May – Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

May – Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

Do you peel your asparagus? Except with the very youngest thin asparagus, you are wasting at least an inch of the flavorful vegetable if you are not. Most folks prepare asparagus by snapping the ends, which can remove as much as a third of the stalk. When it is peeled, by contrast, only about an inch is lost.

I use a vegetable peeler, supporting the stalk with a forefinger so it doesn’t snap prematurely. Peel the bottom third of the stalk, cutting a little deeper at the very end.

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Unpeeled Asparagus Stalks

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Peeled Stalks Ready to “Snap”

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Only About an Inch of Stalk is Lost

Then snap off the very end before cooking.

Save the ends, they make a wonderful asparagus broth for creme of asparagus soup. You can even pop a bag of them into the freezer for the future.

To oven roast asparagus, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Lay the stalks in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet, spritz with a little olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast 12 minutes for medium sized stalks, it will be shorter for thinner stalks and slightly longer for larger ones.

Let them cool slightly and serve. It is absolutely ok to eat asparagus with your fingers, dipping the stalks into a savory sauce or melted butter. Asparagus is also good served at room temperature, making it perfect for a dinner party or large buffet. I have made it several hours ahead and added a sauce just before serving.

My current favorite is a mixture of pickled asparagus, mayonnaise and sour cream (or creme fraiche). There isn’t really a recipe. I mince pickled asparagus into fine dice using either my food processor or a knife. Combine it with an equal mix of the mayonnaise and sour cream. Taste, add salt or extra pickling liquid if needed. Adjust it to your own liking. You can make the sauce a day ahead, just store it in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Oven Roasted Asparagus with Asparagus Pickle Sauce

Serve extra sauce on the side. I usually leave a few spears “undressed” just in case there are folks who prefer it plain.

Follow the links to see my recipe for pickled asparagus.

I think I will take this to the party at Fiesta Friday #226, it will be lovely as part of the buffet. You can find the link to Angie’s Fiesta Friday blog here. Follow the listed links at the bottom to any of the blogs that interest you. Angie’s cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

If you are a blogger yourself, please add your link to the list.

TGIF everyone!

May – Sous vide asparagus

May – Sous vide asparagus

Yes, you can use your sous vide machine for vegetables. It isn’t the answer for all vegetables though, you do need to be selective. So far I have cooked carrots and asparagus with wonderful success. We usually grill or roast asparagus, and it is delicious that way. Asparagus cooked by sous vide is similar to steamed but with a wonderful crunch and intense asparagus flavor. All the vitamins are intact and that green grassy taste jumps into your mouth with every bite. And sous vide timing is very forgiving, you don’t have to worry if you are distracted for a few minutes. Roasted or steamed asparagus will overcook in 30 seconds; turning drab, mushy and unappealing. Limp asparagus is not attractive. Sous vide asparagus stays bright green and crisp, the stem just as tender at the tips.

Sous Vide Asparagus

Method:

  • Preheat the water with your sous vide machine to 185 degrees F (85 degrees C)
  • Encase the asparagus in a vacuum bag or large zip lock bag (you may want to put a teaspoon in the bottom of the bag first). Try to get the asparagus in one layer. If you need to use two bags, separate the asparagus by size.
  • Season as desired. For example lemon salt, butter, coconut oil, mint, slices of lemon, etc.

    Cyprus Citron Lemon Flake Sea Salt

  • If using vacuum, seal on the moist setting.

    Asparagus in Vacuum Bag

    • Once your water bath has heated to the appropriate temperature, add the asparagus to the hot water and set your timer for 10 minutes. Thicker spears may need to cook for longer, maybe 12 minutes. That is the reason for two bags if the spears in your bunch are different sizes. Squeeze the bottom of a spear to see if they are done to your liking.
    • Cut open the bag and slide the asparagus onto a plate. Or, cool in an ice bag for using cold or reheating later.

You may note that this bag does not have a teaspoon, big error. As the contents of the bag heat, the air expands, causing it to float. I had to put a weight on top to keep the asparagus under water. Next time I will add that teaspoon. Don’t make my mistake.

Sous Vide Asparagus

The photo is fuzzy because of the steam rising. We couldn’t wait for it to cool before eating. Yum!

February – Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts

February – Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts

Roasting is my preferred way of cooking Brussels sprouts, also cauliflower and many other vegetables. I have found that roasting at a high temperature produces a char that brings out their sweetness. You will find a basic recipe for oven roasting sprouts here.

Lately though, Brussels sprouts have been showing up as a first course on many restaurant menus. The preparations have been varied and include roasting, but also frying and even deep fat frying. The fried sprouts have been absolutely delicious! They arrive glistening with oil, the edges wonderfully crisp and charred to sweetness.

I had relegated fried sprouts as a dish to eat in restaurants, a special treat. However, after frying some bacon for another dish, I ended up with about 6 tablespoons of aromatic bacon fat. The crisper drawer had some sprouts, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. This is clearly not a vegetarian dish, but I think it would be just as wonderful made with coconut oil and a few slices of fresh ginger. I don’t consider this recipe deep fat fried, but the sprouts are cooked in a generous quantity of oil or fat.

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

There really isn’t a recipe, here are just a few tips and instructions.

Trim the bottoms of the sprouts and remove any discolored or limp leaves. Cut the sprouts in half if small, quarter them if larger. Save any loose leaves that fall off.

Heat the oil on medium high until quite hot, add the sprouts and any extra leaves. Cook until brown with charred spots. Keep the heat fairly high as you want them to brown quickly on the outside but still retain some crunch in the middle. This method was much faster than my usual roasting but it did require more attention. I grated some fresh lime zest over the top to cut the richness, and added a pinch of flaked sea salt to finish. They were amazing! Probably not something I would do every day because of the larger amount of fat, but I highly recommend this way of preparing them. The edges were crispy and had a satisfying char. They were very sweet and wonderfully flavored by the bacon fat. Restaurant quality!

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts, lime zest

Crispy fired Brussels sprouts, lime zest

I am taking this to share at Fiesta Friday #159, a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie. This weeks co-hosts are Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

Click on the link to see all the yummy food the group has to share.

November – Perfect Roast Potatoes for Thanksgiving

November – Perfect Roast Potatoes for Thanksgiving

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Is it the pies? Or stuffing? Or mashed potatoes? What about sweet potato casserole? Growing up my favorites were the stuffing (sausage and sage), and these roast potatoes. My English mother was famous for her roast potatoes, crisp and brown on the outside and floury on the inside. I know that mashed potatoes are the classic side to turkey here in the US, but I strongly suggest you try these. They are also a fantastic side for roast chicken or vegetables, or a replacement for french fries. My family prefers these to french fries and claim they are as good with ketchup as gravy.

I am going to share a few of secrets to success. First pre-boil the potatoes, second rough them up a bit before roasting, and third use a pre-heated roasting pan. Those three tips will ensure that crisp outside and fluffy inside.

You only need three ingredients:

  • Russet potatoes or baking potatoes – 1 for each person
  • Some kind of oil or fat, olive oil is good, duck fat is fantastic (sad to say, my mother used Crisco)
  • Good salt, sea or kosher

Method:

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut each into 6 wedges. I cut them in half lengthwise, then each half crosswise into 3 sections. You want fairly large pieces.
  2. Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with cool water by about an inch, add a teaspoon of salt to the water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Immediately drain into a mesh screen colander in the sink.
  5. Cool slightly, then shake the colander to “rough” up the potatoes. You want the surface of the potatoes scratched. See the pictures below. This helps them crisp.
  6. Potatoes, boiled and roughed

    Potatoes, boiled and roughed

    Potatoes, ready for roasting

    Potatoes, ready for roasting

     

  7. When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  8. Oil a large baking or roasting pan and place it in the oven to preheat. You want the entire bottom of the pan to be coated with cooking oil. The pan should be large enough so that the potatoes are not crowded. I usually use olive oil, but this time I had found a treat.

    Duck Fat

    Duck Fat

  9. Once the pan is nice and hot, carefully remove it from the oven. Add the potatoes, turning them to coast with the oil or fat. Spread them out in the pan. Sprinkle with salt.
  10. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the potatoes after 30 minutes.
    Roasted potatoes in the pan

    Roasted potatoes in the pan

    Crispy oven roast potatoes

    Crispy oven roast potatoes

    We usually don’t have any leftover, but they are good for breakfast the next day with eggs. Reheat them in your oven on low heat (not the microwave).

June – Bacon Wrapped Carrots

June – Bacon Wrapped Carrots

Roasted oversized vegetables seem to be all the rage these days. I’ve seen roasted carrots and cauliflower and others at the center of a restaurant meal. When I saw this recipe on a Pinterest browse, I had to try it. Do you do that? Pinterest browsing is my favorite “3 am and cannot sleep activity”. Unfortunately the recipe I tried didn’t turn out too well, I have a few tips I will share that might save you the same failure.

  1. Different colored carrots cook at different rates. The orange ones cook the fastest but the darker or lighter ones seem to be woodier (is that a word), and take longer.
  2. Use thinly sliced bacon otherwise it won’t crisp.
  3. Start with a lower oven temperature until the carrots are cooked (they are quite large), then brush with maple syrup and turn up the heat up to crisp everything.

And there you have it. They were delicious warm as a side dish with cold meat, cheese and a salad.

Bacon Wrapped Carrots

Bacon Wrapped Carrots

Ingredients

  • Thinly sliced bacon, depending on the size of the carrots you may need to slices for each carrot
  • Large carrots
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup

Method

  1. Wash and peel the carrots, trim the ends
  2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Wrap the bacon around each carrot slice and place on a baking tray, bacon ends down where possible.
  4. Roast for 45 minutes or until the carrots (mine were quite large) are almost done. You may need to remove some if they are different colors, the bright red and white ones took an extra 5 minutes.
  5. Brush the carrots and bacon with the maple syrup and turn the heat up to 425 degrees F.
  6. Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the carrots are beginning to caramelize.
    Roast Large Carrots

    Roast Large Carrots

    That is all there is to it.

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #124, we should all eat more veggies…don’t you think? I have the honor of co-hosting this week with Lindy @ Love in the Kitchen. Click on the Fiesta Friday link to view all the rest of the party food.