Manchego Crackers

So I had Manchego and had to figure out something to do with it. I buy cheese like that – buy it and then figure something out. Improvisation or some such. Manchego is sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. I guess this is the sheep milk cheese cracker. I am a big fan of sheeps’ milk cheeses, and goats’ milk cheese, and cows’ milk cheese. Well you get the idea. Fan of cheese is all possible variations.

This is a new recipe to me – so here we go.

D&D_2057

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
2 ounces Manchego cheese, finely grated

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse just until a dough forms. Do not overwork dough, or crackers will be tough.

Roll dough into a log about 1.5 inches in diameter (is that the right word for round-ish? – don’t know). Refrigerate. I usually just refrigerate overnight just to be safe and it seems to work well.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Slice dough into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Dock the crackers with a fork. Bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Allow crackers to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer them directly to a cooling rack to cool.

Store crackers layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.

Adapted from Epicurious. Via http://lifecurrents.dw2.net/manchego-crackers/

~Original directions: Gather dough into a ball, and flatten into a 5-inch disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill dough, until firm, about 30 minutes. The dough can be made ahead and chilled like this for up to 2 days.

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until about 1/8-inch thick, roughly 14-inch round.

Working quickly, cut out rounds with a 1 ¾ to 2-inch floured biscuit cutter, and arrange the rounds ½-inch apart on a silpat or parchment paper covered baking sheet. Re-roll scraps (but only once or they will get tough; chill first if soft), and cut out more rounds. Prick each round 2 or 3 times with a fork.

If your kitchen is warm, roll out dough between 2 sheets of wax paper.

~ Notes: I really hate rolling out crackers, or cookies for that matter. Let’s just keep it simple. I did the same thing with Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread just last week. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. At least, I’m two for two right now and I shall just keep going. I guess my exception is my favorite sugar cookies. I am not sure how they could be made any other way – but that does not mean I am not open to trying something new.

Roquefort Crackers

Yet again, another cheese cracker. Obsessive though I may be, there is nothing wrong with adding more cheese crackers to my repertoire. I have learned that I like the slice and bake version of crackers the most because you can make the dough, roll it, and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake which makes for easy weeknight baking.

D&D_2038I have also learned to bake a test batch of 2 – 3 crackers if it is a new recipe just to see if the temperature and timing are okay. And I am glad I did that with this recipe.

You see, I had the oven at 400 degrees for another recipe and sliced up the dough for two test crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked it for the 8 minutes, turning half way through. The color was really good, but the center of the cracker was raw. I let them rest to see if they got a little crunchy as they cooled, but they did not.

So now my idea is to lower the temperature to 375 and baking them a bit longer. Fingers crossed this will work, because I think this might be a really good cracker. We shall see. 

Lo, and behold – the 375 degrees for about 8 minutes worked like a charm. Yippee for test crackers. 

8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ozs Roquefort, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cayenne

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and Roquefort until smooth. Add flour and cayenne and mix until smooth.

Divide dough into two pieces and roll into 1 1/2 inch logs. Wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Slice logs in 1/4 inch slices. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake 8 minutes until lightly browned – watch closely. Cool completely.

Source: bonappetit.com/recipes/article/Roquefort-Crackers / California American Cookbook.

This is just the kind of recipe story that I love. Sometimes family stories at just the best.

Needs more cayenne , but that always seems to be the case –  because I am me.

Andouille in a Blanket … w/ mustard chutney

I just had to make this because I and the MotH love andouille. I mean, honestly, who does not love it? I guess, well, no one. Andouille, originally a French sausage, is best know in the US as its Louisiana cousin. The best andouille, in my opinion, is from the area in and around Lafayette Louisiana. That is also where the best boudin comes from, but that is a whole other post.

This is like the grown up version of pigs in a blanket. And can we just gild the lily with a chutney mustard sauce. So … I shall say it again … stupidly good. This made a great dinner for us one Saturday night as we had had a late lunch and only needed a little snack, but it was a damn tasty snack. D&D_1979

7 ounces all-butter puff pastry, thawed and cut into four 5-inch squares
1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
4 andouille sausages (3 ounces each)
1/4 cup Major Grey’s chutney*
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Arrange the puff pastry squares on a work surface and brush the top edges with the egg wash. Place the sausages on the bottom edges and roll up the pastry, pressing the edges to seal. Freeze the logs for 10 minutes, or until firm.

Cut the logs into 1/2-inch slices and place them cut side up in 3 mini muffin pans. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Turn out onto a paper towel-lined rack to cool.

Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the chutney and mustard just until the chutney is chopped. Spoon a dollop of the chutney mustard on each slice and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The unbaked sliced rounds can be frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

* really looked into making chutney for this, but honest to the lord there are just too many pieces parts to make for something that would just be easier to purchase. Yes, this is woosing out, but sometimes it just makes more sense to buy versus make. In this case, this was a win – all the way around.

Mushroom & Fontina Crostini 

I know toasts are a thing, but I made this because the flavors sounded so good, and I had thyme for the Tomato Bisque recipe and a I had Fontina cheese in the fridge. Fontina is one of my all time favorite cheeses – so melty and smooth. Any time it is on sale at the Publix I pick some up. It never ever goes to waste. Sometimes I just slice some up with apples and eat it. It is the simple things.D&D_1919

Bread halved diagonally *
Olive oil, divided
1 lb crimini mushrooms
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly chopped thyme 
3 Tbs water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded, about 1 cup
1 Tbs chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Arrange bread on baking sheet and drizzle with 3 Tbs olive oil, but do not go overboard with the olive oil. Toast for 8* minutes until slightly golden around the edges.   Remove from oven. Turn broiler on low.

Thinly slice mushrooms. In a large skillet, melt butter over high heat until lightly bubbling , 2 minutes. Add remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil and the mushrooms and cook undisturbed until the mushrooms are browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme, lower the heat and cook until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add water and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, the cook 3 minutes longer to dry off liquid. Taste and then season with salt** and pepper and remove from heat.

Spoon mushroom mixture over toasts and sprinkle cheese on top. Broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Transfer crostini to a platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve. 

* Figure out actual timing depending on bread type selected. Used Chicago Italian bread, drizzled with olive oil and toasted 8 – 10 minutes. Just keep a close eye on it. 

**Didn’t need salt, but added freshly squeezed lime juice.

Used Italian Fontina. Next time, I plan to use thyme to top the toast since I already use it in the mushrooms. I like that little lemon note that thyme provides.

9 June 2017

Made at work for lunch – 

Source: 

Reuben Dip in a Bread Bowl

I am adjusting this recipe to fit with the things that work with the “Best Reuben Sandwich” from America’s Test Kitchen. Like making your own “dressing” which includes the mayo, sour cream, and chili sauce. Also using Boar’s Head sauerkraut and draining some sweet relish – though I will not go so far as to chop up my own sweet gerkins. Makes no sense. D&D_1861

I had to order the bread bowl from the Publix a day ahead of time, so consider that in your planning. I think a Rye boule would work equally well if you are so inclined.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup chili sauce
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup drained sauerkraut -Boar’s Head
3 tablespoons sweet relish, drained very well
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup diced cooked corned beef – Boar’s Head from the deli @ the Publix
salt and pepper
1 large (1#) pumpernickel boule, top sliced off and center hollowed out

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, chili sauce, cream cheese, sauerkraut, and relish into a large mixing bowl and stir together until completely combined. Fold in cheeses and corned beef until fully combined. Season with salt and pepper and stir together. Scoop mixture and place into the hollowed bread bowl and place onto a baking sheet.

Place dip in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until dip is hot and baked through. Serve immediately with bread bowl by making slices of the bread into the dip – really good. Yep.

Source: Spoon Fork Bacon with some America’s Test Kitchen influence.

15 April 2017 – For Easter this year. Used my super amazing tomato knife* to slice through the bread to make bites and it worked really well.

* Victorinox 125th anniversary limited edition 4 1/2″ tomato knife. Sharpest damn thing ever – mind your fingers. So not kidding.

Artichoke Bread

This idea kind of combines a couple of other really good ideas. Cheese bread and artichoke dip with some garlic throw in for good measure. This just sounds like dinner to me. That being said, I am sure I could survive on bread and cheese – and maybe some apples and grapes and be a perfectly happy camper.dd_1810

For all the desserts that I bake, they just are not my favorite things. I do it to make the Boy happy and when I have extra to share, I take them to the office or to my local. I am going to make an effort to also start taking treats to the local sheriff’s department and the local fire departments. My only question there is – is that just weird? Will they be suspicious of it? I hope not. Cookies, and baking in general, are just good for me to do and I would like to share.

Last week was a pretty rough week for our LEOs  in Escambia County FL, Santa Rosa County Fl, and Escambia County AL. You probably didn’t hear, but a guy killed two women in Milton, another in Foley and stole her car, and shot a women in Pensacola and then stole her car too. She later died. It was a bit scary because he and his accomplice were seen not too terrible far from my office. I just don’t understand. Who does this? This seems really depressing, but it was that week. Let’s just say we were all hyper aware of our surroundings now.

I am sure artichoke bread will not fix the bad things in the world, but doing something comforting makes life a little better – at least it does for me.

14 ozs artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
zest of one lemon
chopped chives
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix artichokes, scallions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, and cheeses, reserving some cheese for the top. Or just add some more, because it is cheese after all

Hollow about 1/2 inch of bread out of both halves of the bread. Spread mixture in the hollow and top with reserved cheese.

Wrap bread loosely in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.

Source: Closet Cooking


Mini Cheese Ball Bites

So this was a new appetizer for Thanksgiving  but for me it plays into my holiday thing. Holidays call for cheese balls – yes, they do, because I used to make a cheese ball when I was all of 12 years-old for our Christmas smorgasbord – my name for our Christmas Eve feast thing. I have tried to advance my cheese ball experience to go way beyond my immature 12 year-old self. I mean dried beef was involved.* Ugh.  But now that I think about it – what would it be like to try that recipe several decades later? Would it be good or would the food snob in me completely revolt. I am not sure and little scared to try to be honest. I still have that recipe, so who knows what might happen.

This recipe has lots of my favorite flavors: bleu cheese, cranberries, pecans. Those flavors are holidays to me. Especially with our local pecans, just harvested this fall – they are so sweet and totally set off the saltiness of the bleu cheese. Also, I am hard pressed to ever turn down a dried cranberry. [See: Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies]dd_1693

I do love that the base of this can be made ahead – the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry part. Then the day of, make the mini cheese bites, roll in top quality local pecans and add that little pretzel skewer. Excellent. This will also make this recipe in a regular sized cheese ball to go with bread or crackers. May have to do this for the next pot luck at work. We shall see.

8 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
4 ozs bleu cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely minced
1 1/2 cup pecans, minced
pretzel sticks

In a bowl, mix together bleu cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in cranberries. Refrigerate until firm. Using a spoon, scoop into tablespoon sized balls. Refrigerate again until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecan pieces in oven for 7 – 10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow pecans to cool. Roll chilled cheese balls in pecans. Keep balls refrigerated.

Just before serving, skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick. 

Do Ahead: Make the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry mixture and cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, toast the pecans, roll the cheese balls in them, and add the pretzel sticks.

* Here it is for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

2016 – A Year Ago – Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms