Thursday, December 30, 2010

Been An Angel All Year...

Well not quite an angel, but Santa (erm, my parents, Ryan and friend L) certainly hurried down the chimney with lots of kitchen goodies.

1. & 2. Reusable sandwich and snack bags - no more using up ziplocs at an alarming rate, these cute little bags will keep my lunch together and do the environment some favors in the process.

3. A three piece glass food storage set, because even though I have BPA free plastic, it's still plastic and eventually they're going to find out that plastic turns you into a newt or something.

4. A tiny dish for my salt and pepper mills to sit on so they don't shed salty and peppery bits all over my counter.

5. Itty bitty portable utensil set, so I can stop eating with a spork. Because the cafeteria only gives out sporks.

6. Nigella Express - you've already benefitted from her cheddar risotto, just think of all the other delicious recipes!

7. New candy thermometer (so meat thermometers no longer need to be inserted in white chocolate).

8. A second silpat mat! I can actually prepare a second batch of cookies while the first is still baking! More cookies! More cookies!

9. Everyday French Cooking by Christian Constant. I have been kicking myself for not buying this ever since Ryan and I left Paris (a few years ago?) We loved our meal at Cafe Constant, particularly the duck (which sadly isn't in the cookbook). It is not for the faint of heart though, it has a somewhat unthinkable number of foie gras recipes.

10. Digital meat thermometer - my current meat thermometer and I often have differences of opinion. I'm hoping I get along better with this one.

11. Empanada maker - this sucker is sweet! You use the bottom to cut your circle of dough, stick the circle on top, drop in some filling, and smoooooosh! Empanadas. Turnovers. Handpies.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post-Blizzard Blues


You should have been here Sunday. We were still camped out at my parents' house following Christmas festivities. I spent the morning warning my family about impending snow. They spent the morning ignoring me. By mid afternoon I was dashing between the windows crying "BLEEEEEZZARD, BLEEEEEEZZARD" and singing "Let it Snow." Everyone else was looking at me like I was crazy, but I was in heaven. Sadly, all good blizzards must come to an end, and this one meant a drive home to Philly and parking in a lovely gray slush drift. The only way to stave off a post-blizzard mood crash is to have some comfort food for dinner, and this definitely worked. I found the recipe in my Christmas loot - Nigella Express.

CHEDDAR RISOTTO
adapted slightly from Nigella Express

INGREDIENTS:
1 T butter
1 leek, pale green and white parts only, minced and rinsed to be free of grit
1 1/2 C arborio rice
1/4 C dry vermouth
1/2 T dijon mustard
4-5 C veggie stock (Nigella said 4 C, I ended up using an extra C of water to make the risotto, because it wasn't soft enough with just the 4 C).
1 C grated cheddar cheese
4 pieces bacon (for garnish)

gluten-free note: Vermouth should be gf, but feel free to substitute white wine if you're more comfortable with that or even stock. Check your mustard labeling.

DIRECTIONS:
Put the butter and leek in a large pan with high sides. In a pot next to it, heat up the stock. Melt the butter and cook the leek 2-3 minutes until softened. Watch closely so it doesn't burn. Add the arborio rice and cook another 2 minutes or so, turning frequently so the rice gets coated in butter and toasts a bit. Then increase the heat and add the vermouth. Allow it to cook off, add the mustard. Add the warm stock about a ladleful at a time. Stir the risotto after you add the stock until it is mostly absorbed (I wait until I can pull a spoon through the risotto without having liquid fill up the track I've made). Then add another ladleful or two. Keep doing this until the stock is gone and the rice is soft (not mushy) but still has some texture. It should take about 18-20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your bacon and toss it in a hot frying pan. Give it about five minutes to crisp up. Put on a paper towel to drain and set aside. When the risotto is soft enough, add the cheddar and stir. I used a nice sharp cheddar and was amazed at how cheesy the risotto tasted. I think the salt from the stock and the cheese worked beautifully together to sort of extend the cheese flavor. It was like macaroni and cheese, but with risotto not pasta. So tasty. I tossed the bacon on top and yum!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

All right, already!!

Last night at 10:54pm my mother received an e-mail from a friend asking for this recipe. It's my fault really. Last weekend Ryan and I went to my parents' house and had dinner with them and their friends. The pot roast was heaven, but the big winner of the night was this roast vegetable dish. I waited a whole two days before I made it again for us. And I had promised to blog it, but then the time just got away from me. So in order to stave off any other Christmas crises, here's the recipe.

ROAST CARROTS, TURNIPS AND FENNEL
from my mom
Serves 4 as a side dish
Cooking time: 1 hr

INGREDIENTS:
1/8 C olive oil
1 t salt
pepper
5 carrots
3 tennis ball sized turnips
1 smallish bulb fennel

DIRECTIONS:

Get out a small roasting pan, and preheat your oven to 425F. Peel the carrots and cut off the tips (top and bottom). Cut the bottom half off your carrots and cut that in halves lengthwise. Then cut the tops in half lengthwise and then again lengthwise. Next cut the fennel. Take off the furry fronds and the end of the bottom. Then chop into half inch strips. Put the carrots and the fennel in the roasting pan together. Finally, peel your turnips and cut off any icky ends. Chop them in half and then in pieces that are of uniform size, and about the same size as your carrot sticks. Add the 1/8 C of olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss well until everything is coated. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Then toss gently to give everything a chance to be in the best roasting spots. Cook for another 30 minutes, but check every 10 minutes or so to make sure things aren't burning. The fennel especially can burn if it you cut it too small. The carrots cooked the most slowly for me. If they're really not cooking at an even pace, you can always pull out the fennel pieces and put them back in for the last few to heat up again. You shouldn't need to do this, just giving advice should things go very wrong. If you cut things in pieces of the same size to start you really should be okay. At the end, taste for salt and pepper, add more as needed. Serve and wait a few days. See if you get demanding late night e-mails looking for the recipe. Breathe easily and send them a link here, I'm already on it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scenes from the Kitchen

Tuesday, December 14 - time undetermined: Focaccia runs out.

Friday, December 17 - 10 pm: Last of four dozen gingerbread cookies leave the oven.

Saturday, December 18 - 7:30 am: The gingerbread army starts receiving their royal icing.

Saturday, December 18 - 2:40 pm: Tupperware full of gingerbread plumets from the car dash onto the seat. Casualties are reported.

Sunday, December 19 - 9:45 am: The first of almost 150 pizzelles comes off the pizzelle iron.

Sunday, December 19 - 1:10 pm: The last of nearly 150 pizzelles comes off the pizzelle iron. Celebratory quiche is consumed.

Tuesday, December 21 - 6:50 pm: Almond bark goes into the fridge to cool.

Tuesday, December 21 - 10:25 pm: Candy thermometer stops working while I'm melting the white chocolate for peppermint bark.

Tuesday, December 21 - 10:26 pm Meat thermometer pressed into service for emergency candy duty.

Tuesday, December 22 - 10:38 pmCandy cane dust encrusts hands, counters, rolling pin.

Tuesday, December 22 - 11:28pm Exhaustion wins.

What does it look like in your kitchen these days? Mayhem? A Merry Martha Christmas? Moderately Messy? Something else entirely devoid of "M"s?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Make the Focaccia!


I'm going to go ahead and assume you're not like me. That you have a whirlwind of holiday parties to attend, a beautifully decorated house, profusions of gifts already purchased, wrapped and tucked under the tree and are simply relaxing by the fire sipping something decadent and doodling menu plans on your personalized stationery. Good for you. Clearly, all you need is an easy, impressive recipe to bring to your potluck parties, or add to your already high-end gourmet spread.

Of course if you are like me, and haven't started shopping, haven't heard even one carol that was not some crappy new-age elevator music rendition, are avoiding the only party you've been invited to, you probably need some carbohydrates to help you eat away Scrooge-y feeling burning inside your two-sizes too small grinchy heart.

Either way, this focaccia will make your season bright. Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial is an absolute whiz with breads and this one tempted me the moment I spied it on her blog. It did not disappoint. In fact, I made it Saturday and there is naught but a tiny corner left. I've altered her recipe only to account for the fact that I lack sea salt and bread flour and to give you the proportions of fillings I used. But feel free to experiment, I believe Celia would say that was the spirit of the thing in the first place! If you're going upscale you might want to use marinated artichokes and some kalamata olives. If you're eating away stress like me, seriously go with provolone and pepperoni - it's like a portable pizza. There are more delicious ideas for fillings on Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, so make sure to click the recipe link!


SERIOUSLY GOOD FOCACCIA
adapted from filled focaccia for a less impressive kitchen.


INGREDIENTS:
3 1/3 C flour (I used all-purpose, Celia says bread flour)
1 packet dried yeast
1 tsp table salt
1 1/3 C water
3 T + 1 t olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1/3 lb provolone chopped
1/2 C chopped turkey pepperoni
I absolutely would use more filling next time!

DIRECTIONS:
Combine flour, salt and yeast, then add liquids, mix. Then chop up all the goodies you plan on putting inside and add them. Blend gently. Then cover with wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. See? Sitting:


Knead gently. Do this in the bowl to keep stuff from flying off everywhere. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Pat out onto a normal sized cookie sheet covered in silpat or parchment. Let sit for 20 minutes again covered. At this point Celia recommends preheating your oven to maximum. My crappy but old school oven has a max well over 550F. I turned to 525F and smoke was coming out. Don't do that. 500 is about the best I can do with an intervention from a fan so that might have to be that.Poke holes in it with your fingers like so:


Lower the oven temperature to 425F and bake for 25 minutes. Celia advises rotating it once but I totally forgot and had no ill effects. Pretty no?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Monkeying With Tradition

Those of you who know me well know that I don't like to mess with tradition, particularly around Christmastime, but desperate times call for desperate measures. You see, Christmas has always meant a pork pie. My nana has always had a pork pie. Like any good French-Canadian, her mother used to make them for Christmas Eve. Of course, Nana Grenon wasn't much for a recipe, so she showed my grandmother what to do. I tried to write that recipe up last year, but there were too many variables. You see, in my family, a pork pie recipe works a bit like this: grind up some leftover pork with some onions, mix some salt and pepper and poultry seasoning with mashed potatoes, toss it all together with leftover pork gravy and tuck between two pie crusts. How much? How wet? How fluffy? The answer to all three is enough, which isn't exactly helpful for recipe writing.

But this year Nana had a bit of a challenge for me. She needs a pork pie recipe without pork so that her holiday guests can share in her favorite holiday meal. I'd needed to improvise one some time ago since Ryan doesn't eat pork. And so here I am, the ultimate traditionalist, monkeying with tradition.

You'll have to bear with me a bit for this recipe. It's really for my Nana, but I'm sharing it with you. I know that there are parts where she'll be thinking "I know that!" or "That's not how I'd do it!" So Nana, you're probably right, do what you think is best! And there are parts where you'll be wishing I gave better instructions, but I'm afraid it can't be helped. I did my best.

PORKLESS PORK PIE
This amount of filling makes a slightly scant 9" pie. I don't want to be guessing at proportions which is what I'd be doing if I wanted to make it more stuffed.

Using up Thanksgiving leftovers? No problem. Get 12 oz of cooked turkey instead of the raw. You'll need to grind it up using your meat grinder.

INGREDIENTS:
1 recipe dough
12 oz ground turkey - preferably a high ratio of fat, so 93% fat free if you can get it. 99% fat free will taste like cardboard. Also as this is not a whole package of ground turkey, you can use the rest for something else, white turkey chili would be great.
2 C mashed potatoes
1/2 a large onion chopped - this was about a cup for me
2 garlic cloves chopped
2-3 tablespoons butter
approximately a 1/4 C of homemade turkey gravy
salt and pepper
6 leaves fresh sage (Nana - I have these in the house, you can use poultry seasoning to taste if you prefer!)

DIRECTIONS:
Make the dough and put it in the fridge. In a large pan, melt a tablespoon of butter and add the garlic and onions and a small pinch of salt. Saute for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add the ground turkey and brown over medium heat, using your spoon to break apart the meat until crumbly. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus the well minced sage leaves. Thanksgiving leftover version - still cook those garlic and onions, but mix it in with your meat grinder turkey. Then mix it with the potatoes by hand, skip the food processing step below.

Now Nana usually combines the ground meat and the potatoes by hand, but I did it in my food processor. Don't over process because you don't want a paste, but make sure the mashed potatoes and turkey don't have any big chunks left. Working with warm or room temperature potatoes helps matters. The resulting mixture should be sort of fluffy and crumbly but should smoosh together if you press it. See below:


Moisten with a 1/4 C of turkey gravy. You don't want this too wet, just moist and flavorful. If it's too dry (a real problem especially if you started with dry mashed potatoes) use more gravy or some chicken stock in a pinch. Taste this. You have to. Add more salt and pepper as needed, clearly how much you add depends on how seasoned your potatoes, gravy and turkey were to begin with. Don't worry if it feels like you're adding a lot of salt. Anything that's made primarily from a mild flavored meat and potatoes needs salt.

Preheat the oven to 325 F (Nana cook this however you would normally, if you don't use 325/45 minutes tell me and I'll fix it in this recipe!).

Roll out the bottom crust and place in your pie plate. Fill with the turkey and potato mixture. Top with another tablespoon or so of butter, pinched off.


Then roll out the top crust, add the top, pinch the sides closed, cut slits in the top and bake for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden and the pie is warm.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gingered Cranberry Sauce

My mother-in-law is an incredibly lovely woman. This year she welcomed my family to her beautiful home for Thanksgiving. Since Ryan and I weren't arriving until the night before, she asked for a shopping list so that she could get the ingredients we needed for our Thanksgiving cooking. I dashed off an e-mail. She went to the store. The end result was that we had both whole cloves and fresh ginger in the house, but not the ground cloves or ground ginger that we needed for the pumpkin pie. I felt terrible because I hadn't said to get ground cloves and ground ginger, I just wrote cloves and ginger. My mother-in-law felt terrible because she hadn't known that I meant ground ginger and ground cloves. Then on Thanksgiving morning as we were wallowing in our respective guilt, she mentioned that she'd picked up a couple of bags of cranberries that she thought might be turned into sauce. A teensy tinesy little light went on in my head as I remember a friend of mine passing along a recipe for gingered cranberry sauce. I ran to the computer and in a true stroke of kismet learned that the recipe called not only for fresh ginger, but also whole cloves. I felt better. My mother-in-law felt better. And thankfully, the cranberry sauce was good. Delicious even. I may have been eating it straight out of the pot. And later out of the tupperware. But we won't discuss that. This is about heart-warming family moments at the holidays not dirty little secrets.

GINGERED CRANBERRY SAUCE
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Below is a doubled version of the recipe because we made a lot of sauce. But when do you make sauce except at Thanksgiving? And don't you usually have a lot of people there?

INGREDIENTS:
2 12 oz bags of cranberries
1 1/4 C sugar
1 1/2 C water
2" plump knob of ginger minced
8 whole cloves
juice of a clementine (the original recipe calls for zest of 2 oranges, but we only had clementines and they don't zest well, at least not with a box grater)

DIRECTIONS: Put your cranberries in a colander and rinse them. Go over them carefully and pull out any mookie ones (squished, white). Also pull off any remaining stems. Put in a saucepan with the sugar, water, ginger, cloves and clementine. Heat to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cook until the berries pop. I found this to be incredibly forgiving, I just let it cook while I was doing other things and stopped it when it looked saucey enough. If you don't want any chunks you could puree or strain this, but I liked it the way it was. Refrigerate before serving if you like it cold.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Auditions


Around here, the Thanksgiving menu changes once every few decades. I remember when I was quite small, my mother would make three kinds of stuffing. There was bread stuffing with olives onions,celery and sage (icky), mashed potato and hamburger stuffing (I think I would have a bite or two of this) and there was the good old southern cornbread and sausage stuffing. Somehow over the years the cornbread stuffing emerged victorious (thank heavens). We've gone through various pie phases as well. Although apple and pumpkin are constants, we only have mince pie when my Nana is around and we only get the heavenly mocha pecan pie if my Aunt Shirley is cooking. I know, I know, that makes it sound like we're flibbertigibbets when it comes to pie, but I should point out that the mince reigned from the beginning of my memory until sometime in the 1990s and Aunt Shirley's pie was in for the early 2000s. And now we're down to apple and pumpkin. So, it would be a rash act if I suddenly introduced rolls to our Thanksgiving table. And considering that I won't even be cooking in my own kitchen, I won't be whipping up any rolls this year. But I did audition a recipe, just in case you needed one. See how giving I am? It had absolutely nothing to do with my overwhelming desire to chow down on buttery goodness on a weeknight. Just pure selflessness. Really.

PS - You really don't want to make these on a weeknight unless it's for a special occasion. You probably don't have this kind of time. I don't have this kind of time either which is why when I tried to make them I completely messed up the timing for dinner and had to make emergency mashed potatoes just to put enough food on the table and then had to freeze and defrost the rolls the next night for baking. But we could pretend that I did that just so you'd know that yes, you can freeze them (before the rise) and then bring them to room temp, then rise them, then bake.

BUTTERY CHEWY ROLLS
adapted from Cooking Light, I'd tell you which one but I tore out the page ages ago

INGREDIENTS:

3 T sugar
1 package dry yeast
1 C warm milk (Cooking light recommends 100F to 110F, I don't temp my milk, just don't make it so hot that you kill your yeast).
2 3/4 C flour (approximately, more for flouring your board)
3/4 t salt
3 tablespoons butter softened (I used melted).

DIRECTIONS:
Combine the yeast and sugar and milk. Let proof for 5 minutes. It should increase in volume. I did this in the bowl of my stand mixer. Add the flour and salt and mix until a dough forms. You can either let your mixer knead it or do it by hand. I don't think I found it sticky like they said, so I did it by hand. You want it smooth and elastic. Cover your dough with plastic and let stand for 10 minutes.

Roll out the dough to a 12 x 10 rectangle. Smear it with butter. I used a pastry brush. Then fold it in thirds lengthwise so you have a 12 x 3 rectangle. Pop it in the freezer for 10 minutes. If you use the fridge instead when you get to the next step, the butter will ooze out of every bit of the dough and you will feel annoyed.

Roll out the dough again to a 12 x 10 rectangle. Fold it in thirds again, the same way. Pop it back in the freezer (they say 10 minutes). Don't freeze for too long or you will find it incredibly difficult to roll it back out. I over froze mine at this point and there was no way in heck I was going to be able to roll it back out to an 12 x 8 rectangle. NO WAY.

Roll the dough out to an 12 x 8 rectangle. Roll it up like a jelly roll (start at one edge, roll carefully to the other edge). Pinch the crease to seal. Since there was no way I was getting a 12 x 8 rectangle I just rolled it as big as I could and then rolled like a jelly roll. No ill effects. Slice into 12 discs. Pop in a greased muffin pan and let rise 45 minutes. Then bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Let cool.

I froze my rolls before the final rise. I bring them to room temp, allow time for the rise then bake.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Farm Fresh?

I grew up in a small town, the kind that seems almost made up, with one traffic light in the center of town, and the four corners of that intersection marked with a post office, a drugstore, a bank and a church. Outside the snug one mile border of the town, in almost every direction, there were farms. The closest was nothing but a small stand run by the parents of a boy I went to school with. But there were so many others. One lay across the border in another state and had delicious caramel apples. Another one was up in the hills and felt forever away from my small child perspective. But the one we used the most had corn you could feed to the animals, a cement outbuilding with a window where you could buy fresh cider and a small red painted farm store. We would go and look at the animals, and on the way back stop and my daddy would buy me an apple and polish it up on his flannel shirt. When I got a little older, they branched out and started selling cider doughnuts, plain and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Now that farm is packed weekends. People that moved into the subdivisions that have been slowly eating away open space pack up their children into their extra-large SUVs and descend upon my tranquil childhood farm like locusts. Last time I went I stood in a line that wrapped around the whole farm store and down the porch just to buy my cider doughnuts. I don't begrudge them their success; many local farms have been forced to sell, but I do miss the way thing were. Also sad? I read the ingredient list on the back on the doughnut bag. I don't think I could identify anything after the first three ingredients. So I think the time has come for me to part ways with the farm and their doughnuts. But I do have a back-up plan. Come next fall, expect to hear my opinion on these cider doughnuts from Smitten Kitchen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cheddar Apple Scones


If we're talking literally here, I am a Jersey girl. I was born in Jersey and raised in Jersey. But my heart, and often my tastebuds, belong to New England. I love the spicy taste of ginger ice cream which is so hard to find outside of New England. I made pilgrimages to Herrell's. I was fed bites from my father's Jordan's blueberry muffins (although not often, my father's pretty stingy with those muffins). I would give almost anything for the recipe to Ma Glockner's Sticky Buns (well, not anything, but if you have the recipe, contact me immediately. I will send cookies. Or Sticky Buns). And although I've never really done it myself, I get the old New England tradition of cheddar cheese on apple pie. My grandmother loved it.

And yes, I will sadly acknowledge that there are many people who are now living in New England who don't know about Jordan's, or Ma Glockner's, or think the cheddar/apple pie thing is hogwash, but they're probably the same people who don't know what Dirty Water is, and can't tell you where they were in 1986 when their hearts broke (a farm house in Antietam), or where they were 18 years later when Foulke threw to first to end an 86 year drought (Cleveland Circle). And I'll tell you this. I'm not sharing my cheddar cheese and apple scones with them. Not if they get to live up there while I'm down here in exile.

CHEDDAR APPLE SCONES
adapted from SmittenKitchen

Ingredients:
2 apples (I used MacIntosh, but I'd love to try Northern Spies)
1 1/2 C flour (plus at least 1/4 C for the board, this is a seriously sticky dough)
1/4 C sugar
1/2 T baking powder (I know, awkward to measure)
6 T cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 t salt (omit this if you use salted butter)
3/4 C cheddar
1/4 C heavy cream
1 egg

Directions:
Peel and core the apples and cut them into 16 pieces each. Seriously. Have fun counting with that. Then put them on a lined baking sheet (I used my silpat, you could use parchment) and bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Allow them time to cool.

In the bowl of your mixer, add the butter, apples, cheese, cream and egg. Mix on low to combine. Then sift together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Add to the mixer slowly, in batches. Once combine, remove dough from the mixer to a well floured surface.

Gently roll or pat your dough into a 6 inch circle. I just patted mine, no need to dirty the rolling pin. Then cut your dough into 6 equal wedges. It will now be a very delicate operation getting those scones off your counter, use a spatula if you need to, and transfer the scones to a baking sheet lined with a silpat mat or parchment paper.

Bake for 20-30 minutes (come on, you know my oven is running hot these days) until golden and firm. If you can, cool them on a rack before eating.

SmittenKitchen strongly recommends not saving them for more than 2 days. So I just froze my whole batch. They did take about 30 minutes from frozen, but if they were fresh I'd certainly want to check before that.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dinner and Movie


I have to say, I admire my parents' style of entertaining. Back in the day, they'd have friends in for fabulous dinner parties. The next morning, while my parents and their guests were still in bed, I would pad through the living room and dining room in my jammies surveying the damage. Empty bottles of wine were lined up along the mantle; small plates holding uneaten chocolate bonbons waited on the table (fine, maybe I stole a few for breakfast). So where was I whilst all the merry-making took place? My parents hired the best babysitter money can buy - Fred Astaire (actually, he was totally free). Since TV watching was a rare treat, and eating in front of the TV, absolutely verboten, my Saturday night dinner and a movie set-up was just about the biggest treat I could imagine. My father would make me a special pasta dinner and set me up with an old musical and I'd be in heaven. It became such a tradition for me that when I was old enough to babysit on weekends instead of stay home I really missed my special movie time.

Start out with Swing Time, one of my favorite Astaire-Rogers films, and another classic, chicken with shells. And while this very first dinner and a movie post is perfect for occupying small children so that you can have an evening to yourself on the cheap, stay tuned. I'm planning on featuring some of my favorite movies and meals that would perfect accompaniments, because even though I'm a grown-up now I still love settling down to a delicious dinner in front of a terrific film.


DADDY'S CHICKEN AND SHELLS
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:
1 large breast of chicken
6 slices bacon
1 C frozen peas
1/2 lb shells
1/2 C chicken stock
1/4 C - 1/2 C cream
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1/4 C Parmigiano-Reggiano

DIRECTIONS:
Chop the bacon into medium sized squares. Cook in a skillet for 5-7 minutes or until crisp. Set aside. Then raise the heat to high and add your tablespoon of olive oil. Sear for 2 minutes per side, then add the 1/2 C of stock and reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes or until cooked through. When it's done remove it from the pan and let it stand for a few minutes so the juices don't all run out when you cut it. After it has rested cut it into bite sized pieces. Cook the shells according to the package directions. When they're done drain them quite thoroughly. Make sure to shake them a bit to get the water out. Then melt 2 T of butter over them and mix gently to coat. Cook off half the chicken broth, then add 1 C of frozen peas and cook them for 3 minutes. Add the 1/4 C of cream and the chicken to the broth and peas. Add the shells and 1/4 C parm. Add the bacon. Mix gently and serve.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

This is Halloween! This is Halloween!


I'm not sure it's a good sign that it's 8am and I already can't get the song from Nightmare Before Christmas out of my head! However, if you don't already have Halloween cookies, you may need to start making them now, because in my opinion this is really a whole day affair. Between the mixing of the dough, the refrigerating of the dough, the rolling of the dough, the cutting of the cookies, the freezing of the cookies, the baking of the cookies, the cooling of the cookies, the mixing of the royal icing, the dyeing of the royal icing, the frosting and decorating of the cookies, you can absolutely keep yourself (or your kids) occupied until the witching hour.

I used Martha Stewart's Maple Roll Out Cookie recipe for the dough. It's really delicious, but a the flavor is a bit delicate and I felt it was a bit of a waste on the ghosties who needed to be drowned in royal icing anyway. Far better to save the maple recipe for something unfrosted. Also, and I'm not sure why this didn't occur to me before, but your brain is really anticipating "sugar cookie" when you bite into one, so there's always this element of "huh" followed by "Oh yeah! This is yummy!" which is perhaps a bit more mental processing than I'd like with my dessert.

What you need to know about using Martha's recipe:
I know this is probably not going to come as a surprise to you, but the lady is a liar. I made a half recipe, because being a sane rational person who is not giving gift boxes to everyone I'd ever met, I don't need
8 dozen cookies. The half recipe made 2 and a half dozen and it's probable that I rolled them too thin to try to eke out that many. And although this is certainly enough for the two of us, it's possibly fewer than you want. If do you choose to make half recipe, really try to savor the moment where you need half an egg yolk. Afterward, try to figure out who you can feed three quarters of an egg to - my answer? Ryan. You also might want to start with a shorter cook time. Mine took about 10 minutes. Blame my oven or how thin I rolled them - either way we would have been looking at some burnt treats if I'd let it go as long as her.

Colored Pumpkins, oh boy!!:
To get half your cookies pumpkin colored, separate your dough in half. Set half aside for ghosties. Then mix 5 drops yellow food coloring and 4 drops red of McCormick Assorted Food Coloring. You can blend with a mixer a bit, but do finish kneading by hand to get rid of any streakiness.


I am a complete disaster when it comes to royal icing. Seriously. Don't listen to me. I'm not showing you the ghosts that didn't come out well. Also, I made a really small amount because I didn't actually need that much, which meant whipping by hand. Stupid. Update: You'll be a happier person if you check in with Words to Eat By. Debbie knows her stuff.

Royal Icing Advice:
If you're making them for anyone who is squicked out by raw egg, or you know is a child, pregnant woman, elderly person, person with a compromised immune system, use meringue powder. I used the recipe on the back of the meringue powder container. Not fancy, but functional. I piped on details by putting the icing in plastic baggies and poking a teensy hole in the corner. Mix your color in a bowl, not the baggies, ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. They are sadists and are probably cackling evilly as they write that direction. I poured the icing over the ghosts which takes somewhat more icing than you may think. Also let that harden completely before doing eyeballs. It takes a few hours to harden.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stars Align


You know how I'd been thinking about my repertoire, and how I didn't have enough fancy things that I could make for company? Well, about a week ago, someone was asking about for a scallop/mushroom/white wine recipe and something just clicked. Didn't my dad make some type of delicious scallop-y mushroom thing? The next night, I was a guest at my parents house and lo and behold my father was making exactly that for dinner. So for both my own purposes, and for the good of others, I followed him around as he cooked, diligently scribbling on a small scrap of paper and peppering him with questions. The result: We have a recipe! Now you (and I) can cook fancy scallops any time we feel like.

FANCY SCALLOPS
adapted from Julia Child - Julia doesn't have mushrooms. Poor Julia.
serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 lbs crimini/baby bella mushrooms (buttons only in a pinch) or 1 lb fresh chanterelles (if you'd like to go super upscale - DO NOT attempt with dried, it won't work)
1 1/2 lbs sea scallops
1 clove of garlic minced
1/2 C minced yellow onion
2 T shallot minced
1/4 t dried thyme
1/2 bay leaf
1/2 C flour
1/2 T olive oil + 1 T olive oil
1 T butter + 1 T butter + a bit more for greasing casserole dish
1/2 C vermouth or white wine
1/3 emmenthaler or gruyere
1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Prepare your scallops. Place them in a colander and rinse, then pat them dry. Be thorough. Then carefully trim off the foot/muscle area. Halve or quarter them (depending on size), you want uniform scallop chunks of about 1". Quarter or halve your mushrooms so they are in chunks only slightly smaller than the scallops. Mince up your garlic, onion and shallot. Prepare two skillets. In one, toss a 1/2 T of olive oil and the mushrooms. Cook on medium to sweat out the liquid from the mushrooms. In the other, melt the butter and cook the onions on medium low until they are translucent (about 5 minutes), then add the garlic and shallot and cook a few minutes more, then set aside. When the mushrooms are golden and there is no liquid in the bottom of the mushroom pan (5-7 minutes) set aside your mushrooms. In another small bowl, combine the thyme and bay leaf. Grate your emmenthaler. See?

Now, back to the scallops. Season with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. In a large ziploc bag, combine the scallops and the flour. Gently shake to coat the scallops. Remove scallops from the bag and shake off all excess flour. Get a pan very hot and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining tablespoon of butter. When the pan sizzles with the addition of a drop of water, it's ready for the scallops. Sear for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side, you want a nice crust. DO NOT attempt to move the scallops before that time, or you will ruin everything. When the second side is seared and has a nice crust, add the vermouth or white wine, the shallot, garlic, onion, bay, thyme and mushrooms and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 5 minutes, covered. Remove the cover (and the bay leaf). The sauce should have thickened nicely, if not, reduce a bit more. Pour into a greased pyrex or casserole, sprinkle with the cheese (emmenthaler is terrific, if you use gruyere, use less as it is a bit stronger). Broil until the cheese is bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bedeviled Cauliflower Mac & Cheese


I'm not entirely sure about this, but I think I have already confessed to you that Ryan and I watch an inordinate number of cooking shows? Particularly cooking contest shows like Dinner Impossible, The Next Iron Chef, Chopped and The Next Food Network Star? Anyway, we started watching Ten Dollar Dinners after Melissa D'Arabian won The Next Food Network star a few years ago. I watch it because her recipes tend to turn out really well. Ryan watches it so he can heckle. He takes exception to what they claim costs under $10. Recently she roasted a chicken with potatoes, a side of swiss chard and made a dessert with Nutella and called it under ten bucks. Around here the going rate for a jar of Nutella is about $6.00 (yes, I know there's some serious price gouging in these parts). Even if you're not using the whole thing, you still have to shell out the six bucks to get it. Also, she always talks about proteins going on sale. Maybe it's this whole East-Coast-big-city thing I've got working, but I've yet to see sale chicken or steak. The one thing I do have though, is the dollar vegetable bags at the produce stand in Reading Terminal Market. This week Ryan scored a cauliflower for $1.50. I know, not a dollar, but it was a huge whomping cauliflower. With the cauliflower and the pasta being the main ingredients in this dish, I'm pretty sure we've got a real candidate for Ten Dollar Dinners here.

BEDEVILED CAULIFLOWER MAC & CHEESE
I'm calling this bedeviled because the spicing is pretty much the same as if you wanted to devil something else, like chicken or eggs.

INGREDIENTS:
4 C chopped cauliflower
1/2 lb medium shell pasta
3 T butter
1 3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese (use bright orange if you'd like your bedeviling to turn out holiday colored)
1 T flour
1/2 C milk
1 T dijon
1 t paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
topping: 1/3 C breadcrumbs + 1-2 T melted butter

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 325F. Chop your cauliflower into shell sized florets. I use a steamer basket in a pot, and started from ice cold - it took about 15 minutes until tender. If you add the cauliflower when the water is boiling it shouldn't take nearly as long. Or maybe I just had a rough day. I'd check it starting at about 5 minutes.

Boil water for the pasta and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside. In the pasta pot (I used a huge one), melt the 3 T of butter. Add the flour and stir well. Cook for 2-3 minutes over low heat until the flour is golden. Slowly add the milk, stirring or whisking well to incorporate the flour. Continue to stir and add the dijon, paprika and cayenne. Then slowly add the cheese until the cheese is all melted in the sauce. Add the cooked shells to the sauce and toss gently. Finally add the steamed cauliflower and again toss gently until everything is coated in cheesy goodness. Pour into a greased casserole dish (I used a 1.5 quart dish). On the stove top melt the 1-2 tablespoons of butter for the topping. Add the breadcrumbs. Toss a few times until the breadcrumbs are golden and fluffy. Top the cauliflower and shells with the breadcrumbs and bake for 20-30 minutes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pay Attention

The other day at lunch I was chatting with some friends about how I simply feel as though I have too much to keep track of. So much in fact, that I worry that perhaps some of the things I am supposed to be responsible for will ooze out of my brain and trickle out my ears. There was a general consensus that LISTS! would save the day. "Write a list!" They said. Amateurs.

A List of My Current Lists:
1.
to do for work (on my desk at work)*
2. daily to do (in my planner)
3.
dinner menu for the week (Excel spreadsheet)
4. b
ooks for my book blog and which week to read them (Excel spreadsheet)
5.
library book due dates (on my computer)
6.
a list of my current lists (you're reading it baby)
7. a list of epiphanies I had in SuperFresh (stay with me)

*Confession: Sometimes my friend L and I keep lists for each other. So that I know what she has to do and she knows what I have to do.

It's not enough. Do you know how I know this? Last weekend, as I walked through SuperFresh, I eyed a giant display of sundae topping sauces, you know, caramel, butterscotch, hot fudge. And I had a moment of smug glee as I thought of the homemade caramel sauce sitting at home, and how I could pour it over a sundae, or dip apples in it or what-have-you. At which point I had so many epiphanies I nearly got whiplash.

1. There is no caramel sauce at home.
2. I poured all the caramel sauce into the brownies.
3. The recipe called for half the caramel sauce to go into the brownies.
4. This is why the brownies NEVER SET.
5. If it takes me TWO WEEKS to realize that I screwed up a recipe, I have TOO MUCH stuff inside my head.

So folks, today you will not be getting my version of "turtle brownies". You will get a link to She's Becoming Doughmesstic's Sea Salt Caramel Brownies with a firm admonishment to follow the damn directions. If your brain is not leaking out your ears, you could add some pecans to make them more turtle-y. I'll be here, starting some new lists.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

J-U-I-C-E spells Love


Let me tell you a love story. Once a long time ago, at a party, a thirteen year old girl with beautiful dark curls, fell into the lap of a handsome blue-eyed young man. He picked up a gold cigar band, slid it on her finger and told her he'd give her a real one someday. Six years later, he made good on his promise, and they were married. Like many couples they went through some difficult times, but their marriage lasted for over 60 years. My grampy is gone now, but yesterday would have been their 66th anniversary.
My grampy would show my nana he loved her in a million different ways. He would always call her "my bride". She loved having birds in the yard, so he would trap squirrels and then drive several towns over to release them so they wouldn't scare off the birds or monopolize the feeders. All over the house that he built, in the strangest places, there would be tiny notes, saying "Alice, I love you." She found one of them after he passed away. It was on a small light that had been mounted in a closet in their old house. But I remember one ritual he always had as one of the quieter ways he said "I love you."

My grampy was a carpenter and he woke up very early. Even earlier than any early bird, very small, grandchildren that might be visiting. Every morning he would bring my grandmother a glass of orange juice, with a tiny dish on top to protect it. When I was small, he would do the same for me. In that one small glass of juice, there were a million I love yous.

We should all be so lucky to have a love like theirs.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Simple Comfort

This is what to have for dinner if you are feeling like a fractious five year old. Or possibly what to make for dinner if you have a fractious five year old. It is not fancy or complex. It is simple and comforting. There is nothing unexpected or deep about it. Just a nice simple chicken and pasta casserole. It would be great to have for dinner if you've had a bad day.

If, for example, you'd spent a solid 10 minutes hyperventilating this morning because when you walked to where you'd parked your car, it WASN'T THERE. And you realized that not only was your car GONE, but there was NO ONE you could call for help, because your husband was in New York, or Boston, or somewhere in between New York and Boston, and your parents were in Canada and you know NO ONE in the stupid city you live in. And you couldn't decide whether you should call 911 or the tow lot first. And you knew that if (when) your husband found out your car was stolen he would say "that's it, that's enough, we're moving out of this hellhole" never mind that we have a lease, no movers and no where to go. And besides all that, HOW WERE YOU SUPPOSED TO GET TO WORK WITH NO CAR?? And about when you'd decided to head home and start calling the tow lot and 911 and your boss and possibly Canada, you walked one more block and found your poor, sad, 15 year old car tucked into a parking space and breathed a sigh of relief so great it probably reached Canada...If that had been your morning? You definitely would want this for dinner. I wouldn't know that first hand of course. I'm just guessing.


BAKED CHICKEN AND DITALINI
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

INGREDIENTS:
1 C ditalini
1 -2 C cooked chicken breast, diced. I used one very large breast, probably yielding about 1.5 C
14 oz of canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 C onion chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T oregano
1 1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese
2-4 T olive oil
1-2 T butter
1/4 C bread crumbs
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Put a pot of water on the stove, and bring it to a boil. Cook 1 C of ditalini according to the package directions. Drain, toss with 1 T of olive oil and set aside.
Put some olive oil in a pan and bring to medium high heat. Salt and pepper your chicken and chop it into medium sized pieces, like this:Add your chicken to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes until done, turn often. Chop into bite sized pieces. In another pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil, the chopped onions and the chopped garlic. Cook for 3 minutes until the onions and garlic and softened. Add the 14 oz of tomatoes and the oregano. Stir until mixed. Butter an 8x8 baking dish. Add the ditalini and chicken to the sauce. Add the grated mozzarella and stir until well combined. Pour into the baking dish. In a small pan, melt the butter and add the bread crumbs. Toss until they are all buttery and golden. Off heat, add the parm, then use that to top the chicken pasta mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and melty, like so:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What's in Your Repertoire?

I just finished this rather grating book Cooking for Mr. Latte by food writer Amanda Hesser. In it we are treated to her special brand of snobbery which is equally applied to food and people. The one part I was interested in was this: building a repertoire. Amanda was feeling like she never knew what to cook for dinner parties or even every night cooking, because she was always chasing after the next best recipe, the next new recipe (of course, this was when she deigned to stay in and cook, which was not often). I know that feeling myself, because as a food blogger there's almost a requirement to keep cooking new things. If I don't, I have nothing to say to all of you and then you will go away and leave me and I would cry. Also, I like trying new things which keeps me from getting in too much of a rut. But I was interested in giving some thought to my go-to dishes. What do I make for special occasions? Several times a month? Which recipes do I know by heart? In Amanda Hesser's world of fine dining I got the impression that what you cook a few nights a week and what you cook for a dinner party were the same thing, all of which require at least 10 ingredients and formal cooking school training to execute, but in my world fancy and a few times a month rarely collide.

Here's my final analysis:

Fancy Dinner
Look, I don't ever have anyone to dinner except StellaCarolyn and she's often accompanied by her husband (who doesn't eat either of my fancy dinner options) or her mother (who always has a very specific idea of what she's read about here that she wants me to make - last time it was fried chicken) thus, this is only what I make for special dinners for me and Ry.


So, either it's duck with polenta or pommes anna

or a recipe for Sea Scallops I've adapted from Ming Tsai that I've never written about here, even though I've made it for New Year's Eve several year's running. Maybe this year I'll stop to tell you about it.

Clearly, I need more fancy meals! I do know how to roast a chicken, but I never do it the same way twice, so I feel like it doesn't count.

Potluck Go-Tos
Again, my friends are not Amanda's Hesser's (also, my budget is clearly not hers), and therefore canapes with fresh pate are not in the cards.

It's Tyler Florence's Sesame Noodles all the way. They always get rave reviews, and since they don't need reheating they're perfect.

If I know things can be heated, I might bring my mother's macaroni and cheese.

Do I need to point out that I'm not invited to potlucks often? I don't think where I live is potluck country.

Weekday Warriors
I cook most days. So what gets made over and over? A few times a month?


Truthfully, the dinner I make most is breaded chicken. And it's not on this blog. Mostly it's not on this blog because I could do it in my sleep. I probably have. But when I make it, it's often because I'm so tired, and so I can't possibly be bothered to time things or measure things. It's not incredibly special, so please don't feel like I'm holding out on you.

We also eat some form of turkey burger more than once a month. I make them regular, with leeks and bacon, asian style or greek style.

And once it's fall/winter, I definitely make baked shells and sausage a lot.

I really enjoyed mulling this over and definitely see some holes I want to fill. It may require more recipe testing, but it also may require remaking some things until I feel more comfortable with them.

What about you? Do you have a repertoire? Something fancy in case you have to cook for a snobby food writer? Something you cook dead on your feet after a long day at work because it doesn't require any thing? A dish everyone begs you to make for a pot luck?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy October!!


I've always been a big fan of October. The World Series, livable temperatures, beautiful foliage, adorable children in Halloween costumes, pumpkins - what's not to like? I love October so much that I always try my hardest to squeeze every bit of Octobery goodness out of it. I watch Halloweeny movies to get in the mood. Over on Between These Pages I'll be blogging about all sorts of witchy and wizardy children's books. And here is the perfect accompaniment to all of my festive plans - Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. Oh yes. They are every bit as good as they sound.

PUMPKIN SNICKERDOODLES
a mad hybrid of Smitten Kitchen, We are not Martha with some necessary adjustments by me.
Makes an obscene 5 dozen (or a bit more) cookies. Half of mine are in the freezer waiting.

INGREDIENTS:
3 1/2 C flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt (only if using unsalted butter)
1 stick of butter
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C +3 T canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 eggs
for rolling:
1/4 C sugar
2 T cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 400F. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin and mix well. Add the eggs and stir until incorporated. Sift together the flour, baking soda and cream of tarter. Add half the dry mixture to the wet. Stir. Add the rest. Stir. You will now have some incredibly wet batter. It will be beautiful and orange and it will taste delicious. Stop eating it. Don't you know there's a salmonella scare people? Stay away from the raw egg!Refrigerate for 30 minutes. At least. Please. You'll thank me. Roll into small balls and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture like so:

Arrange on a baking sheet. These do not spread as much as traditional snickerdoodles, but still need a bit of space. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. Please all your little pumpkin eaters.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Unpretty


I seem to be going through a phase where nothing I cook turns out very pretty. I blame this on my oven. I even rotated the pie a few times, but alas and alack, it did not get that uniformly golden glow that a pie should have. Luckily, it was still pretty tasty. I say pretty tasty because I was expecting a bit more, but ultimately, it tastes like chicken pot pie. But with more leeks. And mushrooms. Which shouldn't have been unexpected really, seeing as I used my chicken pot pie recipe and added more leeks and mushrooms. I know. I worry about me too sometimes.

CHICKEN, LEEK AND MUSHROOM PIE
inspired by fig jam and lime cordial

INGREDIENTS:

1 large or 2 small chicken breasts
1 C half and half or cream (Divided, 1/2 C for poaching chicken, 1/2 C for pie)
1-2 T olive oil
2 leeks
1 container mushrooms (what are those, 8oz?)
4 carrots, cut into coins
1/4 C white wine or vermouth
salt and pepper
1 T flour
2 t thyme

1 half recipe dough
1 egg, or 1/4 C egg beaters mixed with water for egg wash

DIRECTIONS:
Salt and pepper the chicken. Add 1/2 C of cream or half and half. Cook at 350 for 20-30 minutes, don't allow it to dry out. You want it moist. When your chicken is done, cut or tear it into bite sized pieces. While the chicken is cooking, slice the leeks into rings and soak in a bowl of water to remove the sand and grit. In a pot, boil some water. Add your carrot coins and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the coins and set aside. In a large pan, add 1-2 T olive oil. Heat to medium. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes until softened a bit. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Add the tablespoon of flour stir so that it coats the leeks and mushrooms, then cook for 1-2 minutes. Next raise the heat a bit and the poaching liquid from the chicken and the white wine. Give it 1-2 more minutes. Add the carrots and chicken. If it looks dry add up to an additional 1/2 C of cream. Increase your oven temperature to 425. Put your chicken mixture in a large pie dish. Roll out the dough to cover the top. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Planning Ahead

Now that the school year is back in full swing, I simply must start planning meals again. Why plan? For several reasons:

1. I am a lot more likely to make dinner after a long day at work if I already know what I'm supposed to do. There's nothing that forces my hand more than having to make a decision when I'm exhausted. Because when I make decisions while tired and hungry, things get ugly.

2. My brain can not keep track of ingredients. These days money is tight for many of us, and one really good way to stretch your dollar is to not throw out food. Forget not buying expensive, think about how many things you've already bought that you've had to throw out. It kind of turns my stomach. Planning ahead helps me get items out of my fridge and into my dinner. This week, I need to use up a leftover leek from the chicken, leek and mushroom pie I made (I promise to post about that soon). I have some half and half left over from that too that needs using. Also, tonight I'm making something that requires half a can of canned tomatoes, so I planned something to use up the other half of the can.

3. Staving off boredom is another good reason to plan. If I know what I'm making I can keep us from eating chicken four days in a row or pasta every night. Granted there are times when I want to eat pasta every night, but I'm trying to curb those urges.

So with all that in mind, here's the week's plan:

Sunday: I'm trying out Baked Chicken and Pastina. Hopefully with some homemade breadsticks.

Monday: I need to use up some ricotta, so it's Lemon Ricotta Pancakes for me!

Tuesday: In an effort to use up leeks and cream, I'm going to make Pasta with Pancetta and Leeks. Except with turkey bacon instead of pancetta.

Wednesday: To use up the can of tomatoes I will have opened on Sunday (and to get a night off cooking), I'm asking Ryan to make turkey chili. Yum.

Thursday: I'm keeping my options open. Maybe portobello burgers. Maybe portobellos stuffed with artichokes. Either way, it will be vegetarian and mushroomy.

Friday: Turkey Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes. It takes a long time to cook, but the preparation is pretty easy. Just what I need for a Friday night.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not as Nice as My Mother's Pommes Anna


When I was little, my mother would only make Pommes Anna for special occasions. It's this heavenly melt-in-your mouth conglomeration of potatoes and butter with a crispy crust. Amazing. But you had to wait for it. Maybe it would appear along side the roast beef at Christmas. Or perhaps if a special guest were in town. Because Pommes Anna was a lot of work. At least when I was little it was. Because back then, we had no fancy slicers. The potatoes had to be sliced by hand. And for a Pommes Anna, they have to be uniform thickness. Basically, a huge pain in the you-know-what. And then, they take a long time to cook. The potatoes must be allowed to reach that beautiful, melty state.

So, I don't have a lot of time. I have almost no special occasions. What I do have is a desperate need to eat Pommes Anna. And so I learned to adapt. I use my mandoline slicer to make quick work of the potatoes. I use my baby 6" cast iron to make a Pommes Anna that is just right for two people (yes it could go for four in a pinch, but people will want seconds). I start it on the stove to hasten cook time. And while the result is not as perfect as my mother's, it's still plenty delicious, and more weekday friendly.

POMMES ANNA
for two to four people
Do not attempt without a cast iron pan!!

INGREDIENTS:
2 large Idaho potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
butter - you call the exact amount, but we're talking tablespoons here, this is not a diet dish

DIRECTIONS:
Use a fancy slicing device to get nice thin, uniform rounds of potato. In your baby cast iron, throw down a healthy (at least a tablespoon) pat of butter. Turn the heat up to medium and make sure the butter melts and coats the bottom of the pan. Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Begin to assemble your Pommes Anna. This dish gets flipped when done, so the first slices in the pan should be pretty. Save your weird off-sized ones to hide in the middle layer. Overlap beautiful uniform round pieces, like so:
Then add another layer of potatoes, this time covering the empty places. After every 2 layers, add a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of pepper. After about every 3 layers, add another pat of butter, breaking it up with your fingers into little dabs, like so:I'm a little random in my administration of the salt, pepper and butter. Just as long as you use enough. It can get rather peppery though so don't use a lot, it shouldn't be overwhelming, despite what my picture shows. When you've layered off all the potatoes and butter, cover the pan with foil and pop it in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife goes in with no resistance. Carefully slide a knife around the edge then flip onto a plate. This is where it matters if you have a good cast iron pan or not. Mine usually pops out. It has a gorgeous presentation provided that you watch it and don't leave it in one place on a gas burner for too long while doing other things. If you do that you get a burnt spot like me. Also, feel free to throw a bit of cheese between the layers, like parm or gruyere. But it really doesn't need anything. Just potatoes, butter, salt and some high heat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Formal Introduction

Any repeat readers among you know that we have long established my laziness, procrastination and scatterbrained tendencies as my leading character traits. So it should come as no surprise to you that it's taken a longer than polite period of time for me to get around to formally introducing you to my dear friend's new food blog. Oh sure, I tossed out a mention of it, but I didn't get much beyond that.

And this is bad because she is very much one of my very best friends. She's the one I call when I have something important to say, but she's also the one I call when I have absolutely nothing to say. She is my confidence. I cannot tell you how many nice things she says about me a day, but it's enough to make me feel like I have my own dedicated cheerleading squad. And these days, she's been my friend long enough that she's becoming my memory. Which is good, because someone's going to have to tell the stories of when we were pretty young things, I remember nothing (and admit even less). I've even spent countless hours filling her in on things that happened before we were friends so that she can remember that too.

In addition to being a stellar friend, she has actual culinary qualifications. Remember all those times I've mentioned my friend, who was a professional baker? Well that's her. The one whose grandmother actually knew Julia Child? Her again. How can you turn down talent like that?

The sum total of my foodie cred is that I'm the girl guys would ask back to their houses for the after party because I could make Kraft mac and cheese without measuring implements. That's all I've got. Better at using a stove than your average frat boy.

So basically, skedaddle on over to My Family Table. Be careful where you sit though. We have a very regimented seating hierarchy. Being close to our host is only part of our goal. We're also trying to make sure she hasn't run out of mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Suddenly Fall


Frankly, with all the complaining some of us did about the heat this summer, we were asking for it. The first weekend after Labor Day was cold in these parts. On Sunday we had the added bonus of a steady drizzle. Honestly, I couldn't have been happier. What better way to while away the day than curl up on the sofa and watch football while tomato sauce burbles away on the stove. This absolutely satisfied my meatball cravings.

Speaking of which, can we talk about my meatball cravings? Point of fact: as a child I did not like meatballs. Not even a little. I don't mean to cast aspersions on my mother's cooking skills, it was just the meatball itself. They just always seemed so squishy. And I did not like certain kinds of squishy. (Who are we kidding, I still don't. See: bananas, eggplant and rare hamburger.) But at some point, I outgrew this. Not only did I outgrow it, I just kept on heading in the other direction. Currently, there are three meatball recipes on this website. This makes four. I swear I'm not obsessed.

EAT MEATBALLS
adapted from For the Love of Cooking
NB: THIS TAKES ABOUT 3 HOURS TO MAKE. I wasn't kidding about the football game and the rainy day.

INGREDIENTS:

for the sauce (PS - this is what takes so long, so if you want to speed things up, buy sauce!)


2 tsp oil
1/2 of a medium onion
6 oz of mushroom (I used baby bellas)- basically this is an 8oz pack with 6-7 mushrooms pulled out
3-4 cloves of garlic
42 oz of crushed tomatoes (this is about a 28oz can and a half)
1 T balsamic
1 t oregano
1 t sugar
at least 1 t red pepper flakes, but more if you like it on the spicier side.

for the meatballs/penne
1 box of penne
enough sauce (see above) - otherwise, I bet you'd need at least a full jar.
1 lb ground turkey (or beef)
6-7 mushrooms (what was left from the sauce)
1/4 C of onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 C bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 C Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese - 1/4C for the meatballs, 1/4 C for the topping
1 t salt
pepper
1 - 2 C shredded mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS:http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
for the sauce
Using a food processor, chop the onion, mushroom and garlic until it is a large dice. In a large pot, heat up your oil to medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, mushroom mixture and cook until soft 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer covered for 2 hours (although I tasted mine after one, and it was really good, so you could probably quit there).

for the rest
Preheat your oven to 350F. Cook the penne according to the directions on the box. In a large bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and egg. Let this stand while you prepare the other ingredients. Blend the mushrooms, garlic and onion in the food processor until finely chopped, but not a paste. Mix this into the bread crumb and egg mixture. Add the 1/4 C of parm, plus the salt and pepper. Finally add the ground turkey and mix gently. Form into small meatballs. In a large skillet, cover the bottom with a thin layer of oil and heat to medium high. Add the meatballs and cook until they are browned on all sides, maybe 15-20 minutes. When they are done, set them aside. Mix the penne in with the sauce. Then VERY gently, stir in the meatballs, you do not want them to break. Then even more gently stir in about half of the mozzarella cheese. Carefully spoon into a large baking dish (I used my lasagna pan). Top with the remaining mozzarella and the final 1/4 C of parm. Cook for 20-30 minutes, but don't overcook or the cheese will dry out a bit.

Yummy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Disappointment and Pondering

This is a beautiful honey cake. I made it using a fairly majorly altered version of this recipe. Sadly, as pretty as it is, it's just not for me, there just wasn't enough going on there - which is odd, because as I was mixing together the nine million ingredients I was thinking there was too much going on there. At any rate, I ended up very disappointed that I hadn't made my usual (but very nontraditional) little honey cupcakes.

Now I'm left with an underwhelming bundt to finish off and also a bit of roast chicken. (Come on, I know I'm not the only one in this position around Rosh Hashanah). The obvious choice right now is to make soup. But I'm feeling awfully whiny about what kind of soup. Also I kind of want meatballs. I know, not helpful. Since I'm being less than helpful, perhaps you can help sort it out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Less Than Eloquent

About 12 hours ago, I left my house to go to work. I've spent about an hour and a half driving today (hey, that's my commute) and had over an hour of physical therapy. I sat down about 10 minutes ago. I am exhausted and my verbal abilities are currently at the fbbbt, fbbbt, fbbbt level. I fully intend to be asleep within the next two hours. Lest you think I'm superwoman and somehow managed to whip up this quiche in the midst of all that, allow me to disillusion you. I did not. This is something I made last week. Back when I had time to myself and energy and eloquence.

SAUSAGE AND BLUE CHEESE QUICHE

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 C thinly sliced sweet (Vidalia) onions
1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 links of sausage, casings removed (for me this was between a 1/2 and 3/4 of a pound)
1-2 oz blue cheese (get what you like) crumbled
1 half recipe dough
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 C egg beaters + 1 egg (alternately, 3 eggs)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 400 F.
Place the thinly sliced onions in a pan with the tablespoon of olive oil. Cook on low heat, watching closely to make sure they don't burn. Cook for 15-20 minutes until they are soft and sweet. In the meantime, remove the casings from your sausage and add to another pan. Cook over medium heat using a spoon or spatula to break the sausage up into crumbles. They should be done in about 10 minutes. Drain and set on a paper towel covered plate to dry a bit. Roll out your dough and place it in a 9" pie plate. Place foil over the dough and then fill with pie weights. Bake for 8-9 minutes then remove the foil and weight, prick the dough with a fork and bake for 2 more minutes. Remove and let cool for a few minutes while you whip up the custard. In a large bowl, combine the milk and eggs and whip until frothy. In another bowl, mix together the sausages, the onions and the blue cheese. Evenly distribute the sausage mixture in the bottom of your pie crust. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the top. Bake at 375 F for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set. Let rest for 10 minutes before eating.

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