Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Classic English Dessert: Queen of Puddings

Every year about this time I start feeling like I need to brush the cobwebs out of the cracks and crevasses of my household. The first area to get the deep clean this year was my refrigerator. As usual, over the course of the winter everything had been sifted through and pushed around so many times we had all long forgotten what lived in the ten or so mystery jars at the very back.

Then there is the freezer. It has its big problems too. You know, the twenty half used bags of pizza rolls and chicken nuggets that are rolled up and secured with blue rubber bands and leak crumbs from an invisible hole everytime they are touched. And then there are the five or so boxes of random gooey, freezer burned popsicles that no one has any intention of eating ever again. So the time has come to reorganize and throw out. I plan on maybe getting on that sometime pretty soon. Maybe next week, or the week after that.

A couple of days ago I took a deep breath and pulled those jars from the back of the fridge and brought them out into the daylight. As it turned out, they weren't nearly as scary as I thought they were going to be. Mostly pickles (4 opened jars of them) and six (count 'em, six!) open jars of jams, preserves and jellies. There was also an ancient tub of sour cream, but I won't go into that now.

When the dust finally cleared I was able to salvage 2 jars of pickles and 2 jars of preserves, but since they've been hanging around for so long, I probably need to go ahead and use them up. I've been brainstorming as to what I could do with at least the preserves, and finally had a light bulb moment. I decided to use some of them in a classic dessert from England know as Queen of Puddings.

Despite its regal name, in all honesty this dessert is just one of those well loved down home classics, but this one can be traced back to the 1600s. I guess for lack of a better description, I would have to say that it is loosely related to an egg custard or a bread pudding. It is homey and comforting and best of all it is a great way to use up a bit of jam, a few frozen berries or some stale bread. Besides all that, I figure that anything that has been around for four hundred years is worth passing on to my friends.

Queen of Puddings

4 ounces fresh bread crumbs (about 4 slices of sandwich bread, grated or crumbled)
2 ounces plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large to extra large room temperature eggs, separated
1/3 - 1/2 cup jam depending on how much you like (I like cherry or strawberry)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Place bread crumbs, 2 ounces of sugar and lemon zest in a medium size bowl. Stir to combine; set aside.

Place the milk and butter in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Heat the milk and butter just until the butter is completely melted.

Pour the hot milk and butter into the bowl with the breadcrumb mixture. Add the vanilla extract. Stir well to combine, cover and set aside for approximately 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the egg yolks into a small bowl and beat well. Pour into the breadcrumb and milk mixture and beat well to thoroughly combine. Pour mixture into a 9" round or square pan that has been buttered or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Place pan into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until it is set in the center.

Remove from the oven and gently spread with the desired amount of jam until the top surface is covered; set aside.

Place the egg whites in a meticulously clean and dry bowl. Add the cream of tartar then beat whites with an electric mixer set to high until they are fluffy and at the soft peak stage. While continuing to beat, very gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Beat until the whites are stiff but not overbeaten and dry.

Spoon the meringue over the top of the jam or place it in a piping bag and pipe rosettes out over the top. Place back into the hot oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until it is a golden brown on the top. For a springier pie-like meringue, you can remove it from the oven at this point and serve it. Personally, I like to leave the pan in the oven, turn it off, and let it sit until the oven is cool, about 45 minutes. This extra time in the oven isn't absolutely necessary, but it will dry out the meringue just enough so it is a tiny bit crisp around the top and edges.

Remove from the oven and serve while warm, room temperature or chilled. Serve as is or with cold heavy cream drizzled over.

Serves 6 - 8

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Smashburger Review and Giveaway

Classic Smashburger

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my giveaway. Since I was accepting entries from this site and my Facebook page, I decided to first number blog comments then added my Facebook comments at the end. In all I had 72 entries. I used to choose my two numbers and it chose numbers 8 and 43. #8 is Danielle D'Ambrosio and #43 is Nycole Klein. Congratulations to you both and I hope you enjoy your Smashburger coupons.

It goes without saying that I love to cook, but sometimes even I need to get out of the kitchen. When I do turn the cooking over to someone else, I am really spoiled for choice here in the Denver area. Not only do we have a number of highbrow, expensive, well known restaurants, but we are also home to some pretty great casual dining restaurants that just so happen to have gotten their start right here in our state.

One of these Colorado based restaurants, Smashburger, has recently been ranked the second fastest growing restaurant group among our nation's 200 chains. Starting out in 2007 with one store, just seven years later they boast 256 locations, and with their growth I am betting that by the time this blog goes live this number could quite possibly be more.

Honestly, I hadn't eaten at Smashburger until recently. I had actually received an invitation to attend the opening of one of their new locations a couple of weeks ago, and it so happened that at that point I was just beginning to crawl out of my darkened bedroom after battling a bad case of the flu. Since I didn't think they would want me to bring H1N1 as a favor to their party, I sadly declined. After expressing my disappointment at missing their opening, the Smashburger marketing team couldn't have been nicer and more accommodating, sending me coupons so I could go on my own and give their food a try.

Last Friday I drove over to Smashburger's Highlands Ranch location with my husband in tow to help me eat some of the food I planned on ordering. It was a hard decision but after studying their menu we started out on the conservative side ordering two of their signature dishes, a classic Smashburger with an order of Smashfries. We then decided to get a little more adventurous and added a chicken avocado club and a side of their off the menu fried pickles and ranch dressing to our order.

Chicken Avocado Club. Heads up other burger houses, this is what bacon should look like.

Fried pickles with ranch

After a round of "one potato, two potato" I claimed the chicken sandwich and fried pickles for myself, reluctantly passing the Smashburger and Smashfries to Mr. H with the caveat that I might need a couple of bites of his burger and several fries in the name of blog research. He cautiously agreed.

As it worked out it wasn't difficult sharing our meals since we liked them both equally. Served open faced, our burger and sandwich were nicely dressed with fresh veggies and made with juicy (not greasy) meats that sat on top of soft, fresh buns. They were both very, very good.

Classic Smashburger with Smashfries

As for our sides, I have to say that the fried pickles are a real don't miss treat. They are light and a little bit crunchy with a burst of sour pickle flavor, and take it from me, they are only made better when dunked to your first knuckle in the creamy ranch that is served with them.

As good as those pickles were, I must say that the Smashfries easily tied them for my affection. They are thin, crispy and seasoned with just the right amount of garlic, olive oil and rosemary. These two dishes are enough all by themselves to keep me coming back.


If you aren't in the mood for a burger or sandwich, Smashburger also a nice selection of salads. I chose the Harvest Salad and added some of their marinated grilled chicken. I really liked the combination of fresh salad greens, bleu cheese crumbles, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries and raisins which are all drizzled with a smooth balsamic vinaigrette. The cherry on top for me is that since were were eating in, it came in an actual ceramic bowl with real metal utensils. I have to say that this was one great $8.00 salad.

Harvest Salad with chicken

Smashburger hasn't forgotten about vegetarians either . Besides their sides and salads, they also offer a black bean burger that can be substituted for the beef on any of their burgers.

To sum it all up, I am so pleased to have found a new favorite fast, casual restaurant. I guess I thought that it was going to be just another burger place, but it is so much more than that. There are no gimmicks or pretense, just fresh, delicious food that is a little dressed up to reflect America's ever evolving palate at affordable prices. For more information about Smashburger's menu items, nutritional information, or to see if there is a Smashburger in your area, please check out their website by clicking here.

Ok, now for the fun stuff. Smashburger has generously supplied me with some extra free entree coupons to give to two lucky winners. Since I recently switched my commenting over to Google+, you might not be able to comment unless you have a Google+ account. To make this Smashburger giveaway accessible to as many as possible, you can either leave a comment here on my blog, or on Savoury Table's Facebook page.

To enter, Google+ members can leave a comment below or Facebook members can comment on Savoury Table's Facebook page under the link to this blog post. To earn extra entries you can "like" Smashburger and/or Savoury Table on Facebook. You can also earn additional entries by following Savoury Table and/or Smashburger on Twitter. Be sure to leave a separate comment for each method of entry. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE AN ENTRY COMMENT ON SMASHBURGER'S FACEBOOK OR TWITTER PAGES, AS ONLY COMMENTS ON SAVOURY TABLE'S BLOG AND FACEBOOK PAGES ARE ELIGIBLE FOR THIS GIVEAWAY. Giveaway is open to US residents only.

On February 25th at 12 noon mountain time, I will pick two winners that will each receive four (4) Smashburger free entree coupons out of the comments left here and on Savoury Table's Facebook page. Please make sure I have a way to contact you in case you are my winner. I will post the winners' names at the top of this post and on Facebook immediately after the winners are chosen. If I am unable to contact you, you will have 24 hours to contact me or another winner will be chosen.

To avoid any disappointment, please check out Smashburger's website in advance of entering to make sure there is a location in your area. Coupons have no cash value and are valid until 12/31/2014 at participating locations only. They are not valid with any other offers or discounts. Limit one per person per visit. Good luck everyone!

*Smashburger supplied me with coupons so I could try their food and give some away. All opinions stated here are my own. I was given no compensation in exchange for this blog post or any of the opinions stated in it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reinventing A Super Bowl Snack: Queso and Tacos al Carbon

I don't know if anyone has heard, but almost two weeks ago the Denver Broncos lost the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks . . .  by a lot. The Broncos were actually favorites to win by two points, and I guess when Seattle found that out they decided to open up a can of whup-ass on Denver and never let up.

For the past two weeks since the game I have tried to be respectful of the broken hearted Broncos fans in my house, and have been careful not to even utter words like football, Broncos, Seahawks or blow out. I knew things were easing up when I accidentally said "Super Bowl" and my husband didn't flinch. It's been a rough couple of weeks, but this was a promising sign.

Looking back, I had a funny feeling that Sunday morning. There were some bad omens. First, the movie I had been waiting on seeing had moved on from the only theater in town leaving me no other choice than to stay home and find a movie on Netflix.

Next, the salsa I had purchased the day before, which seemed to be ok when I put it in the cart, had obviously been opened and probably spit in, or worse, peed in, by some lowlife prankster, so no salsa for my family. I don't know about your house, but no salsa on the table around here is like a kiss without a hug.

Then I somehow burned the nacho cheese flavored taco shells that were to be a big surprise on the buffet table. There's not much more embarrassing for a food blogger and cooking contester than burning prepackaged taco shells. I could have told you right then and there, there was a bad moon rising.

As it turned out my burnt taco shells really didn't matter anyway. For some reason no one had much of an appetite when it came time for the halftime feast. My son said that the halftime show was his favorite part, not because he likes Bruno Mars that much, but because the misery on the field stopped for a few minutes.

Not being a football lover, I wasn't traumatized, nor do I understand this type of fan disappointment, but I am trying to be sympathetic. I mean for heaven's sake, I totally understand what Peyton Manning went through, after all I did burn those taco shells, so I know humiliation too.

So there I was, left with a bunch of uneaten snack foods, doing my best to repurpose them into a meal that wouldn't remind anyone of the big game. Since the jewel in the crown of my family's party buffet is always the gringo queso (named because it has no relationship whatsoever to anything even remotely Mexican), I decided to salvage it first.

My queso starts out innocently enough as a combination of sauteed peppers, onions and tomatoes that are then doused in a smooth cream sauce.  It soon goes to hell in a hand basket though with the addition of lots of processed American cheese.  I know, I hate that too, but what can I say? I just love the stuff. Besides I only make it a couple of times a year, so back off haters, this is Super Bowl food.

Tacos al Carbon

Traditionally the meat for these tacos is grilled, but this recipe can be easily brought inside and cooked in a cast iron pan. Just be sure to get the pan good and hot before you add just a little bit of oil and the meat.

2 pounds skirt steak or flat iron steak
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
8 large flour tortillas (for delicious homemade flour tortilla recipe, click here), warmed

Set meat out, covered to bring it to room temperature.

Place salt, chili powder, garlic, cumin, coriander and pepper into a small bowl and stir to combine; set aside.

Pour 1 teaspoon of the lime juice on one side of the steak. Distribute it evenly with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with up to 1/2 of the spice mix (you can use less if desired). Flip the steak over and repeat with the remaining lime juice and spice mix; set aside.

Preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill to high. Place meat on a lightly oiled, red hot grill and cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side (depending on your desired doneness and thickness of your steak). Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 10 - 15 minutes. I find this step to be very important to let the juices redistribute into the meat. This not only gives you juicy meat, but it prevents you from having bloody, soggy tortillas if you like your meat on the rarer side.

Slice the meat into 1" bite size cubes.  Place 4 ounces (about 1/8 of the meat) in a line down the center of a warmed (I just do this in the microwave) tortilla. Roll up like a cigar. Place seam side down on the serving plate and cover in as much queso (recipe follows) as you want. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 large tacos.

Gringo Queso

2 tablespoons light olive or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 of a medium size sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small pasillo or poblano pepper, finely chopped
1/2 medium size red or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (optional for a little fiery spice)
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups warm milk
1 pound American Cheese, cubed
2 rounded tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese
1 large ripe tomato, finely diced
2 tablespoons lightly packed, chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil and butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. When the oil and butter begin to sizzle, add the onion and peppers. Saute until they begin to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and saute for one minute longer.

Sprinkle the flour over the oil and vegetables. Stir to form a roux. Slowly add the milk to the pan, stirring vigorously.  Continue stirring until mixture starts to boil.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the cheese cubes. Stir until the cheese is melted.  Add the Parmesan, tomato and cilantro. Stir until blended.

Serve immediately or I prefer to make this several hours before serving to let the flavors marry, then gently reheat it before I serve it.

Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Sweet Little Gift For Your Valentines: Swedish Vanilla Sugar (Vanillinsocker)

I swear, I've barely gotten all my Christmas decorations organized and put away and it's already time to think about another occasion. It seems like Valentines Day sneaks up on me every year, but this year I am going to be ready with a quick little kitchen gift that all my Valentines are going to love.

In years past I've made mini cheesecakes in a jar and flourless chocolate cookies, and although those are pretty, fairly easy to make, and fun to get and give, this year's gift just might be my favorite. All you are going to need are some pretty little shaker jars, confectioners sugar and a few vanilla beans.

An American friend of mine in England actually introduced me to this vanilla sugar several years ago. Joanie was an unassuming, down to earth, regular ol' Oklahoma girl that happened to be married to a Swedish husband. She, her husband and their young daughter had spent most of their lives together in Sweden, but were at the beginning of a five year stint in the UK when we met.

Joanie had a great sense style and there was really nothing she couldn't do. She was a great cook, a talented gardener and floral designer, and an interior decorator extraordinaire. Where a lot of the English homes at this time were traditionally decorated with warm, rich colors and were slightly overdecorated with one too many knick knacks, her house was starkly chic. It was totally understated in mostly white with just the perfect splash of color here and there, and the odd antique thoughtfully placed to add interest.

Her dinner parties were just as simple and elegant as her furnishings. While many of her signature dishes would have been ordinary in anyone else's hands, Joanie could turn even simple mashed potatoes into something memorable by whipping them with just the right amount of cream cheese and sour cream before sprinkling them with freshly cut chives from her kitchen garden. She even elevated her simple tender crisp haricot vert to five star dining by a quick saute in a knob of Irish butter and just a pinch of fines herbes for fun. Another one of her talents, she made near perfection look effortless.

As for dessert, one of my favorites of hers was one she brought to my house one summer day for a backyard barbecue. She arrived at my door with a wicker basket filled with warm homemade shortcakes, sweet English strawberries, silken double cream and a container of Swedish vanillinsocker to sweeten it. She explained to me that this vanilla flavored confectioners sugar was one of her favorite foods from Sweden and she made a point to import some every time she went back for a visit.

She loved this sugar so much that whenever she ran out between visits back to Sweden, she would make her own. All you have to do is take a jar partially filled with powdered sugar, place a vanilla bean* that has been split and opened up in the center (you can scrape a bit of the paste out of it too if you like), place the lid on the container and leave it for a couple of days for the vanilla bean to do its magic. Once the sugar is flavored it is ready to sprinkle on anything that needs a little dressing up.

Since then, taking her lead, I have given cookies, shortcakes, croissants, brownies, French toast and cappucinos all the vanillinsocker treatment. It is just one of those things that makes the ordinary special. I may not know all of her special touches and tricks, but I'm so glad that Joanie let me in on this one so I could pass it on to you.

I pick up little containers all year long for uses just like this, but you can find inexpensive little shakers at places likeWalmart, dollar stores and charity shops.

In addition to vanilla bean, you can flavor confectioner's sugar in this same way with cinnamon stick or star anise. They are all very different flavors that are all very, very good.

*Because of the moisture in vanilla beans, your confectioners sugar will get some small lumps like the ones on the croissant below. I don't mind them, but if you would rather have fine sugar, remove the bean after couple of days, run the sugar through a fine strainer or sifter, then put it in your shaker bottles. If you choose this method, be sure to save the vanilla bean and use it in another recipe.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Something From Nothing #21: My Kitchen in the Rockies Guest Post: German Red Cabbage

Today I am excited to turn my blog over to the capable hands of my friend Kirsten Hall, author and creator of My Kitchen in the Rockies. If you are unfamiliar with her blog, I highly recommend that you click on the link below and take a look. Her site is filled with great recipes from her German homeland as well as her American favorites and others from around the world. Combine these delicious recipes with her beautiful photography and you have a great place to go when you are in need of a little culinary inspiration.

I am pleased that today she is sharing with us a lovely recipe for German Red Cabbage along with some information about her upcoming culinary excursion to the Palatinate region of Germany. So whether you are interested in a great cabbage recipe or the trip of a lifetime, please give Kirsten a minute and keep reading.

Hello everybody. I am Kirsten, a Denver area food blogger friend of Karen's. I share my German and French influenced dishes over at My Kitchen in the Rockies.  Thank you so much Karen for having me today.

I am a native German with a pharmaceutical background and have been living with my family in Colorado since 1998.  My second passion, besides food, is traveling. Last year I had the opportunity to combine both and offer my first culinary adventure to my home region in Germany and France. This trip was a huge success with my American guests and I am thrilled to offer it again in October 2014.  We will travel to Heidelberg, Baden Baden and Strasbourg and experience the regional cuisine first hand through lessons at local cooking schools and dining at nearby restaurants.

We will also spend time wine tasting along the German wine road, watching a traditional wine parade in the Black Forest area and taking guided walking tours to the historical sites in each visited town.

Interested in joining me? You can find more detailed information about this trip  here.

To give you a taste sample of the trip's culinary treats I would like to share with you a recipe from my home region Palatinate. The palatinate area is located along the German wine road, bordered by the river Rhine on the east and France on the west side. Fitting with Karen's Something From Nothing recipe theme I thought of German red cabbage which is a very affordable, but tasty side dish.

In this specific German red cabbage dish the red cabbage gets cooked in red wine, but also features more common flavorings like clove and bay leaves. Many dishes that originate from Palatinate use wine, since it is locally available and they have it on hand.  White cabbage, for example, gets cooked in our world famous Riesling wines. German red cabbage is best known as a side for the humble dish bratwurst with mashed potatoes, but can also be served along side a festive Sunday roast or a special venison dish.

I hope you all enjoyed today's culinary excursion to Germany. Karen, thank you so much again for giving me the opportunity to share my upcoming culinary adventure with your readers.

German Red Cabbage

1 red cabbage, about 2 pounds
1 Tablespoon vinegar
2 Tablespoons lard, or butter
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (250 ml) red wine, table wine quality is fine

Slice cabbage in half lengthwise. Use a sharp knife to cut a V-shaped notch around the white core and discard it. Slice both pieces in half again so you have 4 quarters, then thinly slice each piece crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips.

Mix with vinegar immediately and set aside.

Heat lard or butter in a bigger pot on medium heat. Add the cabbage and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add wine, bay leave and cloves. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer the cabbage on low for about 1 hour. Add more liquid if necessary.

Season again with pepper and salt. Add more vinegar or/and sugar to your liking.