Thursday, September 30, 2010

You have GOT to be kidding me

A 12 course Christmas dinner, as prepared in 1896.
On a wood stove.
With 1896 ingredients and techniques.



Me, I love a quick can of Stagg's.
Patrick however, made me chili and cornbread as one of those "win the girl over" dinners when we were first dating.
It seems only fair that I should learn to return the favor (unless it ends up stepping on his "my turn in the kitchen" toes if I also learn to make kick ass chili - we'll see).

Beef Chili with Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits
Seen on SmittenKitchen; Adapted from Gourmet
A couple notes: First, if you like a saucier chili, you might reduce the beef by one pound, though this might reduce your serving size. Second, I didn’t get the rise out of these biscuits that I’d expected to. Since they were delicious and other commenters have raved about them, I assumed it was me and didn’t bother tinkering with them. Finally, the original recipe says that it serves six but I think it stretches further, especially if you’re doing this shortcake-style, with just a ladleful on top. I’d suggest scaling the biscuit portion to the number of guests you’re having. If you make more than you need, I recommend freezing the extras unbaked until you’re ready to serve the chili again — you can bake them directly from the freezer, and they’ll always be fresh and crisp.
Serves 6
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 carrots, sliced thin (suggested by Gourmet) or in a small dice, as I’d chop them next time
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, ground coarse or 3 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon crumbled dry oregano
Dried red pepper flakes, to taste (Gourmet suggests 1 tablespoon; I used 1 teaspoon knowing that my flakes are very hot)
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce or 2 cups fresh tomato sauce or tomato puree
1 1/4 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups or 1 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 green bell peppers, chopped
Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits, below
Sour cream and pickled jalapeños (optional, to finish)
In a large pot (I used a 5-quart, and just fit it all), heat the oil over moderately low heat and cook the onions in it for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and carrots and cook for one minute more. Raise the heat to medium and add the beef, stirring and breaking up any lumps until it is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the tomato sauce, broth and vinegar and simmer the chili, covered, for 35 to 40 minutes (if you used ground beef) or 50 to 60 minutes (if you used coarse chuck). Add the kidney beans, bell peppers, salt (I used 2 teaspoons to get the seasoning right for my tastes) and pepper to taste and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, until the bell peppers are tender.
Serve ladled over a split Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuit, below, with additional sour cream and pickled jalapenos, if desired.
Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits
Adapted from Gourmet
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
Drained and chopped pickled jalapeños, to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons)
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Either cut the butter pieces into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or rub them in with your fingertips until well-combined. Stir in the cheddar, jalapeños and sour cream until the mixture forms a sticky dough. Pat it out to a 1/2-inch thickness on a very well-floured counter and use a 3 1/2-inch biscuit cutter to cut six rounds. Bake on an ungreased (or parchment-lined, if your baking sheets are as “weathered” as mine are) for 15 to 17 minutes, until golden on top.
Do ahead: If you’d like to serve them over a couple days, I recommend freezing already formed but unbaked biscuits until you are ready to bake them — you can bake them directly from the freezer, adding just a minute or two to the baking time.

Allrecipes has a winner too it seems (thanks mightypurdue22), that is insanely labor intensive, but another thing I could chuck into a crock pot.  Awesome.  Easily tweaked (and healthified I'm sure, which I will).  I think I shall call it "Everything But the Kitchen Sink Chili."

2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
3 (15 ounce) cans chili beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon bacon bits
4 cubes beef bouillon
1/2 cup beer
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (10.5 ounce) bag corn chips such as Fritos®
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese  

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble the ground chuck and sausage into the hot pan, and cook until evenly browned. Drain off excess grease. 

Pour in the chili beans, spicy chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, chile peppers, bacon bits, bouillon, and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 

After 2 hours, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder if necessary. The longer the chili simmers, the better it will taste. Remove from heat and serve, or refrigerate, and serve the next day. 

To serve, ladle into bowls, and top with corn chips and shredded Cheddar cheese.

Pie Crust - Pate Brisee

I have to admit something to you.  I have only ever made one pie crust.  True story.  I don't make a lot of pies, but tarts however - tarts I would like to make.  But man, when you can just grab a tube of that Pillsbury or whatever and dress it up with your yummy ingredients, can homemade really be worth the effort?  People say yes.  Maybe some rainy day I'll sit inside and actually give it a whirl and surprise my roommates with a tasty treat.  It's definitely something I should learn.  The only problem - whose recipe to believe?!
This is the one that got me started thinking that I should really learn this skill.  Now you might be thinking - YumSugar?  Really?  What is that even?  Well, the recipe is Martha's so I trust it, so just back off.  Plus, the author (Partysugar, is it?) took delightful photos every step of the way which is lovely for us visual learners.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)
  2. With machine running, add ice water through feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened discs. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9-inch pies.

But then, how do you not trust Julia? - I mean it's JULIA.  Here is her recipe for pate brisee sucre (the sweet stuff) - if you're going savory just leave the sugar out.

For an 8- to 9-inch shell:
1 cup flour, scooped and leveled
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar (this is the step to leave out if you're making a savory tart)
1/8 teaspoon plus a pinch salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter
2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
4 to 4 1/2 tablespoons cold water
Directions for making short paste by hand: Place the flour in the bowl and mix in the sugar and salt. Add the butter and shortening and, with the tips of your fingers, rapidly rub them together with the dry ingredients until the fat is broken into bits the size of small oatmeal flakes. Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended more thoroughly later.
Add the water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together and slightly cupped, as you rapidly gather the dough into a mass. Sprinkle up to 1 tablespoon more water by droplets over any unmassed remains and add them to the main body of the dough. Then press the dough firmly into a roughly shaped ball. It should just hold together and be pliable but not sticky.
Directions for making short paste in the food processor: Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl (equipped with the steel blade). Quarter the chilled butter lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/8-inch pieces; add to the flour along with the chilled shortening. Flick the machine on and off 4 or 5 times. Turn the machine on and pour in the water. Immediately flick the machine on and off several times, and the dough should begin to mass on the blade. If not, dribble in a little more water and repeat, repeating again if necessary. Dough is done when it has begun to mass; do not overmix it. Scrape the dough out onto your work surface and proceed to the fraisage.
The fraisage — or final blending — for handmade and machine dough: Place the dough on a lightly floured pastry board. With the heel of one hand, not the palm which is too warm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches.
With a scraper or spatula, gather the dough again into a mass; knead it briefly into a fairly smooth round ball. Sprinkle it lightly with flour and wrap it in waxed paper. Either place the dough in the freezing compartment of the refrigerator for about 1 hour until it is firm but not congealed, or refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. (Uncooked pastry dough will keep for 2 to 3 days under refrigeration, or may be frozen for several weeks. Always wrap it airtight in waxed paper and a plastic bag.)
Rolling out the dough: Because of its high butter content, roll out the dough as quickly as possible, so that it will not soften and become difficult to handle. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or marble. If the dough is hard, beat it with the rolling pin to soften it. Then knead it briefly into a fairly flat circle. It should be just malleable enough to roll out without cracking.
Lightly flour the top of the dough. Place rolling pin across center and roll the pin back and forth with firm but gentle pressure to start the dough moving. Then, with a firm, even stroke, and always rolling away from you, start just below the center of the dough and roll to within an inch of the far edge.
Lift dough and turn it at a slight angle.
Give it another roll. Continue lifting, turning and rolling and, as necessary, sprinkle the board and top of dough lightly with flour to prevent sticking. Roll it into a circle 1/8-inch thick and about 2 inches larger all around than your pie pan or flan ring. If your circle is uneven, cut off a too-large portion, moisten the edge of the too-small portion with water, press the 2 pieces of pastry together and smooth them with your rolling pin.
The dough should be used as soon as it has been rolled out, so that it will not soften.
Making a pastry shell: Mold your pastry in a false-bottomed, straight-sided cake pan 1- to 1 1/2- inches deep and refrigerate.
(A French tart is straight sided and open-faced and stands supported only by its pastry shell.) When the shell is ready for unmolding, the pan is set over a jar and the false bottom frees the shell from the sides of the pan. It is then, with the aid of a long-bladed spatula, slid off its false bottom and onto a rack or the serving dish.
Prebaking the pastry shell: Partial baking sets the dough and is a safeguard against soggy bottom crusts. Line the pastry with buttered lightweight foil or buttered brown paper, press it will against the sides of the pastry and fill it with dried beans. The weight of the beans will hold the pastry against the mold during the baking. Bake at the middle of a preheated 400-degree oven for 8 to 9 minutes until pastry is set. Remove mold or foil and beans. Prick bottom of pastry with a fork to keep it from rising. Return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes more. When the shell is starting to color and just beginning to shrink from sides of mold, remove it from the oven.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ooh la la

As I sit here selecting options for a holiday dinner at a French restaurant, I can't help but drool a little.  And so, in honor of that - two scrumdiddlyumptious looking French recipes that I happened to stumble across at the very time that I'm craving French food.  Kismet.
And by the way - if you like bread pudding, please let me know.  Seems most of the folks I love are not into soggy bread and lord knows I don't need 4-6 servings of anything butter and cream laden sitting around waiting for me to eat it.

Steak Frites (recipe taken from Gourmet)
Serves 4
28 to 30 ounces frozen french fries
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 (1 1/2-to 2-pounds) tri-tip beef roast (also called triangular roast; about 2 inches thick), cut into 4 steaks
2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F with racks in upper and lower thirds, with a 4-sided sheet pan in lower third.
  2. Toss fries with 2 tablespoons oil in hot sheet pan, then bake according to package instructions until golden and crisp.
  3. Meanwhile, pat steaks dry, then rub with peppercorns and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  4. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Sear steaks on all sides, about 3 minutes total. Transfer skillet to upper third of oven and roast 9 to 10 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to a plate and let rest 5 minutes.
  5. Add wine to skillet and boil, scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add water and meat juices from plate and boil briskly until reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in butter until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Sprinkle fries with tarragon. Serve steaks with sauce and fries. 

Tartine's Savory Bread Pudding
Serves four to six
Note: You can assemble the dish a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator, letting it come to room temperature before baking. Bake the pudding an hour before you want to serve it.
For the filling
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 leeks, white parts only, finely chopped
½ c. dry white wine
Olive oil
2 lbs. assorted mushrooms (like chanterelles and porcini), stems trimmed and caps halved
1 head Treviso or other radicchio, leaves separated

For the custard
5 large eggs
½ tsp. salt
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2/3 c. grated Gruyere or cheddar cheese
3 oz. smoked ham, chopped
2 slices day-old Basic Country Bread (recipe in book), torn into large chunks
½ c. grated Gruyere or cheddar cheese

1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute until soft, 6-8 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine evaporates, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is smoking, arrange the mushrooms cut-side down in the pan and cook without stirring until seared and caramelized, about 1 minute more. Stir the mushrooms, add the radicchio, and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste. Remove from heat.
3. Preheat the oven to 375º.
4. To make the custard, in a bowl, whisk the eggs and salt until well blended. Add the cream, milk, pepper, nutmeg, thyme, cheese, and ham, and whisk to combine.
5. Place the bread chunks in an 8-inch souffle dish and add the leeks, mushrooms, and radicchio. Pour in the custard so that it comes all the way to the rim. Sprinkle evenly with the grated cheese. Let stand 8-10 minutes until the custard saturates the bread.
6. Bake until the custard is no longer runny in the center, about 50 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.


Hell yes.

funny food photos - Kick, Kick as Fast as You Can, You Can't Beat 
Me, I'm the Ninjabread Man

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are - Halloween 2010

My favorite time of year is upon us and I'm already plotting my ghoulish plan. . .
I'll be turning my home into a haunted forest with lots of spooky trees and Spanish moss, plenty of old leaves, and creepy little forest critters.  It'll be the perfect setting for me, since I'm going as an owl this year.
I really want to make my sugar cookies, but I have to be reasonable about what I can accomplish.
I'll be serving several types of snack mix because that's super easy and yummy (I have such an obsession with Cheezit Party Mix it's not even funny), and I'll probably do a spicy nut mix as well.  I had one in Mexico that had whole chiles and fried garlic that was super good and kind of creepy looking (let's just say we'll call those garlics "fingernails" or something equally gross).  Here is a decent starting point.

We're also going to do some super easy salsas and guacs as I did last year, but add a Crock Pot full of cheesy bean dip that I don't really have to worry about.  When I was in high school taking Home Ec, our teacher taught us some delicious recipe that featured canned refried beans, Velveeta, salsa, green chiles, garlic powder and green onions. . . I'm trying desperately to remember it and will probably just tweak it as I go until it's yummy.  This one looks pretty good as well.
I'm also going to get some pizza dough or flatbread and just do little flatbread slices - caramelized onions, goat cheese, maybe blue cheese, figs, prosciutto, etc., but those are the pricier fixins, so we'll see.  I'll bake the breads ahead of time, then top them, and heat them up for a few just before I serve.
Perhaps a white bean and sage dip with veggies and pita chips.
Basically stuff that I don't have to fuss with.   And to drink, I think I'm going for shandy this year instead of my typical sangria:

Apple Cider Shandy
48 ounces of lager (4 x 12 oz bottles)
1 bottle of sparkling cider

Combine and serve immediately.

I mean, it doesn't get much easier than that, right? 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Unfried Chicken

I am always looking for ways to make classics healthier, and Self sent me what looks like it could be a great recipe for a nice crispy, breaded chicken.

Unfried Chicken With Cabbage and Apple Slaw

Serves 4  
Olive oil cooking spray
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley 
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper  
1/2 cup light buttermilk 
2 whole bone-in, skinless chicken breasts (about 12 oz each), halved 
2 teaspoons honey 
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 
2 Red Delicious or Gala apples, cored and thinly sliced crosswise 
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
6 cups shredded napa cabbage 
1 celery stalk, chopped
Heat oven to 400°. Place a roasting rack on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray. Combine breadcrumbs, Dijon mustard, parsley, sage, thyme, Old Bay, salt, pepper and cayenne in a shallow bowl. Pour buttermilk into another shallow bowl. Dip chicken in buttermilk, turning to coat. Drain excess and dredge chicken in breadcrumb mixture, pressing gently to help coating adhere. Transfer chicken to rack. Coat chicken with cooking spray and bake until crispy, 30 to 35 minutes. Dressing: Whisk honey with whole-grain mustard, oil and vinegars in a bowl. Toss apples with lemon juice in another bowl; add cabbage, celery and dressing; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Chill slaw 20 minutes before serving with chicken.

Short Ribs

One of my many mailing lists ( got me all worked up for some yummy ribs.  Especially after I watched Giada make some the other day.  Here are both recipes for two very different takes on short ribs.  There has got to be a way to do Giada's in the slow cooker, so I'll have to work on that.
Zinfandel Short Ribs
2 cups good-quality Sonoma Zinfandel
3 tablespoons butter
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
4 pounds cross-cut beef short ribs, 1/2 inch thick
Steak seasoning salt, as needed
To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the Zinfandel. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and set aside. In another medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often until the onion is tender. Add the flour and mix well until blended. Add the beef broth and the reduced Zinfandel and mix well. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened.
Prepare the grill for cooking over direct medium heat. Season the ribs on both sides with the steak seasoning salt. Place the ribs directly on the cooking grate. Cook for 5 minutes. Flip and brush with the sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes and repeat. Continue flipping and brushing for about 40 minutes, until the ribs are browned and tender. Discard any remaining sauce. Remove to a platter to serve.

Penne with Braised Short Ribs

4 pounds beef short ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
5 Roma tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 cup red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Season the ribs with salt and pepper. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or ovenproof stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine and mustard. Bring the mixture to a boil and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the ribs to the pan. Add the beef broth, cover the pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours until the meat is fork-tender and falls easily from the bone.

Remove the ribs from the cooking liquid. Using a large spoon, remove any excess fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Using a ladle, transfer the cooking liquid in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into small pieces. Stir the shredded meat into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the sauce and add to the pasta. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the pasta. Toss well and thin out the pasta with more sauce, if needed. Sprinkle the pasta with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley before serving.

** Reader reviews add a bunch of great ideas:
- add tomato paste toward the end to thicken the sauce and add a little depth of flavor
- serve with apple and acorn squash puree versus pasta
- use pork or a traditional roast instead of short ribs
- serve the ribs whole rather than shredding them

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Curried Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

I almost always crave apples and sweet potatoes in the fall.  Okay, always.  And I love curry, and I love using my mandoline, so I can't wait to try this one out!

Curried Sweet Potato-Apple Soup
3 medium sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups chunky applesauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Peel and dice 2 1/2 sweet potatoes. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger, nutmeg, 1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste and cook until toasted, 1 more minute.

Add the diced sweet potatoes, chicken broth and 2 cups water to the pot, cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the applesauce. Simmer, covered, until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Puree the soup with a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper; keep warm.

Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice the remaining 1/2 sweet potato and toss with the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, 7 to 10 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon curry powder and cook, stirring, until browned; remove from the heat and add the vinegar. Top with the curry butter, cilantro and sweet-potato chips.

World's Best Lasagna?

With reviews and ratings like this, how could it not be?  I can't wait to try it out!  I'm kind of secretly hoping it blows Joe's pasta right out of the water. . . . .I will probably make some tweaks as I go (as everyone does), but this looks like a solid recipe.  I'm thinking I'll pop the sauce into the slow cooker and let it simmer all day while I'm at work.  It can only get better, right?  Then I can assemble the lasagna and bake it when I get home.

World's Best Lasagna
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. 

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). 

To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese. 

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Fall Picnic Fare

You'll never believe it.  Rachel Ray made something today that I hadn't thought of and am actually going to try.  I have a family picnic coming up and this looks just perfect for me to bring.  I'll be making a few tweaks of course (my anticipated alterations are below), but I think she may have a winner on her hands.

Tangy Goat Cheese and Dill Potato Salad
2 1/2 pounds diced Yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup white wine or 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
4-6 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, finely grated or minced
4 scallions, finely chopped, whites and greens
Freshly ground black pepper
I haven't decided on these additions yet, but. . . 
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
2 dill pickles, chopped

Cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
When the potatoes are cooked, return them to the hot pot and douse with a splash of wine or a couple tablespoons of white wine vinegar.
In a bowl, whisk together the goat cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. Toss the potatoes, dill(?), and scallions in the dressing and season with salt and pepper. Garnish the salad with chopped pickles(?) and bacon pieces and serve.

Seasoned Buttermilk Chicken Tenders
They may not be on par with Thomas Keller's, but who cares?  Maybe I can do some sort of combo treatment. . .
2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
2 pounds chicken tenders
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons poppy seeds, if desired
1 quart safflower, canola or sunflower oil for frying
1 lemon

Combine the smoked paprika, granulated garlic and onion, and poultry seasoning in a small bowl. Season the tenders with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 the spices to the buttermilk in a shallow dish. Combine the remaining spices with the flour and poppy seeds, in a second dish.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium to medium-high heat, about 350 degrees F.

Using tongs dip chicken in the buttermilk, then the flour and repeat. Add the breaded tenders to the hot oil; do not crowd the pan. Cook the fingers in batches to a deep golden color, about 8 minutes per batch. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels. Serve warm or at room temperature with wedges of lemon to squeeze on top.

I think I'll serve with ranch dressing and some sort of honey bbq sauce.  Nom.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Greek Bulgur Salad

Self Magazine was kind enough to send me some "heart healthy" Greek recipes, and this one looks both heart healthy AND South Beach friendly.

Greek Bulgur-Chicken Salad
Serves 4
12 oz chicken breast tenders
1 1/2 cups bulgur
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/4 cups peeled and chopped cucumber
1 cup diced tomato
5 tablespoons crumbled feta
10 kalamata olives, pitted
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsps extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Poach chicken in 2 cups boiling water in a medium pot over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool, dice and set aside. Bring bulgur, 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until bulgur absorbs liquid, about 15 minutes. Uncover and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a bowl and combine with remaining 4 tbsp lemon juice and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Add chicken and remaining ingredients; toss well to combine. Cover and chill before serving.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I think I might do all of my recipes like this from now on. . .

Semi-Homemade Petit Fours

Unfortunately, we did not take our group photo until three teams had already left. . .
Yeah.  I totally used store bought cake for my croquet treats.  And you know what?  So what.
I tried to find a bakery that would just sell me a quarter sheet cake or something, and not only did it confuse the hell out of them, but it was pretty damn pricey.
A quick search for "quick and easy petit fours" brought me to a recipe by Miss Paula Deen, and hallelujah!  Not only did I not have time to bake a cake from scratch, but I didn't have the time I thought to frost them - I didn't let them dry long enough before I had to leave.  Not only were they too soft for me to do any further "eat me" decorating or package them all up (I could only bring about half so they wouldn't touch), but I was half an hour late to my own damn event.
However, once croquet was over (and the next day), they were PERFECT.  I thought the frosting was too sweet at first, when it was still soft, but once it solidified, it made an awesome little cake.  Soft frosting or not, they seemed to be a hit at croquet.
Now, finding a pound cake in regular loaf form would've been way too perfect, so of course I could only find a bundt version, and I'm sure you can imagine how fun and easy it was to try to cut that into perfect little cubes.  A fun thing came from this though - I made whole little slices of cake as petit fours too and they turned out great.

Petit Fours 
1 loaf pound cake - about 1 pound, top crust removed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup cold water
1 egg white
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 boxes confectioners' sugar, about 1 pound, sifted
preserves of your choice (cherry or apricot would be great, I used  Bonne Maman cherry preserves)
Almond extract - I'm guessing I used about 1 tbsp
3 dyes of food coloring
2 forks
Something cute, for garnish and design

Arrange the pound cake cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until firm, 4 hours or overnight. I froze my entire cake and then cut off the dark parts and cut it into cubes.  This worked incredibly well, BUT - if your cake comes back to room temperature before you frost it (which it will unless you freeze it again), it's crumb city and your frosting will get all clogged up which doesn't leave you a very nice, smooth frost job.
I then cut my cubes in half (lengthwise) and put a dollop of warmed up cherry preserves (to thin them out a little).  Use less than you think you need, since it will ooze out the sides.  A small dollop - maybe 1/4 tsp seemed perfect for the little bites.
They look like little crustless pb&js:

In the top of a double boiler, dissolve the gelatin in 2/3 cups cold water. Add egg white and corn syrup. Whisk. Add confectioners' sugar and whisk until well blended and not too thick. When mixture reaches 110 degrees F. (warm to the touch) divide the icing among several bowls and add your preferred food coloring to each bowl. Mix well.

Line counter or baking sheet with waxed paper. Place a cooling rack on top so the excess frosting can drip down and away and land on the wax paper below; then your cakes won't have bloopy, gloppy frosting puddles attached to the bottom.
Rest your cake on one fork, and use a spoon to pour frosting all over cake - work fast, this stuff thickens quickly (but you can reheat it if you need to).  Make sure the cakes are completely covered.  Use second fork to help move the frosted cake onto the rack to dry.  Do this for remaining cubes, using the various colors of frosting (rinse your forks when moving between colors, unless you're hoping for tie dye). When completely dried, place a dab of frosting onto the top of the cube to stick your cute little decor item.  OR, you can pipe little designs if you're good at that.
I was going to make Alton's royal icing to write "eat me" on mine.
Try to ignore the crumbs you can see in the tops.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blueberry Tarts

I don't love cheesecake.
I know, right?
I mean, sure, sometimes I get a bite of one that's pretty dang tasty, but that's about it.

Today Paula Deen said she was making "blueberry tarts" and I squeaked. Until she did it.  These were Sandra Lee at her finest for sure.  Cream cheese, sugar, eggs, Nilla wafers and canned pie filling?  Squick.  Those are nothing more than poor man's cheesecake in cupcake liners, you can't fool me.

Until I started reading the customer reviews (5 stars with 202 reviews?!). . . hmph.  Seems like maybe these are worth a shot. . .

Cream Cheese Tarts
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
12 vanilla wafers
1 (21-ounce) can blueberry filling, or other pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a paper cupcake liner in each cup of a muffin pan.

Beat cream cheese with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Place a vanilla wafer, flat side down, in each muffin cup. Spoon cream cheese mixture over wafers. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow tarts to cool completely. Serve with blueberry filling on top, or pie filling of your choice.

Eat Me

Every year I host a croquet party.  We drink a lot of champagne and have an absolute blast.  The rules insist that we wear white (well, mostly), but I'll also allow for a wicked good Heathers or Alice in Wonderland croquet get up as well - how could I not?

We bring snacks to help settle some of that champagne, and this year, I am totally going Alice with my snack.  I have been fantasizing about "Eat Me," "Drink Me" treats for ages and I think this is just the year.  I'll make some cute little template for the champagne bottles and/or juices we use as mixers, and then I'll make some Eat Me cakes.  I'm thinking petit fours, but hot diggity dawg they're a lot of work.  I'm thinking I can definitely do fudge covered brownies (and who doesn't like chocolate?), but I really love the look of the petit fours since they remind me so much of the little cakes from the movies.

I saw Martha do petit fours once, but I can only find this one recipe and it's different than the one I watched.  Alas, this recommended cake and frosting recipe did NOT get rave reviews, so I hunted out a more traditional genoise and another frosting.  Some reviewers stated that the cake tasted bland, but I'm thinking that once I thin down my cherry or apricot preserves into a syrup to brush over the top and allow that to soak in, it will not be bland at all.  Another theme that came up in reviews was SIFT SIFT SIFT - then maybe sift again.

1 cup sifted cake flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 8 inch round cake pan. Line with parchment paper and grease it as well. Lightly flour pan and paper. 

Sift together the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt onto a piece of wax paper. 

Place the eggs into a mixing bowl set over a pan of hot (not boiling) water. Add the 1/2 cup sugar to the eggs and whisk until the mixture feels warm (not hot) to the touch, about body temperature. Place the bowl onto a mixer and beat on medium speed until the mixture becomes pale yellow in color and falls off the end of the whisk attachment in long ribbons. Add the vanilla. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the beaten egg and fold in. Continue to add the remainder of the flour, folding it in each time. 

Place about 1 cup of the batter into the bowl containing the melted butter and combine the butter with the batter. Add this back to the main batter and fold it in. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. 

Immediately bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 25 minutes or until the top is a light brown. Cool in pan on a rack about 10 minutes and then invert onto a rack. It is best to invert it again onto another rack so that it cools with the top up. Let cool completely before cutting or frosting. 

Um. . . her frosting didn't seem to be very boss either.  This helpful video had one that looks like it'll work: 
6 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 c water
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp flavor (almond, vanilla, whatevs)
optional - coloring
Heat sugar, water and corn syrup to 92 degrees over low heat.  Remove from heat and add flavoring and any coloring if using.
Pour the fondant into a bowl and keep over another bowl of hot water (like a double boiler) to keep the frosting soft.

To make the petit fours, slice the cake into nice little squares and set on a cooling rack with wax paper underneath.  Spoon the fondant frosting over the top ensuring even coverage.  You can scrape the drippings off the wax paper back into the bowl to soften and reuse!  Or you can place the cakes onto a fork (or slotted spatula if they're bigger) and really glob the frosting on; let the excess drip off, and THEN put them onto the cooling rack.

This video was incredibly helpful and featured lots of good tips as well.  I'm thinking of doing my petits fours a bit bigger than is traditional (I think 1 1/2" square is the standard), just so I can ensure that I can fit "eat me" on top of them without it looking too crowded.

Tacos Al Pastor

No reason not to give it a whirl at home. . . . thanks Goya!
They seem to know what's up:
"Tacos al Pastor are a favorite in Mexico and Mexican restaurants throughout the world for good reason: The mixture of smoky, spicy chiles, sweet pineapples and fresh onions and cilantro is taco perfection. Traditionally, Tacos al Pastor are made by marinating pork in chile sauce, layering the meat on a vertical rotisserie, adorning with a pineapple and roasting slowly for hours--a process that's almost impossible to replicate at home. So we've taken the delicious, authentic flavors that make these tacos so special, and adapted the recipe for your home kitchen, so you can enjoy it whenever a craving strikes!"

Tacos Al Pastor
For the pork:
5 Goya Guajillo Chiles
5 Goya Pasilla Chiles or Goya Ancho Chiles
1 Goya Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce
1 medium white onion, halved
1 (20 ounce) can Goya Pineapple Chunks
1/4 cup Goya White Vinegar
2 tablespoons Goya Minced Garlic
1 teaspoon Goya Cumin
Goya Adobo with Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons Goya Vegetable Oil
1 (2 1/2 pound) boneless, skinless pork butt, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For the garnish:
1 (10 ounce) package Goya Corn Tortillas, warmed
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges 

Bring 2 cups water to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add guajillo and pasilla chiles. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chiles soften, about 10 minutes; transfer to plate. Remove and discard stem and seeds. Meanwhile, coarsely chop one onion half; reserve remaining half. Strain pineapples; reserve juice and fruit separately. 

Transfer guajillo, pasilla and chipotle chiles, chopped onion half, reserved pineapple juice, vinegar, garlic and cumin to bowl of food processor. Puree until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer chile mixture to saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring chile mixture to a boil; cook until paste loses raw onion taste, about 2 minutes. Season with Adobo; cool. In large container with lid, or in large ziptop bag, combine pork cubes, cooled chile marinade and reserved pineapple chunks; transfer to refrigerator. Marinate at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. 

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Strain pork and pineapples, discarding marinade. Add pork and pineapples to skillet. Cook in batches until dark golden brown on all sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes; transfer to large serving plate. 

Meanwhile, finely slice remaining onion half. Transfer sliced onion to bowl with cilantro. Serve pork and pineapple mixture in warm tortillas. Garnish pork tacos with cilantro, onions and limes. 
Cooking tip from LA COCINA GOYA:
Warm, soft tortillas, every time! Achieving perfectly warm and pliable tortillas can be tricky business: We find the microwave results in gummy, chewy rounds while the oven dries them out. Our tried-and-true method: steaming. To do, fill a steamer with 1/2 inch water; bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. In the meantime, wrap the tortillas in a dish towel. Then, place the bundle in the steamer, cover with a tight-fitting lid and heat until warm, about 10 minutes

Ultimate Mexican Burger

Okay you guys.  If you know me, you may have followed my travels (and eats) throughout my stay in San Miguel de Allende.  If you did that, you know that there was a street food cart that served up life altering hot dogs and hamburgers.  I may not be able to crack the mystery of the taco cart (mmmmm, bistec, al pastor  . . . . tacos y gringas. . . . drool. . . . ), but the burgers, I have recreated (light shines and angels sing).

If you have ever read any of my other posts here, you know I tend to go with healthy, South Beach type recipes quite frequently.  This is NOT one of those recipes.  This recipe is covered in delicious, awesome, drippy, flavorful bacon fat.

Mexican Street Cart Burger

1 lb ground beef
6 or so strips of bacon (or more!); cut into bite sized pieces
American cheese
sliced ham (Oscar Mayer is just fine)
pickled jalapenos
white onion - diced
Roma tomatoes - diced
crema - optional
garlic powder
(tater tots with melty cheese sauce optional Fat American add-on)

Make your patties - crack in the egg, add 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs or so (depending on how wet the meat is - you want it to stick together into patties; if it's not, add a bit more bread), a tbsp or so of garlic powder and mix.  Form four patties and set aside.
In a large skillet (or on a nice big griddle if you have one), cook up the bacon til crispy then remove to a plate.  Pour off the bacon fat, but keep it!!!  You want to leave a little bit in the pan to keep the burgers from sticking, and may need to add more as you go.
Depending on the size of your skillet, add a patty or two (your griddle might fit all four burgers you lucky duck).  After a few minutes when the first side is cooked, flip the burgers.  Top with a slice of American cheese and a piece of ham.  In Mexico, they put the ham and then the cheese on, and somehow manage to flip the burger again and sort of crisp up the cheese or something - I was not capable of this.  My cheese just went all liquidy goopey and turned into a big mess so I didn't even try.
When the burgers are almost done, nestle the buns into that yummy bacon grease too to heat up and get a nice little bacony crust (adding more bacon fat bit by bit if you need it).  Plate the burgers onto the buns, and cover with the bacon pieces, ketchup, mustard (crema if you like it), the diced onions and tomatoes, and the jalapenos.
Repeat with remaining patties serving to your new faithful servants who will do just about anything you ever ask of them as long as you promise to make them these burgers again.