Cook Up A Tasty, Happy New Year with Favorite Dishes from 2010

Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2010

At the end of each year, I look over the comments received from you about your favorite dishes. I wish I had room sufficient to list all the top recipe choices from 2010, but here's an overview of what you liked most. You liked main courses that were colorful and fun to serve. Many of you wrote to say that you had never thought of serving sausage and peppers over a pyramid of polenta before and your family and friends were particularly impressed with your presentation of whole Baked Redfish Provenal. You all love desserts, especially those made with readily available ingredients. Last February's elegant Crme Brle was a top dessert pick for months, only to be eclipsed in October by homey, warm Apple Dumplings with Spiced Sauce. You enjoyed the dumplings so well, in fact, that many said they preferred them (dare I write it) over apple pie. Your feedback has been both an inspiration and a revelation.

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Photo By Sue Ade
Photo By Sue Ade
Among readers, the most popular dishes from 2010, clockwise from upper left, were Sausage and Peppers with Polenta, Crme Brle and Baked Redfish Provenal. Readers also loved October's recipe for "Apple Dumpling with Spiced Sauce."

Some of you share cooking is "challenging," others find it "gratifying." Some of you don't want to cook at all, and others just can't stop. Through your letters and calls, each of us have been boosted by the triumphs, heartened by the failures and enriched by the recipes shared.

Happy new year, fellow cooks.

Happy cooking, next year.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Baked Redfish Provencal

From Bluffton Today special edition "2010 Spring Food Passions"

1 (5 to 6-pound) whole redfish, cleaned and scaled, with head left on (leaving the head on seals in juices)

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for rubbing on fish

1 large onion, chopped fine

7 scallions, rinsed and trimmed

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 firm fresh tomatoes, chopped

6 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 3 tablespoons minced parsley, plus more for garnish

8 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1 cup dry sauterne wine

1 cup natural fish stock, homemade or store-bought (I like Bar Harbor brand)

Salt and fresh ground pepper

For garnish:

2 large pieces marinated roasted red pepper, sliced thin (optional)

8 marinated artichoke heart quarters (optional)

Lemon slices, dredged in minced parsley (for garnish)

Lemon wedges, for serving

Position oven rack to top third of oven; preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse fish, inside and out, then drain and wipe with a damp paper towel. Stuff inside of fish with 4 scallions, parsley and thyme sprigs; lightly brush top of fish with olive oil; set aside. Using the bulbs and some of the green part, mince the remaining scallions and set aside. In a large fireproof oven dish or heavy stainless steel roasting pan (large enough to hold the fish), heat the olive oil over medium heat on top of stove. Stir in onion, minced scallions and garlic, and cook until softened. Mix in tomatoes, parsley and dried thyme and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine and fish stock, and cook for 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Reduce heat and lay fish on top of vegetables in pan.

Cover pan with aluminum foil and gently poach fish for 10 minutes. Remove foil and place dish in oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes (occasionally spooning juices over fish), or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove pan from oven and allow fish to rest 10 minutes. With two large spatulas, or pizza lifter, carefully remove fish from roasting pan onto a large platter, removing the scallions, parsley and thyme springs from inside the fish. Spoon vegetables and pan juices around fish. Garnish with roasted red pepper slices and artichoke hearts, if desired. Place lemon slices on top of fish and serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Sausage and Peppers with Polenta

From "Stack, Mold, Wrap, or Roll, It's OK To Play With Your Food," February 17, 2010

1/2 cup olive oil

2 pounds Italian sausage, hot, or sweet, or a mixture of both

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 medium-size bell peppers (assorted colors), cored, seeded, and sliced

2 large onions, peeled and sliced

1 (32-ounce) can peeled, plum-shaped tomatoes, crushed lightly with hands

2 tablespoons Hunt's Basil, Garlic & Oregano tomato paste

3/4 cup red wine

3 fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut into strips

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Salt

Polenta for serving (recipe follows)

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy, large skillet, over medium-high heat. Brown the sausages, about 5 minutes, on each side. Remove sausages from pan. Add the remaining oil to the pan and keeping the pan over medium-high heat, add the onion and bell peppers and cook until golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, dried basil and oregano and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine and red pepper flakes. Season with salt, to taste. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all the bits of browned meat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Cut the sausages into 1-inch pieces and add to simmering sauce, along with the basil strips, then simmer 20 minutes more.

To serve, ladle sausage and peppers over polenta. Makes 8 servings.

Polenta

2 cups milk

2 cups water

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup grated imported Parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 to 3 tablespoons butter

Salt

Combine milk and water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and gradually add cornmeal, stirring constantly, with a whisk. Return to heat, cover and cook, over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stirring in butter and cream. If using, add the cheese, stirring mixture until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt. Polenta may simply be scooped directly from pan into warm plates, or molded, sliced or cut into shapes for serving.

To mold polenta: Pour hot polenta into lightly buttered individual 6-ounce custard cups, or molds. Allow polenta to set up a bit, about 10 minutes, before unmolding onto serving plates. Polenta may also be spread onto a jelly-roll pan, cooled to room temperature until firm, and cut into slices or shapes with a biscuit cutter. (Polenta may be made up to a day ahead, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.) Polenta molds, slices or shapes may be reheated on the stove, or in the oven. (If polenta is cold, bring to room temperature before reheating.) To bake, lift polenta pieces with a spatula onto a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until heated through. For stove-top cooking, melt a teaspoon or two of butter in a medium-size skillet over medium heat and cook polenta until golden brown, about 3 minutes, on each side. Makes about 8 ( 1/2-cup servings).

Creme Brulee

From "Dessert Classics That Are Smooth As Silk and Light As Air," February 24, 2010

8 large egg yolks

1cup, plus 6 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar*

1 quart heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is well combined. Blend in heavy cream. Pour egg/cream mixture into a medium saucepan. Over low heat, stirring constantly, bring mixture to a simmer; cooking until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla; set custard aside. Place 8 (6-ounce) ramekins into a baking dish that has been lined with paper towels. (The paper towels will help keep the ramekins from sliding.) Divide the custard among the ramekins, filling three-fourths full. Place dish in oven and fill with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until set around edges, about 40 minutes. (Rotate dish midway while baking to cook evenly.) Remove pan from oven and place ramekins on a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Transfer the ramekins to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours. (If making ahead, cover ramekins with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.) When ready to serve, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top of each chilled custard, evenly covering top from edge to edge. Hold a kitchen torch 3 to 4 inches above surface to brown the sugar and form a crust. Or, place the ramekins under the broiler, being careful not to burn sugar. Serve at once. Makes 8 servings.

*Kitchen Ade Note: Superfine sugar, also known as "bar" sugar, is finely ground regular granulated sugar. Superfine sugar dissolves quickly making it ideal for drinks, meringues and souffls. If you cannot locate superfine sugar, make your own by running granulated sugar in a food processor until it appears powdery. (Making superfine sugar in a food processor creates a lot of "dust," so allow sugar to settle a minute, or two, before removing the machine's lid.)

Apple Dumplings with Spiced Sauce

From "All Around Good: Warm Apple Dumplings with Homemade Ice Cream," October 13, 2010

4 (3-inch) McIntosh apples, cored and peeled*

Pastry for 1 (9-inch) pie crust, homemade or pre-made

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch salt

1 cup unsweetened apple juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon spiced rum (optional)

Demerara, or other coarse-grained sugar, for sprinkling on top of apples

Ice cream for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and trim to a 14-inch square; cut the square into four even 7-inch squares. In a small mixing bowl, mix the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, apple pie spice, nutmeg, and salt into a paste. Remove half of the past mixture into a small saucepan; set saucepan aside. (You will use one portion of the paste for filling apples and the other for making the sauce.) Cut apples in half. Supporting apples halves with your fingers, fill each apple center with an equal amount of the paste mixture remaining in the mixing bowl. Place each filled apple in the center of the dough square. Fold the corners to center of the top of each apple and pinch the edges together (moisten with some water, if needed) to seal the seams. Place the dumplings in the prepared baking dish, at least 1-inch apart; set dish aside. Add the apple juice, granulated sugar and rum (if using) to the saucepan containing the paste. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and pour sauce over apples. Sprinkle tops with Demerara sugar. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm in individual serving bowls with ice cream, spooning sauce from baking dish over all. Makes 4 servings.

*Kitchen Ade Note: To keep apples from turning brown after they are peeled, place them in a bowl of ice water with a splash of lemon juice. Drain apples and dry with paper towels before using.



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