Caramel Apple Strudel

Round two of culinary boot camp at the local cooking school began this past weekend.  The first five weeks focused on learning proper technique in the kitchen and now the subsequent four will be putting said techniques to good use.  We intend to do just that whilst eating our way across the country in true Johnson and Wales fashion.  This past Saturday focused on the foods of New England.  Think seafood, seafood and more seafood.  We steamed up a clam bake, boiled a live lobster and created the ultimate crock of baked beans.  We pressure cooked a fabulous boiled dinner of corned beef with cabbage and, of course, we made chowder.  Four kinds of chowder.  There was the classic New England, the Manhattan tomato based “chowda”, Maine chowder which incorporates a splash or two of half and half and Hatteras (not New England but done for comparison none the less) which is simply broth based – no cream or tomatoes.

In addition to boiled lobsters, we also cooked pan seared lobster.  The chef went through the steps of cooking a crustacean and I have to admit, when he mentioned that the claws needed about 5-6 minutes of cooking where as the tail needed eight I wondered how that would be possible with a whole lobster.  My questions were soon met with answers.  We were subsequently taught how to remove the claws and tail of a lobster while it was still alive.  Let me just tell you, this is the first time that I have ever questioned myself as to whether or not I was actually cut out for culinary school.  I realize there’s probably no “humane” way to kill your dinner, but to be put face to face with death in a society where we are so separated from what hits our plates at the end of the day was a bit disturbing to say the least.    Boiling I can handle.  Ripping off limbs and torsos?  I find that method a bit more of a challenge.  Despite all the inner turmoil I endured, at the end of the day, the lobster still managed to go down without too much grumbling.

The Remains of the Pan Seared Lobster Tail served with Cognac Lobster Cream Sauce

I doubt you’ll ever see me ripping the arms off a live lobster, but you can be sure that I was a bit more humbled by the experience.  If nothing else, it taught me to respect the animal that gave it’s life so that I could further my own and if I’m honest, that’s a lesson we all could use every now and again.

Onward and upward they always say.  There’s no New England lobster added into this sweet and tarty strudel I’m about to share, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a winning recipe none the less.   Let’s get baking shall we?

Begin my combining a handful of ingredients that will eventually become the inner workings of your strudel.  Apples, of course, are on display along with several other complimentary flavors including the likes of cinnamon, raisins and brown sugar.

Mix it all together gently and then set to the side to “marinate” for a few minutes while you prepare the dough.   Snatch up a box of phyllo dough and unroll the first sheet.

Just a note here about phyllo dough before we move on.  The stuff can be a bit tricky and very, very delicate so be warned.  Give the dough a good 15 minutes to thaw out before using it so that it’s easier to work with.  Once you unroll your sheets, be sure to keep a damp towel over the top of the dough you’re not currently using.  The only thing more testy than a sheet of phyllo dough is a sheet of phyllo dough that’s all dried up and ready to collapse in a floury pile of dust the second you attempt to pick it up.

Place the phyllo sheet on a cutting board and lightly brush it with a few strokes of melted butter.  Grab a second and repeat.  Keep going until you hit eight sheets of phyllo and then stop.  Here’s where we’re at:

Not my best picture, but you get the idea.  Make note of the damp paper towel covering the remaining dough up at the top end of the shot.

Now we’re going to sprinkle a layer of crushed ginger snaps.  Traditional strudel calls for bread crumbs, but I had a few extra cookies laying around the pantry so why not?

Add the filling over the top of that….

…and roll it up like the tasty little burrito that it is.

Finish off the job by transferring the roll to a parchment lined baking sheet, cutting a few slits in the top and brushing one last time with a stroke or two of butter.  Into the oven it goes…..

… and out it comes.  Some days it’s really good to be German.

Serve this European delicacy with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel for a perfect finish to any meal life throws in front of you.

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Caramel Apple Strudel

Yield: 2 Streudels (about 10 servings)

Total Time: 1 hour 15 min

Ingredients:

4 Cups Granny Smith Apples, Peeled and Thinly Sliced (about 5 Medium Apples Worth)
1/2 Lemon, Juiced
2 Tbsp Brandy
1/2 Cup Raisins
2/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Allspice
1 Tbsp Caramel Sauce(I used Trader Joes Fleur de Sel)
2 Tbsp Cubed Butter
1/2 Cup Crushed Ginger Snaps
16 Slices Phyllo Dough
4 Tbsp Melted Butter

Directions:

In a large bowl, gently mix together the first nine ingredients; the apples, lemon juice, brandy, raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, caramel sauce and cubed butter.

Grab a layer of phyllo dough and brush it lightly with the melted butter. Repeat until you have eight layers.

Sprinkle half the crushed ginger snaps over the center of the crust.

Place half of the apple mixture down the middle of the dough leaving an inch of space on the ends. Fold the ends in and then roll the strudel closed.

Repeat the process with the remaining 8 sheets of phyllo dough, cookie crumbs and apple filling.

Transfer the strudels to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush a little more butter over the top and cut 5 or 6 diagonal slits.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and delicious.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce over the top.

Morning Time Breakfast Burritos

My husband is turning the big 4-0 this year and I’m only a couple years behind.  His inevitable journey over the hill has me thinking about all the fun side effects that come along with aging.  Things like your pants suddenly shrinking when you’re not looking.  I’ve been told it’s due to a slowing metabolism but I believe it has more to do with those pesky little pant trolls that sneak into your house while you’re sleeping and hem them down a size smaller for twigs and giggles.  Ok, a stretch I know, but dang if I’m going to give up dessert simply because of my age.  So the trolls it is.

And then of course, there’s the memory loss.  You wouldn’t believe the things I forget.  I swear, I’ll get up to grab a glass of water, walk over to the kitchen and stand there, completely dumbfounded as to why I even made the journey.  Yep, it’s that bad.   The other day I was shopping at the grocery store for a few items.  I brought my wallet inside, put it in the basket along with my groceries, promptly forgot said wallet was there, left my basket in the store while I went back to my car to find the wallet (which of course wasn’t there) and proceeded to drive home to look for it after not finding it.  Thank God someone with more brains than me made a conscious effort to turn it in.  Talk about embarrassing.

The good news about aging is that as we get older, we learn to appreciate our days a bit more and celebrate the people who share them with us.  As a result, we understand better what is precious in life and worry less about the things that simply don’t matter.  Age may make us a bit wider around the hips and a bit more forgetful  up above,  but I certainly wouldn’t change one minute of it for anything.

And in case you’re wondering how all of this babble ties back in to the breakfast burritos pictured above?  Well, I would tell you but dang if I can’t remember.  Let’s just get on with the recipe shall we?

Begin by frying up a few potatoes along with a handful of onions and the obligatory garlic.

Let them cook through until soft.  Now add in a little cumin, some beans, chiles and cilantro.   Nothing like a little Mexican goodness to recharge the memory cells.

Scramble up a few eggs, toss in a little cooked bacon and get ready to call it a wrap.  I used whole wheat tortillas for a little extra brain food, but feel free to use any flavor that moves you.

Add in a scoop of the potatoes, a forkful or three of the eggs and, of course, a sprinkling of cheese.

Close it up and make a decision; now or later.  If now, place them in an oven safe dish, top with a little salsa, a bit more cheese and cook until bubbly and hot.  If later, wrap in foil, place in a freezer bag and chill until you’re ready to eat.

Either way, you’re guaranteed a breakfast to remember.  Now, if I could just recall where I left my car keys…

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Morning Time Breakfast Burritos

Yield: 4-5 Burritos depending on heavily you stuff them

Total Time: 45 min

Ingredients:

1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
1/4 Cup Onion, Chopped
11/2 Cups Cubed Potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/4 Cup Black Beans
1 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro, Chopped
1 Tbsp Diced Green Chilies
Salt and Pepper to Taste
4 Eggs
4 Slices Cooked Bacon, Chopped
4 Oz. Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
4 Tortillas

Directions:

Heat up large frying pan on medium heat and add in the olive oil.

When the oil is hot, drop in the garlic and onions and allow them to heat up for a minute or two.

Add in the potatoes and let cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the potatoes are soft, add in the cumin, beans, cilantro and chiles.

Season with salt and pepper, let it heat through for a minute and then remove from heat.

Scramble up the eggs with a splash of milk and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add the chopped bacon into the eggs and remove from the heat.

To assemble add a hearty spoonful of the potatoes, then the eggs and sprinkle with cheese. Wrap into burritos.

For immediate serving, place in an oven safe dish, top with your favorite salsa (mixed with a dollop of sour cream if desired) and an additional sprinkle of cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 5 to 10 minutes until melted through.

To freeze for later, wrap burritos in aluminum foil and store in a freezer bag until ready to heat.

To reheat, remove from the foil and place in the microwave for 2-3 minutes until heated through.

Serve with salsa, sour cream, guaco or any other tasty condiment of your choosing.