Maureen Fraîche

Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Kitchen

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Twisted Herb and Cheese Breadsticks

Twisted Herb and Cheese Breadsticks

If you ever happen to visit Seattle, I really hope you’ll make a point of popping into Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.  It’s right across from Pike Place Market and you’d be going there anyway, right?  Right.  Anyway, not only can you watch batches of cheese being made right before your eyes, but their menu boasts some seriously delicious offerings.  One of my personal favorites is their Tomato-Cheddar Soup paired with a big Breadzel, an über good breadstick all twisted up like a pretzel with cheese and herbs hiding within.  Lucky for me (and you) both of these recipes can be found in Kurt Beecher Dammeier’s excellent cookbook, Pure Flavor.

Here, I’ve made an adaptation using my own pizza dough recipe.  Depending on how many breadsticks you need, you can either use a half-batch of pizza dough or the whole kit and kaboodle.  I’ve also given instructions (and nutrition information) for two different sizes–giant and regular.  Though, if you’ve got a crowd coming over or you’d like smaller appeteaser-sized sticks, make ’em whatever size suits your fancy.  Just watch them as they bake and pull them out when they’re light golden brown in places.

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Pan-Seared Venison Backstrap in Merlot-Dijon-Cream Sauce

Venison with Merlot-Dijon-Cream Sauce

God bless the hunters in my family.  Last time my folks came out to visit, my step-dad lovingly brought me several cuts of both elk and deer meat.  Needless to say, I was way excited, especially when I saw one of the packages was labeled backstrap.  For those of you unfamiliar with venison, the backstrap is a long muscle that runs down the length of the deer’s spine, also known as the tenderloin.  So basically, backstrap is the filet mignon of venison.  Because it is a muscle that is rarely used, it is exceptionally tender and also happens to be very lean.  On top of all this, venison–like other wild game–is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, not to mention iron, zinc, B vitamins, and a host of other nutrients.

This particular prep is incredibly delicious.  It’s an adaptation from Wolgang Puck’s Pan-Seared Beef Filets in Port-Dijon-Cream Sauce, which can be found in Wolfgang Puck Makes it EasyI received an autographed copy from my in-laws and have loved everything I’ve tried thus far.  With each recipe, Wolfgang tries to bring the big, complex flavors of restaurant cuisine to the home cook with his own tricks of the trade.

When I first made this recipe, I used top sirloin and because I don’t keep port on hand, I reached for the merlot.  I couldn’t be happier with the results.  Pan sauces really work wonders for seared meats.  The basic method is to first sear your meat on both sides in a super hot pan that’s been drizzled with a bit of oil.  If you have a pan that isn’t nonstick, USE IT.  You’ll get a much better sear this way.  Once nicely browned on each side, the meat is removed to a plate and the pan deglazed.  This is done by pouring in a liquid–in this case, wine–and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.  These little bits, also called fond, are full of flavor.  Plus, by doing this simple step, you’ll actually be making your clean-up much easier.  No crusty pan to scour later!  Once deglazed, other ingredients are added, such as cream, herbs, butter, or other seasonings to create a delicious sauce for serving.  Trust me, though it may seem like a little extra work, you’ll not only save on the clean-up but you’ll also impress anyone at the table that night.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been using this same recipe for over a decade and I’ve yet to find one I like better.  Now, I know there’s a bit of a dispute regarding what makes for a perfect chocolate chip cookie.  I’m told there are some confused individuals who think thin and crisp is best.  There are also a plethora of fancy chocolate chip cookies out there flaunting a variety of imported chocolates, exotic ingredients, or even a sprinkling of delicate Fleur de Sel.  While these are all well and good, it’s hard to beat a classic chocolate chip cookie.  No frills.  Unpretentious.  Just a delicious cookie representing all that this childhood favorite should be.  But to each his own, I suppose.

So let me tell you what I look for in a chocolate chip cookie.  In my book, it should be just slightly crisp about the edges only to give way to gooey goodness in the middle.  It is thick, not spread about like a pancake.  Semi-sweet chips are a must and please, hold the nuts.  Furthermore, I want a cookie that can hang in the cookie jar for a few (or several) days and not morph into a hockey puck.  Not that they ever last that long.

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