Skillet-Fried Chicken

February 20, 2012

My husband has continuously asked for one dish ever since we got married – friend chicken. And being that half of my family is from the deep south, you would think that I would have some old grandmother recipe that I had made for years and, quite, frankly, didn’t even need the recipe. But the sad reality is that I had never made fried chicken before, and for only one, embarrassing reason – fear. Fear that I wouldn’t cook the chicken enough. Fear that I would spill oil everywhere. Fear that the chicken would not crisp up like you see on all of the cooking shows. And worst of all, fear I would embarrass my southern side of the family.

But, after 5 years I just couldn’t say no to my husband any longer. I figured I would give it a shot and if it went wrong, we would get take out and I wouldn’t tell a soul. Or, if it went right, I would not only be a fantastic wife, but a cook with new found confidence in doing something out of my comfort zone. Having said that, you know which one of the two was my outcome.

I won’t say it isn’t hard, or scary. It is both of those. But, once I got the hang of it, I was surprised at how crispy and delicious they looked. And even more surprised when we took our first bite and I thought had went to heaven. They were crispy, flavorful and had a slight hint of heat. With mashed potatoes and a glass of wine it was the Sunday night meal. And yes, I was completely oblivious to the caloric consequences – it was just too darn good to care.

The recipe came from Bon Appetit and was deemed the only friend chicken recipe you would ever need. They couldn’t have been more right.

A few tips I learned as a first-time fryer:
1. Don’t fill up the oil too far because it will REALLY get higher when you put the chicken in and you could risk a spill or two.
2. Use peanut oil and buy more than you think you need.
3. When in doubt, fry a bit more. This chicken is so moist, I do not believe a bit more time frying could have done it wrong.
4. Make sure to marinate overnight. It makes all the difference.
5. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, now would be the perfect time to buy one. And I promise you will use it for more than just frying chicken.

Thanks again to Bon Appetit (and my husband constant requests) for enticing me to do something different in the kitchen, and learn that I can really expand my skills as long as I put fear aside.

SKILLET-FRIED CHICKEN
4 Servings

2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 3–4-lb. chicken (not kosher), cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Peanut oil (for frying)

Whisk 1 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.

Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish.

Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet or other heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.

Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts.

Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.

Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Kefta Tagine with Eggs and Roasted Cumin

January 16, 2012

After 2 weeks of not cooking, due to a lack of dishwasher (yes, we were actually so lazy we dirtied as few dishes as possible!), I wanted to try something lengthy, complicated, warm and comforting. Something that could go terribly wrong, but could also go terribly right. So, I broke out my Tagine cookbook, by Ghillie Basan, to find something spicy and filling to warm us on a cold winter night.

This dish caught my eye because even though it was comprised of the traditional lamb that is in many African dishes, it came together as meatballs, with sunny side up eggs, all cooked in the tagine.

The meatballs are called kefta, and they are filled with amazing spices, and are poached in water (which helps them keep their perfect shape), then cooked in spiced liquid that absorbs into the meatballs, and creates a hot, dry bottom of the tagine in which to cook the eggs.

Not only did the dish turn out perfectly, but the combination was nothing we had ever experienced. The spice, ras-el-hanout, is worth seeking out (I found mine at my local spice store, but you can also find it online).

My only caution is to be careful of the spice level. I will write this recipe with the spice level I used so hopefully it will do the trick (vs. the original recipe from the cookbook).

Trust me, it is worth the effort. And, ironically enough, at the end of the day there really weren’t many dishes to speak of – except the tagine itself (which doesn’t go in the dishwasher).

KEFTA TAGINE WITH EGGS AND ROASTED CUMIN
Serves 4

For the Kefta:
16 ounces ground lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried mint
3 teaspoons ras-el-hanout
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Rest of the Dish:
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6-8 eggs
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, dry-roasted and ground
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley

To make the kefta, put the ground lamb, onion, mint, ras-el-hanout, cayenne and parsley in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix well together. Using your hands, knead the mixture and mold it into small balls.

Fill a tagine (or dutch oven) with water and bring it to a boil. Carefully drop in the kefta, a few at a time, and poach them for about 10 minutes, turning them so they cook on all sides. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Reserve roughly 2 1/2 cups of cooking liquid.

Add the butter to the tagine with the reserved cooking water and bring to a boil. Stir in the salt and cayenne and drop in the poached kefta. Cook over high heat until almost all of the liquid has evaporated (about 15 or so minutes). Carefully crack the eggs around the kefta, cover the tagine with the lid, and cook and steam until they are just set. Sprinkle the roasted cumin seeds and the chopped parsley over the top of the dish. Serve with pearl couscous and flat bread.

Chili-Baked Ribs

January 3, 2012

For years, my husband has continuously asked me to make “saucy ribs.” But for some reason, every recipe I have tried, although good, never really gave me that sweet, spicy, sticky, lick-your-fingers ribs. Until last night.

Thanks to my parents, a bottle of liquid smoke was in my stocking this year (which is apparently available in many specialty food stores or online and can be used in many dishes!). I had heard of the ingredient and was curious about the depth of flavor it would add to items made in the kitchen vs. the grill. So when I found a saucy rib recipe that required liquid smoke, I knew I had to try it.

You need a weekend day for this one, but it is WELL worth it. I will never make another rib recipe again. The sauce is AMAZING and has such complex flavors – layering the liquid smoke, molasses, coffee and cinnamon. Then, it combines that sauciness with a great dry rub along with slow roasting the ribs until they fall off the bone.

The recipe is from Bon Appetit, but I made a few changes based on user reviews. I changed the recipe for a slower roast, and reduced the sugar for the right balance of sweet and spicy/smoky.

As someone who has tried many rib recipes, take my word that this one will be your favorite. And, if you have any doubts, just ask my rib-requesting husband!

CHILI-BAKED RIBS
Serves 8

Sauce (might want to make extra!)
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup unsulfured (light) molasses (although I used dark and it tasted great!)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Ribs
6 baby back pork rib racks (about 9 pounds total weight)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
6 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until reduced to 3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For Ribs:
Score white membrane on underside of ribs. Place ribs in large roasting pan. Mix vinegar and liquid smoke in small bowl; brush over both sides of ribs. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix chili powder, cumin, sugar, onion powder and cayenne. Rub over both sides of ribs. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange ribs, meat side up, in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Roast 3 hours, covering loosely with foil if browning too quickly.

Remove ribs from oven. Brush both sides of ribs with 3/4 cup sauce. Roast 10 minutes. Brush both sides of ribs with additional 3/4 cup sauce. Roast 15 minutes longer. Remove ribs from oven. Cover with foil; let stand 15 minutes.

Cut ribs between bones into 3- to 4- rib sections. Serve with remaining sauce.

Baby Ruth Cookies

November 7, 2011

If you are like me, you tell yourself you won’t buy the Halloween candy that you have a weakness for, yet somehow it always ends up in your pantry. And eventually, your stomach. For me, that candy bar is a Baby Ruth. So, every Halloween, I have a bowl full of extra Baby Ruths that I continuously eat during the remainder of the week.

So this year I thought I would get a bit crafty – “what if my favorite candy bar were a cookie?” So, I took my remaining Baby Ruths, chopped them up, and put them in my favorite basic cookie recipe (from The Cookie Book by Peggy Cullen).

So during the 11 minutes the cookies were in the oven, magic happened. The nougat melted and turned chewy and sweet, and the peanuts and chocolate infused the entire dough. These might actually be the best cookies I have ever made.

So, my Halloween experiment turned into a new favorite. And, I would bet that your favorite Halloween candy would also be worth the little experiment of seeing how it translates into a cookie.

So, thanks to my basic cookie recipe and Halloween imagination for inspiring my new favorite cookie!

BABY RUTH COOKIES
2 dozen

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
7-10 fun size Baby Ruth candy bars, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugars, salt and vanilla until well combined. Beat in the egg. Scrape down the bowl using a rubber spatula and beat for a few more seconds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and mix on low speed just until absorbed. Combine the Baby Ruth pieces into the dough.

Shape the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and drop them about 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. For perfectly uniform cookies, scoop the dough using a 1 1/2-in cookie scoop, leveling the dough off across the top before dropping onto the baking sheets. Bake for 11 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Pumpkin Bread

October 27, 2011

For those who read my blog, know it has been a long time since I have posted. A few months in fact. And the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t because of my lack of time to blog. It is my lack of time to cook. Apologies to all who blog, but the latter is much more concerning.

Cooking and baking is part of what makes me calm, helps me keep things in perspective, allows me to feel control when other things feel out of control. And, most importantly, it allows me to share my food with others, and therefore share my love through the gift of food.

But, my busy job and travel schedule has resulted in nights of take out, frozen pizza and late night visits to our favorite local restaurants.

So, this past weekend I was finally in town. No work trips. No packed social calendar. Just a weekend to enjoy fall and reset for the busy week ahead. And fall being my favorite culinary season, I knew I had to take this opportunity to get back to what I love.

So, after 8 mini loaves of pumpkin bread that filled our house with the scents of fall, and was shared with neighbors, coworkers and friends, I rekindled what had been missing in my hectic life.

Although I love my job, and feel blessed every day that I go into work, I remembered the many other things that make me who I am. I had been missing going for a run, reading the latest Bon Appetit and spending the time with my husband that we both deserve.

So on Sunday, with the aroma of cozy and spicy fall filling our house, after delivering a loaf to our neighbor and packing up the others for coworkers, after making my butternut squash risotto with a glass of red wine listening to Italian music…..I knew that my life needed to shift. I needed to go back to what makes me happy, and prioritize it, no matter how hectic my life becomes.

So, this pumpkin bread symbolizes my commitment to spend more time doing what I enjoy doing – and that is spreading love through food.

And, it was only fitting that the pumpkin bread recipe I found was that of Bobby Flay, who I surprisingly met the weekend before at Keeneland. A sign? Maybe.

So besides the emotional connection I now have to Bobby Flay’s pumpkin bread, it is quite possibly the best recipe I have ever made. Granted, there is more sugar than in a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but his mixture of spices (especially All Spice, my favorite cold weather spice) make this a  comforting taste of fall.

So, for those who need to rekindle their love of cooking, or those just looking to make a great fall treat for the ones they love, I thank Bobby Flay for giving me the recipe that made me realize what I had been missing.

PUMPKIN BREAD
1 9-inch loaf or a 4 small loaf pan

* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* Scant 1 cup canned pumpkin puree, not flavored pie filling
* 2 large eggs

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

2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl.

3. Beat the butter, sugar, and oil on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times, until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

4. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (if you are using a small 4 loaf pan bake for only 45 minutes). Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Maryland Crab Cakes

July 4, 2011

I recently finished a book called “I Loved, I Lost, I Make Spaghetti” by Giulia Melucci. The book was a quick read, and a wonderful mix between Sex in the City and Bon Appetit. The book takes you through Guilia’s dating life, along with the food she makes along the way. Recipes sneak into many of the pages, so the creations can be made by the reader.

When I read her crab cake recipe, made for her boyfriend at the time as an “all American dish,” I thought I could give it a try with the crab I had from a month ago (frozen) on this Fourth of July Weekend.

I have to admit I have tried crab cakes before and although they are always good, I could never get the texture just right. I am unsure if it was this particular recipe or my previous “practice,” but these cakes had the perfect crab cake texture. After reading more on the subject, I have a few tips for making crab cakes that don’t turn into crab scramble.
1. Make sure your recipe includes an egg as a binder.
2. Make sure your recipe includes some panko/bread crumbs as an additional binder.
3. Make sure to refrigerate for at least one hour to solidify before baking or frying.

Now that I have the basics down, I might get creative with this classic recipe – but for now, this is one of the best crab cakes I have ever had. I created a lemon mayo sauce to be served on the side.

Thanks to Giulia Melucci for her recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.

MARYLAND COLONY CRAB CAKES
Serves 2

2 tablespoons celery, minced
2 tablespoons scallions, green parts only, minced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 pound crabmeat
1 1/2 cups panko
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 lemon, cut into wedges

In a medium bowl, mix together all but the olive oil, butter (and lemon wedges, of course). Shape into 4 patties. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour.

Over medium heat, fry in olive oil and butter until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.Yields 4 small crab cakes (2 per person).

LEMON MAYO SAUCE
Add 2-3 tablepoons of mayo with lemon juice, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Put a dollop on the crab cakes.

Homemade Fresh Pasta

May 22, 2011

There are certain things I just won’t cut corners on. I won’t make cookies from a box, bag or anything that says “break and bake.” I won’t ever buy marinara sauce from a jar. And I certainly wouldn’t dream of buying a pre-made cake.

But, before you think I don’t have a full-time job, multiple hobbies and a life outside the kitchen, let me tell you what I DO cut corners on. I will, every once in a while, buy a pie crust (my grandmother would cringe). I have been known to buy jams from a jar, salsa from a jar and – gasp – dips from a jar. But the one shortcut I did every week, every Thursday, without batting an eyelash, was buy fresh pasta. That is, however, until I went to Italy.

When I experienced a cooking class outside of Varenna with the talented Moreno, I had a new outlook on Italian cooking. Much like the view I have on cooking, Italians enjoy making the food as much as eating it. And, the more steps of the process your hands touch, make or mold, the more love you can put into the dish you will serve your loved ones. Dear Moreno made pasta from scratch. No attachments to mixers. No crank machines. Just his hands, a rolling pin and a few simple ingredients.

I would be fooling myself (and overestimating the size of my kitchen) if I thought I could make pasta with a rolling pin. But it did inspire me to make pasta. After all, I call it a sin to not make your own gravy, so why would I buy fresh pasta?

Step one was a pasta maker, and I was lucky enough to get one from my parents for Christmas. I couldn’t wait to try it. I searched back for Moreno’s recipe which had semolina flour (and I couldn’t find it anywhere) so I looked up a few recipes online for all-purpose flour. I cleared a Sunday afternoon, got out my machine, and went to work.

I would be lying if I told you the first time it was perfect – in fact, it was far from. The dough just didn’t feel right in my hands (sign one) then the crank number the recipe called for made the pasta feel too thin (sign two). But, it gave me enough hope to try again.

Four times, and four recipe alterations later, I finally got it. The perfect pasta noodle. While I am still mastering tagliatelle, I think ravioli might be a natural progression. However, anything more complex, I am buying from the store!

A few tips when you make pasta:
1. Don’t cut short kneading the dough. If you don’t do it for at least 10 minutes, the dough won’t be right. You will be tired, and wonder why, but you feel it in your hands when the dough takes form.
2. Don’t forget to let it rest. It needs this time after being needed for so long. At least for 3o minutes.
3. Don’t be afraid to use flour once the noodles are made in order to separate them.
4. Go into the process knowing you will tweak your recipe many times before finding one that works.
5. Allow yourself at least an hour for the process (if not a little more).
6. It tastes better and is much more fun if you make it while sipping red Italian wine and listening to Italian music.

I would love to give credit to someone this recipe but I used one I found online and changed it so much, I don’t even recognize it anymore. So, I suppose I should credit myself (although there surely are many duplicates out there).

So in Italian fashion, when I make pasta, the whole meal tastes of the love I put into it. I recently revisited my pistachio cream pasta the time I finally nailed my noodle recipe. It was almost like a different dish – a dish entirely made from scratch. No shortcuts. But lots of love.

HOMEMADE FRESH PASTA
Serves 2-3

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, plus one egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon olive oil
½ Tablespoon warm water

Put flour on a marble, wooden or smooth countertop and create a “volcano” and create a well in the center. In a bowl, mix the eggs, salt and olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the well and slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs, pulling flour from the area around the well. You might have to add the yolk in multiple phases in order for it to fit in the well without spilling over.

As things begin to get incorporated, keep kneading (even if your well breaks) and add the water if necessary. This will be messy, but keep going! Once you have the mixture in a ball form, begin kneading the dough. Fold it in have and press against the counter. Start a timer and knead for no less than 10 minutes and you will see your dough begin to take shape.

Once your 10 minutes is up, cut your dough in half to form two little balls. Put them in a bowl (or two separate bowls) and cover with plastic wrap. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

If you are using a crank machine, take the first ball and press onto the counter to push into a flat pancake. Make sure your pasta maker is on the widest setting (mine is 7) and crank the dough through. Keep flour on the dough to keep it from getting sticky. Keep changing the setting every time until you get the thickness you want (for mine the perfect thickness is level 3). Then, crank it through the cutting side, keeping it floured and you have fresh pasta! This pasta can also be frozen, I am told, but I have yet to do it.

The flour with the well of egg mixture in the center.

My husband demonstrating how to knead the dough!

The balls of dough after they have been kneaded.

Passing the dough through the pasta press.

Cutting the pasta. The last step!

Dinner!

Chocolate Covered Macaroons

May 19, 2011

What I find in my cooking and baking is that sometimes amazing recipes come from unexpected places. I recently blogged about a recipe a woman got from her mother’s blender box. Sometimes I look at the back of a chocolate wrapper and steal that recipe for my own. And sometimes you are on a airplane traveling for business, catching up on your People magazines (fortunately it is official work reading) and you see a celebrity recipe and think “wow, that does look amazing!”

So, when the torn out macaroon recipe found its way to my dining room table later on that week, my husband innocently asked “oh, is this what you are baking this weekend?” (and for those who know me know that wasn’t a subtle hint, but a realistic question). He inspired me to give it a try.

Having never made macaroons before, I was a bit concerned, but optimistic when I revisited the short ingredient list. Coconut, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, vanilla, cream, baked and dipped in chocolate I figured I could handle the challenge.

Let me start off by saying I am not sure I could have made this recipe without my cookie scoop so if you don’t have one, use this as your excuse to buy one. Also, don’t “save a step” by not dipping them in chocolate. The dish isn’t complete without it. Also, the recipe says it makes 24, well I got 40 (perhaps my scoop is small).

So 40 macaroons later my husband and I tried one and were speechless. So easy to make, yet SO good. They made their way into my office Monday (gone in minutes) as well as my husband’s office (gone in seconds). So, as people continue to ask me for the recipe, I thought I would divulge my unexpected source and share in my secret.

So, thank you to People magazine (and Jill Zarin of The New York Housewives) for this fantastic sweet treat!

CHOCOLATE COVERED MACAROONS
Makes 40 (although recipe says 24, if you use a larger ice cream scoop)

2 (14-ounce) bags shredded coconut
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
12 oz of bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli and mixed in a little bit of milk chocolate. I would assume any chocolate combination would do! Maybe next time I will do semi-sweet…)

Preheat the oven to 325.

Mix together in a large bowl the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla. Add the shredded coconut.Mix together. Make sure that all of the coconut is covered with the milk mixture. Use a cookie scoop and place mounds on parchment lined baking sheets or silicone lined baking sheets.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the coconut is nicely browned. Cool completely on a cooling rack. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the macaroon halfway. Let the chocolate harden in the fridge (on a wax paper lined jelly roll pan) at least 20 minutes before serving.

Yukon Gold Potato Gratin with Horseradish & Parmesan

May 8, 2011

There are certain recipes you need a staple for – your go-to recipes. The basic chocolate chip cookie. Mashed potatoes. Spaghetti sauce. For me, the one I kept trying but never found “the one” was potato gratin.

After perfecting my mashed potatoes – Yukon golds smashed rustic style with butter, cream, creme fresh and rosemary – I now needed a great alternative starch to serve with my favorite filet, roast or ham.

When making filet mignon for my parents the other weekend, I tried this one as another attempt at finding my new go-to gratin recipe. After much searching, I found it. I am convinced the thing that sets it apart (aside from the large quantities of cream, of course) is the addition of horseradish. I never would have thought of it, but it is such a natural combination that I sure should have. This gratin has a creamy sauce, a little kick from the horseradish and a salty top layer of parmesan. The perfect gratin dish.

A little tip – I didn’t have cheesecloth so instead I chopped up the garlic, thyme and just used ground pepper. Worked just fine!
Thanks to Epicurious for this great recipe that I will now frequently serve with my balsamic filet mignon.

Also to note, it is clear that I am not able to take a photo as beautiful as this one. Like some of my other posts, I have been lucky enough to have my dad be able to take a photo, so credit goes to him – http://www.robertstonephotography.com.

YUKON GOLD POTATO GRATIN WITH HORSERADISH AND PARMESAN
10 servings

1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 dried bay leaf
3 pounds boiling potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices
2 tablespoons sea salt
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with back of knife
4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh horseradish, grated
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

Place rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.

Generously butter a 2 1/2- to 3-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish.

Make a bouquet garni by wrapping thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf in 6-inch square of cheese cloth and securing with kitchen string.

In heavy, 6-quart saucepan, combine potatoes, bouquet garni, salt, garlic cloves, and cream. Set over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes can just be pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove bouquet garni and garlic and discard. Stir in horseradish.

Spread potato mixture in buttered dish and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Cheddar Chicken

April 25, 2011

Sometimes you want to make (and eat) something simple. Something humble. Something ungourmet. Something that uses ingredients you know taste amazing, but might not be best for your diet. Something that makes you feel warm, fuzzy and “oh so bad” for eating it. I found that dish last week, from a somewhat unexpected place.

In my Real Simple, I read an article about a woman’s comfort food that her mother made – a recipe found on the box of her mother’s new blender. The recipe was called Cheddar Chicken and only included 5 ingredients – chicken, Ritz crackers, cheddar cheese, garlic and butter. Now that you have read the list of ingredients, you can surely understand my sentiment at the beginning of this post.

The dish is so drenched in butter (from the pure butter and the crackers) with a hint of garlic and the sharp, gooey cheddar cheese. It tastes nothing short of amazing. Nothing gourmet. No rare ingredients. No need to spend hours in the kitchen.

So anytime you want something that makes you feel satisfied, a bit guilty and takes nothing more than 45 minutes with your pantry staples, put this one in the oven. Serve with rice pilaf and you have a simple, flavorful dinner.

CHEDDAR CHICKEN
Serves 4

16 buttery crackers (such as Ritz), crushed (about 3⁄4 cup)
6 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
wild rice pilaf and steamed green beans (optional)

Heat oven to 350° F. In a bowl, combine the crackers, cheese, garlic, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken in the butter, then in the cracker mixture, pressing gently to help the crackers adhere. Place the chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle any remaining cracker mixture on the chicken and drizzle with any remaining butter. Bake until the chicken is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with the pilaf and green beans, if desired.


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