Braided Blueberry Cheese Danish

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Last week I had the pleasure of spending some time in lovely Madison, Wisconsin.  My dear cousin lives there with his wife and three darling children, and it has been 13 years since I last visited.  It was due time, for sure.  We spent a lot of time at the house, but we also had some chances to check out what Madison has to offer in terms of food experiences.

A couple of friends of mine also live there and gave me an extensive list of places to try.  Sadly, I was only able to check out two of those places, but one of them, La Brioche, was such a home run that I had to try my hand at one of their signature pastries – the cheese Danish.

Their cheese Danish is very straightforward, but I wanted to try something different.  I scoured the Internet to see what I could find that included blueberries (because I had a HUGE container of them).  I found a few, and picked the best elements of each one.

I made my own puff pastry, but I am not going to include that recipe in this post.  Instead, I’ll urge you to buy a puff pastry from the freezer section of your local grocery store.  Why, you ask?  Because this Danish is so good, but took waaaay too long to put together.  If you’re hoping to make this for a brunch or even dessert, take it easy on yourself and just buy a package of puff pastry.

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Squash, Bacon, and Lobster (Oh my!)

I’m a fan of soup.  A big fan.  Anything that requires slow simmering and very little attention on my part is a good thing.  And when I think of Thanksgiving, I always think of butternut squash, so naturally, I thought I would throw together a butternut squash soup for our first course.  Then I asked myself, “What could possibly make a luscious soup such as this even better?”  My answer?  Bacon and lobster, of course!

Although they are a pain to peel, the flavor of a butternut squash is well worth the effort.  I chopped it up along with an onion and garlic and tossed them all together with olive oil and the rendered fat from the bacon.  To that, I added minced sage, thyme, and a few whole bay leaves.  After a sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper, I roasted them in a 450º oven for just under an hour, stirring them halfway through to ensure even roasting.

Despite the state of our house (we’re still living out of the basement due to floor refinishing) I was still thrilled to be cooking for our Thanksgiving.  The roasted veggies smelled amazing and in the meantime, I prepped the lobster tails.  It was quite simple, really.  I just snipped up the sides of the lobster tail and snipped up the belly side of the shell, removing it and exposing the flesh.  A little salt, pepper, and olive oil and voilà

I wrapped the lobster tails in foil packets and after the butternut squash mixture was sufficiently roasted, I removed it, and into the oven they went!  Before I knew it, the soup had been puréed, the lobster was done, and it was only 1:00pm!

The finished product with lobster pieces.  Delicious!

As if one dessert wasn’t enough, I went ahead and put together a quick apple tart.  I’ve made them before, but usually labored over the pastry…not this time!  No way!  Into the freezer I went and Eureka! I had a package of puff pastry!  This apple tart is the simplest way to serve a fruit dessert and if you have the right ingredients: apples, puff pastry, butter, and sugar, you should be in business!

I tossed my peeled and cored apples with a few tablespoons of sugar and a few tablespoons of brandy, but the alcohol isn’t necessary.  We all know I like hooch with my food, and I feel that brandy adds a nice element to an apple dessert.  I then layered the apples on the puff pastry, sprinkled it with more sugar, and dotted the apples with cubed butter.  After about an hour in the oven, it was golden brown and gorgeous! 

All in all, I think this non-traditional Thanksgiving went off without a hitch.  Pat prepared a standing rib roast with roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, and fingerling potatoes.  And Holly prepared a lovely scalloped celery root dish with bacon.  It was a nice change to spend the holiday with close friends and I hope we can all do it again soon. 

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