The cookbook of the week is Goat Cheese: Delectable Recipes For All Occasions. I believe I got this cookbook while living in Boston. At least I assume so. That’s where I was living when I started loving goat cheese at least. And, naturally, I brought it home with the intention of cooking delicious things with goat cheese and never cracked it open until this week (8 years later…).
This cookbook is written by sisters, it appears–Georgeanne and Ethel Brennan. They have also co-authored a couple other cookbooks titled “Sun Dried Tomatoes” and “Citrus”. I like their simplistic themes with ingredients often overlooked. I think they should also write “Canned Pineapple” and “Raisins” and then I can really use up some things in my pantry!
This cookbook has a rather long, but interesting introduction. It covers everything from the history of the goat, to goat cheese production around the world. You learn interesting facts like how we get the word “capricious” from the Latin word “capre”, meaning goat, because goats are impulsive and unpredictable! The introduction also talks about how goat cheese is made world-wide but France has been the biggest producer (fromage de chèvre) and that goat cheese production didn’t really start in the U.S. until the late 1970s. Then you learn about the four main categories of goat cheese and all the varietals within those categories before it finally moves on the the recipes!
There are 24 recipes in this little cookbook. The recipes range from classics like Lemon Cheesecake, Pasta Salad, and Peppered Rib Eye to more involved recipes like Soufflé of Goat Cheese with Smoked Salmon and Dill, Goat Cheese Filled Poblanos with Green Tomato Salsa, and Braised Rabbit with Creamy Red Wine and Goat Cheese Sauce. So, naturally, being the daring people we are, we decided to go outside our comfort zone and choose recipes we might not normally choose and would be more interesting to cook. We decided on “these look hard but we know we’ll love them” Chile and Feta Popovers, the “I have to butcher a what?!” Braised Rabbit, then ended with “I just ate Thumper; I need something simple to detox” Poached Winter Pears. Here’s how this crazy meal turned out…
Appetizer–Chile and Feta Popovers: Grade A-
These little muffins were delicious for not having been cooked correctly! I was worried that the serrano chiles in these were going to be too much since I was having such a hard time mincing them. They were burning my eyeballs and stinging my throat…it was hell getting these suckers ready for the batter, but I survived. And the popovers were all the better for it! Really the only problem was that these popovers didn’t really… pop over! They didn’t rise very well. They were still less dense than a biscuit, but not as airy and light as a popover should be. In my brief research, I found out I hit the “trifecta” of popover mistakes. I was supposed to preheat the pan and not put it in cold…didn’t do that. I was not supposed to over mix the batter…pretty sure I did that. And I wasn’t, absolutely wasn’t, supposed to peek in while they were baking…I did that…like, a lot! So these popovers never had a chance, really. But they were still tasty and delicious and I can’t wait to make them again! You should try them too! I’ve decided to just post the recipe of the dishes that were my favorite. If you’re dying to know a recipe for something I didn’t like or that I messed up, then just let me know and I’ll make sure you get it. But the pictures of recipes weren’t really working for me and they probably don’t work well for you either. So here you go…The recipe with my notes in parenthesis…
Chile and Feta Popovers–Makes 12 popovers (twelve was a streeetttcchh)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 fresh serrano chiles (watch out! these guys mean business)
1/2 to 2/3 cup goats’ milk feta cheese (I used 2/3 cup, why not?)
1. Preheat the oven to 475˚ (and apparently preheat the muffin pan too)
2. Grease muffin cups with butter and dust with flour, tap out excess
3. Sift flour and salt in a medium bowl. Gently stir eggs, milk, and melted butter in a small bowl.
4. Fold egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a fork until smooth; be careful not to overmix (this should be taken seriously…). Batter should be consistency of heavy cream (mmmmm….heavy cream…yummmmmm….).
5. Gently stir in chiles and feta (You see it says gently, right?).
6. Pour batter into (preheated?) muffin cups, divided evenly (duh!). Should be two-thirds full.
7. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ and contine to bake until the popovers have doubled in size and are barely browned, another 20 minutes. (This is where all hell broke loose in my kitchen and I had to keep peeking thus wrecking popovers…so good luck at this point!).
8. Remove from oven, prick the tops (I didn’t have to do this…not much to prick), and serve immediately!
Main Dish–Braised Rabbit with Creamy Red Wine and Goat Cheese Sauce: Grade B+
This is where it got weird. Rabbit?! My husband had to really talk me into this one as I was super uncomfortable with the idea. But he said we owe it to the readers to try new and interesting recipes so THANK YOU VERY MUCH READERS for making me eat a bunny rabbit!
The first part was finding a rabbit. You can’t just get these at Fred Meyer, as it turns out. We got our rabbit from a local shop in Southeast Portland called Pastaworks. This place is amazing! It’s essentially an Italian market. They have all sorts of wonderful things there…salamis, cheeses…and then they have rabbit. Just sitting in the deli case like it’s no big deal. A couple of them…cause apparently there’s enough demand they can just sit out there each day waiting for someone to come eat them. I asked for one rabbit and the guy wrapped it up. Whole. It occurred to me much too late that I should have had him cut it into pieces. So I came home with a whole rabbit minus fur and head (thank God). So there I was with a butcher knife and Bunnicula. Luckily we found butchering instructions on the internet, so my husband read off each instruction. I carefully made each cut and sure as heck I did it…but only after getting slightly nauseous thinking about how I was cutting through a rabbit. I don’t know why that bothered me so much, but it really, really did. Until I decided it was just a chicken. When I thought about it as a chicken, I was okay. Instead of legs and paws it had wings…that’s what I had to keep telling myself…
After that, the recipe was easy to follow, just a bit time consuming since it’s braised meat. It calls for fava beans, which is a whole other story. The short version is: husband hates fava beans, I say suck it up I’m eating the Velveteen Rabbit, can’t find fava beans easily, I say I’m substituting lima beans, husband hates lima beans, I remind him of how I’m cooking Little Bunny Foo Foo, he groans, I decide to soak limas overnight, then I BURN THE HELL out of them when cooking them (tending to baby) so beans ruined and husband wins the bean fight.
Oh, it also says this crazy thing where you cook bacon and sear the rabbit in it then, swear to God, it says “discard bacon”. What the what? You don’t discard bacon! So I left that in the recipe. In fact, I doubled the amount of bacon, then left it in. That’ll teach you, recipe!
When it was all said and done, the rabbit was tender, falling off the bone, and it tasted like chicken! It’s unclear if that’s because I had been calling it chicken the whole time to get over the fact it was rabbit, or if it really does taste like chicken. But either way I was thankful. The red wine and goat cheese sauce was rich and creamy! Next time, just switch up the meat. No reason it has to be rabbit. None.
Dessert–Poached Winter Pears with Sweet Goat Cheese: Grade A
This dessert takes pears, poaches them in water, brandy and butter, then turns them onto a plate and dumps some goat cheese on them and sprinkles with fresh mint. This turned out pretty well! It’s not quite what we were expecting in terms of taste. It’s a dessert, so you’d think it would be really sweet but it wasn’t. But that was sort of nice. It was more of a salty/savory taste and the fresh mint was refreshing. The recipe says to let the pears simmer in the brandy water for about ten minutes, but my problem was that the pears were very ripe, perhaps over ripe to begin with. So they were very, very soft and falling apart a little! But they were fantastic in taste (The pears and the mint came from a local market in Southeast Portland down the street from Pastaworks called Kruger’s Farm Market). There was one thing I did differently to the recipe which was to reduce the sauce down a bit (and I even added more brandy) then used it as a sauce over the pears. Excellent decision on my part!!!
Wine–Three Graces by Artiste: Grade A+++
This wine is in the style of a Côtes du Rhone, but it’s not French. It’s a mixture of Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier grapes. We picked this wine up while on a wine tour in the Santa Ynez Valley outside of Santa Barbara. It has an excellent, rich flavor. We loved it! And the fun part is that this winery mixes wine and art…literally. The label is a piece of art in and of itself as it is actually “painted” in red wine. The artist is Christina LoCascio and it is her rendition of Raphael’s “Three Graces” painting. It’s a really cool idea to have the art inspire the wine!
Next Post: Super Bowl Sunday Appetizers…