Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jealous? Who Me? Nah.

I assume you are familiar with my usual Oscar party?  Pajamas, sofa, disinterested husband?  Making scintillating observations about fashion which go entirely ignored?

What I may not have mentioned is that my parents spend Oscar night at a party in New York City thrown by friends of theirs, one of whom is an actual voting member of the Academy (this is simultaneously less cool and more cool than it sounds).  However, I have set aside all feelings of jealousy.  I do not require a party thrown in the city that never sleeps; I do not require a fancy guest list (or in fact, any guest list). So long as my food is better, I have won.  And since I know they had standard issue delivery pizza, I win.  Because my pizza was soooo good. The nutty gruyere was balanced by the gooey mozzarella, the mushrooms sauteed with garlic and oh, the duck.  The sweet, scrumptious duck.  The heavenly crispy duck cracklings.  Now who's jealous?


1/3 recipe of dough
8 oz assorted mushrooms (I used a prepacked blend of shiitake, baby bella and oyster mushroom)
1 T olive oil
2 t balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 store-bought fully cooked duck half - see below
1 1/2 T hoisin sauce
1 1/2 C grated mozzarella
1 C grated gruyere
salt and pepper

Store bought duck - you don't need quite this much, but there's no harm in leftovers.

Heat up the duck as directed on the package.  Remove the skin, and cut the rest into bite sized bits. Toss the bits with 1 1/2 T hoisin and set aside.  Increase the oven temperature to 450 F.  Take the skin and slice it into 1/4" strips.  Place the skin on foil, sprinkle with salt and pop in the oven for about 5-10 minutes or until crispy. Set these duck cracklings aside (really, they are SO good). Rinse your mushrooms off.  Chop them into smallish pieces. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil to medium.  Add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Then add the mushrooms and cook until soft. This should take 5-8 minutes.  You want them tender.  Add the balsamic and some salt and pepper (taste to see how much you need).  Set the mushrooms aside. In another bowl mix your mozzarella and gruyere.

Roll out your dough.  I usually sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of the pan I'm using to make the pizza, so do that, then transfer your dough.  Top it with the cheese mixture.  Then even sprinkle the mushrooms over, then then duck bits and finally the cracklings.  Cook at 425 or 450 for about 7-8 minutes depending on how done you like the crust.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why I No Longer Look Cute in a Bikini...

The fact of the matter is, I'm over thirty.  When we moved from the city to the suburbs I gained a rather stubborn five pounds due to my new life of sloth.  To buy things for dinner I must get in a car and drive places, not hitch up the pup and head out for a pleasant food gathering amble about the neighborhood.  My car is never out of sight, so I lug my heavy work bags mere feet before slinging them into the trunk in the morning; gone are the 4-8 block treks.  On weekends we sigh and moan and complain about our limited dining choices and then either pop in the car, or just surrender to the siren lure of the freezer.  No longer do we carefully weigh the cab fare against the mile and a half walk to Chinatown before changing shoes, heading out and then wondering exactly what we were thinking when we find ourselves starving before we actually get there.

But I expect my fondness for food isn't doing me any favors either.  Take this Chicken Paprikash.  Oh, it's delicious, warm and creamy and perfect for chilly winter nights.  Unfortunately, all that sour cream is entirely unsympathetic when it comes to my formerly girlish figure. What can I say? 

If anyone wants to meet me at the mall I'll be in the caftan section trying to purchase a cover for my shame.


1 lb chicken breasts or thighs, I like how juicy thighs turn out
2 T olive oil
1C finely chopped onions
1t finely chopped garlic
2T sweet Hungarian paprika
1C chicken stock
2 T flour
1 C sour cream

Pat chicken dry and salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil to medium high and add the chicken. Golden brown on one side, turn and brown other side. Don't crowd chicken. If you're using thighs, do about 4-5 minutes per side and your chicken will be done and you can set it aside. 
Reduce the heat and add onions and garlic and cook over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes or til lightly colored. After that remove from the heat and stir in the paprika until the onions are well coated.
Return skillet to heat and add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring brown bits from bottom and sides of pan.
In mixing bowl, stir flour into sour cream with wire whisk and stir into simmering juices. Simmer 6-8 min or until sauce is thick and smooth.
Return chicken and any juices to skillet heat long enough to warm through.  Revel in the warm savory creamy goodness.  Buy a caftan to cover your sins.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sweet Somethings

In the past few years my Valentine treat posts have been a bit lacking, to put it kindly.  Mostly they consist of some "we're not valentine-y people" type blather and a refusal to give you a recipe for some crap dessert that I couldn't quite pull together properly. But not this year! I have both a sweet and gooey brownie recipe that you will adore and the story (not particularly sweet or gooey) of how I met my husband, whom I adore.

So let's dispense with the flowers and hearts and cupids, this is not a story about long walks on the beach and heartfelt gazes.  It's the story of how one night, my tendency to feel exceedingly sorry for myself coupled with my incomparable pessimism about the future met something they couldn't overcome: my best friend, Lizzie.  We'd headed to a local bar because it was Lizzie's last night in town and we are fundamentally lazy people.  Our conversation turned to the rather pathetic state of my love life and because I was a completely ancient twenty-four years old I declared quite piteously that no one, ever, would ever date me.  I'm a lucky girl, but more importantly, I choose my friends well and that's probably why instead of smacking me (which I certainly deserved) Lizzie managed to say (with no sarcasm, exasperation or condescension) that she was pretty sure any guy in the entire bar would go out with me, if I asked.  I'm not entirely clear on the particulars of how this became a bet, but I do know that twenty dollars were laid on the line, mine for the taking if I asked a guy and was rejected, Lizzie's to keep if I got a date out of it.  Now, I take things seriously when money is involved, so I decided it was only fair that Liz select the guy.  This way I wouldn't be able to make a quick buck off her by asking out someone married or gay or otherwise impossible to get.  She turned around, pointed to a guy behind us and said "He's cute.  Ask him out." So I did.  I can't say he was particularly thrilled at the prospect (his response was "Um, I don't really know you, but, okay, I guess"), but it seems to have turned out well for him.  Honestly though, we are both incredibly lucky that Lizzie has such good taste.

If you are still single, please feel free to take your best friend to task for failing to provide you with the right guy.  Also feel free to eat the whole damn pan of turtle brownies yourself.  If Ryan weren't such a great guy, I probably wouldn't share.

And yes, I really did meet my husband, in a bar, on a bet.  No joke.  It's still the best $20 I ever spent.

Inspired by Pioneer Woman and She's Becoming DoughMessTic

for the caramel:
1/2 C heavy cream (sure you can cheat and use any cream, or half and half, it will just be looser)
1 t kosher salt
1 C sugar
3 T light corn syrup
1 t vanilla
1/4 C sour cream

for the brownies:
4 oz semisweet Ghiradelli chocolate
1 stick butter (8 T)
1 C sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1-2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 325 F.

Begin making the caramel.  In a small saucepan, whisk together the heavy cream and salt.  Heat on low, just enough to dissolve the salt.  Pour in a bowl and set aside. In another saucepan (or heck, wash the same one), combine the sugar and corn syrup.  Heat on medium high to 350 F on your candy thermometer.  Be sure to stir frequently so it doesn't burn, clump or do anything else untoward.  I probably should have pulled it when the thermometer got to 340 because it doesn't cool quickly and you don't want it burned.  It should be a medium golden brown when you pull it, and the sugar and corn syrup will have melted all together.  Remove it from heat for a minute, then add the cream mixture while stirring constantly.  This will cause it to foam up and over the sides of your pan.  Try to avoid burning yourself.  Curse if necessary.  Use a larger pan next time.Add the vanilla and then whisk in the sour cream.  Let it cool to room temperature (I put it in the fridge), while you get the brownies together.

Prepare a 8x8 baking dish, by lining it with tinfoil (tip: flip the pan upside down, mold the tinfoil to the bottom and then pick it up and stuff it in.  No more tears as you get it to fill the corners!).  I sprayed that puppy with cooking spray, but you could butter it, butter and flour it, do whatever you like to keep it from sticking.  Okay, using a double boiler, your microwave or a glass bowl over a metal pan heat the butter and chocolate together until melted.  (Don't know how to melt it?  Okay, the saucepan gets a few inches of water.   Increase the heat until it's at a boil.  Pop a large glass bowl on top, filled with your chocolate and butter - it'll go faster if these are roughly chopped.  Hold the bowl with a potholder, stir with your spare hand).  Remove bowl from heat and mix in the flour.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar.  Fold the chocolate/flour mixture into the eggy sugary stuff.  Mix until it's all one color.  Pour half the batter into the brownie pan.  Pop it in the oven and bake for 18 minutes.  Pour half the caramel over the top, spreading evenly.  Sprinkle the pecans all over the caramel layer.  Then carefully dab the rest of the batter over top.  It will be stickier and harder to spread, so I sort of dolloped it equally all over and then sort of patted it in place.  Give it another 20-23 minutes of cooking. It won't set up completely because of the caramel, but the brownie part should seem baked when you stick in a knife.  You should mainly get caramel back.  Don't overbake though because that would be yucky.  Remove from the pan.  Use utensils/plates only if in polite company.

PS: Yeah, you do still have half a recipe of caramel. But that's your business.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pretty Perky

In case you're stumbling in late from the New Year and have missed my month of woe-is-me wallowing, let's just say I needed a little pick me up. Having stopped at a local farm and departed with a softball sized beet, I was hopeful that a little bright color and salty sweet goodness would do the trick.  It's pretty messy to make, you may want to strip to your skivvies and then cover anything else you care about (floor, counters, pets, children) with a drop cloth, but when it's done you may just want a larger fork to get it to your mouth faster.  If it's enough to make me smile, it just might get you through the winter doldrums too.

recipe from Melissa d'Arabian.  
Enough hash as a side for 2 with a smidge left over. If you wanted it to be the main event (maybe with some poached eggs) you could easily just increase the amounts.

1 softball sized beet (or 2 little beets)
1 large sweet potato (or 2 little sweet potatoes)
4-6 slices of bacon ( I had to make do with 3, of turkey bacon no less.  It was tragic.)
1/2 a large onion or a whole small onion, diced.
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 F.  Cover a large baking sheet with tinfoil.  Remove any clothing items of value and cover what remains with an apron you're okay with ruining.  Consider putting on disposable gloves.  Attack the beet.  Peet it, cut off the stalk and end bits and then dice into 1/4 inch pieces.  Put on one side of the baking sheet.  Wash up and clean up all beet mess now, before it stains.  Peel the sweet potato and dice it to the same size as the beets, put the pieces on the other side of the baking sheet. I intermingled mine.  But you know the beets sort of bleed a bit, and they cook at slightly different rates (the potato is faster), so you might want a way to get the potatoes out earlier than the beets, which you could do if you haven't tossed them together.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Gently toss each respective vegetable with only it's own kind.  Bake for 45 minutes. I started checking mine around 30 minutes, and I think I could have pulled the potatoes then, but for all the mixing.  With only about 15 minutes left on the timer, start your bacon.  In a large skillet, add 1/4 or 1/2 inch squares of bacon.  Cook on medium until crispy.  Using the rendered fat (pour off a bit if there's too much), add the diced onion.  Cook until sweet and translucent. It's okay if it's a bit crispy.  When the beet and sweet potato are soft, add them to the pan and toss everything together.  The beet will bleed a bit on everything, but that's okay.  Serve as a side or just get a fork and stand over the pan.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Life of Riley

Not that I assume you've been regularly hitting refresh in hopes of a new post, but you must be wondering why there have been no new recipes. I mean surely, I must have dragged myself out of my dog-occupied closet by now.  Of course I have.  In fact, the lack of recipes is because I have been luxuriating in Ireland, staying at a spa, reflecting on the green rolling hills and the soft white sheep that dot the countryside.  I've been sparing no expense, which is probably why I managed to blow five grand on Monday alone. 

Wait...nope, that wasn't me.  That was the asshole that stole my credit card number, providing the icing on the extra-tasty F- You January cake. 

I'm here, pretty much where I always am, minus about 12 inches because my back hurts waaaay too much for me to sit on the sofa.  Instead I am on the floor taking a brief procrastination break between cursing at a work presentation I'm preparing and making grilled sandwiches for dinner.  When my evening gets to the really good part, I'll be able to lay flat on my back on the floor in my pajamas with my legs up on the coffee table.  Please don't envy me too much.  In a few days I'll realize it's February and get back to my normal life, which hopefully will include more cooking and less self-pity.


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