Saturday, May 26, 2012

Buttermilk Bacon Pralines

Buttermilk Bacon Pralines
Let me start this post by saying I am not against bacon. I L-O-V-E love bacon and I'm pretty sure I could never be a vegetarian because I love it so. I am not, however, for the gratuitous use of bacon. You see it in everything lately, from salt to popcorn to toothpaste (!). Bacon doesn't need to be in everything but it absolutely belongs in these pralines.

I found this recipe for Buttermilk Bacon Pralines while trying to put more notches on my candy thermometer. After reading the recipe, I could not get them out of my mind. This was my first attempt at pralines and they were not too hard but, dang, they are not kidding when they say to scoop these out quickly.

The crystalline, caramel, creaminess of the pralines goes perfectly with the salty smokiness of the bacon but I put a big red light on the orange zest this recipe calls for. It does not belong in there and all those who sampled the first batch agreed. I'm a huge fan of citrus but the orange competes with the bacon and I left it out of subsequent batches.

Since this batch was a gift, I wrapped each one individually in plastic wrap affixing little stickers that I made on the computer and printed on some FedEx sticker labels to the backs.
Gift supplies Wrapped

Tied it all up with a pretty bow and sent it on it's way!

Buttermilk Bacon Pralines
very slightly modified from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook via Framed Cooks

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Combine sugars, buttermilk, corn syrup, baking soda , and salt in a 3-quart heavy saucepan (this will bubble up a lot so don't use anything smaller). Stir to combine.

Attach a candy thermometer and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until thermometer reaches 236 degrees. This will take about 20 minutes and you will see a lot of hissing and blurping in the pot when you stir. BE CAREFUL when you stir, this stuff is HOT!

Remove candy thermometer and place pot on a heatproof surface. With a wooden spoon, beat, beat, beat, the mixture until it loses it's gloss. Sound confusing? I thought so too. I never did see a "loss of gloss." Instead,  as soon as I saw this start to get the least bit thick, I started dropping by tablespoon fulls on a piece of aluminum foil. If the mixture hardens in the pan, add a small amount of water and return to the heat until smooth and liquid again, then tart dropping them on the foil again. Let pralines cool completely on foil, at least thirty minutes.

This made about 20-24 small pralines.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Stuffed Squashes and Mushrooms

Grilled Stuffed Mushrooms and Squash
These are so good the photo assistant couldn't wait.
I adore mushrooms. Sauteed, baked, roasted, raw are all fantastic. Squash? Not so much. It's not that I don't like squash, it just never calls out to me as something I'm dying to have. This recipe changes all that. Slightly softened squash with a moist stuffing filled with herbs and cheese that gets crispy on top. Do I need to say more? Of course I do :)

This recipe is endlessly adaptable and could easily be made ahead. Who doesn't need more recipes like that? You could substitute the cheddar with almost any cheeseParmesan, Gouda, PepperJack. I think even a soft goat cheese or feta would work. You can keep it vegetarian or add cooked, crumbled sausage or cooked, chopped shrimp to make it a meal of its own. This works great with just about every squashzucchini or summer squash or pattypans.

Start by stemming the mushrooms and scooping out the insides of the squash.
Squash boats
Chop up the mushroom stems and zucchini that you scooped out and saute them up in a little olive oil and butter along with some onion and garlic.

Let that cool for a few minutes, then add some herbs, cheese, and Panko breadcrumbs.

Stuff this mixture into your zucchini boats and mushroom caps.
Ready to grill
Grill and enjoy, or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook them.

Grilled Stuffed Mushrooms and Zucchini
adapted from Outdoor Cooking (Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library)

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer or 4-5 as a side dish

4 small zucchini, pattypan, or summer squashes
1 8-oz package button mushrooms
1 Tbls. olive oil, plus more for brushing squash and mushrooms
1 Tbls. butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2-2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbls. fresh or 1 tsp. dried herb of your choice (oregano, thyme, italian seasoning, basil or rosemary would all be good choices, but if using rosemary, I might cut the amount by half)
1 Tbls. cream, optional

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and set aside. Cut each squash in half lengthwise, then remove a little sliver from the bottom of each half so the squash will lay flat. Using a small spoon (a small melon baller or grapefruit spoon works great for this), scoop out the interior of the squash, leaving about an 1/4-inch of shell. Place squash and mushrooms on a baking sheet and brush the insides  and outsides with olive oil. Turn everything right side up and season with salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop the scooped out squash and mushroom stems. Melt butter and olive oil in a medium saute pan over med-high heat. Add garlic and onion and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped squash and mushrooms. Saute for 7-8 minutes until the squash are soft and have evaporated most of their liquid, remove from heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

Add cheese, herbs, cream (if using), then salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the panko crumbs. Start with 1/2 cup then evaluate if you need more. You want your cooked squash mixture to be moist but not full of liquid. If you add the panko and there is no liquid in the bottom of the pan, you're good to go.

Lightly stuff the squash boats and mushroom caps with the mixture. Place the squash straight on the grill. I usually put the mushrooms on the grill in a foil pie pan but if you have a fancy grill basket that will work too. Grill over indirect heat10-15 minutes for the mushrooms and 20 minutes for the squashuntil the tops are golden and you can easily pierce the sides of the squash with a knife. Alternatively, you could bake these in a 425 degree oven10-15 minutes for the mushrooms and 15-20 minutes for the squash.