Monday, March 29, 2021

Coconut Cream Puffs


 Very often, I’ll invite friends to come over to my house to cook with me. Of course, the first question I ask is “what is your favorite food?” Sometimes, we’ll do an entree, as in the case of my nephew Tommy, specifically Chicken Parm. Other times, as with my friend Maryann, we’ll learn how to make homemade jam. (that was a virtual lesson!)
 This time, I asked my friend, Chewie, what his favorite food is, and he said he loves coconut cream pie, and also cream puffs. So, naturally, I figured, why not combine them and make coconut cream puffs! Perfect, right?
 And then that thing happened again. That thing where I go looking on my website for a specific recipe, because “I’m SURE I had to have posted it during the last 13 years of blogging”… but no… it’s nowhere to be found. How does this keep happening? Has it really been that long since I’ve made cream puffs? Oh, well, it’s fine. No time like the present.
 So here they are. This recipe is from Tasty, and it’s a basic recipe for Choux Pastry (pronounced SHOO pastry), which can be used with any cream filling for cream puffs or eclairs. It may seem a little daunting, but it’s a pretty simple recipe to follow. And the payoff is HUGE. They turn out light and fluffy and perfect! Definitely worthy of your next holiday or special occasion! Thanx again for the suggestion, Chewie!

For the Cream Filling:
5 egg yolks
2 cups half & half
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Puffs:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 pinch salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs, plus 1 more for egg wash

Preheat oven to 425˚F (220˚C).
To make the cream filling whisk together egg yolks, half and half, and coconut milk in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat.
Once combined, add in sugar and corn starch, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a light boil.
Remove from heat and mix in the shredded coconut and vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least two hours.

To make the puffs, combine the butter, water, coconut milk, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow all the butter to melt and bring the mixture to a boil.
As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and add in the flour.
Using a wooden spoon, mix thoroughly to incorporate the flour. Continue stirring until the dough starts to pull away from the sides and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pan (about three minutes).
Remove the mixture from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Let the dough cool slightly.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, being sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next.
Once the dough comes together, transfer it to a piping bag.
Pipe onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet into 1½-inch (3 cm) mounds.
Smooth out any peaks/ridges caused by piping with a wet fingertip (this will ensure your puffs cook evenly and maintain a nice ball shape).
Then brush the dough with egg wash and place in preheated oven.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425˚F (220°C). Then, without opening the oven, reduce heat to 350˚ (180˚C) and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove puffs from oven. Using the tip of a knife, cut a small “x” into the bottom of each puff and transfer (“x” side up) to a cooling rack.
Just before serving (or up to two hours in advance), pipe the cream filling into the cooled puffs. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

You know I’m always one to tweak a recipe whenever I’m so inclined, but this recipe is pretty flawless. There isn’t much I would change! I will say, though, that I would add a little coconut extract to the cream filling, just to bump up the coconut flavor. And also the recipe doesn’t specify this, but it’s definitely easiest to use a mixer to add the eggs (still one at a time) to the dough, rather than stirring them in by hand. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
Oh, and one more thing… when I took the picture, it didn’t occur to me that maybe you’d like to see the yummy filling inside, and I didn’t slice one in half. You’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re filled with yummy coconut pastry cream !



Better than Plain Roasted Potatoes

   Roasted Potatoes. What's not to love, right? They're the perfect side dish and they go with anything and everything. So lets talk about 'em for a quick sec, want to?
  At the very base, roasted potatoes are just that.... potatoes that are often peeled and diced, seasoned, tossed with a little oil, and roasted in the oven. Fabulous. Can't go wrong. But there are a couple things I like to do to make them a little easier, and definitely better than plain.
 For one thing, I like to use baby potatoes. Red, gold, any color you like. The point is that they're small, they require minimum prep, and the skins are tender so they don't need to be peeled. All you need to do is cut them in half and they're good to go.
Now lets talk about seasoning. You can't go wrong with just your basic salt and pepper. But the thing about this one is that you need more salt and pepper than you think you do. My friends always rave about my potatoes, why? Because I aggressively season them! It really does make the world of difference. You can use other seasonings too.. Old Bay is a personal fave.. or you could even do curry or cumin, depending on which direction you'd like to go. Love it. You could even use herbs to flavor your potatoes. Just be sure to use herbs that can hold up to the roasting. Thyme and rosemary would be fabulous. I'm a HUGE fan of rosemary roasted potatoes with a nice roast beast. Yum.
Next... the other thing that I feel is a MUST with roasting potatoes is the addition of onions. Potatoes and onions are a match made in culinary heaven. Even when I'm out at a diner and ordering a fabulous breakfast, I always ask them to add onions to my home fries. The same applies here. Yes, you could just peel and chop up an onion and toss it with the potatoes or do the favorite Onion Soup Mix potatoes. YUM. But this time, I made it easy and just chopped up some scallions. No onion-peeling necessary, and you still get delicious onion flavor and the bonus of a nice pop of green. Easy!
 The only thing left to talk about is fat. You need some kind of fat to coat them for roasting. Usually, I just go with your basic vegetable oil. It's simple and does the job. Sometimes, if I happen to have some saved bacon fat, I'll use that (which is FABULOUS btw). You could also use olive oil, but that's a little more expensive. The one thing you don't want to use is butter. Why not? Usually you think of butter on potatoes.. perfect, right? Wrong! If you toss your potatoes in melted butter and then roast them, you run the risk of burning the milk solids that are in the butter. I suppose you could use clarified butter to eliminate that risk, but that adds more work. I'll just stick with vegetable oil, thank you very much. If you want buttery flavor, you can always toss the already-roasted potatoes with a little butter just before serving.
 So there we have it. Everything you need to know about roasted potatoes. Make a ton for dinner, and then serve the leftovers at breakfast the next day. SO good. You really can't go wrong!

 Even though I never really think about this as a recipe... this is how I do it..

2-3 lbs baby potatoes, rinsed, dried, halved or quartered
3 or 4 large scallions, sliced
kosher salt and black pepper, or other seasonings, if desired
vegetable oil or rendered bacon fat to coat

Heat oven to 400ºF.
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss until well coated.
Pour all onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread into one even layer.
Roast in oven for 45 minutes until fork tender. Garnish with fresh chopped scallions.

One of the great things about this is that you can cook these potatoes while you have something else in the oven, even though it may be at a different temperature. If you're roasting a chicken or a roast beast, you could place the potatoes in the same pan, and then baste them with the juices, or just roast them as directed on a lower rack in the oven. The lower temperature will just mean that the potatoes might take a little longer.
When you arrange them on your baking sheet, be sure to spread them out into one even layer. It really helps everything too cook evenly and aids in roasting instead of steaming. Also, arrange them so they're cut side down for best results. Also, I like to turn them about half way through the cooking. I just use a flat edged spatula to flip them over, like you're turning over a pancake. Helps to brown everything evenly, and also makes sure the potatoes aren't stuck to the pan!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Joey's Cabbage and Sausage Casserole


 Usually, when St Patrick’s Day approaches, I like to make some sort of dish with cabbage, just like my Mom used to do. Of course, we always had boiled ham and cabbage along with boiled potatoes (that my Dad always called “boilies”) but I like to mix it up from year to year. Yes, I’ve done the classic corned beef, (can’t go wrong there), but I think, for the most part, I like to stick with the pork dishes. One year I did roasted cabbage with bacon. I’ve also done cabbage and pork chops. This year, I thought I’d do a casserole with sausage. I mean, why not? right? It’s already a perfect pairing! Add some onions and a little tangy sour cream. Top it all off with a couple different kinds of cheese. What’s not to love???? It was super simple to throw together and it packs a PUNCH of flavor. Serve it with a pile of mashed potatoes and you’re all set!
So give this one a try. If you like cabbage, I KNOW you'll love it.

1 lb bratwurst links, casings removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 small cabbage, chopped
1 cup each, shredded Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a large oven proof skillet, brown the sausage, breaking it up as you go. Add the onions and cabbage. Stir and saute until the cabbage and onions begin to soften. Stir in the sour cream and half of each kind of cheese along with the salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake until bubbly and the top is slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Top with remaining cheeses. Place in oven again for another 15 minutes until the cheese is slightly browned and ooey gooey. Remove from oven. Top with chopped fresh parsley.

You can use other kinds of sausage, but you’ll definitely end up with a different product. I like to use Johnsonville brats, but if you can find Irish Bangers, even better!
When it was time to stir in the sour cream and cheeses, I found it easier to dump everything into a giant mixing bowl, stir it all together, and then pour it back into the big skillet. I know it’s another dish to wash, but it just made it easier!
Instead of serving it with mashed potatoes. if you want to feed a crowd, you could stretch the dish even further by adding a few diced boilies right into the casserole!