Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cooking and baking and candy making

My kitchen has been buzzing this weekend.  We've got two potlucks this weekend, one of which is a brunch.  The other is a buffet and everyone is asked to bring a main and either a salad or dessert.  With dozens of families, it's quite a feast, that's for sure!  Plus I've been making candy to give as gifts instead of buying more stuff people don't actually need, just to say that we've gotten them a stocking stuffer. 

After a few false starts earlier in the week, mostly involving burning sugar, I finally got things sorted.  I had picked up some Meyer lemons, which are wonderfully aromatic and not as sour as conventional lemons.  And since I had a recipe for Turkish delights that called for oranges and lemons, I decided to substitute a couple of these beauties instead.  The result is small yellow squares of powdered sugar dusted wiggliness.  Meyer Lemon Turkish Delights (recipe here).

Then I moved on to a recipe I've been wanting to make for a while now.  If you follow me on Twitter, or are a friend on Facebook, you have been hearing about bacon caramel corn for a while now.  The success of the bacon fudge only fueled my desire to try this interesting confection.  So last night hubby and I worked together, cooking the bacon, popping the corn, making the caramel, stirring the combined ingredients every 15 minutes...  Not as labour intensive as it sounds, trust me.  The end result?  AMAZING!  The salty goodness of the bacon coupled with the caramel is wonderful.  The popcorn is merely a convenient delivery device.

1/2 pound bacon
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cut bacon into a fine dice and fry until crisp. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.

Heat the bacon fat in a large pot with a cover. Add 3 popcorn kernels and cover. Listen for all three kernels to pop, and add the rest of the popcorn kernels. Cover and shake until popping stops. Put popped corn in a non-stick roasting pan, making sure to remove the unpopped kernels.

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Heat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan over medium heat until it reaches 300°F on your candy thermometer.

Remove from heat, stir in baking soda and bacon (the caramel will explode in volume at this point so make sure you use a large enough saucepan) and pour this caramel mixture over the popcorn (do this quickly so that the caramel doesn’t cool and stiffen).

Stir the mixture with a couple wooden spoons and place in the oven for a total of an hour rearranging the popcorn to evenly distribute the caramel and bacon every 15 minutes. Add more salt (if necessary) during this process. Cool and break into bite-sized pieces.

Today I continued with my main dish for the potluck.  It's technically a salad, but it's so hearty that it is easily a buffet main.  I found it in a Taste of Home cookbook that I have.  Potatoes, bacon, kielbasa, and a creamy sauce made with potato soup, onions and sauerkraut.  It sounded wonderfully tangy and hearty.  And the best part?  It is cooked in the crockpot!  Perfect for a diner buffet.  I doubled the original recipe (which can be found in my last blog post here), but used fewer than 4lbs of potatoes, and only the original amount of sauerkraut.  It smells wonderful!

.I made a last minute change from the salad of winter greens in favour of inspiration from something that someone mentioned on a web forum the other day.  She mentioned a cold salad of green beans, dried cranberries, nuts and Feta.  I immediately pictured it sitting on the buffet table and knew that was the recipe I was going to run with. 

I made a simple dressing with Dijon, the juice and zest of a Meyer lemon, the juice of a clementine, a little shallot, grapeseed oil, salt and pepper.  It's a big on the tangy side.  Then I trimmed, halved and blanched a large bag of green beans.  I heated a small skillet and melted a couple teaspoons of white sugar and added a few handfuls of toasted pecan pieces.  I tossed them to lightly candy them and then spread them on a foil lined plate to cool and set.  I'll toss the beans with the dressing and a little Feta just before we leave.  Then I'll top it all with more Feta, the cranberries, nuts and some crispy bacon.  I'm really looking forward to this salad.  I think I'll make it again soon.

Tomorrow we have a brunch buffet at church.  Each of us has been asked to bring cut up fruit for the fruit salad, and a hot dish.  I'm going to put together these Brunch Enchiladas, substituting black beans for the ham, and adding some salsa for kick.  It sits overnight and gets baked in the morning before we leave.

I also had some potatoes leftover that didn't fit in the crockpot, so I roasted them in bacon fat and I'll reheat them for supper tomorrow with some pork tenderloin.

I still have more to make this week.  More bacon fudge, more Turkish Delight (perhaps with grapefruit), sponge toffee, and maybe more bacon caramel corn.  Plus Christmas dinner.   But for this weekend, that's quite enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment