spices you use, this relish is delicious and just delightful with burgers or brats (among other things). The first time I heard of this relish was in a recipe from my mother-in-law, now deceased. She called it Green Tomato Relish, and I never knew it had another name, or more than one other name. I assumed at the time that it was called "Green" Relish because it used green tomatoes, green cabbage and  green peppers, ergo "green relish."
Chow Chow
Chow Chow

Earlier this year, when our friend Rich arrived with a couple of fishing buddies to stay for 5 days, one of the buddies had been here once before, a few years back. When he returned home both that time years ago and this time, he sent a gift in thanks for our hospitality. This time, based on a recipe we were talking about, it was a jar of Chow Chow, made by his wife from an old family recipe. They are from Mississippi, originally. The jar of Chow Chow arrived along with the recipe, and the suggestion that it is wonderful eaten with Black-Eyed Peas, for New Years. While I have yet to ever eat black eyed peas, much less for New Years, I was interested in the Chow Chow recipe. 

Chow Chow just canned
Chow Chow just canned
When reading the recipe through, I was struck by the thought that this sounded a LOT like my mother-in-law's Green Relish! I got the recipe out to check, side by side. There were definitely similarities; parallels. There were a few differences. Then, shortly after that, I received my issue of Saveur magazine, and in an article on Blacks in Nova Scotia was a recipe for Chow Chow, a recipe that came to Nova Scotia via the Blacks in the Caribbean, via the deep South and slavery and on up to freedom in Nova Scotia. This recipe also had a lot of similarities to the other two, and again, some differences. Okay, then! Apparently with this recipe came just one too many coincidences.

I first sat down to compare the three recipes in three columns, to see who used what and how much. I did not place amounts in this table, because the amounts were for different sizes of recipe. My mother-in-law used green tomatoes and cabbage in large amounts, and onion and green peppers only in small amount. She used pickling spice, probably to cover some of the other spices in a bulk application. She seemed partial to cider vinegar in general and used very small amounts of celery and mustard seeds. The recipe from the fishing buddy's wife used no green tomatoes at all, and large amounts of celery seeds and mustard seeds, as well as a large amount of mustard powder. The recipe from Saveur magazine used green tomatoes, onion and green and red bell pepper, but no cabbage. They used brown mustard seeds instead of yellow, and a lot of other spices not called for in the first two recipes. 
Comparison of three recipes
Comparison of three recipes

True to form, I also went online and perused a multitude of recipes for Chow Chow, noting similarities and differences. Some used cucumbers and some used corn as either additions or substitutions for some other vegetables. The few ingredients that seemed ubiquitous to all recipes in some form were:
  • onions
  • bell peppers
  • mustard seeds
  • sugar
  • vinegar
Beyond those, there was a whole lot of variation!  

So, what is Chow Chow? 

Chow Chow is a relish; a sweet, spiced pickled relish, sometimes with addition of hot peppers and/or cayenne for spice. What to use it for is totally up to you. Most often online, it was pictured served over hot dogs or hamburgers, but obviously, from the fishing buddy's recipe's advice to use it with black eyed peas, there are far more uses for it than are immediately apparent. 

Prepping the vegetables for making Chow Chow is a snap using a food processor. My mother-in-law's recipe called for grinding all the vegetables in an old-fashioned meat grinder. Since I happen to have one, I used it the first time around, making her Green Tomato Relish. This time around, I used my food processor. While the grind is more coarse than when using the meat grinder, it is perfectly acceptable. However you choose to prep the vegetables, they will need to be mixed with salt and placed in the fridge overnight. Next day, before proceeding with the recipe, the vegetables will need to be well drained in a colander before proceeding with the recipe.

When I finally sat down to decide on what ingredients I wanted to use to make my own Chow Chow, I was certain I wanted to use green tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, some Anaheim peppers and onions. I wanted to use brown mustard seeds because they are supposedly hotter, and I wanted a tiny bit of heat. I used a good amount of mustard powder also, and celery seed in larger amount rather than smaller. I used turmeric, as I wanted the yellow color, and some sweet spices. Here is what I did:

Chow Chow

Chow Chow
Chow Chow

Makes 8½ pints

(Takes 2 days)

DAY 1:
3¼ pounds green Roma tomatoes (22 - 24 tomatoes / 8 cups chopped)
2 pounds assorted peppers (I used 2 green and 2 red bell peppers plus 3 Anaheim chilies / 4 cups chopped in total)
3½ pounds sweet onions (4 large / 10 cups ground)
¼ cup Canning Salt or Kosher Salt

DAY 2:
1 quart cider vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks (4-inches each)
3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 tablespoon ground mustard powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves

DAY 1: Have a large nonreactive bowl ready. Cut vegetables into like-sized chunks and process, pulsing, until they are of a relatively uniform, small size, but not too fine. Add them to the bowl as they are ready. Once all the vegetables are chopped, add in the salt and with clean hands, mix the vegetables well, to evenly distribute the salt all through. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until the next day.

DAY 2: Have a large canning pot ready with already simmering water to cover 8 or 9 pint canning jars. Drain the vegetables in one or two large colanders. While the vegetables are draining, set a large pot on the stove with the vinegar and sugar, stirring to mix and dissolve sugar. Add in all the spices and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Gently press out any liquid from the vegetables, then add them to the simmering vinegar, sugar and spice mixture. Raise heat and bring to boil, then reduce to maintain a strong simmer and time for 30 minutes.

When done, have ready to hand:
  • tongs (for lifting hot jars from the water bath)
  • a clean wet cloth (for wiping down rims and threads of the jars),
  • a wide mouth funnel (for filling the jars),
  • a ladle (for ladling the mixture into the jars),
  • a butter knife (to run through the jars, removing air bubbles before sealing),
  • a jar lifter (for lifting jars without disturbing the seals)
  • and hot pads.
Using the tongs, lift one hot jar from its simmering water, draining well. Place near the pot of Chow Chow and set the funnel into the jar mouth. Fill the jar to within ¼ to ½-inch from the top, making sure there is enough liquid to cover the vegetables to that level. Lift another jar from the boiling water and set it near the first. Remove the funnel from jar 1 and set onto jar 2. Wipe the rim and thread of jar 1 with the wet cloth. Using the tongs, lift one lid and run it through the hot water briefly, then set it in place on jar 1. Screw a ring over the lid just gently snug. Set that jar aside, then repeat this process with all the remaining jars and Chow Chow mixture.

Once all jars are removed from the canning pot, insert the canning rack, ensuring there is still plenty of simmering water in the pot. Set the sealed jars into the rack and lower the rack into the pot. The water should come to between 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars. If not, have a pot of water at a simmer and add the hot water until it reaches this level. Bring to a boil. Once it reaches boiling, cover and reduce heat slightly, just enough so that it maintains boiling point. Time the jars according to this table:

1 - 1,000 feet above sea level - 10 minutes
1,001 - 6,000 feet above sea level - 15 minutes
Above 6,001 feet above sea level - 20 minutes

Once this time has elapsed, lift the canning rack up to the edges of the pot and using a jar lifter, lift the jars to a towel covered and draft-free counter. They should seal with a hearteningly loud POP. Sometimes this occurs almost immediately upon lifting the jar out of its boiling water. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New Cheesecake Flavors

Some time ago, possibly years already, I heard or read about a cheesecake using goat cheese. I took notes at the time.

For a few days now, I had been wanting to make a dessert, but just couldn't settle on what I wanted. Cake? Cookies? What? And after days of this, I finally thought I should get out all my notes. I have notebooks worth of recipe notes; ideas for another day, another time. 

In looking through notes, I came upon the notes for a cheesecake made with goat cheese. Since it had pretty precise amounts, apparently I copied it from somewhere, for later perusal. This time it fairly jumped out at me, so I took notice. 

Pistachio & Goat Cheese Cheesecake
Pistachio & Goat Cheese Cheesecake
I have noted in past that when I come up with an idea, I read a lot of different recipes online to see what others have done, and only then make notes on what I want to do for myself. For starters, what amounts to use of the component parts: cream cheese, goat cheese and yogurt. I rearranged the amounts 4 different times before I was content that it would have the flavors I wanted. I wanted a little bit of cream cheese just because I love cream cheese. But, what really grabbed my attention about this whole concept was the goat cheese - because I really love goat cheese. Chevre or Montrachet are the most common goat cheeses I use, but I also love the harder sorts, like goat "cheddar," or other semi-hard goat cheese like "Drunken Goat," Garrotxa, or soft Humboldt Fog and my most favorite of all, Bucheron. So, goat cheese had to make a statement in this cheesecake, period.

After rearranging amounts of goat cheese, cream cheese and yogurt over and over, I finally settled on 8 ounces of cream cheese, with 12 ounces each of goat cheese and plain Greek style yogurt. Then I went to the store to pick up the goat cheese and yogurt, only to find that they had NO plain goat cheese, but only various flavors. I opted to go for the Honey Chevre, and ultimately it was very tasty, so no complaints. I don't know how much actual difference it made in the end.

Then came the eggs. I was using eggs for sure, and with the same overall ingredient amounts I have generally used 3 eggs. As I was unsure of the texture of a cheesecake made mainly with goat cheese and yogurt, I opted for 3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks. The only other real consideration was how much sugar to use. I briefly considered using another can of dulce de leche, but as I wanted to use pistachios for the crust, I wanted them to stand out in flavor, not get mixed with the caramel-like flavors of dulce de leche. Back to sugar, again by ingredient quantities, in past I have used 1 cup of sugar. However, I was hoping to make a slightly less sweet cheesecake, so while I filled the 1-cup measure with sugar, I planned on using about ¾ cup of the sugar and only adding the remainder if the mixture didn't taste sweet enough.

Best Laid Plans . . .

When it came time to add the sugar I totally forgot about starting out with only ¾ cup worth and instead dumped the whole cup of sugar into the bowl. 😬 Arrrggghhh! Oh well, one cup of sugar it was going to be, after all.
Pistachio & Goat Cheese Cheesecake
Pistachio & Goat Cheese Cheesecake

As for the crust, I wanted pistachio. Whatever recipe I had jotted into my notes used pistachios in the crust, but the bulk of the crust was made of flour. I wanted to avoid unnecessary additions of white flour, so I went back to the other nut crusts I have made in past. When making my Chestnut Cheesecake, I have made an Almond Crust. When making my Dulce de Leche Turtle Cheesecake, I make a Pecan Crust. So I planned the same preparation, substituting ground pistachios for the other nuts. 

This worked less well than the other crusts, as I had a harder time pressing the nut mixture into the pan. It took a longer time getting all the holes to fill, and then when it baked, it puffed up all over the place, and I had to press it all back into place with a glass while still hot. It worked, and it all came out just fine, but now I wonder if using some flour in the mix, or possibly cookie crumbs, might have made it all easier in the end. For now, it worked. And if at some other date I decide to make this cheesecake again, possibly with different flavors mixed in, I will try something else for crust.

Ultimately, after also opting NOT to use a hot water bath to bake the cheesecake, it came out stunningly well. The cheesecake was so perfect it nearly brought tears. It is so exceedingly creamy and smooth. It has a lovely tang without going overboard. It is slightly sweeter than needed, but that will be remedied another time. For now, I am extremely content with flavor and texture. Here is what I did:

Pistachio & Goat Cheese Cheesecake
Pistachio & Goat Cheese Cheesecake
Pistachio & Goat Cheese Cheesecake

Makes one 9-inch cheesecake (about 1½-inch deep)

1½ cups whole, shelled, unsalted pistachios
2½ tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
2½ tablespoons softened unsalted butter

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, room temperature
12 ounces plain (or Honey flavored) Chevre or Montrachet goat cheese, at room temperature
12 ounces plain Greek yogurt
¾ to 1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch

FOR THE CRUST: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Process the whole pistachios into relatively fine crumbs in a food processor. Remove about ¼-cup aside for topping later. To the remainder in the processor, add the sugar, extract of choice and butter and process until the mixture will clump. Turn into a 9-inch spring-form pan and press to about 1-inch up sides and evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8 minutes. If the crust puffs during baking, use a straight sided glass to press back into place while still hot. Set the crust aside to cool while preparing the filling. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

FOR THE CHEESECAKE FILLING: Place the cream cheese and goat cheese into a large mixing bowl and mix, preferably with a hand mixer on low speed until well blended. Add in the yogurt and sugar and mix well to combine. Add in the salt and eggs with yolks and mix well, still with low speed. Add the cornstarch and vanilla extract, mixing to combine. Pour into the cooled crust. Set the spring-form pan onto a baking pan with rim. Set the baking sheet on a middle rack in the oven and bake the cheesecake for about 45 minutes. The center should still be quite jiggly. Remove from oven and cool completely on the counter. As it cools, it will firm up. Sprinkle the reserved ground pistachios around the edges of the cheesecake and set aside to cool. Once cooled, cover tightly and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight, before serving.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Unbelievably Easy Ice Cream

By now, I am pretty sure most people have at least heard of No-Churn Ice Cream. My understanding is that it was invented by British chef Nigella Lawson, but I could be wrong on that. All I can say is, whoever invented it, it is pure genius. I'm embarrassed to say it took me nearly 2 years to get around to trying it out.
Salted Dulce de Leche No-Churn Ice Cream
Salted Dulce de Leche No-Churn Ice Cream (served over Best Peach Crisp Ever)

My idea came about when my sister-in-law was having her house moved. Yes, they moved her house to a new lot! I'd never heard of such a thing until I came up to South Dakota, and as a matter of fact, the same house had been moved once before! But back to my sister-in-law... She had a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk that were a couple of months past their expiration date. Since the cans were not puffed or distended, I said, "How about making Dulce de Leche?" This question got a resounding YES! And then, I got thinking about what I could make with it.  

Dulce de Leche Turtle Cheesecake
Dulce de Leche Turtle Cheesecake
I have a most amazing cheesecake recipe, called Dulce de Leche Turtle Cheesecake. I made it when I first tried out making dulce de leche of my own, back in 2013. It was so good I nearly cried! And, while I could certainly have made that cheesecake again with complaints from no one, I thought about it some more and got wondering about ice cream. And in particular, that "no-churn" kind I had read about, so simple, yet never tried. 

Since the recipe, such as it is, calls for a base mix of one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk and 2 cups of whipping cream, whipped . . . I wondered if it could possibly make any difference if the sweetened condensed milk was substituted with a can of sweetened condensed milk first turned into dulce de leche? I wanted to try it out. 

Also, since I am a huge fan of Talenti brand's Salted Caramel Gelato, I planned to make this ice cream salted. Not too salted, as my sister-in-law does not like to actually taste salt in her sweets, but just enough to make it interesting. 

Making Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche
If you haven't made dulce de leche before, it is simplicity itself. I make it in my slow cooker on low. First, remove labels from one or two cans of sweetened condensed milk. Lay them on their sides in a slow cooker and cover with water. Turn on low and leave it for 8 to 9 hours. Eight hours yields a slightly lighter caramel and nine hours a slightly darker caramel. This process can be started before going to bed, allowing it to slowly cook into amazing caramel-ly goodness overnight, or start it early in the morning, to be done by dinner. Either way, once the time is up, turn off the slow cooker, but leave the cans in the water to cool completely. Once cooled, write on the cans with an indelible pen the date and what is in the can(s). Voila. 

While there are other ways to accomplish this process, this method allows the dulce de leche, still sealed in its can, to be stored for a bit longer, until needed for your recipe, without pressure to have to use it up right away.  

The Salted Dulce de Leche No-Churn Ice Cream I made was just superb. 

Salted Dulce de Leche No-Churn Ice Cream

Makes one 9 x 5-inch pan worth
Salted Dulce de Leche No-Churn Ice Cream
Salted Dulce de Leche No-Churn Ice Cream

1 can dulce de leche (above), cooled
2 teaspoons caramel flavor, or vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons Kosher salt
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped

Pour the dulce de leche into a large bowl. Add in the caramel flavoring or vanilla extract and the salt and stir in. In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until just stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the dulce de leche until completely blended with no streaks remaining. Pour into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and set in the freezer to chill for at least 5 hours. If adding any flavoring pieces, such as chocolate or caramel chips or other add-ins, do this after two hours. The ice cream will have started setting but still be soft enough to fold.


Once I tasted this ice cream, all sorts of possibilities came to mind. Mint Chocolate Chip has traditionally been my favorite ice cream (until I discovered the Talenti Salted Caramel Gelato), so for sure that will be one I must try. Our friend Rich, who loves all things chocolate, would be one to try out chocolate no-churn ice cream for. I love coffee flavor also, so that will be another i want to try, but not while my sister-in-law is in residence, as she does not drink coffee or eat anything coffee flavored.  So I have a list of ideas for future flavors of this amazingly creamy ice cream. The fact that it is so easy to make makes it doubly (or triply) dangerous 😀.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.