Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day: Homemade Ice Box Crackers

So on Christmas Day we were at my mom's house where she is in charge of her kitchen, period. I'm perfectly welcome to contribute, but I have to reign in my natural tendencies and adapt to her cooking style, which is fine basically because her cooking is wonderful and familiar and comforting just as any mom's cooking is (or ought to be). I'd thought we'd be having turkey since Mom didn't really get to cook one for Thanksgiving, though she actually did come to think of it but that wasn't in her own kitchen. She surprised me because she'd also bought a leg of lamb that we were pretty much all pulling for. One, because we're a family that loves lamb, and two, it cooks quicker than turkey! So lamb it was with oven roasted potatoes and carrots, boiled green beans with slivered almonds, boiled collard greens, and two leftovers from my Christmas Eve dinner at my brother-in-law's: cider braised endive and braised Yukon golds with leeks. (See the Christmas Eve post for more info.)

My contribution to the day was in the hors d'oeuvre area. My partner's father would be joining us for dinner so I knew we'd have to have something to offer him along with his preferred glass of red wine. I'd made goat cheese crackers and quince conserve that I put out with some sliced whole grain bread from Panera some cheddar cheese, and some kalamata olives. The crackers are a variation on Martha's Blue Cheese-Pecan Icebox Crackers with my goat cheese substitution and the quince conserve recipe is from Epicurious and is delicious on bread or crackers. The goat cheese crackers were slight disappointment because of my goat cheese substitution. Martha's crackers had been my preference over Cheddar-Parmesan crackers that I saw on Sara Moulton's show one day because Sara's were a bit more oily. But Martha's were so dry that I'm now reconsidering which recipe I prefer and will have to tweak them based on the cheese used, which, unlike nuts, are not interchangeable. My instincts were that goat cheese or practically any flavorful cheese could substitute for the blue cheese, but I hadn't considered that good, full flavored blue cheese is a bit salty and that I should have one) tasted the cracker dough before rolling it into a log to put into the fridge and two) added some salt regardless. I also neglected to add the required cayenne pepper from the recipe! Egad! I managed to resurrect these bland crackers by popping them back into a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes and then dusting them while hot with kosher salt and shichimi togarashi, which is a seven spice Japanese seasoning that includes hot pepper and black sesame seeds. The crackers were pretty good with the quince conserve and cheddar, though manchego would have been more traditional to go along with the quince, but I'm sure I'm the only one who thought so!

Goat Cheese Ice Box Crackers, with apologies to Martha Stewart

Makes 20 crackers

  • 3/4 cup (2 ounces) pecan halves
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces goat cheese (Martha says 3 ounces blue cheese, such as Danish blue, crumbled)
  • A few sprinkles of shichimi to taste (Martha says cayenne pepper)
  • A few sprinkles of kosher salt (not in Martha's)
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place pecans on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool. Transfer pecans to the bowl of a food processor; pulse until finely ground. Transfer ground pecans into a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Combine flour and pecans in the bowl of a food processor; pulse briefly to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese; process until dough comes together and is well combined.
  3. Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape dough into a 2-inch-wide log. Wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
  4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Slice chilled log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer slices to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake immediately, rotating once, until crackers are golden brown and firm in the center, 25 to 35 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. While still warm sprinkle to taste with your choice of seasonings and salt. I used shichimi and kosher salt.
  6. Cool completely on the rack. Crackers may be made a day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

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