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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Buttered Green Pasta and Asparagus with Basil

Here's a recipe that highlights the asparagus season.



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Buttered Green Pasta and Asparagus with Basil


Source:  The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone
Serves 8

4 T unsalted butter, divided
1/4 c chopped scallions
2 pds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 in. pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c water
1 pd spinach pasta (of course, regular pasta can be substituted)
1/2 c basil, cut in chiffonade (rolled and thinly sliced)
1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, melt 2 T of the butter in a large skillet. Add the scallions and cook about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, salt and pepper, and the water. Cover and cook at medium heat until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

When the water boils, add about 1 T salt and add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente. Saving some of the pasta cooking water in a bowl or measuring cup, drain the pasta.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the asparagus and add the remaining butter, the herbs, and toss well. Add some of the reserved pasta water to the pasta if it seems dry. Add half of the cheese and toss. Serve; passing the rest of the cheese to diners.



Weeknight Waterzooi

When I found the Julia Child recipe for Chicken Waterzooi (a creamy chicken and vegetable stew) I read through several other recipes in my research. I loved the flavor of Julia's recipe and will likely choose to make it when the mood hits. However, it was somewhat time consuming, especially if you are a cook with limited time and a hungry family. I saw this variation on Food52 and decided to try it when I next visited Betsy so we could each form an opinion of the dish. I'm at Betsy's on a baby watch and I cooked this dish a couple of days ago. We both liked it and so did the family members who were willing to try it (one child abstained). We found the recipe as it stood somewhat problematic so we made some changes and feel like this version is both a tasty and quick meal.



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Weeknight Waterzooi


Adapated from Food52 
Serves 6-8

2 T butter
1 onion, diced
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken breasts (2-2 1/2 pounds), cut in bite sized pieces (1/2 in. by 1 in.)
4 to 5 c chicken broth (or 2 cans broth and extra water)
1 egg yolk
1 c heavy cream
2 T cornstarch
2 T white wine vinegar
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Melt butter in a Dutch oven. Add vegetables and about 1/2 teas salt and cook over medium-low heat until softened. Add chicken broth (or a mix of broth and water) to just cover the vegetables. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Stir in chicken and reduce heat to medium low or low. 

While the chicken begins to cook whisk together the egg yolk, cream, cornstarch in a small bowl. After chicken has cooked 5-10 minutes (it should have changed color but may not be completely cooked). Stir in the cream mixture and continue to heat until nearly a boil. Stir in pepper and taste for seasoning (add salt if needed). Avoid a heavy boil because it could curdle the egg. Stir in wine vinegar and serve, sprinkling each bowl with parsley.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Double Chocolate Pancakes

Recently I've tried to reduce my time in the kitchen in favor of preparing for a new addition to the family. But I couldn't resist when I found these pancakes, and this shouldn't surprise anyone, since I'm a big fan of chocolate for breakfast (waffles, oatmeal). Here's another delicious option for getting your chocolate fix first thing in the morning.



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Double Chocolate Pancakes


Adapted slightly from 80 Breakfasts

3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c white whole wheat flour (the original recipe called for all 1 1/2 c flour to be all-purpose)
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c light brown sugar
1/3 c Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1/2 c whole milk (plus more to thin to your preferred consistency)
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs
3 1/2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 teas vanilla
approximately 1 c dark chocolate chips

Whisk together the flours, sugars, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a smaller bowl whisk together the milk, buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Cook pancakes in butter in a hot skillet or griddle. Scoop the batter onto the pan, then sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Flip after bubbles form on the surface of the pancake, and cook the other side until done, a minute or two.

We ate these pancakes with just butter and also with raspberry syrup. Both ways were tasty.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lemony Peas and Pasta Salad

A perfect, light salad for springtime.



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Lemony Peas and Pasta Salad


Source: The Daily Herald
Serves 8ish (The salad is best the day it's prepared, so I recommend taking it to a potluck or halving it for a smaller family.)

1 lb penne or rotini
2 c sugar snap peas
2 c fresh or frozen green peas
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 teas lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teas salt
3 T olive oil
4 c baby greens (arugula, spinach, or blend)
1/4 c chopped fresh herbs (optional, but yummy; mint is particularly tasty)
Parmesan cheese, shaved

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding sugar snap and green peas during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain again. Place in large bowl.

While pasta is cooking, mix lemon juice, zest and salt in small bowl. Whisk in oil.

Toss the dressing with the drained pasta and peas. Gently toss in greens and herbs. Garnish with Parmesan and extra zest, if desired.

I imagine this would be good with chicken, too, if you want to make it heartier.

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.

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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.

Note:

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 cookscountry.com. 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.



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St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef


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

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.




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Creme Brulee


Source:  cooksillustrated.com
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.

Note:

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.