It’s the dead of winter and going outside to light the grill isn’t exactly on my to-do list. But even though it’s February and 20 degrees outside, I’d still love to enjoy a good steak. My favorite steak to cook indoors is Filet Mignon. It’s delicate flavor and tender meat bodes well when seared in a cast-iron pan and finished in a high-heated oven.
Filet Mignon is delicious, but not nearly as rich and marbled as a rib-eye or porterhouse cut of meat. So making a pan sauce will add a richer flavor to the steak.
Steak au Poivre, translated as “steak with pepper,” is a classic French dish. The steak is coated with cracked pepper, seared in a pan and then finished off in the oven. While the steak cooks, deglaze the pan with cognac or brandy, scraping the good bits off the pan. Either light the brandy with a flame or wait until the liquor burns off. Sauté minced shallots and add heavy cream and reduce until slightly thickened. Finish the sauce with a dash more of cognac and a few whole peppercorns. Voila! You should pair a great steak like this with delicious Bordeaux wine of Napa Cabernet.
Keys to Great Steak:
High Qaulity Meat: Choose meat that is either USDA top-tier choice or prime grade. There are other certifications and brands to choose, such as Angus beef. My personal favorite has been Braveheart Black Angus steak. It is sold at “The Meathouse” in Summit, NJ.
Salt the meat, then salt some more: People rarely salt their meat well enough. When I took a cooking class in New York focused on beef, I couldn’t believe how much salt the chef coated on the steak. But once it was done cooking, I could taste the difference in flavor. I’m not saying you should leave a layer of white around your steak, but grab some kosher salt and make it rain!
Sear It Well! Give a nice crust to your steak. When cooking on a stove top, I recommend using a cast-iron skillet and using a cooking fat with a very high smoke point. I prefer searing steak in Duck Fat. It is flavorful, has a high smoke point, and surprisingly, it is lower in saturated fats than butter.
Cook It Perfectly: Medium-rare is the preferred doneness for Filet Mignon. It shouldn’t still be mooing, but it should have a warm red center. You can use a thermometer and it should read 120 degrees for medium-rare. But the more you cook steak, the more you’ll learn if its cooked by pushing down on the top of your steak with your index finger. Medium rare meat should have the same spring as the skin that is just below your thumb.
Let it Rest: Once your steak is cooked, place it on a cutting board and cover it with tin foil for 5 minutes. This lets the juices of the meat settle and the flavors to meld. If you cut the steak as soon as you finish cooking it, all of the juices will pour out of the meat onto your plate.
Steak Au Poivre With Cream Spinach and Double-Stuffed Potato
For The Steak Au Poivre
2 tenderloin steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons of whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 tablespoons of duck fat or olive oil
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon cognac, brandy or cream sherry
1 cup heavy cream
For The Spinach
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup heavy cream
10 oz. fresh spinach
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
kosher salt and pepper to taste
For the Potatoes
2 large russet potatoes
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. Salted Butter
kosher salt and pepper to taste
For the Steak
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Remove the steaks from the fridge and salt the meat on both sides. Let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Coarsely crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or the bottom of a cast-iron skillet. Spread the peppercorns evenly on a play and press each side of the steaks into the peppercorns so that the surfaces are coated.
Heat a cast-iron skillet and melt the duck fat or olive oil in the skillet is very hot and just smoking.. Place the steaks in the skillet and sear for 3 minutes on one side. Then, flip the steaks and sear the other side for two more minutes.
Turn off the heat on the skillet and move the steaks to a parchment-lined tray, place in the oven for another 8-10 minutes. Check the doneness of the meat with either a meat thermometer (should read 120 degrees for medium rare) or by touching the middle of each steak with you clean finger. ( The firmer the meat, the more cooked it will be; remember, it will continue to cook when removed from heat.)
Take the steaks out of the oven, place each on a cutting board and cover with foil to keep warm.
In the skillet you used to sear the steaks, add the brandy or cognac and carefully ignite it with a lighter to burn off the alcohol.
Once the flames die down, turn the heat to medium and add the minced shallot. Sauté until fragrant.
Add the cream and bring to a boil. Whisk until the sauce coats the back of the spoon, about five minutes.
Turn off the heat and add a dash more of the brandy. Season with salt to your liking . To serve, spoon sauce over the top each steak and garnish with crushed peppercorns.
For The Potatoes
Wash the potatoes and fork each potato several times. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for one hour or until soft on the inside.
Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Cut the top third of each potato off with a knife and scoop the insides of the potato into a large mixing bowl. Be sure to not cut through the skin since you'll be using it to stuff the potatoes.
Add the heavy cream and sour cream and butter to mixing bowl and mash a potato masher until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Scoop the potato mixture back into the larger skin portion of each potato. Each potato should be look over-stuffed.
Place the stuffed-potatoes on a parchment-lined tray and put back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with the steak.
For the Spinach
Heat a medium-sized sauté pan and add the olive oil. Add the shallot and sauté for two minutes until soft and fragrant.
Add the garlic to the pan and sauté for another minute.
Add the cream and all it to thicken for 4-5 minutes so that it coats the back of a spoon.
Add the spinach, turn the heat to low, and cover with a lid for 3-4 minutes. It will initially look as though the pan is overflowing with spinach, but once the lid is placed on top the spinach will wilt drastically.
Take off the lid, season with salt, pepper, and add the grated nutmeg and parmesan. Stir the spinach to mix the flavors and prepare for serving.
1 small (8-ounce) baguette, cut on the diagonal into 24 slices
1 large garlic clove
4 tablespoons olive-oil
1/2 cup dried mission figs, chopped
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup dry red wine
1 small shallot-minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thme leaves
5 ounces goat cheese
Heat broiler. Brush both sides of baguette slices with oil; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side, rub raw garlic clove on each slice, set toasts aside.
In a small sauce pan, place 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté until translucent. Add figs, sugar, wine, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until thickened, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Spread each toast with goat cheese and top with compote. Garnish with fresh thyme.
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine's Chocolate Budino Recipe
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper.
In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the salt and baking powder. Chop the chocolate and in a large microwave-safe bowl, heat it with the butter on high for 30 second intervals until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the dry ingredients until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Set the cake pan in a small roasting pan. Transfer the roasting pan to the center of the oven. Carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the budino is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the cake pan to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
Run a knife around the budino and invert it onto a plate. Peel off the paper and inver the budino again. Cut into wedges and serve with fresh raspberries and the best vanilla ice cream.
I am truly livin’ the dream! After 35 years I am blessed with being able to retire from my teaching profession. Teaching cooking (I still refer to it as Home Economics) to middle and high school aged students had its perks.
First, I believe being around students either keeps you young or kills you! I like to think it kept me young, but my students may say otherwise. Second, and for me the best part, was getting to do what I love most, cook! Each and every day, I got to think about, talk about and MAKE FOOD.
Fast forward to January, something about this time of year in the northeast just makes me want to cook. Not the light-hearted fare of the summer months, but the stuff you don’t plan on until you hear the weather forecast. “Chance of snow,” time to make bread. “Freezing temperatures,” put on a pot of soup.
Heckenberger Seafood at Allentown Farmer’s Market. We’ve been going here for years and they always have the freshest seafood.
I’ve even subconsciously trained my family to anticipate special treats based upon the weather. My youngest son Peyton, now 16, said to me the other day, “Isn’t it rice pudding season?” With this in mind I’d like to share with you what’s literally been cooking in my house this month. I can’t wait to see what February’s weather will bring!
1 lb extra large shrimp - 15-20 *brined - see recipe
2” chunk of slab bacon, placed in freezer for about 1/2 hour to firm up
2-3 cloves garlic (your choice)
1 shallot - minced
1/4 tsp. pepper flakes (or to taste)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp softened butter
1/2 bunch fresh parsley - finely chopped
1 32oz. box chicken broth (I prefer Swanson)
1 cup stone ground grits
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese - the better the cheese ~ the better the grits!
3 Tbsp softened butter
1 lb each of your favorite greens - julienned ( I love a collards & kale combo, but just straight spinach works too)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic - minced
3/4 c chicken stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
*Why Brine the shrimp you ask? As per Mark Bittman brining improved the taste and texture of the shrimp.
To Brine Shrimp
Combine in a large bowl:1/2 c kosher salt, 1/4 c granulated sugar, 1 c boiling water
Stir to dissolve and add cold water, ice and unpeeled shrimp
Refrigerate approximately 2 hours
Drain, rinse and proceed with recipe
Spicy “Scampi” Shrimp
Peel and butterfly shrimp - set aside (Save shells in ziplock, place in freezer for future seafood stocks)
Remove bacon from freezer and slice into equal size strips
Heat a large frying pan and add sliced bacon, saute over medium heat until very crispy, turning to cook evenly.
Remove bacon to paper towel, set aside
Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon fat from frying pan, add shallots and allow to saute about 2 minutes,
Now add minced garlic and pepper flakes and continue to saute about 1 more minute
Now add butterflied shrimp to pan and stir to coat with with shallot mixture.
Sautee for about 3-4 minutes until shrimp is slightly pink, do not overcook
Before serving add crispy bacon, chopped parsley and fresh lemon juice to sauteed shrimp and toss to coat.
In medium pan bring 4 cups chicken broth to a boil
Turn broth to a simmer and slowly pour in grits, stirring while adding
Continue to cook over medium heat for about 20 -25 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning and create a creamy consistence.
Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese and butter.
If grits seem to thick you may add additional warm stock to reach your desired consistency.
Cover until ready to serve
In a large frying pan with a lid, heat olive oil and add minced garlic, saute until fragrent
Add chicken stock and bring to a boil
Once stock is boiling add greens, using tongs to stir
Once stock comes back to a boil, reduce heat and cover pan
Simmer until greens are tender, about 5 minutes
Remove lid and continue to simmer until almost all liquid is evaporated
Taste and season with salt & pepper
Serve with shrimp & grits for a fabulous wintery meal~YUM!
Left over grits make a great addition to your breakfast entrée. Spread leftover grits thin on a sheet of parchment, cover and refrigerate. When ready to use cut into cubes and sauté in a little butter. Once crispy remove to a paper towel. You may serve as a breakfast side or incorporate crispy grits in a frittata, scrambled eggs or a southern omelet.
Like a fine wine this delicious bread only improves with age. It also makes a sinful french toast, if it lasts that long!
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1/4 oz pkg)
1/2 c SIFTED all purpose flour (Even though most flours are “pre-sifted” in this recipe this is a necessary step)
1 1/2 sticks salted butter- softened & cut into pieces
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 T hot water
3 large eggs
1 1/2 c SIFTED all purpose flour
Dried Fruit Mixture
2/3 c dried currents
1/2 c coarsely dried dried figs
1/2 c chopped dried prunes
1/2 c coarsely chopped dried pears
2 c boiling water
1 c coarsely chopped glaceed orange peel
2/3 c Meyers dark rum
1/4 c all purpose flour
1 c chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 Tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 recipe brioche dough
Reserved rum syrup from macerating fruit
1/4 c granulated suger
2 Tbsp water
1 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
3 -4 Tbsp hot water
Fresh lemon juice or dark rum to taste
In a small bowl stir together sugar and warm water. Sprinkle yeast over mixture, cover mixture with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy (this step assures you the yeast is “alive)
Stir SIFTED flour into yeast mixture, it will form a soft dough, with a knife cut a deep X across the top (this will serve as a measure of how much the dough rises)
Cover with plastic wrap and let starter rise at room temperature for about 1 hour
In a small bowl combine salt, sugar and hot water; stir until sugar and salt are dissolved.
Sift flour and set aside
Fit a standing electric mixer with paddle attachment.
In a bowl of mixer beat 2 eggs at medium speed until fluffy. Add sugar/salt mixture and beat until combined well. With motor running, add in order, and beating after each addition: 1/2 c flour, remaining egg, 1/2 cup flour, about 1/4th of butter, and remaining 1/2 c flour.
Beat this mixture 1 minute
Remove bowl from mixer and fit mixer with dough-hook.
With rubber spatula spread starter onto dough and return bowl to mixer.
Beat dough at medium-high speed for 6 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.
Add remaining butter and beat 2 minutes, or until butter is completely incorporated.
Lightly butter a large bowl and with a rubber spatula scrape dough into bowl. Lightly dust dough with flour to prevent a crust from forming on top dough.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until more than double in size.
With floured fist, punch down dough to release carbon dioxide, lightly dust with flour and tightly cover with plastic wrap.
Make Fruit MIxture
In a small heatproof bowl combine currents, figs, prunes and pears.
Pour boiling hot water over mixture and let stand about 10 minutes until very soft
Once fruit has softened drain well and place strained fruit in a bowl, add glaceed orange peel and dark rum, cover and allow mixture to macerate at room temperatur for at least 12 hours
Preparing for Baking Bread
Lightly butter a 9X5 loaf pan.
Line a baking sheet with parchment - set aside
Strain dried fruit mixture reserving syrupy rum mixture for glazing breads halfway through baking.
To fruit mixture add remaining ingredients ( chopped toasted walnuts, flour, granulated sugar, lemon zest,cinnamon and nutmeg, incorporate well and set aside)
Turn broiche dough out ont a lightly floured board, flatten out dough.
With floured hands, add dried fruit mixture 1/2 cup at a time, to dough, kneading and adding additional flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking, until all fruit & nuts have been incorporated (dough will be very sticky and loaded with fruit)
With floured hands, shape dough into a 9-inch log log and transfer to buttered pan.
With baking spray generously spray one side of a sheet of plastic wrap and place sprayed side down on top of dough (this prevents wrap from sticking to dough and deflating dough when removed). Allow dough to rise at room temperature for about 3 hours (because of the amount of fruit in the dough it will not completely double in bulk)
When dough is almost finished rising, preheat oven to 375
In a small saucepan simmer reserved rum macerated liquid, sugar and water , stirring 1 minute
Bake bread in middle of oven 25 minutes. Brush bread with all of glaze and bake 15 - 20 minutes more, or until golden brown. (Bread will brown quickly because of the sugar content in glaze)
Place bread on on cooling rack for about 20 minutes, remove from pan and allow to continue to cool while preparing frosting.
In a small bowl stir together confectioner’s sugar, hot water, and lemon juice or rum until well combined.
Transfer frosting to a small baggy; cut a very small portion of one of the baggy’s corners and drizzle frosting over loaf.
The dried fruits are open to your own personal preferences. Dried cranberries, blueberries, apricots are also a delicious combination. You may also change or omit the nuts. I am a huge fan of dark rum in baked goods but cream sherry or another cordial of choice would definitely personalize this work of art.
There is no month that embodies baking more than December. The Christmas season is all about sweet treats, especially cookies! One of the benefits of growing up in a bed and breakfast was the homemade cookies my mother would make for guests during the holiday season. Each night we had guests in December, my mother would bake an assortment of cookies that would be put out by the Christmas tree. Of course, there would always be a few extra cookies left in the kitchen for my brothers and me.
Bakery Team Leader, Rebecca Keller, works on her double chocolate mint chunk cookies
Suzanne getting her molasses cutouts ready for baking.
So in the spirit of the cookie season, we decided to have a cookie exchange at The Granola Factory. Each of our bakers were asked to choose one of their favorite cookie recipes. We all brought our recipes to the bakery and baked the cookies together at the end of a work day.
Chocolate Snowball cookies
Cookies are laid out ready for the big swap.
Dea spoons the batter for her pumpkin hazelnut cookies
A finished cookie tray ready to go home for enjoyment.
If there is one thing that smells better than granola baking in the oven, it’s six different kinds cookies baking in the oven. The aroma was amazing, and it had us all anticipating swapping our cookies and recipes.
Double chocolate mint chunk cookies fresh out of the oven.
Sue’s Dutch Sugar cookies turned out great!
Artisan bakery, Jessica Keyser, spooning her white chocolate orange craisin cookies on trays.
Artisan baker, Sue Marsh, mixing ingredients for her Dutch Sugar cookies.
Despite all of the large-scale baking equipment we have in our bakery, the hand mixer prevails for making small batch cookies.
So now that we have one last weekend before Christmas, we recommend gathering your friends and enjoying a day of holiday baking. We all have our favorite cookie that we love to bake this time of year, and sharing it with others will reap the benefit of adding a few new recipes to your collection.
And don’t forget to leave few cookies by the tree on Christmas Eve. I’m sure Santa will appreciate the new recipes just as much as you.
After graduating from college, I had an awesome opportunity to live in New York City. For a native California girl, this was a dream come true! I absolutely loved it there! When it comes to food in the Big Apple, I think you could spend your whole life there and still not uncover all of its gems! Anyway, when I lived there, one of my favorite places to treat myself was a small bakery down the block from my apartment, called Two Little Ren Hens Bakery. During the fall/winter season, they carried a seasonal cupcake: a pumpkin cupcake with an apricot cream cheese frosting. I am not a huge pumpkin fan (generally speaking), but wow, this is by far my most missed treat from that city! For our cookie exchange, I thought it would be fun to try to replicate this treat in a cookie form. Here we go!
Pumpkin & Hazelnut Cookies with Apricot Cream Cheese Frosting
*makes 4 dozen cookies
2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped hazelnuts (optional)
Apricot Cream Cheese Frosting:
½ cup butter, slightly softened
2 (8-oz) package 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
8 Tablespoons Apricot reserve/jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, beat 2 cups butter until fluffy. Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until thoroughly combined. Next, add eggs and vanilla extract; mix this in until combined. Add pumpkin. Finally, add the flour slowly until incorporated. Dough will be more wet than most cookie batters.
Scoop a heaping tablespoon for each cookie onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
While the cookies are baking, beat together all frosting ingredients until thoroughly whipped. Frost the cookies once they are completely cooled.