Because you are probably trying to get ready for the holidays, hopefully I will help by giving you some of my favorite recipes. I wanted to also celebrate, one last time, bay (Laurus nobilis), the 2009 Herb of the Year.
A bay laurel in the garden in the Loire Valley, France.
It makes the perfect indoor or outdoor Christmas tree decorated with homemade ornaments and lights.
A bay laurel decorated for the holiday season.
I had never seen a bay laurel in bloom until we were in France several years ago. Here is one blooming in our friends' garden.
A bay laurel blooming in the Loire Valley, France.
Penzeys Bay Flavored Brown & Wild Rice
Serves 4 or 2 in our house
One of my favorite herb and spice companies is Penzeys. They have stores nationwide and a great mail order catalog. When I bought a pepper mill from them several years ago, it was packed with dried bay leaves and a fragrant blend of cinnamon sticks. It came with a pamphlet of the story of the bay leaf, which talks about the bay leaf being essential for roasts, pickling and soup making. I would add stews as well. Bay leaves are also used in flavoring milk or other liquids used in desserts. It also talks about how bay leaves are very helpful in replacing fat and salt with flavor. This pamphlet included a recipe for rice. (Rice is worshipped in this household.) We usually have it every other day. This is a favorite recipe because it uses brown rice, a healthier choice, and wild rice.
• ¼ cup shallot or onion, minced
• 1 teaspoon butter
• 1 cup long grain brown rice
• 3 tablespoons wild rice
• 2¼ cups chicken stock (I use low sodium)
• 2 to 4 bay leaves (I usually use two)
• ½ teaspoon salt, optional
1. In a 2 quart saucepan, saute shallots in butter until very lightly browned. Add brown and wild rice plus chicken stock and bay leaves. Add salt if stock is unsalted (or you don't have to add it at all.)
2. Bring to a rapid boil, cover, reduce heat to very low and simmer for 45 minutes. Don't remove the cover until 45 minutes are up, then fluff with a fork.
3. If any liquid remains, stir lightly, then continue to cook over low heat for approximately 5 more minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
This second recipe is one of the favorite ways The Herbal Husband likes chicken. We will have this recipe for Christmas dinner this year.
I have used this recipe for years and it can be made with four pork chops as well. If you use thin chops, you only need to cook them during the early stages of recipe. If you use thicker ones, you will need to put them into the sauce as you do the chicken and cook them a little longer. When I cook pork chops, I start by browning the chops and taking them out to a warm platter. Then I saute a small sliced or chopped onion and 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms. (You may need to add a pat more of butter.) Then I make the sauce, as called for in the recipe above, using beef broth in place of chicken broth.
• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 cup chicken broth
• ½ cup light cream or fat free half & half
• 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard (I usually just use 1 tablespoon)
1. In a large skillet, cook chicken breasts in butter until tender for about 20 minutes. Remove chicken to warm serving platter.
2. Stir flour into skillet drippings. Add chicken broth and light cream. Cook and stir until mixture thickens and bubbles. Stir in mustard. Add chicken. Cover and heat 10 minutes.
Seeded Sage and Cheddar Wafers
Makes 6 dozen
This third recipe is made with sage and is my favorite savory cracker for the holiday season. It is from an earlier issue of The Herb Companion magazine in the December 1989. The entire issue is a good one full of tips and hints for your holiday parties. Hopefully, you have yours close at hand. If not, here is a reprint of the cracker recipe.
I love that it all comes together easily in the food processor. These are delicious and can be kept in the refrigerator if there are any left! They are also delightful with a big bowl of homemade soup.
• 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
• 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, or 1 tablespoon dried
• 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• ½ tablespoon cayenne
• ½ pound sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into ½-inch chunks
• 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toast sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown, shaking the skillet continuously. Transfer the seeds to a large bowl. Add poppy seeds, sage, flour and cayenne to bowl and stir to combine.
2. Chop cheese in food processor with the metal blade until very fine. Add flour mixture and butter and process until the dough forms a ball.
3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and roll into a 12-inch log. Cut dough into 1/8-inch thick slices and place on a baking sheet. Bake wafers in preheated oven until golden brown around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes.
The Herbal Husband and I wish you a very happy holiday season especially, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and healthy New Year for 2010!