Soppressata & Cheese in Puff Pastry

by Hilary Gauntt on September 10, 2016

I’m leaving for Italy with friends on Monday on a mission to take our college roommate Ludie out of the country for the first time to her #1 bucket list destination. Lucky us! I wanted to leave you an Italian recipe, and although this is hardly authentic it does contain spicy Italian salami and is insanely delicious. It’s from Ina’s “How Easy Is That” book and truly is just that. I usually avoid working with puff pastry as it can be a bit tricky, but this is so straight forward, includes only 5 ingredients and can be put together earlier in the day and baked when your guests arrive. I do suggest saving this for company because if you make just for yourself you will end up eating it all and be racked with guilt.

Try to remember to thaw the puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator. I was ready to roll it out into a 10″ square as the recipe requires, and then noticed that the box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry contains 2 sheets that are already 10″ squares! Done! Just spread one with mustard, top with the salami and then the grated cheese and lay the second puff pastry sheet on top. After baking it is brown and puffed,the cheese is melted and it looks like so much more trouble to make than it was. Would be great for football appetizers cut into squares, or a cold weather main dish with a salad.

There’s a strong possibility I will return from Italy needing elastic waistbands and red wine stains on my teeth that need bleaching. At this age that’s just the sign of a good vacation!

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

12 thin (not paper thin) slices soppressata salami (3 1/2 inches in diameter)

6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs. water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.

Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and lightly roll into a 10 inch square. Place it on the sheet pan and brush the pastry with all the mustard,, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange the soppressata in overlapping layers on the mustard and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly on the soppressata., also avoiding the border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

Lightly roll the second piece of puff pastry into a 10 inch square. Lay the pastry directly on top of the first square, lining up the edges.Brush the top with the egg wash, cut three large slits for steam to escape and chill for 15 minutes. (or more)

When the pastry is cold, trim the edges with a very sharp knife to make a clean edge. Bake the pastry in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once while baking, until puffed and brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes, cut into squares, and serve hot or warm. Serves 6 for a first course, 8 for cocktails.

Note: Thank you to a website called “shopgirlmaria” for her photo as I seriously over baked mine , but still it was gobbled up!


No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake

by Hilary Gauntt on September 4, 2016

What a great dessert for hot weather! Easy enough to have a 3 year old help you, and is both beautiful and totally delicious. You simply layer graham crackers, whipped cream and strawberries 4 times, and top with more berries and a drizzle of chocolate ganache. As this sits in the refrigerator a few hours or overnight, these elements slowly merge into a moist creamy cake. And it serves 8 to 12 !

This and other old-fashioned treats (like a variety of puddings) come from a cookbook by Faith Durand called “Bakeless Sweets”. I am using her lovely photo as my enthusiastic helper must have found it hard to wait out the refrigerator time. When I went to retrieve it, I found all the berries and chocolate had been eaten off the top of the cake…Next time I’ll avoid the lower shelves.

2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and patted dry

3 3/4 cups heavy cream, divided

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. rosewater, optional

4 sleeves (about 19 ounces, or 24 to 28 whole crackers) graham crackers

2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Take out a few of the best-looking strawberries and set them aside for the garnish. Hull the remainder of the strawberries and cut each berry into thin slices.

With a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whip 3 1/2 cups of cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Add the confectioners sugar and rosewater (if using) and whip to combine.

Spread a small spoonful of whipped cream on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan, or a similarly sized platter. Lay down 6 graham crackers. Lightly cover the top of the crackers with more whipped cream, and then a single layer of strawberries. Repeat 3 times, until you have 4 layers of graham crackers. Spread the last of the whipped cream over the top and swirl it lightly with a spoon. Add a few more strawberries.

To make the ganache, heat the remaining 1/4 cup cream until bubbles form around the edges, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it stand for a few minutes, then whisk until the mixture is thick and glossy. Drizzle this over the layered dessert with a spoon, or transfer to a squeeze bottle and use that to drizzle.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until the crackers have softened completely. Garnish with additional whole berries.

Note: If you are transporting this cake, probably best to make it in a pan. If it’s staying home, making it on a platter will make it look a bit fancier.

strawberry ice box cake



Parmesan-Dijon Chicken

by Hilary Gauntt on August 28, 2016

I spent a frustrating hour trying to find this recipe that my Mother liked to make for company, and was so relieved when it appeared. Easy to put together, make ahead and pop in the oven later, and oh so delicious! She listed the ingredients for me but no amounts, but it’s pretty easy to ballpark what sounds right to you. I will quote her directions verbatim, as I like to hear her voice in my ear.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, flattened


Dijon mustard

Parmesan cheese, grated

Parsley, minced

Panko (Japanese bread crumbs or regular crumbs)

Mix equal parts melted butter and mustard until blended. On a plate, mix together parsley, crumbs and Parmesan. Dip chicken pieces in butter/mustard mixture to coat completely. Then dip in crumb mixture, patting to firm. Place in buttered baking pan. Can be done ahead to this point. Refrigerate if not to be cooked in an hour, otherwise leave out on the counter. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes or until just past pink.

“If the breasts are too thick, slice them horizontally or the flavor of the coating gets lost. If I’m having guests it’s easier to buy the small skinless, boneless breasts and spend the time you saved making dessert. xxx V.”

Mom's chicken


Your New Favorite Pork Chops

by Hilary Gauntt on August 21, 2016

I’ve read a few recipes over the last couple of years with this same intriguing title, and tried a few. Haven’t posted any. But this one from the March Bon Apetit lives up to it’s name in my opinion. Just thick bone-in pork chops sauteed in a skillet with sage, garlic and a bit of butter; turned often until they have a golden brown crust and an evenly cooked pink interior. The pan sauce created is wonderful; don’t omit the butter as the small amount that makes it into your mouth adds so much flavor.

1 tbs. vegetable oil

2 1 and 1/2 inch thick bone-in pork rib chops (8-10 ounces each)

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

8 sprigs sage

2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Season pork chops all over (including the fat cap) with salt and pepper. Cook pork chops until bottom side is golden brown, about 1 minute. Turn and cook on the other side about 1 minute before turning again. Repeat this process, turning about every minute until chops are deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 135 degrees, 8-10 minutes. (Cooking time will depend on thickness of chops.)

Remove pan from the heat and add sage, garlic, and butter, smashing the garlic into the butter. Tilt skillet and spoon foaming butter and drippings over pork chops, making sure to baste the fat cap as well as the rib. Transfer pork chops to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes (pork will come to 145 degrees as it sits.)

Cut away bone and slice pork about 1/4 inch thick. Serve with any juices from the cutting board spooned over the top. Serves 4.

Note: Whoops! As I typed this I noticed “serves 4” for the first time. Served 2 very happy campers in our house!

pork chops with sage


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