Everthing is Better with Butter – Homemade Butter that is!

Dear Fellow Foodies:

I just made butter.  So what you say?   Butter is one of those great things to have on hand in the refrigerator to finish a dish.  Cultured butter has a great “tang” to it and adds a depth of flavor that you won’t find in regular grocery store butter.  Compound butters are that extra “boom” you add to your dish right at the end.  These are so easy to make and will freeze for up to 3 months with no loss of quality.    It just takes some heavy whipping cream, creme fraiche and ice water.  The bonus?  You also get REAL buttermilk to use in recipes.

Cultured and Compound Butters

1 Quart Heavy Whipping Cream (40% butterfat is best)
1/3 Cup Creme Fraiche

Mix the cream and creme fraiche in a non-reactive bowl and cover and allow to rest at room temperature overnight or up to 2 days if you prefer more flavor.

Place this into a mixing bowl and refrigerate for an hour to chill.  Now whip this on high speed (don’t forget to use a splash guard or plastic wrap to eliminate spatters on your walls) for approximately 4-5 minutes or until it “breaks”.

Drain off the buttermilk (save this for amazing buttermilk pancakes) and knead the butter a bit to release the liquid.

In a separate bowl, rinse the butter with ice water and knead to release the rest of the water from the butter.  Do this about 2-3 times.  Discard the liquid and place the butter into clean cheese cloth and squeeze any remaining liquid.  Wrap your butter in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator or double wrap and freeze.

For Compound butter do this:

While the butter is still malleable using a paddle on your stand mixer or by hand using a heavy wooden spoon, mash the butter and add different spices, herbs or dried fruits.  You get the idea.  Find a flavor you want to add to your food and blend into your butter.  You’ll thank me later.  Here are some compound butters to try:

For fish or seafood:

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon cracked fresh pepper
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Salt

For Meats or Pasta:  (this is the easy way to get truffle butter and you can have it any time you want vs. having to try to purchase it somewhere)

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
1/2 teaspoon Truffle Salt
3 Tablespoons Truffle Paste

For Vegetables:

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 Tablespoon Key Lime Avocado Oil
1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder or smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked cherrywood salt

For Grilled Foods:

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon finely ground juniper berries
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon minced capers

For pancakes, waffles, etc.

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
1 Tablespoon Honey

Some different things to try:

1. Kaffir Lime Leaves – dry and grind in a spice grinder, add lime zest and fresh ginger

2. Pearl Sugar or Maple Sugar, ground cloves, finely chopped dates

3. Chopped shallot, minced Aji Amarillo Peppers, lime zest, chopped cilantro

You get the idea!   So go ahead, mash it up, dish it up.  Melt it, smear it.   Things can be better with butter.

Chef Constance

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Walnut Champagne Vinaigrette

As the holidays roll around many people have to watch what they consume to protect their hearts.  Heart disease is one of the top diseases in America today.  The way to protect yourself from future or further harm is to avoid trans fats and eat healthier fats.  Healthier fats are monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats.  The trick is to consume the right kind of fat in the appropriate amount. When it comes to calories, all oils are the same. They each contain 9 calories per gram — this includes oils labeled “light,” a term which refers only to the oil’s taste, not its nutritional makeup. But some oils are better for you than others.

Fats and oils are either saturated or unsaturated; unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. No oil is completely made of one fat; they all are a combination of the three fats in different percentages, based on the nut, seed or fruit from which the oil is derived.

Saturated fats, which come mainly from animal sources, increase cholesterol levels. Hydrogenated oils such as margarine and vegetable shortening are saturated fats that have been chemically transformed from their normal liquid state into solids. During the hydrogenation procedure, extra hydrogen atoms are pumped into unsaturated fat. This creates trans fatty acids, the most unhealthy type of fat found to be the number one cause of heart disease.

Monounsaturated fats are known to help reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol without lowering the good HDL cholesterol. The most widely used oils that are high in monounsaturates are olive oil, avocado oil and peanut oil. Polyunsaturated fats, made up of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are also considered relatively healthy and include grapeseed, safflower and sunflower oil.  Oils high in omega-3 rich polyunsaturate fat such as walnut oil are a good addition to the diet since our body require omega-3s for good health but cannot manufacturer them. New studies show incorporating omega-3s into your diet reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

We like to make this dressing for salads and to put into our rice or potatoes or over steamed green beans with Champagne Walnut Vinegar and Walnut Oil.  Very heart healthy.  You may substitute Hazelnut Oil for a different taste.

Walnut Champagne Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (I like Edmund Fallot)

3 Tablepoons Walnut Champagne Vinegar

¼ cup Walnut Oil

pinch sea salt and cracked black pepper

Place the mustard in a non-reactive bowl, add the salt and pepper.  Add the Champagne Walnut Vinegar whisk in the walnut oil s-l-o-w-l-y until the dressing is emulsified.  Add chopped walnuts to your salad or into green beans for extra crunch.

Healthy Holiday Vinaigrette

To all my foodie friends, I have to apologize for not posting for so long.  I got to spend an extra week sleeping on a cot in the hospital room of my mother.  What started out as a simple operation turned into an extended hospital stay including time in the ICU.  While there I got the luxury of trying to eat from the cafeteria or other chain restaurants and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.  Something as simple as a salad was continually ruined by soaking the limp iceberg lettuce and out of season cherry tomatoes in a high-fructose corn syrup gunk they called salad dressing.  Well here ya go, try this one on for size.  It is tasty, healthy and if you eat this way I’m willing to bet you won’t end up in the hospital in the first place.

Healthy Holidays Made Simple:

Monounsaturated fats are known to help reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol without lowering the good HDL cholesterol. The most widely used oils that are high in monounsaturates are olive oil, avocado oil and peanut oil. Polyunsaturated fats, made up of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are also considered relatively healthy and include grapeseed, safflower and sunflower oil.  Oils high in omega-3 rich polyunsaturate fat such as walnut oil are a good addition to the diet since our body require omega-3s for good health but cannot manufacturer them. New studies show incorporating omega-3s into your diet reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

We like to make this dressing for salads and to put into our rice or potatoes or over steamed green beans with Champagne Walnut Vinegar and Walnut Oil.  Very heart healthy.  You may substitute Hazelnut Oil for a different taste.

Walnut Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (I like Edmund Fallot)

3 Tablepoons Walnut Champagne Vinegar

¼ cup Walnut Oil

pinch sea salt and cracked black pepper

Place the mustard in a non-reactive bowl, add the salt and pepper.  Add the Champagne Walnut Vinegar whisk in the walnut oil s-l-o-w-l-y until the dressing is emulsified.  Add chopped walnuts to your salad or into green beans for extra crunch.

The way the oil is extracted also plays a role in how healthy it is. Oil is extracted using one of two methods — mechanical or chemical. Chemical extraction, often called solvent extraction, is the most common and cost efficient method. It employs high heat and a series of chemical processes, primarily exposure to hexane gas, to remove and refine the oil.

In mechanical extraction, called cold pressed or expeller pressed, oil is squeezed from the source, usually with hydraulic presses. This minimal exposure to heat preserves the natural flavor of the oil but limits the yield, making mechanically extracted oils more expensive than chemically extracted oils.

Just as each oil has a unique nutritional makeup, they also have distinct flavor components and smoke points, making some oils more appropriate for certain uses than others.  If you are unfamiliar with the smoke point of an oil, look on the side of the label or ask someone in the store where you purchase the oil.

Heating oil past its smoke point can cause it to have an off flavor, lose its nutritional value and turn the once healthy oil into a trans fat laden heart disease machine. Oils that can take high temperatures make good all-purpose cooking oils. Choose from sunflower and peanut for high-heat uses such as searing and frying. Medium-high heat oils are good for baking, sautéing and stir-frying; try grapeseed, avocado or sunflower oil. For sauces, lower-heat baking and pressure cooking, medium-high heat oils are best. Good choices are olive oil, hazelnut oil, pumpkinseed oil and walnut oil.

Anyone else out there have some favorite salad recipes to share??

Constance

Reggae and Jerk go hand in hand

Tonight is the second concert at Britt Music Festivals here in Jacksonville, Oregon and 3 Reggae bands are playing tonight.  David and I used to travel to Jamaica for years back in the 80’s and we used to try every Jerk stand we came across.  Our favorite Jerk sauce is the following from the West end of the Island.  Realize that Thyme grows wild on the road sides and is put into everything.  The other secret to making authentic Jerk is to cook the chicken over pimento wood which is over hot coals.  The chicken is then placed on top of the pimento wood and a heavy metal lid (mostly made from roofing materials) is placed on top to keep the chicken close to the heat and keep the smoke close to the meat.green stripe

Jamaican West End Jerk chicken recipe

Ingredients

You will need the following ingredients to prepare enough jerk chicken for 4 people:-

One chicken cut into pieces

6 chopped Scotch Bonnet peppers ( or you can substitute 3  Habaneros and 3 Jalapenos)

2 Tbsp. thyme leaves

2 Tbsp. ground Allspice (if you can find allspice whole and grind it yourself it tastes better)

8 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Medium onions, finely chopped

3 green onions chopped

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tsp. ground black pepper

1 to 2 Tsp of the following (to taste)
-ground cinnamon
-nutmeg
-ginger

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
Juice of one lime
1 cup orange juice
1 cup white vinegar

Chop up the onion, garlic, peppers, sugar and spices.   Blend in a blender.  Blend in the oil, soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice and vinegar and green onion.  Let this mixture sit overnight to allow the flavors to meld together.

Pour this over the chicken and let sit overnight in the refrigerator to allow the chicken to absorb the flavors.  The following day grill the chicken and when you are ready to serve this, using a cleaver, chop the chicken into smaller pieces and pour some hot jerk sauce over the top.  Serve with additional lime wedges and cole slaw.  Don’t forget the beer!

Peace!

Chef Constance

Limoncello – 80 days and worth the wait

As I was wading through the new Food & Wine this month I came across a recipe for a drink that uses Limoncello.  If you have not had this wonderful elixer or cannot find it where you live here is how to make it.  You only need a few items and a LOT of patience to finish this.  I like to start this around the end of February or mid March so it is ready for summer.  Keep a bottle in the freezer.

Limoncello

20 lemons (if you can get Meyer Lemons use them)

2 bottles good quality vodka (750 ml)

Peel the lemons and remove all the white pith.  Place into a container that will hold both the peels and the vodka.  Place in a cool, dark spot for 40 days (not I’m not exaggerating)

NEXT Step

Add 2 cups simple syrup

add 1 bottle high alcohol vodka (I do not recommend the cheap hootch here)

Let rest another 40 days.  After 80 days, strain into bottles and store in the freezer for future enjoyment.

Best served on a hot, sticky summer day as the sun goes down in little glasses.  This is a sipping drink, not a chugging one.

Enjoy!

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