Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sweet: Caramel Apples

I really miss the old Halloweens I had as a child, when it was a big deal to get a Hershey bar and not so out of the ordinary to get a homemade treat.

This year for Halloween we are giving out glow sticks, but the first 12 (OK 10 - my kids are going to get one each) lucky trick or treaters are going to get a delicious homemade caramel apple to boot. We live on a small, cobblestone alley where everyone knows everyone - I always say it's like living on Sesame Street. Most of the kids that will be stopping by are on a first name basis with us, and they will be with their folks who are also our friends and neighbors. They know us to be fairly respectable, and so hopefully that will mitigate any crazy daisy razor fears that have fueled the wrapped candy rage since the eighties.

I have gone through many a caramel apple recipe, unwrapped countless cellophane caramel wrappers, and made myself crazy searching for the popsicle sticks. and this is by far the best approach. The recipe itself is fairly straightforward but does have a few tricks. You can purchase the wooden sticks at any craft store. The caramel cooks nicely in a Le Creuset or other heavy pan, and you will need an instant read thermometer. I special ordered an infrared one just for giggles, and because that is MY treat for this holiday. Super cool.

Finally, there is wrapping. You can purchase a bubble apple, 12 x 12 cellophane squares, or boxes. Personally, I like the boxes and the bubbles because they are no muss no fuss, but if you are doing big quantities and have time to wrap and tie on your hands, it makes sense to buy the cellophane. All of this can be purchased online at various candy supply stores.

This year I will be managing the process with my co-hosts, SpongeBob and Super Why. Both are very excited to make and eat these apples, and especially to share them. I will take lots of pics and post shortly. Until then, happy Halloween and enjoy every bite.

Old Fashioned Caramel Apples
from Jane Sharrock's Who Wants Candy

12 medium apples
2 cups sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 cup half and half or evaporated milk
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chopped nuts (I used honey roasted peanuts) - optional

  1. Wash and dry apples. Remove stems. Insert wooden skewer into each, using a twist-like motion so the apple will not split.
  2. Cover a large area with wax paper (counter top will do nicely).
  3. In a large, heavy pot combine all the ingredients except the extract and nuts. Bring to a boil and cook until 246 degrees. Add vanilla.
  4. Remove from heat and cool slightly until thickened.
  5. Double dip the apples and then roll bottoms in chopped nuts. Place on wax paper. Cool until firm and serve.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Overlooked: Duck & Turnips

Sometimes when I am cooking I like to choose the thing that is most overlooked, either in the store or the pantry. The bumpy, lumpy tomato that nobody wanted. The gamey game that seems improbable.

So it was with was duck and turnips. The latter I received as part of my weekly CSA share, and the former is a long time favorite of mine. I am not sure why duck is overlooked by my fellow cooks. It is readily available, grown wild (very difficult to domesticate duck - you can't make them sit around a confined area like you can with other poultry), affordable, and delicious. I find it is no more work than chicken, albeit more fatty, but I for me that is a bonus. I save what is rendered, which has a sweet taste and cooks beans and potatoes (and in this case, turnips) beautifully. Usually I can make fat from 1 duck last for about 3 weeks.

Turnips are a lonely root vegetable. If you can find them at the market, they tend to reside in less desirable shelf space, quietly looking out and waiting to be taken home like lost puppies. They taste like a cross between cabbage and potato, and are full of vitamins. I also like turnips because they are easy to prepare; just peel, chop, and cook.

This week I had a duck in my freezer and turnips in the pantry, and so I went recipe shopping. Julia Child always is my first resort for land of the lost items, and so it was that she had a simple, easy recipe for the 2 of them. I love her simplicity; the recipe has less then 10 ingredients and just 6 key steps to create a tasty dinner for 4. This recipe was part of the Julie/Julia project, and the post is worth a read.

The recipe is presented below for your viewing consideration. Enjoy every bite.

Caneton Poele Aux Navets
(Casserole roasted duck with turnips)

A 5 1/2 lb ready to cook ducking
1/2 tsp + 1 /2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
4 parsley sprigs + 2 - 3 tbsp minced parsley
1/2 bay leaf
1/4 tsp thyme
2 lbs crisp white or yellow turnips

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  2. Season the inside of the duck with salt and pepper, truss it, prick the skin around the thighs, back, and lower part of the breast. Dry it thoroughly. Brown it slowly on all sides in the heated olive oil. Use a heavy, oval casserole for this - Le Creuset is ideal.
  3. Pour out the browning fat. Salt the duck and place it breast up in the casserole. Add the herbs (place them in cheese cloth or an infuser), cover the casserole, and and place in the oven (mid level). Roast for 50 - 60 minutes.
  4. While the duck is cooking, peel the turnips and cut into thin ovals. Drop into boiling, salted water and boil for 5 minutes. Drain.
  5. After the duck has roasted for 50 - 60 minutes, degrease the casserole with a baster. Arrange the turnips around the duck and return it to the oven. Baste occasionally. Cook for another 30 - 40 minutes.
  6. Drain the duck, place on a hot platter, and serve with parsley sprinkled on top.