Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies

Lace Cookies

Being gluten free is hard enough the rest of the year, but it really stinks at the holidays. There’s just nothing like the memories and cookies that Mom used to make.

Thankfully, my dear wife converted a couple of old family recipes to gluten free, so I didn’t suffer too much this year;).

Lace Cookies
1 stick butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix
1 cup finely-chopped pecans or walnuts (we used Dad’s hand-picked with love black walnuts)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine butter, corn syrup and brown sugar in a heavy medium-sized saucepan. Heat just to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir in baking mix, nuts, and vanilla.

Drop by scant teaspoons, 3 inches apart, on foil-covered baking sheet.

Bake at 350°F for 7-8 minutes or until light golden brown.

Let cookies remain on sheet for a few minutes to stiffen a bit and become easier to remove. Place on waxed paper to cool, then store in airtight container. Makes 5 dozen.

Notes – these spread a lot. If evenly sized, perfect cookies are important to you, it might be worth your time to do a test bake of 3 or so your first batch so you can see what you’ll be getting and adjust accordingly. Also, having two cookie sheets going would be a real time saver.

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
1/3 cup Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix
2 1/2 cup flaked or chipped coconut
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine baking mix, coconut, and salt in a bowl. Add milk and vanilla and mix well; batter will be stiff. Drop by tablespoons one inch apart onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 13-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Makes about 1 1/2 dozen.

One year ago – Looking Forward
Two years ago – Oysters!

Prime Rib – Testing the Reverse Sear

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Prime Rib is on the menu for Yew Year’s Eve at our house and that gives me all the excuse I need to do some “test” cooks before the big day.

For me, a great rib roast is all about getting a heavily seasoned and crispy crust with as much juicy and tender medium-rare inside as possible. I’ve had really good results using a couple of different cooking techniques. The simplest is just roasting the meat at a steady 350°F (Deck Warming – Prime Rib & Yorkshire Pudding). The other was to sear the roast over a hot, direct fire, give it a rest, and then finish it over lower indirect heat (Ruhlman’s Twenty – Grill-Roasted Prime Rib).

So I was very interested when Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn of Amazing Ribs updated his beef roast recipe to use a reverse sear method. Hmmmm…

1 beef rib roast, boneless (I used a small 2.5 pound one for testing, but I plan on making about a pound per person for New Year’s)
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt per pound of meat
1 teaspoon Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow Crust (or your favorite Montreal steak seasoning) per pound of meat

Big Green Egg in Snow
Due to some inclement weather, I did this test inside in the oven, but it will work even better on the grill.

Set up for an indirect cook at 250°F. Slather the roast with your seasoning of choice mixed 50/50 with olive oil. Set a roasting rack on a rimmed sheet pan (something shallow, like a jellyroll pan). Set the roast in the rack and load everything into the oven/grill.

Roast until the internal temperature of the meat hits 115°F (using a remote thermometer helps immensely here). Remove the roast and let rest for 30 minutes while you get the oven up to 500°F or set the grill up for a high temperature direct cook.

After roasting until 115°F internal.
After roasting until 115°F internal.

Return the roast to the oven and cook for 10 minutes (or sear for about 2-3 minutes per side on the grill) until you get a nice crispy brown crust.

After roasting for 10 minutes at 500°F.
After roasting for 10 minutes at 500°F.

Remove roast from oven/grill and let rest 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Prime Rib
Rested and ready to serve.

Overall Verdict: ★★★★½
The roast ended up tasting great (love the Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow Crust) and being very juicy and tender, but the crust wasn’t very brown and crispy and there was too much of a gray ring of overcooked meat.

This recipe may work better on the grill, but while I like the idea of being able to have the roast essentially done in advance of dinner, and then just crisping it up at the end, I hate giving up that expanse of medium-rareness.

The Nutrition:
Plan on lots of snow shoveling to burn this off.

One year ago – Looking Forward
Two years ago – Infamous Dave’s Habanero Hot Sauce

Caramels

It’s just not the holidays until my dear wife decides it’s time to make the caramels. Not just any caramels – the caramels that we’ve been making together for the twenty-some-odd years we’ve known each other.

She was making these “before me” and invited me to help pour and wrap. The next year it was our little project. First we made single batches of them in a guaranteed-to-scorch Visionware pot on the crappy stove in her little tree-house apartment and passed them out to friends and family. Then I brought my 12-quart Griswold No.10 Dutch oven to the party and we started making double batches so that we both had enough to take into our offices too. By the time we’d bought our first house we were getting so many requests for the caramels that we were making two double batches and shipping a good portion of them out of state.

This year we’ve trying to eat better, so we’re back down to a just a double batch. My dear wife whips them together in the same old Dutch oven (cast iron does magical things to caramels), eschewing a candy thermometer for the old-fashioned “dribble some in a cup of water” test to see if they’re ready yet. We still debate whether my “ready” is the same as her “ready.” But by the time she’s won the argument the caramels have cooked for another five minutes and are at the perfect stage.

Then there’s the mad rush to stir in the nuts (hand-cracked and picked over Iowa black walnuts, a labor of love from my dad) and vanilla extract (with much hissing and bubbling) and then get the molten mass poured into a sheet pan. I pour, she scrapes, we both try to not to burn each other.

We’ve been doing this long enough to learn the hard way that how and where you cool the caramels is very important. If you put them out in the cold to speed it up the outside gets rock hard while the inside is still too soft and if you just let them sit in the warm kitchen it’ll be midnight before you can slice them up. So now they get poured into a wide and shallow antique aluminum pan from my dear wife’s Grandmother and then moved to a cooling rack set in a cat-proof area with the window cracked open just a little bit. About 2 to 3 hours and they’re just firm enough to cut.

Now the production line starts up. My dear wife has already cut the wax paper wrappers to size. I then need to gently coerce the slab of caramel out of the pan. If we’ve greased the pan well enough, sometimes the best way is to just flip the pan over onto a cutting board and walk away for ten minutes while it takes care of itself. If not, I find that loosening the edges with a spatula usually does the trick.

The best tool, hands down, for slicing up caramels is a pizza cutter. Not the rolling kind, but the long bladed one that you can rock back and forth. I sharpen the heck out of one of these and then first cut the slab into 1/2-inch wide strips. Each strip then gets cut into 3/4 (dear wife size) or 1-inch (Dave size) chunks. If the blade  gets too sticky, I just wipe it off with a warm, wet dish towel.  I cut, she wraps, the cats watch, Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas Island plays on the stereo. In less than an hour we’ll fill half a grocery bag with chewy delights.

G’s Gems
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups light Karo syrup
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 pint whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup finely-chopped walnuts

Combine sugar, syrup, butter, and cream in a heavy four quart pan (cast iron, if available). Cook on medium high heat until mixture reaches a rolling boil, then turn heat down to medium low and stir often with a wooden spoon. Keep mixture at a rolling boil until candy thermometer reaches hard ball stage or 265°F. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and walnuts. Stir to combine, then pour into a buttered 11 x 7 pan. Let set for three hours or until easy to cut. Run knife around edge and turn onto cutting board. Cut into bite sized pieces and wrap in waxed paper.

One year ago – Peruvian Roast Chicken
Two years ago – Shrimp Ceviche

Grilling Gifts

The older I get, the more I realize that gifting stuff just to be gifting stuff doesn’t buy anyone anything. You just end up with more stuff. That, my friends, is not a good thing.

So this is a guide to useful stuff – books, gear, foods, and websites that I’ve really enjoyed and that have helped make grilling more enjoyable.

Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto by Michael Ruhlman – not so much recipes, but tools and techniques that have really improved my cooking.

High-Que Luxury Stainless Cooking Grid for Large Big Green Egg – this baby is a massive steak-searing machine. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved using this grate to make restaurant-quality steaks at home.

Charred & Scruffed by Adam Perry Lang and Peter Kaminsky – forget everything you ever learned about grilling meat. This book shows you how to break the rules to build more flavor into your food.

Maverick ET732 Wireless Thermometer – this remote thermometer saved my Thanksgiving bird from being way overcooked and that makes it a worthwhile tool to have.

Sweet chili sauce – I’ve used this sweet & spicy sauce as a glaze, dipping sauce and as a base for a barbecue sauce. Mae Ploy is good and ubiquitous, but The Ginger People’s Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce rocks if you can find it.

Real hoisin sauce – the kind made from plums gives you a great blend of sweet, salty and aromatic flavors.  Nice as a base for barbecue sauces. This brand is also gluten free.

Allegro Marinade use much like you would soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce to give dishes a savory umami base. Also great straight up as a marinade.

Raw sugar – this minimally processed cane sugar adds not just sweetness, but an almost floral flavor. Sold as Sugar in the Raw, demerara sugar, or turbinado sugar.

Sea salt – I like to think of it as salt with flavor. I buy the coarse-ground sea salt in bulk and run it through a salt grinder (either by itself or with some added herbs and spices) to really kick up the taste of food.

Food52 Genius Recipes – this site is full of really insightful recipes. If you’re looking to make the best fill-in-the-blank whatever,  this is the place to start.

Weight Watchers – I am not a joiner and I sure don’t go to meetings, but an online subscription gives me a lot of tools to help me improve my lifestyle.

Amazing Ribs – Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn is a self-proclaimed Barbecue Whisperer and Hedonism Evangelist. His site is a one-stop-shop for barbecue tips, recipes, and techniques.

Happy Holidays to you all!