Lasagna – Kosher Connection LinkUp

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Hey person, remember when I was a functioning member of the blogging world?? Yeah, neither do I…harrumph, either way, me thinks it’s time to get back on track, so enough chit-chat, let’s go make some lasagna.

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For this month’s kosher connection linkup, the theme is “The one food you would want if stranded on an island.” Considering my gluttonous ways, I’d probably be ok, with just about anything. As long as I can shovel it into my mouth we’d be good, but I’ve been meaning to write a post on lasagna, so (Russian accent:) “two birds, one stone!” Onward comrade!

Lasagna, like ogres, is all about layers. You got your cheese, your sauce, and your noodles. The easiest layer is the lasagna layer (that is until one of you very grateful and generous and lucky people would love to sponsor a pasta maker lz”n a loved one). Now, I used to scoff at the idea at using no-boil noodles, but after doing some research, it’s actually a lot easier, and better in my opinion (which is all you’ll get here! Mwahahaha …yeah, so…didn’t you miss this weird blog???). so putting the noodles aside, let’s talk about the cheese and sauce.

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I like to really cheese it up, because I’m just that type of guy. First thing first – a cheese sauce; aka – mornay sauce. Mornay sauce = béchamel + cheese. Béchamel = roux + milk. Roux = fat + flour. So really Mornay= Cheese + (milk + [fat+ flour]). It’s actually pretty simple math. So let’s start by melting some butter, and toasting the flour. As with most rouxs, we go until it turns light blonde, and it’s smelling a little nutty, not very much unlike you (aw snap…). In this case, I also added some shallots to sautee in the butter.

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Just so we’re clear on what we’re doing, the whole idea of a roux is to add a starch to a liquid so it thickens it, but we’re also toasting it, which adds additional flavor. Technically, the more you cook the starch, the less it can thicken a given liquid, but that’s really only a concern, when you make a dark red type of roux, which is common in such dishes like gumbo…but I digress. After adding the milk, you need to cook it until the starch is “activated” and thickens the milk, and once that’s done, you now have your bechamel sauce. In order to complete the mornay experience, we add cheese.

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About the cheese, which I guess is really part 2a of this little layer party. Here’s the thing about cheese, its so diverse and multifaceted, that I don’t even know what to say about it. First thing first, I get it that shredded cheese is convenient and hassle free. I get it..in fact I use it from time to time. But here’s the thing – first of all so much of what makes cheese awesome is its moisture. Except for Parmesan, you want your cheese to be runny and gooey right? And that’s all thanks to moisture content, and by preshredding it, you’re basically removing a lot of the moisture (the second reason why preshredded cheeses are inferior is because they add starches to the cheese to prevent it from clumping [take a look at the ingredients next time], now technically speaking, that’s not as big a deal in this case because it will help thicken the sauce, but it does prevent from achieving maximum gooeyness, which is always a bad call).

So now that you remembered exactly how crazy I am, let’s add some grrrrated cheese to the bechamel. Take your shredded cheese, and add it to the hot bechamel, but off the flame and mix until its all melted and uniform. Now we can set that aside and focus on our sauce.
Tomato sauce is another one of those things where sure you can open a can of marinara sauce and kerplop it down, and that’s what I do many a time, however this isn’t a blog post about how to open a can of marinara sauce! Nay, this is a blog post how to open a can of whoop-ass on some lasagna, and show all of ‘Mrrrrrca what freedom tastes like!

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Oookkk, you still there? Well, for starters, I always keep a few cans of whole peeled tomatoes in the cupboard, because the easiest sauce you can make is to take a few tomatoes, drain the excess sauce, and grind up those tomatoes to the consistency you like, with whatever added spices you want. If you wanted to step it up a notch, sure you can sautee shallots in butter, add some anchovies and cook the tomatoes until reduced and thick, but come on! I know you, you’re still upset that I told you to shred your own gosh darn cheese, dagnabbit. (Maybe well do a post about tomato sauce in the future? Maybe…no promises..)
All right, so now that we have the cheese and sauce, let’s go crazy.

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I like to first put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, so the noodles have something to stick to.

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On top of the noodles goes cheese sauce and tomato sauce, and guess what Mayor McCheese?? More cheese! Huzzah! Obviously you can use whatever cheese you deem fit. Mozzarella, gouda, colby, and jack are all good options.

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Then its just a matter of repeating layers. I always top the whole shebang with more grated cheese, and Parmesan on top.

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Now to cook it, I like to cook it covered at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, and then crank the oven up to 450 for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, so the top gets nice and crispitty crunchitty. (A nice little trick is to spray the side of aluminum that’s against the lasagna with some Pam so it doesn’t stick)
And that my friend is how you win the war on terrorism.

As always, click on the funny looking thing below to see what people who actually know what they’re doing are doing.

Another one pot noodle thingamabob…plus a link up

Quite a catchy title there, I know. Anyway remember way back in the day when I used to post regularly? And one of those awesome posts was about the one pot noodle dishes that was all the rage a few months back? Oh you don’t? Well fear not, relive the experience by clicking here, but don’t forget to come back for some even more awesomeness. So much awesome, its awesome.

Anyway, moving right along, so this month’s link-up Kosher Connection, is all about comfort food. Well just what is comfort food? Well I guess its food that comforts you, duh…but what’s that? Well I don’t know, but who cares, let’s eat.

So ever since I posted that one pot linguine recipe I was talking about earlier, a few people have told me they really liked it, which is always nice to hear. And to be honest, I’ve made a few different iterations of the same dish, but this one stood out, namely because I actually remembered what I put in to it, and more importantly, I had some quasi usable pictures.

It all starts with stock. Vegetable stock to be precise, but not just any vegetable stock, a really quick vegetable stock; like 20 minutes quick. How, you wonder? Well, you’re going to have wait on that one…that post is coming up…eventually…maybe. Who am I kidding…more like don’t get your hopes up.

So anyway, you’ve got vegetable stock, which makes everything better (by they way, you can obviously use plain ole` water, if for some odd reason you don’t have stock handy), now it’s all a matter of throwing a few vegetables and some cheese together.

For this dish, I sauteed cauliflower, then added my noodles (orichetta), spinach (raw), ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. I added the stock, and let it all cook down.

While the stock was cooking, I took some feta cheese, and mushed it (which is the precise culinary term) with some chopped parsley.

Once the pasta was cooked through, and the stock was cooked out, I topped the whole shooting match with the feta-parsley awesomeness, and obviously some more parmesan, and then proceeded to be comforted.

Wow that was quick…I know you’re sad that that’s all, but if you have any questions type away in the comments below, and as always, click on the funny frog man under this paragraph to see what people who actually know how to blog are doing.

Bobby’s Apple Cake

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We’re up for another round of The Kosher Connection Link up thingamabob, and with Rosh Hashana right around the corner, this months theme is apples. So ever since I was a little kid I can remember my grandmother making this thing we all called apple cake. For some reason, I never really questioned the idea of how this became known as “apple cake,” as you’ll soon see. Well this apple cake really was always made for Sukkos, and my grandmother had this special sheet pan that she used for it, in fact I think it’s the only thing she made in the pan. Anyway, suffice it to say that it was awesome. It would sit behind my kitchen table, half covered in aluminum foil, but really anyone who passed it, for some reason, had this innate need to just even out the edges. You know – a little slice off the edge to make sure the edge was even…all in the name of science. Last year I decided it was time for me to try and make this “cake.”

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The reason I call this a “cake” is because it’s really more like a pie than a cake. There’s whole apples, mixed with spices, sandwiched between two enriched doughs. Sounds like a pie to me, but for some reason, it’s always been known as apple cake in our house

So last year I ventured out to make it, and got the recipe from my grandmother through my sister in law, which means my grandmother probably left something out, so we wouldn’t make it as well as she does. (I once asked my grandmother for her recipe for meatballs, and she pretty much just told me to throw a can of tomato sauce in a pot with the formed meatballs…after I did that with unwavering faith, and the meatballs were terrible, I asked her, and she was like “well what about the ketchup, sugar, and more water? Of course you have to put that in also!”)  Getting a recipe from my grandmother is like playing broken telephone with some one speaks broken english and can’t hear that well. It’s not always easy. Here’s what I ended up with:

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First thing is to make the dough. I said it was with enriched dough, and by that I mean there’s added fat. In general, you can categorize doughs as just plain old flour, water, yeast, and salt; or you can enrich said dough with different types of fats. This enrichment, obviously effects the taste, but it also preserves the dough, and effects the texture of the dough. You can see the difference when you compare homemade bread (without any added fats), and homemade kokosh, or cinnamon buns. There’s an inherent richness to the dough, but the dough will also be fluffier, and actually last longer. (I say homemade dough, as opposed to store bought dough, because all store bought bread will have different preservatives in it…it’s not natural for a loaf of bread to last more than 3 days). There’s also eggs in the form of yolks, which also add richness, along with color, and other properties that I’m not in the mood of getting in to (read: I’m not really sure, and not in the mood of doing the research).

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Allright, let’s get some margarine a-melting. About 1 pound of fat, which is 4 sticks of margarine/butter. Once the melted margarine is cool, whisk in the eggs. Set aside, and work on the rest of the dough. Add the flour and sugar, and whisk together, and combine remaining sugar, yeast, and tepid water, and whisk to combine. Add yeast mixture and fatty fat fat mixture to the flour, and using the paddle attachment (or a wooden spoon) to mix until it just comes together, and then switch to a dough hook, and knead until it pulls away from the bowl, and a tacky, but not sticky dough forms. Allow that dough to rest in the fridge over night (or up to 3 days).

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On the day you’re ready to make your apple cake, allow the dough to come to room temperature for at least an hour. While the dough is coming to terms with it’s surrounding, make the filling. My grandmaw’s recipe calls for 10 apples, 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice. You shred the apples, and wring out any excess liquid, and then mix everything together. DSC_3641

You then roll out half the dough, put it on bottom of the sheet pan, place the apple mixture in (leaving about a half inch around the borders) cover with other dough, and crimp the whole thing shut. Brush some egg over top, and let it bake until golden brown and delicious.

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So I actually made this last year for Sukkos, and luckily was able to dig through the archives of all the food I take pictures of (it’s a lot…like, I take pictures of everything, and then I’m too self conscience to post anything about it…but I’ll just save that last part for the couch…aaaanyway…), and if I could critique it, I would say, I would treat this “cake” more like a pie, and would definitely add some sort of thickening agent; flour, corn starch, potato starch, tapioca, whatever. Also, I would consider mixing the apples with sugar, allowing it macerate, and then taking the liquid, and cooking it down and adding that concentrated apple flavor back in. Those are the modifications I’ll probably do this year.

As usual, click on the funny frog looking guy right below this paragraph to see what actual talented people did.

Bobby’s Apple Cake

I know that when I made this last year, I ended up with two whole apple cakes, but I can’t remember if that was because I doubled the recipe. So if you see that there’s a lot of dough, then instead of using half to line the sheet pan, use 1/4…knowwhatimsaying?

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup tepid water
  • 4 sticks margarine
  • 4 yolks
  • 1 whole egg

For the Apple filling:

  • 10 apples (I like to use a mixture of yellow, green, and another apple, to get a good mix of texture and flavor out of the apples), shredded
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions:

For the Dough:

  1. Combine flour, and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Combine the vanilla extract, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, yeast, and water in a bowl, and stir to combine until frothy.
  2. Melt the margarine, and when cool, add the yolks and egg, and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the flour mixture, the yeast mixture, and margarine mixture to bowl of a mixer, and with the paddle attachment, mix until everything is combined. Switch to the dough hook, and knead on medium-low until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Place dough in an oiled container, cover, and place in the refrigerator over night and up to 3 nights
  5. On the day of baking, allow the dough to come to room temperature for at least an hour before handling.

For the filling:

  1. To shred apples, peel and core the apples, and run through food processor’s shredding blade.
  2. Combine apples, sugar, and lemon juice, and let sit over colander set in a bowl for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Take reserved apple juice, and set in a pan over medium-high heat and reduce liquid until syrupy.
  4. Add syrup back to apple-sugar mixture, along with corn starch, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, and mix to combine.
  1. Divide dough in half, and roll out half the dough, and spread on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Spread apple mixture over bottom half of dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space around the borders
  3. Roll out other half, and cover everything cinching it all closed.
  4. Whisk remaining egg, and brush over dough
  5. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown and delicious (I can’t remember how long it took, but if I had to guess, it was probably 30 minutes? I dunno, let your nose decide)

Vietnamese Ice Coffee Pops – Kosher Link Up. Blog swap, Plus a Giveaway

Hey friend, guess what…it’s another kosher connection link up thingy that we do every month. And would you believe it if I said it’s the one year anniversary of the whole Kosher Connection Link ups? Of course you would believe me, it would be weird of me to lie like that…anyway, in celebration of the whole shebang, we’re doing a blog swap and of course giving out prizes. I guess let’s start with the prize details (because we know that’s really why you’re here)

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Ready for a fun giveaway to celebrate one year of Kosher Connection? We are giving away two prizes from Emile Henry. A Bread Cloche valued at $130 and a 4.2 qt Dutch Oven valued at $170! Use the Rafflecopter below to win- you can enter up to 23 ways! Two winners will be chosen at random.

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Contest Fine Print:

The contest winners will be contacted via email. They will have 48 hours to respond before other winners are chosen. This contest is open to United States residents over the age of 18

Now to the blog swap. So we were all assigned another persons blog, and given the task to recreate something they made. I was assigned the difficult task to try and recreate something from the fabulous website by Hindy G – Confident Cook, Hesitant Baker, which if you’re reading this blog and you haven’t been over there, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Anyway, you might not know me that well, but if you’ve read the blog more than zero times, you can probably guess how good I am at making decisions. Well needless to say, trying to decide what to make from the myriads of awesome stuff on Hindy’s website was an attempt in futility . Just look at all the awesome stuff on her recipe index. Add to this confusion, the fact that it’s nearly as hot as the surface of the sun in my apartment, and I pretty much had to hone in on something that wouldn’t fry my brain any more, so the oven and stove were off limits. At first I wanted to make her homemade KitKat bars, but my doctor asked me not to. So I had to settle for some sort of frozen concoction. After perusing the few recipes listed, I knew is had to be Vietnamese Iced coffee popsicles. Why, you ask? Well mainly because, I like coffee, and it didn’t require too much work.

Confident Cook’s Vietnamese Iced Coffee Pops

There are different ways of getting your caffeine fix with iced coffee, and the Vietnamese version really is just adding sweetened condensed milk to the coffee instead of milk and sweetener. When it comes to making the actual coffee, Hindy used some espresso, but I decided to go with my cold brewed coffee, because I love me some cold brewed coffee.

I ground up some fresh beans, and placed in my french press, poured in water, allowed it to seep overnight, and filtered out the grind.

Mixed the coffee with some sweetened condensed milk to taste (you will probably need less than half of the can)

and poured it into the ice pop molds

I placed them in the oven at 350 for 100 hours, and then barbecued the ice pops over indirect …just making sure you’re paying attention…I placed them in the freezer, d’doy, and when frozen I ate them.

All right, so now’s the part where you want to know how they were right? Well, here’s the thing, this was possibly a last ditch attempt for me to like ice pops. There’s something about eating an ice pop…or let me rephrase that, because you never really eat an ice pop, in fact you never really do anything to an ice pop…you lick it? And then invariably you try to eat it…it’s just, in my humblest of opinions, not really the best vehicle for jamming food down my gullet. Now don’t get me wrong, I ate it, and enjoyed it, but I just don’t understand it…Anyone else out there in internet land understand where I’m coming from? Now one possibility where I went wrong was with the amount of sugar. Since the final result was mainly iced coffee, and a little condensed milk, it was for all intents and purposes, water, which means the final pop, was more like an ice cube than an “ice pop.” I didn’t really measure how much condensed milk I added, but I don’t think I could have added more, so if I make these again, I would probably add some simple syrup to boost up the sugar content, and make more of a slushier ice concoction. Just a thought.

Ok first thing first – don’t forget to head on over to all of the other amazing websites to see what actual talented people do by clicking on the link right below.

And as for the giveaway that we had mentioned above, click on this link to enter, a Rafflecopter giveaway…however if that doesn’t work, just  head on over to http://www.joyofkosher.com, and enter there.

 

Vietnamese Ice Coffee Pops

adapted from Confident Cook, Hesitant Baker

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of Iced coffee (you can follow my instructions on how to make cold brewed, or you can just make a large batch of coffee)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

  1. Once you have your cold coffee, it’s just a matter of pouring in enough sweetened condensed milk to taste (I used maybe less than half of the can). (Now as a side point, the way I measured how much coffee I would need, I have 6 ice pop molds, and measured how much liquid one held, multiplied that by 6, and then subtracted a little to compensate for the milk.)
  2. Pop it in the freezer over night, and then enjoy.