Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cranberry-Pear Cobbler

     Adapted from a Gooseberry Patch recipe, this cobbler is the perfect way to end your Thanksgiving dinner.  The pears and applesauce combine with the tapioca to produce a thickened, sweet layer of fruit and the topping of buttery biscuits melts in your mouth.  I could not find the smaller cans of pears so substituted with the larger 29 ounce size and only added half the liquid.  The original recipe calls for the syrup from both cans but it seemed a bit watery to me so I scaled it back.  The secret to any biscuit topped recipe is to have the bottom layer hot and bubbling before you add the biscuits.  The fruit also needs to cook long enough for the tapioca to work it's magic and thicken the sauce.  In my 10 inch deep oven, the cobbler baked for 25 minutes with 10 coals in a ring around the bottom and 22 briquettes on the lid.  Once the fruit was thick and bubbling I added the topping, in 12 minutes the biscuits were golden brown and ready to serve.  This needs to be eaten while it's still warm and the biscuits are fluffy and soft so be sure to save some room for a big helping of cobbler.  Have a safe, blessed and very Happy Thanksgiving! 

Cranberry Pear Cobbler
2 15 1/4 oz cans sliced pears in syrup
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup applesauce
1/4 c. instant tapioca, uncooked
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 cup sugar
1 12 oz tube refrigerated Grands Jr buttermilk biscuits
1/4 cup butter, melted

     Lightly oil or spray 10 inch dutch oven.
     Pour pears with juice from only one can into prepared dutch oven.
     Sprinkle with cranberries and tapioca; set aside.
     Combine applesauce with nutmeg and one tsp cinnamon, mix well.
     Spoon applesauce over pears and cranberries.
     Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling.
     In a shallow dish combine sugar and remaining cinnamon; mix well.
     Separate biscuits.
     Dip each biscuit in butter, then in cinnamon-sugar to coat both sides.
     Arrange biscuits over hot fruit mixture.
     Continue baking for 10-15 minutes or until biscuits are golden.
     Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
     Serve warm; top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
     Makes 6 servings.

Spoon applesauce over pears, cranberries and tapioca

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until hot and
bubbling before adding sugar-coated biscuits

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Dried Cranberries

     The beauty of this roasted vegetable recipe from Ocean Spray is that, except for the stuffing, it rolls all of your side dishes into one.  I would suggest making it in your 12 inch or larger dutch oven so you can roast the vegetables in a single layer.  If you make it in your smaller oven, be sure to stir it a couple of times while cooking.  I cooked them in my 12 inch dutch oven for a total of 40 minutes with 12 coals in a ring around the bottom and 28-30 on the lid.  There's nothing like the flavor of vegetables roasted in your dutch oven, not only easy to make but they are a great accompaniment to your turkey or main course.

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Dried Cranberries
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup small whole frozen onions OR 1 medium onion cut into wedges
1 pound small red potatoes, cut into quarters
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary OR 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup dried cranberries

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven.
     Combine vegetables, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large bowl, tossing to mix.
     Place vegetable in prepared dutch oven and drizzle with olive oil, stir to coat.
     Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
     Stir halfway through cooking time.
     Add dried cranberries and mix well.
     Makes 6-8 servings.

Toss vegetables with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper
and place in single layer in dutch oven

Roast at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until tender, add
cranberries right before serving

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lemon-Thyme Split-Roasted Turkey

     Since I am not fortunate enough to own a large, deep Maca dutch oven, I have been searching for a long time for a way to roast a turkey in my regular 14 inch oven.  This recipe from Better Homes and Gardens seemed to suit my needs perfectly and I was more than happy with the results.  Starting out, I looked at this venture as more of an experiment and thought it might take me several attempts to get it right.  I always buy a fresh bird for Thanksgiving but since turkeys are cheap and plentiful right now I opted for a 10 pound frozen one for under seven dollars, a minor investment for my first try. 
     After thawing the turkey in the fridge for three days I was ready for the first and most challenging step, slicing the bird into two equal halves.  I unwrapped and washed my Tom then with a sharp pair of kitchen shears, easily carved out the backbone.  Hacking the breastbone in two proved to be more difficult, you'll need a large knife and a bit of leverage to slice through the bone.  If you don't feel like wrestling with your uncooked bird, ask your local butcher to halve it for you. 
     You definitely need a 14 inch or larger dutch oven if you are going to roast both halves of the turkey together, the deeper the oven the better.  You can probably get away with roasting one half in a 12 inch oven, so use two ovens if you are roasting a whole bird.  Also, you may have to tuck the vegetables around the turkey to allow more space between the bird and the lid of your oven.
     The trickiest part of roasting a turkey in a dutch oven is finding a way to brown and crisp the skin.  I decided to brown the bird under high heat right from the start then lower the temperature to allow it to simmer and braise in it's own juices.  In my 14 inch dutch oven I began with 14 coals in a ring around the bottom, with 4 briquettes placed in the center.  I covered the lid with 38 briquettes and didn't even raise the lid until it was time to replenish the coals.  After one hour and 15 minutes I tossed out the old coals and placed 14 newly lit coals in a ring around the base of the oven with 20 briquettes placed around the edge of the lid.  I let the turkey simmer and cook for another 45 minutes, or until it was done.  At this point I also started cooking the vegetables so everything was ready to serve at the same time.
     This recipe may seem like a lot of work but it's mostly in the preparation, once you place your oven on the coals the rest is easy.  The end result was a moist, juicy bird, flavored with lemon and thyme.  The buttery skin was golden brown and deliciously crispy.  So don't be intimidated like I was, put your fears to rest, fire up your coals and amaze your friends and family this year with a wonderfully roasted dutch oven turkey. 

Lemon-Thyme Split-Roasted Turkey
2 medium onions, cut into wedges
2 lemons, cut into quarters
1 stalk celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 fresh thyme sprigs
8 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup snipped fresh thyme
2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
2 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp finely chopped shallot (1 medium)
1 Tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 8-10 pound fresh or frozen turkey, thawed if frozen

     Remove neck and giblets from turkey: discard.
     Rinse turkey; pat dry with paper towels.
     Place turkey, breast side down, on cutting board.
     Using kitchen shears, make a lengthwise cut down one side of backbone, starting from the neck end.
     Repeat on the other side of the backbone, remove and discard backbone.
     Turn turkey, cut side down.
     Flatten turkey as much as possible with your hands.
     Using kitchen shears or a large, sharp knife, carefully cut through the entire breastbone, creating two equal halves.
     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven.
     Place onions, lemons, celery, thyme sprigs and garlic in single layer in prepared oven.
     In a medium bowl combine butter, snipped thyme, lemon peel, lemon juice, shallot, oil, salt and pepper.
     Rub herb-butter mixture over turkey on all sides, massaging some of the mixture underneath the skin.
     Place turkey halves, skin side up, on top or among vegetables in roasting pan. 
     Roast at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until thermometer registers 175 degrees F. (The juices should run clear and drumsticks should move easily in their sockets.)
     Remove from oven, let stand for 15 minutes before carving.

Rub turkey halves with flavored butter and place on top of
or around vegetables

Roast at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, starting with
extra coals to brown and crisp the skin

Fragrant, moist turkey, surprisingly crispy and
easy to carve too

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Peanut Butter Brownies

     Trader Joe's brings us an easy way to transform your favorite brownie recipe into something special.  Once your brownies have baked, keeping them on the coals, remove the lid of your dutch oven, add rows of miniature peanut butter cups, replace the lid and cook for a couple of minutes or until the peanut butter cups are soft enough to spread with a spatula.  Using a package of Trader Joe's Truffle Brownie Mix, the brownies baked in my 10 inch dutch oven for 20 minutes with 10 coals around the bottom, 15 placed around the outside of the lid and 6 spaced evenly in the center.  Fun and simple to bake, kids will love making these as much as eating them.

Peanut Butter Brownies
1 package brownie mix plus ingredients needed to make brownies
24 miniature peanut butter cups, unwrapped

     Lightly oil or spray dutch oven; line with parchment paper.
     Prepare brownies according to package directions.
     Pour into prepared oven.
     Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until brownies are done.
     Press peanut butter cups, bottoms down, into the warm brownies, making rows that cover the entire top.
     Place lid back on oven, continue to cook for one to two minutes or until peanut butter cups soften.
     Use a spatula or knife to spread softened peanut butter cups over brownies into a gooey frosting.
     After 15 minutes, lift brownies from oven using parchment paper, allow to cool.

Pour brownie batter into parchment lined oven

Bake at 350 degrees until done then lightly press peanut
butter cups into brownies

Replace lid and cook for 2 minutes until candy has softened

Spread softened peanut butter cups with knife or spatula

A peanut butter cup in every bite