Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chicken Waterzooi

Here is a Belgian soup/stew that I enjoyed while living in Belgium, but recently rediscovered. In that country it can be found made with fish; either version is great. This is Julia Child's recipe published in 1987. There is a more streamlined version on Food52 which lacks the vermouth which makes this recipe extra tasty.


Chicken Waterzooi

 Adapted from: Julia Child in New York Times
 Serves:  6

3 large carrots
2 medium onions
2 ribs celery
2 medium leeks, white and tender green portions
1/2 teas dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
3 pound (approximately) chicken, cut up or a mixture of chicken pieces, skin removed if you prefer
1 1/2 c dry white vermouth
1 1/2 to 2 c chicken broth
1/2 c heavy cream
1 1/2 teas cornstarch
6 egg yolks
3 T minced fresh parsley (Italian, preferably)

After cleaning the vegetables, cut them into julienne (or cut them anyway you'd like, keeping them relatively the same size). Cut vegetables should equal about 5 cups in all. Add tarragon and a some salt and pepper and mix, if you have room in your measuring cup.

In a Dutch oven, layer the ingredients, starting with one third of the vegetables, then half the chicken and so on. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces as you place them in the pot. Pour in the vermouth and enough chicken broth to barely cover the ingredients. You can refrigerate the pot at this point and cook several hours later.

When ready to cook, bring the pot to a simmer, covered and cook slowly for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and has reached temperature of 165F.

Remove chicken from sauce, cover and keep warm while you strain the cooking liquid, reserving vegetables as well. You may remove some of the excess oil from the liquid, if desired.

Whisk the cream and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl and stir in the cream mixture. Very slowly, stir in the hot cooking liquid taking care to keep the eggs from curdling. This may be most easily accomplished using a ladle, since a heavy Dutch oven would be hard to hold with one hand. Return chicken, vegetables, and sauce into the Dutch oven and over medium-low heat, stirring gently from time to time, reheat all but do not bring to a boil.

To serve ladle into large warm soup bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with boiled potatoes or egg noodles or a loaf of crusty bread.


While searching the internet I found recipes using sauvignon blanc rather than the vermouth. I haven't tried it but I imagine it would work just fine.

I prefer to remove the skin from chicken before braising or stewing because I don't see a way to keep the skin crispy and it becomes unpalatable to me.

When I made this, I had just read of a Cook's Illustrated method which increases the flavor of chicken stews and soups. They recommend browning removed skin which creates flavorful "fond" and some fat, (which can be poured out, but hang on to the fond). For a full discussion of the technique, see this from Remove the browned skin pieces before layering the ingredients in the pot. I also browned the the back and wings (left over from when I cut up the chicken) and cooked them with the rest of the dish discarding them before combining the vegetables and chicken with the finished sauce. I browned the skin, back, and wings while I prepped the vegetables so it didn't add any extra time.

Monday, March 30, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef

I'm posting this mostly for me; every March for the last several years I have called my mom to ask for a reminder on how to cook corned beef. It's not hard, but for a meal I manage to cook only once a year I just can't remember the details.


St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef

1 package flat-cut corned beef (point cut is too fatty)
Red potatoes

Place the corned beef in a Dutch oven. Empty the spice packet into the pot, and add plenty of water, an inch or two above the level of the beef. Boil corned beef for at least two hours, up to five.

About an hour before serving, prepare the vegetables. Peel and cut carrots into 2-inch pieces. Wash and cut red potatoes into 2-inch chunks. Trim and core a cabbage, then slice each half into 4 wedges. (Depending on the size of your corned beef and your taste for cabbage, you may prefer to use only half of the cabbage.)

Thirty minutes before serving add carrot chunks.  Twenty minutes before serving add red potatoes. Ten minutes before serving, add the cabbage wedges. (Or 5 minutes if you like your cabbage crisp tender.)

Once the vegetables are done to your preferred texture, remove and slice the corned beef. It's nice to smash each potato serving on the plate and soften them with a little of the broth. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Creme Brulee

I don't remember exactly when I discovered creme brulee; I am absolutely sure I didn't run into it as a child and likely didn't learn of it until I moved overseas in my early thirties. I've adored it since the beginning of my acquaintance with the dessert. Fortunately I have found it isn't too hard to make and it works here at my high altitude. This is much like making homemade ice cream except there are no worries about curdling the eggs with hot cream. However, it helps to feel comfortable using a torch to melt the sugar.


Creme Brulee

Yield: 8 (I always end up with an extra; maybe my ramekins are just a bit small)

4 c chilled heavy cream
2/3 c granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
12 large egg yolks (the left over whites are great for a homemade angel food cake)
8-12 teas sugar, granulated, turbinado, or Demerara

Preheat your oven to 300F after placing rack to the lower-middle position.

Combine half the cream, salt and sugar in a saucepan. Slit the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the mixture as well as the pod. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring from time to time so the sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat and let the mixture steep so that the flavors infuse, at least 15 minutes.

Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of a large baking dish, cake pan, or roasting pan. Place the 4- to 5-ounce ramekins into the pan and arrange so they all fit. As you get close to the end of the infusing time, heat a kettle or so it will be ready to make the water bath (bain-marie). I think for my roasting pan I used at least 3 quarts of water so I had an electric kettle heating water as well as some in a pitcher heating in the microwave. It's better to have too much than too little.

After the cream mixture has infused, stir in the remaining cream which will cool the mixture. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks until they are combined. Add approximately 1 cup of the cream mixture into the yolks and stir until combined; repeat with a second cup. Add the rest of the infused cream mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. It will have a uniform color and no streaks of egg yolk. Using a fine strainer, strain into something you can pour from--a large (at least 2 quart measuring cup) or a pitcher. Pour the cream mixture into the ramekins. You can also use a ladle if pouring is difficult.

Carefully place the baking dish on the oven rack. Even more carefully, pour the near-boiling water into the baking dish, making sure you don't splash the water into the cream in the ramekins. This can be tricky; just go slowly and pour close to an edge of the pan. As you pour enough water in, the water will move into areas that are farther away from you. Water should reach about 2/3 the height of the ramekins.

Shut the oven door and bake until the centers of the custards are just barely set about 30 to 35 minutes. Knowing when creme brulee is done can be a bit difficult, too. Test by gently shaking one of the ramekins with a pair of tongs (again avoid splashing). If the liquid is sloshy and  moves around a bit like a wave, it is still not done. If it moves more like jello (especially jello that is piled in a bowl) then they are done. You can also use an instant-read thermometer placed in the middle of one of the ramekins (don't touch the bottom). It should be at 170F. Begin checking the custards at the 25 minute stage to be sure you don't overcook them.

Remove the custards from the oven. This is easiest one by one but it is best to use rubber tipped tongs so you don't have slippage. (If you are a home-canner you likely have a bottle lifter that would work, too.) Alton Brown makes his own rubber tipped tongs by wrapping the ends with rubber bands. I also have a towel or hot pad in my left hand to support each ramekin as I remove them from the water bath. Place each custard on a cooling rack and cool to room temperature (about 2 hours). Cover with plastic and refrigerate until cold which will take 4 hours (custards can last in the refrigerator for 4 days, if someone doesn't eat them). I usually cover each ramekin separately but you can place them on a rimmed baking sheet and cover all together. It is usually easier for me to find room in my fridge for individual ramekins rather than a cookie sheet full.

Before serving, take custards from the refrigerator and remove plastic. If there is liquid from condensation on top of the custards soak it up with clean paper towels. Sprinkle with about 1 teas of sugar and, if needed, you can even things out by tilting and shaking the ramekins. Ignite your torch and in a safe place and on a safe surface caramelize the sugar. I use a regular shop torch because I find it easier to keep a supply of fuel, but I find I need to dial it down so the flame doesn't blow the sugar off the ramekin. You may return the ramekins to the refrigerator to return to a chilled state but don't allow them to remain for longer than 30-45 minutes. You may also just go ahead and eat them.


The last time I made this I infused this with espresso and cinnamon.  I lightly crushed 1/4 c espresso beans and 3 cinnamon sticks (in a zipper bag) and put them in the cream with the vanilla. It was fantastic combination.

Other flavors can be infused as well. I've eaten (but haven't cooked) lavender infused brulee and I've read about infusing it with cardamom. Maybe that is the next test.

Monday, March 9, 2015


I tried a new yeast bread recipe last week that sounded promising--it's a 90-minute sandwich bread from Cook's Illustrated. Although I make sourdough bread regularly we do sometimes run out and I like the idea of a yeast bread that I can make quickly. Unfortunately the effects of elevation were disappointing--the loaf fell significantly. The flavor was good but the texture left a bit to be desired. Someday I will figure out a high altitude version of this recipe, but I don't have a lot of time for recipe testing at the moment! I feel quite depressed about baking in the mountains, and I am frustrated that so many of my favorite recipe sources are based at sea level.

So the last couple of times I've baked, I've turned to Susan Purdy's Pie in the Sky. Following the guidelines for 5,000 feet I've learned from experience that I can trust these recipes to avoid altitude baking problems. Here's a nice, quick recipe for popovers, which I haven't eaten much in my life. They are eggy, chewy, and light, and so reminiscent of oven pancakes that Michael calls them baby Dutch babies.

after cooling


High Altitude Popovers

for approximately 5,000 feet above sea level

Source: Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Yields 12 popovers in a muffin tin

1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 teas salt
1 teas sugar
3 large eggs
1 c whole milk
1 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450F. Grease the muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the eggs, milk, and melted butter. Blend together the wet ingredients, then mix completely with the dry ingredients until combined.

Fill the muffin tin with batter, no more than half-full for each cup. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F for another 10 minutes. The popovers should be puffy, golden brown and crisp. Place the muffin tin on a wire rack to cool, or serve immediately. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Orange-glazed Brownies

In the early 90s I started to read cookbooks for recreation. This was a bit of a challenge because I lived outside United States and my skills in other languages were (and are) poor. The only library available to me was a small one set up in a "support unit" for use of American NATO personnel and their families. Still I found it entertaining to read about food and my interest has continued, leading to a somewhat risky and expensive hobby for me. I have a hard time resisting the temptation to buy the cookbooks I read and hesitate to admit how many I have acquired. When we returned to the large libraries in Virginia I indulged my reading habit regularly. One of the earliest recipes I culled from a library book is the following. It is still one of my favorites and it continues to perform for me even though I no longer live near sea level.


Orange-glazed Brownies

Source:  Cookie Classics (a Better Homes and Gardens publication which looks like it may be out of print)
Yield: 8X8 pan

For the brownies:

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 c butter (1 cube)
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 teas finely shredded orange zest (this is easiest to do with a rasp grater)
1 teas vanilla
3/4 c flour
1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring until melted. Off the heat stir in the sugar, eggs, orange zest and vanilla and beat by hand just until combined. Add the flour and nuts and stir but only until the flour is incorporated.

In an ungreased 8X8 baking pan, spread the batter smoothly. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out dry. Cool on a wire rack. When completely cooled top with glaze.

For the glaze:

1/3 c whipping cream
3 oz. finely chopped semisweet chocolate or 1/2 c chocolate chips (I've used bittersweet, too)
1 teas orange zest

Bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat or in a closely monitored microwave. Remove from heat and  gently stir in the chopped chocolate or chips and add the orange zest. Cover and allow to sit for 3 minutes until chocolate is melted. You may find that the chips don't melt completely until you stir for a few minutes. Let the glaze cool for 5 minutes then pour on to the brownies and spread it evenly. Let the brownies sit at room temperature until the glaze has set, at least an hour. Cut and serve; I like these cut somewhat smaller than usual since they are so rich.


Some Ghirardelli chocolate chips are pretty big. I advise chopping them before using in the glaze. If you can get your hands on some Callebaut chips, they work wonderfully here.

I've lined my pan with foil the last couple of times I've made these, leaving excess foil so I can lift the brownies out of the pan before cutting. I find it easier to cut the brownies on a cutting board and I also don't cut into the finish of my baking pans which ultimately leads to rust.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cabbage Soup with Smoked Sausage

Recently I was going through my new Bittman cookbook looking for something I could make with ingredients on hand, without a trip to the store, and stumbled on this lovely soup. I had a several-weeks-old head of cabbage in the fridge that my 4 year old had picked out at the grocery store, and some kielbasa in the freezer that I had intended to use in another recipe months ago. (Letting your 4 year old pick out vegetables may sound odd, but I encourage it with all of my kids. Fruits and vegetables are something I can say yes to! And maybe if he picks it out he'll be more likely to eat it.)

Like most of the recipes from this cookbook, the soup is simple, streamlined, easy to cook, and tasty. Also it puts me in mind of Irish food, appropriate for next month's celebrations.

I served the soup with skillet cornbread but I think it would be good with beer bread too.


Cabbage Soup with Smoked Sausage 

Source: How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman

2 T olive oil
1 lb bratwurst, kielbasa, or other smoked sausage
1 large onion
1 small head Savoy or green cabbage
salt and pepper
1 T caraway seeds
6 c chicken or beef stock
1 cinnamon stick
1 teas dried thyme

Put 2 T olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces; I did thin slices the first time I tried it but I might go even smaller next time to distribute the meat more evenly through the soup.

Add the sausage to the hot oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on most sides, 5-10 minutes. Slice the onion into 1/2 inch thick slices. Trim the cabbage; cut into quarters, then cut out the core. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch ribbons.

Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil as possible in the pot. Raise heat to medium-high and add the onion and cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften, 3-5 minutes.

Add 1 T caraway seeds. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then add 6 c stock, cinnamon stick, and 1 teas thyme. Return sausage to the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat so it bubbles gently. Cook 5-10 minutes (longer at higher altitudes) until the vegetables are tender and the soup thickens a little. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oatmeal Muffins

This is another new recipe for me; it was recently featured on an America's Test Kitchen episode (watch it here). Test cooks assure extra oatmeal flavor by making oat "flour" in a food processor (I would guess a good blender would do the trick, too). It's worth the effort to make the topping although prep time is increased; it adds a sweet crunch to the muffin. These are as good as the show promised they would be.


Oatmeal Muffins

Source: America's Test Kitchen
Yield: 12-18 (ATK reports that the yield is 12 but my effort yielded 18)


1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1/3 c flour (I think you could use wheat flour here)
1/3 c pecans, chopped fine
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 teas ground cinnamon
1/8 teas salt
4 T unsalted butter

Melt the butter in a medium, microwave-safe bowl or medium saucepan. Add all remaining ingredients and toss to thoroughly combine. Set aside.


2 T unsalted butter, plus 6 T butter
2 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1 3/4 c all-purpose or unbleached flour
1 1/2 teas salt
3/4 teas baking powder
1/4 teas baking soda
1 1/3 c packed light brown sugar
1 3/4 c milk
2 large eggs, beaten

Grease and flour the muffin tin. In a skillet, melt 2 T butter. Add the oats and cook over medium heat until the oats become golden and begin to smell similar to popping popcorn, about 7 minutes (give or take). Process the oats in a food processor until you have a fine meal, about 30-60 seconds. Add the remaining dry ingredients (in the case of muffins, sugar is included in wet ingredients). Pulse until combined.

In a large bowl melt the 6 T butter in the microwave. Add sugar, mixing until smooth. Whisk in the eggs and milk. When liquids are smooth add the oat mixture. To reduce lumpiness ATK suggests the following, " Using whisk, gently fold half of oat mixture into wet ingredients, tapping whisk against side of bowl to release clumps. Add remaining oat mixture and continue to fold with whisk until no streaks of flour remain." Allow the mixture to sit for 20 minutes to thicken. In the meantime, prepare the oven by placing the rack in the middle position and preheating to 375F.

Fill the muffin cups, dividing the batter evenly using a large spoon or an ice cream scoop (my favored method for muffins for over 30 years). Use about 1/2 c batter per cup which will fill the cups to the rim. (This may be where I gained extra batter; I filled to about 1/4 inch below the rim.) Sprinkle the topping on the muffins (ATK indicates that 2 T is sufficient; I couldn't fit that much on each muffin). Bake for 18-25 minutes until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. For even cooking turn the muffin tin around halfway through the baking period. If you have extra muffins, place tins side by side on the rack, if they will fit.

Muffins should cool in the tin for 10 minutes; then you may remove them and place on the rack for further cooling, if desired. Eat them warm or cool. These are not bad reheated in a microwave for a short time--don't nuke them, though.

Note:  Since these are cooked in small cups as opposed to a loaf or cake pan, the only adjustment I made for elevation was to measure the baking powder and soda scantly. For the majority of cooks, I advise following the recipe as directed.