Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Salted Caramel Popcorn Nut Medley

Ahhhh caramel corn, the finger food of happy holidays, satisfyingly sweet and ever crunchy. To me caramel corn evokes memories of my grandmother who used to make it with a sticky caramel of thick molasses which would just get absolutely everywhere! Even with gummy fingers and the occasional tenacious bit of popcorn stuck in our teeth, the entire family has great memories of candy corn, how can we not? Caramel corn is nana's kitchen, going further back in time it's crackerjack, poppycock and carnival candy, the artful twist of old time confectioners, a mouthful of elegantly exploding caramel combined with the good old country charm of popcorn. This caramel is an upscale and modern twist on the old treat, out is the thick molasses and pauper's peanut, in is the rich buttery salted caramel and a vibrant mixture of exotic nuts. THIS, this, is a decadent recipe for the holidays!

This recipe is inspired by the caramel corn in Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel's Bouchon Bakery cookbook. If you ever have a chance, do take a gander at their beautiful book!

While we're at it with the disclaimers, do keep a candy thermometer handy to closely monitor the temperature to your caramel. Remember, good caramel is a science!

You'll need:
-1/2 c. Water
-1c. + 2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
-1/2  1tbsp. Brown Sugar
-1/4 c. + 1 tbsp. Light Corn Syrup
-70 g. Salted Butter
-1/4 tsp. Vanilla extract
-2 tsp. Baking Soda
-1 tsp. Salt
-1 3/4c.  Mixed Nuts, salted (I prefer those purchased at costco)
-10 c. Popcorn

Lightly grease a large bowl and a cookies sheet with canola oil
Pop all of your popcorn, pour three quarters of it into the large oiled metal bowl, keep the rest close

Combine water, sugars, corn syrup and butter in a large high-rimmed pot, heat on medium-high stirring constantly

Once the caramel reaches about 290 degree Fahrenheit (143 celsius) you can move on to the next stage if you want a chewier caramel, should you prefer a crunchier one, take it up to 300 Fahrenheit (148 celsius).

Mix together the baking soda and salt, add to caramel and continue to stir vigorously, watch out, it will foam!

Immediately add nuts to caramel, stir again and pour mix onto popcorn, use a spatula to get it all out, work quickly as it will solidify fast.

Add leftover popcorn on top of the caramel and mix it all quickly, technically you want to be gentle enough as to not crush the popcorn but tough enough to mix the thick caramel in.

 I recommend working with two wooden spoons and make sure not to burn yourself, caramel burns are not fun (This old soldier has the battle wound to prove it to ye')

Once sufficiently mixed, pour popcorn onto the greased baking sheet

let cool 5 minutes, break it all up and store in an airtight container or serve

Monday, 2 December 2013

Woodsy Red Wine Mussels with Rosemary

 Red wine with mussels? RED WINE!? I can see the shock spread across your face right now, oh the travesty! Alas, fear not my friends, for I can guarantee that this unconventional mix is indeed delish! Let us not limit ourselves to red wine with red meat, remember that the famed fowl, the coq au vin, is cooked in red wine, so please, be patient with me and give this a read or even better, a try! In this dish the flowery flavour of a nice light red is accompanied by the festive pine aroma of a fresh, fragrant sprig of rosemary in addition to the heady odour of some plump green basil leaves. Combine this some of the usual suspects in the cooking of mussels, the humble carrot and onion. Throw in a hefty pinch of dried woodsy sage, some water to dilute it all and give it a good steam and voila! You've made a simple and delicious dinner. Add some house fries, homemade mayo and for all you beer drinkers, a cold pint and I daresay you're as close to pub food nirvana as you're likely to get!

Here's what we're lookin' at:
-Two pounds of fresh mussels (preferably PEI if you're Canadian)
-Two cloves of garlic
-One sprig of rosemary
-One yellow onion
-One pudgy carrot
-One hefty pinch of sage
-Half a cup of red wine, preferably something light, feel free to use leftover wine (if such a mythical creature exists)
-Half a cup of water or broth
-a few basil leaves
-1/2 tsp. salt
-One dab of olive oil

Easy peasy, first step, rinse off your mussels very carefully in a large colander in the sink.

Quarter and peel your onions, chop your carrots into slices, peel your garlic and throw all of the above mentioned in the bottom of a large pot with a dab of olive oil on medium/high heat.

As the veggies soften and suck up the oil, add the salt and the sage and stir, lightly bruise the herbs by slapping them against your hand or the counter before adding them to the mix.

Keep cooking until the mixture in the pot sticks, leaving brown silhouettes against the steel. Douse in wine  (this process is called "deglazing") and stir until you've scratched all the brown of the bottom of the pot.

Add the water and mussels quickly to this mix and cover partially, turn the heat up and let it all steam for ten minutes

Drain mussels, pour beer, dish up fries and enjoy!