Showing posts with label A Gala Event. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Gala Event. Show all posts

Friday, September 23, 2016

Honeymoon Duck Confit

This could be a dish to serve to a book club if you make it ahead and then shred the duck and use it in a salad or pasta. But it’s also something Meg and Seth might eat on their honeymoon in Seeds of Deception, when they visit some rather nice places (before the dead body complicates things).



This recipe takes three days.

Don’t panic—most of that is just waiting.

In June, when I was in Ireland, I stumbled on Fields Market’s prepared food section. I’ve already raved about Fields, and although in general I’m not a big fan of pre-made entrees, a package of Confit of Duck caught my eye. I will eat almost anything that is made from duck, but it’s hard to find in our area, and when you do, it’s usually frozen and/or tough. But at Fields, a package with two (non-frozen) duck thighs/legs was only 5 euros, so I figured, what the heck? 





I bought it. And a couple of days later I went back and bought another package—it was that good. All I needed to do was to preheat the oven and slide the container in (after tossing the completely unnecessary plastic packet of orange sauce), then drain off the excess duck fat halfway through (yes, duck is fatty—deal with it). The duck was flavorful and tender. I loved it--all four times I ate it.

But three thousand miles from Fields, could I replicate it at home? I’d always heard that a confit involved long cooking and a lot of fat. Both true, but not really a problem (okay, don’t eat confit every day of the week if you’re worried about fat—save it for a treat). The recipe is simple. The only difficulty is coming up with a container of duck fat.

Which I had! A treasured container of the precious stuff, that I’d been saving for a special occasion. The occasion had arrived!






CONFIT OF DUCK

(this recipe is adapted from Ireland: The Taste & the Country, Mike Bunn, 2000 edition. But that one made enough for six people, using only duck legs, so I adapted it and modified some of the proportions of the ingredients)

Serves 2

Ingredients:


2 leg/thigh portions of duck
1/2 cup duck fat (may substitute pork fat, but not bacon)
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns


Instructions:

Day 1:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.





In a deep roasting tray, melt the fat. Add the vegetables, bay leaf and peppercorns.





Add the duck legs. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.




Cook for 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure the fat is not bubbling (i.e., the oven is not too hot).


Day 2:

Cool overnight, then place in the refrigerator for 2 days (covered). Note: the cooked duck will keep in the fat for up to 10 days.


Day 3:





To serve, remove the duck pieces from the fat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the duck pieces skin side down in a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the skin is crisp. Serve hot.






While you are savoring the flavorful duck, here are some Book Club Questions to consider:

A lot has been happening in the Orchard Mysteries lately. Meg and Seth got married in A Gala Event, and they’re taking a honeymoon in the latest book, Seeds of Deception. But any time major changes take place in our characters’ lives, we writers wonder how our readers will react.

--Cozies are often closely tied to their small town setting. Is it all right to take them out of town now and then? Or do readers miss the regular cast of familiar characters?

--Marriage is a life-changing event. Does having the long-standing protagonists in a series marry (or at least move in together) change the story significantly? For better or for worse?

--Since this is a mystery, there’s a body—but in this case it turns up in Meg’s parents’ back yard. Should Meg and new husband Seth get involved in trying to solve it, in a place that they barely know and where they have no connections? (Imagine poor Seth getting chummy with his new in-laws while trying to solve a murder.)

--Do you enjoy learning more about Meg’s past? Her parents have appeared more than once in earlier books, but the new book takes place in their territory (in New Jersey), and involves elements from their past that even Meg didn’t know about. What kind of balance do you like to see between getting to know the characters better and solving the crime?

--Are Meg and Seth workaholics? They seem to have forgotten to plan a honeymoon, and then plotted one on the spur of the moment. Is that emotionally believable? What does it tell you about their relationship?


Since Meg and Seth have managed to survive a visit to the inlaws complete with a corpse, I'm giving away copies of A Gala Event (when the wedding takes place) and Seeds of Deception (with its rather unusual honeymoon). Leave a comment by Sunday night and I'll pick one winner for the pair.



Seeds of Deception will be released October 4th. Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, December 18, 2015

And More Christmas Cookies

by Sheila Connolly

You might have noticed that we at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen like cookies. My philosophy is, you can’t have enough cookies—and they’re all wonderful. 



We always made cookies for Christmas at my house—the same standard Fanny Farmer sugar cookie recipe, every year. Since then I’ve tried a variety of ginger cookie recipes, but I still haven’t gotten that recipe quite right. Never fear: I’ll keep trying.

I inherited most of my mother’s cookie cutters, and I keep adding to that collection because I can’t stop myself. I might have stopped, but not after I found Stock, the amazing cookware store in Dublin, where I keep picking up more. They’re unusual, well made, and easy to slip into a suitcase.

And there were always sprinkles.

Earlier this year I discovered that simple cookie recipe that has a bare minimum of ingredients (lots of butter, confectioner’s sugar, flour and vanilla) and that you roll it out in a plastic bag, which makes life so easy. I’ve already given it to you in both sweet and savory varieties. But now it’s the holidays, and I’ve been hoarding really cool sprinkles for the past year, and I have some new cookie cutters (again), and I really want to see if I can push the envelope with the recipe. Chocolate! Candy canes! Red and green coloring! And lots of sprinkles!!!

Remember the basic recipe?

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Warning: the batter has to chill for at least two hours before you cut out the cookies, so either allow plenty of time, or refrigerate overnight.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium for about 3 minutes or until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the salt and beat.

With the mixer on low, beat in the flour until it just disappears into the butter mixture (do not overbeat, or the cookies will be tough!).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cut out your cookies (whatever shapes you choose) and place on the covered sheets. Decorate to your heart’s content, then bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the pan once so the cookies bake evenly. (They won’t brown.)

That’s the basic recipe. Then I started experimenting:

Peppermint Stockings: take maybe six small peppermint-flavored candy canes (I suppose you could use any other flavor, but I like tradition), break them into another handy plastic bag, and whack them until they’re reduced to small pieces—not powder, but if the pieces are too big they’re hard to cut out. Swap out the vanilla for peppermint extract, decorate as you like (look! I had candy cane sprinkles!) and bake as above.





Chocolate Snowflakes: Okay, I know it’s not logical that snowflakes be dark, but I wanted to show off the pretty snowflake sprinkles. For this recipe, I substituted 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa for the same amount of flour. You can use whatever cocoa you like, although I think this works best with the less sugary varieties. Then follow the rest of the recipe.





Green trees and red bells: I bought the tree cutters at Stock last month. I like them because they’re irregular, like a real tree. Plus I had these nice large multi-colored nonpareils (okay, big round sprinkles) that kind of look like tree ornaments. I added 1 Tblsp of green food coloring to the mix, and added a bit more flour (remember that the original recipe didn’t include any liquid, and I didn’t want them to be too gooey).




For the red bells, I used 1 Tblsp red food coloring instead of the green. [I had plenty of the red for Red Velvet Cake; why I have a pint bottle of green coloring mystifies me.] Then I added some mixed red and green sprinkles, and baked.





And there you have it! Three flavors, two different colors, and lots of decorations. Enjoy! And feel free to experiment yourselves—there are plenty of options to try.






To celebrate the holiday season, I’m holding a giveaway: a copy of A Gala Event, which includes a December wedding, plus a framed picture (not a print!) of (surprise) apples, in honor of the Orchard Mysteries. Just leave a comment—cookie- related if you like, but anything that says “Christmas” to you will be fine.

You’ll have until Sunday to respond (I know a lot of you wait until Saturday to look at the blog).






Friday, December 4, 2015

Apple Cherry-Marzipan Pie

by Sheila Connolly

I know I keep promising NO MORE APPLE RECIPES, but today is Meg and Seth’s wedding day, and also my grandmother’s birthday (no mere coincidence there), so there must be a dessert, and this one is definitely different. My grandmother was a confirmed dessert lover, and she believed that the sole reason for the existence of cake was to support the frosting. A lot of frosting. She kindly passed this trait along to me. (She lived to be 94, so apparently it did her no harm.)

This recipe is a bit different than most apple pies. For one thing, it includes dried cherries (which are both tart and a little sweet); for another, there’s marzipan! Bet you haven’t seen that in an apple pie! Marzipan is almond paste with added sugar, so it counter-balances the tartness of the cherries. All good!


Apple-Cherry-Marzipan Pie


Crust:

8 oz (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 lb plain white flour
1/4 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
Water (about 5 Tblsp), chilled




Place the butter and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add the sugar and salt and pulse again.




Place the water in a cup or pitcher and add slowly until the mixture holds together to form a dough (you may not need all the water, but it shouldn’t be crumbly).



Knead on a floured surface long enough to combine. Wrap it in plastic wrap or put in a plastic ziplock bag and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Filling:


Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1/3 white sugar
4 Tblsp cornstarch
6 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2” slices (I used the last of my home-grown Cortlands)




7 oz marzipan, cut into small cubes
1 cup dried cherries (or you could substitute cranberries)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, combine the lemon zest, cinnamon, sugar and cornstarch.

Flour a board and a rolling pin. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Divide into two portions, one half the size of the other (bottom and top). Roll out the larger piece and fit it into a 9” pie pan (the pastry should overlap generously), pressing it against the sides of the pan. Place in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.


An aside: this recipe worked better than most of my pie crusts. For a 9” pan, this must be rolled fairly thin, but it held together well and was elastic enough to fit into the pan. When baked, it was nicely crumbly and light. It’s a keeper!
Arrange a layer of apple slices in the pie dish and sprinkle with the marzipan cubes and cherries. Repeat in layers until the pan is nearly full at the edges and heaped in the middle.



Roll out the smaller piece of dough to make a lid that fits over the apples. Crimp the edges of the bottom crust over this to seal. Make a hole in the center of the crust to let the steam escape.



If you like, beat an egg yolk with a little water and use as a glaze over the crust.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown (test to make sure the apples are soft). If it’s getting too brown after 25 minutes, cover the top with foil to keep the edges from burning.






In honor of Meg and Seth's special event, and the coming holidays, I'm giving away a copy of A Gala Event--and an alpaca! No, not a real one, but a very cute stuffed one. If you know someone who would enjoy it as a Christmas gift, here's your chance to win one. (And if you want to keep it for yourself, that's fine too--I had to have one of my own!) Just leave a comment here and I'll pick one lucky person.



And if you don't win, A Gala Event is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and bookstores everywhere.

www.sheilaconnolly.com




Friday, November 27, 2015

Ginger Cake


by Sheila Connolly

All right, I’ll confess: I am officially addicted to The Great British Baking Show on PBS. I did my best to resist it—I kept seeing the TV listing go by and telling myself I didn’t need to watch one more contrived cooking show where judges make snotty remarks and some poor non-winner ends up near tears. I tried, really. And then I watched one episode (not even the first of the season!) and I was hooked.

I’m a sucker for anything baked. The problem is, many of the recipes the contestants make on that show are complex, and while I admire them tremendously for even trying, I don’t feel compelled to try to make them myself (but I did once make Spotted Dick!). At least I recognized most of them, and I will happily order them at any restaurant or bakery.

But I felt bad that I didn’t recognize either of the judges. In case you’ve never watched the show (your loss!), there are two official judges: Mary Berry, the doyenne of British cookbooks, and Paul Hollywood (really?), who is defined as a “top artisan baker,” whatever that means. There are also two contestant wranglers, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, who apparently have done a whole lot of successful things together that we on this side of the pond have never heard of.

I was ashamed that I had never heard of Mary Berry, who apparently has been writing cookbooks almost as long as I’ve been around. So of course I ordered one (on baking) immediately. But then I went trolling online for some of her recipes, and found one that she declared that one of her favorites was one that her mother used to make for tea: Ginger and Treacle Spiced Traybake. It sounded tasty (and it has ginger frosting!).





Then I tried to translate the English terms and amounts. Ha. I did add a scale to my kitchen equipment not too long ago, so part of that problem is covered. But the ingredients can be a bit mind-boggling. Muscovado sugar? I think it’s like dark brown sugar. Maybe. Ground mixed spice? Huh? (Don’t panic—I found a recipe! It’s pretty much what you’d expect, but it includes coriander too).







And then there was “stem ginger from a jar.” Right. Had to look that one up! As near as I can tell, it’s crystallized ginger steeped in ginger syrup. Don’t think I’ll find that in my local grocery store! But, miracle of miracles, I had on hand both crystallized ginger and ginger syrup. (Now you know why I buy weird ingredients when I see them.) So I combined them.

Then on to the making of the recipe. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160/Gas 4. Uh, Fahrenheit, anyone? (Would you believe that I have the conversion formula tacked to the corkboard over my desk? And the answer is…350!) Then grease a 12x9 traybake. Okay, I can handle that. It’s a baking tin. Got it.

So here is Mary’s recipe, with a few tweaks for those of us who don’t have all these lovely ingredients lurking in our pantry.


Ginger Spice Cake (inspired by Mary Berry)

Cake:




1/2 lb (8 oz) butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup treacle (this comes in dark and light—the dark stuff is pretty intense, if you can’t find it in your stores, substitute dark molasses) (Note: this is sticky stuff, whichever you use. To measure accurately, Mary suggested measuring your sugar, the placing the container on a scale and adding the treacle until you reach the right weight.)






2-1/2 cups white flour
3 tsp baking powder
Dash of salt
1 tsp mixed spice (I had to make my own—if you can’t find or make any, just add cinnamon, cloves, etc.)
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
4 Tblsp milk
3 finely-chopped bulbs of stem ginger from a jar (see above)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9” X 12” baking tin, and line the bottom with parchment paper.




Cream and butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the bowl, and beat until well blended. Pour the batter into the baking pan and level the top with a spatula. 




Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake begins to shrink from the sides and is springy when you touch it. (Do not overcook or it will dry out.) Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn it out on a rack to finish cooling.





Icing:

1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tblsp ginger syrup that the ginger has been steeping in
3 Tblsp chopped stem ginger




To make the icing, sift the sugar into a bowl and add the ginger syrup. Mix until it reaches spreading consistency. Pour it over the cooled cake.


Chopped ginger
Sprinkle with the chopped ginger. Let the icing set for a bit before trying to cut it.



The results? This is more of tea cake than a dessert cake. It probably could have used more chopped ginger, but I was improvising. I may order the real stuff and see what it's like.



Meg and Seth are getting married (in case you haven't heard) in "their" restaurant in Granford. The alpacas were not invited, but just about everyone else in town was. Well, maybe not the ex-con...

A Gala Event is available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores.

www.sheilaconnolly.com