The Cranberry Harvest

With Halloween behind us we all look forward to gearing up for the holidays; signs of Christmas are already being spotted.  November is such a wonderful month.  It seems as the weather gets colder more people migrate towards the kitchen, getting warm and getting ready for the fast approaching holidays.  The hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays begins.  So much to do, and for those that love to cook one of the greatest times of the year.

Particularly for those who live in New England.  We seem to have an abundance of foods to work with that make the holidays so much fun.  One of my favorite ingredients is cranberries.  For so many reasons this little fruit is such a joy to cook with.  Cranberries have been around for so long.  They are one of the oldest New England ingredients to use, and one of the most unique fruits in the world.  Cranberries are one of three fruits native to North America.

To begin with, long before the pilgrim’s first landed in Plymouth native Indians were enjoying all the advantages cranberries had to offer.  Folklore has it that cranberries were served at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.  The native Indians found many uses for the cranberry.  They used them to make a kind of tea, and the tea was used both as a juice drink, and as a dye for rugs and clothing.  The Indians also recognized the medicinal value of cranberries long before nutritionists and scientists discovered the health benefits of the tiny fruit.  The Pequot Indians of Cape Cod ate the fruit during the harsh winters of New England.

According to Waverly Root the Indians prepared this kind of survival food called pemmican.  Pemmican was a small cake made from crushed cranberries mixed with fat and dried deer meat, and was consumed by young and old alike. Cooking with cranberries is a long New England tradition.   Another favorite of the eastern native Indian was cornmeal and cranberries mixed together.

There is no question that cranberries have had a long history of health benefits.  Early sailors used to consume cranberries to prevent scurvy.  Cranberries are not only high in Vitamin-C, but they are also rich in anti-oxidants.   As we have learned over the years consuming anti-oxidant rich foods cleanse our bodies of free radicals.  Having cranberries in your diet on a regular basis can definitely help improve and maintain good health.

Moreover it is a proven fact that cranberries help prevent urinary tract infection, they also help reduce bacterial adhesion to your teeth, and aid in the reduction of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.  The health benefits of cranberries are just one thing that makes them such an amazing berry.  In the culinary world they have so many applications.  They are used in several varieties of food dishes.

Cranberries are used in drinks, appetizers, condiments, salads, entrees, and desserts.  They are used in several recipes both savory and sweet.   Twenty percent of cranberries consumed in the U.S. are purchased and consumed during the week of Thanksgiving.  So it is no wonder why November is cranberry month.  Cranberries have been a staple in my kitchen for over 30 years. We use cranberries in many ways even making cocktails like cranberry martinis, I have also developed a cranberry tea to make specialty drinks, and in the kitchen we use cranberries in our sorbets, breads, and our desserts.

I have always believed that cranberries go well with meat, and do several dishes blending the two.  Nothing is more Paleo than meat and cranberries.  The two have blended well since cranberries were first discovered.

Next week I will be doing some cooking classes to help take some of the stress out of holiday cooking.  All attendees will find many tips and techniques to make some awesome holiday dishes.  You can email me for more information at brian@cast-ironchef.org if you are interested in learning more.   Here is a long time favorite recipe of mine that I have shared with many friends and family.  I love making this simple recipe, and now I will share the love with you.  Bon Appétit!

Recipe for Cranberry Pot Roast   Courtesy of Brian M. Coffey, CEC AAC

(4-6 servings)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp   Vegetable oil

6 lb      Chuck Roast (tied), seasoned with salt and pepper

2 cups  onions, medium diced

2 cups Beef stock or beef bouillon

2 cups Whole cranberries

½ cup Maple Syrup

½ cup Roux

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method: In a cast iron skillet or large sauté pan over high heat add oil and once oil begins to smoke add meat and sear on all sides.  Once meat is seared remove from heat, lower heat to medium-high and add onions.  Cook onions until they start to caramelize, then remove from heat.

In a braising pan place cooked onions, add seared chuck roast, add cranberries and maple syrup, add beef stock or bouillon; cover with lid.  Place in preheated oven at 300oF; cook for 2 ½ hours, or until meat is fork tender.  Remove meat from pan, and place braising pan on stove; bring liquid to slow boil and stir in roux until liquid coats the back of a spoon, nappe.  Strain the liquid (gravy), cut the roast and portion onto plates, top with gravy an serve.

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Cooking Parties

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I am a professional chef who loves to teach and cook at the same time.  I have created these great cooking class / cooking parties to entertain, have fun, and learn how to cook, eat, and be merry.  I also love to cater.  Check out my wide range of specialized services.  Thank you.

http://www.thumbtack.com/Private-Chef-and-Catering-Events-Bartlett-NH/service/1155817

 

Warm regards,

Brian M. Coffey, CEC AAC

Afternoon Delight Juice

Here is a great juice recipe for all those that enjoy juicing.

Recipe for : Afternoon Delight 1     yield 20 oz

Ingredients:

½ lemon, rind and all

4 carrots, med size

4 stalks celery

½ bag spinach ( 6oz)

1 oz Red Pepper

½ cup snap peas

Wash all vegetables and run through juicer

Maple Eggnog

Image My kids are always asking me to write another cookbook for them with all my favorite family recipes for them to share with family and friends.  Well with Christmas coming soon I thought I’d share my maple eggnog recipe with those that enjoy this festive drink.  So here it is.

Home-Made Maple Eggnog                         

                                                                          Courtesy of Brian M. Coffey CEC, AAC

Note: Once made eggnog lasts for several days, refrigerated of course.  So if you are having a Christmas Party of a Christmas Eve celebration you can make the eggnog several days in advance.

Ingredients:

12        ea         eggs, beaten

1          cup      cane sugar

1          each     vanilla bean (or 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract)

1          cup      maple syrup (100% Pure)

1          qt         milk

1          qt         half and half

1          pint      heavy cream

1          tsp       ground nutmeg

½         cup      Navan (vanilla flavored Grand Marnier)

 

Method:

In a large stainless steel bowl beat the eggs, add the milk, half and half, sugar, vanilla, maple syrup, and nutmeg.

Place mixture in a 4-6 qt double boiler and over medium-high heat bring mixture to 175oF for 15 seconds stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.  You will notice the mixture thickens slightly.   Remove the liquid from heat and place vessel in a cold ice bath to rapid chill the mixture.  While the eggnog is chilling whip the pint of heavy cream.  Once the eggnog is below 40oF fold in the whipped cream and refrigerate.  Place the eggnog in a glass bowl and add Navan, sprinkle with a little nutmeg and serve.

 

 

To Screw or Not to Screw

In addition to my passion for food and all the taste sensations I try hard to create wi I enjoy pairing fine wines with my food.  Properly pairing wine with food creates an increased taste sensation, in your mouth, making your dining experience more pleasurable.   I am always looking for innovative ways to make the dining experience incredibly special, as enjoying a good meal is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures.

I have been perfecting wine lists since almost as long as I have been cooking and I am very proud of the way my wine list has evolved.  I try to spend as much time as I can in the dining room as I can as I enjoy the feedback and responses I get from our guests.  A question I am often asked when I start to talk about wines and food is why the screw caps on the wine bottles.  I had a lady refuse to try one of our most popular Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley, Oregon called WillaKenzie; I also had another guest question the Arrabella Cabernet from South Africa, one of my favorite pours, they both have a screw cap.

So the question came to be, “To Screw or not to Screw?”  After doing quite a bit of research on the topic at hand, my goal is to shed some light on the hottest topic in the world of wine today, the Screw Cap versus the Cork.  According to Fred Dame the President of the Court of Master Sommeliers, the reason for the shift from cork to metal screw caps is that cork is becoming contaminated by a nasty little infection called 2.4.6-Trichloranisole (TCA).  The natural mold found in the cork reacts with chlorine and causes the wine to have a musty smell, dulling the flavor of the wine.  It’s all about taste.   TCA occurs during the sterilization process; as the quality of cork diminishes, and more and more good cork is hard to find, a significant number of wineries around the world are switching to metal screw caps.

With more wine being produced than ever before, in bottles, the wine producers of the world have to find alternatives to using cork; of course another alternative is the synthetic cork. Synthetic cork is already widely used, but as I have experienced when tending bar, they are difficult to remove from the bottle, and even more so, to get off the corkscrew.  Some tasters even complain of a ‘plastic taint’.

With more and more wines being consumed at record levels around the world, coupled with the shortage of quality cork we are sure to see more wineries bottling their wines with a screw cap.  We think our wines have a more casual side to them anyway as we compare the quality of the wines that make up our wine lists.  It is a matter of educating the public whose preconceived perception is that screw cap wines should be served in a brown bag, like when I was in college and a cheap date was a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 in the back seat of my Chrysler Newport.

Bon Appétit!    ~ Chef

Apples

     One thing that I have always enjoyed living in Northern New Hampshire is the change of seasons, and without a doubt changing from summer to fall is my favorite.  I guess that is why I love the Fall harvest so much.  One of my favorite fall activities is apple picking.  I absolutely love apples!  I love picking them, I love eating them, and I love cooking with them. The apples are the best in the Fall months.

Apples are one of the most iconic foods in the world, and we just happen to live in an area that produces some of the best apples anywhere.  According to the local apple farmers it was a good crop this year despite all the rain during the summer, and I can attest that the quality of apples this year is excellent!  Fortunately for all of us, the rain came after the pollination season.  All the rain during the summer added to all the sunny days in September made the apples this year nice and sweet.

The first picked apples are always the best, tart and sweet at the same time.  For my family apple picking is an annual tradition.   This year we took a Sunday and went to Ward’s Apple Orchard and picked a bushel of assorted apples.  My favorites are McIntosh and Cortland’s.  I love eating and cooking with local products; I have built my life around using as many locally grown products as possible.  The quality of the food I eat and work with is incredibly important to me.  You should feel good after you eat and this can only happen if you are treating yourself to quality foods.  Picking apples off a tree is one of the best ways to insure quality.

Moreover apples are the original health food. Did anyone read the cover story article in Time Magazine a few weeks back on The Real Cost of Eating Cheap Food.  To many Americans are eating cheap food and the true cost of a poor quality diet is rising health issues.  Maybe if we ate better our health care crisis could be alleviated.  We are what we eat.  The better we eat the better we will feel.  I am trying hard to do my part. That is why I cook with only the finest products I can find.  Remember the old adage, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.”  Apples are so good to have in your diet.  I love cooking with apples.  I use them in so many recipes.   They make so many dishes taste so good!

Taste is so important, as tasting good food is one of life’s simple pleasures. I have in my kitchen a wide variety of spoons.  I guess you could say I love spoons.  I have all kinds, wooden spoons, slotted spoons, French spoons, sautéing spoons, and my favorite spoon, the tasting spoon.  I am a very lucky man as my job is basically tasting food all day long, and I love tasting food.  Tasting and tweaking recipes is what I do all day, and I love what I do for a living.

Speaking of delicious, we are going to feature a new dish to our menu this month, it is called Roast Duck with Apple Tatin.  My good friend Chef Stephen Hunn used to make this dish all the time, and I always loved the way he put it together.  The way I prepare a Tatin is by placing some maple syrup, brown sugar, and butter in a pan layering apples over that, sprinkle on some spices, and topping the apples with puff pastry.  I then bake this in the oven, and when fully cooked I invert the Tatin, top it with some duck confit and roasted duck drizzled with a maple raspberry glaze called Gastrique.

Here is a recipe you can play with at home.  If you need any help or have a cooking question on any topic please feel free to email me at bricoffey@gmail.com.  Bon appétit!  ~ Chef

Recipe for Apple-Cheddar Fondue  (4-6 servings) GF  

courtesy of Brian M. Coffey CEC,AAC

Ingredients:

1 cup               apple cider

½ cup              dry white wine

2 cloves           garlic, crushed

1 lb                  White Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated

1.5 tbsp           corn starch

3-4 each           Cortland Apples, cut into wedges

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method: In a 2-Qt sauce pan over medium heat add the cider, the wine, and the garlic.  Bring to a slow boil.  In a small bowl mix the grated cheese and the cornstarch by tossing the cornstarch into the cheese, using a wooden spoon, add the cheese mix slowly to the cider and wine.  Stir constantly, when the mixture is totally melted and blended, continue stirring until mixture is smooth and coats the back of the wooden spoon.  With a tasting spoon, taste and add your desired amount of salt and pepper.  Spoon fondue into fondue dish or bowl and serve with skewered apple wedges.  Enjoy!