Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Dinner Menu for 2

This was very fun to pull together, and oh so easy! I was on track to make some mini cheesecakes for this week's National Post Challenge (our local Gastronomy section in the newspaper) and even though I hate cheesecake I accepted the challenge but as usual put my own little twist on this classic favourite. 

I bring you Lebneh Cheesecakes!  ... because I love my Middle Eastern heritage and mostly because I had some leftover in the fridge, and to be honest don't usually buy cream cheese very often - fatty dairy goes straight to my hips :(  

I was inspired by my mother mentioning that she attempted a lebneh cheesecake when there was no cream cheese to be found back in the days when I was a little baby and she was living in a foreign place (Pakistan)  Mum loves cheesecake and I guess had a strong enough craving to start straining yogurt to make lebneh then make cheesecake out of the homemade lebneh.  Not quite sure if she enjoyed the results but I love a good challenge!

Mini Cheesecakes were in order, with a graham cracker crust and all formed in a cupcake tin lined with papers.

Mini  Lebneh Baked Cheesecakes (I halved the recipe and ended up with 6 mini cheesecakes!)

(makes about a dozen)

1 C (4.5oz) graham cracker crumbs

5 tbsp unsalted sweet butter, melted

1 1/4 C ricotta cheese (I used good creamy strained Ricotta here) 

1 1/4 C cream cheese, softened* (Lebneh here) 

1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 C (you really want just under 1C, so do a large 3/4) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 eggs 

Crust: Grind the graham crackers until it's like sand. Add melted butter to this and mix.  Divide mixture into the cupcake papers which are lining the cupcake tin. Use the bottom of a glass to press each one to flatten the crumbs into a flat disk/crust. Just press down. 

Filling:   Cream Ricotta, add cream cheese (or lebneh!) creaming the two well.  Add vanilla, sugar, and egg and mix. 

Pour mixture over the crumb base in each cup. 

Bake for 25 mins on 325.  Do not remove from oven when time is up but open the oven slightly and turn off the oven.  Let it sit this way for 5 mintues then remove from oven.   Let them cool 5 minutes then remove with paper from pan and allow to cool another 5 minutes. 

Now pop them in the fridge for 6 hours minimum or overnight. 

Top with whatever your heart desires! I used the sugared cranberries and some pomegranate jam I made a while ago. 

Recipe adapted from Culinary Crusade 

My recipe featured in Gastropost 

Sugared Cranberries

The night before prepare the syrup: 

- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- Squeeze of lemon
- 2-3 pieces of orange zest (use a potato peeler if you don't have a zester) 

Bring to a boil, sugar should dissolve completely.  Remove from heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile sort and wash about 3/4 of a bag of cranberries.  Basically it's about 2 1/4 cups of cranberries (the rest you can use to make a cranberry sauce, enough for 2 people :)) 

Wash cranberries and place in a bowl. When syrup is warm and not hot anymore pour over cranberries and place bowl in fridge overnight. 

The following day:

Strain cranberries from syrup (keep syrup for drinks, it's delicious!)

Use paper towel to dry the cranberries well. 

Spread some granulated sugar in a shallow plate and begin to coat about 3-5 cranberries at a time.  Removing and placing on a flat plate or tray. 

They should coat nicely and not get clumpy. 

Let them dry for about 2 hours minimum, the sugar should get hard on the outside and they will not be sticky or anything. 

You can now place them in a serving dish/bowl and enjoy! 

Recipe adapted from the Clever Carrot 

Cranberry Sauce:

Using the remaining cranberries in the bag, after taking about three quarters for sugaring in the recipe above.

Wash and dump into a small saucepan, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a squeeze of orange juice, a small piece of cinnamon stick and 3 cloves.  Add enough sugar to taste (this really depends on how you like it) I know I added a couple of tablespoons at a time.

Once you hear them popping, cover and just let them all kinda pop.  Now transfer to a small bowl and let it cool.   Garnish with orange rind (I used the one in the syrup from sugaring as it was kinda like candied rind from sitting in the syrup all night)

Brined Roasted Chicken:

The night before: 

Add 3 tbsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 squeeze lemon
1 tsp black peppercorns

2 cups water

Bring this to a boil to dissolve the salt... Allow to cool. 

1 bulb of garlic (sliced horizontally, leave the peel on!) 
2 tbsp worstershire sauce

Remove whole fresh chicken from fridge and place in the cooled brine, add more cool water over until it covers the chicken.  
Place in fridge overnight

The following day remove the chicken in the bowl/large pot and place on the counter for 2 hours before roasting, it should come to room temperature. 

Prepare a roasting dish/pan and heat the oven to 425 F on either bake or convection or convection roast. 

Remove the chicken from the brine, drain it slightly if there is water in the cavity and place in the baking pan.  Oil the top slightly with 1 tbsp oil and add 1 tbsp of butter under the skin on each breast.  Simply slide it under the skin. 

Bake for 30 minutes then reduce heat to between 400 and 375 and Roast until it's done.  If you need to add a few drops of water from the kettle to the bottom of the pan to prevent smoking/burning then do so.  

When the juices run clear it means it's done, or when the leg can be pulled away from the body.  
If using a thermometer check your chart under roasted chicken.  I prefer to use the method above and really get a good look at those signs. 

Always allow the chicken to cool for about 30 minutes before carving.

Use pan drippings to make gravy. Drain off the fat layer, add a tbsp of flour to the bottom of the pan while it's still hot in the oven and begin scraping around to collect it all.  At this point add some stock or water and this will remove all the brown goodness from the pan and you can transfer it to a small saucepan if you are unable to heat the pan on your stove top (mine is a sensitive glasstop)  Whisk until it thickens, seasoning as you taste and finally when it's thick strain through a sieve and serve!


Carrots: Peel, wash and slice carrots into even sized pieces. 
Boil with salt until tender. Strain and set aside (even in fridge is ok!)  Before serving add them to a pot with some butter and glaze them a little. 

Brussel Sprouts:  Slice then vertically down the middle (Dividing the root) Wash, dry and lay then open faced down in the bottom of the pan.  
Add salt and a tad bit of water.  Heat and allow the water to boil to steam them, add a few dollops of butter overtop and once the water evaporates and they are just about tender the butter will begin to brown the bottoms of them (facing down) 

Once they are nice and golden remove and drizzle with a bit of maple syrup.

You could do a potato dish with this, I simply boiled my favourite noodles and tossed them with the gravy.

Easy and delicious!