Bananas Foster is what inspired this recipe. Caramel, spice, and bold tropical sweetness abounds. I rarely buy canned pineapple for this recipe, but in a pinch it can be used. Substitute enough canned pineapple to equal what size a stack of fresh slices from one pineapple would be. You can also do this one on the grill; use a piece of foil over medium heat coals and turn the pineapple slices frequently to avoid burning. Pay close attention to them when they are baking; I have burned a batch or two of these, but, oh my, they are worth the attention. When you have prepared a batch of these, there are numerous ways to put them to use. I like mine with ham steaks, or pork chops or tenderloin, they’re great with good French Vanilla ice cream, and will complement any fruit tart, or any slice of cake, or simply prepare a plate of roasted pineapple presented with knives and some whipped cream as a dessert. If you want a non-alcoholic version, simply omit the dark rum, or substitute it with a nice apple cider. If you don’t have the allspice, any other tropical spice, or combination of tropical spices will do, such as; freshly grated nutmeg, ground clove, cinnamon, freshly ground star anise, and even some red and white freshly, and finely ground, peppercorns work very well (just a pinch or two) in a caramel.
Pineapple slices from one ripened, fresh pineapple, cut to ½” thickness
1 stick of butter
¾ cup of dark brown sugar (molasses or dark corn syrup can be substituted)
½ cup of good dark rum
1 tsp of Madagascar vanilla flavoring (just kidding about the Madagascar piece, just (please) don’t use imitation vanilla flavoring)
½ tsp of allspice (please see above for spice alternatives)
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Combine all of the ingredients, except the pineapple slices, in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, stir the caramel mixture until it combines and comes to a soft boil. Wrap the bottom of an 8 x 12 or 9 x 13 pan with aluminum foil, taking care to come up the sides where possible. Arrange the pineapple slices in the pan to be spread out as much as you can. Pour the caramel sauce over the pineapple slice, lifting the bottom slices so that all the slices are coated evenly. Roast the slices in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, turning the slices and re-coating if necessary every 15 minutes, or, until the fruit has softened and the sauce has caramelized on the fruit. Just keep an eye on them. There is not much difference between perfectly done and burnt to the point of being inedible. Enjoy!
When we have conversations about foods that give us comfort, often those conversations will turn towards the topic of the olfactory tantalization that takes place prior to any eating. Smells of the cakes and cookies, casseroles and stews, biscuits and gravies; you name it; it all sets the stage through our noses to help us settle in to that level of comfort that we needed. One of my personal favorites in the collection of cooking essences that permeate the air in our homes and kitchens is that of the cooking onion.
When you stop and take a moment to think about it, there are a lot of dishes, recipes, and culinary concoctions that onions either start, or, are an integral part of. If you are a moderately experienced cook, or if you grew up in a home where there was at least one cook, then you will be familiar with the uses and smells of cooking onions. I write a lot of recipes and many of them begin with sautéing an onion, or preparing some version of a Mirepoix (please see below), as the base of the dish being made. Chopped, minced, sautéed, and caramelized; the ancient and dependable value of onions in cooking cannot be praised enough. Cook a chili, a stew, or a spaghetti sauce; and leave all of the onion out of the recipe and note the difference in the end result. Your recipe will just not be the same. There are many applications, as well, for un-cooked onions. Their use in sandwiches and salads, in particular, is well-known, wide-spread, ancient, and dependable. Sharp and pungent, they have their own sets of flavor layers.
In an attempt to simplify the tangle of onion myths and legends, please find below how I like to think about onions and how I feel they should fit, naturally, into your views of foods that give us comfort; foods of love; foods that sustain us as individuals and as families. Emphasis in these articles is for simplification and variation, “Cliff-notes” if you will; and not to dummy it down, but more to de-mystify, to remove the voo-doo, and to help you see things related to comfort food in a comfortable way. Your ability to be adaptive, creative, and at ease in your own kitchens will be dependent upon this comfort. We’ll take a look at some basic types, some basic preparation, some recipes, and even a little bit of science…so, take a deep breath and let’s explore the world of onions.
Types of Onions
There are a gazillion different kinds of onions, so, let’s keep it simple here folks. They are wonderful and tasty and basic, but, come on, they’re still just onions.
Yellow: these are the onions you might use the most. They are most often purchased in red mesh bags, in five pound quantities, typically have a deceiving amount of tan papery skin on them and are slightly yellow, or greenish yellow in color, generally a little more pointed at both ends with one end being slightly rounder that the other; sharp and strong in flavor, economical
White/Spanish: a bigger, rounder, fatter white-fleshed onion that is sweeter in taste and more subtle than yellow, not as sharp, generally juicier and with higher yield and thinner skins and fairly rounded on both ends, sold by the pound, moderately priced
Red/Bermuda: very often referred to as a salad onion, the Bermuda onion is actually quite versatile. It is commonly used in salads, often cut and served in rings on top of greens, however, this onion is also commonly used in Latin and Spanish cooking, and is in-between the yellow and the white onions in terms of sharpness, or “bite”. This onion also works adequately when you have a recipe that calls for “onion” and the Bermuda is the only one in the house. Just slightly smaller than it’s cousin , the White, or Spanish onion, the Bermuda is fairly large and round, with a slightly larger base than top, is generally found available year round, and is moderately priced
Sweet Varietal (Vidalia/WallaWalla): these onions are generally bred for their sweetness (think in terms of “dry” and “sweet” wines, the sweeter the onion, the less bite, or sharpness it exhibits) and are praised for their own individual attributes, even geographical attributes specific to the soil they are grown in. They are generally a rounder, thinner skinned onion, slightly smaller than the Spanish onion and with either a tan skin, or white skin, and white, or pale yellow flesh. They are great for jellies, relishes, and chili sauces. They caramelize nicely due to higher sugar content and can be found by the crate from roadside vendors, by the five and ten pound bag, and by the pound. Moderately to highly priced, depending on the season
Scallion/Green/Leek/Shallot (Long/Specialty Onions): Much milder in flavor, sometimes quite subtle, and sometimes only available seasonally, these onion are generally grown and distributed for specific purposes where uniqueness of flavor, or subtlety of flavor, are required. Leeks are an important ingredient in the classically well-known and French recipe for Vichyssoise, a potato and leek soup served cold. Scallions see a lot of use in salads and salsas and are useful for some garnishing, as well. Some of these onions are more readily available than others and you should always check availability if you have a critical recipe need. Follow instructions carefully for cleaning, particularly for leeks, which are grown in sand and have fine sand nestled down, in, and amongst the layers; very gritty. Then, there’s “boilers”. These are little mini-onions, sold in one pound bags. You trim off both ends, peel the paper skin off to reveal a nice little raw onion, slightly bigger than a pearl onion. What you do with these little guys is toss them into such dishes as beef stews, chilies, or pot roasts; and, let them cook down until tender (put them in about the same time you would put in your carrots) and serve with the other veggies. Due to their being considered “specialty” types of onions, all these kinds are typically more moderately to high priced than normal
I posted an article on March 20th of this year. It was a quickie. A shameless plug for Mark Bittman, a renowned TV chef and author of the cookbook series that is anchored by the cookbook titled “How to Cook Everything”. Specific to cutting food, he says things like: (paraphrased) “I don’t have great knife skills…all you need are sharp knives, and cut food into shapes that make sense to you for how you are using them.” I contend that the same holds true for cutting onions…keep it simple, know some simple basic skills, and have fun!
Most recipes that call for cooked onions will specify either sliced onions, chopped onions, or minced onions (a.k.a. finely chopped onions). In most of these cases, you will be using a round, or oval shaped onion, and that is the shape we will be addressing here.
Prep: Use a medium to large, flat, stable cutting board of your material choice. Knife size is not very important, however, remember that a large chef knife is probably too big to cut onions, and a paring knife is probably too small. Choose a medium knife that fits nicely in your hand and whose blade is long enough to cut through the entire length or width of the onion you’re cutting, in one cut. Dull knives simply do not work very well when cutting onions. Sharp knives make the job so much more manageable and a sharp knife will bruise the onion less, releasing less of the gas that makes you cry.
Place the onion on its side on the board. If it were an apple, the core would be parallel, or horizontal, to the cutting board. Slice through enough of the root end and the top to leave a fairly nice flat spot at about a third, or a quarter, of the size of the middle of the onion. The root end cut will need to be deep enough to not leave a core at the center.
Cutting just slightly through the outer skin of the onion, from North Pole to South Pole, peel away as many layers as needed to remove the paper and green skin layers of the onion. Be careful not to peel away too much, particularly in the less expensive, thicker layered onions, where one layer could be a quarter of the onion. If you’re not sure whether or not a piece of onion, or onion layer, is edible, bite it and see. If it’s tender and can be bitten through, it’s tender enough to cook. If not, it’s probably better to peel it off. Some cooks prefer to peel their layers off prior to cutting the ends. I say it’s entirely up to you…
Slice: Choose one of the flat ends of your trimmed and peeled onion and place that flat end on the cutting board. The other flat end should be facing up and if it were an apple, the core would be perpendicular, or vertical, to the cutting board. Place your knife across the middle of the flat end and cut down through the onion to the other middle of the flat spot on the bottom. “Close” is good enough, with the expectation that you now have, roughly, two halves of the original onion. They should have big roundish flat spots on the bottoms and rounded exteriors half the size of the original onion. For further illustration, if you were to pull an onion “ring” out of either one of these halves, you would only get ½ (half) a ring.
(For full size rings: don’t cut through the middle of the onion and simply slice through the round body of the onion, all the way through to the cutting board, parallel to your flat ends, with fairly well spaced cuts, about a ¼” (quarter) inch apart. Push through the middle of each slice after cutting to separate the individual rings.
For cooking slices, place the large flat side of one half on the cutting board. Slice through the half onion, all the way through to the board, keeping your knife blade flat and even with the first flat end. Spacing should be about a ¼” (quarter) inch apart. Thinner slices will yield stringier results when cooked down. Slices can be separated into individual strips by pushing the half ring slices apart as you would for full rings, or, the sliced half can be slid into your skillet with your knife from the cutting board and you can separate the sections with your spatula or wooden spoon. If needed, slice the other half onion, and any others that are required for your recipe, in the same fashion.
Chop: Take an onion that is prepped, cut in half for slicing, and is sliced, but still in the shape of the original half onion (slices not separated, slice through but pull the knife out after the slice, leaving it in place with your finger). Now, turn the sliced half so that the slice cuts run basically from left to right, instead of from North to South. Slice through the half onion again, across the original slices, and using the same spacing, all the way across the onion; in a cross-hatch, or crisscross pattern. The double-sliced half can be slid into your skillet with your knife from the cutting board and you can separate the chopped sections with your spatula or wooden spoon.
Minced/Finely Chopped: This one is pretty easy. Just takes a little more care and a little more concentration. Follow the steps as above for regular chopped onion; however, make twice as many cuts, in both directions, as would for a regular chop. In other words, use a 1/8” spacing for your cuts (half the size of a regular chop, hence twice the cuts, OK?) in both directions. That will be about the width of the back of your knife blade, the edge opposite the one that cuts. Slide into the skillet and commence cooking; remember the finer the chop, or mince, the quicker the pieces will cook.
General Tips: Green onions and scallions have their root ends trimmed and then the leaf, or flower end gets trimmed and the green should be checked for edibility. Scallions and green onion leaves and flowers are very often used as garnish for soups and sauces. The onion ends can be sliced across for little rings that can be used fresh on salads, or the rounds can be minced and used in a sauté where some delicacy of flavor is required.
Just the white and the very light green are used in leeks; trim root ends, and all the green but the lightest; cut onion in half the long way and in half again, quartering it; lay the long quarters in cool water deep enough to cover and let sit for a while for the sand to settle. Agitate the pieces to remove all the sand. Drain water and repeat until no more sand appears. There will be serious crunching and serious disappointment if you cook with leeks and don’t clean them properly. Shallots are typically in small knots of sections under one skin; purplish, and almost always requiring a fine chop.
Most onions are soft when cooked through and can be easily incorporated into soups and sauces with an immersion blender or by batch blending in a blender. “Sauté” or “sweat” is to cook over medium heat with oil (olive, preferably), or butter, or a combination of both, until soft and slightly translucent. “Caramelize” is to cook the onions over slightly higher heat and long enough to cook the sugars out of the onions and to brown the onions in their juices and sugars for a sweeter, nuttier, more intense flavor. (See below)
There is an article below that describes why we cry when we cut onions. Sharp knife and safe speed and some say sunglasses and/or running water work to combat the tears…find what works best for you!
Last, but not least, and not an old wives tale: your hands will smell like onion after you cut or chop onion; when your all done handling the onion, rinse your hands with some lemon juice, fresh or from a bottle, doesn’t matter, rub your hands as if you were washing them, rinse with clear water and the onion smell will be gone. Have fun with onions!
A roughly chopped mirepoix on a cutting board.
A mirepoix (meer-pwah) can be a combination of celery, onions, and carrots. There are a lot of regional mirepoix variations, and it can also be just one of these ingredients, or include additional spices. Mirepoix, either raw, roasted or sautéed with butter, or, olive oil, is the flavor base for a wide number of dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces. The three ingredients are commonly referred to as aromatics. Similar combinations of vegetables are known as “holy trinity” in Creole cooking, “refogado” in Portuguese, “soffritto” in Italian, “sofrito” in Spanish, “suppengrün” (soup greens) in Germany and “włoszczyzna” in Poland.
Caramelizing onions, by slowly cooking them in a little olive oil until they are richly browned, is a wonderful way to pull flavor out of the simplest of ingredients. Onions are naturally sweet; and as caramel comes from the simple cooking of sugar, when you slowly cook onions over an extended period of time, the natural sugars in the onions caramelize, making the result intensely flavorful. You can use onions prepared this way on top of steak, or for onion soup, tarts, pizza, or onion dip. Quantities depend on how much caramelized onions you wish to make. In this example, 5 large raw onions yielded about 2 cups caramelized onions.
- Several medium or large onions, yellow, white, or red, sliced in half rings
- Olive oil
- Butter (optional)
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Sugar (optional)
- Balsamic vinegar or wine (optional)
Slice off the root and top ends of the onions, peel the onions. Cut the onions in half. Lay them cut side down and slice the onions lengthwise to desired thickness. Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan or skillet. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil, or a mixture of olive oil and butter (about 1 teaspoon per onion). Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. Depending on how strong your stovetop burner is you may need to reduce the heat to medium or medium low to prevent the onions from burning or drying out. After 10 minutes, sprinkle some salt and fresh ground black pepper over the onions, and if you want, you can add some sugar to help with the caramelization process. Start small; a teaspoon at a time, and be careful not to burn the onions. You can keep the onions moist and prevent drying out by adding a little water (1-2 TBSPS) to the pan.
Let cook for 30 minutes to an hour more, stirring every few minutes. As soon as the onions start sticking to the pan, let them stick a little and brown, but then stir them before they burn. The trick is to let them alone enough to brown (if you stir them too often, they won’t brown), but not so long so that they burn. After the first 20 to 30 minutes you may want to lower the stove temperature a little, and add a little more oil, if you find the onions are verging on burning. A metal spatula will help you scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the caramelization proceeds. As the onions cook down, you may find you need to scrape the pan every minute, instead of every few minutes. Continue to cook and scrape, cook and scrape, until the onions are a rich, browned color. At the end of the cooking process you might want to add a little balsamic vinegar or wine to help deglaze the pan and bring some additional flavor to the onions.
The caramelized onions can be stored in the refrigerator for several days in an air-tight container.
Or, see this site for further ideas: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Caramelized-Onions
Caramelized Onion Dip
This one is a favorite of the family. Mom still makes it to this day and I promise you that if you try it, just once, there’s a good chance you will never, ever again, pick up a box of bags of vegetable soup mix, or French Onion Soup mix, or completely prepared French Onion Dip. This one is quite simple, can be easily doubled or tripled, is always better the next day, and keeps well. Just like a tub of sour cream will do, there will be some whey liquid that separates while being stored; in that case just stir it up a little bit before serving. When you are caramelizing your onions, try to go for some real depth of flavor by taking them as close to being burned as possible; without burning them. Be sure to use the fresh pepper and be sure to deglaze your pan with a little vinegar or wine.
- Caramelized Onions Recipe, as above (using 4-5 large white Spanish sweet onions or Yellow sweet onions, such as Vidalia)(if doubling or tripling, use two or three times the original amount of onions), roughly chopped after caramelizing
- 16 ozs. Sour Cream (try to avoid “Low or No Fat” versions if you can)
- 3-4 TBSPS finely chopped fresh parsley
Turn the caramelized onions out onto a medium cutting board and run a knife through them to create a rough chop of them, as opposed to using them “stringy”. Combine all three ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and stir to combine well. Store at least overnight in the refrigerator and for 24 hours if possible. Stir again prior to serving and transfer to dip bowls. Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley and it is best served with traditional, or ridged, potato chips. This dip can also be served as a dip for crudité, other veggies, and other finger-food.
If you’re feeling wild and crazy and want to experiment a little, try some heat in the form of hot sauce, some smoky-ness in the form of liquid smoke, some additional green herbs, some additional seasonings, or some additional veggies.
There is three ways to bake the onions in this recipe; and, there are about twenty different tweaks that you can apply to your own version(s) of this wonderful and simple dish. No matter which cooking method you choose, when done and opened, you’ll find a wonderfully tender-cooked onion sitting inside, in this delicious broth, similar to what you’d find in the bottom of a bowl of French Onion Soup. You’ll need:
- One Onion per person (don’t use yellow, preferably a Vidalia, or large sweet Spanish)
- One TBSP butter
- One cube of beef bouillon
- Freshly ground black pepper
Peel your onion(s) and take a small slice from the root and stem end. Using either a small paring knife, a grapefruit spoon or knife, or even the edge of a dinner spoon (if its thin and sharp enough), scoop out a 1” deep x 1” across hole in the top of each onion. Fill each hole with first placing a bouillon cube in the bottom of the hole and then topping the bouillon cube with a tablespoon sized pat of butter. Season with fresh-ground black pepper pepper. (Bouillon is pretty salty so it is best to not use any additional salt)
Serve in the broth with a sharp knife for cutting the onions and topped with a sprig of fresh parsley.
Cook your onion(s) in one of the following methods:
Conventional: place each onion into an ovenproof ramekin, or small personal sized bowl, with a tight fitting cover, or covered in aluminum foil, and sprayed with a cooking spray, or lightly coated with butter, or oil. Place dishes into a 350°F oven and cook for 30-45 minutes or until tender enough to push a small fork into the middle of the onion with no resistance. Personal preference will then dictate as to whether or not you want to let it/them cook a little longer. Experiment with the cooking times and preferred methods to reach a personally desired finish. It’s pretty hard to screw these up, unless you leave them sitting on your grill for about 2 hours…
Microwave: place each onion into a microwave-proof ramekin, or small personal sized bowl, with a tight fitting cover and sprayed with a cooking spray, or lightly coated with butter, or oil. Microwave the dishes for 8-10 minutes on a high power setting until tender enough to push a small fork into the middle of the onion with no resistance. Personal preference will then dictate as to whether or not you want to let it/them cook a little longer. Experiment with the cooking times and preferred methods to reach a personally desired finish. It’s pretty hard to screw these up, unless you leave them sitting on your grill for about 2 hours…
Grill (Charcoal/Gas): place each onion onto a 10” or 12” square of heavy-duty aluminum foil, drawing up the corners to the top center of the onion, twisting the collected foil at the top to seal the onion(s) in its own little personal onion pouch. Place on the grill over the heat source and cook for 30-45 minutes over medium-high to high heat until tender enough to push a small fork into the middle of the onion with no resistance. (Unwrap it first, don’t poke through the foil or all that wonderful broth will leak out!) Personal preference will then dictate as to whether or not you want to let it/them cook a little longer. Some caramelization can be had by leaving them on the grill, but be careful of burning them. Experiment with the cooking times and preferred methods to reach a personally desired finish. It’s pretty hard to screw these up, unless you leave them sitting on your grill for about 2 hours…you get the idea: very flexible, very customizable, make them your own, and…Enjoy!
Some Tweak Suggestions (I have tried just about all of these and I can vouch for the fact that if you enjoy the base recipe in its finished form, you will have fun experimenting, too!):
- Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup, or Honey (particularly for grilling and caramelization)
- Liquid Smoke
- Hot Sauce
- Chopped/Minced fresh peppers/chilies
- Dried red pepper flakes
- BBQ Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Soy or Teriyaki Sauce
- Coarse chopped garlic, or chopped roasted garlic
- Minced, or grated, fresh ginger
- Green Herbs (Tarragon and Sage pair quite nicely with cooked onion)
- Alternately flavored bouillons, concentrated flavor pastes, demi-glaces, gravies
- Onions can alternately be chopped, or sliced, and cooked in that form just as easily as whole, reduce cooking time a little bit for cut onions
This one is a real keeper. A real tried and true go-to dip for parties, family get-togethers, or, just when you want to make yourself a tremendous dip to help drown your sorrows in a bag of potato chips. For a creamier version, use more sour cream. For a completely different version add the crumbled and creamed bleu cheese. And, as you should know by now, this recipe is completely adjustable to your personal preference in tastes and textures. You can add more or less bacon, more or less onion, but try not to substitute the horseradish; it just seems to work well with this concoction.
- 8-12 ounces of regular sour cream (try to avoid “low-fat” versions if at all possible)
- ½ to 1 pound of cooked crispy and crumbled bacon
- 2 to 4 TBSPS of green onion, sliced
- 2-4 TBSPS buttermilk, or heavy cream
- 1 to 2 TBSPS grated horseradish
- 2 to 4 TBSPS lemon, or lime juice
- ¼ to ½ cup of crumbled and creamed bleu cheese (optional, for a different flavor twist)
- ½ TSP freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ TSP good quality cooking salt
- Some chopped chive and cayenne pepper for garnish when serving
Combine all ingredients in a medium or large mixing bowl. Mix well to combine all ingredients and stir to a desired thickness and consistency. Salt carefully, if needed; both bacon and bleu cheese may negate the need for any salt, whatsoever. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for no less than two hours and overnight if possible. Remove from refrigeration an hour before serving; mix well; transfer to a serving dish and top with sprinkled cayenne pepper and chopped chive.
Eye irritation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onion)
As onions are sliced or eaten, cells are broken, allowing enzymes called alliinases to break down amino acid sulfoxides and generate sulfenic acids. A specific sulfenic acid, 1-propenesulfenic acid, formed when onions are cut, is rapidly rearranged by a second enzyme, called the lachrymatory factor synthase or LFS, giving syn-propanethial-S-oxide, a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor or LF. The LF gas diffuses through the air and eventually reaches the eye, where it activates sensory neurons, creating a stinging sensation. Tear glands produce tears to dilute and flush out the irritant. Chemicals that exhibit such an effect on the eyes are known as lachrymatory agents.
Supplying ample water to the reaction, while peeling onions, prevents the gas from reaching the eyes. Eye irritation can, therefore, be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water. Another way to reduce irritation is by chilling, or by not cutting off the root of the onion (or by doing it last), as the root of the onion has a higher concentration of enzymes. Using a sharp blade to chop onions will limit the cell damage and the release of enzymes that drive the irritation response. Chilling or freezing onions prevents the enzymes from activating, limiting the amount of gas generated.
Eye irritation can also be avoided by having a fan blow the gas away from the eyes, or by wearing goggles or any eye protection that creates a seal around the eye. Contact lens wearers may also experience less immediate irritation as a result of the slight protection afforded by the lenses themselves.
The amount of sulfenic acids and LF released and the irritation effect differs among Allium species. On January 31, 2008, the New Zealand Crop and Food institute created a strain of “no tears” onions by using gene-silencing biotechnology to prevent synthesis by the onions of the lachrymatory factor synthase enzyme.
This recipe, originally made by my Mom (for years and years), was adapted from a recipe of Elsie Masterson’s from a cookbook entitled Blueberry Hill Cookbook. There is a wonderful article and tribute to Elsie Masterson that can be found in a blog that I came across that can be found here: http://dianacooks.com/2008/05/28/elsies-way/.
There are five of us siblings, my three sisters, my brother, and myself. We each have our own versions of this recipe, tweaked and adapted to our own satisfactions over the years. There has been numerous debates over which brand of liver sausage to use, how much of each additional ingredient is applied, and what additional ingredients that we have discovered to add to it to make it “just right”.
Pâté de Maison (My version)
1 lb. good quality liverwurst/liver sausage
¼ teaspoon salt
1 small onion, grated
½ teaspoon lemon juice (lime juice works just as well)
¼ teaspoon of finely ground fresh black pepper
2 pinches ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons brandy (cognac, rum, or whiskey works well also…experiment!)
2 tablespoons of evaporated milk
2 hard-boiled eggs (optional, for layering, if molding)
Fresh herb or vegetable garnish (parsley sprigs, basil leaves, etc.)
-Add a couple of dashes of liquid smoke
-Substitute a good teriyaki or soy sauce for the brandy element
-garlic instead of onion
-honey instead of sugar
-sautéed sliced mushrooms instead of sliced hard-boiled eggs when molding
-finely chopped green pepper and carrot mixed throughout for a textural difference
Reduce the liverwurst almost to a paste. A food processor works really well for this recipe, just be careful not to over-process. Add the remaining ingredients except the milk, egg, and garnish. Thoroughly combine. Slowly add some milk and taste as you go. The milk will help you to achieve the consistency you are looking for and you may want to tweak the quantity of any of your ingredients for the desired taste. It should reach the consistency of heavy paste, almost like mud. If you are simply going to put it into a bowl and garnish it, the consistency could be a little “looser”. For molding purposes, a little thicker is better. To mold, line a small loaf pan, small bowl, or small terrine pan with plastic wrap. Layer some of your pâté into the mold and top with sliced egg being careful that the egg does not touch the sides. Then, alternate the layers to fill the mold, ending with pâté. Weight the top of the mold. Whether molding or not, refrigerate overnight (important, I promise, its taste will transform to a whole different dynamic the next day).
You can have a lot of fun with how you serve this recipe. I have sculpted it, when chilled, to look like a brain for a Halloween party (big hit), I have set it out molded on a bed of lettuce presented on a small crystal plate, and it’s been served in a small mixing bowl with a couple of table knives and a box of crackers. Have fun with it…let your serving method match your event. Goes well with just about any kind of cracker or Melba style toasts…Enjoy!
This is my sister Becky’s recipe and it’s a keeper! It’s crazy good, easy to make, and another one of those dips that disappears when you put it out. As I am fond to do, I would like to present to you recipes that are versatile and not so challenging as to make them anxiety filled and therefore not very comforting. This dip will warm your tummy when you taste it and warm your heart as you watch your guests gobble it up…
I‘ve used whatever shredded pouch cheese that I had in the fridge to cover this dish with, even a 6-cheese Italian blend. I would stay away from the Mozzarella & Swiss type cheeses only because they would tend to be too stringy and might get in the way of some serious dipping. The heat is completely adjustable and note the dressing to hot sauce ratio (for volume) below…
Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip
2 ea. large boneless chicken breasts
2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese (softened)
½ cup Frank’s Hot Sauce*
1 cup Ranch dressing
Shredded Cheese to generously cover the top of the dip
Trim the chicken. Boil until done. Using a couple of forks, pull apart and shred the chicken. Mix the hot sauce, ranch dressing, and softened cream cheese together. Add the chicken and combine thoroughly. Put in a baking dish. Sprinkle cheese on the top. Bake at 350 until bubbly and cheese is browned.
(*Frank’s Chicken Wing Sauce works well, too. If you can’t find any Frank’s, any red hot sauce like Texas Pete’s will do. The ranch dressing to hot sauce ratio is adjustable depending on how warm you want to make it, but, should not exceed ¾ cup of each, equaling a combined total of one and a half cups.)
This recipe easily doubles or triples.
A ex-colleague of mine, who I haven’t seen in years (unfortunately), made this dip for a Christmas party about six or seven years ago. Since then, it has been admired and adored frequently. I have witnessed guests at parties where this is served, against all social courtesies, camp out by this dip and not leave it…
It’s quite flexible, so, feel free to experiment or just go with what you might have on hand. You’re going to be melting cheese which will almost always have the tendency to burn easily. Be careful of your heat settings and don’t assume that it’s self-stirring! If you desire, many different layers of spice/heat can be incorporated, as well.
If you’re starting to wig-out a little bit because you have a bunch of people coming over for a get-together and you don’t know what to serve, you might consider this one; it’s easy to make and everybody loves it.
1) Start with a non-stick frying pan and fry up some bulk pork sausage (about a pound, maple flavored really wouldn’t work here). Break it up and crumble it as you go. I like to fry it enough till the little pieces are not just cooked through; they will have a nice golden brown crust on them when I consider them done. Remove all the little bits with a slotted spoon and place on a few paper towels to drain.
2) Get a two-pound brick of your favorite processed American cheese and cut it up into some nicely sized cubes. It’s all going to melt, so, the size of the cubes is not real important. Break up the solid mass of cheese and put into a medium to large sized pot on the stove over low heat. Stir frequently until completely melted.
3) Drain a can of your favorite chili enhanced tomatoes (about 12-16 ozs.), at whatever heat level you prefer. (Remember: your guests heat preferences may not be the same as yours!) Drain them well. Add to the melting cheese. No, you don’t have to wait for the cheese to be melted. I have often thought that adding the tomatoes at this point actually helps the cheese melt a little faster anyways.
4)Add the fried and crumbled sausage to this mixture. It should be good and drained by now. Stir all ingredients well to combine and until all the cheese is melted.
5) Remove the saucepan from the heat. First add an 8 oz. block of your favorite cream cheese. Stir to incorporate. Next, add a pint of your favorite sour cream and stir to incorporate.
6) Transfer contents to a small or medium sized slow-cooker set on low. Stir occasionally to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the slow-cooker. Serve with your favorite scoop-shaped corn chips (either yellow or white corn chips) and get out of the way. (“Ma’am, step away from the dip!”)
-no chili enhanced tomatoes?: Use regular diced ones (drained) and add some different heat, if desired
-not spicy enough?: stir in some hot sauce to the desired level, again remembering that all of your guests may not like it that spicy, so, another option would be to leave it relatively mild and serve with some hot sauce and/or chopped jalapeno peppers on the side
-no tomatoes?: drain a medium sized jar of salsa for a substitute
-no pork sausage? Try some bulk, or skinned out of their casings, Italian sausage, spicy or otherwise…how about some crumbled crispy bacon?
-like beans?: throw some beans in it…
-don’t want to scoop?: Pour it over the chips and call it “Nachos”
However you like it, enjoy the dip, enjoy your family and friends, and find some comfort in it…