Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barley-Mushroom Risotto

Normally, risotto is a rice dish (in fact, an Italian would say that you can't make risotto unless it's with rice). However, any grain that releases starch and absorbs liquid as it cooks can be made into risotto (or a least a risotto-like porridge). The barley and mushrooms in this recipe give the dish a earthy richness that is almost beefy. You could make this as a main dish for a light supper or it would go great as a side dish to almost any meat - especially steak!

  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I like the vegetable better)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups packed chopped spinach, kale, or other greens
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the good stuff, not from the green can!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (to taste) fresh ground black pepper

Bring broth to a boil in a saucepan or kettle. Reduce heat to low and keep it hot.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat until shimmery. Add onion, mushrooms, and a small pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, or until the mushrooms have browned and the onions are fully cooked. Add barley and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is almost completely absorbed. Add more broth 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly at a simmer until each addition is absorbed before adding the next 1/4 cup. After 20 minutes of this, add bell pepper and continue adding/stirring broth. There should be about 30 minutes total cooking time. When the last addition of broth goes in, add spinach and simmer until the spinach is cooked and the barley is tender. Stir in cheese and black pepper and serve.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beef with Cabbage and Carrots

Who hasn't had some leftover ground beef that needed to be cooked up? This recipe only takes a few minutes to cook up and uses up leftover meat and vegetables that you were just going to throw out anyways. If you don't like/have carrots and cabbage, you could use bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini, or anything else you would stir-fry.

  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (AKA sushi vinegar)

Brown beef in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Increase heat to medium-high and add cabbage, carrots, caraway, salt, and pepper. Stir fry for 5-10 minutes, or until the cabbage has softened. Add vinegar and cook for 30 more seconds. Serve immediately with rice.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Super Chocolatey Cookies

Most "chocolate" cookies are not very chocolatey. I believe the problem is that they are normally made from cocoa powder, which contains only chocolate solids. Cookies made from coca powder will not have any cocoa butter, which gives richness and savoriness that is sorely missed. These cookies have no cocoa powder at all - all the chocolate flavor comes from actual chocolate - 3 kinds in fact (semi-sweet, bittersweet, and unsweetened) - complete with the cocoa butter. The presence of all that fat makes these cookies quite fudgy - more like brownie bites than cookies. One important thing to note is that this cocoa butter will crystalize and become grainy if it cools too quickly. To prevent this, it is recommended that you let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheet set on a cooling rack.

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (not chopped bittersweet bar chocolate - the texture won't be right - I prefer Ghiridelli's 60% cacao chips)
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature (put cold eggs in hot tap water for 2-3 minutes to warm them up)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Hershey's are good)

Create a chocolate melting rig by wrapping a small metal bowl with an electric heating pad and putting that in a large glass bowl. Put the unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate along with the butter in the metal bowl and turn the heating pad on high. Stir every few minutes until the chocolate is smooth and glossy, between 30 and 60 minutes. Remove metal bowl from heat and set aside to cool slightly. If you're in a rush, you can use a double boiler, but the heating pad is a lot less stress.

Beat eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer on medium-high until very thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix in chocolate mixture until combined, 30-60 seconds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a large, stiff rubber or silacone spatula, fold the flour mixture and semi-sweet chips into the chocolate-egg mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let thicken for 20-30 minutes, until the batter looks like thick brownie batter or ganache.

Meanwhile, put the oven racks on the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and drop by heaping tablespoonfulls, 2 inches apart (I use a #60 disher). Bake until cookies are shiny and cracked on top, 11-14 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through the cooking time. Let cool completely on the baking sheets set on cooling racks before serving. Makes between 35 and 50 cookies, depending on how heavy you scoop the batter.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chicken & Kale Roulade

A roulade is a meat burrito - a flat piece of meat that you top with filling, roll up, and cook. It's a great way to turn a boring piece of meat (a boneless, skinless chicken breast) and turn it into something more elegant. This version is baked with a crispy crust on the outside, but you could just as easily braise the chicken in a savory sauce if you wanted to.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of any rib meat or fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced white or cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano)
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups stemmed, washed, and chopped kale, packed
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • kosher salt

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms, onions, and a pinch of salt. Saute for 3-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and the onions have browned. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add vinegar, broth, oregano, pepper, and kale. Cook, stirring frequently, until the kale has cooked down and the the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a medium glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick spray. Using a meat mallet (or a aluminum pie tin and a heavy can of food), pound the chicken breasts to a thickness of half an inch. You may want to butterfly the breast if it is very thick (i.e. more than 1 inch). Lubricating the mallet with water or vegetable oil can help prevent tearing (as will using the minimum amount of force necessary). Spread the kale mixture on the chicken and roll up in to as compact a package as you can make it. You may want to use toothpicks to secure the rolls (if you are gentle about handling them, that may be unnecessary). Put the breadcrumbs onto a dinner plate or other dish. Brush as much of a chicken roll as you can with mayonnaise and turn upside down onto the breadcrumbs. Finish coating the chicken with mayonnaise and (gently) roll to coat with breadcrumbs. Place seam side down in the baking dish and repeat with remaining chicken rolls. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Rest uncovered for 5 minutes and serve with rice and steamed vegetables.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ginger Snaps

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can't. Alton Brown is the genius who figured this one out. The cardamom, clove, and ginger give the cookies an Indian spiciness that fills the whole house as they cook. There are 3 different kinds of ginger in these cookies: fresh, ground, and candied. Each adds a distinctive flavor - spicy, savory, and sweet. I would highly recommend using homemade candied ginger as it has a depth of flavor not found in store-bought (even if it is a little labor-intensive to make).

  • 9 1/2 ounces (by weight) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 ounces (by weight) dark brown sugar
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces (by weight) molasses
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 4 ounces (by weight) finely chopped candied ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cardamom, clove, and salt.

Beat the brown sugar and butter in a mixer on low speed for 1-2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg, and fresh ginger and increase speed to medium, mix for 1 more minute. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Add the candiedginger and stir to combine using a rubber spatula. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and thoroughly mix with the rubber spatula, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a small (2 teaspoon) scoop, drop the cookies 2 inches apart and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 12 minutes (for chewier cookies), up to 15 minutes (for crispy cookies). Rotate the pan 180 degrees halfway through cooking.

When the time is up, remove the pan from the oven. Let the cookies cool for 30 seconds on the pan before sliding the parchment (with the cookies) off the pan onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough, refrigerating between batches (you may have to slightly increase cooking time with the cold batter). Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days - not that they'll actually last that long!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Loaded Scrambled Eggs

I've found that if you try to scramble eggs with anything else (sausage, veggies, etc.) the eggs tend to either overcook or be too watery. The good people at Cook's Illustrated figured out how to make the eggs fluffy while loaded down with good stuff. The secret is to cook the filling separately and then fold them into the nearly-cooked eggs off heat. This ensures that the egg structure is not destroyed by your fillings.

  • 12 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (fine salt - not kosher or course sea salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (or more if you like it)
  • 6 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 8 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed and broken into small pieces
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions or scallions, white and green parts separated, both sliced thin on the bias
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

Beat eggs, salt, pepper, and half-and-half with a fork in a mixing bowl until well combined. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Cook sausage until browned but not cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add bell pepper and white scallion parts. Cook until sausage is cooked through and pepper starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Empty pan onto a clean plate and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Add butter and heat over medium heat. When the butter foams, swirl to coat as much of the pan as possible (including the sides) and add the eggs. With a silicone spatula, constantly stir the eggs, being sure to scrape down the bottom and sides of the pan. As you stir, lift and fold the eggs as they form curds (do not over-scramble, as this makes for a poor texture). Cook eggs until large curds have formed but the eggs are still very wet (too wet to eat). Off heat, gently fold in filling and cheese until evenly distributed. If eggs have not firmed up yet, return to heat for no more than 30 seconds (if eggs look done in the pan, they will be overdone on the plate - they will firm up as they cool). Divide eggs among 4-6 plates and sprinkle with the green parts of the scallion. Serve immediately (they don't keep well after cooking).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice

One way to save time and make your life easier with a busy schedule is to use a slow cooker. The meal can be prepared hours ahead of time and served with little effort during the busy dinner hour. Using a ready-made product (seasoned rice from a box), makes it even easier, with very little measuring or searching for spices and other flavorings.

  • 1 to 2 pounds chicken thighs (depending on how many people you're trying to serve)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 box seasoned rice (such as Rice-A-Roni)
  • water
  • salt and fresh ground pepper

Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat and add the chicken. You are not cooking it through, just browning the surface. Work in batches, if necessary, to ensure the chicken cooks in a single layer on the bottom of the pan with plenty of space around each piece. Move each to the slow cooker as they finish browning. When all chicken is browned and removed to the slow cooker, add remaining tablespoon of oil and vegetables. Saute until the onion and celery start to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits. Pour vegetables and broth into the slow cooker with the chicken. Add the seasoning packet from the rice mix. Make sure there is enough liquid in the slow cooker to keep everything moist by adding a little water or broth if necessary (do not cover or submerge everything in the water - you probably won't add more than 1/2 cup depending on the size of your slow cooker). Put the lid on the slow cooker and turn on low. Cook for 6-8 hours or until the carrots are tender and the chicken has an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Remove the cooked chicken from the pot and put on a clean cutting board, loosely tented with aluminum foil. Turn the slow cooker to high and add the boxed rice and as much water as the instructions say to use for standard stovetop cooking. Stir the rice into the vegetables and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. When there is about 5 minutes left, debone the chicken with your fingers (use clean latex or vinyl gloves if it's still to hot to handle). Stir the chicken meat back into the rice mixture, cover and cook until the chicken is hot and the rice is tender, about 3 more minutes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Steak Dinner

Sorry about the late/missing posts over the last week. My work got kicked into high gear. To make up for it, you get not one recipe, but three today. Steak, Lemony Greens, and Baked Potato. This is a great meal for entertaining (for 2 couples or you and 3 guests) that can be done in less than 90 minutes total, with about 60 minutes of that time actively cooking or preparing food.

Steak Ingredients
  • 4 Steaks such as T-Bone, Ribeye, or New York Strip, between 3 and 4 pounds total
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 5 teaspoons (1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) kosher salt
  • canola or vegetable oil
Steak Directions

Grind together peppercorns, coriander seed, rosemary, and mustard in a spice grinder. Mix with the kosher salt in a small bowl. Take steaks from fridge, pat dry with paper towels to remove any surface moisture and gently rub both sides with the spice mixture. Let rest on a cutting board or sheet pan at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour. Ensure the meat is at room temperature before grilling. While the meat rests, prepare grill for direct, high heat. Lightly brush both sides of the meat with canola oil. Grill for 2-5 minutes on a side, depending on how cooked you like your steak (130 for rare, 145 for medium, and there is no reason to cook it more than that!). Let rest at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Potato Ingredients
  • 4 large russet potatoes, washed and patted dry
  • canola or vegetable oil
  • kosher salt
Potato Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke the potato several times on all sides with a fork to let out steam. Rub the potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about an hour, or until the skin is crispy and the flesh is soft.

Greens Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot or red onion
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups of washed, trimmed, and chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
  • fresh ground black pepper
Greens Directions

Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When butter is melted, add garlic and shallot. Sweat the vegetables for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions have just started to soften. Increase heat to medium and add kale and salt. Saute for 2-4 minutes, or until the kale has just started to cook down and the garlic just starts to turn light brown (if the garlic gets too brown, it will get bitter so don't overdo this step). Add the lemon juice and broth, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce has reduced and the greens are tender, about 5 more minutes.

Meal Organization

Season the beef first. Then get the potatoes in the oven. Wait 15 minutes and start the grill. As the grill heats up, do the greens. Keep them in the skillet on the lowest setting to keep them warm while you grill the meat. When the meat is done resting, pull the potatoes from the oven and plate everything on warm dinner plates.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hot Dog Buns

The other day we had some sausages for grilling but no buns. Oh, the horror! Never one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to make my own buns instead of buying from the store. Now my only problem is that I never want to eat a store-bought hot dog bun again!

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 package (.25 ounce) instant or rapid-rise yeast

Heat the milk, water, and butter in the microwave or a small saucepan until warm (around 110-120 degrees). In a stand mixer, mix together salt, 1 1/2 cups flour, and yeast. Mix in milk mixture and egg until thoroughly combined. Put dough hook on mixer and turn on medium speed. Slowly add the remaining flour except for 1/2 cup. When the dough has been kneaded together, feel the dough - it should be moist but not too sticky. If very sticky, add remaining 1/2 cup flour. Knead dough on medium-high speed for 5-10 minutes, or until you can pull a piece of dough out and stretch it into a tight membrane like a drumhead - you should be able to pull it very thin, so you can see lights and shadows through it. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll out each piece with your hands on a lightly floured surface until you make a log about 8-10 inches long. Place each log on a lubricated sheet pan tightly packed in a 2x6 formation:
Cover with a lightly moistened towel or a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with no-stick spray. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove towel/plastic and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for a few minutes before separating and splitting for the hot dogs.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sausage and Cabbage Stew

Slow-Cooker recipes are nice when dinnertime is busy but you've got free time earlier in the day. I especially like vegetables, which get sweet and savory when slow-cooked.

  • 1.5 pounds savory sausage such as Andouille or Kielbasa
  • 2 large carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2-3 red potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red onion, frenched or julienned
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 small head of cabbage, chopped or julienned (about 2 cups total)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage in a skillet set over medium-high heat. When browned, remove from skillet and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Put sausage, carrots, potatoes, onion, and broth and cook in a slow cooker set on high for 3-4 hours (6-8 hours for low). In a medium bowl, toss the cabbage with the kosher salt and let sit for 2 minutes. Dump the contents of the bowl into the slow cooker and simmer for another 10-20 minutes on high.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Garlic & Ginger Soy Marinade

Full of Asian flavors like sesame, ginger, and soy, this marinade is a great way to add both flavor and moisture to more boring cuts of meat like pork tenderloin or chicken breasts. You can also use this for steak or shrimp that you are going to grill. Steaks and chops should probably marinate 30 minutes to 2 hours. Larger cuts (like roasts) can go up to 12 hours. It's a good idea to shake up the bag and stir things around every couple of hours to make sure the meat marinates evenly. This makes enough marinade for 2-4 steaks or a 1-2 pound pork tenderloin roast - double or triple it for larger amounts of meat.

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chili sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced or chopped

Combine all ingredients in a one gallon zip-top bag. Add the meat, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal the bag. Place in a leak-proof container and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes, up to overnight.

Serving Suggestion

Marinate a 1-2 pound pork tenderloin roast for 2 hours (up to all day) in the fridge. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thickly slice 1 onion, 1 bell pepper, and 2 small zucchini and place in a baking dish or small roasting pan. Remove the roast from the marinade, put on the vegetables, and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees. Remove pan from oven, tent with aluminum foil, and rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving with white rice.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quiche Florentine

So "Florentine" is funny chef-speak for "with spinach." Fancy restaurants probably use it because people are afraid of spinach - overcooked, gray, or slimy, it is easy to do wrong. However, it is not hard to do right either. My trick is to add at the end of cooking, so it can't get overcooked.

  • 4 ounces bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach (1/2 of a package), thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (a couple of pinches)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 9-inch pie shell, homemade or frozen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, until crispy. Remove bacon (leave the drippings in the pan) and cook the onions and mushrooms until the mushrooms are brown and onions are caramelized. Add the garlic and spinach and cook for one minute. Remove from heat. Mix the bacon back in.

Whisk half-and-half and eggs together in a large measuring cup. Mix in salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Put the bacon/mushroom mixture into the pie shell. Add just enough of the egg mixture to cover the filling (the eggs will expand as they cook - you don't want to overflow the pie). Bake for 45 minutes, or until the eggs are just barely set (do not overcook - it will continue to firm up as it cools). Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.