Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sweet Potato Bisque with Parmesan Lace

Simplistic yes, but with all the holiday fuss, uncomplicated dishes are a welcome retreat. Homemade broth, sweet potato and cream need nothing more than one another, except for a special adornment of baked parmesan cheese. Special. Satisfying. 

Sweet Potato Bisque with Parmesan Lace:
*8 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
*4-5 cups chicken broth
*1 cup high quality cream
*sea salt 
*black pepper
*3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Heap 1 Tablespoon of parmesan on baking sheet and spread out to create a flat circle. Repeat with remaining cheese allowing an inch between each circle. Bake for about 4 minutes or until cheese is mostly golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and cool.

Place sweet potatoes in a large soup pot. Cover with chicken broth adding enough to completely submerge contents. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.
Blend with an immersion blender or working in batches, puree contents in a food processor until smooth. Add cream. Blend. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Divide into bowls. Garnish each with a wafer of parmesan lace. Serve hot.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mulled Apple Cider

Appearing in print last week, this article on mulled cider includes a special recipe for homemade mulling spice (perfect for cider and wine). An inexpensive but inventive gift for those you plan to gift. I've done this every year for the past few, with great success. It's always nice to have cider and mulling spice on hand for those impromptu Holiday gatherings. Cheers.

Homemade Mulling Spice:

5 navel oranges, very thinly sliced into whole rounds
10-15 whole cinnamon sticks
20 cardamom pods
40 whole cloves
30 black peppercorns
20-25 star anise pods

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Arrange orange slices on wire racks. Place racks over sheet pans. Allow oranges to gently bake until fully dehydrated, flipping once halfway through, about 3-4 hours.  
Allow oranges to cool completely on wire racks before dividing with remaining spices among 10 paper envelopes*. Secure with twine. 
Each packet should adequately flavor approximately one quart fresh apple cider or one bottle of red wine.

*Create paper pouches using pre-made envelopes or make your own with origami paper or parchment. Tie with kitchen twine.

Mulled Apple Cider:

1 packet homemade mulling spice (see recipe)
1 quart local apple cider

Place cider in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a crockpot on middle setting. Add mulling spices. Allow to gently simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 10-20 minutes before serving. 

*Experiment with a variety of spices such as whole allspice berries, spicebush berries, candied ginger, or grated nutmeg.