Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dinner Party with Friends

I had been wanting to have our friends Duke and Jan over for months to celebrate Duke's birthday. We finally got our schedules straightened out and made a date. I wanted to make something warm and cozy for a rainy evening. I found this recipe in the October issue of Food & Wine. Here's the link I knew we all loved lamb and braising meant I didn't have to fuss over anything when my guests arrived. I also chose Broccoli with Bacon, Blue Cheese and Ranch Dressing from the September issue of Food & Wine. Here's the link For dessert I made a Southern Pecan Pie like my mother and grandmother made.

Braised Lamb with Potatoes my way

One ~4 pound lamb shoulder roast, well trimmed
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
2-3 thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Chives, chopped for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper.

In a large stove and oven safe pan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the lamb and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the lamb to a plate.

Add the bacon to the pan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the bacon is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the stock, thyme, garlic and bay leaf. Return the lamb to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Cover with foil. Braise in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the lamb to a plate. Nestle the potato slices into the cooking liquid. Turn the lamb over and set it on top of the potatoes. Replace the foil and bake for ~1 1/2 hours longer, until the lamb falls apart and the potatoes are very tender.

Let lamb rest for 15 minutes. Cut or pull apart lamb. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and season the braising liquid with salt and pepper.

Garnish the potatoes with the chives.

Broccoli with Bacon, Blue Cheese and Ranch Dressing my way

1 large garlic clove, peeled, cored and pressed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 3/4 cup buttermilk
~1/2 cup plain, fat free Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large heads of broccoli, cut into florets or bite size pieces
4 slices of bacon
Roquefort cheese, crumbled 
Chives, chopped for garnish

Add the garlic with a generous pinch of salt to a 2 cup glass measuring cup. Mash together the gralic and salt and whisk in the buttermilk, yogurt and cider vinegar. Whisk in the vegetable oil and season the ranch dressing generously with pepper.

In a large, deep pot, bring water to a boil. Set the broccoli in a steamer basket and steam until bright green and crisp-tender, ~5 minutes. Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until it's golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Chop into pieces.

Drizzle broccoli with the ranch dressing, top with the bacon and Roquefort and sprinkle with chives.

Southern Pecan Pie

1 cup Karo dark corn syrup
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sherry or bourbon
1-1/2 cups pecans, toasted for about 5 minutes
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and sherry using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pie crust.

Bake on center rack of oven for 60 minutes (see tips for doneness, below). Cool before serving.

See the crust recipe below. Add the chocolate to the warm crust.

Basic Pie Dough from The Fearless Baker by Emily Luchetti and Lisa Weiss (my cousin)

2 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch kosher salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ~16 cubes
~ 5 tablespoons ice cold water

Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Pressing the pulse button quickly, pulse the mixture until the butter is the size of small peas, about 5-10 pulses. Do not overmix.

Add the 5 tablespoons of the water then pulse until the dough is crumbly. Stop the food processor and gently squeeze about 1/3 cup of the dough in your hand. If it comes together without dry pieces, you've added enough water. If it still floury, pulse in more water if necessary or continue to mix until the dough forms small clumps. Do not process it to the point where it forms a ball.

Form the into 2 flat disks about 1 inch thick. Don't overwork the dough. You can 2 pies or divide so that 1 disk is about 2/3 of the dough and the other 1/3. Use the larger one for the bottom crust and the smaller one for the top of a pie. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour. You can also freeze it for about 2 months. Take the dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before trying to roll it out. If frozen let it thaw overnight in the fridge.

Roll out the dough using the rolling pin. The dough should be about 2 inches bigger than your pie dish. This is not for a deep dish pie. Place dough in your pie pan and crimp the edges.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line the bottom with parchment pepper and fill with pie weights. Trim any excess parchment paper. You can also line with foil and prick holes in the dough through the foil. Bake the dough 20-30 minutes until brown. Remove from the oven and place chocolate in the warm pie crust.

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