Blue Cheese Shortbread

Well, here I am and I still have WAAAAAY too much cheese in my refrigerator.  I told you I went a little nuts at the cave sale at the Rogue Valley Creamery right?   I also had a large tub of smoked trout spread to use so I made some blue cheese shortbread.   Very simple, just need a little patience since you can’t roll it out immediately and bake it.

Blue Cheese Shortbread

  • 1 Cup All purpose Flour
  • 1/4 pound Cave Man Blue Cheese (or other high quality blue cheese)
  • 4 ounces sweet cream butter – room temperature
  • pinch chipotle powder or cayenne powder
  • 1 egg yolk

Mix the flour with the chipotle powder and place in a non-reactive bowl.  Crumble the cheese and cut the butter into cubes and cut into the flour with your hands.  Add the egg yolk and mix until incorporated.  Don’t over mix or it will get tough.  If you see chunks of cheese in the mixture that is OK  Refrigerate for about an hour.

Roll out on a floured surface until about 1/8 inch thick.  Cut into small pieces that are the same size.  Place on a baking sheet with parchment and bake at 350F for about 12-15 minutes or until light brown in color.

Smear some trout spread or crab dip on these.  Serve with a frosty beer on the porch.

Happy Baking!

Chef Constance Jesser

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Caramelized Balsamic Onion Confit

Our friends have a fabulous garden that has been producing these sweet onions.  I was lucky to be a recipient of some of these amazing onions and I made this confit.   This also works really well in a savory galette.   Just brush the edges of the galette with butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds or cracked black pepper.

Balsamic Onion Confit

  • 4 large red onions – sliced thickly
  • 2 Tablespoons Grapeseed oil or Natural Avocado oil
  • ½ cup Barrel Aged Balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil until hot but not smoking, add the sliced onions and cook until they are very caramelized.  This may take up to 25 minutes or longer, keep stirring every once in a while to avoid hot spots and burning.  After the onions are dark brown, add the balsamic vinegar and cook until absorbed.  This should have a consistency of marmalade when done.   This can be cooled and saved in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or will keep frozen for 6 months.

I also like to warm this up a little bit, serve over polenta with crumbled goat cheese on top or over a wheel of Camembert, baked in the oven and served with crackers or bread as an appetizer.

Happy cooking!

Chef Constance

Pearls before Swine

I was the guest Chef for a charity dinner to help the Britt Festival at Schmidt Family Vineyards and the following is the appetizer I created for this event. This is a layered appetizer that can be prepared ahead and just reheated in a low oven until you are ready to serve.  This is a dish that will take a little time to make, but the elements can be made ahead and assembled quickly.

This pairs well with Pinot Gris or Viognier.

 

“Pearls Before Swine”

makes 6 four oz. servings

Parmesan Tapioca

  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • ½ cup Small pearl tapioca – soaked overnight
  • 2 cloves Garlic – mashed
  • 1 Shallot – minced very fine
  • 1 small package 1.5 oz. demi-glace (I used lamb demi in this dish since the entrée was lamb)
  • 6 oz. finely grated parmesan cheese (you may substitute Asiago)

To make the Tapicoa:   Heat the milk with the garlic, shallot and demi-glace.  Heat this until the demi-glace melts completely.  Add the tapioca that was soaked to the hot milk mixture.  Cook until tapioca is creamy and thick and no longer raw in the middle (approximately 7- 10 minutes).  Add the cheese and mix until melted.  Reserve.

 Crispy pancetta

2 packages Pancetta – cut into small pieces and cooked until crispy – place on paper towels to drain excess fat

Creamed Spinach

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach – thawed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic – mashed
  • sea salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ cup Pernod (you may substitute Ouzo)

Make the creamed spinach:  Melt the butter, add the flour to create a roux.  Heat the butter/flour mix until just bubbling.  Add the milk and whisk until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Add the garlic, cayenne and spinach.  Cook for approximately 10 minutes to cook out the flour taste.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Add the Pernod and mix.  Reserve.

To serve:  Place small amount of pancetta on bottom of ramekin, cover with small amount of creamed spinach and then top with the Parmesan Tapioca.  Garnish with fried leeks.  Serve hot.

Happy Cooking Everyone!

Chef Constance

 

Herbed Crepes with Poached Egg and Truffle Caviar

For years I have been trying to find a way to have the perfect poached egg.  I’ve tried slow poaching (awesome creamy yolks, but still haven’t perfected this method, besides it takes 40-45 minutes), 5 minute and 10 second method of poaching (works if you start the timer exactly when the water boils) or using a poacher and timing the eggs for 5 minutes (this is what is in the photo).

I don’t know about you, but when I go out to breakfast (which is VERY rare these days) I look forward to a perfectly poached egg.  I like mine with the whites cooked and the yolks still runny.  The following is a recipe that I have been tweaking for years now.  I finally found the courage to make this for some friends at dinner the other night.  The toughest part about making this – – – the egg on top.  Added to the mix was the fact that we lost our electricity and I had to do everything on the stove top by candlelight and use the gas grill as my impromptu oven.  This even worked with gluten-free pancake mix (one of our guests is gluten intolerant) it just took a few more tries to make the crepe so it didn’t tear.

Herbed Crepes with Poached Egg and Truffle Caviar

Crepes:

  • 3 ounces All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 ounce granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1.5 ounces melted unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • herbs – tarragon, chives, oregano (use fresh herbs, I wouldn’t use rosemary or sage though)

Blend all of the above in a blender and allow to rest for 2 hours or overnight.

Using a crepe pan, make as many crepes as the batter allows.  Keep warm

Filling:

  • 1 cup Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic – toasted
  • chopped chives and tarragon
  • Truffle Salt

Fill crepes with filling and place into a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese mixture is cooked through.

Top with Poached Egg, Chives and Truffle caviar

There you have it, in my mind, the perfect poached egg.

Chef Constance

 

Onion and Grape Chutney

You know how once in a while you run into a food that just turns you on your head?  This “grape spread” as the woman called it did just that.  I was in a consignment shop of all places and the woman who worked there brings out this dish with some crackers and urged me to try it.  I had to find out how she did this.  The grapes were still round although not firm and the flavor just kept on coming.  This is not a very pretty dish, but the flavor – oh my!  To pretty it up you could sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts on top with some chives perhaps.

Onion & Grape Chutney

Heat the oven to 450F.

Mix about 1 pound of grapes (removed from stems) with 1 Large Sweet Onion cut into thin slices with a small amount of olive oil.  Place this onto a non-stick baking pan and roast for about 35-45 minutes or until everything is brown stirring the mixture every 15 minutes or so.

Remove from the oven and mix in a large bowl about 2 Tablespoons really good Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar ( some salt and pepper.  Allow to cool.

We served this with Rogue River Blue Cheese from the Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon and toast points.

Chef Constance

If anyone tries this, let me know what you think.  I never would have thought to use grapes like this.  Yummmmmm

Fresh Figs and Blue Cheese – a match made in heaven!

Our farmer’s market just started this Saturday and I found the most beautiful fresh figs.  I love the combo of  figs and blue cheese.  This is one version of figs and blue cheese I make for our friends.  Another way to make these is to stuff the figs, wrap with proscuitto, drizzle with black truffle oil.  Then bake and drizzle with a reduction of port that has had a few rosemary branches in it.  Anyway you look at it, fresh figs and blue cheese are the summertime winner in my house.

Blue Cheese Figs with Pancetta

Serves 4

8 Large Fresh Figs Cut in half

Rogue Creamery Crater Lake Blue Cheese (or other high quality Blue cheese)

Pancetta – cut into small strips

Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar (use a high quality balsamic don’t use a regular balsamic from the grocery store as it will be too sour)

Storm Olive Oil or for those that like it, black truffle oil

Cook the pancetta until crispy and reserve.

  1. Place a small amount of blue cheese onto the fig with the cut side facing up.  About a large teaspoon’s worth.
  2. Drizzle a small amount of  oil on figs before baking
  3. Bake figs in the oven 350F for approximately 7-10 minutes or just until the blue cheese starts to melt.
  4. Place 4 figs onto individual plates and sprinkle with pancetta.  The figs will look like a four-leaf clover on the plate.
  5. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over figs and serve while hot

This fig and blue cheese can be served as a dessert/cheese course also, just eliminate the pancetta and serve with a glass of port.

Scallops with Braised Endive

So last night we had our friends Tim & Gary over from Touvelle House in Jacksonville for dinner.  Seeing that we both worked until close I wanted something that was easy and a little more upscale than just scallops over pasta.  Since Gary is a pescaterian, bacon-wrapped scallops with fig & veal demi-glace was out.  Then I remembered a dish from Chantrelle Restaurant.  I cooked this in a cast iron pan on the grill that was smoking hot.  This also helped keep my house from smelling like fish for a few days.  Even though we have the best soy based candle air freshener, I didn’t want to bother looking for it.  [This is the  Special Candle I use ]  Cut some fresh chives and lemon verbena from the herb patch on the deck and we were in good shape.  Paired this with a local Viognier.

Braised Endive and Scallops

  • 8 scallops (day boat is best – otherwise drain them really, really well after thawing) foot removed (the tough little piece on the side)
  • 2 fresh lemons
  • 3 Tablespoons Granulated sugar
  • 4 Belgium Endive – cut lengthwise into 4ths (cut off stem prior to doing this)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • (extra lemon juice if necessary)
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper

Heat up your pan until very hot and add small amount of oil (I used lemon Avocado Oil find it here) Cook the scallops until nicely browned on both sides.  Set aside while you make the endive.

If there is any visible oil, remove it and then add the butter to the pan.  Cook the butter until brown.  Be careful the butter can burn fast in a pan that is this hot.  Add the sugar and let melt until light brown.  Add the Endive and toss with the butter/sugar mixture until lightly wilted.  Add the juice from the two lemons and continue to cook until the endive is very soft.  Add the cream and continue to cook until reduced (about 3 minutes more).  If the scallops have given off any juice pour this back into the mixture and cook down until thick.  Right before service, put the scallops back into the sauce to warm (about 2 minutes you don’t want rubber bands)

Place the endive into bowls, place 2 scallops on top and sprinkle with fresh chives or other fresh herbs.  Serve immediately.

Happy cooking and Happy Summer!

Chef Constance Jesser

Party Food a la Rogue Valley

Last night we went to a birthday party for our friend Whit.  Kristin from Farm to Fork was the caterer. There is a new movement in this country where most people are trying to eat locally and shop locally to help their communities.  Here in Rogue Valley we have wonderful small farmers and an amazing grower’s market that has just started to really get going for the season.  Kristin has started these great dinners at the local farms complete with local wines (we are in an up-coming wine country here in Southern Oregon).  Even though the electricity went out the party went on because there was a grill and the local produce and cheeses were the star.

I wanted to share with you my two favorite goodies from the party.    My favorite appetizers were the phyllo wrapped spring asparagus with blue cheese and bacon wrapped almond stuffed dates. The advantage of living here in Rogue Valley is we have amazing foods available to us, including the world famous Rogue Creamery that makes the best blue cheese in the world (that is a fact, I’m not just bragging here).

For dessert, one of their friends made a lemon pound cake served with  lemon curd, blueberries in lavender syrup, strawberries in lavender syrup and homemade cardamon ice cream.  The lavender was harvested from Whit’s garden last fall and the strawberries were from a produce stand about 1/4 mile outside of Jacksonville.

Phyllo Wrapped Spring Asparagus

  • 1 Bunch Thin Asparagus spears – shave ends and cut off woody part
  • 1 package Phyllo dough – thawed if frozen, laid out and covered with damp towel
  • 4 ounces Crater Lake Blue cheese
  • 1/2 block cream cheese – room temperature
  • salt and pepper
  1. Mix the blue cheese and cream cheese together until creamy.  Reserve.
  2. Cut the phyllo sheets in 1/2.  Spread small amount of cheese mix on one end.
  3. Place asparagus spear on end with cheese and roll up folding in end with cheese to avoid seeping.
  4. Bake 375F for approximately 10-12 minutes or until phyllo is crispy and brown on outside.

Bacon Wrapped Dates with Marcona Almonds

This was prepared on the grill over foil, but you could make these in the oven under the broiler, just watch carefully.

  • 1 package bacon – cut in 1/2
  • approximately 40 medool dates
  • 40 Marcona almonds
  • toothpicks

Stuff a Marcona almond into the cavity of the date and wrap with 1/2 a slice of bacon.  Use toothpick to keep together.  If dates are very large, cut in 1/2 and use 1/2 a date.

Grill over foil or cook under the broiler until well done.  Serve hot.

Have you been to any good parties lately?   What did they serve?  Got a recipe to share?

Till then, happy cooking!

Chef Constance

I get a kick from Champagne!

Lately, I have been on this champagne kick.  Or should I say at least sparkling wine kick.  We tend to eat at home more than we go out since we moved to Southern Oregon.  It could be that since we work every day in the food business we are always thinking of ways to cook things or just pure laziness.  As soon as we get in the door, feed the dogs and take off our shoes it is a huge challenge getting us out the door again.  That means dinner parties and more dinner parties.  David and I have the perfect dance going in the kitchen.  I cook and he serves and clears and we both do the dishes.  Guests wine glasses are always filled, David keeps people entertained and I can concentrate on getting the meal on the table.

This is a twist on the typical way escargot are served.  This works well for a party or for a dinner for two.  If you are real fans of escargot, skip the entrée and just eat lots of these with a crisp salad.

Escargot in Potato Shells

5 small red potatoes – cooked thoroughly and cooled

1 can Escargot

3 cloves garlic – creamed

1 small shallot – minced very fine

pinch sea salt and cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter – room temperature

½ cup parmesan cheese – grated very fine

½ cup panko bread crumbs

  1. Cut the potatoes in half and using a melon ball scoop out a hole in the potato large enough to stuff.  Cut a small piece off the bottom of the potato half to let it sit flat on a surface.  Reserve.
  2. Cream the garlic and shallot with a small amount of salt and pepper in the room temperature butter.
  3. Place one or two escargot into the potato (depending on the size of the potato) place butter on top of the escargot, then top with a sprinkling of parmesan and panko bread crumbs.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until the butter is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are brown.  Serve with a sparkling wine or Champagne.

As American as Apples

As I walked around Sioux and J.D. Rodgers’ apple orchard I was in awe as to the different types of heirloom apples on his property.  J.D. describes his orchard as a “hobby that got out of control”.  How lucky for all of us who live in the Rogue Valley!   I learned that most of the apple trees on their property which are Semi-Dwarf won’t start producing apples for at least 3-7 years and most of the heirloom varieties Sioux and JD raise only produce every other year.  This is why you won’t find these varieties in your local mega-mart grocery store.  These heirloom apples are available at Fox Run Farms in Medford, or you can call the farm directly at (541) 846-7736 and Sioux or JD will let you know which varieties are available and what is ready now.  The following is a list of the apples we sampled and took home to test in our kitchen.  I have to tell you, I tried baking a Summer Rambo which is a French Heirloom apple from the 1500’s and it was so dense that it exploded into apple sauce.  So if your apple farmer tells you the apples are for saucing, it means when heat is applied they will disintegrate into a sauce.  Not so good for baked apples, but wonderful for sauces.  This is usually a way to test what an apple will do.  I bake any variety I am unfamiliar with to see how it behaves when heat is applied.  The worst case scenario is you end up with really good tasting apple sauce and the best case is you know the apples to use in pies and tarts that won’t turn to mush.  Ask the grower the best way to prepare any fruits or vegetables you are not familiar with.  Basically, if you don’t know your apples, know your apple farmer.

If you get a chance to visit an apple orchard, usually the grower will allow you to taste the apples.  That is how JD was able to tell which apples were ready by picking one off the tree and biting into it.  When he was done, he just tossed it onto the ground for the turkeys and chickens they raise.  Nothing went to waste.

The following are the apples we got to try and the applications for them:

  • Summer Rambo – A French Heirloom from the 1500’s and good for making sauce.  This also is very dense and works well just eaten out of hand.
  • Winter Banana – From Cass County Indiana 1876, this is a firm apple that we used in our pie.   Supposedly this apple has a hint of banana flavor.
  • Snow-   Also known as The Fameuse Apple.  From 1700 thought to be grown from French apple seeds brought to Canada.  The insides of this apple is snow white.  This apple also does not turn brown as quickly as other apples.  Crisp in texture would work well for pies or tarts.
  • Davy – This apple is from a seedling of the Macintosh apple from 1928.  The Davy is an all-purpose apple.  Good for baking, making pies or tarts, or eating.
  • Roxbury Russet – An American Heirloom from the 1600’s.  This apple came over to Roxbury, Massachusettes about 20 years after the Pilgrims.  Roxbury Russet is a very tart, green, crisp apple.  Good in pies and the one I use in the crab salad because of the tartness.
  • Crow Eggs –  From New England in the early 1800’s.  A very small apple about the size of a crow’s egg.  This apple would work well for baking if the skin is left on.  Would also work well as a garnish due to the petite size.

In our home we have used apples in apple pies, tarts, apple cakes, baked apples and a crab salad that uses apples and curry for a unique twist on a familiar theme.

Crab and Apple Salad

3/4 cup cleaned crab

½ block cream cheese – room temperature

4 ounces crème fraiche

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp cracked pepper

1 green onion – minced

½ cucumber- peeled, seeded and cut into dice

1 medium tart apple, peeled, cut into dice

1 tsp. curry

1 tsp. fresh herbs chopped

1 tsp. tomato powder for garnish

Mix all the ingredients except the tomato powder together.  Place in the refrigerator for an hour to allow the flavors to mesh.  To serve: Place the crab mix in a mold (I use a PVC pipe) and press down.  Remove the mold and sprinkle with tomato powder (or if you have mushroom powder use it) sprinkle with chives and serve.  We like to have this with a local sparkling wine from Longsword vineyards in the Applegate valley.

So if you find yourself wanting to go beyond the ordinary grocery store apples, be sure to visit Fox Run Farms or Call Sioux and JD and they might be able to give you a tour and sell you some amazing apples to cook with.

Want to grow your own heirlooms?  There are several nurseries that specialize in heirloom apples.  Be aware heirlooms take more effort to keep bug free than other varieties that have been changed over the years.