The Sandhill Crane Bed & Breakfast

389 Camino Hermosa, Corrales, New Mexico 87048
Innkeeper(s): Judith and George Newby
  • Sala and Dining Room

    Sala and Dining Room

  • Bosque Sitting Room with Petroglyph Mural in Kitchen

    Bosque Sitting Room with Petroglyph Mural in Kitchen

  • Bosque Suite Bedroom

    Bosque Suite Bedroom

 

Tea for Two 20 Apr 2015, 5:07 pm

We offer our tea loving guests 12 different kinds of tea.  We always have English Breakfast, tea, Earl Grey tea and some manner of green tea.  Some of the other varieties include raspberry, chamomile, orange and pomegranate flavored teas.    The thought of using them for anything other than drinking really didn’t cross my mind.  Until last week.  That’s when I discovered a recipe for a tea crusted pork loin.  At first I was skeptical but then I recalled how I often coat pork chops with a coffee and chili rub.  Could this be any different? What did I have to lose?  I already had a 1.5 lb pork loin in the freezer and I certainly had Earl Grey tea, so I decided to give it a whirl.

And I can report  “We have a Keeper!”  This is what my husband says when I try something new and he wants me to make it again.  It’s the Bergamot oil in the Earl Grey tea that imparts a slight citrus flavor to the meat.  I looked for a brand of Earl Grey that listed the Bergamot oil on the front, figuring that brand would have a lot more of the oil.

Earl Grey tea with bergamot oil

I can’t say for sure if the brand I used was any more flavorful than any other brand but I can say with certainty that there was a nuance of citrus in the flavor of the meat.

The recipe called for a fine ground tea.  I opened the tea bags and found it to be a fine ground so I didn’t bother putting the tea through a grinder.  I began by tying the roast.  Normally I would omit this step as the roast is in one piece so tying seems unnecessary. But I learned something new.  By tying the roast I actually created a piece of meat that was more uniform, giving me an evenly cooked product.

Pork Loin tied, crusted with tea and ready for the oven.

That’s a trick I’m keeping in my bag! After tying the roast I coated it with the tea, salt and pepper mixture and set it out to rest for 45 minutes.  After roasting the meat for about an hour, I pulled it from the oven and let it rest for 15  minutes.  As I sliced the meat I got a faint whiff of orange.  I knew this would be good.  The original recipe called for this to be served with apples and fennel.  I didn’t have any fennel in the house so I opted for the classic apples and onions.  Worked for us.  Here’s the recipe:

 

 

Earl Grey Crusted Pork Loin

  • 1 tbs finely ground Earl Grey Tea ( this is about 3 teabags)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/5 lb boneless pork loin roast, tied
  • 2  cooking apples such as gala, cored and cut into quarters then halved crosswise
  • 1 large onion, end removed and cut into eighths.
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degree F.

Whisk the tea, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Tie the roast and rub it allover with the tea mixture.  Set the meat fat side up in a baking pan.  Let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Roast the pork for 20 minutes in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.  While the pork is roasting, toss the onion and apple in the olive oil and thyme. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.  Scatter the apple and onion pieces  around the pork and roast for about 35 minutes longer, or until a meat thermometer  registers 135 degrees in the thickest part of the meat.  Transfer the pork to a plate or carving board and let rest for 15 minutes.  Slice the meat thinly and serve with the apples and onions.

I wish I had taken a shot of the meat when it was finished but I was too hungry and needed to get dinner on the table. The meat was equally good as leftovers two days latter.  The apple and onion mixture was gone but I cooked some fresh sliced carrots with a bit of thyme and they were an equally good accompaniment.

We will definitely be having this again.


My Favorite Tools 17 Apr 2015, 5:48 pm

Last week I was looking through a recent issue of one of my cooking magazines and I noticed they had asked the staff to identify their favorite things in the kitchen; tools, cooking vessels, appliances or heirlooms ( the things you get from grandma.) It got me to thinking about my favorite kitchen prep items. These are the ones I use with some regularity, the ones I can’t be without.   So for the next few blogs I will occasionally be sharing my favorite things (there will be no girls in white dresses, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, or brown paper packages tied up in string, sorry.)  Today I want to start with small tools.

I have a multitude of tools.  And while I haven counted,  I would imagine they number into the hundreds.  Some of them have may get used only once or twice a year.  Others are so necessary or versatile that they get used every week. Here are some of the more uncommon ones I use all the time.

Dishers                                                                                                                                              These are great for so many things, scooping out cookie dough, transferring pancake batter to the griddle or muffin batter into the muffin cups.  As you can see, I have several different sizes.

My favorite dishers

How big do you want your pancakes? How large do you want your cookies?  These tools are perfect for ensuring uniform sizes.  If you are interested in purchasing some of these for yourself I suggest you check out your local restaurant supply house. Most do not require you to be in the business to purchase from them and I can all but guarantee you they will be cheaper there than any cooking store.

 

Measuring Spoons

Everyone has measuring spoons.  A common set has a 1 tablespoon,  1 teaspoon , 1/2 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon and a 1/8 teaspoon.  This would be all you needed if every recipe only called for these amounts.  If only life were that simple.  Granted, you can get to 1/2 tablespoon by using the doing the math and using existing measuring spoons, but how much better if you could just measure 1/2 tablespoon at once.

Measuring spoons – a standard set and a set of incremental measuring spoons.

So in addition to the standard measuring spoon set I have a set that includes a 1/2 tablespoon, 2 teaspoon, 1 1/2 tablespoon and 2 tablespoon measure.  I have found these two sets cover just about every measurement I need.

I have also found that it is very helpful to have two sets of the ‘regular’ measuring spoon set.  It saves time when you are doing alot of measuring of foods that can stick to the measuring spoons.  And while all of these are dishwasher safe: I wash all of my measuring spoons by hand.  It saves them from getting nicked in the dishwasher.

 

 Measuring Cups

Ok, I’m  not talking about the standard measuring cups here.  These tools are something very different.  How many times have you has to measure something sticky like peanut butter or viscous like honey and, after filling your measuring cup, have had to scrape everything out of the cup and into your work bowl?  No matter how hard you try there is always something left behind.  Meaning that you aren’t really getting the correct amount of the ingredient into the work bowl.  In the past I tried the cooking spray trick.  And while it allow for an easy release of the ingredient in the measuring cup, it also adds a small amount of oil to the ingredient.

Push up measuring cups

It was a always a problem for me until I found these!  Push up measuring cups!  These two devices have measurement marks for both liquid and dry ingredients.  The beauty of these measuring cups is the ability to push ALL of the ingredient out of the cup and into the mixing bowl.  Peanut butter, honey, oil, softened butter, mayonnaise, mustard, you name it – it comes out cleanly with nothing left behind.  Accurate measurements with one push.  The large Adjust-A Cup allows you to measure by  Pint, Cups ( in 1/4 cup increments) ounces and ML. The smaller Adjust -A Cup allows you to measure by ounces, Tablespoons ( in 1/2 tablespoon increments), Teaspoons, and ML.  The two of them should cover all of your measuring needs.   And these are not hard to find.  Check out your local Bed, Bath and Beyond or search for KitchenArt Adjust-A Cup on Amazon.  And while we’re on the topic of measuring cups – if you can find a standard metal 1/8 cup measuring cup, grab it.  I know it is two tablespoons and you could use a tablespoon measuring spoon – but why would you if you have a 1/8 cup measuring cup in your tool box!

Other Fun Things

Fun, yes. But these tools serve a real purpose and I use them on a regular basis.  So here

Offset spatula, Corer, Egg Timer and Melon Baller

are four of my favorites.  I use the offset spatula for more than icing cakes or cookies.  It’s perfect for spreading anything when preparing a wrap, one of George’s favorite lunches, smoothing tops of food when necessary as part of the presentation, or “gasp” using it as a spatula to lift cookies off the baking sheet.

I use the corer when preparing fruit for the composed salad I serve at breakfast. I also use it to form perfectly round strips of fruit which can then be sliced into tiny disks.  If you are going to buy one of these be sure to get one with a metal handle.  It will stand up to the pressure exerted on hard foods such as apples or potatoes.

Next in line is the egg timer.  Now I know everyone has their favorite method of turning out perfectly cooked eggs.  But frankly, I’ve never had much luck with the whole timing thing.  And boiling water at altitude brings another variable into the mix.  So I cheat and use this. It has marks for soft, medium and hard boiled eggs.  They turn out perfect every time. One less thing for me to stress over.

And last, but not least, is the mighty melon baller.  The only thing I don’t use this tool for is to make melon balls.  I use it to remove the seeds from tomatoes, to core out the seeds from pears before poaching, to make small balls of composed butter that sit atop steaks and it works great hollowing out cherry tomatoes.

So could I get by with just the tools describe in this blog? Probably.  Am I always looking for new tools that make cooking more fun – after all I think of these as toys – Absolutely.  Let me know your favorite tools and I may expand my list of favorites!


The Tradition Continues 4 Apr 2015, 4:51 pm

I know it is Easter because the Wizard of Oz was on TV last night.  Those monkeys still give me the creeps!  And if you haven’t done it yet; be sure to read Wicked to discover the TRUE story of OZ. But I digress..

For the last 45 years, with the exception of last year when I made a bunny cake, I have made a Lamb Cake for Easter.  It started when George and I were celebrating our very first Easter and my college roommate was visiting with her very young daughter.  By then I had already inherited the mold my grandmother had used when she made the cake.  Granted it took a little tweaking to find the right cake batter recipe.  The hand written one that came with the mold seemed to be missing ingredients (I swear every grandmother does this tho I think it is more about forgetting ingredients than anything underhanded!) I finally hit upon using a pound cake recipe.  When our kids came along I found my time was limited so I switched to a pound cake mix.  I never looked back.  My big break came when I found a commercial grade lamb mold at an estate sale.

Lamb cake molds oiled and dusted with flour.

I had been using a thin aluminum mold that was difficult to unmold- often resulting in ears that had to be reattached with toothpicks. The commercial mold releases the cake with ease ( tho I do oil and flour the molds, just to be on the safe side.)  No more stress about producing a Van Gogh lamb cake! And that square cake pan at the bottom of the picture – we’ll get to that later.

Yesterday I decided to get a jump on the cake baking so I wouldn’t be left with so many things to do today.  I had purchased all of my cake and icing ingredients last week so I was ready to go.  I found a Meyer Lemon pound cake mix and decided I would substitute it for my traditional mix – it seemed so spring-like.  And yes, I use purchased frosting.  It’s the perfect consistency for spreading and much less work.  The jelly beans will be used for the nose and eyes, and perhaps an occasional snack.  Butter, flour and water was all that was needed to get the cake ready to go.  After mixing the ingredients I was ready to fill the mold.  Only the front (face) side of this mold gets filled – the batter expands to meet the back half of the mold as it bakes.  Normally there is too much batter for the mold so I end up baking a small cake which I then carve into an egg shape.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there was barely enough batter to fill the mold.  No egg cake this year!

Filled mold ready for the oven.

Lamb Cake Cooling

I placed the filled front part of the mold on a baking sheet – the cake has been know to grow outside of the mold – and it is better to be safe than cleaning an oven!  The cake is baked front side down.  You’ll notice the mold has two drilled holes in it.  They make it very easy to test for doneness.  The cake bakes for about 45 minutes and then has to cool in the mold for about 5 to 7 minutes.  I have learned not to let it cool to long or it becomes too difficult to remove.  After removing it from the mold, I let it sit on a rack until it is completely cool.  In this case I let it sit on the rack overnight.

This morning I frosted and decorated the cake.  I began by slicing the thin line of batter that baked into a ridge where the mold top and bottom met.   I frost the bottom of the cake so it adheres to the plate.  The I frosted the cake, taking care to swirl the frosting so that it looks like the coat of a lamb.  I use a half of a black jelly bean for the nose and two halves of a grape jelly bean for the eyes.  I finish by tying a bow around the neck of the lamb. And here it is – my Easter Lamb.  Happy Easter every one!

Finished Lamb Cake


Not My Day 31 Mar 2015, 4:11 pm

Every once in awhile I have “One of Those Days”  and today was the day.  It started out this morning while I was making a frittata for my guests.  I had the ham and red pepper diced, lightly sauteed and set aside.  The egg and cheese mixture was ready for the pan.  I decided I would use my cast iron skillet to make the frittata – it does so well releasing other foods I decided it would be just fine for the fritatta.  So I got oil in the pan and heated it up, added the egg and cheese mixture and started to swirl it around.  And then I got nervous.  What if it sticks to the pan?  I tried to lift some of the cooked egg to allow the uncooked egg mixture to come in contact with the pan.  On NO!  It was sticking!  Rather than give it some time for the pan to get warmer I panicked to see if the eggs would release, I panicked.  I immediately slid the skillet over to another burner, turned the burner on low, ( I thought I would turn them into scrambled eggs for George and I) and went to work beating up more eggs and cheese.  This time I used my nonstick pan and had more success. I added the peppers and ham, popped it into the oven and started prepping the plates and toast. The frittata came out of the oven looking great, it slid out of the pan with no problem.  I sliced it into wedges, plated it and served it too my guests.  Remember me saying I put the first attempt on another burner?  Well I forgot about them until I smelled the eggs toasting.  They were too far gone to eat but they did slide right out of the pan!

This afternoon I decided to make apple compote as the fruit selection for tomorrow morning.  I peeled the apples, put them in a pot with some water, sugar and lemon juice and put them on low to cook.  As I put them on I heard the washer stop so I went to move the towels from the washer to the dryer.  I had a guest check out today so I went into the guest room to get their towels so I could start another load.  The towels needed a fair amount of pre-treating so it took me a little longer than usual.  I bet you know where this is going.  Yep – the apples burned.  Now I have to start all over peeling more apples – not a big deal.  Cleaning my saucepan, on the other hand, was a very big deal.  In fact it is soaking as I write this. And no, nothing else is cooking!  In fact, tonight we are having burgers.  Thank goodness George makes them on the grill.  I don’t think I could stand another disaster!


Chipotle and Chicken 29 Mar 2015, 8:10 pm

It’s has been a beautiful day here in New Mexico.  Unfortunately it is Sunday and that means laundry – both guest rooms and our personal laundry – so I haven’t had much of a chance to be outdoors.  However, I am sitting on the portal as I write this blog so at least I can enjoy a bit of late afternoon weather!  We are experiencing temperatures that are about 15 degrees above normal for this time of year.  I am waiting for the other shoe to drop!

And while this warmer weather seems to cry out for grilled food; tonight we are having Chipotle Chicken – made in the oven.  This is an old favorite of ours – dating back to a 1993 issue of Gourmet magazine.  I tried it when it first came appeared in the magazine, long before we even made our first trip to New Mexico, and it has been a favorite ever since.

It’s a pretty easy recipe that doesn’t require alot of ingredients. It does, however require a bit of forethought as you do need to marinade the chicken.  While the laundry is spinning away I assembled my ingredients; chicken – I prefer legs and thighs though I have made this with chicken breast-,chipotle peppers, mayonnaise ( I use mayonnaise made with olive oil) cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and bread crumbs. It is actually five ingredients if you don’t count the salt and pepper!

Making the marinade is simple.  Put the chipotle and mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste, in a blender or food processor and whirl until combined. Because I am making this for two I use my Cuisinart mini prep machine to combine the ingredients. I find when working with a small amount the mini machine does a much better job.

After the chipotles, mayonnaise, salt and pepper are blended together you slather it onto both sides of the chicken pieces.

Coating the chicken with the Chipotle Mayonnaise marinade

I prefer to let my chicken sit in the marinade  skin side up so I do the skinless side of the thighs first then coat the skin side of the thighs.  Obviously legs don’t have a top and bottom!  I place each piece as it is coated into a glass baking dish.  I could use a plate but I find the baking dish does a better job of containing the chicken as it marinades.  The chicken needs to marinade for at least an hour up to overnight.  I usually opt for a 3 to 4 hour marinade – I’m just not that organized to fix the dish the night before!

While the chicken is marinading I will prepare the crumb coating.  The original recipe calls for white bread crumbs but I prefer the lightness and crunch of Panko bread crumbs so that is what I use.  I mix the Panko and cayenne pepper in a large shallow bowl.  Just before I am ready to cook I dredge the chicken with the marinade in the bread crumbs.  Then it goes unto a cookie rack coated with Pam that sits in a baking sheet. The oven has been preheated to 425 degrees F.  I cook the legs and thighs at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes then another 20 minutes at 375 degrees F – longer if the thighs and legs are REALLY big.

If you make this recipe with boneless chicken breasts I have found you can reduce the cooking time to 15 minutes at 425 degrees F and an additional 15 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Tonight we’ll have this with Spanish rice and a green salad – or I may opt for  refried beans.  I’ll let George make that decision!

 Chipotle Chicken 

1 1/8 cup Serves 2

  • 1 canned Chipotle Chile in adobo sauce
  • 6 tbl mayonnaise
  • 2 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 1 1/8 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor or mini prep blend together the chipotles, mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste until the mixture is smooth. You will have some larger pieces of the chipotle pepper but that is ok.  Coat the chicken pieces on both sides with the marinade and place in a baking dish.  Cover the dish and chill the chicken in the refrigerator for at least an hour up to overnight.

In a large shallow bowl combine the bread crumbs and the cayenne pepper.  Add more salt and pepper if you desire.  Coat the chicken with the bread crumb mixture.  Be sure to pat the mixture onto the chicken: this helps it adhere to the legs and thighs.  Arrange the chicken on a cookie rack that has been sprayed with Pam or coated with oil, the rack should be sitting in a cookie sheet.  Bake in a preheated 425 degree F oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 10 to 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through.


Horsey Horsey 26 Mar 2015, 9:35 pm

Today has been a busy day.  One filled with caring for guests, volunteer activities and preparing for check – ins.

I started the morning with breakfast for a guest who need an early start to the day.

Apple Pancakes

Today was a sweet breakfast so I opted for a composed salad of Asian Pear, blackberries and strawberries.  The  entree was apple pancakes with an apple compote sauce and bacon. Whenever possible, I try to alternate between a savory and sweet breakfast.  Tomorrow I will do a savory breakfast that features an egg based entree.

The resident Painted Pony

After breakfast was done and the kitchen cleaned I headed out to my meeting.  As I have mentioned in the past, I do volunteer work and this meeting was part of my MainStreet volunteer activities. I won’t bore you with the meeting details but I will share what was accomplished after the meeting.  Recently the MainStreet organization was give additional space to grow the Corrales Visitor Center.  Over the last several weeks one of my co volunteers and I have been cleaning, painting and polishing the new space.  We did have one issue to overcome – a Painted Pony dedicated to the Village by a local artist.  The pony  had taken up residence in our space. What to do with the pony?  Too big to stay in our office; he was not suited to be displayed outside in the elements.  Fortunately we struck a deal with our Village and, under girl power, moved him to his new “stable” today.  We have more space and the pony is now the official “greeter” for anyone visiting Village Hall.

With my meeting and pony moving behind me it was time to come home and finish chores at the B&B.  I have guests checking in late tonight so there was some last minute work to be done.  I had planned on trying a new recipe tonight – Beef Bourguignon in the pressure cooker.  However, by the time I finished all my chores it was 5:30 – too late to start a recipe I have never made before.  So I opted to make Beef Bourgignon the old fashion way, in a dutch oven.  With George’s work hours we usually eat dinner between 7:30 and 8pm – enough time to make the dish stove top.  I chopped bacon and while it was frying up chopped, seasoned and floured my meat cubes.  Then I cleaned and cut the mushrooms into pieces.  Once the bacon was done I removed it from the dutch oven and added the floured meat.  I quickly realized I did not have any pearl onions so I opted for shallots instead. I sliced two shallots and, after the meat was browned, added them along with the mushrooms and some thyme to the pan.  After the mushrooms had browned I returned the meat and bacon to the pan, and added the red wine.  It cooked down until it was reduced by half and then I added the beef broth, covered the pot and let everything simmer for two hours. Just before dinner I boiled up some noodles, poured some red wine and served it up.  A tasty ending to a busy day.


Smokin’ Good 24 Mar 2015, 5:28 pm

The weather has begun to warm here in Corrales and everyone has spring fever.  There was a time when I cooked seasonally; chilis and stews in the winter, barbecue in the summer. But long ago we discovered that chili was just as good in the summer and things made on the grill; steaks, barbecue ribs, grilled chicken were really tasty in the winter.  However, during these first warm days grilling just sounds so much better.  Tonight we kick off the season with barbecued ribs, rosemary roasted potatoes and cole slaw.

Our ribs are now a two step cooking process – smoked first then finished on the grill.  I’m in charge of the smoking: George handles the grilling.

We prefer baby back or boneless country ribs, tho I have to admit we haven’t tried country ribs in the smoker – maybe in two weeks or so. Tonight it’s baby back ribs.

I start by prepping the ribs.  Using a sharp knife,

Ribs prepped for smoking

I cut a slit in the membrane along the back of  the ribs and, with the help of a paper towel, remove the membrane from the meat.  then I cut the rib slab into two pieces.  My stove top smoker isn’t big enough to handle a whole rack and George prefers to grill the rack in two pieces as it allows him to cook the pieces more evenly.

After the ribs are prepped I prepare the smoker.  I added 2 tablespoons of Hickory Chips to my stove top smoker.  I use the griddle burner on my stove as it provides heat most of the length of the pan.  I smoked the ribs for about 18 minutes.  We have found that is the optimum time to smoke if you are going to grill.  You get the good smoke flavor with the grill providing the crusty finish.  As you can see by this picture, the ribs are nowhere near done after their 15 minutes in the stovetop smoker.  The meat has begun to turn brown but is still raw on the inside.  By the way, stove top smoking , while it will never replace a true long rest in a wood chip smoker, is a pretty good substitute when you are in a hurry and clean up is pretty easy.   I line the smoker tray with foil and spray a  light coating of cooking spray on the rack.  I can have this smoker cleaned and ready to go back into the cabinet in under 15 minutes while George is finishing the ribs . One less thing to do after dinner.

The rosemary potatoes – 3 small russet potatoes, peeled, sliced into wedges and coated with grapeseed oil and fresh minced rosemary – are ready for the oven.  All I have to do is chop the cabbage and carrots for coleslaw and we’re good to go.

I ‘d love to share a picture of the finished ribs but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow!


Healthy Donuts 23 Mar 2015, 4:47 pm

Healthy Donuts?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Not when you see these!  Ok, maybe not healthy with a capital H but healthier than fried.  About a year ago I came across a recipe for baked donuts.  I thought those would be great for the B&B, quick and no frying involved. So, with dreams of donut bliss dancing through my head I bought a Wilton Donut Pan – one designed to make baked donuts.  But as I did a little more research I found that the recipes I had intended to use either required rising time so the quick part of the equation went right out the window, or were made in a muffin tin.  In my book that makes it a muffin! The newly purchased donut pan went into the baking drawer possibly never to see the light of day.  But then this happened.  I recently came across some recipes for baked donuts. They do not involve yeast, so no rising time, and they are made in a Wilton Donut Pan!

I tried several of them and worked on perfecting one of them for use at the B&B. This is the result.  These are savory donuts that can take the place of breakfast breads.

Baked Cream Cheese and Herb Donuts

Makes 6 donuts’

  • 1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream cheese, melted
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbl fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • 1 tbl Fox Point Seasoning  (can be purchased from Penzy’s spices)
  • 1/2 tsp salt,
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese – I used the finely shredded variety
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 325 F and spray a donut pan ( you can find the donut pan at Michael’s craft store in the baking section) with cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a small microwave safe bowl combine the butter pieces and cream cheese and melt in the microwave – it took me about 30 seconds but remember, my kitchen is located over 5,000′ so you may find it goes faster for you.  And here’s a tip – cover the bowl before you start the microwave.  Exploding cream cheese is a terrible thing.  Trust me on this one.

Mezaluna and cutting bowl

Chop your rosemary into fine pieces.  I use a mezaluna for this task.  It’s much faster than a knife and gives you even pieces.

In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and add the egg and the melted butter cream cheese mixture.  Stir well with a wooden spoon.  Slowly add the buttermilk, a bit at a time, stirring after each addition.  The amount of butter milk you will need depends on a number of factors; low humidity can lead to drier flour which will absorb more liquid.  Add enough buttermilk to create a dough that is drier than a cake batter but not as dry as some cookie dough or typical muffin batter.  And while this picture isn’t great it gives you some idea of the texture of the batter.  You can see

Batter consistency for baked donuts.

where I scraped the spoon through the batter and it did not fill back in.  This is the consistency that produced the best donuts.

Use a teaspoon to spoon the batter into the greased donut pan.  Place it in the oven and bake for 11 to 14 minutes.  I bake this combination of herb and cheese for 12 minutes and it comes out perfect.  Don’t expect the dount color to be an indication of doneness.  They will stay pale.  Instead, use the touch method.  The donuts are done when they spring back when touched. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove the donuts form the pan by inverting the pan over a plate or basket.  Then ENJOY! I know my guests did.

Once I had these down I thought about other flavor combinations.  Why not garlic, italian seasoning and pecorino romano cheese, or cajun seasoning with cheddar, or …. the list is limited only by your imagination.  And don’t think these are just for breakfast, I see dinner donuts on the horizon.  Just think, Donuts for dinner!  The dream of every child, or the child in you!

Note:  I use dried buttermilk powder that I keep in the refrigerator.  It save me from buying a bottle of buttermilk for a recipe that needs 1/4 cup!  If you elect to go this route here’s a tip on getting the powder to incorporate completely with the water.  Measure out the amount of powder that will produce the amount of butter milk you will need.  Place the powder in a sieve over a bowl and reduce any big lumps by pushing through the sieve.  Fill a measuring cup with the required amount of water, measure out the powder and add to the water.  Stir with a small whisk until combined.


Welcome Home 22 Mar 2015, 4:21 pm

Today I deviate from my usual blog topic – anything food related – to talk about the birds.  No not chicken.  Hawks versus Crows.

For the past three weeks the crows have been a constant presence in our tall pines.  All day long they would hang out and make a racket with their cawing.  I wasn’t real happy about the noise and I can tell you that Boz absolutely hated them.  Every time he went out in the yard he would spend every minute chasing up and down the yard barking  – trying to clear the trees of the noisy invaders.  The crows, on the other hand, would look down at him from their lofty perches and caw all the louder.  I swear they delighted in taunting him.  Sooner or later I would have to go outside and make a racket by clapping my hands so the poor dog could do his business. This went on everyday, all day long, until early this week.

I was sitting in the living room when I saw a large shadow cross the yard near the pine trees.  And then I heard it – the most welcome sound in the world – the KEE KEE of a red tail hawk.  I went out to investigate – I was afraid I had wished for the return of the hawk so hard that I might be imagining things. But no, there in one of the pines sat a hawk.  And since then – well let’s say the crows have take up residence in other trees, none of which are on our property.  Blissful silence, well at least no cawing, has returned to the yard.  Boz isn’t a big fan of the hawks, nothing belongs in his yard but him,  but they tend to be pretty quiet this time of year.  Since they usually nest somewhere on our property we will be treated to a fair amount of Keeing when the chicks hatch but that doesn’t seem to bother the Boz man because they aren’t flying.

So let me be the first to say Welcome Back my raptor friends. Thanks for rescuing our yard from the noise of the crows!

And while we are at it, here’s a picture taken from our portal of one of our Cooper’s hawks scoping out the yard from our bird bath. This was taken last year but we can expect to see a repeat soon!


A Fowl of a Different Feather 20 Mar 2015, 4:39 pm

Yesterday I wrote about the pasta I had made for the Italian cooking class I recently taught at the B&B.  The pasta was used in the entree of  Pappardelle with Chicken Ragu.  This recipe originally started out as a Pappardelle with Duck Ragu.  Duck is hard to find in this neck of the woods.  Occasionally you can find it frozen at the grocery store but that’s usually around the holidays; and they are long since past.  So I decided to do a substitution using chicken thighs and found the dish to be different but as enjoyable as the duck version.

Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients. This dish entails a fair amount of chopping and prep work.  But the results are well worth the effort and a great dish if you’re serving it as an entree at a dinner party as there is very little last-minute work to be done, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy your guests!

 

Pappardelle with Chicken Ragù             Serves 6

 

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 lbs chicken thighs, skin and excess fat removed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, ground to a powder in a spice grinder
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 8 ounces dried pappardelle noodles
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the casserole. Cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the casserole. Add the shallots, carrot, celery, prosciutto, rosemary, thyme and garlic. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the porcini powder and wine. Simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the casserole, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Return the chicken thighs to the casserole, cover and braise in the oven until the thighs are very tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate and let them cool slightly. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and shred into bite-size pieces. Return the chicken to the ragù and season with salt and pepper; keep warm. Discard the rosemary stems.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.

Add the pasta to the ragù along with 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking water and the 2 tablespoons of pecorino. Cook over moderate heat, stirring gently, until the pasta is hot and coated with sauce; add more cooking water if the sauce is too thick. Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls, serve, passing additional pecorino at the table.

MAKE AHEAD The ragù can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently before serving.

A couple of hints:

  • Quick way to clean your spice grinder – grind 2 – 3 tbl of uncooked white rice in the grinder.  Discard the rice powder and brush or wipe the grinder clean.
  • I have tried this dish slicing the garlic and mashing the garlic into a paste.  Slicing is better – just be careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter.

Last but not least, as I was working on this blog I had an idea to try this in the pressure cooker as a way to reduce the cooking time.  My menu for the coming week is already planned and food purchased but could be an option for the week after next.  I’ll share the results when I’ve completed the experiment.