Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Staying In


It is seriously sad that when I look back and try to think of really special New Year's Eves, I'm left with HIGH SCHOOL. Really pathetic when you think about it. But we had such splendid grown up bashes at a friend of mine's farmhouse, with fancy appetizers and pretty clothes and starlit gravel roads for freezing your ass off wandering down with your crush. I always hoped that when I grew up, I'd be able to throw similar parties. But I'm grown up, and I'm resolutely staying in. Our apartment is neither close enough to good friends, nor large enough for real parties, so it'll just be the two of us. I'll be making Pan Roasted Duck with Individual Potato Gratins and well, something with a butternut squash that I haven't quite figured out yet. To be honest I don't feel like it one bit. It's a bit dismal here with this morning's snow dusting having turned to icy slush. Really, I'd like something like a grilled cheese, Monte Cristo or Welsh rabbit or a fried egg sandwich which could be fancied up a bit if you used good bread, bacon, wilted greens and a drizzle of balsamic. I want comfort food and a favorite movie and good cheer. Most likely my evening will involve some pouting since I don't feel in the mood for fancy and a healthy dose of New Year's Rockin' Eve which is pretty depressing.

Wishing you the best however you're ringing in the New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I feel a bit guilty posting this on Christmas, but since it was my mother's Christmas gift and she's one of only two people who actually read this blog, I'm afraid there wasn't much of a choice. Besides. You're probably wondering what the heck to do with all those candy canes, you know, the ones people at work passed out, or attached to gift bags, the ones your children brought home from school, the ones hanging on your tree. Best part, if you make it after Christmas, you may not even have to share.

PEPPERMINT BARK
adapted from Bon Appetit

INGREDIENTS:
3-6 oz candy canes (gf brands listed here)
8 oz white chocolate
8 oz dark chocolate (I used ghirardelli 60% cacoa)
in theory 3/4 t peppermint extract (I forgot mine and am not particularly sorry)

DIRECTIONS:
Chop up the dark chocolate into smallish pieces 1" by 1/2" will do, reserving a few chunks. Use a double boiler, or its bastard cousin (a bowl balanced precariously on top of a pot). Put about 1/2" of water in the bottom and heat on medium high. Fix your candy thermometer and toss in the chocolate chunks. Stir well as the chocolate melts until it reaches around 105 -110 F. Immediately take the top/bowl off the heat, but keep on stirring. Stir, stir, stir. The temperature may rise slightly to start, but should start falling. Toss in the chunks of chocolate that you reserved earlier. Let the temperature fall to around 88 F. Add the peppermint extract. I didn't add it, so I have no idea what effect if will have on the ability of the chocolate to harden. Smear a 9" by 12" section of foil or parchment paper with the chocolate. Pop in the fridge to harden for about 15 to 20 minutes. Clean your bowl/double boiler top and candy thermometer.

Start removing the wrapping from the candy canes. Break them in medium chunks and toss in a ziplock bag. Place the bag on a cutting board and smash up the candy with a rolling pin, getting it all nice and cracked into bitty bits. Set aside.

Chop up your white chocolate (as you did the dark before). Reserve a few bits (again, just like before). Reheat that 1/2" of water on medium high and again, set up your candy thermometer and add the pieces of white chocolate to the top of whatever contraption you're using. Stir and stir until melted and the temp is around 105-110F. Immediately remove from heat. (Still familiar?) Stir, stir and stir some more. As the temp starts to drop, toss in those reserved larger chunks and let them melt in as you stir. Stir and stir until the temp is around 80-82 F. (That's where I messed up. I only went down to 88F). When you get to the magic number, quick as a bunny, grab your dark chocolate hardened rectangle out of the fridge. Smear the top of it with the white chocolate, until completely covered. Then cover the top with the candy cane bits. You can press them a bit, but don't get them coated with white chocolate or anything.


Pop it back in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. Supposedly if you only let it harden for a magic amount of time, it will be easy to cut into beautiful diamond shapes. But if you're like me, you'll end up with random sized pieces of bark no matter what you do, so just go with it. It's delicious, no matter what it looks like.

Even Dexter thinks so.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Apple Gingerbread Upside Down Cake

'Tis the season to be baking. Somehow, even with all our cookie baking, many of us still find that we're expected to produce additional seasonal baked goods. We have holiday gatherings at work, family gatherings, open houses. This cake is both seasonal and fairly easy. As an added bonus, you probably already have the ingredients in the house.


APPLE GINGERBREAD UPSIDE CAKE
recipe adapted from SmittenKitchen

INGREDIENTS:
Topping:

4 T butter (plus extra for greasing pan)
1/2 C dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
2 large apples cut into 1/4 inch wedges. Smitten advises 4 apples. I guess it really depends on the size of your apples. I used Northern Spies.
Gingerbread
4 T butter and 4 T applesauce
1/2 C sugar
1 large egg
1/3 C dark molasses
1/4 C honey (I used the 1/3 C the recipe called for and felt it a bit too sweet, probably because I subbed applesauce for half the butter, and that's sweet too).
1 C buttermilk (you can just use regular milk - here's what to do. Pour a cup of milk. Remove a tablespoon of it. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar. Wait 5 minutes. You're good to go.)
2 1/4 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 10" cake pan. (Good luck with that by the way. I don't own one. I used a regular 9" pan, had tons of leftover, some of which I mushed into a baby bundt pan). Now that I've completely got you measuring your baking pans...it's time to make the topping. In a small saucepan, melt the butter (4T). Then add the brown sugar and simmer over medium heat, stirring for 4 minutes. Then swirl in some salt. I believe what your going for here is making a carmel, but mine didn't quite pull together in that time. You might need a smidge more. Remove from heat and pour in the bottom of your cake pan. Then layer the apples, I suggest working from the outside in, making ovelapping circles around the edges towards the center. Fill in the gaps by chopping up some slices to fit.

To make the batter:
Using a mixer, combine the remaining butter with the sugar and cream until light and fluffy. In another bowl mix together the molasses, egg, honey, applesauce and milk. In yet another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Then alternate adding the molasses mixture and the flour mixture to the mixer holding your creamed butter and sugar.
When it's all thoroughly incorporated, pour your batter into your pan on top of the apple slices. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a skewer or knife poked in the middle comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then turn over onto a plate and unmold.

It's delicious served with whipped cream.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookies Episode 3: Pizzelles


One of my less endearing traits is a rather stubborn devotion to traditions, especially when it comes to holidays. I like things to stay the way they've always been and even the slightest mention of deviation from these traditions can causing a whining fit that would give a toddler a serious run for its money. But it seems that this year, I'm starting a new tradition, all thanks to a dear friend. You see, my friend is Italian. And in her world, it's not Christmas if there aren't pizzelles. Last year she talked me into joining her and her mother for their cookie baking and next thing you know I was making stacks of pizzelles. No really. I think I made 12 dozen. This year, I was supposed to join her again, but the weather had something else in mind. So I made them myself. Only 6 dozen this time. Most of which will be given away, and not even enjoyed by my family. But now it's a tradition, and I think it will stick. If only I owned my own pizzelle iron...


PIZZELLES
recipe from Laurie

INGREDIENTS:
2 1/4 sticks of butter
1 1/2 C sugar
6 eggs
1 to 1 1/2 1 oz bottles of vanilla (or anise, or coconut, or whatever your heart desires)
4 C flour sifted

DIRECTIONS:

First, melt the butter in a microwave safe container, all the better if it's a pyrex measuring cup or something else with a pour spout. Allow to cool slightly, so that it's warm not hot.

Then mix together the eggs and sugar until they are light and foamy. Slowly pour in the warm butter.

Add your vanilla (or anise, or coconut) flavoring.

Then, gradually add the sifted flour. Depending on the type of day, humid or dry, you may need less than the four full cups. Your batter should not be as thick as regular cookie dough, but should be a bit less runny than pancake batter.

Next, warm your pizzelle iron. If you have a small ice cream scooper, that works well for placing a heaping tablespoon of batter on the center of each shape on the iron. I use a combination of a soup spoon and a regular spoon. I scoop with the soup spoon and use the other spoon to get the dough off and onto the iron.

Cook until they are the right level of doneness for you. This really depends on your iron, but on the one I used today, two minutes was too long and one was too short. After you've made a few you get a sense of how long it takes and then it's much easier.

Remove and allow to cool. Enjoy!

Makes approximately 6 dozen pizzelles.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

Oh. Sorry. The above picture is very much NOT something edible. It's what happens when you take one completely adorable snow-loving dog for a walk in the midst of a winter storm. He gets so cute that he turns into a stuffed animal.

All right, enough with the thoroughly unhelpful pet photos. I assume you're here for the holiday candy-making. I began making almond bark because it's my father's favorite chocolate candy. I'd found a store near me that made it with really dark chocolate and was excited to pick some up for a present last Christmas. Not only were they out, they couldn't tell me either when or if they'd ever have it again. Very helpful. So I figured I could make my own. It's really not difficult, it's just a lot of stirring.


ALMOND BARK
I strongly recommend using a candy thermometer with this recipe.

INGREDIENTS:
8 oz ghirardelli (or other high quality) chocolate. I use 70% because we like things very dark around here.
almonds - I completely eyeballed it, and then tossed the bag. I think I used a bit less than a cup. It kind of depends what kind of almond to chocolate ratio you prefer.

DIRECTIONS:
Use a double boiler or place a bowl over top of a pot. Use about 1/2 inch of water and if using a bowl, make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Chop your blocks of chocolate into smaller pieces. They don't need to be tiny or anything. Reserve a piece of chocolate that's about 1" by 1/2". Place the chocolate into the top part of the double boiler. Turn on your burner to medium. Turn on your candy thermometer. Heat the chocolate, while stirring, until the temperature reaches about 105 F. Then remove the bowl from the pot and continue to stir. The temperature may increase slightly before it starts going down. Add your piece of reserved chocolate at this point. Continue stirring constantly and keep a close eye on the temperature. When the temperature reaches 88 F add the almonds and stir until they're completely coated. Then using a spatula smear the chocolate almond mixture over a sheet of foil or parchment paper. Many recipes will tell you to premark the area you'll be covering with chocolate first (um, like before you even started melting the chocolate because when it reached 88F you don't want to be messing around) but I'm not uptight like that. You don't want it to be too thin, I think mine covered about an 8 by 8" or 9 by 9" area. Allow to harden. You can allow it to harden in the fridge. If you did the process correctly, you've tempered your chocolate which will keep it from getting to melty at room temperature and from coming off all over your hands. The refrigeration only speeds up the hardening, but you should be able to leave the bark out after that. If you mess up, no big deal. It still tastes good, you'll just have to lick your fingers more.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowbound

We're not actually snowbound. Clearly I left the apartment to take this picture, but it has been snowing for over 12 hours with no real sign that it will let up soon. I spent the day completely delighted with the weather and making all kinds of Christmas sweets. It's a bit evil, but living here allows us to relax and maybe even gloat a bit because we don't have any outdoor snow clearing responsibilities. But this recipe is so easy that you'd be able to make it even if you're exhausted from shoveling. Don't you deserve a nice warm fresh loaf of bread after all that work?
One that would only take you 5 minutes to throw together?
Of course you do.

BEER BREAD
Ryan has declared this his new "favorite bread ever" and asks new random questions about it daily.
From FoodNetwork.com not a fancy pricey box mix.

INGREDIENTS:
3 C self rising flour (get some, or make it - for every cup of flour add 1 1/2 t baking power and 1/2 t salt)
1/2 C sugar
1 12 oz bottle of beer
2 T melted butter

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Mix together the flour and sugar. Add the beer. Mix well. Toss in
a buttered loaf pan. Bake for 52 minutes. Brush the top with the butter. Bake 3 more minutes.

See? I told you it was easy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Drop Wasted


True confession time. I don't drink. I'm not a scary judgmental teetotaler, it simply makes me nauseated and gives me insane headaches. This is all very sad. I used to enjoy having a drink, and frankly, I think my husband would have enjoyed having someone to have a drink with. Now he occasionally will have some wine, but despite the best efforts of our wine vacuum, sometimes bottles languish, unfinished, unloved. That stops NOW. Because I have mastered Coq au Vin. Well, Coq au Vin Blanc anyway. It is unimaginably good, but it definitely requires an initial time investment before the meltingly tender chicken is yours to enjoy. No more wine induced guilt for us.

COQ AU VIN BLANC
adapted from Emeril Lagasse

INGREDIENTS:
5 slices turkey bacon (you can use real bacon like Emeril advises if you want)
3-4 T duck fat (not needed if you use real bacon, however, turkey bacon doesn't really give off fat, and duck fat is so good, mmm)
1 chicken about 3 1/2 to 4 lbs, cut into pieces, Emeril recommends quartered, mine was in 8 pieces.
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 shallot finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
9-10 oz button mushrooms, cleaned and halved or quartered to be bite sized
1/6 C all purpose flour (use brown rice flour to make gluten-free)
1 t tomato paste (get the tube at the store if you don't use it often)
1.5 C full-bodied dry white wine (seriously, I used whatever was in the fridge)
3/4 C rich chicken stock (I had homemade, I don't know where Emeril's going with the "rich")
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 C heavy cream

I served mine, as Emeril recommends, with egg noodles. Feel free to be creative, but it definitely needs to be served with a starch.

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 350 F.

In a large Dutch oven, fry the turkey bacon on high heat until crispy. Remove and set aside. Clean and trim chicken, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Add the duck fat to the Dutch oven. Brown the chicken in the duck fat, working in batches if necessary until it is golden on all sides. That last sentence there, is the absolute suckiest part of the whole thing. Wear long sleeves. The fat sputters and spits and the chicken skins stick to the bottom of the pan and you may curse loudly. It's all over pretty quickly though (I went about 3-5 minutes a side) and you'll be happy later. Transfer the beautifully browned chicken to a plate and breathe a sigh of relief. If you need to add a smidge more duck fat, do so. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, shallot and garlic cloves. Cook for 5-6 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook 7 minutes more. Stir in the flour and tomato paste. Stir constantly for a minute or two. Then add the wine and stock, continue to stir constantly until everything is incorporated. Then add the thyme, bay, chicken and bacon. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 15 minutes until the liquid is slightly thickened. Bring the liquid up to a boil again, then cover the pot and pop it in the oven for about an hour and a half. Check after an hour to make sure it isn't drying up. Add more liquid if needed. When it's done, remove the chicken. This is the fun part. You will realize that using tongs is kind of entertaining because the chicken meat starts to fall right off the bone as you take it out of the pot. I like to debone the chicken at this point, and think if you're serving to company, you really should. Put the chicken on a platter and cover to keep warm. Heat the pot to medium low. Skim any fat off the surface (I didn't see any) and increase the heat to medium high. Add the heavy cream and cook until the sauces has thickened enough to slightly coat the back of a spoon, about 15-20 minutes. Taste, add more salt and pepper as needed. Return the chicken to the pot and heat through, then serve.

Power of Suggestion


As soon as I saw Ina Garten make this on her show, I knew I wanted it. Right now, right now. Luckily enough, it was a Saturday, so I could rush out, gather up the ingredients and make my own dreams come true. The pizza is topped with goat cheese, fontina and mozzarella and is creamy and rich and delicious. Then you top it with a lemony salad to balance all that cheesy goodness. So freakin' good. Also, major props to Ina for a pizza dough that only needs a half hour rise. That is something I can get behind.

WHITE PIZZAS WITH LEMONY GREENS
from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

INGREDIENTS:
for the dough:
1 1/4 C warm water (110 to 115 F)
2 packages dry yeast
1 T honey
4 C all purpose flour
olive oil
2 t Kosher Salt
for the cheesy topping:
1/2 C olive oil (you can probably get away with a 1/3 C)
4 sliced garlic cloves
5 springs fresh thyme
1/4 t red pepper flakes
fresh black pepper
3 C grated Fontina
1 1/2 C grate fresh mozzarella
1 small package cream goat cheese crumbled
for salad:
1/2 C olive oil (again, you can probably get away with less)
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
8 oz baby arugula (I used fresh spinach, since it's what Ryan prefers. It was also delicous).

DIRECTIONS:
for the dough:
Combine the water, yeast, honey and 3 T olive oil in the bowl of your stand mixer with dough hook attached. When the yeast is dissolved add 3 C of flour and then 2 t of Kosher salt and mix on medium low. Add up to 1 more cup of flour, enough to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Then turn the dough out onto a cutting board and knead by hand until smooth and elastic. Put in a well-oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

for garlic oil:
In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 C olive oil, the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Watch carefully that the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside for later.

back to the dough:
Preheat your (clean) oven to 500F. Cut the dough in as many pieces as you would like pizzas. We make 6 as Ina suggests, but you could just make maybe 4? I don't know about getting a whole one on one cooking sheet. Feel free to try it and report back. Place your dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cover again with the towel and let rise/rest for 10 minutes. If you're not using immediately, refrigerate for up to 4 hours. If you do refrigerate, allow dough to come back to room temperature before working with it. Press and stretch your dough balls into small pizza-y shapes and place on baking sheets.


pizzamaking time:
Brush the dough of each mini pizza with the garlic oil. Sprinkle each pizza with equal amounts of mozzarella, fontina and goat cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust crips and the cheese is delicious and melty. SEE?

salad topping:
Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together with a pinch of salt and pepper. Dress only the greens you're using right away then place them on on hot pizza and enjoy!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Aftermath

It's been a week, and I'm still reeling from Thanksgiving. First there's the marathon cooking sessions leading up to the big day (which thankfully, I was spared this year because my mother did just about everything herself), then there's the mad dash to eat, freeze and reinvent all the leftovers before anything spoils. And of course, the rush to post it all here before I forget what the hell it is I'm talking about.

This year my one contribution to Thanksgiving dinner (or dessert rather) was a sweet potato pie. I'd been eyeing it ever since I got my Best of the Best cookbook and the deal was sealed when my mother announced that no way no how was she making a pumpkin pie. I couldn't wait to report back. Then smittenkitchen waxed poetic about it and frankly, I lost momentum. I mean, no one cares what I have to say about the stupid pie, especially not when there are, you know, real food bloggers talking about it.

But it was heavenly and delicious and something I very cheerfully continued to eat in the days after Thanksgiving when turkey was becoming my sworn enemy. It is light and yet cheesecakey. It's really amazing I didn't just eat the whole thing in one sitting.

SWEET POTATO PIE
courtesy of the Lee Brothers, as featured in Best of the Best

CRUST:
Ingredients:
1.5 C sifted all purpose flour
1 T sugar
8 T butter
1/4 cup(ish) ice water

*original recipe called for 4 T of lard and 4 t of butter. I don't do lard, so I used all butter. I use salted butter. The original recipe also called for 1 t of salt. That in combination with the salted butter makes the crust nasty like a salt lick. Then you have to make another crust. Don't do that. If you use unsalted butter you can add a small pinch of salt, but I'd stay away from anything so large as a teaspoon.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Sift the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into small chunks and cut it in using a pastry cutter or two knives. When the mixture gets a sandy texture like coarse crumbs you can add the water a tablespoon at a time. Make sure it's ice water. Toss with a fork to combine after each addition of water. When the dough holds together, form a round disk, wrap tightly and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until ready to use.

Roll out the dough (use flour as needed) until large enough for a 9" pie plate. Transfer the dough to a pie plate, trim the edges and crimp as desired. Again, refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Prebake the crust. First lay a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the dough and use pie weights (or beans or pennies) to weight it down. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Then remove the weights, use a fork to prick the bottom all over and then bake for 10 more minutes.

FILLING:

Ingredients:
1. 5 lbs sweet potatoes (about 2 medium sweet potatoes), peeled and chopped to a 1/2 inch dice
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1 T lemon juice *
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t kosher salt
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 C sugar
2 T flour
1/4 C buttermilk

*the lemon juice is pretty strong in the pie, the Lee brothers ask for 2 T, and even being a lemon lover that seemed a bit much. I do like how it cuts the richness, so I hesitate to eliminate it entirely.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Pour 1.5 inches of water into a large pot. Insert a strainer and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and steam until tender about 20 minutes. Drain them, place them in a large bowl and allow to cool. Then mash until smooth. You'll want 1 and 1/4 C puree, so you can just eat the excess (or make another pie). Add the butter, lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Separate the eggs. The whites can go in the base of your mixer (or another bowl, but I like to do egg whites in the stand mixer), the yolks go in a small bowl. Whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until creamy and pale yellow. Then add to the sweet potato mixture. Add the flour and mix until thoroughly blended. Then add the buttermilk and mix that in.

In your mixer, whisk your egg whites to soft peaks. Then with a spatula fold the egg whites into the sweet potatoes and buttermilk. When well combined, pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely on a rack and serve at room temperature or chilled from the fridge. Whipped cream is fabulous on top.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers: White Turkey Chili


Sometimes the week following Thanksgiving can fill you with a growing sense of dread. It seems like ages ago that you were lobbying for a huge ass turkey so that you'd have enough leftovers. Now the thought of choking down another plate of turkey+gravy+stuffing is enough to make you queasy. What you need is something completely different. Something that does NOT remind you of Thanksgiving. This chili is perfect. It also freezes well, so you can even just make it and toss it in the freezer for a cold December night. Like all good leftovers recipes it is very flexible. You can use leftover chicken or turkey depending on what you have available.


WHITE TURKEY CHILI
adapted from Epicurious

INGREDIENTS:
2 T veggie oil
1/2 C onion
1 1/2 T garlic (about 2 cloves)
4 t cumin
between 1/2 lb and 1 lb ground turkey - I adjust this based on how much leftover turkey I have
I'd use 1lb of ground with 1 C of leftovers or 1/2 lb ground with 2 C leftovers.
around 1 C leftover turkey chopped into bite sized bits
3 C stock (you can use homemade from your turkey, or use store bought chicken stock)
1/4 C barley
2 t chopped jalepeno
1 can cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can small white beans (rinsed and drained)
optional - 1 t marjoram, 1 t summer savory - I own neither so have never added either.

For topping as you wish:
hot sauce
chopped scallions
grated cheddar
sour cream

DIRECTIONS:
In a very large skillet or a regular stockpot or Dutch oven, add the veggie oil, the garlic and the onion. Saute on medium low for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Stir in the cumin and then add the raw ground turkey. Cook stirring often until the ground turkey is browned.

Add the stock, barley, jalapenos and the marjoram and savory (if you're using them). Cook for 20-30 minutes. You need to watch it. The barley should be cooked but don't let all the liquid evaporate. Even with the pot covered all my liquid evaporated in about 25 minutes. If the barley seems raw and your chili is too liquidy cook a bit longer.

Add the beans and chicken and cook about 15 minutes more. Add the hot sauce.

When it's finished, you can top with any normal chili toppings, but we usually eat it pretty plain, with just the hot sauce.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Nana Grenon's Ragout


My nana's mother was by all accounts a lovely woman and very talented at cooking in the old fashioned "a pinch of this, enough of that, cook until it's done" style. My nana was the baby of the family, and for a time after she had my father, she and my grampy lived with her parents. The result of this is that my father was completely beloved and spoiled by his grandparents. Grampy Grenon would wake my father up early and take him everywhere with him. His nana (Nana Grenon) would always cook up my father's favorites. One of his absolute all time favorites is Nana's Chicken Ragout. It also happens to be an ideal use of Thanksgiving leftovers. Nana Grenon is French Canadian, and like many French Canadian dishes this is meant to stretch a meal, with the dumplings being a substantial part of the soup. It's the French Canadian version of chicken noodle soup, and it's perfect comfort food. Feel free to adjust or adapt the ingredients. Think like a grandmother.

NANA GRENON'S CHICKEN RAGOUT

Ingredients:
For the soup -
1 C onion, chopped
1 C celery chopped (I mince mine because Ryan does not like celery)
2 C carrots (cut into disks, coins, whatever you call them)
5-6 C chicken stock (or turkey stock) preferably homemade
salt and pepper
2-3 T olive oil
1 T sage
1 T thyme
approximately 2 C of chopped leftover chicken or turkey. Use what you have. The dumplings will make up for it if you don't have enough. You can use chopped white meat or all the little bits you have, it's up to you.

For the dumplings -
1 C stock - cooled
2.5 C flour
salt and pepper
thyme

DIRECTIONS:
Pour the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onion and celery and cook on low for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, carrots and whatever chicken or turkey bits you're add. Add salt and pepper for taste. This recipe takes a lot of salt, so taste carefully. Bring the stock almost to a boil. While you're waiting for it to boil, make the dumplings. Use a cup of cool stock (I usually set it aside before I start cooking) and mix it together with the flour and about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Add about 2 t fresh thyme to the dumplings if you like. The thyme is completely inauthentic, but it is tasty. The dough will be incredibly sticky and hard to work with. With very well floured hands, roll out the dough very thin. If you don't get it thin you will have yucky gloppy dumplings. Make sure you move the dough a lot while rolling and keep it well floured. When it's thin (maybe less than a 1/4 inch thick?) slice in 1" squares. These can be very irregular, it gives the soup character. When the stock is very hot but not boiling, Add the thyme and sage and throw in the squares of dough and cook for 3-5 more minutes until the dough is cooked.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Butternut Squash Lasagna


I've been away from the blog for the last two weeks for many reasons. Some fun, some stressful, but let's pretend it's just because all my energy has been focused on bringing you more ways to make butternut squash, which I consider to be one of the true joys of fall. I'd been working on perfecting my butternut squash risotto recipe when I got distracted by the idea of butternut squash lasagna. This recipe seemed to be very highly recommended, but as someone who's spent a day picking the tiny shards of skin off a pan of hazelnuts, I'll admit, I was daunted. So I found one by Giata that did not require any earth-shattering efforts on my part and was quite pleased. It's sweet and cheesy and just may be that vegetarian entree you were looking to serve at Thanksgiving.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH LASAGNA
from Giata De Laurentiis
INGREDIENTS:
3 T olive oil
1 (1.5 -2lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper
3 amaretti cookies*, crumbled
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
3 1/2 C whole milk
pinch nutmeg
1/2 C fresh sage leaves
12 no boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 C shredded mozzarella
1/3 C grated parm (I always mean the real stuff, parmigiano reggiano, not a shaker from Kraft)

*You may be able to find amaretti cookies at your local grocery store, but definitely at your Italian market or grocer. For heaven's sake, unless you love amaretti cookies, don't pay the premium to get Lazzaroni which are easily double or triple the price of less famous brands.

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 450 F. Toss the squash with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Cool slightly then puree the squash together with the amaretti cookies in a food processor. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Reduce oven temp to 375 F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir for a few minutes until all flour is coated with butter and is sort of goldeny sludge. Add the milk slowly, whisking to incorporate the flour butter mixture. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. You are looking for slight thickening, the sauce should coat a spoon lightly. Add the nutmeg and stir through. Mince your sage and add that as well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble your lasagna. Lightly butter a 9 by 13 baking dish. On the bottom, put down a layer of the sauce, you should have plenty so be generous. Then add a layer of noodles. Cover with a layer of squash, then a layer of the mozzarella, then a layer of the sauce - I had a lot of extra sauce and just poured it over, it all got soaked up and the lasagna was not watery at all. Repeat three times. On the top add a bit more shredded mozzarella and the parm. Cover the top tightly with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 15 minutes more. Finally, remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. It will look delicious and golden and bubbly. Like so:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Candy Alternative


The next few weeks will be marked by furtive rustlings of wrappers, chocolate stained fingers and lips, and the general sugar induced mayhem that is the aftermath of Halloween. Once you've finished your binge, you may want something more homey and old-fashioned to serve as your dessert to tide you over 'til Thankgiving. Giant oatmeal cookies studded with walnuts, apples and raisins will definitely help you recover. They're the sort of thing just longing for a good cookie jar.

OATMEAL APPLE WALNUT RAISIN COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:
2 sticks butter
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs (or equivalent amount of egg substitute)
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
3 C oats
1 C raisins
1 C chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
1 apple cored and diced (I peel mine too).

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and mix until blended. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Add the oats and blend until incorporated. Then add the chopped nuts and raisins and mix. Finally add the apple and mix gently. I've made these regular cookie size before, but I'm kind of loving the giant cookie jar filling size. To make regular cookies, use rounded tablespoons. To make giant cookies, form smallish patties, like you were making burgers, but a bit littler. You can use a greased cookie sheet, but parchment or a silpat is even better. Bake 10-12 for the little ones 12-13 for the big ones. Cool on the pan for a minute or so, don't try to transfer right away or they will fall apart on you. Then cool on a rack until completely cool.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beginner's Duck


I did manage to rally last night, and pull together a nice dinner. Certainly not worthy of Julia, but a bit fancier than the usual - Pan roasted duck breast with green beans, polenta and mushrooms in a balsamic red wine glaze. This duck recipe is absolutely the most simple one I've seen and it turns out perfectly every time. The duck is juicy and flavorful and the skin is crispy, salty and delicious. If you like duck it's a wonderful preparation for guests or a special occasion because it takes less than twenty minutes and almost no fuss. You'll feel like Julia without having to struggle with deboning your own bird, use a chinois to strain sauce or deprive the tri-state area of its butter supply.

PAN-ROASTED DUCK
courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

INGREDIENTS:
duck breasts
  • the number you cook will depend on how hearty your eaters and are the number of sides you are making. With my husband I assume he gets his own, but my parents would probably split one between the two of them.
  • duck breasts are available in some grocery stores now and many specialty stores. D'Artagnan is a good brand. We usually get the Magret breasts, which should be a bit over $10.00 a pound. Online they sell the breasts in four packs for around $50.
essence of emeril - you can find the recipe on the food network link or here.
1 scant tablespoon olive oil.

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 400 F. First rinse the duck and pat it dry. Then coat both sides in essence. Your ducks will look like this:

On the left is the underside of the duck, on the right, the delicious layer of fat. Mmm. Duck fat. In an ovenproof skillet, warm the oil. You really don't need a lot of oil because the duck will give off tons of fat. Have the pan on medium heat and when the oil is hot, place the ducks in the pan skin side down. Cook them for 6 minutes. At the end of six minutes flip them over. The skin will be browned and shiny and crisp. Pour off some of the duck fat*. Emeril doesn't mention this, but I'd rather not have any oven fires, so I drain probably three-quarters of what's in the pan. I drain into a metal mixing bowl just because it's so darn hot and I'm afraid glass would crack and plastic would melt. Once you've flipped the ducks and poured off some fat, place the pan in the hot oven for an additional 8-10 minutes. You can use a meat thermometer to check for doneness if you worry about that sort of thing, the final temperature you want is 120 F. Remember the duck will come up a few degrees while it rests so you can pull it around 110 F. When you remove the duck from the oven, cover it and let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Mine was still giving off quite a bit of juice after that time, so it really does need to sit. Slice it on the bias into quarter inch slices. Feel very gourmet and impressive indeed.

*Duck fat is great to freeze and use later to make Coq au Vin or other chicken dishes richer and more flavorful. Use duck fat as you would butter.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gloom

It is completely vile out today. Also, we are much in need of a dessert here, having consumed the last of a batch of rugelach pinwheels. I had in mind an apple oatmeal cookie recipe that I make every year around this time, and have a devil of a time locating each time. I thought I'd do us both a favor and bake some up. You'd have more fall goodness, and I'd know exactly where to find the recipe the next time I needed it. But I don't want to. I am cold and damp and it is so very grey out that I simply cannot bring myself to do it. Not even just having finishedMy Life in France is enough to motivate me. And if the great Julia Child isn't enough to get you cooking, you're probably a lost cause. So I apologize for the lack of apple cookies, and hope to be back tomorrow, perhaps with a duck recipe, the apple cookies or perhaps just a list of books to make you drool slightly when you are unable to leave the couch for the kitchen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fig Jam

Not so very long ago, I had a delicious sandwich at a local restaurant, which I refuse to link to for many reasons, but mainly because they keep removing things I love from their menu and then charging more for the crap they still serve that I don't want. They've already done away with nachos and mac and cheese, so I shouldn't have been shocked when I realized they also scrapped my new favorite sandwich ever. Yes, I know I have a new favorite sandwich ever each month. Let's move on. Anyway. I'm loathe to give those people my money anyway, so it's just as well. My latest greatest sandwich is so very good, and its star ingredient is fig jam. It's also very versatile, I've had it three different ways, all heavenly. The only bad news, is there's not so much a recipe as a set of instructions. You need fig jam (obviously), crusty french bread (although not a baguette, the kind that gives you sandwich size slices), fresh mozzarella (yes, it must be fresh), balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Those are the key ingredients. The ones you can rotate in and out include cooked slices of chicken, prosciutto, spinach and arugula. The bread will absorb the delicious butter from your pan, the mozzarella will be creamy, the fig jam will be sweet and the balsamic will balance that sweetness with a hint of acid. You can choose to add other ingredients, or omit them depending on what you have in the house, or what you're in the mood for.


So here's my not-actually-a-recipe:
INGREDIENTS:
bread (2 slices crusty bread per person)
fresh mozzarella cheese - this is paler in color than regular mozzarella, you'll need a fist sized ball for two sandwiches.
1 T balsamic vinegar (per 2 sandwiches)
1-2 t olive oil (per 2 sandwiches)
salt and pepper
enough fig jam to cover one side of each sandwich (maybe a tablespoon or two per sandwich?)
one or more of the following:
leftover pieces of chicken
spinach or arugula
prosciutto

DIRECTIONS:
Cut 2 slices of bread per person. Smear one side of each sandwich with fig jam. Slice the mozzarella thin and layer on the sandwiches. Mix together the balsamic, olive oil and salt and pepper. If using leftover chicken (such as off a roast chicken), warm them slightly and toss with the balsamic mixture. If you're using the spinach or arugula, toss the greens in a pan with the mixtures for just about 30 seconds to a minute, just enough to warm very slightly. To the fig jam and mozzarella add either the chicken, or the chicken and greens or just greens or greens and prosciutto. Then cook as you would a grilled cheese. I suppose if you had a fancy panini press you could use that, but I'm not so fancy. I toss it in a pan with some butter and put a heavier pot on top to smoosh it down so it all gets cooked and melty and wonderful and then when the first side is golden brown, I flip adding a bit more butter until the other side is also golden and delicious.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Baby Shower Ducktacular!


A dear friend of mine is having a baby. Actually, a lot of friends of mine are having babies, but the friend in question has been telling me for years that she wants a ducky theme to her shower. And of course, when the time came for the actual shower, there were no ducky themed paper products to be had within a 40 mile radius. Rather than go duckless, I hatched (get it? hatched? I'm so hilarious...) a plan. I hunted down (hunted...down...I can't stop!) a duck cookie cutter. I engaged the services of a plucky friend (plucky!!) and baked up a flock (flock!!!) of ducky sugar cookies. I dipped them in pale yellow royal icing while my friend dabbed on their adorable blue eyes. Aside from a few duck-capitations, it all went swimmingly. The ducks were a huge hit at the shower, my friend was thrilled and my baking partner and I spent the evening high on sugar and cracking each other up. It was just ducky!

SUGAR COOKIES
courtesy of Martha. Who else?

INGREDIENTS:
2 C flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 C butter (this is one stick)
1 C sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
2 T milk
1/2 t vanilla extract

1 recipe Royal Icing - Please feel free to use Martha's. I used meringue powder, and so followed the directions on the package. Real Royal Icing requires raw egg whites and raw egg whites and pregnant women are not a good combination.

DIRECTIONS:
In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the lightly beaten egg, the milk and the vanilla and mix until thoroughly incorporated. In a bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the butter/sugar/egg mixture.

Form into two disks, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. I chilled mine overnight to make less work for the night before the shower.

Roll out on a floured surface until 1/8" thick. Cut into whatever shapes your heart desires. Place on a baking sheet - I highly recommend using a silpat mat or parchment paper. Leave about an inch between items on the baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for about 10 minutes. My oven runs hot and 8-9 was more like it, so watch carefully, especially if you're icing them, you don't want them to brown, just be barely golden.

When they're done, leave on the pan for a minute or so then transfer to a cooling rack. A woman much wiser than me just pours her royal icing over the cookies once they're cool. She leaves them on the rack and places a pan lined with wax paper or foil underneath to catch the excess. Then once the icing has hardened (leave hours for this, seriously), you can trim off extra with a knife. I applied my royal icing by knife until I decide to dip them. Dipping works reasonably well. The blue eyes were applied after the yellow icing had set a bit. You can use the tip of a toothpick, a skewer or if you're like me and own neither of those, the pointy part of a corn holder.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

All Pumpkin, All the Time


Last weekend, just like clockwork, my annual fall pumpkin craving began. Ever since I was in college, and discovered the delicious pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins at Lyman Orchards I have found myself wanting, needing, pumpkin products. I've been reduced to checking restaurant menus, stopping in Dunkin' Donuts to determine if the pumpkin muffins are back yet, but now, I am master of my own fate. I have a recipe for a delicious pumpkin cake. Which could be made into muffins or loaves if you like, but I do love a bundt. In fact, in the past week, I have baked not one, but two of these pumpkin spice bundt cakes. They're that good. Special bonus? They use up a whole can of pumpkin. Seriously, this is a big deal. So many pumpkin product recipes use a cup. What the heck am I supposed to do with the rest of the can, people?

PUMPKIN SPICE BUNDT CAKE
recipe slightly altered from the one J posted in the comments of last year's pumpkin disaster, Pumpkin Dreams Smashed

INGREDIENTS:
2 c. sugar
1 c. veg oil
3 eggs
1 16 oz can pumpkin
3 c. flour
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp bking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. bk powder
(1 c chopped walnuts if you want but why would you?)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix together the sugar and oil. Add the eggs and pumpkin and mix well. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add half the dry ingredients to the wet, mix until incorporated, then add the other half. Pour into a well greased bundt pan, bake at 350 for about 55 minutes or until a knife in the middle comes out clean. If you like, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Southern Cornbread

There are some things that I only love when they're Southern style. Since it's probably best not to get me started on the topic of iced tea, as I may begin to rant, we can stick to cornbread. Like many good Southern foods cornbread must be a bit sweet. It should also be nice and fluffy. Think...delicious smells wafting from the grill, plates filled with barbecue, people sipping down real iced tea. Bad cornbread however, creates an entirely different scene...squatting by a fire, using a stick to pry a dry mass out of a cast iron pan. In short, I want to feel like I'm at a party, not trying to survive the Oregon trail.

CORNBREAD
modified from the side of the Albers box by the lovely tikimama. I don't think I've ever seen Albers cornmeal, so I am doubly grateful to tikimama.

INGREDIENTS:
1 C flour
2/3 C sugar
1 C cornmeal
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 C milk
2 eggs beaten
1/3 C vegetable (or corn etc) oil
3 T melted butter

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Mix together the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Mix together the milk, the beaten eggs, the oil and the melted butter (let the butter cool a bit before you add it to the eggs please). I would guess that you should add the dry ingredients to the wet, but I did it the other way around with no ill consequences. Either way, mix until fully incorporated. You can make either corn muffins, or corn bread. Grease whatever pan you're using. For muffins, bake 18-20 minutes, for bread in an 9x9 pan, cook for 20-30 minutes. Make sure that a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, but don't over bake. No one likes dry cornbread.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sick Food

I am a relatively slender person. People sometime make comments about this, out of kindness, out of jealousy, out of wonder, out of spite. They express shock, awe, envy at the fact that I do not (generally speaking) need to exercise. And I cook! Yummy things! Desserts even! Oh, things do look so green in this here pasture. What most people don't know, is that this body is sponsored, much like a PBS show. Oh yes. Had I an appropriate place for a sign, I could in fact post:

This body has been brought to you by genetic luck and frequent low-grade nausea.

And if you haven't lived with nausea, then you may not know what a formidable force it can be. If you have, I'm sorry. Please have a ginger ale on me.

When I'm queasy, there's not a whole lot in my whole lovely repertoire of comfort foods that sounds appealing. If I'm only borderline ill, I can manage some pasta with butter and cheese. Or rice. But the thing I crave, more than almost anything else, is Thomas' English Muffins, with a small pat of butter. When I'm finally really on the mend (you know, when you've gone without real food for so long that you are ready to chew off your own arm, but are petrified of actually eating something because the consequences could be dire), I want a turkey burger, seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper, cooked through on an English Muffin bun. Just thinking about it makes me start to feel better.


So what about you? What is the food that cures what ails you?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Raspberry - Walnut Shortbread Bars

Everyone despairs when at the mercy of a repair or delivery person*. You are instructed, in no uncertain terms that you must remain in your home between certain specified hours, which are always representing an unfathomable window of time. Moreover, the moment the clock clicks over to the first minute of your designated window, you are seized with the urge to be anywhere but at home. You remember a million errands you have to run. The dog barks for a walk. You realize you have to shower, but can't, because you won't hear the phone, or doorbell, or you will hear the phone and doorbell and be forced to meet the repair/delivery person in nothing but a towel. It is not good. So here is my handy dandy plan for not going stir-crazy.

Step #1 - An hour before the window commences, make sure you have showered and dressed.
Step #2 - Pick a favorite recipe and check for ingredients.
Step #3 - Run to the store for any ingredients you might be missing.
Step #4 - With 15-20 minutes left before you're ordered inside, walk the dog.
Step #5 - You are trapped. The repair/delivery person could arrive at any moment. (Won't of course, but could).
Step #6 - BAKE!!!

Baking is the perfect occupation for being stuck in the house. Think of how often you put something in the oven, and then think of something that needs doing outside the house. Well, don't worry! This time you know you're stuck! Your house smells delicious, and you will need something to eat as you become more and more agitated. Maybe the sugar will calm you.

If you don't know what to make, try my Nana's raspberry-walnut bars. They have a delicious buttery shortcake base, a sweet jam-y layer and a chewy, sugary top. Yum. The best thing is that you can really pick whatever jam you like, although I strongly recommend picking something higher quality. You can be flexible about the nuts too, I didn't have enough walnuts, so used a combination of walnuts and pecans. Still fabulous.

*In my case, the delivery turned out to be a surprise cake from my best friend! Entirely exciting and not at all anger inducing to wait for. Also, now I have a delicious array of treats to choose from.

RASPBERRY (or other) - WALNUT (or other nut) SHORTBREAD BARS
by my Nana

INGREDIENTS:

for the shortbread crust
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C butter

for the topping

1/3 C jam (I used Bonne Maman Four Fruits Preserves, which is a mix of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and currants)
2 eggs
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1 t vanilla
2 T flour
1/8 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
1 C chopped walnuts (or pecans, or a mix of walnuts and pecans, or something else you want)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 350 F.

For the shortbread crust -
Combine the flour, the 1/2 C sugar and cut in the butter until the mix is like fine meal (sort of sandy). Get a 9" square baking dish and grease it. Press the shortbread mix down into the bottom of the pan to make and even layer - pay special attention to the corners which sometimes don't get quite enough crust. Bake for 20 minutes or just unilt edges become lightly golden.

For the rest -
Spread the jam over the shortbread. Beat the eggs with brown sugar and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the flour mixed with the salt and baking soda. Add the walnuts. Spoon over the jam and spread lightly until completely covered. Return it to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is set (it will be kind of spongey, it will harden on cooling). Cool in pan and then cut into bars. Make sure you go around the edges with a sharp knife before you try to remove it from the pan.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Oven Fried Chicken

The thing is, there's not a whole lot more delicious than good home fried chicken. The crunch of the crispy crust, the mix of spices, the juicy succulent chicken. Oh dear, it's good. All you need is a foolproof recipe, and I've got one for you. I had never before fried a chicken. I hadn't even watched someone else fry a chicken. This worked perfectly, on the first try, and I have to say, was just as mouth-wateringly scrumptious cold the next day as it was hot when I served it. Labor Day's coming, maybe this is the year to do a good old southern feast instead of those hot dogs you'd planned on.

OVEN FRIED CHICKEN
method courtesy of Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS:
1 chicken - you can cut yours yourself, but I like to buy the 8 piece pack, all cut up for you.
2 cups buttermilk
2 t hot sauce
2-3 C flour
3 T Essence - you can probably buy this, but I make it myself and store it in a spice jar.
veggie oil (or canola oil, or whatever you've got on hand)

EQUIPMENT:
oil thermometer, meat thermometer, large heavy bottomed pot (I used my dutch oven), sheet pan (with a rim), metal baking rack (I use the same thing I use to cool my cookies on).

DIRECTIONS:
Look at your chicken pieces and trim off any nasty bits. In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk and hot sauce. Put the chicken into the buttermilk, turning each piece to make sure it's coated. Let the chicken rest in the buttermilk at least two hours, but overnight if you have the time.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. In a large dish mix the flour and essence until well mixed. Dip each piece of chicken in the flour mixture until it's thoroughly coated and there are no real wet spots. Pour the oil into your pot (the reason for a deeper pot is to avoid as much splattering of hot oil). You want it to be about 1" deep. Heat the oil to 360 F.

If you're new to frying, keep your eyes glued to that temperature, you'd like it to stay near 360, don't let it get too high or two low. Mine went up and down and up again, I was constantly adjusting my stove burner from high to low. When you add the chicken (only drop in a few pieces, DO NOT do all at once), the temperature will drop, so keep that in mind. Fry for three minutes on each side until it is a nice light golden brown. Then remove and place on the baking rack. Continue frying chicken in batches until it's all done.

Place your rack of chicken on its sheet pan and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Ina says to cook until it's not pink inside, but I recommend using a meat thermometer instead so you don't wreck your beautiful chicken by checking on it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

My very first Hippo and Nigella post. I'll admit, I didn't select this recipe because it spoke to me more than the others. It was a very practical choice. First, it didn't require self-rising cake flour. Additionally, I had raspberries that needed using. They were good. Not great, not I can't wait until I make these again. Just good. I think they need more lemon. Maybe a lemon glaze? They're definitely worth experimenting with. And for the raspberry haters out there, you might consider blueberries instead. Also, this is the very first time I used my silcone baking cups. They are reusable, and they don't take half your muffin with them when you peel them off. What's not to like?

LEMON RASPBERRY MUFFINS
adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 C butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 C all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 C sugar
1/4 t salt
juice and zest of 2-3 lemons - Nigella only called for one. From her directions, it seems clear she's expecting you to have about a half cup of lemon juice. Maybe she just has better lemons than I do, but I had slightly less than a quarter cup of juice from one lemon. I used another lemon too and still didn't have a half cup of juice. I'd really make sure I was getting that half cup.
1/2 C milk
1 large egg
1 C ish of raspberries - You don't need to be precise with the berries, a smidge under or over will hurt no one.

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and zest. Right here, I had a problem. You need to make sure you wash your lemons well when you use the zest, because the skin is where all the pesticides and gross things you don't want to eat are concentrated, but also, it's where all the lemony flavor is. Make sure you dry your lemons thoroughly before zesting, and maybe even let your zest dry before adding it to the flour mixture, because otherwise, the zest bits will want to clump and no one wants one bite of all zest and a pan of muffins that are less lemony right? Okay. Combine your lemon juice and milk. The juice will curdle the milk, that's okay. Beat in the egg and the melted butter. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in the raspberries. Raspberries are very delicate and will break if treated roughly. Unless you want your muffins to be all pink, go slowly and gently. Pour info muffin cups and bake for about 25 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to cool for 10-15 minutes. For those who want to experiment, and maybe confirm this as a dessert rather than breakfast product, you might consider a lemon glaze of 1/3 C sugar and 1/3 C lemon juice heated and stirred until clear. You would pour this over the muffins while still hot so they absorb the glaze.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fall Preview



Summer is coming to a close, but sadly, no one has mentioned this to the weather, which seems to have something to prove after the slow start with those temperate days in June. This past week has been brutally hot on the East Coast with oppressive humidity. The kind of air that closes in on you, sits on your skin and slowly smothers you. The kind of summer day where you just want to shout Come On, Rain.

So it was pretty ridiculous dedicated of me to whip up something that required having the oven at 425 degrees in my unairconditioned kitchen. But the thing is, I had leftover ricotta that needed using up, and for whatever reason the only thing I could think to do was make calzones.
I know, I even have a recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. But once I got the calzone idea in my head, I couldn't let go. Luckily they were delicious, and I made enough to have leftovers tucked away in the freezer for when fall actually arrives.

SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE CALZONE
adapted from Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals 2

2 C ricotta cheese (I use part skim)
pinch nutmeg
black pepper
1/2 C Parmagiano Reggiano
1 package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted (you can use canned, drained if you can't find frozen)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large dough - pick up at your local pizza store, most will sell it to you even if they don't have a case showing that they do.
2 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
tomato sauce for dipping.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Mix the ricotta, nutmeg and black pepper. Add the spinach to the ricotta and mix well. I never like how well the spinach is chopped, so I always run my knife through it a few times before I mix it in. No one likes stringy spinach pieces. Add the minced garlic. Chop your artichoke hearts so that their bite sized (maybe 1" chunks). Mix the artichokes into the ricotta and spinach.

Pizza dough is easiest to work with at room temperature. Divide your dough into quarters and reshape each into a small ball. Work with one ball at a time. Roll out the ball into a circle about 8-10" in diameter. Don't let the dough get too thin, it may break. Cover half the dough with your ricotta mixture. Top that with your cheese. It should look like this:



Then fold over the top, and pinch along the sides to close it. I sort of fold over the bottom edge so it covers the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Garlicky Roast Beans

When I was a little girl, my father used to travel for business. Not all the time, but sometimes. When he went away, my mother would not cook. I don't blame her. She cooked amazing meals whenever he was home, she deserved the break. At night, Daddy would call to check in on us and he'd always ask me if we ate our vegetables. My mother would be standing across from me nodding yes, regardless of what we'd had for dinner. When we hung up, she'd say "tomato sauce is a vegetable" or "the broccoli in the chicken with broccoli counts." I grew up just like my mother. I eat my vegetables. I do. But my husband is the one always checking, always asking, always making sure that I eat them.

All this to say, oh my god, I would eat these beans EVERY night. Without someone checking up on me. I'm also pretty sure that this treatment can be applied to other vegetables and I intend to find out. They are salty and crispy and garlicky, just delicious. I made them with these beans, called romano beans, that I found at the farmer's market. In theory they're available through the end of September, which is good, because as soon as Ryan had tasted one, his main concern was where our next beans were coming from. I'm not exactly sure myself, but we'll find them, oh yes, we'll find them.


GARLICKY ROMANO BEANS
from The Boston Globe

Ingredients:
1 lb romano beans
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 springs thyme halved
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450. I did mine in the toaster oven and only had it at about 425. Toss the beans with the garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil on a large sheet pan. Spread out in a single layer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until browned, turn them over about halfway through.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Hippo and Nigella


I am in love with this book. It is so incredibly full of delicious sounding recipes that I am tempted to start at the beginning and simply cook my way through it, skipping only Flora's Famous Zucchini Cake on page 18, because I detest zucchini. It could be my very own version of Julie and Julia, only it would be The Hippo and Nigella. I haven't actually made any thing from it yet (for many reasons including but not limited to, a lack of self-rising cake flour, a husband who had surgery on a bicep tendon and can only use one arm forcing me to devise more and more menus that do not require cutting, sheer summer induced laziness). Nigella is kind enough to provide several variations on each recipe to please those of us who always want to tinker with a perfectly well-tested recipe. Also, she is a delight to read. I've never seen any of her cooking programs, so this is my only Nigella exposure, but anyone who points out that her cake stuck to the pan a bit and you can just cover up any imperfections with extra confectioner's sugar is my kind of chef. Anyway. Go out. Get yourself a copy. Grab some self-rising cake flour and we'll meet back here. Okay?

Friday, July 31, 2009

For Catching Bears of Very Little Brain

These delicious honey chocolate crisps are possibly exactly what Winnie the Pooh would like if invited to tea. They are chewy, sweet without being too cloying and have just the right amount of chocolate. Elegant enough for adult parties, but simple enough to be a smackerel for any small person's tea party you might need to organize. But beware, you're likely to find you have to share, with friends, housemates, or small yellow bears.


CHOCOLATE HONEY CRISPS
from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf cookbook

INGREDIENTS:
For the cookies:
1 stick butter
1 cup honey
1 t baking soda
2 cups flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar (turn regular sugar into superfine by putting through your food processor)

For the topping:
1/3 C cream (I used heavy cream)
8 oz (approximately 1.5 C?) chocolate (Donna Hay says milk chocolate, I used semisweet chips, with 2 t sugar to sweeten it. I have no scale and using the chips needed a cup equivalent, I had more than enough topping).

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On the stovetop, heat up the butter and honey - this goes a bit better if you've sliced your butter, it melts faster than if you drop a whole stick in. Don't let it get too hot. When it's all melted together, add the baking soda. It will make it all carmely colored and foamy. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine your flour and sugar. Mix well. When the butter/honey mixture is ready and slightly cooled, pour it into you flour and sugar. This can be done mixing by hand, but it is a pretty stiff dough, so you'll get some exercise. The dough should be smooth and shiny. Use a tablespoon to measure out small balls of the dough. Roll the balls between your hands to make them smooth. The smoother the ball, the rounder the finished cookie. Place them on lined cookie sheets - I tried both parchment paper and foil and the parchment was a million times easier to get the cookies off. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. This is a very, very chewy cookie, so don't overbake. Allow the cookies to cool while you mix up the chocolate topping. In a small saucepan over low heat, add the cream and chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly. Place a teaspoon worth of chocolate in the center of each cookie.

My chocolate did not harden completely so these are not easy to store. Maybe it's just the heat. Oh well, I guess you'll just have to eat them quickly!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shrimp with Orzo


At some point, I fully expect the reader(s) of this blog to turn on me and insist I cook something that was not initially from an Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa cookbook. I sincerely hope that you can bear with me for at least one more recipe though, because this is so delicious, and despite its use of the oven, is pretty quick and painless to make even in the hot summer. You can make it ahead, so if you live somewhere that has cooler mornings, just whip it up and pop it in the fridge until dinner. Roasting gives the shrimp a great flavor, the lemon and olive oil dressing is refreshing and the creamy feta works so well with the crunch of the cucumbers. This recipe does use raw red onion, which I know not everyone can eat. If someone you know is anti-raw onion, just saute red onion in a smidge of olive oil until it's lost its bite. The recipe won't suffer that much.


SHRIMP WITH ORZO
modified slightly from Barefoot Contessa at home (really wonderful cookbook, you should buy it).

INGREDIENTS
1 lb shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1/2 lb orzo
1/4 c red onion minced
1 small cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c dill
4-5 oz feta crumbled
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put a pot of water on the stove, on high. Bring it to a boil. Cook the orzo according to the package (mine said 8 minutes). When done, remove and drain. Put in a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil, add 2 t salt and 1 t pepper and set aside so the orzo can absorb the dressing.

Spread your shrimp out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (one with an edge helps because they'll give off juices). Drizzle your shrimp with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in the oven. Roast for 6 minutes, flipping them when they're half way through.

While the shrimp are cooking prepare your onion, cucumber and dill. Add the onion, cucumber and dill to the orzo and mix. When the shrimp are done, add them too. Crumble the feta over the pasta and then mix again until everything is incorporated. Set aside to allow the flavors to blend. Ina says at least an hour, but I don't usually have that kind of time. Of course, you can always make it the day before, pop it in the fridge and take it out before you're ready to serve. Let it get back to room temperature though, don't serve it freezing cold.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Salmon with Asian Noodles

True confession time - I don't love eating fish. I love mussels, clams, crab, lobster, all manner of shrimp, crawfish and langoustine, but fish is not my favorite. Ryan loves fish, and so sometimes because I love him, and I know it's good for me, I'll make fish. This salmon is so good, that the first time I made it, I wanted to make it again almost immediately. A very good sign indeed.

SALMON WITH ASIAN NOODLES
Ingredients:
6 T tamari
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 dried thai chilis
juice of 1 lime
1 lb salmon (make an effort to get a piece that is as even in thickness as possible, it will make it easier to cook)
snap peas
shitake mushrooms
1-2 carrots julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t brown sugar
1/4 c white wine or vermouth
1 T mirin
lo mein noodles (I used between 1/4 and 1/3 of the package)
2-3 T oil (peanut is good, veggie is fine)

DIRECTIONS:
Warning, this is not the easiest recipe, partially due to my own half-ass recipe writing. It would help if you know how to cook fish and vegetables. Okay let's get started.
1. Marinade - Mix 6 T tamari, grated ginger, chili and lime juice in a baking dish or pie plate large enough to accomodate your salmon. Marinate the salmon for 5 minutes on each size.
2. Veggies for the noodles - feel free to use any kind you like! I used snap peas, carrots and shitakes. Just trim the snap peas and slice the shitakes. The carrots you could grate with a mandolin or julienne if you're up to the knife work. The snap peas you'll want to steam quickly either in your microwave or in a small pot, using a steamer for 2-3 minutes. Set aside the cooked snap peas and the cut carrots and mushrooms.
3. Put on the water for your noodles, it will take a while to boil.
4. While waiting for the water to boil, cook your salmon. RESERVE THE MARINADE! In a frying pan, add a T of the oil and swirl so the bottom is covered. Put the salmon on skin side up. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the fish. The fish should no longer be as glossy, it should be more opaque. Just keep an eye on it. When it's done, set it aside.
5. Wipe out the fish pan and throw in another T of oil and maybe 2 T of water. Add your garlic, shitakes, carrots. Cook, covered, on low to medium for 3-4 minutes.
6. About the same time as you start your veggies, start your lo mein noodles. They'll only take about 3 minutes, read your package.
7. When the noodles are cooked, drain and set aside.
8. When your mushrooms have given off their liquid and the carrots are tender, add the cooked snap peas. Add 2 t brown sugar and 1 T of mirin to the marinade you used for the salmon. Mix it up and then add to your veggies. Then add the 1/4 C of white wine or vermouth and raise to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Add your lo mein noodles to your veggies and sauce. If they are sticking together, gently use a pair of tongs and sort of swirl them around in a circular motion, this should loosen them a bit as they take in the sauce. When the noodles are fully coated, you're ready to serve.
9. Plate the noodles and top with a portion of salmon.

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