Bananas Foster Cheesecake

If you are wondering what to serve for Mother’s Day Brunch…
Here is a preview of tomorrow’s desert. Banana’s Foster cheesecake.
Teal Bronkalla saw a Facebook posting for the Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) Banana’s Foster cheesecake . However this was the jumping off point. Teal used our absolute favorite Colorado Cache cheesecake recipe (and of course when you are going to cover the cheesecake there are no cracks in the top) and the Banana’s Foster topping. This is absolutely delicious.


Cheesecake Crust

1 1/4 graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c melted butter
Mix and bake in a 9″ spring form pan for 12 min at 350 F

Filling

1 lb cream cheese (we use Neufchatel) to lighten it up a bit
3/4 c sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (the good stuff)
In the mixer, cream the cheese well and slowly add the sugar. Then add the eggs one at a time and keep beating.
Pour into crust and bake 45+ min at 350

Topping

4 TB butter
2/3 c brown sugar
4 bananas – not very ripe, just to the barely all yellow stage – you want them tart
Melt butter and brown sugar until bubbly. Stir in bananas and cook for 1 min. Pour into a bowl and cool for at least 10 min.
Pour over the cool cheesecake.

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Multi-grain Sourdough Boule

Background

I have been experimenting with sourdough breads. The various books and articles take you through arduous kneading, rising, forming, shaping steps and then backing with steam (tray full of iron parts and chain). However, reproducibility has been a problem, plus I don’t want to have to attend to it too much during the day long rise.. All too often I would end up with low dense loaf with nice crust. But this was not what I was looking for.

This version is a favorite and now quite repeatable. It freezes well and it makes the absolute best grilled cheese sandwiches.

Base recipe is based on King Arthur Flour (KAF)- Multigrain Sourdough Boule. See:  http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/multi-grain-sourdough-boule-recipe

Day 1 Feed the starter

Pull the starter from the fridge. Pour off any grey liquid on top (if you let it sit a bit too long).  Dump the starter into a mixing bowl that you can cover. I have started using the whole starter rather than discarding a portion up front. This gives more sourdough flavor and is not as wasteful. My starter has been neglected for up to 6 weeks in the fridge at times.

  • Add 1C flour (your choice) I generally use all purpose flour – Gold Medal unbleached or KAF
  • Add 3/4 c water.  This can be adjusted. You want a wet but not runny starter.

Cover and let it rise over night. I will often start this after work on Friday. My oven has a 100 degree F proofing setting which is very helpful. The starer should almost double at peak activity and be nice and bubbly. The next morning it should have and even bubbly texture, sort of like thick batter. It will thin out in consistency while rising.

Day 2 Make The Bread

Moisten the grains

  • 1c boiling water
  • 1c King Arthur flour Harvest Grains Blend
  • 2 TB poppy seeds – as I like lots of poppy seeds in the bread

Mix and let sit in bowl until it drops to room temperature , then add the following ingredients:

  • 2c fed starter (from above). The balance of the starter is then returned to the crock and refrigerated.
  • 1 1/4 c KAF sprouted whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c Rye flour
  • 1 3/4 Bread flour  such as KAF Artisan Bread flour.  You need a high gluten flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp KAF Whole Grain Bread Improver   This seems to help build a nicer loaf that does not fall as easily
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 -2 tsp instant dry yeast . I use SAF – keep the back sealed/ clipped in the freezer and it lasts for years
  • 2 TB olive oil

Knead the mixture for 3 minutes. I use a Kitchenaid on speed 2 with dough hook. The dough should be soft and not too sticky. You may well have to adjust either adding up to 1/2 c flour or 1/4 c water depending on the humidity and how wet the sourdough starter was. If it is repeatedly crawling up the dough hook and spinning, it is still too dry. Push down, poke a hole in the middle and add water. If it is sticking to the bowl and not rising up the hook at all, it is too wet.

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Still too wet and sticky

Once it is the right consistency, knead for an additional 2 minutes.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise until doubled. At 100 degrees this takes 1.5- 2 hours.  Don’t let it go too long (e.g 3 or 4) or the second rise will not work.

Kneed the dough rolling around on floured surface to tighten the “skin” . Lightly oil or grease the bottom and sides of a dutch oven or other large covered pan. Place the dough in the pan and let rise again for another 2 hours.

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Ready to rise the second time

Baking

Remove pan from oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.

You can slash the top if desired.  However, I often seem to cause it to fall too much if I do.

Bake the bread covered for 40 min.

Uncover  and continue baking for another 10-15 min. Remove when the center internal temperature is 190 degrees.  I normally insert the thermometer probe when uncovering the pan with the remote readout outside the oven (Thermoworks Chef Alarm).

Remove from oven and let it sit in the pan for 5 min, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

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Cool to room temp prior to cutting (if you can wait that long).  Apparently my wife Teal can’t.

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Additional items

We typically freeze 1/2 the loaf as there is just the 2 of us now. The flours and yeast all are stored in the freezer as well (milk crate for my baking supplies). The whole grains an whole grain flours go rancid too quickly otherwise.

The King Arthur Flour website is a great resource for recipes, tips and supplies.

Good books on bread making include:

  • The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
  • Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller
  • BakeWise by Shirley Corriher which is the companion to CookWise, which is another favorite.

Spatchcock Turkey

We have made several spatchcocked turkeys. Each has been delicious whether on the grill (Big green egg) or in the oven.

Oven 1

The turkey was an experiment. I took a cue from Alton Brown’s “dry brining” and butterfly turkey technique.
Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/…/butterflied-dry-br…/index.html…
However Teal vetoed the idea of roasting the bird on the bare oven racks (mess factor and the oven self cleaning cycle is broken) and she was less than enthusiastic about the root veggies.
So I prepped the bird per the recipe (but added oregano) and let it sit refrigerated for a day and a half. I then oiled a jelly roll pan, placed a mound of stuffing on (extra moist). Then put the butterflied 13 lb bird on top (well trimmed of fat and tail removed). 2 hours in the oven at 375 on convect – big end to the back, until internal temp of 155 and then rest for 30 min which brought the breast temp up to 175. Meat was super juicy and tasty (beware of lots of juice while carving). The edges of the stuffing was raided as the bird was resting by the hungry horde. Definitely a keeper recipe and a nice shorter cooking time alternative. For whole meal timing put the sides in the oven when the turkey is at 100 degrees instead of the usual 120.

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Oven 2   11/25/16

Variation with more aggressive dry brining. 18 lb turkey (Jennie -o). This year there was a lot of interest in spatchcock turkeys given the 80 minute turkey post on Serious Eats getting some publicity. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/11/butterfiled-roast-turkey-with-gravy-recipe.html

Here is my version.

Dry rub blend:

  •  3 TB fine sea salt
  • 1.5 TB oregano rubbed
  • 1TB thyme
  • 1.5 TB dry rosemary rubbed
  • 1.5 TB lemon pepper (Penzey’s) . Reapply 1 TB additional just before roasting
  • Fine zest of one lemon

Mix this up and then rub on both sides of the bird. Rest for 18+ hours in the fridge

In the roasting pan, place 4 carrots chopped, 2 medium onions chopped 9 fresh sage leaves, about 10″ of fresh rosemary sprigs. 1.5 c water. 1c croutons.

Add teh rack and place turkey on top with legs tucked in (to not splatter the oven)

Roast at 375 for 90 1 hour, 300 for 1 hour and finish at 375 for 30 min. The varying temp was due to the bird not being completely thawed and the thighs needing to catch up with the rest of the bird.

This was a winner and the family favorite so far. There are some imperfections seen in the photo. There were a few sample schnibbles taken prior to the photo.

The drippings were then used along with the carcase for soup stock. Simmer 3 hours and then put in the garage to chill over night. It is usually cold here in Wisconsin at Thanksgiving. This was the basis for the next day’s Turkey noodle soup. Probably the best soup stock we have made.

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Smoked Salmon

My daughter Elyse and her husband Paul went fishing on Lake Michigan for Paul’s birthday. Charter boat for 5 hours with a no catch / no pay policy. It was a Friday morning in mid September and they ended up trolling within the McKinley Marina breakwater as it was too rough to go out farther. They ende dup with 5 salmon, 2 at 17 lbs. The Boat crew said that this time of year the salmon are better smoked than fresh. So that is where I come in. I have smoke salmon and carp a few times with great success. When I came home from work there was 25 lbs of skin on filets left for me to prepare.

First we took about 5-6 lbs and made gravlax. 1.5 c salt, 1 c sugar, 3TB dried dill rubbed on the filets and then they were wrapped and pressed in the fridge for 36 hours. Pin bones were pulled with a serrated pliers. Shallow jelly roll pan on the bottom to contain the juice. After 12-24 hours drain the excess liquid.  Prior to vacuum packing and freezing to -10F to kill any parasites. Early samples are great tasting , although I am not fond of the slime.  Next time we will scale or skin first.

For the smoked fish we used 1.5c salt, 3c brown sugar and 4 TB dill . Coat the filets liberally and layer in a large bowl. Fattest / belly meat on the bottom. These went in the fridge  Rotate the filets after 18-24 hours. Leave the juice.  Best if the fillets are sliced lengthwise along the lateral line and then across about 3/4 the way through into 2-3 ” wide chunks.  Morning of smoking, take the filets out and rinse liberally in cold water. Then soak in several changes of water for another hour. This prevents the surface from being overly salty or sweet.

For smoking, let them air dry for 1-2 hours to form a pellicle on the surface. I also added more dill and black pepper. Then place in the smoker. I used a Big Green Egg with 3 level cooking grate. Put the thinnest on the bottom and thickest on the top rick. I had to use toothpicks to keep the fillets from sliding off. Next time I will use uncolored toothpicks, the colors of the party toothpicks migrated into the meat and looks wierd.

Smoke with cherry wood chunks at 185 for 5 hours. This is where the heatermeter really pays off, holding this low temp accurately for hours on end. FInal meat temp was 150. However it hits this at about 2 hours in and then you get the “stall” as the moisture evaporates and the meat temp really does not rise for the next few hours. So don’t get alarmed that the fish comes up to final temp “too early”.

Take the pieces off (yes it can be a struggle if you forget to oil the racks). Cool and then pull of the skin and scrape the grey meat along the lateral line off (so called mud line) to get rid of the bad flavor of that region.  These were then vacuum bagged and frozen. From a food safety these are just fine as is (aside from watching your mercury intake thanks to the coal fired power plants).

We ended up with just under 9 lbs of finished product.

Fillets loaded and ready to go. Note the order of loading needs to be reversed with thick belly filets on top and tails on the bottom . Toothpicks keep the fillets from sliding off.

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Heatermeter in its water resistant case , This is a great project in and of itself and saves a lot of worry on long or low temp smoking sessions. In the winter being able to pull up the current stats on you computer is a big plus. d3u_8744

Vacuum bagged and ready to freezed3u_8748

 

Stuffed chicken roll-ups

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We have been making stuffed chicken roll-ups of various sorts for a number of years. They have been a family favorites, but we keep experimenting, trying new variations on the theme. We started out with chicken breasts and they were stuffed with cheese and sometimes ham or pepperoni. Breading was a triple dip: flour, egg/milk, bread crumbs with herbs and crushed pine nuts.  However, while these were good, the breasts often were drier than we would like and I wanted to reduce the amount of oil needed for a crispy crust. So there has been an evolution. Switching from breasts to boneless thighs, moving where herbs and other flavorings would reside (stuffing, base coat/ dredge, wash, crumbs). Each iteration was a bit different.

Tonight I pushed it a bit farther and we are really happy with the results. So here is the recipe to the best of my recollection (some day I will write as I cook).

Meat

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (costco). Remove the fat deposits, and butterfly as flat as you can trying for 6×8″ or so. Pound out under plastic wrap to about 3/8″ thick. The chicken will be fragile and have holes – don’t worry.

Filling

10-12 oz chopped frozen spinach. Thaw and wring out as hard as you can.

1/4c lemon juice

3/4 c shredded cheese . We used our staple mexican cheese blend. You could use feta for a sharper flavor, farmers or Monterey jack for a smoother flavor

1/4 c pine nuts

1/8 tsp salt (the cheese already adds salt)

Mix well and break up the spinach lumps

Coating batter / wet dip

1/3 c corn starch

2/3 c milk

2 tsp granulated garlic

2/3 tsp italian seasoning

1/3 tsp sweet paprika

a few good grinds of black pepper

Whisk these together and let sit (and whisk again). It should be a very thin batter, like a crepe batter. Note the mix will thicken after sitting a few minutes.

Outer coating

2/3 c grated parmesan (green can cheese)

2/3 c corn meal

1/4 c panko bread crumbs (can omit  )

Building the roll ups

Take the very irregular and pounded out chicken thighs and lay out. Place 1/4 of the spinach mixture in a line along the best looking long dimension. Roll up – yes they will have holes and not be pretty at this point. Tie with string in 3-5 places,  to make a rough log.

Dip and roll  in the batter. Then dip and roll in the coating. Set aside to rest for 5-15 minutes (longer is better for adhesion of the coating) .

Cooking

Saute, in a preheated mix of olive oil and bacon grease (about 2 TBSP each) . Place in the pre heated pan and let brown (about 3-4 min) , flip over 180 degrees, and brown again, rotate 90 browning again, and finally flip over.

Now drain off the excess grease and  then throw the pan in the oven at 325 on convect for about 20-30 min. Cook to internal temp of 175-180. Yes it sounds high, but these are thighs – you would do breasts to 160-165.

Pull from oven  and let sit 5-10 min and serve.

 

Compared to the regular panko crumb crust, there is about 1/ 2 the absorption of the fat.

 

Salsa Day

It is now late summer and we are blessed with an overabundance of tomatoes and peppers. It is always hard to predict how well they will do so we plant 12+ of each. This summer things have gone well with plenty to eat and give away. However, much of the summer has been hot and dry and recently we have had a lot of rain. This causes the tomatoes to split and rot if not picked aggressively. This means we have gallons of tomatoes, Yellow pears, orange and red cherries up through some really nice beef steaks (Romas were a bust).  For peppers we have loads of  sweet bananas, cubanelas (sweet), jalapenos and a decent number of poblanos.

Last weekend we made tomato sauce and this weekend is salsa. Low 70s temp and rainy so it was a perfect day to be in the kitchen.

Our oldest daughter Jessie brought up the idea canning of Pineapple – tomato salsa . This sounded interesting but there are few recipes available. However we found one on Taste of Home: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/spicy-pineapple-salsa and modified it slightly.

NOTE: canning of salsa is one of the more risky endeavors and you need to follow well documented and tested recipes. This is not a time to risk a “pinterest fail” and be poisoned with botulism.  Don’t just take my word for it, read up on several of the University extension web sites prior to doing this for proper safety procedures such as:

  • http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/b3570.pdf
  • http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/tomatoes-salsa/canning-tomato-based-salsa-safely/
  • http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/sensational_salsa.pdf

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I really have to give credit to my wife Teal. She cleaned and chopped gallons of tomatoes today. On top of it she doesn’t eat tomatoes, salsa or pineapple (unless blended with rum and coconut).  We ended up with 29 jars of salsa.

Our final version was close to the original but we went for roasting the pineapple and jalapenos as well as draining the pineapple to make it thicker. Final cooled sauce pH test with pH test paper came in at between 3.5 and 4 .well under the 4.6 required for safety.

So here is our version:

5 lbs tomatoes chopped – Yellow pear, orange sungolds, yellow plum

2 large yellow onions chopped

2 sweet banana pepper chopped – preferably ripe and reddish if you have them

1 can 12-18 oz crushed or chunk pineapple  – drained (save juice for the rum drinks later)

1 can chunk pineapple roasted on skewers on the grill – go for caramelization – not black – beware it sticks badly

1 can (15oz) tomato paste.   If only there was yellow tomato paste – the color would be better.

2 large sweet banana peppers seeded and chopped

2/3 c roasted, skinned , seeded and chopped jalapenos and / or poblanos – go for a nice dark roast and bubbly skin

1/3 c cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon  salt (you can always add more later depending on your chips)

6-8 large garlic cloves minced (about 2/3 bulb of garlic)

2 tsp fresh ground cumin (seeds in your mortar and pestle – none of the pre ground stuff)

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Mix and cook at a hard boil for 15 min.. Stir frequently. If you want a smoother consistency (as we did ) use a stick / immersion blender to smooth it out near the end of cooking (yes it will clog up but just shake the skins off).

Pack into pint jars and boiling water process for 15 min.

Enjoy.

We made a bunch of conventional tomato salsa as well – that recipe will be a subsequent post .

 

Beef Brisket – sous vide and smoke

We had a craving for slow cooked smoked  brisket.  I have tried a couple of times in the past with corned beef but that was too salty (even after soaking over night in a pot of water). We wanted this for Saturday night dinner so I was running short on cooking time (most recommend 13-16 hours at 225-250) and some sort of mix of smoker and wrapping or steaming.  Final target temp 195-203 but testing for tenderness to see when it is truly done

With ideas in mind and research in hand, the experiment begins…

Teal picked up a whole “packer cut” brisket, 14lbs at Costco. . She liberally applied one of my rubs to it and set it aside in the “big fridge”  (that is the garage in the winter). This set  for 8 hours. 24-48 hrs would probably be better but were running short on time.

The whole brisket was then cut lengthwise and the halves vacuum bagged. The reason for the cut was that my biggest bags are only 11″ wide rolls and it would not fit otherwise. More surface area also means more smoke and spice flavor.

The bagged meat was then put in the canning kettle with the Anova Cookerset for 170. This ran overnight for 11 hours. Next time, I will need to cover the kettle as the water level dropped almost 2″ over night . When the meat was unbagged, there was about 5 cups of juice and a cup of rendered fat. Juice was saved for later.

D3U_7317The Big Green Egg (BGE) was started , the Heatermeter hooked up and set for 240. The meat was on at 7AM. Here is a shot of the meat as it first goes on the smoker. The internal temp at this point is about 155-160 degrees.

Cherry chunks are providing the smoke flavor.

The reason that there are 3 pieces i on one half I separated the flat and point / deckle muscles. The other half was left intact as it was not quite so thick at the point end.

brisket_temp_plot7 hours in the smoker and the temps were approaching the 190 range and it was feeling tender and I was afraid of it drying out if left on longer. So it was pulled off and put in a large covered pan in the oven with the juice that was saved from the sous vide step. Set for 200 degrees for 3 more hours.

Temperature curves are bit odd, with the big piece seen in the top left rising and then falling. You can see also at the beginning I let the BGE get too hot while tending to other things before putting the meat on.

We had most of the kids and their spouses (Elyse, Paul, David and Kelly)  over for dinner and the unanimous decision was that this was definitely a keeper recipe. Tasty, juicy meat. Sides were twice baked stacked potatoes,  green beans with garlic, sesame and lemon as well as Teal’s buttermilk biscuits. This photo shows just part of the meat. Note the nice smoke ring seen on the left.

Definitely not a high speed recipe (who would rush smoked meat anyway?), but one that is handily done in just over one day. D3U_7321

 

 

Sous Vide cooking – steaks

This past summer I talked Teal into letting me get a an Anova Culinary Bluetooth Precision Cooker. It was a bit of a stretch as she once again thought I was crazy and then crazier still when we then went to Costco and picked up an enormous roast.

The roast was portioned out into 1.5-2″ thick slices and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and fresh thyme, marjoram and oregano. Each was then vacuum sealed, dated and thrown in the freezer, except for  for the first dinner.  First steak was cooked at 129 degrees for 90 min. We have since moved to 130 for 2 hours as the sweet spot for these steaks as our standard.

Prior to grilling remove as much fat as you can. This prevents flare ups and a sooty / bitter exterior. You want a clean crisp dark brown but not black surface. Grill needs to be blazing hot 700-900 degrees for 2-3 min per side. I use the Big Green Egg but you can get similar heat by placing the grill right on top of the charcoal chimney.  Note that the sliced steak photo is NOT the way to go – trim the fat and life is much easier.

The technique works perfectly whether doing 1 or 6 of these . Perfectly consistent and fork tender.

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The Serious Eats and Anova web sites provide lots of ideas for Sous Vide cooking.  I also strongly recommend: The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Scienceby Kenji Lopez Alt. I first ran across his posts on Serious Eats and the book is a must have for anyone who is looking to go from just experimenting a bit to really understanding what they are doing in the kitchen.