Cowgirl Creamery

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When parents divorce, you are forced to create new traditions. In high school I began spending Christmas Eve with Mom and Christmas with Dad. The first year we did this, my mom successfully subdued my laments about Christmas as a family…with a cheese plate.

She went to the Delicatessen down the street in Missoula and picked up a few cheeses wrapped in butcher paper and a twine bow. She spread the cheeses out on a large, white plate, each with their own small knife. She sliced apple, like she used to, and set it next to the cheeses, offering a crisp, fruity bite to contrast with the fattier, creamier nibbles.

We plopped on her sandy-colored, Pottery Barn couch with simultaneous sighs. We dove into the plate, clutched the corresponding knives, and dug into our respective cheeses.

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Christmas Eve a few years ago, a round soft cheese found its way onto our plate. Someone behind the cheese counter recommended Cowgirl Creamery’s Mount Tam. I don’t generally like the rind on any cheese, but Cowgirl Creamery’s are mild and only enhance the center’s flavor.

This year, thanks to the Cowgirl’s themselves, three of Cowgirl Creamery’s cheeses dominated our plate: Mt. Tam, Devil’s Gulch and Red Hawk. We went back and forth but ultimately decided Mt. Tam remains our favorite.

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Puff Pastry with Dijon, Ham and Sharp Provolone

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Congratulations to Lee for winning my cheese giveaway. She wrote a hysterical rap about her need for our favorite dairy friend. I will admit, when I was thinking about how someone could qualify to win a box of cheese, I was looking for entertainment.

The first entry came in one day, and I chuckled, scrolling down my phone. I busted through the door and proceeded to rap it out loud to Tommy. We laughed and I said, “Keep ’em comin’.” And they did.

Though all were wonderful, Lee’s took the cake. Alana, my brother’s girlfriend, took second place. I will reward her when she comes home from NYU for Christmas.

What else have I been doing with my seven mighty cheeses? I made this quick puff pastry and filled it with a layer of Dijon, ham slices and BelGioioso’s sharp provolone. Though the pastry didn’t have hundreds of layers like a croissant, my friends were impressed. We carved up the fatty rectangle, eating it with our fingers and washing it down with red wine.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces (2 cups), unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 pound sliced ham
  • 1 cup grated sharp provolone

Cut 8 ounces (2 sticks) butter into a small 1/2 to 1/4 inch dice. Place on a plate and refrigerate while preparing remaining ingredients. Measure the water and dissolve the salt in it.

Coarsely dice remaining 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter. Add flour to food processor. Add the remaining butter. Pulse until combined, about 10 pulses.

Add the plated cold butter and pulse only once or twice more. Add water and pulse 3 to 4 more times, just until the dough forms a ball. I used my hands to finish forming the ball once it started coming together.

Flour your work surface. Shape dough into a rough rectangle and place between two large pieces of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin over the plastic wrap to create a rectangle about 12 by 18 inches.

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Peel away the plastic wrap and flip it over so the exposed pastry is on the flour. Then peel away the second piece of wrap. Fold the sides in, making a 6 by 18 inch rectangle. Roll it up from one of the 6-inch ends.

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Make sure the ending flappy part is rolled under the dough, making the top smooth.

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Press the dough into a square and refrigerate for an hour to firm.

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Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take dough out from fridge and cut in half. Roll each ball out into a rectangle about 6 by 12 inches. Spread with a layer of dijon mustard leaving a one-inch border. Layer with ham. Sprinkle with sharp provolone.

Make egg wash with egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush borders and layer the other pastry on top. Pinch the edges closed with your fingers or a fork. Brush the whole pastry with egg wash. Cut a few vents in the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Let cool slightly and cut.

Fresh Ricotta with Figs, Honey and Pistachios

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My eyes instantly zoom in on the word fig. Then honey. Then I imagine slathering toasted bread with fresh, creamy ricotta that is laden with sweet honey, chewy figs and salty pistachios.

I thought about this during my fresh-ricotta-making-phase. I saw a similar recipe from Bon Appetit, which used pine nuts. You could try this too; I just prefer pistachios.

Simply, put about a cup of fresh ricotta in a bowl.
Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of honey.
Plop 4-5 quartered fresh or dried figs on top.
Sprinkle with a small handful of shelled pistachios.
(Optional) Add a sparkle (I already used the word sprinkle) of fleur de sel.

Serve with toasted french bread.

Caramelized onion and shallot dip

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I moved out of my crazy house of six girls and into a one-bedroom apartment.  This may be the act of someone who is anti-social, but in this case it is more the act of someone who doesn’t want their knives to be put through the dishwasher.  I’m a little…particular…when it comes to taking care of my most prized possessions–most of which are in the kitchen.  

Anyway, my apartment is beautiful with a sweeping view of Bellingham Bay.  My mom had a run-in with an antique store and now I have a “shabby chic” (as my mom would say) side table and lamp for my living room.  

Now that I am somewhat settled, aside from a few lingering boxes that I don’t know what to do with, I recommitted myself to this blog.  To kick off this commitment, I am posting about something just short of genius.  Actually, it is probably even genius.

It combines two of my very favorite things:  French onion dip and caramelized onions.  I found this recipe in a Bon Appetit magazine.  To save money I now take pictures of recipes from magazines with my phone instead of actually buying them.  This is sad considering I hope to work for one of these magazines someday and I should support the industry.  Luckily I asked for subscriptions for Christmas.  Please enjoy this recipe as much as I did.  The only problem I had with it was that it didn’t recommend what should be dipped in it and though I tried triscuits, I am not sure they were the right pairing.  If you try it and have a better suggestion I would love to hear what you used!  

Makes 16 servings:

  • 2 pounds large yellow or white onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix the onions, shallots, thyme sprigs and oil in a large roasting pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast the onion mixture, stirring every 10 minutes.  Make sure to scrape the sides of the pan for any little bits of onion.  Do this until the mixture starts to break down and caramelize.  It should take about 45-55 minutes for a golden brown color to form.  

Discard the thyme sprigs.  Add the wine and vinegar; stir to scrape up anything leftover on the pan.  Return the onion mixture to oven.  Continue roasting, stirring occasionally, until they are completely caramelized and deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.  Spread the onion mixture on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

Transfer onion mixture to a work surface and mince.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Stir in the sour cream, chives, yogurt and onion powder.  Season with salt and pepper.

This dip can be made ahead of time and chilled in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

I went and saw the movie “The Help”. It definitely wasn’t as good as the book, but I would still recommend it. However, watching this movie placed in the early 1960’s made me crave deviled eggs.

I decided to go home and make deviled eggs. It was time for a twist on the classic mayo and nasty yellow mustard tradition. Thank you Ina Garten for being classy and sassy and inspiring me with your smoked salmon deviled egg recipe.

Makes 16 appetizers/Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 8 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons good mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 ounces good smoked salmon, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the eggs in a pot large enough to hold them in a single layer.  Cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a full boil over high heat.  As soon as the water boils, turn off heat, cover the pot, and let the eggs stand for 15 minutes.  Drain the eggs and fill the pot with cold water.  Set aside until the eggs are cool.

Peel the eggs and then slice them i half lengthwise.  Remove the yolks carefully.  Place the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or just use a fork) and arrange the whites on a platter in a single layer with the cut sides up and sprinkle with salt.

To the egg yolks, add the sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, salmon, salt and pepper.  Beat on medium speed until fluffy.  With a small spoon, fill the egg whites with the egg yolk mixture.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend.

Garnish with extra chopped chives and sprinkle with salt and pepper.