October 15, 2009

Thanksgiving 101: Cranberries, Cranberries, Cranberries

Cranberry Salsa

Cranberry-Pear Salsa
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen, roughly chopped
2 pears, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 serrano chile, seeded and diced
zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon blue agave syrup or honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
salt to taste

Mix ingredients together and adjust the seasoning. If you want more heat, use the seeds or add another chile. Best served at room temperature.

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry-Apple Chutney
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 Fuji apple, seeded and chopped
1 Macintosh apple, seeded and chopped
zest and juice of 1 navel orange
1 cup mulling spice simple syrup
¼ cup mulling spices (tied in cheesecloth)
¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
salt to taste

If you don't have mulling spice simple syrup, you can make it by mixing 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water and ¼ cup mulling spices. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Alternatively, make the chutney using 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in place of the simple syrup.

Put all the ingredients into a pan over medium-low heat. Simmer until the cranberries release their juice, about 10 minutes. Continue simmering, stirring frequently, until thickened, then remove the spices in cheesecloth. Adjust the seasoning. This can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Cranberry Relish

Cranberry-Orange Relish
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 medium navel orange, cut into 8 wedges, peel and all
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
salt to taste

Using a food processor, pulse the ingredients until roughly chopped. Adjust the seasoning. Serve chilled.

October 3, 2009

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse2

Back when I was a pastry chef I made this almost every day, frequently doing a double or even triple batch. It isn't piped into individual serving bowls; it's molded in a loaf pan. That makes for easier service and doesn't require any special dishes. Typically, I served it on a bed of Crème Anglaise with a few berries if they were in season. This recipe will make a loaf that will serve 12-16 guests.

Chocolate Mousse
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate (63% cacao)
8 oz. unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 shot espresso (optional)
pinch of salt (optional)
4 egg yolks
8 egg whites
pinch cream of tartar (optional)
1 cup heavy cream

Gently melt the chocolate and butter, then stir in the optional cinnamon, espresso, and salt. Separate four eggs, stirring the yolks into the melted chocolate and reserving the whites. Then separate four more eggs, reserving the yolks for crème anglaise or another recipe. Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then whip the egg whites, optionally adding a pinch of cream of tartar, to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Give the whites a finally touch-up with a whisk, then fold into the mousse.

Line a 1-pound loaf pan generously with plastic wrap, then pour the mousse into the pan, tap it on the counter to remove air bubbles, fold the plastic over the mousse to cover, then refrigerate. It will usually set within an hour, but tastes best if you leave it overnight.

If you've done a good job of whipping the whites and cream, and folded them gently, you'll end up with an extra portion that just won't fit in the pan. Share it with someone you really, really love, or just don't tell anyone about it and keep it all to yourself.

When you're ready to serve, wrap a piece of cardboard or a small cutting board in plastic. Open the plastic on the loaf pan to expose what will become the bottom of the mousse. Set the top side of the board you're unmolding onto against the exposed mousse, invert, remove the pan, and carefully peel off the plastic wrap to expose a very dense, very chocolately loaf of absolutely heavenly goodness.

To serve, slice with a palette knife dipped into hot water. A flat spatula or second palette knife, also dipped in hot water, will be useful to transfer the slice to the serving plate.

October 2, 2009

Crème Anglaise

Creme Anglaise

If you only learn one dessert sauce, make it crème anglaise. You can alter the flavoring very easily and it goes well with virtually any dessert. It also makes what may be the very best vanilla ice cream ever! You'll need three bowls to make this; stainless steel bowls are probably best.

Crème Anglaise
½ cup milk (4 ounces)
½ cup heavy cream (4 ounces)
½ vanilla bean
4 egg yolks (2 ounces)
¼ cup sugar (2 ounces)

Mix the milk and cream in a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the pan, then add the pod. Bring just to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let steep for 15 minutes or so to infuse the dairy with vanilla flavor.

Partially fill the largest bowl with equal parts ice and water, and set the larger of the remaining bowls on the ice. Set a strainer in place over that bowl.

After the vanilla has infused the dairy to your satisfaction, remove the vanilla pod, then return the pan to gentle heat and stir frequently. In the third bowl, quickly whisk the yolks and sugar together. Once the dairy reaches a simmer, remove it from the heat and whisk about a tablespoon of it into the yolk and sugar mixture. Continue adding the dairy to the yolk and sugar mixture slowly to avoid curdling.

Once the dairy, yolks, and sugar are fully incorporated, return the custard to the pan and return the pan to the heat. Stir constantly for 1-4 minutes until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Pour through the strainer into the bowl over the ice. Stir until cool, cover, and refrigerate. If it sits overnight the vanilla flavor will be more pronounced. Serve cold, room temperature, or even warm, as your dessert requires.

For a little variety, add a pinch of cinnamon or a shot of your favorite liquor or liqueur to the dairy instead of or in addition to the vanilla. If you want to make a larger quantity, use weights rather than volume measures or it might get a bit eggy. Crème Anglaise will keep in the refrigerator for several days.