Saturday, April 15, 2017

Little Spice Jar: Firecracker Chicken Meatballs

Every year I swear it gets harder and harder to make a dish that I can take to a family gathering and get everyone to eat.  Like moving-a-mountain impossible.  I've got medical issues to work around, weird aversions to certain ingredients, someone who pretty much only eats meat and potatoes, and someone who tries to keep the food fresh and healthy and without chemicals.  Okay, that last one is me.  Trouble maker: identified.  But I think I've found a good option here.  Meat, but not heavy, greasy meat.  Carbs are almost nonexistent in the meatballs.  Flavorful sauce hides lack of carbs, but don't take too much because sugar.  Crunchy lettuce works well with spicy meatballs.  I'm moving a mountain, one meatball at a time.

Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Little Spice Jar blog

2 pounds ground chicken thighs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Boston lettuce leaves, for serving

Firecracker Sauce:
¾ cup Frank's hot sauce
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on spice preference)

Position 2 racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 475ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the ingredients of the Firecracker Sauce over medium-high heat, allow to come to a boil, reduce the heat so it simmers. Let simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so don’t worry if it looks thin.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, panko, eggs, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and white pepper. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together. The mixture should be sticky. DO NOT OVERMIX, it will result in drier meatballs.

Shape the meat mixture into ball, about 1 inch in diameter. Place shaped meatballs on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the meatballs are completely cooked.

Place meatballs in serving dish and pour the sauce over the meatballs, making sure each meatball gets coated in the sauce.  Sprinkle with green onions and serve with Boston lettuce leaves.

Makes 44 meatballs

Saturday, April 08, 2017

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Lemp Mansion German-Style Cut Green Beans

I love these green beans.  I'm not sure what else to say, really.  They are just that good.  I even considered just cooking some plain white rice and eating these green beans on top of it for the whole week.  It's green beans in gravy, and somehow that seems to defy all the rules of eating your vegetables, but is somehow perfect.  If you have some kids and you struggle to get green stuff into them, try this dish.  If they don't eat it like it's chocolate cake, your children have serious problems and probably need a therapist.

Lemp Mansion German-Style Cut Green Beans
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Lemp Mansion restaurant

2 (14½-ounce) cans cut green beans
4 to 6 slices bacon, chopped
½ medium onion, diced small
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons chicken base
1½ teaspoons beef base
¼ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 drops Kitchen Bouquet
Extra cooked bacon and onion, for garnish

Heat oven to 400°F.

Reserving the liquid for the gravy, drain the green beans for at least 15 minutes. Once drained, place beans in an oven-safe shallow baking pan.

In a large, heavy saucepan, sauté bacon on medium high heat until slightly crispy.  Add onion and use a whisk to sauté onions until they are slightly golden but still retain some texture, about 3 minutes.  Add margarine, let it melt, then stir in.  Sprinkle about half the flour over top, stir in well, then add remaining flour. Stir constantly on low heat until floury taste cooks off, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in reserved green bean liquid and bring to a boil, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Let simmer for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens, stirring often.  Stir in chicken base, beef base, salt (if desired), pepper, and Kitchen Bouquet. Let cook for 5 minutes.  Pour hot gravy over top of the beans without stirring in. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until beans are hot.

To serve Lemp Mansion-style, transfer hot beans to a large serving bowl and top with extra bacon and onion.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Mission Lutheran Church: Shrimp and Rice Casserole

Tonight I was feeling very retro.  I just wanted something warm and comforting.  Something that comes in a casserole dish and screams '70's at the top of its lungs.  And luckily I found exactly what I wanted in an old community cookbook.  I swear, those housewives knew exactly what they were doing.  We all pretend like we're super foodies and above this kind of meal, but the moment any stress hits, we're right back to what mom used to cook.  Why?  Because it's good and non-threatening and reminds us of being 10 years old (when adulting was a far-away thing).

Shrimp and Rice Casserole
Adapted from Mission Lutheran Church community cookbook, Richardson, TX

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped green pepper
⅓ cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 small jalapeño, deveined and deseeded, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Emeril's Essence
½ teaspoon Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
2½ cups cooked long-grain white rice
1 (10½ ounce) can condensed cream of shrimp soup
1 (10½ ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
⅓ cup sour cream
1½ pounds large shrimp, cleaned and patted dry
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
⅓ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup panko

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, then add celery, green and red pepper, jalapeño, green onions, and garlic.  Sprinkle with Emeril's Essence and Adobo seasoning.  Sauté until onions are translucent and tender.  Add the shrimp and cook until they start to turn opaque.  Lower heat to medium and mix in the cooked rice, canned soups, and sour cream.  Add white pepper and parsley.  Stir well and cook until warmed through.  Pour into a large casserole dish and sprinkle with panko.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 12 servings

Friday, March 31, 2017

Life Made Simple: Mint Chocolate Brownies

I don't know why, but lately I've had the most ridiculous craving for mint.  Well, mint and chocolate actually.  And what better vehicle for getting mint and chocolate into your face than making up some rich brownies and then slathering them in mint frosting?  There's none, I promise you that.  And to just gild the lily a touch, you top it off with more chocolate.  I would eat something light for dinner, because you're going to want room for dessert.

Note:  I used some natural food coloring to add a slight green color to my frosting, but this particular food coloring came in small individual packets which cannot be closed again after using a small portion, which seems a ridiculous waste of almost $7.  My wish for all those food scientists out there: make some good natural food coloring that comes in resealable mini bottles and doesn't cost a small fortune.

Mint Chocolate Brownies
From Life Made Simple blog

For the brownies:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup chopped chocolate or nuts (optional)

For the mint frosting:
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-2 drops green food coloring (optional)
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

For the chocolate ganache:
¾ cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil and lightly coat with baking spray, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the melted butter, sugars and vanilla extract for 30 seconds on medium. With mixing speed on low, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined.
In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. With mixing speed on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until no flour pockets remain. Remove the bowl from the stand and using a spatula, fold in the chopped chocolate or nuts if desired.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading into an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 23-26 minutes or until set, taking care not to overbake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes or until brownies are no longer warm (you can speed up the process by letting them cool uncovered in the refrigerator).
Meanwhile, to make the mint frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, food coloring, peppermint extract and salt until creamy, about 1 minute on medium high. Add the powdered sugar, then the milk (or heavy cream) until it reaches the desired consistency. Beat for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Frost cooled brownies, then toss uncovered into the freezer for 10 minutes.
During the last minute of freeze time, in a microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, butter and heavy cream. Heat on half powder (mine is usually power 10, so I did 5) for one minute, stir, then repeat. Stir chocolate until all of the chips are melted and it becomes smooth. Beat for 1 minute and then pour over the top of the cold frosted brownies. Spread evenly and place in the refrigerator uncovered to set for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving (SEE NOTES).

-This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9x13" pan. Adjust the baking time accordingly.
-For easy cutting it's best to chill these brownies for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour in the refrigerator or 30 minutes in the freezer before slicing with a sharp knife. The hot water method is not necessary, for a clean cut wipe your knife on a paper towel after each slice.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Abuelo's: Papas con Chile (Potatoes with Chile)

I know this is probably going to seem strange to some, but one of my favorite things at a local Tex-Mex restaurant is their mashed potatoes.  Now wait, these aren't just any old mashed potatoes.  These are cheesy, chile mashed potatoes.  And somehow they go perfectly next to that enchilada doused in chili sauce.  In fact, the chile sauce is almost like the perfect Tex-Mex gravy for these puppies.  And lucky me, the restaurant actually released the recipe on their Facebook page.  And the crowd goes wild!

Note: Yes, I know.  Velveeta.  Chemical cheese.  I hear you.  But if you do any sort of investigating into restaurant recipes, you'll quickly realize that any sort of melty cheese dish incorporates a type of special melting cheese (I've heard rumors that it's from Land o' Lakes) that closely approximates Velveeta.  So basically, you're eating it anyway.  Ignorance is bliss.

Papas con Chile (Potatoes with Chile)
From Chef Luis at Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant

3 pounds red potatoes
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into 2-inch squares
½ cup heavy cream
10 ounces Velveeta, cut into 2-inch squares
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup diced red bell peppers
½ cup diced green bell peppers
2 cans chopped green chiles
½ cup chopped green onion tops
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño, seeds removed

Wash and scrub potatoes until clean. Place potatoes in a pot covered with water and boil until soft. Drain potatoes. Add the rest of ingredients and mash. Be sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chowhound: Jamaican Curry Goat

Whenever there's something unusual to be found at my local grocery store, I'm the first to snatch it up.  Okay, maybe not the first first, but pretty close.  I know exactly where they put all the cool stuff.  And I certainly noticed when they set out some fabulous slabs of frozen goat.  The first thing I thought of was the amazing curry goat that I'd had at a local restaurant, and I really wanted to replicate that experience.  Luckily, the owner of that restaurant has a small dry goods section near the register with some imported Jamaican goodies.  His suggestion?  Add a little bit of jarred jerk paste at the end of cooking to give it that fresh hit of spice and flavor.

Jamaican Curry Goat
Adapted from Chowhound

3 pounds goat meat with bone, cut in large cubes
3 tablespoons Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
1 large yellow onion, medium-dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped medium-coarse
4 sprigs fresh thyme
5 whole allspice berries
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 fresh Scotch bonnet pepper, leave whole and cut small "X" in bottom
2 tablespoons Jamaican curry powder

Trim excess fat from meat cubes, season with 2 tablespoons of Adobo seasoning and let sit for 30 minutes.

Chop onions, garlic, and green onions while meat is marinating in Adobo seasoning.

Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot and fry 1 tablespoon of the curry powder in the oil until curry powder darkens. Immediately add goat meat cubes along with chopped onions, garlic, green onions, thyme, whole allspice, and black pepper. Stir and fry over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Add remaining curry powder, the whole scotch bonnet pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning. Add hot water to cover, stir well, and bring to boil. Lower heat to a simmer.

After 40 minutes remove the whole scotch bonnet pepper (if you like extremely hot food you can leave it in the pot).  Continue cooking, uncovered, until meat is very tender (almost falling off bone), about another hour. You will need to replenish hot water several times in the cooking process, as needed. You will want a somewhat thick sauce on the meat, so if it’s still a bit watery when the meat is tender, turn up heat to medium, and cook off excess liquid until a somewhat thick sauce is formed.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, March 18, 2017 Jamaican Peas and Rice

When I visited San Francisco a year ago, one of the things I brought back with me was a package of some very fine red beans.  Smaller than kidney beans.  Perfect for red beans and rice (still on the to-be-cooked list).  But also perfect for a Jamaican side dish.  Especially for someone who likes her beans on the smallish side.  And when you cook this dish with all that ginger and allspice and coconut milk, you get the best darn rice and beans...err peas...that you've tasted.

Jamaican Peas and Rice
Adapted from

¾ cup dried small red beans
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 slice ginger, ½-inch thick and 1 inch in diameter
3 allspice berries
4 cups water
1 (14½-ounce) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon Goya Adobo seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, root removed, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 fresh Scotch bonnet pepper, pierced with a sharp knife
1½ cups basmati rice

Combine the beans, garlic, ginger, allspice, and water in a saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium heat until tender, about 2 hours.

Add the coconut milk, butter, Goya seasoning, pepper to taste, green onion, thyme, and whole fresh pepper.  Bring to a boil, then remove the hot pepper.  Add the rice and stir.  Return to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the liquids have been absorbed. Serve hot as a side dish.

Makes 8 servings

Monday, March 13, 2017

Brennan's and Sally's Baking Addiction: Bananas Foster Cake

It's time for my lovely niece's birthday, and I was racking my brain for a delicious, moist cake that was kid friendly and could be baked up in a six inch pan, but was still enticing to the adults attending the dinner.  And what I came up with is this lovely banana cake, with a twist.  I made Bananas Foster, and then mashed it up and dumped it into the cake mix.  And what came out was pretty fantastic.  I think if I make this again, I'll make a double batch of Bananas Foster, and slather some of it in between the layers.  For the adults only, that is.

Bananas Foster Cake
Adapted from Brennan's and Sally's Baking Addiction

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 medium bananas, sliced
¼ cup dark rum
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting

Melt butter, sugars, and cinnamon in a 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 4 minutes. Add banana liqueur and bananas; cook, until bananas are soft and slightly caramelized, 4 to 6 minutes. Add rum, and using a match or lighter, ignite to flambé; cook until flame dies out.  Spoon banana mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until cooled.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cooled banana mixture on low speed until creamy - about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. The batter will be slightly thick and a few lumps is okay.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 (1-pound) box confectioner's sugar (about 3½ cups)
Milk or cream to adjust consistency of frosting, if necessary

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla. Beat in the sugar. Add a teaspoon of milk or cream if the frosting is too stiff to spread; add additional sugar if it's too thin.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Serious Eats: Muffuletta

It's that time of year again!  Time for lots and lots of gluttony in anticipation of Lent.  Except I don't celebrate Lent.  So there's no future of abstaining from something delicious for me.  But that doesn't stop me from celebrating Fat Tuesday in all its glory.  And this year I decided to go with a beautiful muffuletta sandwich.  Now, I did not bake the roll all myself, but the olive salad is from scratch, and I picked out the most beautiful meats to adorn this lovely beast.  And it was....too much for a mere mortal.  You'll need a couple of friends to help you finish this off.

Adapted from Serious Eats

1 large round Italian sesame seed roll
¼ pound thinly sliced soppressata
¼ pound thinly sliced mortadella with pistachios
¼ pound thinly sliced coppa
4 slices mozzarella
4 slices smoked provolone
Olive Salad

Split muffuletta roll in half and spread each cut surface generously with olive salad, making sure to include the juices when spreading. Layer half of soppressata on bottom half of bun, followed by half of mortadella, half of coppa, half of mozzarella, and half of provolone. Repeat layers with remaining meat and cheese. Close sandwich and press down gently to compress. For best flavor, wrap tightly in paper or plastic and let rest for 1 hour before serving. Cut into triangular wedges to serve.

Makes 1 to 4 servings

Olive Salad
¾ cup pitted mixed oil-packed olives
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons parsley leaves
½ cup giardiniera (Italian-style pickled vegetable salad)
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine olives, capers, peppers, parsley, giardiniera, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop until no pieces larger than ½-inch remain. Transfer to a bowl. Add vinegar and olive oil and stir to combine. For best results, let olive salad rest overnight.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Black Pearl: New England Clam Chowder

Having grown up outside of New England, I've never been a big clam chowder fan.  Especially since the versions you get in the rest of the US are pretty poor imitations.  But when I found myself in Rhode Island a year or so ago, I got the opportunity to try The Black Pearl, and boy, have my thoughts on clam chowder changed.

As explained by Chef Knerr in the old RI morning show footage I found on YouTube, ocean clams are tough little buggers, and they just aren't appealing to chew, but they have fan-friggin-tastic flavor.  Sea clams are light and tender, but don't pack a flavor punch.  What is a chef to do?  Well, ground up the tough ones and throw in the tender ones in pieces, thus achieving clam chowder nirvana and possibly world peace.

Note: This version of the soup may actually have more clams in it than the original restaurant version.  I fail to see that this is a bad thing.  Also, there is no bacon in this soup.  Shocking, I know.  This may in fact be NE chowder sacrilege.  However, as much as I love bacon (and boy, do I ever love bacon), I feel that it has a tendency to trample everything in its path, especially lovely delicate things.  Like sea clams.  So I think that while this soup would probably still be delicious with bacon (what isn't?), you really get to enjoy the loveliness of the clams in their purest form by leaving it out.

New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from Chef Daniel Knerr at Black Pearl restaurant, Newport, RI

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (51-ounce) can chopped ocean clams (quahogs), drained, liquid reserved
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
2½ cups potatoes, peeled and diced small
2 cups half-and-half
1 (51-ounce) can chopped sea clams (surf clams), drained
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
Dry vermouth (optional)

Place the drained ocean clams in a food processor with a couple tablespoons of the reserved liquid and process until ground.  Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven, then add the onions and saute for a few minutes until translucent.  Add the thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Sprinkle the flour and cornstarch over the onions, then mix together and cook for a minute to two until the flour starts to smell nutty, but doesn't change color.  Add the ground ocean clams, remaining reserved liquid, bottle of clam juice, and the cubed potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat back to medium and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or just until potatoes soften.  Remove from the heat and chill until thickened, preferably overnight.

Place Dutch oven over medium high heat and stir in the half-and-half.  When the soup starts to loosen up and warm through, add the chopped sea clams, butter, and dill.  Stir to combine and heat through.  Add Tabasco and vermouth, if desired.  Serve hot.

Makes 12 servings

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Bon Appétit: Potato Skins

Okay, I gave in.  I never really watch the Super Bowl (except for the halftime concert), but I always enjoy an excuse to make delicious little appetizers.  They aren't really enough opportunities in life for appetizers.  And I could probably be okay with just having appetizers for dinner.  Especially when they're these delicious roasted potato skins, full of melted cheese and cool sour cream.  These are pretty much the pinnacle of appetizer goodness.  And I love having a recipe that turns out some fantastic skins, regardless of occasion.

Potato Skins
From Bon Appétit magazine, January 2014

8 russet potatoes (about 5 pounds), scrubbed
Olive oil for rubbing and brushing
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
Sour cream and chopped green onions, for serving

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prick potatoes all over with a fork and rub with oil; season generously with salt and pepper.

Place potatoes on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until very soft when squeezed and skin is crisp, 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool.

Heat broiler to high. Halve potatoes and scoop out flesh (save for another use), leaving a ¼-inch border attached to skins. Brush both sides of potatoes with oil and season insides with salt and pepper; return to rack. Broil, turning once, until skins are crisp and flesh is golden, about 5-7 minutes per side.

Divide cheese and bacon among potatoes and broil until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Serve topped with sour cream, green onions, and black pepper.

Makes 8 servings

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Donald Link: Bayou "Chicken Wings" with Fines Herbes Butter

You can tell it's Super Bowl time.  The grocery stores are packed to the gills.  Everyone is buying snack food.  And things like these little goodies show up in the fish market case.  I didn't even know my grocery store carried frog legs.  However, as soon as I saw them, I knew I needed to try them.  So I did some digging and came up with the recipe below, which I think does a good job of making frog legs accessible to the general public.  Yes, they do taste a little like chicken, but a lean chicken.  And with a crunchy crust and drizzled with butter, they are fantastic.

Bayou "Chicken Wings" with Fines Herbes Butter
From Donald Link, in Crescent City Cooking

Peanut or canola oil, for frying
8 pairs of frogs' legs, cut into individual legs, or 1 pound chicken wings, defrosted if frozen
Salt and pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup buttermilk
Fines Herbes Butter

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat.

While the oil is heating, rinse the frogs' legs and pat dry with paper towels.  Combine the flour with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper in a pie tin or plate.  Pour the buttermilk into a wide, shallow bowl.  Coat the legs with seasoned flour, then dip in buttermilk, then coat again with flour.  Shake off excess flour.

When the oil is hot (about 350°F), fry the frogs' legs in batches (to avoid overcrowding) until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes (cook chicken wings a bit longer, for about 7 minutes).  Use tongs to remove the legs from the oil, and drain them on paper towels for 1 minute.  Place the hot legs in a large serving bowl and toss with Fines Herbes Butter.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Fines Herbes Butter
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons minced fresh fines herbes (parsley, tarragon, chives, chervil)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of ½ medium lemon (1 to 2 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the butter in a bowl and stir in fines herbes, hot sauce, cayenne, garlic, and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Clinton St. Baking Company: Cherry Crumb Muffins

What do you do when your freezer is bursting at the seams?  You start grabbing things out of it and finding recipes.  Which is exactly how I decided to make these muffins.  Now, I know they're not super pretty.  For the life of me, I cannot get a crumb topping to look pretty once it has run through the oven.  Someday I'll learn.  And the frozen cherry on top of each sure made its own little mess.  But these muffins are absolutely delicious and make a fantastic breakfast.  In addition to helping clear some freezer space for new culinary adventures.

Cherry Crumb Muffins
From Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream
1 cup frozen or fresh sour pitted cherries
10 tablespoons Crumb Mix

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease muffin tins or use paper muffin cups.

In an electric mixer on medium-high speed, with the paddle attachment cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Sift the remaining dry ingredients together into a bowl.

Add the egg to the butter mixture and blend until combined.  Add ¼ cup of the sour cream to the butter mixture, then half of the dry ingredients, mixing and repeating with the remaining sour cream and then the remaining dry ingredients until the batter is combined.  Be sure to end with the dry ingredients.

Reserve 8 cherries and fold in the remaining cherries until evenly mixed.  Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, leaving room on the top for the Crumb Mix.  Top each muffin with 1 tablespoon of the Crumb Mix and 1 cherry.  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool for at least 10 minutes for best release of the muffins from their tins (if not using paper liners).

Makes 10 muffins

Crumb Mix
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cubed

Mix the dry ingredients with the butter by hand until the mixture is pea-sized.  Keep the Crumb Mix in a cool place until you are ready to use it.  The mix can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Makes 1½ cups, enough for 2 to 3 batches of muffins

Sunday, January 29, 2017

David Lebovitz and The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook: Bergamot Marmalade

Since it's the peak of citrus season, I took a stroll through my local fancy grocery to see what I could find.  In among the mounds of oranges and lemons and pomelos, I happened across a basket of bergamots.  They smelled absolutely heavenly, so I bought a whole bag.  Once I got home, I flipped through my jam books until I found one that suited my purpose and spent the next couple of days prepping and cooking.  When I finally got to taste my masterpiece, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor.  The marmalade is sour and sweet like other citrus preserves, but the bergamots give it a strong floral note that I've never experienced in marmalade before.  Be careful with the bergamots though...these were the sour ones.  Apparently there is a French citrus fruit masquerading as a bergamot that isn't quite as sour.

Bergamot Marmalade
Adapted from David Lebovitz and The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook

8 bergamots (about 3½ pounds)
3½ pounds sugar, or more to taste
1½ ounces lemon juice
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Day 1
Cut five bergamots (about 2 pounds) into eighths.  Place the bergamot eighths in a non-reactive saucepan where they will fit snugly in a single layer.  Add enough cold water for the fruit to bob freely.  Cover lightly and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Day 2
Prepare the cooked bergamot juice: Bring the pan with the bergamot eighths to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium.  Cook the fruit at a lively simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, or until the bergamots are very soft and the liquid has become slightly syrupy.  As the bergamots cook, press down on them gently with a spoon every 30 minutes or so, adding a little more water if necessary.  The water level should stay consistently high enough for the fruit to remain submerged as it cooks.

When the bergamots have finished cooking, strain their juice by pouring the hot fruit and liquid into a medium strainer or colander suspended over a heat-proof storage container or non-reactive saucepan.  Cover the entire setup well with plastic wrap and let drip overnight at room temperature.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining 3 bergamots (about 1½ pounds) in half and seed them.  The cut each half in quarters lengthwise and slice very thinly crosswise.  Place the slices in a wide stainless-steel kettle and cover amply with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain, discarding the liquid.  Repeat this process, then cover the blanched bergamot slices with 1 inch cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to medium, and cook at a lively simmer, covered, for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the fruit is very tender.  As the fruit cooks, stir it gently every 15 minutes or so, adding a little more water if necessary.  The water level should stay consistently high enough for the fruit to remain submerged as it cooks.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover tightly, and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Day 3
Remove the plastic wrap from the bergamot eighths and their juice and discard the bergamots.  Strain the juice well through a very fine-mesh strainer to remove any lingering solids.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, lemon juice, cooked bergamot juice, and bergamot slices and their liquid, stirring well.  Transfer the mixture to an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide non-reactive kettle.

Bring the marmalade mixture to a boil over high heat.  Cook it at a rapid boil until the setting point is reached; this will take a minimum of 30 minutes, but it may take longer depending on your individual stove and pan.  Initially, the mixture will bubble gently for several minutes; then, as more moisture cooks out of it and its sugar concentration increases, it will begin foaming.  Do not stir it at all during the initial bubbling; then, once it starts to foam, stir it gently every few minutes with a heatproof rubber spatula.  As it gets close to being done, stir it every minute or two to prevent burning, decreasing the heat slightly if necessary.  The marmalade is ready for testing when its color darkens slightly and its bubbles become very small.  Stir in Grand Marnier.

When the marmalade has finished cooking, turn off the heat but do not stir.  Using a stainless-steel spoon, skim off any surface foam and discard.  Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes.

Makes 6 half-pint jars

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Allrecipes: Crab Rangoon and New York Times: Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

It's the new year!  The Chinese New Year, that is.  And what a great excuse to make something delicious.  Now, I'm sure this isn't super authentically Chinese.  I doubt very much that they play with cream cheese to any extent.  But this appetizer is on literally every American Chinese restaurant's menu, so I figure it's fair game.  The hardest part of the whole thing is shaping all of the little rangoons, so if you have help, it will go that much faster.

Crab Rangoon
Adapted from

8 ounces cream cheese
1 (6-ounce) can lump crab meat, drained well
⅓ cup chopped green onions
1 clove crushed garlic
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 package (3½-inch square) wonton wrappers
Canola oil for frying
Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

Mix cream cheese, crab meat, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, sesame oil, and cayenne pepper together with a fork until ingredients are blended thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, 1 or 2 hours.

Keep wonton wrappers moist by covering with a damp paper towel. Place a small bowl of water nearby on the work surface. With a wet fingertip, moisten surface of wonton. Place 1½ teaspoons of crab filling in center of wonton. Fold 2 opposite corners toward each other over the filling to form a triangle. Working gently from the bottom, squeeze out any air bubbles.  Bring together the two "arms" of the long side of the triangle and pinch together to create an envelope shape. Place on a dry surface. Continue with remaining wonton wrappers.

Heat oil in deep fryer to 350°F. Fry wontons in batches until golden brown and crispy, gently moving them around in the oil with a strainer to brown each surface, about 3 minutes. Let cool about a minute before eating.

Makes 6 servings

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce
From Molly O'Neill as seen on The New York Times Cooking website

1½ tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon quality ketchup
1 teaspoon soy sauce
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon corn or peanut oil
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water

Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, ketchup, soy sauce and water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.

Heat a small, heavy saucepan. Add the oil and swirl to glaze the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a piece of garlic, add the garlic and ginger and stir gently until fragrant, 10 to 15 seconds, adjusting the heat so they sizzle gently without browning. Add the sugar mixture, stir to blend, then raise the heat to bring the mixture to a bubbly simmer, stirring.

Reduce the heat to medium-low; stir the cornstarch and water to recombine it and add it to the pan. Stir until the mixture thickens and becomes glossy, about 20 seconds. Turn off the heat and cover the pot to keep the sauce warm until ready to serve. The sauce can be made ahead, stored in the refrigerator and then reheated.

Makes ½ cup

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Steak & Ale: Hawaiian Chicken

For some reason, I was reminiscing about restaurants that are no longer with us.  That have gone the way of the dinosaurs.  Some I don't really miss, but some make me sad.  Like Steak and Ale.  Going to Steak and Ale was a super big treat when I was kid because even though it was actually pretty reasonably priced, it was still a steakhouse, and my parents still had three children to feed.  I loved going to the salad bar and loading up my plate, but I also loved ordering chicken.  Yes, I know, I seem to have a problem with ordering chicken at steakhouses (hello, Alice Springs Chicken!).  At Steak and Ale, the chicken to have was the Hawaiian Chicken, a grilled marinated chicken breast topped with a grilled slice of pineapple.  Somehow in my wandering down memory lane, just somehow, I happened to stumble across a website where someone had the originally Steak and Ale kitchen cookbook and spilled the beans on the recipe.  So this is the real deal chicken, and I can vouch that it tastes just as good as I remember.  Serve it was some rice pilaf, and you've got a trip down memory lane.

Hawaiian Chicken
From Steak and Ale restaurant, as seen on Red Dirt Chronicles

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons dry sherry
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1¾ cups Dole pineapple juice
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 pineapple slices

Combine the soy sauce, sherry, sugar, garlic, vinegar, and pineapple juice in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Pour the marinade into a gallon-size zip-top bag.  Cut the chicken breasts in half widthwise (knife parallel to the cutting board).  Drop the chicken breasts into the marinade and seal the bag.  Marinate the chicken for 36 hours, turning every ½ day.

Grill both chicken and pineapple and serve over rice pilaf (with green and red peppers and almond slices).

Other ideas with this marinade:
Instead of the pineapple, if you top the chicken with a slice of Provolone, shredded Colby cheese, diced tomatoes, and green onions, you have the Steak and Ale Southwest Chicken.

If you soak a 7-ounce center-cut sirloin in the marinade and grill it, you have the Steak and Ale Kensington Club steak.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Wolfgang Puck: Truffled Chicken Pot Pie

In a follow up to my fantastic ribeye, I have also located the most delicious chicken pot pie recipe ever.  The picture doesn't really do it justice, but this is the pot pie that Wolfgang Puck serves all the fancy people after the Oscars each year.  I can honestly say that it's probably good I'm not one of those people, because I'd probably be about 500 pounds if this is the kind of food they're served on a regular basis.  The filling is so rich and creamy, the puff pastry so buttery and crisp...  It's perfect, really.  And don't forget the truffle.  It adds that perfect last touch of decadence.

Note:  I actually located a fresh truffle at my local foodie paradise, which I proceeded to grate over the four pies.  You don't need a ton, or it will overpower the dish.  I used a microplane to grate it, but you could also cut super-thin slices if you happen to have a truffle shaver.

Truffled Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

7 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
2 large ribs celery, cut into ¼-inch slices
2 to 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half and then cut into ¼-inch slices
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
⅓ cup frozen petite peas
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 breasts from a rotisserie chicken, skin removed and meat cut into bite-sized pieces
1 black truffle (optional)
Approximately ½ pound frozen puff pastry, defrosted following package instructions
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan.  Add the carrots, celery, leeks, and mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms give up their liquid and the celery and carrots begin to soften.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.  Add the peas and cook for another minute.  Spoon the cooked vegetables into a bowl and set aside.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a large, tall saucepan. Add the flour and whisk to ensure there are no lumps.  Cook the flour until the mixture turns light brown. Add the chicken stock, a little at a time, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Cook out this mixture for 5 to 10 minutes while continuously stirring as it thickens. Check the consistency by dipping the back of a spoon into the sauce and running your finger along the spoon. You want the sauce to cling to the spoon and not run over the swipe you made.

Continue to cook and stir the sauce over medium heat until you reach the correct consistency. Season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne (if using). Taste the sauce and see if your sauce needs more seasoning. Next, add the cream and stir to combine. Then, add the chicken and the cooked vegetables to the sauce. Cook this mixture for another two to three minutes and then spoon it into four pot pie dishes.  Finely grate the truffle evenly over the mixture in each dish.  Set aside.

Roll out the puff pastry, using a bit of extra flour to ensure the pastry doesn’t stick to your work surface. Use a bowl or plate about an inch larger than the dishes you are cooking your pot pies in as a guide to cut out your pastry.

Break the egg in a small dish and add a tablespoon of water or cream. Whisk with a fork and brush this egg wash on the rim and edges of each pot pie dish. Lay your pastry circles over the top of each dish, being careful not to stretch the pastry. Seal the edges of the pastry by lightly pushing it onto the rim of each dish to make sure it is secure. Then brush the top and sides with more egg wash. Place your pot pies on a large baking sheet and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Bake until your pastry is a nice golden, dark brown and there are no more grayish raw patches.

Let cool for five minutes before serving.

Makes 4 pot pies

Monday, January 02, 2017

Anova Culinary and Serious Eats: Sous Vide Butter-Basted Ribeye

Attention, attention!  I have officially located the recipe for the most delicious steak you can possibly make in your home kitchen.  I am not even kidding.  Not even a little bit.  I really hope you invest in a sous vide cooker, because this steak is fantastic.  FANTASTIC.  It is perfectly medium-rare throughout, tender as can be, browned on the outside, and drowned in butter.  I could not stop stuffing my face.  Wait, you're still reading this?  You should be on Amazon looking up sous vide cookers!  Get cracking!

Sous Vide Butter-Basted Ribeye
Adapted from Anova Culinary and Serious Eats

1 beautiful 1-inch thick bone-in ribeye
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs thyme
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Season steak liberally with salt and pepper.  Place into a vacuum bag with thyme and garlic, ensuring there is some thyme and garlic on both sides of the meat.  Seal with a vacuum sealer.

Heat a sous vide water bath to 55°C/131°F.  When the water bath has reached temperature, add the steak and cook for 1 to 1½ hours.  At the end of the cooking time, remove the bag from the water bath, and then remove the steak from the cooking bag, reserving the thyme and garlic.

Heat a cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet with grapeseed oil over high heat until the oil smokes. Add the steak and sear on the first side until golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip the steak and add the butter and reserved thyme and garlic to the pan. As the butter melts, tilt the pan and spoon the butter over the steak until the steak is well-browned on both sides, about 1 more minute.

Makes 2 servings

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Emeril Lagasse: Blackeyed Pea Jambalaya

Every year I try to do something different with my blackeyed peas.  Because you have to eat them on New Year's Day.  If you don't, there will be no good luck for you the rest of the year.  And that would be a shame.  So each year I try something different, something interesting.  How many ways are there to make blackeyed peas?  I aim to find out.  This year I decided to go the Cajun route, courtesy of Emeril.  This is certainly not a vegetarian dish, blackeyed peas are not replacing anything.  But what it IS is a way to sneak blackeyed peas onto the plates of the unsuspecting.  Boyfriend/husband doesn't like blackeyed peas?  What he doesn't know won't hurt him.  And if you do like these lucky peas, this is certainly a delicious way to cook them up this year.

Blackeyed Pea Jambalaya
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces tasso ham, diced into small pieces
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices
2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
8 cups chicken stock
1 pound dried blackeyed peas, soaked overnight
2 cups long grain rice
½ pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
Emeril's Essence, to season
½ cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley

In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the tasso and andouille sausage, and render for 5 minutes. Stir in the onion, celery, bell pepper, jalapeño, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onions are wilted. Stir in the chicken stock and the peas. Bring the liquid up to a brisk simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and cook partially covered just until the peas are nearly tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the rice, bring the liquid to an intense boil, stir, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover the pot, stir the rice and peas again to evenly distribute the rice, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook, undisturbed, until the rice has absorbed the liquid, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.

Sprinkle the shrimp with Emeril's Essence to season. Using a large fork, gently fluff the rice and toss the shrimp, green onions, and parsley into the rice. Return the cover and allow to steam (undisturbed), for an additional 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Remove the thyme stalks and bay leaves and serve warm.

Makes 10 to 12 servings