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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

chicken pot pie

chicken pot pie 2

It would be really unfair to judge this chicken pot pie by the photos. Here's what happened: I saw some great pictures of a chicken pot pie in Bon Appetit, then did some research in my New Best Recipe book. I made a sort of hybrid of both recipes, a full batch - but split it into 2 smaller baking dishes, and froze one of them. All the photos were from prepping them in the original batch, but then the first one was so delicious and I was so starving that I just forgot completely to take a final picture. So a couple weeks later, I bake the second one (great to have a backup for the photo-op, so I thought), and while it was just as delicious, something weird happened with the inside bubbling up over the crust, so it was ugly as sin. Anyway, that's why you shouldn't judge. Try this, okay? It's amazing.

Grocery list: (topping) 1.5 cups AP flour, 4 T shortening, 8 T butter, 3-4 T ice water; (filling) 1.5 pounds chicken, 1.5 c chicken broth, 1 onion, 3 carrots, 1 celery ribs, 4 T butter, 1/2 flour, 1.5 c milk, thyme, 1 cup chopped mushrooms, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup white wine, 3/4 frozen peas (thawed), fresh parsley.

step 1 pot pie crust shortening and flour

Start by making the crust in a food processor. Note - the butter and shortening should be really cold, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, before putting into the processor. Mix the flour and a pinch of salt in the processor, then cut the shortening in with short pulses. Then add the butter and keep pulsing until it has a cornmeal consistency, and dump everything into a bowl.

crust for pot pie ready to knead

Mash 3 T of ice water into the crust with a spatula (add another T if it doesn't stick together).

crust for chicken pot pie

For a ball and flatten into a disk; wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll it out on a floured surface until it's a little bigger than the size of your baking dish.

prepped ingredients for pot pie

You can make your own chicken broth by poaching the chicken in water over a slow boil (throw in salt, peppercorns, garlic cloves, some thyme, some extra chunks of celery or carrot if you have them) for about 20 minutes. Set aside 1.5 cups of the broth and shred the chicken. Prep all the vegetables by chopping into small 1/4 inch pieces.

carrot onion mushroom celery for pot pie

In a large dutch oven, saute the carrots, onions and celery (I added mushrooms too) in olive oil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

sauteing vegetables for pot pie

Add a few sprigs of chopped thyme. Then, stir in the white wine, and season well with salt and pepper.

vegetables with broth for chicken pot pie

Stir in the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. It should reduce down by about half within 5 minutes.

melted butter and flour for thickening pot pie

Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave, then stir in 1/2 cup flour to make a paste. This will help thicken the filling.

chicken pot pie filling

Stir in the heavy cream and bring back to a simmer, then stir in the chicken pieces. Mix in the flour/butter mixture one spoonful at a time, stirring well, so the filling thickens.

chicken pot pie baked

Pour the filling into 1 or 2 baking dishes, then cut your crust to cover it. Poke a few holes through the top to allow the steam to escape. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling (or in my case, till the filling bubbles all the way over and looks terrible but still tastes delicious).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

peach & blackberry cobbler

peach blackberry cobbler a la mode

This isn't my Gramma's recipe, but I still think she'd approve of this well-researched version from The New Best Recipe cookbook. The biscuit topping is made with yogurt, which I've never tried before. This gives it a chewy texture, less crumbly and, well, biscuit-y, than I'm used to. I love mixing in a handful of blackberries to keep the peaches from being too sweet.

Grocery list: (filling) 2.5 pounds peaches, peeled and sliced, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp cornstarch, 1 T fresh lemon juice. If you're going to use blackberries, you don't need quite as many peaches - I used 5-6 peaches and a quart of berries. (biscuit topping) 1 cup AP flour, 3 T + 1 tsp sugar, 3/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 5 T cold unsalted butter (cubed), 1/3 c plain whole milk yogurt.

peach blackberry sugar resting

Start by prepping the peaches and berries and transferring to a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and let stand 30 minutes, stirring several times.

peach blackberry syrup

Drain the peaches and berries in a colander over a bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup of drained juice w/cornstarch, lemon juice, and pinch of salt. Toss the peaches and berries with the juice mixture and pour into 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake about 10 minutes at 425 degrees (till peaches bubble at the edges).

starting biscuit topping for cobbler

While the filling is baking, make the topping by first pulsing the flour, 3 T of the sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a food processor. Add butter cubes and pulse until it has the consistency of coarse meal.

yogurt biscuit topping for cobbler

Pour into a bowl and stir in yogurt with a spatula just until it holds together (careful not to overmix). Even though the recipe called for plain whole milk yogurt, I had some vanilla I needed to get rid of and didn't have any problems.

peach blackberry cobbler before baking

Pull the peaches out of the oven, break the dough into 6 equal sized mounds, and place evenly apart over the filling so they aren't touching each other. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp sugar, then bake at 425 degrees until topping is brown, 16-18 minutes.

peach blackberry cobbler

Cool the cobbler on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, until it's just warm.

Friday, September 19, 2008

not boring turkey again: open-face ham, cheddar & apple butter sandwiches

broiled ham and cheddar with apple butter dijon

I have turkey sandwiches so often they've started to depress me. I know the numbers (how many calories and how much protein - so I know I'm getting what I need for an upcoming swim or whatever), but that also means I know exactly how it's going to taste. And after a while, I just dread having one. Every now and then, I'll find a new sandwich to eat for a couple days, just a bit more of a splurge, but that little investment means I can go back to my turkey again for a week or so. A vicious cycle, but at least it led me to this amazing open-face ham & cheese...

Grocery list: rustic or sourdough bread, black forest ham, extra sharp white cheddar, chives, dijon mustard, apple butter.

toasting bread for ham cheddar sandwich

Drizzle slices of rustic bread with olive oil, and broil for a couple minutes on each side to toast. Spread a little dijon mustard (I prefer Roland Extra Strong), then a generous spoonful of apple butter.

apple butter dijon

Top with a few slices of black forest ham, some extra sharp white cheddar, and broil until the cheese bubbles. Slice a little pinch of fresh chives over the top, and you've got lunch.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

best fried chicken in the universe

soul food fried chicken kale mac and cheese

The September 2008 Bon Appetit is shaping up to be the best cookbook I've ever purchased - what is this, my 6th recipe from that issue, and counting? They featured Thomas Keller's recipe for fried chicken, and the pictures of all these kids eating drumsticks had me thinking, I've got to try this. So I cross-referenced with my trusted resource, New Best Recipes, but for the most part followed Keller's recipe (scaled down to about 1/3 of the original - which called for 3 chickens!). Just like the rosemary garlic roast chicken I've blogged before, brining is the key. This is by far the BEST FRIED CHICKEN I have ever tasted.

Grocery list: (for the brine) 1/3 cup kosher salt, 3 T honey, 6 bay leaves, 10 unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 T whole peppercorns, 2 rosemary sprigs, 3 thyme sprigs, 3 parsley sprigs, zest & juice of 2 lemons, 1 3-pound chicken (or 3 pounds of chicken parts like thighs and drumsticks); (for frying) 2 cups AP flour, 2 T garlic powder, 2 T onion powder, 1.5 tsp paprika, 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, 1.5 T kosher salt, 2 c buttermilk, 4 cups peanut oil.

brine ingredients

You have to start this recipe either the night before or early the morning of - in the 12-24 hours before dinner window. Put all the brining ingredients in a large bowl with 8 cups very hot tap water, and stir to dissolve the salt. Chill until the brine is cool or room temperature.

brining chicken thighs and drumsticks

Rinse the chicken parts and submerge them in the brine. Cover with saran wrap and chill for at least 12 hours, and no more than 24 hours. About 2-3 hours before you start cooking dinner, drain the chicken and pat the pieces dry, removing any bits of herbs that stick to the skin.

buttermilk and flour coating for chicken

Next, set up your assembly line. You'll need 1-2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Mix all the dry ingredients for the coating in a bowl (flour + spices), and put the buttermilk in a bowl next to it.

double breaded chicken pieces

Dip a piece of chicken in the flour mixture first, then in the buttermilk, then back in the flour mixture again. You want a pretty thick coat - don't shake off the excess - because some will fall off anyway during the drying process. Place the coated chicken pieces on the lined baking sheets and let stand to dry. The Keller recipe says they can dry at room temperature for 1-2 hours, but the New Best Recipe says to refrigerate them for a couple hours (your own comfort level with room temperature poultry is the determining factor I guess).

frying chicken

In a heavy skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat until it registers 320-330 degrees. The oil should be at least 1.5 inches deep. Add 4-6 pieces of chicken at a time, carefully lowering each piece into the hot oil with a slotted or wooden spoon. It's also safe to keep a splatter screen in the other hand, shielding you from the pan just in case. Fry for 7 minutes, then carefully turn each piece over and cook for another 6-7 minutes.

best fried chicken ever

Transfer the chicken pieces to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with more kosher salt. The New Best Recipe gives a helpful tip for placing the first batches of chicken in a warm oven on a cookie drying rack over a baking pan, so they stay warm and crispy (instead of on paper towels, where the crust can get soggy and stick to the paper towels).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

banana flambe french toast

banana flambe french toast

Would it be completely ridiculous to admit I made such an indulgent breakfast on a weekday? Well, I did. No special occasion either. I just had 2 overripe bananas and a couple of half-stale loaves of brioche from the sale rack of the farmer's market that I had to get rid of, and a Thursday seemed as good a time as any. I've covered my yogurt french toast recipe before - it's SO easy, breakfast is done in 10 minutes, no exaggeration. This time I just made some bananas on the side. Try it and see what you think (my hungry bear said he liked it as much as the strawberry version, which is a good sign).

Grocery list: 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup milk, 2 eggs, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, butter, brioche or challah bread, a couple bananas, sugar, orange liquor (I used Cointreau), orange juice.

sauteing bananas in liquor

Make the french toast as usual. While it's cooking, melt a few tablespoons butter in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Stir in about 1/2 cup orange juice and bring to a boil. Add the sliced bananas and a couple tablespoons sugar, and a generous splash (or 3) of Cointreau. It will simmer very quickly and turn into a nice syrup after a few minutes - just keep stirring. The longer you let it cook, the thicker the syrup will get. Pour over the french toast slices and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

mario's chicken parmesan

mario's chicken parmesan 2

I never eat chicken parmesan, never order it, never crave it. I think when I was younger, the only times I would run into it would be at some Olive Garden type of place, where "chicken parm" is just a vehicle for grease and low-quality cheese. But when I saw this picture in Bon Appetit of Mario Batali's family meal, I started to rethink chicken parmesan. I'm so glad I did. It's still super indulgent, as it's cheese + fried chicken no matter how you spin it, but absolutely worth the splurge.

Grocery list: (marinara) olive oil, 2 small chopped onions, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 grated carrot, 3T chopped fresh thyme, 2 28-oz cans whole italian (roma) tomatoes; (chicken), boneless chicken breasts, breadcrumbs, 2 eggs, AP flour, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, grated parmesan, parsley.

making easy marinara

Making your own marinara at home is incredibly easy - it just takes an hour to simmer. If you don't have time to do that (I make a double batch on a weekend afternoon and store it in the freezer), you could substitute a jar of your favorite basic sauce. Mario's recipe calls for sauteing the onions and garlic in olive oil over med-high heat for 10 minutes, then adding the carrot and thyme. After cooking for another 5 minutes, add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

potato masher in marinara

I've never tried this before, but using a potato masher to mash the tomatoes was a lot easier and faster than crushing them one at a time by hand (normally I grab them out of the can, crush over the pot, repeat). A word of warning - use your pot lid like a shield to prevent any tomatoes from bursting all over your shirt (ahem). Once the pot is bubbling, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens - about an hour.

easy homemade marinara

Stir a couple of times during the hour; remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

breaded chicken cutlets

The chicken is actually very easy. You start by pounding out the chicken breasts in between plastic wrap. In hindsight, I will take the WF butcher up on his offer to pound these for me - what a pain. Did you know WF offers to do this for free, you don't have to pay extra for the pre-cut cutlets? Anyway, when you have your think cutlets, dip them in flour, then dip them in a beaten egg, then coat in egg whites. I don't list amounts here, because you can simply keep adding flour to a plate, and breadcrumbs to another one, as needed, so you don't waste any. I used 2 eggs (beaten) for the full 1.5 pounds of chicken, just for reference.

fried chicken cutlets

Heat 2 T oil in a big nonstick pan over med-high heat, and fry the chicken pieces in batches. Only cook them for about 2 minutes per side - you want them to brown, but not cook all the way through, since they will continue cooking in the oven. Transfer the chicken pieces to a platter. Add more oil to the pan and keep frying your chicken pieces in batches till done.

assembling layers for chicken parmesan

Next, preheat the oven to 350. Coat the bottom of your baking dish (a large pyrex or 9x13 glass pan works well) with 2 cups of the tomato sauce. Layer half the chicken pieces. Top with shredded mozzarella - I used slices because I was feeling lazy - then sprinkle grated parmesan. Layer more sauce and chicken, then finish with the cheeses.

baked mario's chicken parmesan

Bake until cheese melts and bubbles, about 20 minutes. I also broiled mine for 2-3 minutes at the end, so the cheese on top was golden, but the original doesn't mention that. To serve, chop some fresh parsley (and oregano - AKA marjoram - if you have it) to sprinkle on top. I also made a batch of fresh pasta to mix with the remaining marinara to go along with it, the americanized side dish for chicken parm (that's one thing to thank olive garden for). This really wasn't that difficult, and would be even faster if you use the shortcuts on the sauce and chicken cutlets.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

wild mushroom crostini

mushroom crostini and lamb cacciatore

The same great article in Bon Appetit ("Molto Americano" - new Italian restaurant recipes) that featured the SPQR lamb cacciatore also had a recipe for the side dish I made that night: wild mushroom crostini, from Baltimore's Cinghiale restaurant. All that was involved was toasting some slices of bread, sauteing some wild mushrooms, and topping with a quick thyme vinaigrette and truffle oil. While these 2 recipes were from different restaurants, they complemented each other remarkably well.  As an added bonus, together they took less than 30 minutes total prep time - perfect for a weeknight.

Grocery list: butter, 12 oz wild mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, crimini, etc), fresh thyme, red wine vinegar, mayo, 1 shallot, olive oil, slices of rustic bread, truffle oil.

ingredients for thyme vinaigrette

To make the topping, simple saute the sliced mushrooms in butter over medium-high heat with 1-2 T chopped fresh thyme, for about 8 minutes (until browned). Season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

sauteing wild mushrooms for crostini

This recipe made MUCH more thyme vinaigrette than I needed for the crostinis. However, it wasn't wasted - I used the leftovers as a spread for turkey sandwiches with avocado and arugula. (This was another great way to spice up a boring turkey sandwich.)

thyme vinaigrette for mushroom crostinis

In a food processor, pulse 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 3 T fresh thyme leaves, 2T mayo, and 1 small chopped shallot. Slowly pour in 1/3 -1/2 cup olive oil while the machine is running. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

toasting bread for crostini

Brush the bread slices with a little olive oil and bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes (turning once), until slightly crisp.

mushroom crostini

Mound some of the mushrooms on each piece, drizzle with the vinaigrette, and top with just a bit of truffle oil. I think this would make a great appetizer (I'd use a sliced baguette instead), since it's so easy to make ahead and assemble at the last minute.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

lamb cacciatore

lamb cacciatore from spqr

Ah, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco is SPQR. I originally read about it in Food & Wine magazine, and took my little brother there for his birthday. We were fortunate enough to get seats at the "chef's counter" - basically a bar setup over the kitchen, where you can watch the meals being prepared. The best part was hearing the lead chef talk to the line cooks. He would taste some of the dishes under way and tell the line cooks what was missing. My favorite overheard quote was "more salt, more salt! If it's not over-salted it's under-seasoned!" So I was justifiably excited - practically giddy - when I saw the September 2008 Bon Appetit, the "Restaurant Issue": recipes from SPQR! I did not have this lamb cacciatore at the restaurant, but I will try it when I'm back in the bay area to see how it compared to my own version.

Grocery list: 3 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1 inch chunks [note, ask your butcher, but I substituted shoulder and it was only $5 a pound - you have to trim it anyway, so it was perfect in my opinion]; 1/4 cup white wine, 2 garlic cloves, olive oil, 2T chopped fresh rosemary, 1 T chopped fresh oregano, 1 T chopped fresh mint, 4 anchovy fillets chopped (or 1-2 T anchovy paste), 1 bag fresh arugula, lemon wedges.

mint rosemary oregano garlic anchovy for lamb

Drizzle wine over lamb pieces and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, make the marinade by mashing garlic with 4T olive oil, then mixing in all the herbs and anchovies.

herb anchovy marinade for lamb cacciatore

Stir into lamb, cover with saran wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours.

marinating lamb for cacciatore

The recipe says you can cook the lamb either over a grill (using metal skewers to make kabobs), or by sauteing - I used the latter method.

sauteing lamb for cacciatore

Heat 1 T oil in large pan, then saute lamb in batches over high heat, about 5-6 minutes for medium-rare. Toss the arugula with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Serve the lamb over the arugula with lemon wedges on the side.

Monday, September 1, 2008

pesto pasta and roasted garlic thyme chicken

pesto pasta roast garlic thyme chicken

I've covered these both before (pesto here and here, and chicken here) but just in case you needed to be reminded that these recipes are there for the taking...