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Kirsten’s Potatoes Au Gratin

Written on April 27th, 2011 by corakentno shouts

Following reading and thinking about the brunch class that Alie MacArthur presented in Boquete last month, our daughter Kirsten planned a lovely brunch and invited 5 friends to join her, including me.

Kirsten and I went shopping together and bought all the ingredients to make her dream idea of Potatoes Au Gratin. Yes, she’s like me in that the ideas for a certain dish come from your mind, and no recipe is really necessary.

The day of the brunch, Kirsten got out her redskin potatoes, which aren’t plentiful in Boquete, and we began thinly slicing them on “Martha’s” mandoline.  The mandoline was many years old. I remember purchasing it for her at K-Mart before Martha went to prison, which is beside the point.  I understand Macy’s is handling Martha’s products now, I’m very glad about that.

This is my take on Kirsten’s recipe, it was so delicious and it probably got the most compliments of any dish at the brunch.

Kirsten’s Potatoes Au Gratin

5 medium redskin potatoes, thinly sliced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup half & half
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Using a mandoline, thinly slice potatoes and leave them where they fall. Spray a 9X9 inch baking pan with Pam and cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/3 sliced potatoes. Top potatoes with 1/2 the diced peppers, onions and cheese, then top with another layer of half the remaining potatoes. Then, scatter the rest of the peppers and onions on top of the potatoes and cover with the remaining potatoes. Whisk together the half & half and mayonnaise and pour evenly over the casserole. Top with remaining cheese, cover with foil sprayed with Pam.  Bake at 350F degrees for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake an additional 1/2 hour or until the top browns and the potatoes are tender. Cool slightly, cut into squares for easy serving.

Kirsten and I had wonderful mother-daughter moments assembling this dish, and layer after layer went together beautifully. We put it in the oven, set the timer, and it came out just exactly right. The top was nice and brown, the potatoes were tender and it smelled like red peppers were freshly roasted on the stove-top burners.

We set a bright tablecloth with Kirsten’s matched Fiestaware dishes, gathered fresh flowers from around the condo building and made a small centerpiece for the table.

To accompany her Potatoes Au Gratin, Kirsten served Spicy Bloody Marys, Sausage Balls, Crustless Egg and Chopped Spinach Pie, and tiny Lemon Muffins. As you can see, the hot dishes were carefully set to be easily accessible by everyone, and were served family style.

Just before sitting down to brunch, Kirsten hung up her “Boquete Gourmet” apron in the kitchen, put on fresh lipstick, and we all settled down to this most tasty brunch with good friends and lots of fun and friendly conversation.

Thanks again Alie and Kirsten for inspiring our readers to make brunch and invite friends to join them.

Please let me know of your “brunch” experience, I’ll pass it along to our readers. If you enclose a special recipe for a dish you served, I may include it in my next edition of Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook!

Here’s to your next brunch!
Cora

Third of Three “Hot” Brunches

Written on March 15th, 2011 by corakentone shout

THE CANTINA BRUNCH

Strawberry Morning
Crepes with Crab and Hollandaise Sauce
Wilted Cucumber Salad
Fresh Herbed Country Cheese
Crunchy Lemon Muffins

This third brunch just couldn’t wait for an introduction. These five dishes were prepared in the Cantina during the “Bring on the Brunches” class early on Sunday morning, and they were enough to wake up any taste buds and to “shake out the cobwebs” from the previous week’s work.

The Boquete Gourmet hosted Minnesota Chef, Alie MacArthur, and she led the class of 16 local cooks to prepare a total of 15 very different recipes, each offering unique qualities of flavors, textures and appearances.

When Englishman Guy Beringer made the first “brunch” ever, he said the purpose of this all-new meal was to stir up the senses with colorful, hot, cold, spicy, sweet, sour, and mild flavors.

This “Cantina Brunch” menu has it all, including a very hot and spicy Watermelon Morning drink pepped up with a good helping of cayenne pepper. It might sound strange, but try it, you’ll like it! The only ingredients are a few frozen chunks and several fresh pieces of seeded watermelon, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and ginger ale to fill the blender. Try it, it’ll wake you up!

The main dish of this menu is Crepes with Crab and Hollandaise sauce, which is as beautiful as it is delicious. Coni learned how to make the perfect Hollandaise sauce and assembled the dish with her own artistic flair, as you can see in the top photo.


Then, Linda mixed up the Crunchy Lemon Muffins and baked them in an arepa maker, rather than using an oven. The only thing she would have improved the next time she makes them, is to put more lemon glaze atop the muffins. Good advice, Linda!

Probably the easiest dish to make, and it can be made the day before the brunch, is the marinated local, fresh Panamanian country cheese.

FRESH HERBED COUNTRY CHEESE

1 round fresh Panamanian white country cheese, removed from wrapper
2 cloves garlic, cleaned, pressed and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon dried herbs or 4 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped finely
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Measure all ingredients into a small plastic zip-lock bag and mull. Add the whole cheese and seal tightly. Turn the bag over and over to coat the surface completely. Chill at least one hour. Serve on plate with crackers or toasted pita points.

When everyone had tasted all 15 dishes, it was impossible to decide on which recipe turned out the best.

The “hot” watermelon drink was a winner for surprising flavor. From the second brunch, the Mushroom Crusted Quiche won for most creative concept. The Wilted Cucumber Salad won for cool and tangy taste and the Herbed Cheese took the prize for the best use of a local ingredient.

I think I could go on and on naming winners, but at the end, they were all dishes that anyone could make and enjoy at their own home with friends.

Only one last question, what happened to this spatula that Alie is holding? It definitely “bit the dust”! Talk about “concentrating on your cooking”!

Thanks to Alie for these 3 amazing brunches, and thanks to Betty Dabney for her gorgeous photos.

The final wrap-up and more photos of all three brunches will be coming soon.

Prepare a brunch today, no need to wait until Sunday!
Coral

Second of Three “Terrific” Brunches

Written on March 10th, 2011 by corakentno shouts

It’s been fun to read the comments that are coming in about Host Chef Alie MacArthur’s “Bring on the Brunches” recent cooking class. This wasn’t the same style class where lessons are learned and recipes are duplicated.

Although these dishes on the left are beautiful, none of them were prepared in Alie’s “three-in-one” class. Her recipes were much different, as you can see by the menu below.

And, it was a Sunday morning filled with learning new and different ideas about brunch planning and preparation. There were endless possibilities for designing the perfect brunch.

Upon reflection, participants filled my Gmail Inbox with wordy, thoughtful comments, like “Alie’s terrific”, “I learned that presenting food is both an art and a science”, “dishes were beautiful and full of flavor”, and “what a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning”.

Alie’s #2 brunch, “The Kitchen Brunch” was prepared in my kitchen by 5 lucky cooks who drew #2 out of the basket at the end of the orientation and instruction period. It was their chance to show what they knew and to practice what they had just learned.

“THE KITCHEN BRUNCH”

Frozen Banana Smoothies
Mushroom-crusted Spinach Quiche (see the crusts ready to be filled)
Baked Brown Sugar Bacon
Scrapple
Lemon Chess Squares

Remember the “Rules” of a brunch which British inventor, Englishman Guy Beringer used when creating this new, late-meal of the day? The dishes should “wake-up” your senses after a night of “carousing”, or something like that. The foods should be varied, sweet, savory, spicy and mild. Some hot, some cold, and some in between. With that in mind, what do you think of brunch menu #2?

Patricia spun rich and flavorful Banana Smoothies and she used the last of one huge bunch of bananas our gardener cut down last week. Trish remarked that the bananas were so sweet, no extra sugar was needed in her smoothies. A bit of rum, maybe, but no sugar.

Probably the most unusual dish of this menu is the Scrapple, not often seen outside Pennsylvania. The beauty of this dish is that it can be made the night before and simply sliced and browned just before brunch. It can be served with syrup, but it was so good that no one even tried to slather anything on top of it.

Mike knew how to fry Scrapple and he was delighted when he drew #2 out of the basket. This dish would surely be easy for him. It was everyone’s good fortune to have Mike show them exactly how to prepare a fine Scrapple.

SCRAPPLE

1 pound pork shoulder or butt
1 teaspoon salt and/or Liquid Smoke to taste
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
black pepper, finely ground

Place pork in a large pot or pressure cooker and cover with 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the meat falls apart. Remove the meat and reserve the broth. Grind the meat in a food processor. Add cornmeal to the broth and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. Add ground meat and onion and place in the top of a double boiler and cook over simmering water for one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pack into a small loaf pan that has been lined with plastic wrap. Chill until set. To serve, cut into ½ inch slices, coat with flour, and pan-fry in a small amount of vegetable oil until quite crispy and very brown. Serve with syrup, if desired.

Many of the other recipes included in “The Kitchen Brunch” can be found on the internet, but Alie put a unique touch into every dish. Thanks to Alie for all your great ideas!

The last in this series will be “The Cantina Brunch”, which will include a “hot” watermelon drink, you won’t want to miss it.

Special thanks to Betty Dabney for her artistic photography in this post.

Enjoy your brunches, especially after a night of “carousing”!
Cora

First of Three “Eye-opening” Brunches

Written on March 8th, 2011 by corakentone shout

Boquete Gourmet “Host Chef” Alie MacArthur, presented three (3) complete brunch menus to sixteen (16) eager folks wishing to hone their culinary prowess, even if it meant attending a 10am class on a Sunday morning. Fifteen (15) new and different dishes were prepared using techniques that inspired participants to stretch their imaginations and to create delicious, zestful and eye-opening flavors.

“Eye-opening” is the original meaning Guy Beringer, back in 18th century England, put on the phenomenon of the modern day portmanteau word; “brunch”.

Mr. Beringer wrote that this new meal would be taken late on a Sunday morning, it would be cheerful, sociable and exciting, and it would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers. Brunch would promote human happiness, be talk-compelling, put guests in good temper and sweep away worries and cobwebs of the week. This sounds like exactly the type of event that I would want to promote!

The “rules” include offering a variety throughout each dish. Keep in mind the flavors, spicy, sweet, tangy and mild. Watch for brightly-colored foods, some hot and some cold, and dishes with snap, as well as smooth textures. Remember, this meal is meant to “brighten life”.

After doing quite a bit of research, I found that the possibilities for designing and making a meal that would meet Mr. Beringer’s criteria were endless. Following a few simple rules, Alie developed three such menus, and this is her first design.

Jennifer is setting up her colorful Omelet Bar for guests wishing to design their own omelet, exactly as they like it, including a bit of spicy hot sauce.

Proper shaping and forming of the potato cakes is demonstrated by Cynthia in the photo below. Her cakes were as tasty as they were beautiful!

“THE GRILLE ROOM BRUNCH”

Boquete Strawberry Champagne
Designer Omelet
Brunch Potato Cakes
Toasted Ring Bread
Rumtopf with Yogurt

Probably the easiest recipe on this menu to prepare is the toasted bread, made with local Rosca bread.

TOASTED RING BREAD

1 loaf of ring bread (Rosca)
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ stick butter

Slice bread horizontally, making 2 thin rings. Butter cut side of the bottom of the loaf and place the buttered side on a skillet. Mix the sugar and milk to form an icing. Frost the bottom of the loaf, which is now facing up in the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Top the frosted bread with the other half of the loaf, cut side up. Butter the top of your “sandwich” and toast until both sides are golden brown. After Jack perfectly toasted the ring of bread, he served it on a vintage plate and cut a piece for everyone. It was hot, crunchy and delectable.

After cooking and sampling this “Grille Room Brunch”, everyone agreed that each dish on the menu was a winner, especially when so much of the preparation could be prepared ahead of time. This menu, if served buffet-style, allowed more time for the hosts to share fun times with their guests and less time in the kitchen when the guests arrive.

Alie got a huge round of applause for sharing so many of her recipes and techniques with us. Thanks, Alie for making learning so much fun!

Please check back for the second in the series of three brunches entitled, “The Kitchen Brunch”.

Thanks also to Betty Dabney for her “eye-catching” photographs. You may see more of Betty’s photos at www.bettydabneyphotos.com.

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