Category Archives: Things I Learned The Hard Way

Ebelskivers (Danish Pancakes)

Last week, I was rummaging around in the cupboard and found a forgotten gem hidden in the back: an ebelskiver pan.

turn_them_carefully

I first fell in love with these little Danish pancake balls during a snow day in the second grade. My mom made them, stuffed with spiced apples, and my friend and I inhaled the entire batch before heading out to play in the snow. On our first toboggan run, fortified by all that flour and sugar, we set a new distance record — and went sailing right though the wooden snow fence at the bottom of the hill. It was our only run of the day. Minutes later we were in the car, creeping over snow-packed roads to get my friend’s forehead stitched up.

Whether it was the trauma of the sledding incident, or just that we ate all the ebelskivers before she got a chance to try any, Mom didn’t make ebelskivers for us again and eventually gifted me the pan. And then I forgot about them too, until last week.

fold_whites_into_batter

ebelskivers_on_plate

Ebelskivers can be made plain, like little pancake popovers, or filled with pretty much anything. I used chopped spiced apples, plus a variety of homemade preserves — raspberry, chokecherry, and plum butter. Generally speaking, the thicker the filling, the better the result. The unanimous favorite was the plum butter I made a few seasons ago (and meant to recreate for you this past summer, but then there were no plums to be found anywhere.) Chokecherry jelly was a close second.

add_batter_to_cover_filling

Browsing around on the internet, I found a lot of instructions involving knitting needles and metal chopsticks. Some say the proper way to make ebelskivers is to stick a pointy object (gently!) through the batter and turn them gradually to make a perfect ball. I didn’t think this would end very well for me and my jam-filled morsels, and didn’t bother to try it. Instead, I found it easiest to run a butter knife underneath the ebelskiver, then quickly flip it over and tuck the uncooked side into the well with my fingers.

plum_ebelskivers

And really, once you’ve tried these tender little pancake bites you won’t care about the proper technique, or burned fingers, or even that these are slightly more fussy and time-consuming than their flat relatives. Now that I’ve become reacquainted with my favorite snow-day breakfast, ebelskivers will be making an appearance during every blizzard, brunch, and holiday in my house.

plum_filling

Ebelskivers (Danish Pancakes)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: About 21 ebelskivers

Ebelskivers (Danish Pancakes)

These traditional Danish pancakes are perfect for a snow day or lazy weekend brunch.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (plus additional for greasing pan)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Preserves or chopped apples for filling (about 1/2 cup)
  • Special Equipment:
  • Ebelskiver pan

Instructions

  1. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl.
  2. In a metal mixer bowl, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks.
  3. Whisk sugar, egg yolks, milk, and butter together in a large bowl.
  4. Sift dry ingredients over wet and whisk until just combined (batter will still be lumpy). Fold in egg whites.
  5. Heat ebelskiver pan with about 1/4 teaspoon butter in each well until bubbly. Add 1 tablespoon batter to each well, then add 1 teaspoon of filling. Add batter to cover filling.
  6. Cook over low-medium heat until edges are set and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. With a knife or metal chopstick, gently turn the ebelskivers over and tuck them upside down into the wells to cook the other side.
  7. Cook until both sides are browned, about 4 more minutes. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

Notes

Ebelskivers may be kept in the oven on warm until the whole batch is cooked, but they're best straight out of the pan.

Adapted from Serious Eats.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/ebelskivers-danish-pancakes/

Blackout fare: Herb salad with prosciutto and pine nuts, plus a perfect pan-seared steak.

feeder_frenzy

My sister and I moved into the old farmhouse during a particularly snowy March. With miles of huge old cottonwood trees shading the lines between our neighborhood and the rural electric company that serves us, we had a lot of power outages that spring.

But as soon as we bought a portable generator, Colorado experienced two of the driest years on record. We didn’t use the generator at all, other than starting it up periodically to keep it in working order.

But last spring, we got a few decent snowstorms and the generator started earning its prime spot in the shed. And then the flood happened, and our trusty generator kept us running for a full 3 days. Internet, sump pump, fridge, phones, and incubator — without backup power, it would have been so much worse.

And now, I can start the generator in my sleep. Gone are the days of nervously re-reading the instruction manual by the light of my headlamp before I pull the cord. We’re friends now, the generator and I.

Generator

Fortunately, I also have a gas stove and plenty of matches at my disposal. So once the the essentials are hooked up to power again, I always head for the comfort of my kitchen.

cooking_by_candlelight

I love cooking during a blackout, with only the glow of candlelight (ok, and my headlamp) to light my way. Somehow, the food always tastes better.

Last time, it was a couple of beautiful grass-fed steaks from Windsor Dairy. So in honor of the oncoming winter and the end of grilling season, today I bring you my tips for a perfectly pan-seared steak (and one of my favorite salads). It’s a meal best made by candlelight.

blackout_steaks

For a perfectly seared piece of meat, use a heavy pan (cast iron is best). Throw in some fat, like butter or bacon grease, and get it really hot but not smoking. Make sure you leave plenty of room around each piece of meat as you put it in the pan, so it can brown. Then, don’t touch it.

Seriously, just leave it alone. I know how tempting it can be to peek; I’ve ruined many nice cuts of meat this way. You have a mouthwatering steak sizzling in the pan, and even though the recipe says to cook on high heat for 5 minutes each side, it sounds like it’s burning. Sure enough, when you try to look it sticks to the pan, and then you panic and end up with a mangled piece of meat that’s barely even lost its pink. And it’s now it’s never going to brown.

If you think it’s time to flip whatever you’re browning, grab the sides with a pair of tongs and –very gently– try to jiggle it. If it doesn’t move easily, it’s not ready to be turned yet. Sticking to the pan is part of the process as the meat starts to cook. As long as you’ve greased your pan sufficiently, the meat will lift up as it browns and you’ll be able to turn it without leaving half of it on the pan.

Instead of trying to peek at that steak, pour yourself a glass of wine, be patient, and listen to the noises it makes as it cooks. Over time, you’ll learn to recognize the difference in sound (and smell) when it starts to brown.

Then, let it rest. When you cut into a juicy piece of meat as soon as you take it off the heat, the liquids bubble out onto the plate and you’re left with a dry, disappointing mess. But if you let it rest for 10-15 minutes (or 20-25, for larger cuts like roasts), the juices will settle back into the meat instead of running all over the plate.

steaks_resting_by_candlelight

While the steaks rested under a loose covering of tinfoil, I pulled out some leftover salad ingredients from the night before. Toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, chewy prosciutto, and nutty grated parmesan melting together under a warm balsamic dressing. Add some crusty bread, and the best steaks I’ve ever cooked, and it was almost a shame when the lights flickered back on.

prosciutto_salad

So bring on the snow and the wind (mostly snow, please). I’m ready.

snow_and_blue_skies

Fresh herb salad with prosciutto and toasted pine nuts

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Fresh herb salad with prosciutto and toasted pine nuts

adapted from Colorado Collage

Ingredients

  • 4 cups mixed greens
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh italian parsley leaves, pulled off the stem
  • 4 green onions
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced Prosciutto
  • For the dressing:
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

    Toast the pine nuts:
  1. Set oven to 325F and spread pine nuts in a glass baking dish. Place pine nuts in oven as it preheats and set a timer for 4 minutes.
  2. When your timer goes off, stir pine nuts and continue checking them for 1-minute increments until they begin to turn golden brown and fragrant, then set them aside to cool.
  3. Make the salad:
  4. Wash greens, basil, and parsley and place in a towel to dry.
  5. Rinse green onions, peeling off any wilted outer layers, and slice thinly (both green and white parts.)
  6. Cut prosciutto into bite size squares.
  7. Make the dressing:
  8. Peel garlic cloves and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices.
  9. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over very low heat.
  10. Add garlic and cook until barely browned, about 8 minutes.
  11. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon; discard.
  12. Add balsamic and red wine vinegar.
  13. Increase heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes.
  14. Add brown sugar -- careful, the dressing will splatter.
  15. Cook 1 minute and taste for sweet-tart balance -- stir in additional sugar or vinegar as desired. If it still tastes too sharp, simmer for a minute or two longer.
  16. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  17. Put it together:
  18. Arrange greens and herbs in individual bowls and scatter pine nuts, prosciutto and parmesan on top.
  19. Drizzle a few teaspoons of dressing over each bowl.
  20. Serve immediately and pass additional dressing.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/blackout-fare/

“Do you sell purslane here?”

more_purslane

Around the time I started my first garden, I saw an article that listed the “10 Most Nutritious Foods,” or something like that. High up on the list was purslane, something I’d never heard of. The article didn’t provide a picture, but it did have a lot of nice things to say about purslane, which was enough to entice me.

And so I went on a quest to find some for my garden. I checked all the local greenhouses and seed displays, and every person I asked answered with “No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that here” and occasionally a funny look. And then the rest of the garden started taking off, and I forgot all about purslane.

Until about a year later, when I was at a friend’s house thumbing through a book about wild edible plants in Colorado. A book with pictures. And then I realized why none of the local places sold purslane — I pulled about 5 pounds of it out of my tiny garden plot that morning alone. Although it’s widely used as a food in most other countries, here in the U.S. it’s a weed.

purslane

I’ve picked more than my fair share of purslane since then, though I usually just give it to the chickens. It’s hard to rinse, and most of my attempts to sauté it were a waste of butter — but I do like to eat it raw, especially in the early morning when it has a tart, almost lemony flavor (this is because the leaves are full of malic acid, which is converted into glucose during the day — by afternoon, the leaves taste like mild lettuce.)

And this year, for the first time, I saw purslane in the seed display at the garden store. I may not be buying it anytime soon, but at least my rookie mistake doesn’t seem so embarrassing now.

 

My first flock

Three years ago this week, my sister and I brought home 14 new companions: Day-old chicks from the local feed store. And so I began my life as a chicken keeper.

Cutlet_day1

Before we got our own chickens, I’d never actually been around any. And so I knew nothing of the lovely, comical creatures that they are. In my mind, chickens were farm animals of the worst sort — smelly, noisy, and not at all friendly. Definitely not the type of creatures you’d want as pets. I was so wrong.

Parmesan_1week

Once I got hooked on fresh eggs from my local farmers’ market, I found myself on a slippery slope. When Fall arrived and the farm stand started selling out of eggs within 15 minutes of opening, my sister and I joked about getting a few chickens for our small backyard. The following Spring we moved into the old farmhouse, complete with a large chicken coop, and there was no excuse. We drove home with a box full of fuzzy, furiously chirping chicks just a few weeks later.

1st_chicks

Our chicks were all sexed as “pullets,” or female chicks, but we read enough to know that there’s about a 10% error rate. So knowing that we might end up with a rooster and shouldn’t get too attached, we chose to name them all after food — Tikka, Tandoori, Sesame, Kung Pao, etc. It kept things light, but it didn’t keep us from getting attached.

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