Showing posts with label Sheila Connolly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sheila Connolly. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2017

Patriots' Day Blondies

Because it was pouring buckets and spitting snow on our regular marketing day, we stayed inside. There’s always some sort of meal we can throw together from what’s in the fridge and pantry. But! there was nothing for dessert, a crisis of epic proportions. So I had to bake.

But I was kind of low on butter, and I didn’t feel like messing with anything fancy, so I went looking for a bar cookies. Lo and behold, the model for this recipe was the first page in the cookie section of my bursting binder of recipes—something I found online in 2008, but had never made.

One small problem: it called for dried cranberries, and I had none. But I did have dried blueberries and dried cherries, and then I realized that with the white chocolate chips (that I did have), I was making red, white and blue bars. I figured I could call it an homage to Patriots’ Day here in Massachusetts.

Daniel Chester French's
Minuteman Statue, near
the bridge where the battle
took place
In case you are completely ignorant of Patriots’ Day (no surprise, because few states celebrate it), it commemorates the battle of Lexington and Concord, which took place on April 19, 1775 (you could argue it started on the 18th, which is when Paul Revere’s famous ride took place, but the fighting started on the next day). Nowadays it’s held on the third Monday in April. (Yes, I had an ancestor or three there, and there was that other one, celebrated in family lore, who said “sorry, I need to get this field plowed,” and missed the whole thing.)


Patriots’ Day Bars

3/4 cup butter, cubed
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
3/4 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped if needed
(blueberries didn’t, cherries did)


Dried blueberries

Dried cherries

One important note: dried fruit works better in a bar cookie or bread (like Irish soda bread, which is where I learned this trick) if you soak it in boiling water for a couple of minutes first. Make sure to drain the fruit well before adding to the batter.

6 oz white chocolate bits (or chunks, chopped)
Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13x2 inch pan.

Melt the butter in a bowl. Stir in the brown sugar.



Transfer to a larger bowl (if you're using a stand mixer, the bowl for that will do) and let cool. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

Sift together the dry ingredients, and add gradually to the butter mixture.



Stir in the fruit and the chocolate bits. (The batter will be stiff.)



Spread in the greased baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clear (do not overbake!). Cool in the pan on a rack.


And enjoy!



My next book will be A Late Frost, the 11th book in the Orchard Mystery series, coming from Berkley in November (yes, a long time to wait!). 


It takes place in February--you know, that month where everybody in Massachusetts is ready for spring but they know that won't happen for a couple of months yet. So the town of Granford decides to start a new tradition: the WinterFare. 

Which turns out really well--until one of the organizers dies.

I'll be telling you more about it over the next few months.

And be sure to enjoy my newly polished website!

www.sheilaconnolly.com

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lemon Cookies for Easter

Recently my market had yet another unexpected item: pink lemons. Well, they’re not very pink. The outside looks yellow, and the interior is kind of pinkish (maybe they get pinker as they ripen?). They’re said to have a more intense flavor that the all-yellow lemons. I’m a sucker for new foods, so I thought I’d give them a try.



Since Easter is looming, I decided to go with flowery cookies, with pink sugar sprinkles in honor of spring. (I do have cookie cutters of sheep and bunnies and cows, but it’s hard work using them without mangling the poor little animals, so I though flowers were safer.)



Lemon Cookies

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt

2 small lemons (the pink lemons are 
   very small, so I used more than two)

5 Tblsp butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg, separated

1/2 tsp lemon extract


Instructions:

Note: This dough will need to chill for 3 hours. When you're ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the dry ingrdients.

Grate the zest from one lemon into a bowl (if you’re using a stand mixer, this can go into the big bowl. BTW, those lemons may look small, but one lemon produced a lot of zest!).

Squeeze three Tblsp lemon juice (more than two small lemon(s worth!) into another bowl.

Add the soft butter to the bowl with the lemon zest and beat until combined. Beat in the sugar gradually, then beat for one additional minute. 

Add the egg yolk (set the white aside) and half the flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

Add the lemon juice and, the lemon extract, and the rest of the flour mixture and beat until combined.



Form the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap or put in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least three hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven and line the cookie sheets (see above!) Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thick. (Note: when you start rolling, the dough will crumble and refuse to cooperate. Keep at it and it will all come together nicely.) Cut out your cookies and lay them on the parchment paper.



Whisk the egg white you saved with a dash of water, then spread in on top of the cookies. Sprinkle with decorative sugar or whatever you like.



Bake 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. (Rotate the pans once while cooking.)

Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to finish cooling.

Find a helpful sheep and serve!



These have a great lemon flavor, and they’re not too sweet. 

My latest book, Cruel Winter, has a wintry scene on the cover. I'm pretty sure you don't want to see that!

So I'll just throw everything at you and you can find a book that's set in spring. (Check my updated website for details.)

Have a lovely Easter!






Thursday, April 6, 2017

Kalpudding or Not Your Mother's Meatloaf

Okay, here’s another weird one. Kalpudding, eh? Yet there it was, front and center in the New York Times magazine. I’ve tried Sam Sifton’s recipes before—some I’ve loved and adopted, others left me puzzled.

Since I’d never heard of this dish, I did some research online. Oh, look, there are lots of recipes for it! It’s Swedish. The word “kal” is supposed to have one of those little circle things over the “a”, so it’s pronounced “coal.” That means cabbage. But the rest of the name—the “pudding” part—is misleading, because it’s really a meat loaf with cabbage on top.

And you must keep an open mind, because the first thing you do is cook the cabbage in butter and molasses. Yes, molasses. Never would have thought of that.

Swedish Kalpudding (inspired by Sam Sifton)

2 Tblsp plus 1 tsp unsalted butter

1 head green cabbage (abt 3 lbs), cored and shredded
3 Tblsp molasses
salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground pork
1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tblsp bread crumbs

1/3 cup chicken or beef stock

Instructions:


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.


In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When it starts to foam, add the cabbage and molasses, lower the heat to medium, and sprinkle with salt. Cook slowly, stirring often, until the liquid that the cabbage produces has evaporated and the cabbage is caramelized (20-25 minutes). It should be uniformly brown (but not burnt!)

Pork and beef combined
plus dry ingredients
plus all the rest of the ingredients

 While the cabbage is cooking, mix the meats in a large bowl (do not overmix), then add the onion, cream and bread crumbs and combine loosely. Again, don’t overdo the mixing part, or you’ll end up with a brick.



When the cabbage is done, add about one-third of it to the meat mixture and mix. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and transfer the meat mixture into it, smoothing the surface. Spread the rest of the cabbage of the top, pour the stock over it, place it in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the cabbage is very caramelized.

It came out of the pan!

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. None of the recipes tells you whether to scoop it out or try to slice it. I sliced, but a lot of online pictures show it scooped out with a spoon. This is not a fancy dish!



Some people include rice in the mix. Others throw in spices like chili flakes (really? it’s Swedish!). Garlic is optional. Various sites suggested a traditional Swedish sauce using lingonberries, but I wasn’t ready to face molasses and lingonberries in the same dish (even though I like lingonberries). Serve it with boiled potatoes.

Do you know, I liked it. The sweetness from the molasses doesn’t hit you in the face, and it kind of rounds off the flavor of the two meats. It’s not very fussy to make, as long as you don’t mind stirring a pan of cabbage for a while. It reheats well. I might actually make it again.






Monday, April 3, 2017

Around the kitchen table with the authors at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen



LINDA: We're back at the kitchen table and you know, we're having a lot of fun doing this monthly joint blog. From your responses, it seems that most of you are enjoying it also. We certainly hope that's the case.Today, our topic is one that is especially dear to my heart, what do you cook when you don't feel like cooking?

If I'm in that no-cooking frame of mind and ravenous, I opt for cheese (I usually have several varieties on hand at any given time), bread or crackers, and some wine. Ideal, tasty, easy and fast. But if I can hold off several minutes, I'll do a grilled cheese sandwich using my panini maker. As I mentioned, I always have some cheese on hand and these days, following a tip from fellow MLK Mary Jane Maffini, I slice a green apple to add to the grilled cheese. It adds a satisfying crispness and acidity to this old standby.

I will admit that it's easier to opt not to cook for those who don't have to worry about any other mouths to feed. I sometimes take it one step further, and like Lynn Johnston, the creator of that wonderful cartoon strip For Better or Worse, admits to doing now that she's on her own -- I eat, standing up at the kitchen counter. How freeing is that. And healthy, too, the standing up part.
The key phrase is: no cooking, no clean-up. Now, that's easy.


LESLIE: You mean, besides order pizza? Back when when one of the local restaurants had a take-out fridge, I picked up ribs for Mr. Right and crab cakes for me one evening, and mentioned to the chef-owner that I just didn't feel like cooking. He replied that he never felt that way -- which clearly means he had the right job!

On those nights, our go-to is usually spaghetti and meatballs. A couple of times a year, Mr. Right makes a good-sized batch of meatballs, using ground sirloin, Parmesan, Panko breadcrumbs, and red pepper flakes. He wraps them in plastic, 4-6 in a package, and tosses them all in a Zip-loc in the freezer. Heat the meatballs in the microwave, boil up some pasta, open a jar of marinara sauce and a bottle of red wine, and voila -- dinner!

But I do miss Chef Neil's crab cakes!

LUCY: Oh how I love grilled cheese--I've started adding sliced avocados, and the last time I made this, used both Swiss cheese and some fresh mozzarella. I make these in a frying pan with a little butter and olive oil--delicious! And we love crab cakes too, Leslie! And are fortunate to have a wonderful fish market in Key West that makes them to die for.

But if it's summertime, and the tomatoes are in season, my go-to no-cook recipe is chunks of tomatoes marinated with fresh mozzarella chunks, strips of fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and good olive oil. When it's time for dinner, cook the best pasta (I order from Eataly), sprinkle with parmesan, and dump on the tomatoes. Heaven, and so easy! (If you aren't worried about sodium, a few kalamata olives are a good addition too.)

SHEILA: My husband takes the easy way out: he makes Breakfast for Dinner, which is bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast or English muffins. My grandmother, who never learned to cook, settled for cereal and ice cream for supper (a real treat when my sister and I were kids!). Me, I have the most ridiculously well-stocked pantry I've ever seen, but there are days when I can't figure out what I want (well, maybe a French chef to drop in and throw together something, and of course clean up afterwards).


I'm fond of marinades and rubs, and things like fish which cook quickly, or spatchcocked chicken that I can just stick on a pan and bake for a while. But the most recent go-to meal is pasta. These days our market is carrying nice fresh ravioli and tortellini, which are easy (boil water, add pasta, drain--then fancy it up with whatever you have on hand) and taste really good.

LESLIE: Is there anyone who doesn't occasionally love breakfast for dinner? I was probably forty before I realized that when my mother made it for us as kids, it was usually because she felt a little in need of comforting herself!


 VICTORIA/AKA MJ

The old jokes goes like this:  'Question What's the best things she makes for dinner?  Answer: Reservations. Sometimes, that's fun, but more often I don't feel going out any more than I feel like cooking. That 'don't feel like cooking thing' comes on quickly.  My favorite rescue is a quick saute with garlic, parsley, lemon and raw peeled shrimp.  From freezer to ta table takes just a few minutes. This is so easy and it feels special.



But if it's confession time and it's just us friends here, then I'll admit that sometimes I heat up a can of mushroom soup and hide the evidence.  I may also be wearing pyjamas.  Shhh.

DARYL:

Lucy, I can never thank you enough for introducing me to Eataly. Whenever I go to NY, I have to stop in!  It's such a phenomenal store!  Linda, I, too, always have cheese around and gluten-free bread in the freezer. I love my panini grill!!! So that's definitely a good easy choice. I love cheese and wine and some sliced veggies or fruit as a meal. Simple. Slice it. Set the goodies on a napkin. Wash the knife. Done.  I'm all for taking whatever is in the fridge and making a smorgasbord, too.  Hardboiled egg, some lettuce with a drizzle of dressing, slices of cheese, and hopefully I have an avocado. When in doubt and out of everything in the refrigerator, scrambled eggs!  This [see picture] is a pretty pathetic looking empty refrigerator, isn't it? Guess what I ate last night?  LOL  FYI, I don't like to eat standing up. I still like a meal where I sit and listen to the news or go outside and listen to the birds or read a book. It depends on my mood.

KRISTA:
I confess that I'm a sandwich girl when I'm being lazy. Ham, or tuna, or peanut butter and jam are what I reach for when I want a quick and easy dinner. I have been known to make omelets or German pancakes, so I guess I do breakfast for dinner sometimes, too. Not very chic, but true.


CLEO: Marc and I are sandwich fans, too, Krista. We like to do Italian cold cuts with fresh lettuce, tomato, and banana peppers piled on crusty rolls. Or we'll put slices of salami on a plate with fresh mozzarella and drizzle it all with olive oil. Hot dogs are another quickie meal for us, and we have fun tarting them up with chopped onions and relish, or a bit of leftover chili or taco meat. Marc's Danger Dogs, on the stove or on the grill, are always guilty pleasures. Fast Tex-Mex is a quesadilla with whatever cheese is on hand with salsa and sour cream. And there's always good old peanut butter with honey, jam, or bananas for a no-fuss, no cook meal. Fun post and great ideas all!


PEG
I'm getting some great ideas from you guys! Sheila, spatchcocking a chicken and baking it is not "not cooking."  Just an FYI.  If I'm going to "sort of" cook I'll do pasta with clam sauce.  Saute garlic in olive oil, throw in two cans of chopped clams, heat and eat. If you want to get real fancy, add some chopped parsley.  But "not cooking" does not include washing and chopping parsley in my opinion.  I can't do pasta sauce in a jar--just can't. Unless it's Rao's but if I'm buying that I might as well buy a steak!  The price!  If I'm really not cooking and there aren't any leftovers in the freezer, I'll make us BLTs. 




How about you? 

What do you cook when you don't feel like cooking?

Let us know in the comments below...






Friday, March 31, 2017

Apple Caramel Cake

Trolling for new recipes (always!) I came upon a lovely one in an Irish cookbook I’ve had for a while. One thing that appealed to me was that you start with a nice thick layer of caramel on the bottom, rather than a crust, and you pour batter over it and top with sliced fruit before baking.

The original recipe called for pears, but I had apples on hand so I used those. Butter, sugar, apples and cinnamon—yum! What could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turned out. What I ended up with was a runny heap of brown goo. Tasted great—as a topping for ice cream, maybe. But it was not a cake! It was a mess.


The Disaster Version

But I am both stubborn and curious. Where had I gone wrong? Several places, as it turned out.

-- I failed to caramelize the butter and sugar sufficiently, so there was no real base and everything leaked all over the oven (always put a pan under whatever you bake!).

-- The recipe just said four pears  but said nothing about their size. I think Irish pears must be smaller than apples, so when the recipe called for grating one apple and adding it to the batter, I put in a lot of very juicy apple. One more strike against the poor cake, lying in a sad puddle.

But I persevered! Self, I said, make sure you get the caramel right, cut back on the amount of apple (and use a kind more appropriate for cooking—not all apples are), and bake it as long as you need to (the original instructions were a little vague about that too). When it comes time to unmold it, pray to the kitchen gods.

It worked!



APPLE CARAMEL CAKE
Adapted from The New Irish Table by Margaret Johnson (2003)


Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 apples, peeled and cored

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil


Instructions:


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap a 10-inch round springform pan with two layers of foil, to prevent leaking. (Only time I’ve seen this recommendation, but it’s a good one)

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the butter and sugar caramelize. Pour the caramel into the springform pan and set aside. (It makes a layer about 1/2-inch thick. Yes, you may lick the pan--after it cools!)




Coarsely grate one of the apples (I left the skin on—you’d never know it). Slice the remaining apples.


Grated apple
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and oil together. Stir in the shredded apple, Then stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. 




Pour the mixture over the caramel base and arrange the sliced apples on top (in circles or rows).




Bake for 1 hour or longer (mine baked for about an hour and a half), until the base bubbles and the apples are soft and lightly browned. (Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to make sure the batter is cooked inside.)

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Then (carefully!) remove the sides of the pan.


Eureka!

Cruel Winter (County Cork Mystery #5), available everywhere!


BTW, I've mentioned before that this book is loosely based on a real crime that took place in 1996. That crime lives on: the primary suspect (never arrested) is now suing the Irish police for framing him and concealing information--it was in the Irish news just this week. The Irish take crime seriously!

www.sheilaconnolly.com




Friday, March 24, 2017

Lamb Fillet with Cabbage and Mushrooms

I know, it’s a week past St. Patrick’s Day, But it’s an Irish recipe! And I liked it!

I like lamb. My parents liked lamb. I grew up eating lamb chops about once a week, although we weren't much into leg of lamb or even lamb stew (which I now make regularly). I know there are people who don't like the taste of lamb, and it's hard to find in stores.

When I came across this very Irish recipe, it sounded good to me. Problem was, I have no idea what a lamb fillet is. However, my market has recently started carrying what they call a butterflied leg of lamb (no bone), which is about the right weight and size. It’s from Australia, don’t ask me why. But it’s a lovely piece to work with, nice and tender, and easy to cook.


Roast Fillet of Lamb with Cabbage and Mushrooms (suggested by Clare Connery in Irish Cooking, 1996)

Ingredients:

1 lamb fillet, about one pound, 

trimmed of most of its fat
vegetable oil for frying
1 small green cabbage, cored and finely shredded
4 oz butter
4 oz unsmoked bacon, diced (I used salt pork)
6 oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (while wild mushrooms would be nice, there are quite a few interesting domestic varieties available in markets now—pick a flavorful variety, not the white kind)
2 oz red wine
2 Tblsp port or sherry
salt and pepper

Instructions:


Season the lamb fillet with salt and pepper.




Heat a small amount of oil in a roasting pan and sautee the meat (briefly) on all sides to sear it.

Finish cooking the lamb in an oven preheated to 425 degrees (hot!). Keep an eye on it. According to the original recipe, it should take 10-12 minutes to achieve medium-rare. That seemed kind of long to me, but it proved to be accurate for rare meat (which I like).

Remove the meat from the oven and keep warm.




Shredded (thank you, Cuisinart!)

Cooked

Boil the shredded cabbage until it is tender (if you've removed the coarse bits and shredded it finely, this shouldn't take long). Drain it and toss in half the butter. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.






In another pan, melt the remaining butter and fry the diced bacon until lightly browned. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until they release their juices. Keep warm. (I hope you have a big kitchen, because by now you have three pans you're supposed to be keeping warm.)


Deglazing the pan
Retrieve the roasting pan with the lamb. Set the lamb on a plate (and keep it warm!) and pour off the excess fat from the pan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and add the wine and port. Bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add this to the other pan with the mushrooms and bacon. Taste the mixture for seasoning.

When you're ready to serve, warm your plates and divide the cabbage between them, making a pile in the center of each plate. You may cut the fillet of lamb into single chunks, or slice thinly and array over the cabbage pile (which is what I did). Scatter the mushrooms and bacon over the meat and cabbage, and pour the wine sauce over it all.





Eat quickly, while it's still warm! I added boiled potatoes to the plate as well.



With potatoes

I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I had my doubts about using bacon and lamb in the same dish, but everything worked well together. There are a lot of mushrooms, not just a scattering, and that worked too. I think this is a keeper, as long as I can find the lamb.




Only a week old! Cruel Winter, the fifth book of the County Cork Mysteries.

The snow has melted in Cork, I'm told, but there was a major snowstorm in County Carlow this past week, south of Dublin. My grandmother was born in a very small townland in Carlow.

Find Cruel Winter at Amazon (my apologies that the pub date of the ebook seems to keep migrating around there, but the print version is on sale!) and Barnes & Noble (likewise on sale there). 

And take a look at my updated website www.sheilaconnolly.com, which now includes a blog where I will ramble on about my Irish cottage when the spirit moves me.