January Challenge: Rosemary
I like rosemary. I have a good sized patch of it in my herb garden and it's been a requirement in gardens wherever I've lived. In Pennsylvania and New York it grew well forming nice little hedges that grew about shin-high. In North Carolina I found out how it really grows: wall-out-the-neighbors waist high bushes! No matter how severely I cut it, it came back strong and beautiful. I would whack off great bunches of it to throw in the grill to smoke meat.
Here in Virginia the rosemary grows in those shin high hedges again and, to tell the truth, I'm somewhat relieved. No more gallon jars of dried herb piling up unused. But I was lax this year and didn't dry or freeze any. I sure didn't want to buy fresh from the store so I wandered out to take a look at mine after it had been through December's snows and record cold expecting to see forlorn plants. But to my surprise this is what I found:
I thought about making a pesto with it and roasting a chicken and then about a pork stew with rosemary-laced fluffy dumplings, but I do those kind of things a lot. I wanted to go a different direction than savory (another herb with a different story). Then for no apparent reason shortbread sprang to mind. That's the way I would go!
Rosemary-Scented Butter Cookies
2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped candied orange peel
1/2 cup sugar
Beat the butter, sugar and salt until creamy. Add the vanilla extract and egg and mix well. Stir in the rosemary.
Add the flour half a cup at a time, beating at low speed until all of it is just mixed in and the dough smooth. Divide the dough in half and place on plastic wrap, forming into logs about an inch and a half in diameter. Place in the freezer to chill for twenty minutes or until very firm.
While the dough is chilling, place the finely chopped candied orange peel in the food processor along with the half cup of sugar. Pulse this together until the peel is very fine. If you don't have candied peel you can use the zest of an orange or lemon.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Spread a piece of wax paper or parchment on a work surface and sprinkle half of the peel sugar mixture on it. Take one of your dough logs from the freezer, unwrap, and roll in the sugar until well coated.
Slice the dough in half inch widths and place about an inch and a half apart on a cookie sheet. The cookies will spread a little but retain their shape.
Bake for about 15 minutes, turning the sheet half way through. Check on them at the 10 minute mark. The cookies are done when they are still pale but the bottom edges are beginning to turn gold.
As the cookies baked the piney scent of rosemary mingled with the orange peel began to waft through the house. The cookies emerged from the oven pale, flecked with bits of herb and orange-gold around the sides. The bite was crisp and crunchy on the outside and just melted in the mouth; sweet, buttery, with a touch of salt and hint of rosemary. When I make these again I think I'll up the amount of fresh rosemary by a tablespoon to make it a little more assertive....
...but I don't think there'll be any of this batch left after this evening!