Sunday, October 21, 2012

Minnesota Maple Syrups

Growing up, Sunday's were full of syrup, from pancakes to waffles and french toast.  I remember these amazing teddy bears and hearts my mom used to freehand with pancake batter.  Now people just use pancake or cookie molds to get shapes.  It was not pure maple syrup that graced our table, but rather Mrs. Butterworth's and Hungry Jack.  For a growing family, and with kids who wouldn't have appreciated the deep intense flavor of pure maple syrup it was great.  Now, however I crave the real deal, and wanted to compare some locally made syrup.  We aren't Vermont, but we have some nice producers in the state.

First up was Three River's Farm maple syrup from Elko,MN.  This syrup was the darkest of the three, which I would call a Grade A dark amber. This has a very intense, robust maple syrup flavor.  It works well as table syrup, or in recipes where it needs to cut through a fat or other ingredients to shine through.  I would use this in our maple syrup roasted chicken and other cooking purposes.

Wild Country Store
Second was Wild Country from Lutsen, MN. This is slightly lighter than Three River's and I would call it a Grade A medium amber. Again, a very nice flavor, and not as thick as the previous.  This syrup is light enough that I think it would do nicely in recipes that do not involve heat or reducing the syrup at all.  This is the syrup I used in the Maple Dijon Dressing recipes last week.

 Third was Lutsen's Caribou Cream.  This is a much smaller operation than Wild Country, and maybe this is why it has a much more delicate flavor and I would call it a Grade A light amber. This is fantastic as table syrup, as you can get a clear sense of of the light smokey flavor.  I would also use it in dressings and other simple recipes.

Caribou Cream's Operation
Caribou Cream was my favorite of the three for an everyday syrup, though all three were high quality and I would use for different purposes.  However, with an ounce costing $1 versus $.14 for intimidation maple syrup I see why I grew up with the grocery market variety.  It was a joy to tour both Caribou Cream and Wild Country.  I met both sugerbush operators, and learned how it is a true labor of love.  Everything is done by hand here, from tapping the trees in the snow, repairing lines all year around, and finally the production end.  It takes nearly 60 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup.  Pretty amazing! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Balsamic Onion Marmalade by the Spoonfull

I am so glad food trucks are all the rage right now and a few cookbooks highlight some of the best.  Wishing the Chef Shack would share their crack Indian-spiced donuts recipe, but that will never happen.  I made Thomas's Balsamic Onion Marmalade from Food Trucks cookbook and it was amazing! We slathered it on pork roast sandwiches, turkey burgers, etc.  Make some for yourself or share to make fast friends.  

Thomas's Balsamic Onion Marmalade
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
4 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar
zest of 1/2 orange
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and caramelized  about 20 minutes.  Add the cloves, salt, and pepper, stirring to coat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add the brown sugar and orange zest. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions start to shrivel.  Add the vinegar, reduce heat to low and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently.  Adjust seasoning if needed and serve warm or room temperature   

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Swing and a miss

The Twins didn't make it to the playoffs this year, and a few recipes did not make the cut to be copied down into my recipe book.  I thought I would share a few reviews to save others some time, or know to tweak.

Chai Latte Bar Cookies: This one I want to try again as I think this might have been user error.  I am not a fan of brownies or bars that are not set in the middle, and these were anything but set.  I think I mixed the cream cheese in too much and that played with the ratio of bar to cream cheese layer.  Flavor was good for the few I could salvage from the edge.

Thai Turkey Burgers: These were good, just not great.  I have a great asian chicken burger/slider that I prefer over these, so they won't make the cut.

Almond-Poppyseed Cakes from Desserts in Jars: Again might have been user error, but I thought the cakes were a bit dry.  I would add just a bit more fat to the batter.

Chilled Oatmeal in a Jar: The consistency wasn't for me.  I think I prefer crockpot oatmeal instead.  It was so quick and easy, I just didn't like the gluteny texture the next day.  Thanks Megan for suggesting it, but just wasn't my preferred oatmeal.

Fresh three-bean salad: This one I would make again.  Very light, low fat, and fresh summery flavor.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy 6th Anniversary!

Last month Charlie and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary!  Oh how the time has flown by.  This summer we had one of the most amazing meals of our life in Las Vegas at Joël Robuchon in early celebration of our anniversary.  Robuchon was named chef of the century, and we understand why.  I am trying to write a post worthy of that experience to follow later.  We celebrated on our actual anniversary with a simple home-cooked meal.  

At a recent gathering at the Minneapolis Central Library numerous food critics discussed food writing, and I remember one person asked what they always order at a restaurant to help evaluate the quality.  One person surprisingly said lemonade, which I couldn't agree with more!  Does a restaurant take the time to squeeze lemons and make a simple syrup for their lemonade, or do they just serve MinuteMaid from the fountain?  The other time tested item is a roast chicken, and that is what I set off to make this year. 

What can I say, this meal was delicious!!!  One of my best ever; winner winner chicken dinner!  I wish I could say they were original recipes, but they weren't.  We dined on a mixed green salad with maple dijon dressing, roast chicken with lemon and thyme butter, roasted potatoes, and the most amazing scalloped tomatoes you will EVER have.  This is my new favorite way to use up a bunch of tomatoes.  Promise me you will try this recipe and fall in love!

Isn't our china beautiful? Homemade biscuits, but they aren't as good as the Flying Biscuits in Georgia! (Those are my benchmark.)

Roast chicken, potatoes and tomatoes

Charlie is a sweetie and we order our wedding cake every year.  Though, who are we kidding, it is all for m, as Charlie isn't much of a cake guy.  Dessert every night for a week and a highlight every year.  This year Buttercream changed their frosting somehow, as the filling did not have as intense almond flavor in the past. :(

Recipes used:
  • Andrew Carmellini's World's Best Biscuits 
  • Roast Chicken from William's Sonoma Couples Cookbook: I added thyme butter underneath the skin to keep it moist and give it more flavor
  • Scalloped Tomatoes from Ina Garten: I added oregano and thyme (seeing a theme here of our thyme going out of control in our herb garden)
  • Maple Dijon Dressing from Wild Country maple syrup: 1/4 cup each of pure maple syrup, dijon mustard, olive oil, red wine vinegar; whisk all ingredients together.  
May everyone find true love in this world and be happy!