Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Stuffin' Muffins

Stuffin’ Muffins

What’s the best thing about holiday stuffing (or dressing, as we call it here in Texas)?  It’s the crunchy, golden brown crust that forms on top.  At least, that’s my favorite part.  The gooey interior, not so much.  Solution:  Skip the dressing in a pan and make Stuffin’ Muffins.  You’ll expose more of the surface area of the stuffing, thus forming lots much heavenly crunch. 

Start with some nice stale bread. 

Cube it and utilize it in your favorite stuffing recipe


Don’t forget plenty of sage.  

Fresh if you have it, but the dry stuff will work fine for making stuffing.  I usually mix some of each. 

Fill muffin trays with the mixture.  

Bake at 400F for about 25-35 minutes, or until a beautiful, golden brown crust has formed on them.  Pop ‘em out and serve with your holiday turkey.  Don’t forget the gravy, of course. 

Until next time,

Nothing gets you stuffed like Stuffin’ Muffins!

Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

French Apple Almond Tart

Back in my single, living-in-an-apartment days, I’d usually celebrate the holidays at one of my sisters’ houses, and simply bring a side or dessert that I prepared in my tiny apartment kitchen.  But I was going gourmet even back then, so I tried to feature something that would show off my ‘Eatin’ Man’ aspirations.  I discovered this beautiful tart in the pages of a Bon App├ętit Magazine back then.  It delighted me so much that I immediately went out and bought a tart pan, and I have been making it ever since for the holidays now and then.  It makes for a beautiful presentation, and the taste is just as great.

French Apple Almond Tart

For Crust

2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons Calvados or brandy
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

For Filling

1 1/4 cups blanched slivered almonds
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons Calvados or brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tart green apples, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/8-inch-thick wedges
1/4 cup apricot preserves

Make crust:

Stir egg yolks and Calvados in small bowl to blend.  Calvados is an apple brandy made in the Normandy region of France.  You can use regular brandy if you must, but try to find real Calvados.  It has an intense apple flavor that can't be beat.  I won't hold it against you if you have a little shot (or two) of it while you're making the tart.   

Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter; 

cut in, using on/off turns, until butter is size of small peas. 

With machine running, add yolk mixture. Process until large moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap dough in plastic; refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let soften slightly before rolling out.)

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 14-inch round. 


Transfer to 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. 


Fold overhang in and press, forming double-thick sides. 

Chill while making filling.

Make filling:

Combine almonds, 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, 1 tablespoon Calvados, extracts and salt in processor. Blend until soft paste forms. Add 4 tablespoons butter; blend 10 seconds. Spread in crust. 


Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and slice your apples.  If you have one of these handy dandy slicers, it'll make quick work of the slicing.  


This slicer makes rather fat slices, so I further slice them down with a knife to about a quarter inch thickness on the fat side, tapered to paper thin on the other.  

Stir apples, 1 tablespoon Calvados and 1 tablespoon sugar in large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Drain apples; overlap in concentric circles atop filling. 

Melt 2 tablespoons butter; brush over apples. 

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake tart 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F. Bake until apples are tender, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack. Stir preserves and 1 tablespoon Calvados in small saucepan over low heat until preserves melt. Strain into small bowl; brush over apples. 


 Next, display your tart prominently among the other desserts.  Then slice and serve.  Enjoy!

How do you like them apples?

Until next time, 

Happy Holidays!