Michy’s Bread Pudding

MIchy's Bread Pudding photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)

I am not a huge fan of bread pudding.  I like it, I don’t LUUUURRRVE it.  So, why did I make bread pudding?  Well, two reasons.  1) My daughter begged me to make cheese fondue last week, and I seriously miscalculated the quantities of how much bread we could eat.  2) My good friend Michelle Bernstein (of Michy’s Restaurant in Miami) makes the best bread pudding, hands down.

I tried Michy’s bread pudding 3 years ago when she invited me to eat at her restaurant.  It’s the only dessert she has in her cookbook, “Cuisine a Latina” too.  It’s that good.  What I love about it, is that even though it is quite a rich and decadent dessert, it really doesn’t feel like it, and I think it has to be the addition of brandy, chocolate and the fact that it soaks up the custard for up to 48 hours.  Booze and Chocolate.  Two of my favorite things!  Mixed together, even more yum factor. So, as I generally do, I tweaked her recipe a bit, (But I will give you the original and you can do as you choose!) by using cranberries instead of raisins, and using all of the brandy used to soak the cranberries instead of just a tbsp!  I love the taste of a slightly boozy dessert, but if you prefer yours with a little less ripple, keep to the original recipe!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1/2 cup raisins (or any dried fruit you like)

Grated zest of 1 orange (I used lemon and it was equally scrumptious)

1 cup brandy or sherry (but go to town, I think rum would even be amazing in this)

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup half and half

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

4 cups diced (1 inch) soft crustless challah, brioche, or white bread (I used crustful baguette)

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Vanilla Ice Cream for serving

Put raisins and orange zest in a small bowl, add the brandy, and let the raisins and zest soak, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours or up to 1 week.

Put the cream and half and half in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Whisk one-third of the warm cream into the egg mixture, a little at a time, to prevent scrambling the eggs, then whisk in the rest of the cream mixture.

Add the bread to the bowl and stir to soak it with the custard.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or up to 48 hours.

Put a rack in the center of the oven to 325F (170C).  Butter six 4 to 6 ounce ramekins or baking dishes.  Drain the raisins, reserving the brandy.  Add the raisins and a tablespoon of the brandy to the bread mixture and mix well.  Spoon into the prepared ramekins or baking dish.  Sprinkle chocolate over the top of the bread puddings.  Put the ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the pan with enough warm water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake, uncovered, until the pudding is just set, about 25 minutes; when you shake the pan, the custard should wobble for just a moment.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully place the ramekins on small serving dishes.  Serve the bread pudding hot, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream right on top.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Stracotto Al Barolo – Braised Beef in Red Wine

Stracotto al Barolo

I know, I know.  I suck.  Not having posted a thing since October is terrible.  But, sometimes life gets in the way, holidays, etc. etc.  But, I am back!  This year, I wanted to do something that I had read about a year ago, it was a group of people who chose a cook book and did a recipe or two from it.  I really can’t remember the fundamentals, but at home I decided it would be a great way to expand my knowledge, and to actually crack open my cook books and magazines.  It also think it will be quite fun because it’s a great way to involve the whole family.  My way of doing it is this: Every month, one of us chooses a cookbook.  I chose this months, “Italy – The Beautiful Cookbook”.  Then, we choose 9 recipes, 3 recipes each, to make in one month.  Obviously, I am going to try to stay true to the ingredients, but will omit or swap some ingredients that I simply can’t find here.

So, today is one of my recipe choices, only because its Sunday and it is a time-consuming recipe, the beef has to marinate overnight.  I chose this recipe because the picture in the book looked divine and the ingredients were promising.  This recipe hails from Piedmont, a northern region in Italy bordering France, so I am not surprised that it is basically like a Beef Bourguignon, but with Barolo wine and different herbs and spices.  That suits me just fine, I basically kind of wanted something heart and belly warming since I am sure we all can agree that this is one helluva cold winter!  This dish is simply delicious.  As the beef is cooking, your house will smell incredible, really mouthwatering.  I could hardly wait until the beef was done!  Rich and complex, it is a perfect sunday lunch meal.  I am absolutely positive it will become a favorite of yours too….my family devoured it!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

2lb (1kg) braising beef (I used eye of round)

2 carrots, cut into several pieces each

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, cut into several pieces

1/2 cup parsley

2 bay leaves

1 tsp juniper berries (which I didn’t find)

1/2 cup diced lard

1/2 bottle aged Barolo wine (or any other full bodied red you have on hand, I used Rioja)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Combine the meat, all the vegetables, the herbs, and the wine in a large bowl.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

Remove the meat and dry well; reserve marinade.  Make little cuts on the surface of the meat and fill them with lard.  Brown the meat thoroughly in the butter and oil in a flame proof casserole.  Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Lift out the marinade vegetables with a slotted spoon and add to the meat.  Add 1 cup of the wine and salt to taste.  ( I added all the wine from the marinade).  Cover and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, adding more wine as needed to keep meat from drying out.  Halfway through the cooking time, take out the meat, slice thinly, and put back into the wine, with any juice on the cutting board.

Remove meat when done and place on a platter.  Put the vegetables and wine through a food mill or grind to a textured purée in a food processor.  Reheat this and pour over the meat.  Serve at once,  with potatoes, but I chose polenta.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Murgh Makhanwala (Butter Chicken)

Butter Chicken

 

I have no idea if this is the authentic recipe, but let me tell you, it tasted damn well delicious! For me Indian food is akin to comfort food.  Blame my college room-mate, who I love dearly and her family hails from Gujarat;  she was the person who used to cook for me when I couldn’t even boil water.

I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than a deliciously spiced meal, with loads of extra tasty sauce to sop up with home-made bread, in this case, Naan.  I stole this recipe from the Saveur website.  It popped up in my inbox, and I couldn’t get it out of my head since the moment I looked at it.  Normally my main problem in making Indian food is finding all the right ingredients.  This one is fairly easy, the only ingredient missing was the fresh or frozen curry leaves, which I still haven’t managed to find here.  Hopefully, one day I will, but to tell you the truth, I don’t think it would have changed much in this dish.  This chicken is really “finger lickin’ good”…..I mean, with all that yummy sauce, it begs for you to let your table manners go for the night!  As always, the true testament of a dish being good or great….my daughter eating it all, and then taking some for lunch the next day!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

For the chicken:

1/2 cup greek yogurt

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp oil

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp crushed red chile flakes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 3″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced cross-wise

Salt, to taste

1 3-4 lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skin removed

For the sauce:

1 tsp crushed red chile flakes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 whole cardamom pods, cracked

3 whole cloves, crushed

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained

1 3″ piece of ginger, washed and grated

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

4 fresh or frozen curry leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

 

Marinate the chicken:  Combine all ingredients except for chicken in a food processor; purée.  Transfer marinade to a large bowl and add chicken, tossing to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  (I did overnight, I think it made a difference.)

Heat oven to 500F (250C).  Transfer chicken to aluminum foil lined baking sheet, and spoon any marinade left over on top of the chicken.  Bake chicken until light brown but not cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a rack, set aside.

Make the sauce:  In a large pot over med-high heat, combine chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, cloves, tomatoes, ginger, bay leaf, and 2/3 cup water.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to med-low, and cook, stirring often and crushing tomatoes with a spoon, for 25 minutes.  Discard bay leaf and transfer sauce to a food processor, purée.  Return sauce to pot and continue cooking over medium-low heat until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.  Add reserved chicken pieces and any marinade left over from the pan, along with a 1/3 cup water.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cream, butter, garam masala and curry leaves.  Reduce heat to low and cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with warm Naan bread.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla 

El Cisne Azul : Mushroom lover’s heaven in Madrid’s Chueca neighborhood

cisne azul

Once in a blue moon, you come along a little slice of heaven.  This is just what happened to me and two good friends yesterday.  After a weekend full of food debauchery, sampling some of Madrid’s best tapas bars, we never thought it could end on a better note than it did.  That is El Cisne Azul, easily discarded as a shabby bar in this vibrant neighborhood full of modern and beautiful bistros.  You will be very sorry if you do, though.  A true diamond in the rough, this little bar probably hasn’t changed its appearance in many, many years.  You know what though, I am kind of glad.  I much rather they keep spending their hard-earned money on quality ingredients rather than jazzing up the place.  And this shows.  Their specialty is wild mushrooms, proudly written on the front door, “Fresh Wild Mushrooms all year round”.  You walk in, and it’s a small place, with only about 4 tables and 2 high tops, with a very large bar for standing room only.  On one end of the room is a large refrigerator/display cabinet that holds the prized bounty, only the freshest wild mushrooms and vegetables.

We were lucky to grab a table, as 10 minutes passed the place was jam-packed with people waiting to eat their delicacies.  One man was at the grill, proudly and rapidly serving up all the goodies.

The menu is quite extensive, you have your house specialties, sautéed mushrooms, Revueltos (scrambled or fried eggs) with mushrooms, Foie gras with mushrooms, and then some Chuleton.  But we came for, yup, the mushrooms.

We started our bacchanal with some beautiful house wine and a plate of sautéed Amanita Caesarea, which is known as Caesar’s Mushrooms, because it apparently was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Claudius.

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This mushroom has an orange cap and a white stem, with a slight nutty flavor.  It can be eaten raw, like a carpaccio with some oil and parmesan shavings, but we decided on the sautéed version.  Lightly salted, it was a fantastic started, since it really has a very delicate taste.  Mind you, the servers know what they are doing, because they chose the order!

Next up was Zucchini Flowers sautéed with Truffle Oil.

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This was very nice, but call me crazy.  I prefer the Italian version, where they are stuffed with cheese and fried.  Nonetheless, they were very, very good.

Our next dish was a Fried egg with Black Trumpet or Black Chanterelle mushroom.

 

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I am sure you know my love for eggs, so there is nothing more delicious than a plate of eggs with wild mushrooms.  Black Trumpets have a deeper, earthier taste.  They can also be made in stews with beef or venison, since it really handles red meats very well.  But, a risotto or pasta with them is equally delicious.

The star of the day, was the Porcini mushrooms with Torta del Casar Cheese.

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Torta del Casar is a sheep’s milk cheese from Extremadura region in Spain.  It is a nutty, slightly strong cheese, which is traditionally eaten from its rind, since it is quite creamy.  We knew this had to be good, but it was a religious experience, really.  The two combine so perfectly, and quite frankly, really balance each other out.  I could eat this every day, but then I would also have to run a half marathon every day to compensate.  I really don’t have words to describe how good this is, so I will just leave you to look at the picture and imagine it.

So, after this the server asked us if we wanted anything else, and we thought that we should leave a good thing be.  But, he told us that to finish off our meal, we should try the “Majorero” cheese from the Canary Islands, that is grilled and served with onion marmalade.  YES PLEASE!

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This cheese is similar to Manchego, sheep’s milk, and can be cured, semi-cured and soft.  I imagine this was the last variety, because of it’s ability to melt.  This reminded me so much of our queso tierno in Colombia, which we also grill to get that beautiful crispy crust and gooey center.  But props go to the boys at Cisne Azul, who paired it beautifully with the onion marmalade.  We were crazy about this.

So, then the server asks us if we wanted dessert.  We thought we had already had dessert, thinking the grilled cheese with jam was our last plate.  So, we said no, we were fine.  Then he told us that they had some house made Macarons, with Porcini cream custard filling.  What the what?  It was so odd sounding, we just had to try it.

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Upon taking the first bite, we all looked at each other with this perplexed look on our faces.  Our mind couldnt’ really process the incredibly weird combination of sweet porcini’s.  But as we kept chewing, our faces started contorting in these orgasmic expressions.  Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?  It is a spectacular flavor combination!  I can’t get enough of these, and I will order them every time I go!

So folks, if you are in Madrid, you cannot afford to miss this place.  Good service, authentically kitsch decor, exceptional quality food.  Who could ask for anything more?

El Cisne Azul

Calle de Gravina 19,

28004, Madrid

Metro:  Chueca Line

+34 915 21 37 99

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

Yesterday my baby girl was home sick with a tummy bug, which incidentally I caught, so I decided to make her a clear broth.  I had some chicken and ham bones in the fridge, plus loads of veggies, and I always have some herbs and spices on hand, so it was easy-going.  Today she is feeling much better, and I put that delicious stock to good use.  Lentils-  I love lentils, having grown up eating it almost every week.  In Colombia our grains are usually accompanied with white rice, but here in Spain, lentils are eaten as a dish on its own.  That is what I was going for today, swapping my usual “latino” herbs and spices for some more “mediterranean” ones.  Oh, and let’s not forget the chorizo……no lentil dish worth its name would be without it here, since pork is king!

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

I love the chorizo in the lentils, it gives it a warmth and depth that really isn’t achieved with in our Colombian counterpart; at least in my home our lentils were more of the vegetarian variety.   Also, I added some smoked sweet “pimenton” to give it that extra smoky kick!  Adding the chorizo and pimenton makes this more of a one plate meal, no accompaniment needed, and as the weather cools down, it definitely warms your belly too!

So here’s what you’re going to need”

4 cups dark stock (recipe below)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 green pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 carrot, chopped

1/4 cup chorizo, cubed

1 tsp smoked sweet pimenton or paprika

1 cup Pardina lentils, or Lentilles du Puy (french lentils)

2 bay leaves

1 sprig of thyme

Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a medium sauté pan, add the olive oil and warm it up over medium low heat.  Add the onion and green pepper, and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the carrot, chorizo and pimenton, stirring and cook for another 2 minutes.

In the meantime, in a dutch oven or medium stockpot, bring your stock to a boil.  When boiling, add the vegetables, lentils, bay leaves and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat for 10 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium low, and simmer for another 35 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked and it has slightly thickened.  Serve with fresh crusty bread and enjoy!

For the Stock:

This is a go to stock recipe that can be used as a broth, or base for other food preparations.  This makes about 6 cups, and feel free to swap some of the vegetables and herbs for what you have on hand.  The most important part is the cooking time so it really develops some flavor.

Makes about 6 cups of stock

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 leek, sliced

3 shallots, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 celery sticks plus some leaves, sliced

1 large tomato, diced

1 cup cabbage, diced

1 tbsp tomato paste

Chicken bones and neck

3 ham bones

8 cups water

2 sprigs of sage, roughly chopped

2 sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

1 tsp black peppercorns

Salt, to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add the leek, shallots, carrot, celery, tomato and cabbage, cook for about 15 minutes, until softened.  Raise heat to high, add the tomato paste and your bones, stirring constantly to incorporate the paste.  Add the water and the rest of the ingredients.  Boil for about 10 minutes, and then lower heat to medium high, and cook for another 40 minutes.  Turn off heat, and cover to let the flavors meld for another 20 minutes.

Strain through a chinois, and return to the dutch oven.  If you want a very clear broth, like consome, then when the stock is simmering, add 2 scrambled egg whites to the stock, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove the egg whites, this picks up all the impurities and leaves you with a crystalline broth.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Tarragon, Mushroom, and Leek Tart

Tarragon, Mushroom, and Leek Tart

 

It’s starting to cool down a bit here, not enormously, but in the evenings there is a slight chill in the air;  for me, that means that I can start using the oven more often, and I love it!

I have an obsession with all the ingredients of this tart, but the most recent one is tarragon.  I had never tried it before a couple of years ago, it really isn’t an ingredient readily available in Miami or the Bahamas.  After moving to Spain I started noticing it in the market, and wondered if it tasted as good as it smelled.  I think it is a definite acquired taste, but I liked it more and more every time.

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This is a very simple tart to make, but just because its simple doesn’t mean it isn’t elegant enough to serve at a dinner party.  I love these types of meals, unfussy, rustic and über delicious.  Perfect to serve as a starter, or as a main with a simple lamb’s lettuce salad.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

For the shell:

1 1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small squares

1 1/2 tbsp lard

2 – 3 tbsp ice water

 

For the filling:

2 leeks, thinly sliced

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced (cremini or white)

2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

3/4 cup tarragon, chopped

3 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup Gruyère or comte cheese, grated

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 425F (220C).  In a medium bowl place the flour and salt, mix well.  Add the butter and lard, and with your hands or a pastry cutter, mix until all the fats are incorporated.  Add the water, one tbsp at a time, and mix with your hands to form a ball, and just until the dough sticks together.  Add more water if needed (but I only used 2 tbsp).  Wrap in plastic film, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll out dough on a clean and floured surface.  Roll out to about 1/8 thick, and place in tart mold, trimming the edges.  Cover with aluminum foil and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  Remove from freezer, and add pie weights or beans, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium low heat.  Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, thyme and salt.  Raise the heat to high and cook until the mushrooms have let out their liquids and it has evaporated.  Add the tarragon cook for another minute, then take off heat.  Let cool.

In a medium bowl, add the eggs, cream, cheese, black pepper and nutmeg.  Mix well.  Add the cooled mushroom mixture.

When your tart has finished pre-baking, lower the oven to 375F (190C).  Place the mushroom mix in the tart shell, and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.  Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Penne with Smoked Salmon and Vodka Cream Sauce

 

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Hi fellow friends and bloggers, it has been a loooong time since I updated my blog!  For good reason though, this summer has been crazy busy.  In June I married my amazing fiancé and then embarked on our honeymoon to Asia!  What a wild ride, I wish I could do it all over again, but alas, my child needs schooling and so all good things must come to an end.

It’s been 8 months since we moved to Madrid, and that also has been super crazy, making new friends, my daughter is in a new school, hubby in a new job……and me, well I have a new blog!  From now on, all my sweet baking confections will be on San Luis Baking Co.  I hope you enjoy and visit!

So, for our recipe.  Another new adventure has been my potted tomato plants.  We eat tomatoes like they go out of style, but most importantly, my hubs and used to go crazy because finding Italian tomato varieties here is close to impossible.  On one trip to Italy, I bought three types of tomatoes, Pacchino Cherry, which is an heirloom from Sicily, small, but sweet as sugar; San Marzano, which hails from Campania (around Naples, Italy) and is one of the best varieties to make sauce; and Costoluto Fiorentino, which is a large heirloom from Tuscany which makes for a killer salad tomato!  I harvested the seeds, planted in the beginning of May, and voila! This has been my first foray into tomato gardening, and it has had its ups and downs, but I am amazed at the yield that I have had!  So our recipe today includes my cherry tomatoes, straight from the vine.  I know most of us don’t have tomatoes at home, so try to find the ripest, sweetest cherry tomatoes to make this dish.  The tomatoes’ acidity balances well with the mellow cream, and the smokiness of the salmon pairs perfectly in this dish, it’s a winner!

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So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 3-4

300g Penne Pasta

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chili flakes

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup Vodka

200 ml heavy cream

100 g smoked salmon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp fresh Italian parsley, minced

In a large stockpot, put water and 1 tbsp salt to boil.  In a medium sauté pan over medium low heat, add the olive oil.  When hot, add the chili flakes and the garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 4 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes.  Add the cherry tomatoes, salt and a 1/4 cup of water, and lower the heat to low.  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the water has evaporated by half.

Raise the heat to high, and add the vodka and carefully light to flambe; to burn off all the alcohol.  Lower the heat to a minimum, and add the cream and stir.  Take off the heat and add the salmon, pepper and give it a good stir.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  When it is done, strain all but a tbsp of the water, and toss it in the pan with your sauce.  Raise the heat on your pan, and cook on high for about 2 minutes, until all the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla