Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cooking Light: Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

Christmas never really seems like Christmas unless there's some peppermint in something. And since I live in Texas, Christmas also means ice cream cake. Yes, while the rest of the country, except perhaps Florida, is wrapped in a blanket of snow, my family happily eats ice cream cake at the end of December.

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake
From Cooking Light magazine, December 2005

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ cup boiling water
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup egg substitute (or 3 eggs)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups low-fat peppermint ice cream, softened
3 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping (such as Cool Whip)
⅛ tsp peppermint extract
8 peppermint candies, crushed (such as Starlite mints)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.  Line bottom of each pan with wax paper.

Combine cocoa, water, and butter, stirring with a whisk until blended.  Cool.

Combine sugars in a large bowl, stirring well until blended.  Add egg substitute; beat 2 minutes or until light and creamy.  Add cocoa mixture, and beat for 1 minute.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually add flour mixture to bowl; beat for 1 minute or until blended.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake at 350 for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Remove from pans.  Wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 2 hours or until slightly frozen.

Spread ice cream in an 8-inch round cake pan lined with plastic wrap.  Cover and freeze for 4 hours or until firm.

To assemble cake, place one cake layer, bottom side up, on a cake pedestal.  Remove ice cream layer from freezer; remove plastic wrap.  Place ice cream layer, bottom side up, on top of cake layer.  Top with remaining cake layer.

Combine whipped topping and peppermint extract, and stir until blended.  Spread frosting over top and sides of cake.  Sprinkle with crushed peppermints.  Freeze until ready to serve.  Let cake stand at room temperature 10 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Southern Living: Light Fruitcake

When I was growing up, I always thought fruitcake was this nasty brick full of dyed fruits that people sent you when they didn't like you very much.  I mean, the fruitcake is definitely the butt of a ridiculous amount of mockery, and it's hard not to absorb that as a child.  So I never ate a bite of fruitcake growing up.  It wasn't until I actually knew someone who wanted me to make them one and was willing to vouch for its deliciousness that I dared to try it.  And you know what?  It's actually pretty good, provided you use actual dried fruit and not neon-colored chemistry experiments.  And like any good recipe, you can use whatever fruit you like (I'm thinking maybe some dried mango or papaya? cranberries instead of cherries?), as long as you try to stick to the general vicinity of the recipe.

Note:  I actually made half of this recipe and cooked it up in a 9x5-inch loaf pan.  The baking time was about half.  So, if you don't have an army of fruitcake lovers hovering at the kitchen door, this is an option.  I eyeballed the half an egg.  Grease the pan really well so the cake doesn't stick.

Light Fruitcake
Adapted from Southern Living: 1990 Annual Recipes

1½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond extract
7 large eggs, separated
3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ pounds diced candied pineapple (about 3 cups)
1 pound dried tart cherries (about 2 cups)
¼ pound diced candied orange peel (about ½ cup)
½ pound golden raisins (about 1½ cups)
3 cups pecan halves
1 cup black walnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brandy
Additional brandy

Make a liner for a 10-inch tube-pan by drawing a circle with an 18-inch diameter on a piece of brown paper. Cut out circle; set pan in center, and draw around base of pan and inside tube. Fold circle into eighths, having the drawn lines on the outside. Cut off tip end of circle along inside drawn line. Unfold paper; cut along folds to the outside drawn line. From another piece of brown paper, cut another circle with a 10-inch diameter; grease and set aside. Place the 18-inch liner in pan; grease and set aside.

Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Stir in flavorings. Beat egg yolks; alternately add yolks and 3 cups flour to creamed mixture. Combine candied pineapple, cherries, citron, golden raisins, pecans, and walnuts in a bowl; dredge with ½ cup flour, stirring to coat well. Stir mixture into batter. Beat egg whites (at room temperature) until stiff peaks form; fold into butter. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Cover pan with 10-inch brown paper circle, greased side down.

Bake at 250°F for about 4 hours or until cake tests done. Remove from oven. Take off paper cover, and slowly pour ¼ cup brandy evenly over cake; cool completely on wire rack. Remove cake from pan; peel paper liner from cake. Wrap cake in brandy-soaked cheesecloth. Store in an airtight container in a cool place up to 3 weeks; pour a small amount of brandy over cake each week.

Makes one 10-inch cake

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Giada de Laurentiis: Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

These may be my favorite things ever.  And who thought you could love Brussels sprouts this much?  I know they can be stinky and bitter, but when slowly cooked in chicken stock and pancetta, something magical happens.  I've even gotten Brussels sprouts haters to rethink their positions with this one.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
From Giada de Laurentiis

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces paper-thin slices pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup low-salt chicken broth

Partially cook the Brussels sprouts in a large pot of boiling salted water, about 4 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until beginning to crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts to the same skillet and sauté until heated through and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the broth and simmer until the broth reduces just enough to coat the Brussels sprouts, about 3 minutes. Serve.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bon Appétit: Tom Colicchio's Herb-Butter Turkey

This year I decided to do something new with my turkey.  I saw a delicious-looking recipe that involved a lot of butter and a lot of herbs.  Didn't sound like it could possibly go wrong.  That much butter is never wrong.  And it certainly wasn't.  The turkey was incredibly moist and had a wonderful flavor.  It does take quite a bit of coddling, but I think in this case it ends up being worth it.

Tom Colicchio's Herb-Butter Turkey
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, November 2005

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme plus 15 fresh thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon plus 5 large fresh tarragon sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary plus 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage plus 5 fresh sage sprigs
1 14- to 16-pound turkey
4 cups chicken broth
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Mix ½ cup butter and all minced herbs in small bowl; season herb butter with salt and pepper. Transfer 2 generous tablespoons to another small bowl and reserve for gravy; let stand at room temperature.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425°F. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin. Rub 4 tablespoons herb butter over breast meat under skin. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Sprinkle main cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place 4 tablespoons plain butter and all fresh herb sprigs in main cavity. Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely. Rub remaining herb butter over outside of turkey. Sprinkle turkey generously with salt and pepper.

Place turkey in oven and roast 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon plain butter to roasting pan. Roast turkey 30 minutes; baste with pan juices, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Cover turkey loosely with foil. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer. Transfer turkey to platter; let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).

Strain pan juices into bowl. Melt reserved 2 tablespoons herb butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat; add flour and whisk constantly until roux is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Gradually add pan juices; increase heat and whisk constantly until gravy thickens, boils, and is smooth. Reduce heat to medium; boil gently until gravy is reduced to 4½ cups, whisking often, about 10 minutes. Season gravy with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Allrecipes: Pear Pie with Crumb Topping

This year for Thanksgiving I decided to make my pear pie again. I absolutely love this pie, probably even more than apple pie. And since fall is such a good time for pears, it works out well. I choose green Anjou pears for the pie, and I think they worked really well this time around, staying slightly firm even after cooking.

Pear Pie with Crumb Topping
Adapted from allrecipes.com

½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 dash ground nutmeg
6 cups thinly sliced peeled pears (about 8 pears)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell

⅔ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
⅓ cup cold butter or margarine

Combine filling ingredients; spoon into pastry shell. The pie will appear very full. Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes. For topping, combine flour and brown sugar; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over filling. Bake 40 minutes longer. Cover edges with foil if necessary.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Julia Child: Sole Meunière

This recipe almost seems too simple to be true.  The fish is just quickly fried in butter with some lemon and parsley at the end.  And this is also the dish transcendental dish that gave us the Julia Child we all know and love.  Is it truly perfection?  For all of its simplicity, I'm going to have to say yes.  Everything is so perfectly balanced: just slightly crisp fish, rich butter, tart lemon.

Sole Meunière
Adapted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child

4 to 6 skinless, boneless fillets Dover sole
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
About 4 tablespoons clarified butter
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dry the fish, trim and flatten it. Lay it out on a sheet of wax paper.

Dust the fillets lightly on each side with salt and pepper. The moment before sauteing, rapidly drop each into the flour to coat both sides, and shake off the excess. Set the frying pan over high heat and film with 16-inch of clarified butter. When the butter is very hot, but not browning, rapidly lay in as many fillets as will fit easily, leaving a little space between each. Sauté a minute or two on one side, turn carefully so as not to break the fillet, and sauté a minute or two on the other side. The fish is done when just springy rather than squashy to the touch of your finger. Immediately remove from the pan to warm plates or a platter. (Or, if you are sauteing in 2 batches, keep the first warm for the few minutes necessary in a 200ºF oven.

Sprinkle each fillet with parsley. Wipe the frying pan clean, set over high heat, and add the fresh butter, heat until bubbling and pour over fillets - the parsley will bubble up nicely. Decorate with lemon wedges, and serve at once.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Simply Recipes: Bayerisches Sauerkraut (Bavarian Sauerkraut) and Schwäbischer Kartoffelsalat (Swabian-Style German Potato Salad)

Since the local Oktoberfest celebration is a little bit expensive, and a lot unappetizing, I decided that this year we should celebrate at home with better food and less money out of pocket. The traditional fare was a must, so I scoured the internet for some decent recipes, mostly trying to find a replica of the amazing sauerkraut I've had at this little German restaurant down near Ft. Hood, TX. I think the main difference is cooking the sauerkraut with juniper berries, so that's what I concentrated on. I also managed to dig up a pretty decent recipe for hot potato salad that turned out rather scrumptious, so two thumbs up. I visited Kuby's down near Southern Methodist University to get some fresh sausages, both weisswurst and bratwurst, along with a jar of cooked red cabbage and German mustard.

Bayerisches Sauerkraut (Bavarian Sauerkraut)
Adapted from Simply Recipes

1 (16-ounce) jar sauerkraut
1 cup white wine (Riesling is good)
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup peeled and chopped apple
10 juniper berries
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place sauerkraut in a pot.  Add wine, onion, apple, juniper berries, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, and oil. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until the onions are soft.

Schwäbischer Kartoffelsalat (Swabian-Style German Potato Salad)
From cooks.com

4 large potatoes
4 slices of applewood smoked bacon
½ cup onion, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sugar
⅓ cup water
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (whole grain may be used)

Slice potatoes thinly, leaving peel on for rustic look. Boil in a large pot of water until nearly tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain.

Chop bacon into small pieces. In a large skillet, cook bacon until nearly done. Add onions, and sauté until soft. Sprinkle flour in skillet, and stir to incorporate flour into fat. Sprinkle with sugar, and add water, vinegar, and mustard. Cook until sauce thickens. You may need to adjust the levels of vinegar, mustard, and sugar until the right taste is achieved. Add potatoes and heat just until warm. Serve hot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cake)

When I lived in Seoul, South Korea, this snack was on every corner.  Almost literally.  Most street vendors had this bubbling away, ready to be spooned onto a plastic bag-covered plate for instant gratification.  And although I was at first a bit hesitant to try it (I doubt those carts are inspected in any way whatsoever), I now find that I occasionally start to crave this spicy little treat, even if it makes my nose run.

Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cake)

1 cup dashi or beef broth
1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
2 tablespoons red pepper paste (gochujang)
4 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths on the bias, green and white parts
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 (1½-pound) package cylindrical rice cakes (garae tteok)
3 pieces flat fried fish cake (approximately 3x6-inches each)

Combine the broth, garlic, red pepper paste, green onions, and sugar in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Slice the rice cake diagonally into 2-inch pieces, if necessary, and add to the sauce.  Cook until the rice cakes soften and the sauce starts to thicken, about 6 minutes.  Cut each fish cake into 8 triangles.  Add the fish cakes to the rice cake mixture and cook until heated through.  Add a little water if necessary to keep the sauce fluid.

Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jungle Jim's International Market: Throwdown Crab Cakes

So I was watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and I just happened to catch the episode where he does this crab cake throwdown with a couple up in Booth Bay, Maine, who supposedly make the best crab cakes on the planet. The whole episode I'm drooling up a storm, but when I look for the recipe (not Bobby Flay's, the other people's), it's not on the website. Dang secret recipes! Well, I think I caught enough of the ingredients from the snippets they showed, so I finally crafted a recipe using something I found online that I think is pretty close, at least without tasting the original. And these crab cakes are amazing!

Throwdown Crab Cakes
Adapted from Margie's Crab Cakes from Jungle Jim's International Market

1 egg, beaten until the egg lightens slightly
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons lemon rind, finely grated
1 teaspoon lime rind, finely grated
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 green onion, white and green parts, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 cup panko, plus extra for crust
1 pound peeky toe or blue swimmer crab meat, checked for shell bits
Olive oil

Combine first nine ingredients. Add panko and mix until moist. Add crab, and fold in gently with your hands to ensure that crab stays in chunks. Using an ice cream scooper, make scoops of crab and place on a cookie sheet (I got about 14 out of this recipe). Refrigerate for one hour. Form scoops into patties a little smaller than your palm. Dip each flat side lightly in panko. Let the cakes rest for about five minutes. Heat an equal mixture of olive oil and butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Fry each cake for about three minutes on each side, but watch them, because they may be done in about two and a half. EAT!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dorothy Huang: Suan La Tang (Hot and Sour Soup)

I was never a huge fan of the gloopy hot and sour soup you generally get from the Chinese take out places.  (And the neon yellow egg drop soup isn't any better.)  But when I lived in Austin during college, I had the chance to take a Chinese cooking class, and the dishes were so authentic, that I found I actually liked hot and sour soup.  Now, you need to visit a good Chinese grocery to get some of these ingredients, but trust me, it's worth it.

Suan La Tang (Hot and Sour Soup)
Adapted from Dorothy Huang

3 dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked in hot water until soft, sliced into strips
4 cups water
1½ teaspoons bonito flavored soup stock granules
½ can shredded bamboo shoots, rinsed well
3 tablespoons Szechuan mustard greens, rinsed well to remove salt (optional)
1 tablespoon cloud ear black fungus, soaked until soft and rinsed well
20 dried lily buds, soaked, stem removed, and tied into knots
½ pound fresh tofu (firm), cut into small cubes
1 egg, slightly beaten

2½ tablespoons tapioca starch
1½ tablespoons water
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Heat water until boiling. Add soup stock granules and stir well. Let boil for several minutes. Add mushrooms, bamboo shoots, mustard greens, black fungus, and lily buds. Let boil for two more minutes. Mix sauce ingredients into a paste, starting with tapioca starch and water. Add to boiling soup. Add tofu and egg, stirring quickly so egg dissipates into threads. Add additional soy sauce if needed. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, August 05, 2007

China, The Beautiful Cookbook: Shīzi Tóu (“Lion Heads” Stewed Large Meatballs)

This is the Chinese answer to those big 'ol meatballs you get at Italian restaurants that are as big as your fist.  Except I think the Chinese probably thought these up first.  And because they cook up low and slow, they're about as tender as silk.  You can cook them over low heat, or you can do what I did, and put them in the oven at 325°F.

Note: I didn't have any lard on me, so I decided that bacon fat is much more suitable than tasteless vegetable oil for frying the cabbage.

Shīzi Tóu (“Lion Heads” Stewed Large Meatballs)
Adapted from China, The Beautiful Cookbook by Kevin Sinclair

1¼ pounds lean ground pork
2½ tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 (1½-pound) Napa cabbage
½ (15-ounce) can straw mushrooms, rinsed (optional)
Lard or vegetable oil, for frying
1½ to 2 cups chicken stock

Mix together the pork, green onion, ginger, salt, and wine and work the meat with your fingers until smooth and sticky. Form into 4 large meatballs.

Wash the cabbage and cut lengthwise into quarters. Stir-fry the cabbage and mushrooms (if using) briefly in a wok in lard or vegetable oil, adding a generous pinch of salt.

Spread half of the cabbage across the bottom of a casserole and place the meatballs on top, then cover with the remaining cabbage.

Add enough boiling stock to just cover the meatballs. Cover the casserole tightly and simmer over low heat for about 1½ hours or until the meatballs are melt-in-the-mouth tender.

Serve in the casserole, pushing the vegetables to one side to expose the meatballs.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gourmet: Spiced Saffron Rice

This is my go-to recipe for rice when I'm making an Indian meal.  It's fragrant and luxurious and goes with just about any main dish.  And you can even make it in your rice cooker if you want it to get any easier.  Just fry up the spices in the oil, dump it in the rice cooker with the rice and water, and go.  Immediate gratification.  Well, almost.

Spiced Saffron Rice
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, March 1991

1½ cups Basmati rice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
7 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2 tablespoons whole milk or half-and-half

In a large bowl wash rice in several changes of cold water until the water runs clear and drain it in a fine sieve. In a large heavy saucepan heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, add the cinnamon stick, the cloves, and the cardamom pods, if using, and fry the spices, stirring, for 30 seconds, or until the cloves are puffed slightly. Add rice and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the rice is opaque. Add 2¼ cups water and the salt, bring the mixture to a boil, and cook the rice, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, in a heatproof bowl set over a small pan of simmering water heat the saffron for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is brittle. Add milk, heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it is hot, and remove the pan from the heat. Drizzle the saffron mixture over the rice and continue to cook the rice, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My Hometown Restaurant: Odeng Bokkeum (Korean Spicy Fish Cake)

This may be my favorite Korean dish.  Seriously.  It's like the perfection of the cuisine.  Spicy. Salty. Sweet. Umami.  I could eat this with just a bowl of rice. And this is supposedly a side dish.  Not anymore.

Odeng Bokkeum (Korean Spicy Fish Cake)
Adapted from My Hometown Restaurant, Ft. Hood, TX

3 pieces fried fish cake (approximately 3x6-inches each)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon Accent powder (MSG) (optional)
1 teaspoon red pepper powder (gochugaru)
3 green onions, sliced thinly on the bias
1 serrano pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Cut the fish cakes into thin strips.  Heat the sesame oil and garlic in a frying pan or wok.  Add the fish cake strips and fry for 2 to 3 minutes before sprinkling with the sugar, Accent powder, and red pepper powder.  Add the green onions, serrano pepper, and soy sauce; sauté for 2 more minutes.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, if desired.  Serve warm or cold.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, July 02, 2007

Southern Living: Peach Streusel Muffins

Summer makes me happy.  Mostly because it's warm, and I always seem to be cold.  But also because there's all sorts of luscious produce to be had.  You can go to the grocery store and just smell the ripe perfection emanating from the produce section.  So I try to buy up this summer bounty and make it into delicious things.  Only problem with this little story is that the chances of finding a ripe peach, even in the middle of summer, is about the same as your chances of finding Eldorado.  So frozen it is.  Still tastes like summer.

Peach Streusel Muffins
From Southern Living magazine, July 2003

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups fresh or frozen peeled peaches, chopped
Streusel Topping

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare a muffin pan with 12 liners.

Beat the butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the egg; beating until blended.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the milk, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract and fold in the chopped peaches.

Spoon the muffin batter into the prepared pan, filling each liner ⅔ full. Sprinkle the Streusel Topping over the muffin batter.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the pans and cool on wire racks.

Make 12 muffins

Streusel Topping
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2½ tablespoons chilled unsalted butter

Combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon; cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles crumbs.

Friday, June 15, 2007

China, The Beautiful Cookbook: Stewed Chicken, Li Kou Fu Style

So I'm poking around in a Chinese cookbook, wishing that a Chinese recipe would actually turn out to taste like something other than a poor attempt at authenticity.  And I come across this recipe for a stewed chicken.  Easy enough.  No wok necessary.  And you know what?  This recipe turns out the most delicately flavored chicken I may have ever had.  No overpowering rose flavor.  Not super salty.  Just really delicious in a court-of-the-Chinese-emperor kind of way.

Stewed Chicken, Li Kou Fu Style
From China, The Beautiful Cookbook by Kevin Sinclair

1 (1½-pound) Cornish hen
4 green onions
Cilantro (garnish)

⅔ cup dark mushroom soy sauce
⅓ cup Mei Kuei Lu (rose-scented Chinese rice wine)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pinch of salt

Rinse the chicken and wipe dry. Place the green onions in the cavity and put into a deep, small casserole. Mix the seasoning ingredients together. Pour a little into the cavity, then pour the remainder over the chicken.

Cover the pot tightly and place in a water bath to prevent the chicken from coming into direct contact with the heat and burning. Simmer the chicken very gently until tender, about 1¼ hours, turning once or twice.

Lift out the chicken, cut into serving pieces and arrange on a plate. Pour the sauce over and garnish with cilantro.

Makes 2 servings

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tyler Florence: Rosemary Lamb Chops, Trembom: Drunken Potatoes, and BestRecipes: Caramel Slices

I came across some pictures of Australia, and it reminded me of the time I spent in the country with my friend from high school. I especially remembered a dessert called caramel slices that I had for the first time on that trip. I was so addicted, my friend and I would search out bakeries that sold them just so I could stuff my face again. We also gorged ourselves on meat pies and "chips".  Boy, was that a trip.

Since I can't have just caramel slices for dinner (but believe me, I considered it), I also threw in some lamb.  Because lamb = Australia, right?  I'm always amused when I reduce an entire country's cuisine to one ingredient.

Rosemary Lamb Chops
Loosely adapted from Tyler Florence

8 (3-ounce) lamb chops
 cup olive oil
6 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Australian salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

In a dish large enough to hold the lamb chops in a single layer, combine olive oil, the rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the lamb, turn to coat with the marinade and set aside for about 15 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat, for about 1 minute. Pat the chops dry and season on 1 side with salt and pepper. Add enough oil to lightly coat the surface of the pan. Working in batches if needed, add the chops seasoned side down to the pan. Cook until crisp and brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season the top side with salt and pepper, turn, and continue cooking until just firm and an instant-read thermometer registers 130 to 135°F, about 1 to 2 minutes. Allow the chops to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Drunken Potatoes
From Jill Dupleix, as seen on Trembom blog

3 large long potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon thyme sprigs

Heat the oven to 375°F. Peel the potatoes and finely slice crosswise. Toss the potato slices in a bowl with the olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Lightly oil a baking tray or oven proof dish and scatter the potatoes loosely over the base. It is vital that you choose a dish that is large enough so that your potato slices don't get crammed. Pour over the white wine and scatter with the thyme.

Bake for 30 minutes, during which time the wine will boil and bubble away, and the potatoes will crisp to a beautiful golden crunch. Keep an eye on them during the last few minutes after the wine has evaporated, as they can over-crisp.The slices in the corners might get scorched, but it's worth the sacrifice.
Caramel Slices
From bestrecipes.com

¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup self-rising flour
½ cup castor sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1½ tablespoons shortening

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a glass 11x7-inch pan with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Press parchment paper into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Combine coconut, flour, castor sugar, and melted butter. Press dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 15 or until golden brown.

While dough is cooking, combine sweetened condensed milk, butter, and golden syrup in a saucepan. Cook over medium high heat until the mixture begins to boil. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook for five more minutes, stirring constantly. When dough is done, pour caramel layer over top and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Place chocolate and shortening in a saucepan and heat over low heat until melted and smooth. Pour over caramel layer and smooth out. Allow chocolate layer to set completely before slicing into squares.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Crisco: Chicken Enchiladas in Red Sauce

Back when my family first moved to Texas, we had to learn about Tex-Mex.  See, we came from the East Coast, and the only exposure we had to things like tacos and enchiladas was the local Taco Bell.  So in flipping through a cooking magazine one day, we happened to come across a Crisco ad with a recipe for enchiladas.  Looked simple enough, so we plunged right in.  Now, these are certainly not authentic anything, but they are 1) delicious, 2) easy to make, and 3) good for leftovers.  I still make them when the family gets together since I know everything will enjoy it and happily munch away.

Note: I have doubled the enchilada sauce recipe because, well, I like things saucy.

Chicken Enchiladas in Red Sauce
Adapted from Crisco

Enchilada Sauce
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
½ cup thinly sliced green onion
¾ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
¼ cup sour cream
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
Canola oil, as needed
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 (6-inch) yellow corn tortillas

Spray a 13x9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the Enchilada Sauce.

In a medium bowl, mix chicken, green onions, ½ cup Cheddar cheese, ½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, chiles, and cilantro. Stir in ½ cup Enchilada Sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat ½ inch of oil in a pan. Fry the tortillas, one at a time, until soft (10 seconds per side). Drain on paper towels. Spread a small amount of the Enchilada Sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spread 2 heaping tablespoons of chicken mixture in each tortilla and roll up. Place seam side down, side by side, in prepared dish. Pour remaining sauce over, top with remaining cheeses, and bake until bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with extra sour cream, sliced green onions, and chopped cilantro.

Makes 6 servings

Enchilada Sauce
4 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Heat oil in a large saucepan; stir in flour and chili powder; cook for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Makes 6 cups

Sunday, May 13, 2007

CDKitchen: Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping

I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow it was decided that for Mother's Day, children should cook their mother breakfast and serve it to her in bed.  No matter the age or cooking ability of the children.  Hopefully with Dad's help.  Normally we all get together and plot out some sort of breakfast for Mom, and as we got older and a little more skilled, the breakfasts got a little more interesting.  But since the entire family was in different places for Mother's Day morning, we opted not to make breakfast this year.  Instead we did dinner.

My sister made herb-crusted pork tenderloin (ie. took an herbed pork tenderloin out of a package and roasted it) and sweet potato casserole with a brown sugar pecan butter topping.  We added steamed fresh broccoli and some wheat yeast rolls.  Why is it that when holidays like this roll around, I'm never very motivated to make something amazing?  Something to ponder.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping
From CDKitchen

3 large sweet potatoes
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar
⅓ cup flour
⅓ cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and slice sweet potatoes into ¼-inch slices. Boil in water until soft, drain and mash. Beat with electric beaters, stopping every so often to remove any strings that may collect on beaters. Add butter and sugar to warm potatoes and continue mixing. Add milk and vanilla extract. Mix well and put in a buttered casserole dish about 8" x 12". Mix the remaining ingredients and crumble over top of casserole. Bake 30 minutes at 350 . Freezes well before or after cooking.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Binnur's Turkish Cookbok: Firinda Meyaneli Tavuk (Chicken with White Sauce) and Acma (Soft Turkish Bagels)

Even though I spent a couple of days in Turkey back in 2001, the food that I ate there must not have been memorable, because I can't remember any of it. I figured it had to be better than that. I searched some Turkish recipe websites for some inspiration, and I finally came up with Chicken with White Sauce, called Firinda Meyaneli Tavuk. It seemed filling and pleasing without needing ingredients I had never heard of. I decided to make some Soft Turkish Bagels to go on the side, but I substituted poppy seed for the black sesame seeds called for in the original recipe. While the Chicken with White Sauce came out bland and rather tasteless, the Turkish bagels were delectable.

Firinda Meyaneli Tavuk (Chicken with White Sauce)
From Binnur's Turkish Cookbook

1 whole chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 fresh green onions, chopped
2 zucchini, cut in medium sized chunks
6-7 white mushrooms, brushed, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Kashar cheese (or Mozzarella), shredded (for garnish)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup flour
1 cup warm milk

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Boil the whole chicken with water in a large pot. Take the chicken out of the stock and let it cool down. Discard the skin and all the bones from the chicken and tear it apart in medium sized chunks with your fingers.

In a large skillet, cook the onion with olive oil over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Then add the garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté until the smell of the garlic comes out.

Add the flour, stir and slowly pour the warm milk in it while stirring constantly. The milk and flour should blend very well. Turn the heat off. Mix the chicken, zucchini, mushroom and green onions with the flour sauce and arrange them in a baking dish. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.

Makes 4 servings

Acma (Soft Turkish Bagels)

7 grams instant yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
2½ tablespoons sugar
½ cup lukewarm milk
½ cup sunflower oil
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten
Nigella seeds (black sesame seeds)

Mix the yeast with warm water in a large bowl. Stir well so the yeast dissolves, then add the sugar, milk, and sunflower oil. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the flour and salt slowly and knead. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap over the rim and let it rest for about 2 hours until the dough rises to twice its size.

Take a small-size ball from the dough and make it longer by spinning it. Then close up the ends to make a ring shape. Brush with the egg white and sprinkle Nigella seeds on top.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place parchment paper on an oven tray and arrange the dough rings on it. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375°F. Then, bake 15 more minutes or until the tops turn a golden brown.

Makes 8-9 bagels

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Giada de Laurentiis: Chicken Florentine Style

At first I thought that Giada was just a pretty face.  Someone cute to stick on Food Network so that people would tune in.  Enough of those stiff Le Cordon Bleu graduates.  That's what I thought.  Until I tried this chicken.  I love spinach, so she pretty much had me sold to begin with.  But oh. my. god.  This chicken is luscious.  The sauce is amazing.  And you'll need a piece of bread to scoop up all the golden goodness pooling on your plate.

Chicken Florentine Style
From Giada de Laurentiis

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1½ cups dry white wine
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen cut-leaf spinach, thawed, drained

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat lightly. Shake off any excess flour. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil to keep it warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until the shallots are translucent, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet, about 1 minute. Add the wine. Increase the heat to medium-high and boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and boil until the sauce reduces by half, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the sauce, and turn the chicken to coat in the sauce.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in another large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and saute until heated through. Season the spinach, to taste, with salt and pepper. Arrange the spinach over a platter. Place the chicken atop the spinach. Pour the sauce over and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Emeril Lagasse: Baked Codfish with Irish Cheese Crust

I always thought cod was best served with a crispy brown crust on a sandwich.  Not necessarily so.  It's equally, possibly more, delicious covered in bread crumbs and cheese and baked in cream.  Luscious enough for you?  Too bad St. Patrick's Day only comes around once a year.  And don't try to get all Americanized on me and use that nasty yellow mustard in a squeeze container.  This MUST have Colman's mustard.  It's got that rich bite that makes the whole darn thing worth it.

Baked Codfish with Irish Cheese Crust
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

4 (6-ounce) codfish fillets, skins removed
Emeril's Essence Seasoning (or your own mix)
½ cup fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons Colman's English mustard (paste form, not dry powder)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
6 ounces Kerrygold Vintage Irish Cheddar, grated
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a casserole dish and set aside.

Lightly season the codfish on both sides with Essence and place in the prepared dish, skin side down.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, butter, parsley, mustard, and garlic, and mix well. Add the cheese and mix well. Place on the fish, patting down to make a crust. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour the cream over the fish and bake until the fish is cooked through, golden brown and the cheese is bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Southern Living: Chocolate Truffle Cake

I think this is one of my mom's favorite cakes.  And after all the work it takes, it certainly should be.  This is a chocolate bomb of ridiculous proportions.  Chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, chocolate truffle filling, chocolate truffles on top.  I'm trying to think how you could stick any more chocolate in this one.  Maybe chocolate fudge drizzled over each slice?

Chocolate Truffle Cake
From Southern Living magazine

Chocolate Truffles
2-3 tablespoons whole milk
Rich Chocolate Cake
Satiny Chocolate Frosting
2 bottles chocolate sprinkles

Prepare the chocolate truffles. Combine the milk and the reserved ¾ of the truffle mixture; beat at high speed until the mixture is spreading consistency. Spread between the layers of chocolate cake. Frost with Satiny Chocolate Frosting. Pat chocolate sprinkles onto the sides of the cake. Arrange the truffles on top. Chill until serving time.

Makes 16 servings

Chocolate Truffles
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles

Melt the chocolate chips in a saucepan; remove from the heat. Beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually stir ¼ of the melted chocolate into the yolks; add to the remaining chocolate, stirring constantly. Add the butter and powdered sugar; beat until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Place ¼ of the mixture into a small bowl; cover with a paper towel, and let stand in a cool, dry place for 1 hour. Set aside remaining truffle mixture. After ¼ of the mixture has set for 1 hour, shape into 12 balls; roll the balls in chocolate sprinkles.

Rich Chocolate Cake
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups boiling water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Beat at low speed, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Pour into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes; then remove them from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks.

Satiny Chocolate Frosting
1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup whole milk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2½ cups powdered sugar

Combine the chocolate chips, milk, and butter in a saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat; blend in the powdered sugar. Set the pan in a bowl of ice water; beat the mixture until the frosting cools and holds its shape.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Nestlé: Toll House Crumbcake

I feel like an old woman talking about how I walked to school in six feet of snow (barefoot! uphill! both ways!) when I say this, but I first made this coffee cake back when I was in junior high school, maybe 13 years old?  I was taking home economics (because hello, who doesn't want a chocolate break in the middle of the day??), and this was one of the yummy recipes my teacher dug up for us.  I still have the photocopied recipe sheet, so you know this chocolaty crunchy confection made an impression.

Toll House Crumbcake
From Nestlé

½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup pecans, chopped
1 (12-ounce) package Nestlé Toll House semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels, divided

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels, reserved from 12-ounce package

Topping:  In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, butter, and flour.  Stir in nuts and ½ cup mini morsels; set aside.

Cake:  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  In a large mixer bowl, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla extract until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with sour cream.  Fold in remaining 1½ cups mini morsels.  Spread in pan.  Sprinkle Topping evenly over batter.  Bake 45 to 50 minutes until wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool; cut into 2-inch squares.

Makes about 24 squares

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ming Tsai: Hatosi (Shrimp Toast)

My mother decided that it was about time for her to host a happy hour at our house, especially since all of her friends have already done their turns. So I agreed to help her out as her personal "caterer" for the event. I needed to stay in the realm of very bland since my mother is convinced I am the only person on Earth that enjoys curry, squid, or anything that doesn't appear in a regular American grocery store. So I devised a menu based on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine with significant American modifications so that it wasn't too "weird." I'm still rolling my eyes over this one.

For Chinese food, I was warned not to make any strange dumpling creations (since I'm apparently also the only one on Earth that knows what dim sum is), so I decided to just do some shrimp toast and be done with it.  As you can probably tell, cooking for me is 90% debate and 10% actual work.  The recipe I pulled came from Ming Tsai and turns out the most luscious shrimp toast I think I've ever had.  These babies put take-out to shame.

Hatosi (Shrimp Toast)
From Ming Tsai

1½ pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 large eggs
2 sticks butter, cut into small squares
1 tablespoon truffle oil
White pepper
1 cup water chestnuts (fresh or canned), chopped finely
½ cup green onions, chopped finely
1 loaf thinly sliced white bread (I used Mrs. Baird's), crusts removed
¼ cup sesame seeds (optional)

Process shrimp and eggs in a food processor until almost smooth. Add the butter and process until you can only see small bits in the paste. Add the truffle oil, salt, and white pepper, and process just enough to combine (a few seconds). Move to a small bowl, and fold in the green onions and water chestnuts. Store in refrigerator until ready to cook.

Place bread slices on a rack on a baking sheet. Dry the bread in a 200°F oven for approximately 15 minutes per side. Cut the bread slices into triangles or squares. Using a knife, spread shrimp paste over the top of each bread portion. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. You can fry the shrimp toast in a fryer (at 350°F) or in a frying pan with a thin layer of oil on the bottom over medium heat. Always add the shrimp toast with the shrimp paste facing down to start, no matter which method you choose. Flip after the top is finished cooking to allow the toast to crisp. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tyler Florence: Cracked Chocolate Earth (Flourless Chocolate Cake)

It's Valentine's Day Singles' Awareness Day.  A day when I wish I could just crawl under the covers and wait for midnight.  But my mother requested that I make a chocolate cake without too many carbs for dessert, so that plan was scraped.  Sometimes I wish I could pout in peace.

I had seen Tyler Florence make a flourless chocolate cake on his show, and it was a dismal flop, quite literally. Flourless chocolate cake is actually a kind of souffle, relying on the strength of the eggs to hold the whole thing up, so unless you're really steady of hand and just leave it to do its thing in the oven without constantly poking it, the whole thing falls and sags. As I watched his cake deflate on air, I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't do another take.  I mean, that's pretty embarrassing, right??

Tyler's recipe calls for unsweetened fresh whipped cream, but I thought it needed a little powdered sugar in the mix. Not too much; just enough to sweeten it slightly. I also served each slice with a couple of blackberries (raspberries would have been delicious, too), since the slight tang of the berries works well with the dark chocolate.

Cracked Chocolate Earth (Flourless Chocolate Cake)
From Tyler Florence

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
9 large eggs, separated
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, cold
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Put the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl) and heat over (but not touching) about 1 inch of simmering water until melted.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a mixing bowl until light yellow in color.  Whisk a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks to temper the eggs; then whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes, then unmold.

While the cake is cooking, make the whipped cream.  Whip the cream until it becomes light and fluffy.  Dust the cake with confectioner's sugar.  Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Almost from Scratch: Pork Chops with Pepper Cream

I took a cooking class several years ago with Andrew Schloss when this cookbook first came out.  It was about the same time that Sandra Lee started doing her semi-homemade shtick on Food Network, and everyone seemed to want their dinner to look gourmet, but not actually take any time or effort.  I could kinda see getting on that bandwagon, especially if you had a bunch of kids running through the house on a regular basis, but Sandra's stuff just seemed too...packaged.  And unappetizing.  On the other hand, Andrew got very little press that I can remember, but his stuff was...actually good.  Unfortunate for him, but for all those harried moms out there, it means you can actually throw together something halfway decent using things in jars.

Note: I had trouble finding exactly "red pepper pesto", but I found some sort of red pepper-eggplant thick sauce-y thing in a jar, and it was fabulous.  Just grab whatever looks good if the pesto eludes you.

Pork Chops with Pepper Cream
Adapted from Almost from Scratch by Andrew Schloss

4 boneless center-cut pork chops, ¾-inch thick
Salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil
½ red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped garlic, jarred or fresh
Olive oil
1½ cups light cream
¼ cup red pepper pesto or spread
1 tablespoon chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Season the pork with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat with olive oil and brown the pork on both sides. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent and tender.  Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.  Add the cream to the pan and simmer until slightly thickened.  Whisk in the red pepper pesto, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley.  Return the pork chops to the pan, along with any accumulated juices, and cook for a few minutes more.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cooking Light: Apricot Lamb Chops

Okay, so I've never been a huge fan of apricots, even the fresh ones.  My dad absolutely loves dried apricots, but there's just something wrong with that wrinkly texture in your mouth.  And once you bite down, they're way too sweet.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, the fresh apricots never seem to ripen, so all you get is hard, sour flesh. This is a no-win situation.

However, I do love lamb chops, and if that means I have to smear them with sweet apricot spread in order to get my family to be open-minded about eating them, that's exactly what I'm going to do.  And these are terrific.  So good I almost reached over onto my mom's plate.

Apricot Lamb Chops
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, June 2005

½ cup apricot preserves or jam
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 lamp chops, trimmed of excess fat
Olive oil

Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Sprinkle lamb chops with salt, cinnamon, and pepper on both sides. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle with olive oil and add lamb when hot. Cook for five minutes on each side (for a little bit of red in the middle) or longer for well done. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the apricot mixture on top. Turn the chops in the mixture to make sure they are well-coated. You can set the pan over the warm burner briefly to melt the jam and thin the sauce a bit. When serving, spoon the excess sauce over the chops.

Makes 4 servings

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tapas: Pollo con Limón y Ajo (Chicken with Lemon and Garlic) and Champiñones al Ajillo (Sautéed Garlic Mushrooms)

So here we are with tapas, take two.  I didn't get crazy with some blood sausage (mostly because I couldn't find any), but I did make some pretty delicious lemon chicken and garlic mushrooms.  The mushrooms especially had some pretty nice liquid to sop up with a piece of good bread.  These two dishes could really make a meal themselves, flamenco guitar not included.

Pollo con Limón y Ajo (Chicken with Lemon and Garlic)
From Tapas: Traditional and Contemporary Tapas Dishes

4 large skinless boneless chicken breasts
5 tablespoons Spanish olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Grated rind of 1 lemon, finely pared rind of 1 lemon, and juice of both lemons
4 tablespoons chopped fresh flatleaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges and crusty bread, to serve

Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken breasts widthwise into thin slices. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Add the sliced chicken to the skillet and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients are lightly browned and the chicken is tender.

Add the grated lemon rind and the lemon juice and let it bubble. At the same time, deglaze the skillet by scraping and stirring all the bits on the bottom of the skillet into the juices with a wooden spoon. Remove the skillet from the heat, then stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the chicken in lemon and garlic, piping hot, to a warmed serving dish. Sprinkle with the pared lemon rind and garnish with parsley sprigs. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over the chicken, accompanied by chunks or slices of crusty bread for mopping up the lemon and garlic juices.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Champiñones al Ajillo (Sautéed Garlic Mushrooms)
From Tapas: Traditional and Contemporary Tapas Dishes

1 pound white mushrooms
5 tablespoons Spanish olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Lemon juice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges, to garnish
Crusty bread, to serve

Wipe or brush clean the mushrooms, then trim off the stems close to the caps. Cut any large mushrooms in half or into fourths. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until lightly browned. Add the mushrooms and sauté over high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have absorbed all the oil in the skillet.

Reduce the heat to low. When the juices have come out of the mushrooms, increase the heat again and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the juices have almost evaporated. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and cook for an additional 1 minute.

Transfer the sautéed mushrooms to a warmed serving dish, then garnish with lemon wedges and serve piping hot or warm. Accompany with crusty bread for mopping up the juices.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cuisine at Home: Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Sage Butter Sauce

Cuisine at Home really wants you to try their magazine.  It's all I can think about after coming across their initial "free" issue every time I turn around.  Half Price Books must have a whole collection at this point.  But their Parmesan Crusted Chicken just looked too good to put down, so I gave in and made it.  And the recipe turned out a delicious piece of slightly tart, savory, crusty chicken goodness.  So I guess all those free issues did their job after all.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Sage Butter Sauce
From Cuisine at Home magazine, October 2002

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Juice of ½ lemon
1 loaf Ciabatta bread (to yield 1 cup coarse, dry bread crumbs)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
Sage Butter Sauce

Cut Ciabatta bread into large cubes and process in a food processor until fine crumbs form.  Dry the crumbs on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes in a 200°F oven until completely dried by not toasted.

Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise.  Pound flat in a Ziploc bag with a small amount of water added.  Breasts should be an even thickness.

Blend egg whites, cornstarch, and lemon juice with a fork in a wide shallow dish; set aside.  Combine bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and zest in a second wide, shallow dish.  Dip chicken breasts first in egg sauce and then crust with breadcrumb mixture.  Let chicken rest at room temperature on a rack for 20 to 30 minutes to set crust.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Heat a frying pan with olive oil.  Add chicken breasts and brown first side, approximately 3 minutes.  Turn over and brown other side, approximately 3 minutes.  Transfer to oven-safe dish with small amount of olive oil in bottom.  Heat in oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Serve with sauce.

Makes 4 servings

Sage Butter Sauce
3 tablespoons minced shallot
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon lemon juice
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed, divided use
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
Salt and white pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste

Sauté shallot in 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat just until soft, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add wine, cream, broth, and lemon juice.  Simmer until reduced by half, 8 to 10 minutes.  Whisk in remaining butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly.  Do not add more butter until previous addition has melted completely.  Finish sauce with sage and seasonings.  Keep warm in a water bath until ready to serve.