Friday, January 30, 2015

Chicken Liver and Fig Terrine

Tender - just pink - chicken livers, red wine, cognac and sweet dried black mission figs are blended to make a delicious terrine. Serve it with sliced baguette, toast or crackers. 

Just because a get-together is meant to celebrate a football game or another sporting event, that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little sophistication to the menu. These little pots of chicken liver terrine (although, dear God, don’t call it that if you are feeding a picky crowd!) would be the perfect addition to your party table. They can be made a couple of days ahead.  Keep them well chilled and covered with a thin layer of melted butter or even duck fat, if you have some on hand.

I married a sports buff who was raised playing football (but in his case, read: soccer) but he also enjoys golf, tennis and American football. Even his very English father indulged, watching college and pro football while living in Freeport, Bahamas. I’ve already told the story of how I met the in-laws, so I’ll just say that finding out that my father-in-law enjoyed watching American football was another large surprise. I figured him for a cricket man with his posh English accent. But I can tell you this, he would have loved this terrine, no matter what the sport it accompanied. And his son is also a big fan.

Now, the way I understand it, a terrine is usually chunkier than a pâté. While the base of this is quite smooth, the mission figs are chunky so I guess this qualifies. This recipe is slightly adapted from the cookbook, Chocolate & Zucchini.  (<affiliate link)

Ingredients
1/3 cup or 80ml red wine
4 tablespoons or 40ml cognac
1 lb or 450g chicken livers
1 small onion
1 large clove garlic
8 dried black mission figs
Olive oil
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme plus extra to garnish
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon flakey sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh grown black pepper
1/2 cup or 115g unsalted butter, chilled

For preservation and decoration:
1/4 – 1/3 cup or 60-75g melted butter or duck fat ,depending on the width of your bowls.
Mixed peppercorns

Method
Clean the chicken livers by pulling of any gristle or fat with a sharp knife and rinse them with cold water in a colander. Allow to drain well.

Put the livers in a bowl and add in the wine and cognac. Stir well and cover with cling film. Leave to marinate for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.


Meanwhile mince your onion and garlic and set aside. Cut the stems off of your dried mission figs and soak them in hot water for about 30 minutes.

Pull the leaves off of your thyme and mince them.

Once the marinading time is up, drain the livers but save the marinade.

Put a healthy drizzle of olive oil in your pan and sauté the onion and garlic until they are translucent.



Add in the drained livers, thyme and bay leaves.  Cook over high heat for just a few minutes, browning the outsides of the liver.



Add in the wine/cognac marinade that you saved.



Cook for a few more minutes, until the liquid has evaporated. The insides of your liver should still be ever so slightly pink.


Tip everything into a food processor and process until smooth, using a rubber spatula to clean down the sides occasionally.



Cut your chilled butter into small cubes and add them to the liver. Process to blend.



When you have a smooth paste, add in the figs and processor briefly. You want them well mixed in but with small chunks still visible.



Tip the mixture into your serving vessels and smooth the top. I chose two smaller bowls because I was transporting them to another city by car, but you can put it all into one larger vessel, if desired.



Put one small sprig of thyme on top for decoration. Melt your butter or duck fat and pour it carefully on top of the terrine to keep it from drying out and turning dark.

Sprinkle on a few whole peppercorns, if desired.



Refrigerate until ready to serve.



Enjoy!


And no matter which your team or tournament, may your favorite win!


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Monday, January 26, 2015

Cream Cheese Banana Pecan Muffins #MuffinMonday


Sweet ripe bananas and soft cream cheese combine to make the best muffins! Add in a goodly number of toasted pecans and these are the perfect breakfast or snack. 

If you’ve ever had a look at my blog roll in the left hand column (assuming you aren’t on a mobile device, and then I don’t know where it goes!) you’ve likely noticed one link called Kelli’s Kitchen. That’s my friend, Kelli’s blog. She was blessed with a grandmother who loved to cook and bake and who was delighted to have little hands helping her in the kitchen as she concocted her culinary magic. Kelli often shares her Nana’s best-loved recipes but just last week, she published one for an Old-Fashioned Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread that she adapted from Southern Living Magazine. I love that Southern Living tried to make the banana nut bread healthier, using some whole wheat and reduced fat cream cheese, but Kelli did Kelli and made it more delicious. Even as I read her post, I knew that I would have to recreate that old-fashioned banana bread in muffin form.

Those sweet bananas and cream cheese may sounds like an unusual combination, but let me assure you that they are divine together. This may be my favorite sweet muffin so far in all my years of Muffin Monday.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup or 190g flour
3/4 cup or 150g sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium-sized bananas (Peeled, mine weighed a little more than 8oz or 230g together)
4 oz or 115g cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
1/3 cup or 75g butter, melted then cooled
1/4 cup or 60ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups or 140g pecans, toasted

Method
Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C.  Fill the muffin pan with liners or grease it really well with butter or non-stick spray. In case you are coveting them, my pretty liners were a gift from my elder daughter. They came from Crate & Barrel.

Measure your flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl and give them a good stir to mix.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mash your bananas and softened cream cheese together with fork.



Add in the egg, butter, milk and vanilla and mix well.

Complete the batter by pouring the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and fold until they are just combined. You should still see a lot of dry flour.



Chop your pecans roughly and put aside a generous handful for topping. Fold the rest of the pecans into the batter.



Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.



Sprinkle the tops with the reserved chopped pecans.



Bake in the preheated oven about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.



Allow to cool for a few minutes in the muffin pan and then remove to a rack to cool completely.



Enjoy!








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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Coconut Rum Celebration Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange


These buttery shortbread cookies are flavored with fresh grated coconut and golden rum, then drizzled with rum glaze and more coconut. When the wind is whipping around you and it’s cold as cold can be outside, pour yourself a cup of steaming hot tea and bite into this luxuriously rich cookie.

This month’s Creative Cookie Exchange theme is Comfort Cookies and we were supposed to create a favorite cookie for someone in our lives. But this week I am feeling especially generous since my mom and mother-in-law arrive on Thursday to help me celebrate my own birthday on Friday. So this cookie is for ALL of you in the North Hemisphere who might be experiencing freezing temperatures and unpleasantly moist conditions. As the rich shortbread crumbles between your chattering teeth, the rum and coconut should evoke a beach vacation where you can imagine cabana boys serving fruity drinks under palm trees swaying gently in the tropical breeze, with the warm sunshine working its way to your chilled bones. If you want to add a tot of rum to your hot lemon tea to go along with, no one will judge you.

This recipe is adapted from one on The Café Sucré Farine.

Ingredients 
You could use desiccated coconut but don't use
the sweetened stuff. 

For the cookie dough:
1 cup or 225g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup or 95g powdered or icing sugar
1 1/3 cups or 165g flour
1/2 cup or 40g freshly grated coconut plus a little extra for decorating, if desired
1/2 cup or 75g cornstarch
2 teaspoons golden or dark rum
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered or icing sugar
1 tablespoon golden or dark rum
1-2 teaspoons milk
Pinch salt

For decoration: freshly grated coconut, pearl nonpareils http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonpareils  or shiny sprinkles

Method
Preheat your oven to 325°F or °C and prepare your 8x8in or 20x20cm baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your stand mixer or with handheld beaters, beat the butter briefly until it is smooth, then add the powdered sugar and beat again for about one minute.

Add in the flour, cornstarch, coconut, rum and salt and beat until just mixed.

Yay! I remembered the flour this time
Tip the dough into your prepared pan and cover it with cling film. Use your hands to spread out the dough evenly in the pan, making sure to get all the way into the corners.



Remove the cling film and draw lines on the dough with a sharp knife where you plan to cut the cookies apart.



Bake in your preheated oven about 18-22 minutes or until lightly golden on the sides but still pale on top.



Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the parchment with cookies to a cutting board and carefully cut them apart while still warm, using a very large knife that will let you cut the whole way, or almost the whole way across, with one downward motion. These cookies, like all shortbread, are crumbly so you don’t want to break them while sawing at them.



Make the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar and rum with the pinch of salt. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring well between, until you get a good dripping consistency, then stop. You may not need all the milk.


Once the cookies are cool, separate them slightly on the parchment paper and drizzle the glaze back and forth over them till it’s all used.



Sprinkle them immediately with a little extra grated coconut and a couple of teaspoons of shiny decorations, if desired.



Allow the glaze to set before trying to move them or stack them.



Enjoy!



Do you need some comfort cookies? We've got something for everyone and even one for Man's Best Friend! Who would you bake a comfort cookie for?




Creative Cookie Exchange is a great group of bloggers who love to bake cookies. We get together once a month (the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month) to post cookie recipes with a common theme or ingredient.

If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life).


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