Coeur a la Creme with Raspberry Sauce

Coeur a la Creme. Literally, the heart of the cream. This is a beautiful, romantic dessert that I’ve been wanting to make my husband for a long time. Because of the heart-shaped mold it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t want to wait that long!

Romantic, and so delicious!

Romantic, and so delicious!

I’m not a baker (or a butcher or candlestick maker, though I’d love to be both), or much of a dessert maker, much to Mr. Pants chagrin. However, writing this blog has emboldened me, and I decided to finally gird my loins and prepare Coeur a la Creme. It was much easier than I thought it would be!

Lining the mold with cheesecloth makes it easy to unmold later.

Lining the mold with cheesecloth makes it easy to unmold later.

Now, this recipe is a perfect introduction to the French term, mise en place. It’s the practice of setting out all your ingredients ahead of time, measured out when needed. In this case, I had a beautiful mise going on, save my heavy whipping cream, which I decided to leave refrigerated until the last minute. I had my softened mascarpone in the mixing bowl, my lemon juiced, and all my other little ingredients measured out and put into little bowls. I reached for the heavy whipping cream, only to find half-and-half. What.the.eff. Fastest Safeway trip ever.

My mold is filled with delicious mascarpone!

My mold is filled with my delicious mascarpone mixture!

I only have two molds, so I put the remainder in a cheesecloth lined mesh colander. I wasn’t willing to commit to four molds until I’d tried the recipe once. They’re not at all expensive, about $4-8 depending where you find them, and of course I now wish I had bought all four at once. Oh well, the colander Coeur a la Creme wasn’t pretty, but it was still delicious!

Fold the rest of the cheesecloth over the mold, and it's ready for the fridge!

Fold the rest of the cheesecloth over the mold, and it’s ready for the fridge!

Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese, and doesn’t have as much tanginess as American cream cheese. I’ve seen this recipe with cream cheese, but I love how fresh it tastes using mascarpone instead.

For my sauce, I used Chambord raspberry liqueur because it’s what I had.  It’s pretty spendy, and you can get the same result with something less expensive.

Coeur a la Creme

Ingredients

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
1-1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup raspberry liqueur, divided
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

For the Coeur a la Creme

Cut four pieces of cheesecloth large enough to cover mold and to fold edges over. Dampen and lightly wring out, then line your four molds with the cheesecloth.

In a large bowl, whip the mascarpone cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream, vanilla, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 Tablespoon raspberry liqueur until completely blended. Place bowl in the refrigerator.

In another bowl, whip the remaining 1 cup heavy cream and sifted confectioner’s sugar until you can form stiff peaks. Fold this into your refrigerated cheese mixture until blended, working in batches if necessary.

Spoon the mixture into your molds, and fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the mold. Place the molds on a rack set over a baking sheet. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

For the Raspberry Sauce

Place the raspberries in a bowl and sprinkle the sugar, remaining raspberry liqueur, and the last 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice over. Refrigerate until you’re ready to finish the Coeur a la Creme. I like to stir it every now and again, but it’s not a huge deal.

When the raspberries are macerated, puree in a blender, reserving some whole berries for garnish if desired.

To Serve

Peel the cheesecloth back from the mold and drape over the sides. Invert each mold onto your plate and carefully unmold. Slowly remove the cheesecloth. Spoon some sauce around each Coeur a la Creme, and garnish with some whole raspberries.

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Pumpkin Cream Pasta with Sausage

Fall is my favorite time of year. The scents, the colors, the cooler weather that ensures I-no-longer-need-to-wear-short-sleeves-and-show-my-hated-elbows-because-I-have-issues, and the flavors. Oh, the flavors and tastes of fall!

A favorite taste of fall for me is, of course, pumpkin. I had used it numerous times in sweet dishes and in dog treats, but never really in savory dishes. Once I discovered this side of pumpkin, I was enamored with exploring the ingredient further. I began my pumpkin adventure with a black bean pumpkin soup that I’ll share another time. It was delicious, and really opened my eyes to how good pumpkin could be in a savory application.

So delicious!

So delicious!

I’ve been wanting to get through the venison Italian sausage we make every year before my husband begins hunting this season. Where we’re from, it’s considered bad luck to begin the hunting season with any of last year’s deer in the freezer! I love cream sauces, and have been craving some sort of creamy pasta dish that uses this sausage. I thought I’d like to try making a dish that incorporated the salty sausage, nutty pumpkin, and toothsome pasta, with a little cream for good measure.

I love how this pasta turned out. It was exactly the flavor profile I wanted; nutty (pumpkin), salty (sausage), rich (cream), earthy (sage), and a little heady (wine). I’ll be honest, I thought my kids would hate this. My son declared it “kinda good”, a bit of a compliment, really; and my daughter snarfed her ziti and sauce, leaving only the sausage behind (this is usual for her with pasta dishes).

I had some leftover sauteed mushrooms that I reheated and threw in for my husband and I, and Mr. Pants declared that not only did the mushrooms add something for him, he would prefer it with them. So if you want to add sauteed mushrooms, I would just slice some fresh mushrooms and either throw them in about halfway through browning the sausage (removing and re-adding at the same time as the sausage), or sauteing with the garlic, and proceeding as written.

 

Pumpkin Cream Pasta with Sausage

Ingredients

 1 lb penne
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 lb bulk Italian sausage (or links, casings removed)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 Tablespoon fresh sage cut into chiffonade*
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)**

Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown the sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces. Transfer the sausage to a bowl.  Drain most of the fat from the skillet, leaving a couple teaspoons.

Add garlic to the skillet, and saute’ for a minute or two, being careful not to burn it.

Add sage and wine to the skillet.  Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add the stock and pumpkin puree and stir to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Return the sausage to the skillet.  Reduce the heat to low or simmer and stir in cream, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

*To chiffonade is to cut something into ribbons.  This is easily accomplished by stacking several sage leaves, rolling from one end to the other, and then slicing that roll crosswise into thin strips.

**Fried sage is delicious, and very pretty when the leaves are left whole.  When your olive oil is hot, and before adding the sausage in step one, select several whole sage leaves per plate for garnish.  Fry in the oil for just a minute or two, flipping the leaf if necessary.  Carefully remove and drain on a paper towel.

Not Just Any Port in a Storm

I have been away for the last week on a pheasant hunting trip with my husband. I wanted to post something before we left, but I just didn’t have the time.  So now I feel like I have all these things I want to talk about and post!  But, I have to slow my roll so I don’t set a precedent for over-delivering! (grin)

As I sit at my little corner office and think about what I want to post next, I’m sipping a glass of port.  I love a glass of port before bed, it’s the perfect “reflection drink”.  Aaand a post idea is born.

My go-to tawny port.

My go-to tawny port.

Port is a fortified wine that is produced in Portugal (I’m guessing you figured that out yourself!).  In fact, only those wines produced in the Douro Valley of Portugal can legally be designated “port” or “porto” (anything else should be called “in the style of port”).

ruby and tawny ports

I borrowed this picture from the internet to show the difference in color between ruby (left) and tawny (right) port.

The two main types of port are ruby and tawny, and are the only two I’ve tried.  There is another type, a white port that I know very little about.  When I was exploring the confusing, somewhat intimidating world of port, I asked my local sommelier about white port.  He laughed and said I didn’t want to try that, so I later checked with my friend Google to find the reason.  One thing I read was that white port is often derided by traditionalists, but was gaining popularity as an apertif due to its sweetness and lower alcohol content.  I’m intrigued to try it, but every time I think about it, I remember that laugh and sadly shuffle away.

I was at a restaurant the first time I tried port; after some questions from my server, I was given a glass of ruby port.  Ruby is a younger, more fruit forward port.  The description reminded me of Zinfandel, which is one of my favorite red wines, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I no longer had to fear port.  In fact, I found after that small glass, port was my friend.  My warm, fuzzy little friend.

The 10 year, not too different from the Fine Tawny Porto.

The 10 year, not too different from the Fine Tawny Porto.

Later, I had occasion to try a tawny port and was surprised to discover how much I loved it.  I later found out that ruby port is often considered a great “starter port” for those people like me, who might be intimidated by fortified wines.  While tawnys have become my favorite, I will always think fondly of ruby for introducing us.

Tawny is so called because of its amber color.  It’s also aged longer than ruby, anywhere from about 5 to 50 years.  I’ve tried tawnys ranging from 5 years to 30 years, and they become more expensive the longer they’ve aged.  Which is how it should be, I think, as I age and become worth more myself.

An Australian Tawny wine in the "style of" port.  Quite good.

An Australian Tawny wine in the “style of” port. Quite good.

For me, port is a cool weather drink.  It can be a little heavy, and the alcohol content is quite high at 17% and more (for the ports I’ve tried).  A serving size is anywhere from 2-4 oz, but I leave this up to you – I don’t judge.  I’ve been served port in Spanish-style sherry glasses, but I really prefer my red wine glass for this purpose.  One of the things I enjoy so much about port is the bouquet, and I just can’t get my nose in one of those tiny glasses!

I mentioned that tawny port becomes more expensive the longer it has aged (or rather, becomes worth more).  My favorite go-to is Taylor Fladgate Fine Tawny Porto at less than $20 a bottle.  When I’m splurging, I buy the 10 year, the 20 year, or the 30 year, depending on my budget.  Mr. Pants does not like port, so it’s hard for me to justify the more expensive versions when the Fine Tawny Porto is so good.  It’s not as mellow as those that have aged more, but it’s not harsh, either.  I think it’s a great budget tawny.

If fortified wines have intimidated you, start with a small pour at a restaurant.  It really is less scary than it seems.  And don’t let anyone’s laughter stop you.  In fact, I plan to pick up that bottle of white port the next time I’m out.

Meatball Subs

meatball sub5

Warm, cheesy and saucy. No, not me, the sandwich!

Tonight is “build your own sub” night at the Pants house. I had only planned on cold cuts, cheese, veggies, and condiments; and with lots to choose from, I figured I could make everyone happy. I didn’t take the chilly, rainy weather into consideration, and found myself craving something more than a cold sandwich. Hmm, warm, meaty, cheesy, maybe a little saucy? Meatball subs, it is!

meatball sub1

Tearing the cheese lets you cover the entire bun.

meatball sub2

Place under your broiler just long enough to melt the cheese and toast your bun.

See the fennel and garlic? Mmmm.

These will be really filling!

These will be really filling!

I wanted to keep this really easy, which was the point to having subs in the first place, so I decided to use the pre-made meatballs I already had in the freezer. I’m using Foster Farms Italian-style turkey meatballs; they’re really tasty, and I almost always have a bag on hand. I thaw them, and then cut them in half or thirds; I find this makes them more manageable and easier to eat.

The combination of the meatballs in a highly flavored red sauce with ooey-gooey cheese on chewy, crusty bread warms me right to my toes. This sandwich elicited thumbs-ups and a “delicious, baby”, which also warmed me to my toes!

Meatball Subs

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed or ground
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
18 frozen Italian style meatballs, thawed and cut into halves or thirds
12 slices provolone cheese
6 (6″) sub or hoagie buns, split
shredded Parmesan

Directions

Preheat broiler (or preheat oven to 400).

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and saute for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant.

Add the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, fennel, Worcestershire, and meatballs. Stir well to incorporate. Lower heat to low and cook until the meatballs are warmed through.

Open the buns and place open-face up on your broiler pan. Place 2 slices of provolone on each bun, tearing the cheese into pieces if needed to ensure all the bread is covered.

Broil until the bun is toasted, and the cheese has melted, about 2-5 minutes. If you have a faulty broiler like I do, you can also place them in a 400 degree oven for about 6 minutes. Watch them carefully, these times are all dependent on your oven!

With a slotted spoon, spoon a generous serving of your meatball mixture into each cheesy sub. Top with a generous serving of shredded Parmesan.

Bacon Corn Chowder

image (1)
Wow!  My first blog post, finally.  I’ve been in agony over what to post first, wanting it to be exactly the right thing.  I’m a perfectionist, and I wanted a perfectly written recipe, with perfect pictures of my perfect food.  Did I mention I started this blog almost three months ago?  Yep, that’s right, I’m also a terrible procrastinator.  I have a tendency to shut down if things aren’t perfectly perfect, and I have to keep reminding myself that things are rarely never completely perfect.  I started this blog as a fun outlet for my creativity and love of discovery and sharing; if I worried about perfection it wouldn’t be fun anymore and I would never post anything!

I chose this recipe as my first post because, well, because it’s the first one I’ve remembered to take pictures of!  Now, about these pictures.  Oh my.  I am taking pictures with my Samsung Galaxy S5 because that’s what I have.  And will continue to take pictures with for the foreseeable future.  I’m also woefully new to food photography, but instead of spending all my time researching “How to Take the Perfect Picture”, I’ve decided to post and learn as I go.  I promise, the food is delicious!
I just have to laugh.  It really is good, I promise.

I just have to laugh. It really is good. Really, really!

Now, on to said food.  I love soup in all forms; bisque, chili, chowder, broth, etc.,etc.  Now that Fall is finally here, I wanted to create something that was filling and delicious, and met my craving for comfort food.  Few of my recipes are perfect (there’s that word again) the first time I make them, but this one needed no tweaking as far as I was concerned.  More importantly, it needed no tweaking as far as Mr. Pants was concerned.  He is my toughest, if most reluctant, critic.  I think he figures it’s the equivalent of being asked “do these jeans make my butt look big?”.  (Not that I’ve ever asked that.  I already know what my butt looks like, and I don’t need someone confirming it, thankyouverymuch.)  He figures there is no right way to answer, but he is also learning as I go!

This chowder pairs salty, smoky bacon with sweet corn and earthy potatoes.  The smoked Gouda added at the end is completely optional, but oh-so-delicious!

image

The table isn’t dirty. Really. It’s an old porcelain top on the table my great-grandmother made.

Bacon Corn Chowder

  • Servings: 6, generously
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Ingredients

12-16 oz smoked bacon, chopped
5 russet potatoes, diced (skin on or off, your preference)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups chicken stock or corn stock, or a mix of both
4 cups corn kernels (about 6 ears) (frozen kernels, thawed, can be used)
2 cups half and half*
salt and pepper, to taste

smoked Gouda, shredded (optional)

 

Directions

In a large stockpot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until bacon is done to desired crispness**.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, reserve.

In the bacon fat, cook potatoes for about 5 minutes, scraping the nummy bits from the bottom of the stockpot.  Add garlic, stir and cook another 3 minutes or so, still scraping bottom of stockpot.

Add flour and thyme, stir to coat all the potatoes.  Add stock, again scraping bottom of the stockpot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, using your stove’s lowest heat setting.  Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, but not completely soft.

With a slotted spoon, remove about 1/2 to 2/3 of the potatoes (depending on how many pieces you want to bite into in your chowder), and reserve.  Add 2 cups of the corn kernels to the stockpot.  With an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  (You can also use a regular blender, blending the mixture in batches.  If you do this, add the mixture back to your stockpot before moving on to the next step.)

Slowly add the half and half, stirring until incorporated.

Add the reserved potatoes, the rest of the corn kernels, and the bacon (reserve some crisp bacon for garnish, if desired).  Stir well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into bowls, garnishing with some shredded Gouda and/or crisp bacon, if desired.

 

*If you want to cut some calories, you can substitute milk, or even evaporated milk in equal amounts for the half and half.  If you want to make it decadent, you can substitute heavy cream.  Go ahead, I won’t tell.

**I only cook the bacon until a bunch of the fat is rendered out, and the bacon is still chewy; that’s how we like the texture of our bacon in soups.  Sometimes I continue to cook a little of the bacon until crisp to use as a garnish.