Saturday, February 16, 2019

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

Although we already have a good mac and cheese recipe in our collection, I'm going to include this one, too. I like the idea of an almost one pan meal (depends on if you want to count supplementary bowls) and I like that this cooks on the stove-top.


Skillet Macaroni and Cheese                     

Source:  Cook's Country Magazine
Serves: 4-6

2 T unsalted butter
2 slices sandwich bread pulsed in food processor until coarsely ground to equal 2 c crumbs

salt and pepper

3 3/4 c water, plus more if needed
1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk, divided
3 c elbow macaroni
1 teas cornstarch
2  teas hot sauce, or to taste
3 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a 12-inch skillet melt butter over medium-high and add bread crumbs, 1/4 teas salt and 1/4 teas pepper. Cook and stir frequently until the crumbs are deep golden brown. Move to a bowl and let rest.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Replace on stove at medium-high heat. To the skillet add the water, 1 1/4 c of the evaporated milk, and 1/2 teas salt and bring it to a simmer. Add the macaroni, stir. Cook until macaroni is al dente remembering to stir often. 

In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with the remaining evaporated milk and stir in the hot sauce. Stir this mix into the skillet and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about a minute. Remove from heat and stir the cheeses in, one handful at a time, adding water if needed to adjust the thickness of the sauce. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and serve.


Because of all the cheese, I believe the amounts of salt called for in cooking may be reduced somewhat.

Also, you could tempt fate and use salted butter on the bread crumbs which would save a step. 

This was plenty cheesy for me, but I realized I used extra sharp cheese which is stronger in flavor. It will be fine if you use what is called for. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Peruvian Roasted Chicken with Spicy Cilantro Sauce

This creamy sauce is quite beautiful and ensures a tasty chicken meal. The marinade and sauce take a bit of time to pull together and you have to allow time for marinating, but cooking the chicken is straight forward and easy.

The original recipe offers substitutes items fairly often found in home kitchens and I followed those suggestions. I didn't want to wait until I could find new ingredients online and wait for delivery. The results were excellent.


Peruvian Roasted Chicken with Spicy Cilantro Sauce

Adapted from NYTimes Cooking
Serves 4

This can be cooked as either two halves of a chicken or as chicken pieces. I chose to cook pieces and found that when I removed the breast pieces from the oven earlier than the thighs and legs, as advised, the sauce burned on the pan. To avoid the burned mess and smoke, I advise cooking the chicken on two quarter sheet pans (or two cake pans would work) placing the brown meat on one and the breasts and the wings (if you use them) on another. This way, you can place the breasts in the oven 10 minutes after the brown pieces so that everything finishes up at approximately the same time. Additionally, the juice that is released by the chicken as it cooks is very tasty and it is a shame to let it burn away when it would be better to drizzle it on the pieces of chicken just before serving.

For the marinade:

6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T soy sauce
1 T aji amarillo or another chile paste such as sriracha
1 T lime juice
1 teas aji panca paste or 1 teas pasilla chile powder (I used ground dried mild Hatch chile)
1 teas Dijon mustard
1 teas ground cumin
1 teas freshly ground pepper
1/2 teas table salt

In a large bowl or storage container mix the ingredients above.

For the chicken:

1 (3 1/2-4 1/2 pound chicken) halved or one chicken cut into pieces (I recommend the larger size or you'll have left over sauce)

Place chicken halves or pieces in the bowl or container. Turn until all pieces have been coated with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2-12 hours. 

For the sauce:

If you are at all spicy-hot averse, mix the sauce with small amounts of chile and chile paste and taste it after blending. You can always add more jalapeno if you want.

1 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems
jalapenos, seeded and diced (up to 3-4 but I used just half of one)
1/4 c crumbled feta cheese
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped or sliced
1 1/2 teas lime juice, more to taste
2 teas chopped fresh oregano or basil (or 1 teas of dried oregano)
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas Dijon mustard
1/2 T aji amarillo or other chile paste (see above)
1/2 teas honey or sugar or agave syrup
1/2 teas cumin
1/2 c olive oil

Place all ingredients except for olive oil in a blender container and run the blender until everything is fairly finely chopped. Scrape the sides. Drizzle the oil through the blender opening while the machine is running until everything is emulsified. Scrape the sides again and run the blender a while to get everything as smooth as possible. Stop the blender and taste the sauce; add more chile, salt, and/or lime juice, if desired. Store in fridge until serving time.

Cooking the chicken:

the marinated chicken
olive oil for drizzling as needed

Heat the oven to 450 F. Take the chicken out of the marinade and blot with paper towels to dry the pieces somewhat. Arrange the chicken skin-side up on an oiled rimmed baking sheet (or two quarter sheets as suggested above). Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and place in the oven. Chicken halves can be roasted for 35-45 minutes (check with an instant read thermometer if you want to be sure it's done; 160F for white pieces and 165F for brown meat). For chicken pieces the brown meat should be done after 35-45 minutes and the white meat after 25-35. I found that both white and brown were much past the target temperatures in the time recommended but they remained tender. Consider my above suggestion and place the white meat in the oven 10 minutes later than the brown since they can overcook and become badly dry. Remove from the oven and allow to sit under loose foil for 5-10 minutes.

Serve the chicken with sauce to pass.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

A slight bitterness (from the sesame paste) contrasts with the deep chocolate--possibly a more grown-up rendition of this perennial favorite. They also posses an airy crispness at the edge while the middle is chewy.


Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from: New York Times Cooking
Yield: depends on the size you make them--my cookie scoop yielded 24

Adjustments for baking at altitudes of approximately 4000-6000 feet:

subtract 1 T sugar
add 1 1/2 T flour
use 1/4 teas baking soda
add a second teas vanilla

4 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 c tahini (sesame paste), well stirred and at room temperature
1 c light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teas vanilla extract
1 c plus 2 T unbleached flour
1/2 teas baking soda
1/2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas kosher salt
1 c bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

With a paddle attachment of a stand mixer on medium speed cream butter, tahini, and sugar until fluffy. If you have a Bosch mixer use the cookie attachments. It may take up to 5 minutes. Add the egg and yolk, and vanilla and continue mixing for another 5 minutes at a medium speed.

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and whisk together. Add this mixture to the butter/egg mixture until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips by hand using a rubber spatula. This batter will be quite soft; don't worry, chilling will make it so you can handle it. Refrigerate for 12 hours at least which will ensure tender cookies.

Heat the oven to 325F and use parchment paper or a silicone mat to line a baking sheet. Use a scoop or spoon to form dough into balls and place on the baking sheet with 3 inches between balls so they can spread. Bake 13-16 minutes until barely golden brown around the edges. The center will be pale in the middle.  Allow to cool on a rack for 20 minutes.


You may wonder if the extra 2 T flour is an altitude adjustment since you've seen those from time to time in our recipes. But in this instance the original sea-level recipe calls for a cup as well as 2 tablespoons. For altitude I've added even more, see above.

The original recipe is for a salted cookie. You may find that appealing--I do too, but I'm trying to limit salt intake. The cookies are great without the topping. However, if you wish, sprinkle the cookies with a flaky salt just as they come out of the oven.

You can find tahini in most supermarkets these days.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Why You Eat What You Eat

Part of the reason I love to cook is that the results, in addition to providing sustenance and tasting delicious, can mean so much, as we have recently highlighted. I was on a nonfiction kick last year in my reading, and over the summer I read Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship With Food by Rachel Herz. It's a fascinating and illuminating discussion; Herz describes what we know from scientific studies and offers brief advice on how to apply this knowledge to enhance our eating, our health, and our relationship to food. I especially enjoyed the sections on how our brains associate emotion with food and how much the sense of smell affects our enjoyment of food.

The last paragraph (spoiler alert!) sums up the complexity of food nicely:

"Food nourishes the body and the soul, and knowing how to get the most from our senses and our mind while eating makes it all that it can be. Food is an aesthetic immersion, whether you turn a salad into a Kandinsky painting or not. Food connects us to our past, to other people, to the world, and to ourselves. Food is memory, celebration, identity, conversation, emotion, glory, pleasure, pain, fear, disgust, comfort, and guilt. Food is aromatic, salty, sour, sweet, bitter, savory, tingly, hot and cold. Food is flavor and savor, art and sight, sound and music, texture and design, words and poetry, divine and decadent. Food is love and food is life. And knowledge of how our mind and body are affected by our food choices, and how our senses and psychology alter our experience of food and the consequences of eating, is power."

Monday, January 14, 2019

Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet

Cabbage has a constant presence in my fridge these days. Its long shelf life enables pantry meals like this one. It works well for my family, as it is easy to deconstruct into both low carb and kid-friendly meals. Maybe someday my boys will see the appeal of cabbage and onions, but until then they can eat the potatoes and sausage.


Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet

 Minimally adapted from Good Fast Eats by Amy Flanagan

1/2 lb red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 T olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 14-oz cooked polska kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small head cabbage, core removed, coarsely chopped (about 6 cups)
1 large onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, mined
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas black pepper
2 teas rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 teas Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss potatoes with 1/2 T olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet for 18-20 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and cook for 1 minute without stirring; then stir occasionally for 3 minutes or so. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the fat and oil as you can in the pan.

Add the cabbage, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook for 8-10 minutes. Mix in the vinegar and mustard; add the sausage back to the pan and cook for another couple of minutes. Toss in the roasted potatoes and enjoy!

Note: The original recipe called for new potatoes, but these aren't always easy to come by so I usually make them with red potatoes. Also I don't weigh them, because I have kids who will eat just potatoes so I cook enough potatoes to feed all six of us, and then add the desired amount to each grown-up's serving.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

This was a good use for excess sour cream almost at its expiration date before a long trip.  Since a whole bundt cake is a bit much for this household to manage, I cut the cake in half and froze it for a month. It thawed beautifully. I'm not sure I would top with a glaze before freezing, however.


Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Source:  Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Serves: 12-14

For altitudes of around 4000 ft to 6000 ft make the following changes:
2 T less sugar
2 T more flour
3/4 teas soda ( I may try less next time)

This time I didn't have enough regular cocoa so I used about 1/3 of the amount in Dutch processed. This may have affected how the soda reacted.

I found my kitchen was so cool the chocolate sour cream mixture started to set up while I was gathering and mixing other ingredients.

It seems the cocoa/butter coating of the pan was able to sit quite awhile without any trouble. I would extend it even higher in the pan since the batter filled the entire pan.


pan coating (cake release):

1 T butter, melted
1 T cocoa

Mix together in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, brush all of the interior of a standard bundt pan (12-cup). If the mixture becomes cool and thick, heat it again in the microwave for a 10 seconds or so. Inspect the pan (especially if it has a dark coating) to make sure that the mixture covers all the of the surface. I used all of the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350F with the rack at the lower third of the oven.

For the cake, first step:

3/4 c natural cocoa (avoid Dutch processed because of the reduction of alkali)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teas instant espresso powder
3/4 c boiling water
1 c sour cream at room temperature

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium size bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir until smooth and well combined. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then stir the sour cream into the chocolate mixture ensuring no white streaks remain. This will look a lot like a bowl of frosting.

For the cake, subsequent steps:

1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1 teas table salt
1 teas baking soda
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) butter at room temperature
2 c packed light brown sugar
1 T vanilla extract
5 large eggs at room temperature

Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Place the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, mix at medium to medium-high speed for 5 minutes or so until creamed. Scrape the sides and add the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides after adding 2 eggs and again when finished. Don't worry if the batter appears curdled or separated.

Combining the elements:

At medium low speed add about a third of the flour mixture and half the chocolate mixture and mix just until incorporated. Scrape sides of the bowl and add another third of the flour mixture and the remaining half of the chocolate mixture. Mix until incorporated. Stir in the last third of the flour mixture just until combined. Scrape sides and mix on medium-low until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Place the batter in the prepared pan taking care not to leave batter on the inner sides of the pan above the level of the batter. (I found the batter came close to filling my pan.)

Place the filled cake pan into the oven and bake for 50 minutes. Test that cake is done with only a few crumbs remaining on the testing skewer. Remove from the oven and allow to sit in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack covered with parchment paper. Allow to cool for at least 3 hours.

Top with any assortment of garnishes--powdered sugar, a glaze, or ganache. Serve as is, or with fruit and whipped cream or with ice cream.

Spiced Shepherd's Pie

A couple of decades ago when I began reading cook books for entertainment, I found this in one  of the few volumes available at the NATO support unit library near our home in Belgium. It became staple family fare until our nest emptied. I still love what once seemed an unusual spice combination.


Spiced Shepherd's Pie

Although the recipe calls for using a baking dish, I imagine it could be baked in the skillet, as long as it is oven safe. When the meat is done, spread it out and top with the potatoes and place in the oven. This would save some clean up.

Serves: 8-10

For potato topping:

3 1/2-4 pds of potatoes (I choose the larger amount)
1 T butter
1/2 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper 
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese (or sour cream or Greek yogurt or a chunk of cream cheese)

For the meat layer:

1 pd ground beef or lamb 
1 c chopped onion
1 c chopped celery, optional 
1 minced garlic clove
1 teas dried mint
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas allspice
1/4 teas pepper
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, slightly blended
3/4 teas salt

Spray a 9X13 or 10X13 pan with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Peel and cut potatoes into chunks and cook in water over medium heat until tender.

In the meantime brown the beef (or lamb), onion, and celery in a 12-inch skillet on medium heat. If your meat is very lean, you may want to add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the meat is cooking and onions and celery are softened, add the garlic, mint, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper and cook and stir for a minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes along with the salt. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down somewhat. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish (or individual 16-oz  ramekins). 

When potatoes are cooked, drain them but leave a couple tablespoons of cooking water in the bottom of the pan. Add the butter, salt, pepper, and feta cheese and mash the potatoes by hand or with a hand mixer. Continue until they are fluffy and light. Evenly spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture.

Place baking pan or ramekins in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until you can see the meat mixture bubbling at the edges and the potatoes have started to brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes or so before serving.

This can easily be halved especially if you substitute a 8-oz can tomato sauce for the tomatoes.