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Memorial Day – No Boring Burgers Allowed!  (Full disclosure - this is a re-post from a couple of years ago, but it's soooo good. Enjoy!)It’s Memorial Day, a time for picnics and parties to celebrate, well, to celebrate the beginning of summer's fun! Let's start it all off with a great burger!One thing we’ve tried lately is a beef-sausage burger that was incredibly easy and one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. Making it was one huge cheat, but it was so worth it! We bought ground beef, meatloaf mix and loose sausage from Linda’s Country Meats, mixed it all together, and made big burgers. (One pound each of the beef and meatloaf mix, and half pound loose sausage.) These burgers were amazing on our sandwich rolls with fresh slices of peeled tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and condiments. (For a poultry option, Dutch Country Poultry has the best turkey sausages I’ve ever eaten.)To accompany the burgers, I found a recipe for an incredible garlic cream sauce that would top any burger and make it worthy of a song. Whether or not you want to make fancy burgers, if you dress them with this sauce, add the fresh tomatoes, lettuce, etc., you’ll have the best picnic ever! You can even drizzle this over the sausages or brats you’re grilling.As always, you can find everything you need at the market. If you want locally-grown/produced foods, the market is the place for you! We stone-mill locally-grown, certified organic wheat berries to produce all of our pastries. Masser’s Produce harvests over 1500 acres of fruits and vegetables to provide us with a rainbow of fresh produce. We actually purchase many ingredients we use in our products from them. (i.e. Baked goods like mushroom pies, spinach pies, apple cakes and muffins, zucchini cakes and muffins…you get the idea.) Other vendors in the buildings can supply everything else you might need to complete your festive fare – much of it also locally grown/produced.   Things to NOT forget: Sandwich Rolls, Slider Rolls and New England Hot Dog Buns (We are featuring them all this weekend! As an alternative, use our Focaccia of the Week for hot dog/sausage buns. Ask us about how to.) Fresh watermelon – you can serve it cold, or grill it. (Ask anyone at Masser's about how to grill watermelon.) Fresh blueberry pie. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Fresh beefsteak tomatoes – peeled, sliced, sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Garlic Cream(Note: I usually go for the healthy option, replacing cream with yogurt or chicken broth. Here, you simply have to go for the gusto. Own the moment and enjoy it!)8 cloves garlic1 c olive oil½ c whole milk½ c heavy creamCombine the garlic with 1 c water and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain. Return garlic to the pan along with the olive oil. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain, reserving the olive oil. Finally, return the garlic to the pan, add the milk and cream, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the cream is reduced and garlic is tender (10-12 minutes). Using an immersion blender, begin to puree. With the blender running, slowly drizzle the reserved olive oil, and blend until oil is incorporated and sauce is thick.
It’s spring and we’re all eating lighter now that swimsuits and shorts are right around the corner. We know that salad is a great go-to for light eating, but what about pizza? Yup. Pizza. A good thin-crust pizza with lots of veggies, a sprinkling of fresh mozzarella, and a bit of primo EVOO drizzled over the top (or, a nice truffle-infused EVOO!) can be filling for your belly and exciting for your taste buds.Frequently, when looking for lighter fare, we forget that a combination of tastes and textures is what makes a great meal – a light broth with some noodles is delicious, but what about adding some fresh baby bok-choy for a crunch? Or, a warm quinoa salad with lemon, EVOO, and marinated artichoke hearts on top of a bed of spring greens? The greens will add a bit of cool crunch under the warm quinoa. Delicious. So, why not mix it up with your pizza?We have a lovely pizza dough – plain or garlic herb, and either as dough, or as a pre-baked crust – that makes wonderful pizza. If you need guidance on working with the pizza dough, just ask. I have directions for you. Grab the veggies from Masser’s and pick up some fresh mozzarella from Susan at Penne From Heaven. A few strips of bacon from Linda’s Meats will add a nice little zip to the flavor and a crunch of its own. You’ll be all set for this week’s culinary adventure!(I came across this recipe while listening to an NPR show. I was hungry while driving. Never a good time to be listening to food commentary, but better than being hungry in the store.)Just think, this could be the perfect lunch for Mother’s Day this weekend. A lovely pizza with fresh vegetables and a nice glass of wine. Mmmmmm. Serve with a side salad of butter lettuce with grapefruit sections and a light vinaigrette.  Mushroom and Mozzarella Pizza withFresh Arugula and Grape Tomatoes Ingredients 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 8 ounces portobello or your favorite mushroom, cut into slices, about 1/2 inch Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried and crumbled 2 balls Sandi’s pizza dough, or, 2 pre-baked Sandi’s pizza crust 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices and then cut in half 1/2 packed cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 1/2 ounces prosciutto, cut into small pieces (optional) 6 slices bacon, cooked very crisp and crumbled (optional) 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half 1 cup arugula Instructions Heat the oven to 450 - 500 degrees, or as high as your oven setting will allow. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper, garlic and half the thyme and cook, stirring, for about 7 minutes, or until slightly golden brown and tender but not limp. Remove from the heat. Meanwhile, use your hands or a rolling pin to stretch out each ball of dough to about 8 inches long and about 3 to 4 inches wide. The shape can be rectangular or circular. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough. Arrange half the mushrooms on the bottom of each pizza. Top with the remaining thyme, salt and pepper. Add the prosciutto or bacon to the pizzas, if using. Sprinkle half the Parmesan on top of the mushroom and prosciutto. Arrange the mozzarella slices on top and drizzle with the remaining oil. ***Bake on the middle shelf for 6 minutes. Remove and sprinkle on the cherry tomatoes and the remaining Parmesan and bake another 6 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and looks cooked through; the cheese should be bubbling and melted. Serve immediately topped with the arugula. ***Baking time for pre-baked crust will be much shorter. Just keep an eye on the toppings and wait for the cheeses to bubble.
This week's been busy with getting ready for a college graduation (yay!!!), so here's an old favorite blog along the theme of great sandwiches we've been enjoying recently. Don't forget the wine, too! See below for great pairings!If you’re one of the many customers I frequently talk with about bread and food pairings, you will have often heard me saying things like, “I was reading in one of my favorite food magazines,” or, “I came across this recipe on a favorite food website,” or “I was browsing a new cookbook and…”. (So, not only am I a foodie, but I am a total food nerd!) With that in mind, I decided to do a little research into some new pairings for our breads. At the same time, I decided to elevate the lowly toasted cheese sandwich to a height worthy of a true culinary masterpiece. Pairing assorted cheeses and wines with our breads led me to the title of this piece: “Toasted Cheese, Wine, and Shameless Self Promotion”. I thought it had a nice ring to it.I’ll start with the startling discovery that using butter to coat the bread for the toasted cheese sandwich is not the best option. Rather, mayonnaise is much better. Before you start protesting, let me explain. Mayo, especially that made with olive oil, can actually be a healthier option. It makes a crisper, less greasy toasted cheese sandwich with a better flavor. Now, most of you know that Tom and I both have agriculture backgrounds with degrees in Dairy Science, so I would be the last one to be disrespectful of the dairy industry. (We use butter, no imitations in our house!) That said, I tested this mayo-for-toasted-cheese-bread theory and was very pleased with the results. I don’t think we’ll be going back to butter on this one. The mayo also spreads much more easily on the bread.Now that we have that detail out of the way, I have compiled a list of our breads and paired them with a variety of cheeses that would complement them and make a great sandwich. Then, I researched wines to pair with the cheeses and came up with some ideas for a fun dinner with friends. Rather than the usual wine with cheese and crackers, make up mini toasted cheese sandwiches to serve with the wine. Serve them warm (of course) with some fruits on the side.So, without further ado, here’s the list:Rye: chevre, swiss, gruyere, cheddar, Muenster, Gouda (Is there a cheese that DOESN’T go well on rye? I’m so biased.)Sourdough: camembert, brie, sharp cheddar, pepper jack, fresh mozzarellaAsiago: pepper jack, provolone, brie, fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola (with a drizzle of honey)French: fontina, Havarti (dill Havarti, too!), Muenster, Smoked Gouda, GruyereCinnamon Raisin: Muenster, brie, cheddar, fresh mozzarella12-Grain: provolone, Havarti, MuensterAdd-ins are great for this occasion. Just because you’re doing toasted cheese, doesn’t mean it has to be just cheese and breads. Try these:Avocado, smoky grilled chicken, tomato, bacon, honey, red onion, spinach, honeyNow, once you’ve determined which breads will go with which cheeses, and what add-ins you might try, it’s time to get out the wine list. Here are some of the suggestions I found from my very thorough research. (Just for the record, researching wines is (hiccup) a tough job. I threw myself into it, though, for your sakes.)Brie: Chardonnay, Pinot NoirCheddar: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Red ZinfandelFresh mozzarella: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, BeaujolaisGruyere: Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Shiraz, Beaujolais, Pinot NoirProvolone: Chardonnay, Beaujolais, ShirazSwiss: Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Melot, Beaujolais, Pinot NoirI really look forward to your feedback on this one. It was so much fun to research and try. Let me know which combinations you tried and what worked best for you.
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Parlez vouz Francais? Well, if you don’t, don’t worry. All you need for this week’s recipe is a good appetite and some of our New England Hot Dog Buns, hoagie rolls or French loaves. This is an amazing, do-ahead French Onion Soup/French Dip Sandwich recipe. You get both the soup and the great sandwich out of a crock pot!With Spring finally here, you want to be out planting flowers and cleaning up the yard. Who wants to be in the kitchen on a week night when you could come home to this deliciousness already made? It does take a bit of prep, but the final product is worth it. (We’ve been out and about a lot lately and any dinner that can be waiting for us when we get home late is wonderful.)How many of you are getting already planning graduation parties, too? This would be a perfect option! Using our hoagies or New England Hot Dog Rolls cut in half, you can set them out with the crock pot and let folks serve themselves.Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients or the directions, this is an easy recipe that can be prepared on the weekend for a weeknight dinner. It only gets better when it sits a day or so! Or, prepare it a couple of days ahead of the grad party and all you have to do is warm it that day. Easy.  French Onion Dip Sandwiches Ingredients 5 tablespoons olive oil 3 large onions, thinly sliced 1 tablespoons butter 1 teaspoon sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 3 cloves garlic, minced 9 tablespoons water 1/4 cup dry vermouth 2 1/2 cups beef stock 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or, ¼ t dried) 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 3-pound rump roast ** salt and ground black pepper to taste 9 hoagie rolls, or 3 French loaves, or 2 packs New England Hot Dog Buns 2 (6 ounce) packages grated Gruyere cheese Butter for rolls **Note: You’ll sear the meat in a pan before placing in the crock pot. I wondered if this step was really necessary, so I researched and found that searing the meat is going to give the soup a richer flavor.Directions Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep pot. Add onions and toss to coat with oil. Cook, stirring often, until softened, add 1 tablespoon butter. Cook and stir until onions start to brown. Stir sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the onions in the pot. Continue to cook until onions are well-browned. Mix in garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir water into the pot, scraping bits from the bottom. Let simmer until reduced to half. Add vermouth; scrape bits from the bottom and sides of the pot. Cook for 4 minutes more. Add stock, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 minutes; do not boil. Add black pepper. Discard bay leaf. Remove pot from heat and allow soup to cool. Pour into the slow cooker, but don't turn it on. Trim any excess fat from the rump roast. Sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in the pot over high heat. Sear the meat, holding it down with tongs, until browned on all sides. Transfer meat carefully to the slow cooker. Spoon the soup over the meat so that it is topped with a few onions. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Slice or shred with forks. (Optional) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread rolls with butter; place face-down on a baking sheet. (Optional) Bake rolls in the preheated oven until beginning to brown. Remove from the oven, flip, and sprinkle with Gruyere cheese. Set oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source and turn on the oven's broiler. Broil rolls until cheese is slightly bubbly and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove meat from the slow cooker using a slotted spoon. Place on the rolls. (If you’ve chosen not to go to the trouble of baking and broiling them, just broadcast the shredded Gruyere onto the rolls and top with meat.) Serve soup on the side for dipping.
I’ve gotten so much great feedback from the mushroom stroganoff recipe, that I decided to try again with this twist. If you’ve been with us for a while, you know how much my family loves seafood. Here’s a great combination of two of our favorite things – shrimp and mushrooms with pasta. Also, shrimp makes me think of warm weather and time on the beach. Can you tell I’m ready for Spring? (Like everyone else! I read recently that we might THINK it’s April, but it’s really the 105th of January. Hm.)Well, enough of that! I have to tell you about another treat we’ve been working on in the bakery. Knishes. If you’ve ever been to New York city and seen the street vendors, you might have seen one selling large dumpling-like pastries filled with potatoes, kasha (a savory buckwheat and onion filling), or any number of other fillings. Well, I grew up eating knishes. My mother made them with a very peppery mashed potato-and-onion filling. I’m delighted to be bringing this little bit of NYC to Central PA. We’ll be sampling and selling them this weekend. Oh, and if you need another frame of reference, think of them as a Jewish perogie, just baked instead of boiled or fried.You must try the knish, but you also have to save room for another favorite that we’ve not made in years…Luscious Lime Cakes. These are a light, citrusy cake with a fresh lime syrup and lime glaze topping. They are, in a word, amazing. A real pick-me-up in this dreary weather.Well, on to this week’s recipe:NOTE: If you need a cheese grater for the fresh-grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, check with Velvet at the Pampered Chef stand. They have the best cheese grater!  Cajun Shrimp Stroganoff   1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (I buy the big bags of uncooked shrimp at COSTCO and keep them in the freezer. They're already peeled and deveined.)1 tablespoon olive oil2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (You can add more later, to taste.)1 box fettuccini pasta1 tablespoon butter3 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced (I like to use the crimini mushrooms because they have more flavor)1 tablespoon chopped shallots or garlic (Two very different flavors, but both will work just fine.)1 c white cooking wine1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt1 tablespoon cornstarch1 cup chicken stock1 (7 ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, diced1 tablespoon drained capersFresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese to taste  Combine peeled shrimp, oil, and Cajun seasoning in a medium bowl. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. Meanwhile, melt butter over medium heat in a large frying pan. Cook and stir mushrooms and shallot and/or garlic in butter until tender. Remove from pan. Add shrimp, cook until shrimp just turn pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan. Add white wine to pan,and bring to a boil, scraping bits off bottom of pan. Cook, uncovered, until reduced to 1/4 cup. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream or yogurt and cornstarch; mix in 1 cup chicken stock. Stir into reduced wine in the pan. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Cook 1 minute more. Stir in shrimp, mushroom mixture, roasted red peppers, and capers. Heat through, and season to taste. Serve over pasta, topping with fresh-grated cheeses.
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Last week we looked at some of the A-to-Z tips for sandwich making featured in the March issue of Bon Appetit magazine. This week, its’ time to put our money where our mouths are, get a couple of recipes, and get to sandwich building.In the article, they say Q is for “quick pickle”. They’re so right! You won’t believe how easy it is to make your own crunchy condiments in 20 minutes or less – and that includes pickling time. You can whip these up on a Sunday and use them throughout the week. And you will definitely use them. They’re a great side to a quick meal and a fantastic addition to your sandwich.When constructing your sandwich, make certain that some of the pickling juices drip onto the bread. You made these pickles, you like them, so let that flavor shine while the crunch adds great texture to your masterpiece.The first recipe is super simple and quick and can be made with any vegetable of your choice – cucumbers, onions, carrots – as long as they’re sliced thin. (If you own a mandolin, now’s the time to use it!)The second recipe is quick, too, it just has a couple more ingredients and an Asian spin. It’s been a favorite of mine for years. Good friends frequently serve this as a cucumber salad when we are over for dinner. Recently, when they had come upon a great deal on cucumbers (one of Masser’s $2 clearance baskets), they shared some cukes and the recipe. I’ve since consumed many cucumbers and even brought these to Easter dinner as a side dish. So, they’re great on and off the sandwich!Now, for the breads. This week we’ll have Dill ‘n Veggie (perfect for tuna, meats, or vegetarian sandwiches) and Bierbrot (a perfect bread for a hearty sandwich – it has a fantastic crust and a deeply complex flavor profile that can stand up to any sandwich ingredients). Pick up a couple of loaves and head over to Dutch Country Poultry and Linda’s Meats to get some more fixin’s. Then, come back through and get your lettuce and other vegetables for pickling at Masser’s. Finally, don’t forget the other treats to finish off your meal – Double Chocolate Cakes, muffins, Blueberry Lemon scones, and lots of other goodies. See you at the market!  Quick Pickled Vegetables ½ c unseasoned rice vinegar1 T sugar2 t kosher salt1 cup thinly sliced vegetablesWhisk vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add vegetables and let sit, squeezing gently with your hands occasionally to help them pickle more quickly, 10 minutes.  Asian Pickled Cucumbers 2 English cucumbers - the ones wrapped in plastic (I love these because they tend to be sweeter and don’t need to be seeded.)2 t soy sauce – I tried the low sodium kind and ended up having to add lots more and the flavor just never worked. You need the real stuff.2T white vinegar1 T sugar1 T 1t toasted sesame oil½ t Tabasco or some kind of hot sauce (I go a little heavier on this. It doesn’t make them too hot, just adds a little more zip.)1 t saltPeel and slice the cucumbers. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium non-reactive bowl. Add the cucumbers and stir well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. They improve the longer they sit and will keep in the fridge for at least 3-4 days.
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In spite of this weekend’s forecast, I just know that picnic weather is around the corner, which is why I was thrilled to have a wonderful customer share with me her March issue of Bon Appetit magazine. It has a fantastic article on the A to Z of sandwiches. I guess owning a bakery makes me predisposed to an affinity for sandwiches. However, I have eaten many, many mediocre sandwiches and am so over that. The following tips from Bon Appetit speak to my sandwich-making soul. Here we don’t just “make” a sandwich. We BUILD a sandwich that is a culinary, architectural wonder with a “balance of flavors and textures that make each bite harmonious.”In the interest of keeping this post somewhat brief, I will not cover the entire alphabet (you can read it yourself in the magazine…it’s worth it!). I will highlight a few points that I felt were most helpful. Next week, more of the highlights and a recipe for a new twist on an old staple in the sandwich stable.A is for architecture: When building your sandwich, start with sturdy bread. If you’re using a sauce or a saucy filling, use a bread that will hold up to the moisture. A bun, such as our sandwich and slider rolls, or a hearty crusty bread such as our sourdough will do the trick. The inside-facing side of each slice should be lightly covered with butter or a mayo-type schmear. You can also use avocado or goat cheese. This fights sogginess from fillings. More meat won’t necessarily “make” the sandwich. Rather, a few thin slices of really good quality meat will add the flavor and texture you’re looking for. (And the sandwich will be filling enough with all the great bread and other elements that you won’t go hungry.) Keep the meat and cheese on the bottom of the “build” and as you add the crisp lettuce and tomato throw a little salt and pepper on them. Keep in mind that the crunch of lettuce, pickles, onions, etc., is another key element to add texture to a sandwich. (You might even use potato chips for that crunch! My kids love that one.) B is for Bread: (In the magazine, B is for bacon, but we have other priorities.)          You know this, but we’ll reiterate. The bread makes the sandwich. We have so many to choose from that I could design sandwiches for days. The best thing to do is come to the counter and tell us what you want to eat with or on the bread and we’ll hook you up with the perfect pairing.C is for Cheese:          One of the stars that makes a good sandwich great is the selection of the right cheese. Pepper Jack is a favorite of ours. It adds a bit of texture with a kick to spice up what might otherwise be a pedestrian sandwich of plain meat. Feta is a great addition for veggie sandwiches. It has such a sharp tang and the crumbles add texture and flavor as you bite into them. As mentioned above, goat cheese can take the place of butter or mayo with great results. It also has a tang, although not as sharp as feta. Cheddar. Unless it’s a sharp cheddar, we say, “Why bother?” A good, sharp cheddar is a thing of beauty on a sandwich. It supports the flavors of the roast beef like no other cheese. Finally, if you want a great melted sandwich, go for swiss. Build that ham and swiss on sourdough then throw it on the grill pan until the cheese is melty and the bread is a deep golden brown. Oh, when grilling sandwiches don’t forget our trick of using mayo instead of butter for a crisper, less greasy sandwich. M is for Mayo         Does anyone remember the McDonald’s jingle from years ago for the Big Mac? “Two whole beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” Lala! It’s the special sauce that makes that sandwich. (It certainly isn’t the bread…but that’s another discussion.) Mayo is good by itself, but with a little encouragement, it becomes something very special. Try these ideas from restaurants around the country: Mayo & Dijon Mayo, cilantro, garlic & lime Mayo, garlic, capers, & lemon juice Mayo, Cholula (a spicy sauce in the condiment aisle of the grocery) & blue cheese crumbles Mayo & Frank’s Redhot sauce We hope you get a chance to try some of these suggestions and that you share with us your sandwich architecture ideas!
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This week’s recipe is a family Easter favorite: Roast Leg of Lamb. Served up with a variety of sides, assorted dinner rolls, and Raspberry Pecan Bars and Pecan Pie for dessert, it’s a great meal.We will start our Easter morning with warm Chocolate Cherry Babka, then have the lamb for Easter dinner when we get together with the extended family.Even if you’re not a get-together-with-large-groups sort of person or family, this is a beautiful, easy meal with just a bit of prep time the night before. And, the leftovers are fantastic.Ready? Here goes…   Roast Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary ¼ c honey2 T Dijon mustard2 T chopped fresh rosemary1 t freshly ground pepper1 t lemon juice¼ c balsamic vinegar¼ c EVOO6 cloves garlic, halved1 t coarse sea salt or kosher salt 1 cup water5-pound leg of lambCombine first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Rinse and pat dry the roast. Cut 12 slits around the roast and insert halved garlic cloves. Using your hands, rub the marinade all over the roast. Place it in a covered pan and refrigerate overnight.Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place lamb on rack in roasting pan, pour water and remaining marinade into bottom of pan. (This will make a wonderful gravy with the drippings!)Place it in the oven without the lid and roast 15 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to 350 and continue cooking for about 45 more minutes, checking for doneness with an instant-read thermometer.The lamb is done (rare) when it registers 140. If you prefer a medium rare, let it roast until the internal temp is closer to 150.Let rest 10 minutes before carving.
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As promised last week, it’s time to talk Corned Beef!  . We LOVE corned beef and around this time of year (St. Patrick’s Day), it’s always so easy to get good deals on it. In fact, we’ve eaten corned beef dinners twice in the last week – once for practice and once for Tom’s birthday. I don’t really have a recipe for the meat this week because I purchase the brisket already corned then just cook it (but not according to the directions…see below).Traditional corned beef brisket is so easy to make and just a wonderful meal for a chilly evening – of which we have had  a few lately! It does take a while to cook, though, so requires a little planning. (Traditionally prepared corned beef takes about an hour per pound.) I have two ways that I cook it – either in the oven or in the crock pot. With either method, I do not use a lot of extra water and I don’t usually follow the directions (surprise!) when they say to cover the brisket with water and cook. I find that tends to take much of the flavor out of the meat. Rather, I’ve learned to put a little stout in the bottom of the slow cooker for a bit of extra dimension in the flavor. It will take about 5 hours in the slow cooker. The meat should be fork tender and not quite falling apart. You want to be able to slice it thin without it disintegrating under the knife.When roasting the brisket, I cook for about 45-50 minutes per pound at 350 degrees in a Pampered Chef Rock Crock. (You can use a regular roasting pan with a cover.) Remove it from the oven to rest for a bit before slicing it thin. Then, I return it to the oven with a brown sugar and mustard glaze and let it finish cooking. The glaze is so simple and takes the corned beef experience to a whole other level.I serve our corned beef with cabbage (cooked in the juices of the meat) and mashed potatoes. When making the glazed version, I omit the cabbage and keep the potatoes. The best way to eat this is by making a bed of mashed potatoes, covering it with thin slices of corned beef, then topping the whole thing with a couple spoonsful of glaze.  Corned Beef Glaze 1/3 c brown sugar2 T butter2-3 T mustard (I use a whatever mustard I have on-hand – from Dijon to plain yellow – they all taste good.)1/3 c ketchup3 T cider vinegarCombine ingredients until smooth, then pour over the sliced corned beef and return to 350 oven for about 30-40 minutes.
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As I write this, we’re bracing for another snow storm and I’ve got a corned beef roast in the oven (I'll tell you all about that next week in preparation for St. Patrick's Day. It's delicious!), and bread, milk and eggs are stocked up in the fridge. We are planning our production schedule to accommodate the weather and looking forward to a weekend that’s going to be warmer. Of course, the snow will only be a memory by then, as it should all be melted.Some of you might have noticed that the center area of the larger building has turned into a small kitchen demonstration area. Chef Christian Delutis has begun doing demonstrations and tastings using ingredients all coming from different vendors in the market. We are excited to be working with him, as he brings great ideas (and terrific recipes!) to us.We have been doing this for years, too. I love doing my shopping at the market, especially since the grocery store is not one of my favorite places. With that in mind, last weekend, we decided to treat ourselves to some of the beautiful pork chops that Linda had in her butcher case. I’m glad we did because they were amazing. I was able to cook them in a pan without overcooking and topped them with a very tasty Garlic-Thyme sauce featuring minced shallots and fresh thyme.In cooking these chops, I learned a few things. Here’s how I cooked four perfectly pan-seared pork chops. (I know, amazing. Right? My pork chops were always overcooked before. These were so good!)Serve these chops with a crusty loaf of Country French, Bierbrot, or this week's special - Rosemary bread.Speaking of this week's specials, before we get to the recipe, I have to tell you that the Swedish Holiday rolls (like cinnamon buns, but with a spiced sweet dough, fruits, nuts, and honey-butter glaze) are scrumptious! We'll be sample one again this week. Come by and taste. Also, I'll have some pecan pies and we'll be starting to take orders for Easter.  Perfectly Pan Seared Pork Chops withGarlic-Thyme SauceChops: 4 large, bone-in pork chops (Always use bone-in, as the boneless chops tend to be less flavorful when cooked. Also, if you’re like me, the boneless tend to cook up tougher and dried out.)½  c balsamic vinaigrette (From a jar in your fridge…I usually just have some in there.)1 T EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) Start by marinating the chops overnight in a balsamic vinaigrette. I used about ¼ c in each of two bags with two chops per bag. (They were big chops.) If your chops are not getting enough coverage, add more vinaigrette. Remove chops from bags and discard the marinade and bags. Make two cuts into the fat-covered edge of each chop about 2 inches apart. The cuts should go through the fat, but not into the meat. This will prevent the chop from curling in the pan, thereby allowing it to cook more evenly. Then, cover the bottom of a large saute pan with a tablespoon of EVOO . Place two chops in the pan and cook on medium high until they begin to feel firm. Turn the chops over and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 135 degrees. (This was key to the perfect cooking! Keep that instant read thermometer handy!)  Remove from the pan to a plate. Cover and cook the other two chops the same way. Remove from pan to plate with other chops and cover. The chops will continue to cook while on the plate and will be tender and juicy without being overdone.   Garlic-Thyme Sauce: 1 large shallot, minced (about 4 T)2 medium garlic cloves, minced¾ c chicken broth½ c dry white wine1 t minced fresh thyme leaves¼ t white wine vinegar3 T unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 3 piecesSalt and pepper to taste (I didn’t have to add salt, as I only had regular chicken broth (not low-sodium), white cooking wine (which contains salt), and salted butter.)  Pour off all but 1 t cooking oil from pan and return pan to medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook about 1 minute until softened. Add broth and wine, scraping any fond from the bottom and sides of the pan into the sauce. Add any juices from the plate of chops to the sauce. Simmer about 6-7 minutes to reduce sauce to about ½ c. Remove pan from heat and add thyme and vinegar; whisk in butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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