My blog has been pretty heavy on the cooking lately, so I thought it was time to do a more formal book review. Still learning as I go with the blogging, so we’ll see how this goes.
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
by Julia Alvarez
This is the second book I’ve read by Julia Alvarez, the first being In the Time of the Butterflies. Both books were very good. Both are fairly quick reading (being classified as fictional young adult books) although the topic of In the Time of the Butterflies makes it a bit harder to get through (but completely worth it!)
Alvarez was raised in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic, and both books reflect that heritage. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is the story of four sisters who fled to the U.S. with their parents, after their father took part in a plot against the Dominican dictator, Trujillo. It is a book about family, culture, and adjusting to a new country and way of life. (In contrast, In the Time of the Butterfliesis set in the DR and tells the story of the Mirabel sisters, founders of an underground opposition movement – their detention by the secret police and ultimately their murder.)
I enjoyed both of Alvarez’s books and appreciate the insight she gives to this part of the Dominican Republic’s history.
My tarte tatin wasn’t as pretty as the photo in the magazine, but it was quite tasty. Almost the whole dish was gone, and I had one request for the recipe.
Since I had burnt caramel earlier that morning, I was nervous about caramelizing the pears. I probably didn’t actually get to the caramel state with the sugar and water. After baking, it was a bit watery, but I poured off the excess so that it didn’t get soggy (the dessert had to sit out several hours before I would serve it) and still ended up with a great dish!
Pear Tarte Tatin with Almond Pastry
Fine Cooking No. 23, reprinted in Big Buy
Ingredients for the Pastry:
1 c. cake flour
8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/3 cup lightly packed ground almonds
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
3 Tbs. heavy cream
Ingredients for the Caramelized Pears
3 lbs. pears (about 6 large), peeled, halved, and cored
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger tossed with 1 tsp. sugar (I used dried ginger)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. water
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
Make the Pastry:
In a food processor, combine the flour, butter, salt, and sugar. Pulse briefly until the mixture has pea-size lumps and the rest looks like cornmeal. Add the almonds and pulse for just another second. Mound the mixture on a work surface, make a well, and pour the egg yolk and cream into the center. Continue mixing the ingredients until you have a “shaggy dough” (mine was quite thick and sticky, and reminded me of the dough used in scones). Knead the dough just until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Caramelize pears: Cut the pears lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Toss them with the ginger-sugar mixture (1 Tbs. ginger and 1 tsp. sugar). Heat a 9-inch cast-iron pan with an ovenproof handle over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and water swirl the pan to combine. Watch the sugar syrup carefully as it bubbles. When it turns light brown, add the butter and cook, stirring gently with a wooden spoon, until the caramel is an even, deep brown. (Mine never browned, as I said above, but it did get to a candy-like state when it cooled. I ended up reheating it and using it anyway, even though I knew it wasn’t caramel.) Remove the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool slightly. Carefully arrange the pear slices in the caramel in a single concentric layer. Top with additional pear slices, continuing the circular pattern until the pears reach the top of the pan. (Pear slices will shrink as they cook.) Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook until the pears on the bottom layer are fork-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly while you roll out the dough.
Make Tarte Tatin:Heat oven to 450. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a 10 1/2-inch round. Either pick the dough up with your hands or roll the dough onto the rolling pin to move it to pan. Drape sough over the pan of pears to cover. Fold the extra dough onto itself to form rough border. Press the crust down onto the pears to compress them slightly.
Lower oven temperature to 400F. Bake the tarte until the pastry is crisp and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert the tarte onto a serving plate with a rim to catch the caramel. Pour any caramel that stays in the pan over the tarte. (Again, my “caramel” was much more watery that caramel, so I poured off excess caramel so that the pastry crust didn’t get too soggy before serving.)
Crown Roast of Pork with Fennel-Apple Stuffing and Cider-Bourbon Sauce
Source: Fine Cooking No. 89
Everything from Fine Cooking is so good that we usually stick pretty close to the recipe, as we did here. We did prepare almost this entire dish several hours ahead of time — the stuffing was finished and ready to go into the oven about 3 hours prior to actually baking. The sauce was reduced, about 5 hours prior to serving, so that all there was to do was reheat and add the vinegar & sour cream just prior to dinner.
The meal got off a little late, so be sure to check the size of your roast against cooking time. Our butcher said we need about 20 minutes per pound, which was right on the money. Our 11lb roast took 3 hours and 30 minutes to cook.
Ingredients for the sauce:
1 quart apple cider
2 c. bourbon
2 c. low-salt chicken broth
1/3 c. sour cream
1 Tbs. cider vinegar; more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for the stuffing:
1 lb. crusty artisan-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (8 to 9 cups)
8 oz. bacon (8 to 10 slices), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
5 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 medium-small yellow onions, diced (about 2 c.)
1 medium fennel bulb, diced (about 3 c.)
1 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper; more to taste
4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 c.)
2 Tbs. bourbon
2 Tbs. apple cider
2 Tbs. chopped fresh marjoram
1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
2 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly chopped or pulsed in a spice grinder
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 to 2-1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
Ingredients for the roast:
16-rib crown roast of pork (8-1/2 to 9-1/2 lb.), chine bone removed and bones frenched (ours, for 10 people, was 11 lb.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
The day before: Dice bread and allow to sit out overnight on a baking sheet, to dry out.
Make the sauce: Combine cider, bourbon, and chicken broth in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and maintain a simmer until sauce is about 1 1/4 cups, about an hour.
Make the “stuffing base”: Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat. When brown and crispy, transfer bacon to a large mixing bowl. Pour fat from skillet and return to stove. Add 3 Tbs. butter and melt. Add onion, fennel, salt, and pepper. Cook until onions and fennel have softened, 10-12 minutes. Add to bowl with bacon. Return skillet to stove.
Melt remaining 2 Tbs butter in skillet. When melted, add apples, stirring until slightly browned but still firm, about 5 minutes. Mix bourbon, apple cider, and 3 Tbs. of water and add to pan, scraping sides and bottom of skillet to loosen any bits stuck to pan. Cook until the liquid has reduced and coats apples, about 1 minute. Add apples to mixing bowl with bacon, onions, and fennel. Add spices and stir to combine.
Cook the roast: Let the roast sit out at room temperature for 1 hour prior to cooking. We let it sit out in the roasting pan that we were going to use — a roasting pan (or heavy duty rimmed baking sheet), with a rack at the bottom. Be sure to oil the rack before putting the roast in the pan (it was interesting trying to lift the 11 lb. roast in order to oil after the fact!). Just prior to popping in the oven, season the roast generously with salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 500°F. Cover bones tightly with aluminum foil and cook for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a very large mixing bowl (or stock pot, combine stuffing mix (onions, fennel, apple, and bacon) with dried bread. Pour 2 cups of chicken broth over mixture and stir to combine. “If the bread immediately sucks up the liquid, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth. The bread should be moist but not soggy.” Season with salt and pepper.
Remove roast from oven after first 30 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325°F. Remove foil from bones and fill center with stuffing, to just below the top of the bones. (The stuffing never completely fits, so have a spare baking dish ready. Cover stuffing in aluminum foil and set aside.) Cover the bones and stuffing and return roast to oven.
Set oven timer for 1 hour. When the timer goes off, put stuffing in the oven with the roast. Reset the oven timer for 30 minutes. When that goes off, remove foil from roast and from stuffing wrapper, so that stuffing can crisp up.
Again, reset the oven time, for 15 minutes. When that goes off, check for doneness – an instant-read thermometer, inserted between two bones (without hitting the bones) should read 155° F. Be sure to check in a couple places. For a 9 lb roast, the cooking time will be 2-1/2 – 3 hours. According to my butcher, the cooking time will be 20 minutes per pound.
With a wide spatula under roast to keep the stuffing in, transfer roast to a cutting board or serving platter. The recipe calls to cover the roast loosely with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes, but since we were running late, we skipped this (and the meat was perfect – still nice and juicy). Continue to bake stuffing until top is crisp. Stuffing can stay in the warm oven (turned off), until ready to serve, if necessary.
Finish the sauce: When almost ready to serve, rehear sauce in a small pan. Remove from heat and whisk in vinegar and sour cream. Season with additional salt, pepper, and vinegar, to taste.
This is a favorite appetizer of ours – we serve this both hot and at room temperature (grill and keep warm in the oven, if you prefer). I haven’t tried it, but I bet this would be fantastic in a taco, topped with a light, fresh salsa.
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (less to cut the heat)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. light brown sugar or honey (I’ve made it with both)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 lime, juiced
2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
If using bamboo skewers during grilling, soak skewers for 30 minutes, prior to threading the shrimp. You may also skip the skewers and place the shrimp directly on the grill.
In a large ziplock bag, combine all ingredients except for the shrimp. Once thoroughly mixed together, add shrimp and toss to coat. Preheat grill, if serving immediately. Otherwise, refrigerate marinating shrimp until ready to grill.
Grill shrimp / shrimp skewers until pink and lightly charred on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.