Posts tagged ‘milk’

July 22, 2013

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna

Pasta carbonara, pizza Margherita, and a fresh panzanella salad.  I love classic Italian dishes, but sometimes I like to experiment.  I had to make a vegetarian dish for a dinner with friends, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take a new look at lasagna, traditionally interweaving layers of pasta, ricotta, ragù, béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

IMG_6185

But let’s take a step back. Many of you might be remembering that dire lasagna from church potlucks – soggy pasta and waterlogged ground beef.  I recall separating the pasta and pulling out clumps of tacky ricotta, while trying to remove the cracked fluted edges of noodle from the top layer.  Please, try not to associate frozen lasagna with a freshly made version – it’s not even comparable.

The key to this lasagna is the pasta, which lends a wonderful texture and coarseness to the dish.  Its chewy, dense consistency reminds me of traditional Italian pastas, perfectly al dente with a slight bite.  What I love about this dish is it’s combination textures from creamy ricotta, silky butternut squash, and an earthiness from the crimini mushrooms.  The luscious combination of ingredients can stand up to one another, and among all the flavors I can still pick out subtle hints of nutty parmesan.

This recipe is inspired by one I found in an old copy of Bon Appétit.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 14-ounce carton vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped and divided
  • 4 tablespoons fresh sage, sliced and divided
  • 3 15-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, grated and divided
  • 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated and divided
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 9-ounce package lasagna noodles.  (My favorite brand is Rustichella d’Abruzzo Lasagne all’uovo These noodles need to be boiled before being layered into your lasagna.  The original recipe calls for no cook noodles if you want to take out a step)

Method

  1. Melt butter into a large skillet over medium-high heat.  I recommend using a skillet with high sides so you can use one pan for all your steps – heads up you’ll need to simmer your squash and noodles in vegetable broth so pick a larger pan than you might think.
  2. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to high; add mushrooms and cook until tender, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and then transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside until you’re ready to assemble the pasta.
  5. In the same skillet, add squash, broth, 3 tablespoons thyme, and 3 tablespoons sage. Cover and simmer over medium heat until squash is just tender, about 6 minutes. Uncover and cook until squash is very soft but still retains shape, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Skim the squash from the skillet and set aside.  Don’t worry if it starts to fall apart a little, and discard the thyme and sage.  Keep any vegetable broth left over in the pan.
  7. Add 4 cups of water to the broth and bring to a low boil for your pasta sheets.
  8. While your broth comes to a boil, mix ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, spring onion, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 tablespoon sage in large bowl.
  9. Mix in eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Once your broth is at a low boil, place pasta in broth and let simmer for 3 min.  Once slightly softened, you can turn off the heat and begin to assemble your lasagna.
  11. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup ricotta mixture over bottom. Arrange 3 – 4 noodles on top (I usually cut a few so I can cover the entire dish). Spread 13/4 cups ricotta mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 1/3 cups squash mixture over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mushrooms and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with 3 noodles, then 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, half of remaining squash, 1/2 cup mushrooms, and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat with noodles, 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, remaining squash, and remaining mushrooms. Top with 3 noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.
  12. Cover with oiled foil.
  13. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake lasagna, covered, 35 minutes. Uncover; bake until heated through, about 25 minutes longer.
  14. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  15. Serve with a fresh arugula salad!
October 15, 2012

Rosemary Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato basil soup paired with a stringy mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich is a classic.  It’s been copied and modified a million times over and I still think the traditional rosemary scented soup and crunchy buttered sandwich makes any Tuesday night a little more special.

Soup should really be considered it’s own food group.  I pride myself in being the sole person to order a warm tortilla soup in the middle of Houston summer, or chilled cucumber-melon bisque when it’s 20 below.  (I happened to have both melon bisque and puréed corn chowder with chili oil at my wedding.)  There’s something about soup I find utterly addicting.  The combination of flavors, the variety of textures, and most importantly the crunchy garlic croutons, crispy bacon, or fresh herbs that get delicately placed on top and slowly sink into the silky, savory bisque.

The roasted, sweet tomatoes combined with the tangy bite of rosemary sourdough bread soothes the soul and takes the edge off a brisk day.  The bread gives this soup a thick texture with a mouthy richness I often find missing in perfectly velvety broths.  Aromatic sweet basil with hints of mint and pepper brighten the flavor and offer you a taste of summer just when you think fall has taken over.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes, 28oz
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 large slices of sourdough rosemary bread
  • 3/4 cup light whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • Freshly sliced mozzarella cheese for topping
  • Basil for garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. In a heavy bottomed stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Add butter and red pepper flakes and sauté for 10 minutes on medium heat.  Onions should become transparent but should not brown.
  4. Add stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes (including juice), salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large saucepan on medium heat.
  5. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Roughly tear the bread into smaller pieces and add to the pot.  I break up the bread so it’s easier to spoon out and purée.
  7. Next you’ll puree the soup in small batches, so I usually remove it from the heat and let it cool a little before I begin this process.  The soup should still have texture and not be completely smooth.  The soup will not be nearly as enjoyable if it’s perfectly silky in texture.
  8. Carefully puree, along with the basil leaves in small batches. You can use a blender, food processor, or better yet, one of those handy hand-held food blenders, right in the pot.  If you use a blender BE CAREFUL!  The heat will force the top off the blender and you’ll be cleaning soup off your ceiling for weeks, or you’ll burn your hands so just fill it up half way and pulse it gently.
  9. Return to saucepan and add cream and milk, while stirring, over low heat.
  10. Garnish with basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and serve with a warm slice of sourdough bread.

For a healthier version, leave out the butter and replace the cream with non-fat milk.  Enjoy!

October 10, 2012

Black Pepper Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I have an influx of oatmeal in my pantry…  every time I go to the store I seem to think I’m out so I buy more.  And of course when I get home I realize I have pounds of it!  (I’ve had the same experience with foil and butter…. )  So I needed to find some ways to get through it apart from my morning breakfast.

Black pepper oatmeal cookies with cranberries and walnuts

Thankfully, oatmeal can be used for a variety of healthy and tasty treats… granola and cookies being two of my favorites.  The change of seasons also makes me warm up to those heartier breakfasts and the cold harsh winter in Houston.  OK, harsh is probably overdoing it but we did get snow my first winter in Houston!  After a few not-so-subtle hints from my husband I finally had a free evening to bake up some goodies.

Home-baked cookies seem to be the perfect vehicle for little warm nuggets of heavenly pecan, walnut and macadamia.  It’s the perfect amount of crunch to balance the chewy exterior, and helps level out the sugary sweetness of plain cookies.  These are buttery, chewy and indulgent, and the hints of black pepper and nutmeg give this traditional recipe an interesting twist.  The tart cranberries contrast well with the black pepper and allow both flavors to spark while not overpowering one another.  You’ll friends will know they’re different, but they won’t know why…

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (1½ sticks)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Remove butter from fridge and let warm to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 mins.  When you kitchen smells like heaven they’re ready.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool on the side.
  5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Your cookies turn out so much better with parchment paper. I don’t know why but it works and then there is less to clean up!
  6. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and black pepper; set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until it becomes a light cream color and fluffy in texture.  The color should significantly change from when you start, so just turn up that mixer and let it go!
  8. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
  9. Mix in the flour mixture until just blended.
  10. Add the oats, walnuts and cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon. Mix until just blended.
  11. Use a tablespoon and scoop out small balls of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not over bake. The edges should turn very light brown, which is sometimes hard to see in the oven light, so I think I over baked these the first few times I made them.  The centers should still be slightly soft.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack (I usually try to eat one right off the tray and always burn myself… but it’s so worth it!
  13. Repeat and enjoy!
February 28, 2012

Chocolate Chip Nutmeg Cookies (and extra crispy coffee chocolate chip for crunch lovers)

Soft or crispy?  It’s the never-ending debate for all cookie enthusiasts.  I personally go for a soft center with slightly crisp edges, but let’s tell the truth here… any cookie is hard to resist.  Cookies bring you back to your childhood, can turn around a stressful afternoon, and usually come along with friends, family and laughter.  I wouldn’t encourage eating a whole batch, but share them with your friends after a BBQ or a day at the beach and you’ll be guaranteed a good end to your meal.

I wanted to make a twist o the traditional chocolate chip cookie.  I know, why change such a perfect thing, but I always like to try something new.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  (I tried adding lemon zest into a back to oatmeal cookies to give it a zesty flavor and they came out tasting like a cookie coated in pledge.  Fail.  This one however received much better feedback.)  As a spun my spice rack I noticed my nutmeg grinder looking sadly neglected after the eggnog-filled holiday months so I decided to break it out for the occasion.  The nutty, warm scent of nutmeg mixed with the almond extract gives this ordinary cookie a flavor that makes your willing cookie takers say, “mmm, what’s in these??”.  I made these especially for a coworker’s birthday and they were a big hit.  By 10am that morning all of them were gone.

And of course they cookies always seem taste better when they’re right out of the oven.  If you miss that freshly baked taste, pop a few in the oven at 350 for 3 minutes and enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (unsifted)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Method

  1. Pre heat oven to 375°F
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, white sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color.  I recommend mixing it roughly with a fork so the sugar doesn’t go flying around the kitchen when you turn on the blender.  Start slow and gradually bring up to medium until it’s a fluffy, creamy consistency.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mix on low-speed until incorporated.
  4. And vanilla and almond extract and mix on low-speed until incorporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.
  6. Gradually blend in the dry mixture into creamed mixture.
  7. Stir in chocolate chips.
  8. Drop tablespoon sized balls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute.
  11. Carefully remove cookies with a spatula and let cool on wire racks for 2 minutes before digging in.
  12. Return for seconds, and then pack up the rest for later.

If you prefer crisper cookies, here’s a tip to making them more your style.  It’s about the eggs, skipping them results in a flatter cookie with a great crunch.  Super crispy, crunchy, chocolate chip goodness coming right up!

CRISPY COFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. cold strong coffee (save a small amount from your morning brew)
  • 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. anise extract

Method for Supreme Crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Line two large baking sheets with foil with the dull side up.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine butter, white and brown sugar, coffee, corn syrup, milk, vanilla and anise. Mix until smooth.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.
  7. Add chocolate chips and stir until mixed.
  8. The dough will be very soft.
  9. Divide the dough in half.
  10. Divide one half of the dough into 10 equal pieces, each about 1/4 cup
  11. Place 5 pieces of dough least 3 inches apart on each lined baking sheet. Use your fingers covered with a piece of plastic wrap to flatten each scoop until it is 3 inches in diameter. Remember, the cookies will spread even more as they bake so leave room!
  12. Bake the two sheets for 8 minutes.
  13. Rotate the sheets from the top rack to the bottom and from front to back.
  14. Bake for 7-10 more minutes, watching closely, until the cookies are evenly dark golden brown all over. Pale cookies will not be crispy.
  15. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes.
  16. Slide the foil with cookies onto racks.
  17. When the baking sheets are cool, repeat with the remaining dough.
  18. Cool cookies completely before snacking, stacking or storing.
January 23, 2012

Home Style Cornbread

There’s one thing that goes perfectly with BBQ ribs, chili or stew… golden, buttery, right-out-of-the-oven cornbread.  And there’s one thing that will take your ordinary cornbread from delicious to spectacular.  A cast iron skillet.  The traditional southern technique ensures you’ll enjoy melt in your mouth, deliciously crisp edges and pillowy centers of sweet goodness.

I like a slightly sweet, buttery cornbread with a moist center.  I also like to add a can of corn which result in chewy kernels dotted throughout the bread.  The biggest secret to good cornbread is don’t over mix.  It’s our natural impulse to mix things til their silky smooth.  This is exactly what you want when you’re making Hollandaise sauce, whipped cream, or icing sugar; but bread batter is delicate.  Save those arm muscles for when you’ll really need it, and for this recipe mix just enough to moisten the batter.  I always serve this with my homemade chili as a perfect vehicle to mop up all the extra juices, and I usually don’t have much to save for the next day.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup medium ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (with a small tab on reserve)
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together wet ingredients: can of corn, eggs, milk, butter and olive oil.  Reserve a small tab of butter to heat in skillet and create a nice crust on the bottom.
  4. Slowly add in the wet ingredients to the larger bowl and mix gently.  Do not over mix the batter, just mix enough to combine ingredients.  Don’t worry about a few lumps, if you over mix your cornbread will come out dense.  You want fluffy cornbread!
  5. Heat a heavy bottom iron skillet on high and add a tsp of oil and a tab of butter.
  6. When the skillet is hot, pour in the batter.  It should sizzle in the pan, which will ensure crispy edges and utter happiness.
  7. Let it cook for a minute, then put it in the oven to bake
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Cut into wedges, squares or sticks and serve with chili or softened butter.

Adjust the amount of sugar depending on your taste.  I like it more on the sweeter side but most of my family likes it a little more savory.  I usually win, as I’m the one making it!  ENJOY and happy cooking!

November 10, 2011

Red Thai Curry

There’s a multitude of Thai restaurants in a 2-block radius of my office and yet I still can’t find one that makes me want to return.  I find myself suffering through waterlogged, tasteless, or blistering hot curry at lunch, with the most random ingredients from string beans to rhubarb, and my ultimate favorite…. beets?!?  I’m all for experimentation, but these vegetables just don’t belong in a traditional Thai curry.  Let’s face it, if it’s good don’t mess with it.  What happened to good old-fashioned Thai curry with the sweetness of coconut and the balancing heat of red chili and ginger?  As a result, I had to take matters into my own hands.

It may seem like a long list of ingredients, but it’s one of those dishes you can make in one pot, so the clean up is easy, and the stove does all the work.  I like to make it on a Sunday and then have it for dinner Monday night.  It’s always better the second day as the spices have a chance to develop, so now I just plan it out that way knowing the following night I’ll be in Thai curry heaven.  In the winter I make it with heartier root vegetables, and in the summer I lighten it up with a thinner sauce and readily available summer veg.  The one here is good  year round, it’s harmonious blend of spicy, sweet, and sour is a satisfying end to any day, the only thing missing is a fresh bowl of steaming rice.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. ginger, finely diced
  • 6 Thai chili peppers. Finely dices seeds removed (leave the seeds in if you like it very spicy)
  • 3 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 3 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, broken into bite size pieces
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (for garnish)
  • Small handful on unsalted peanuts (for garnish)

Method

  1. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot on the stove on medium/high
  2. Add oil, turmeric, cumin, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes and cook the spices in the hot pan for 1-2 minutes until the aroma of fresh spice fills your kitchen
  3. Add red curry paste and stir until it dissolves in the hot oil
  4. Salt and pepper the sliced chicken and drop into the hot pan,  Sear on all sides, 6-8 minutes
  5. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside for later, no need to wipe out or rinse the pan, it’s good to go
  6. Add a little more oil (1-2 tbsp.) and add onion, garlic and ginger to pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  7. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes
  8. Add red curry paste, turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes and coat the onions with the spices until they’re speckled with red and orange.
  9. Add Thai chili peppers and continue to cook on medium for another 5 minutes until onions are translucent
  10. Pour in 2 cans of coconut milk, whole milk, bay leaves, lemongrass and tomato paste.  Stir well and bring to a low simmer.
  11. Add the chicken back in along with all the juices that accumulated on the plate (that’s where a lot of the flavor is!).
  12. Add chopped carrots, cauliflower and whole tomatoes, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  13. Add semolina flour to thicken the sauce, I usually start with 2 tbsp. and add a little more later if needed.  It will take a minute to thicken so wait about 5 minutes before adding more.  Semolina flour is a good alternative to cornstarch and is very fine so it doesn’t result in a grainy texture.
  14. Poke the carrots with a fork to make sure they’re tender; once they are you’re ready to go!
  15. Serve with steamed rice and a garnish of cilantro and peanuts.  The cilantro add a nice freshness and the peanuts add to the nutty flavor of the sauce and much needed crunch alongside the tender vegetables and moist chicken.
  16. Don’t forget to remove the lemongrass stick before serving!

You can easily make this a vegetarian dish, just skip the chicken and add whatever you like, Chinese eggplant, potatoes, and acorn squash are some of my favorites.  I also like it with brown rice, as the chewy texture soaks up all the sauce and creates a curry stew at the bottom of your bowl!

November 2, 2011

Chicken and Dumplins

There comes a time in every couple’s relationship where one person says, “Oh, let’s have    insert dish here    for dinner” with a giddy, child-like smile… and the other person looks at them with a face like their trying to solve a very complex math problem.  Well, this happened to me when my boyfriend asked for “chicken and dumplins”.  Chicken and what?  My parents are British; I grew up eating pot roast, shepherds pie, sausage rolls and bubble and squeak.  I felt like I’d walked into an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.  I thought it might be something like Matzo ball soup, which is really isn’t, so I got my lesson in dumpling creation through unscripted directions from my boyfriend’s grandmother over the phone.  It was less than vague… something along the lines of “mix a little flour with some Crisco until it looks right”?!?  Regardless, I think I figured it out and I’ve been trying to master it ever since.

Chicken and dumplings, like most southern food, evolved out of necessity and practicality.  In the old days, chicken was a special treat and not readily available like we find today in our grocery stores.  When it was available, chickens were often scrawny little birds without a lot of meat, yet had the job of serving an entire family dinner and lunch the next day.  However, flour was in abundance and an affordable staple found in all household kitchens.  Flour could easily be used to stretch a meager meal so that an entire family would leave the table feeling full and satisfied by making biscuits, dumplings, bread or an assortment of other improvisational meal stretchers.   Today, chicken and dumplings has become an ultimate comfort food of creamy sauce, thick luscious dumplings, and shreds of moist chicken.  I like mine with lots of pepper so the sauce is speckled with little flakes of black and charcoal.

Now I’ll say up front this is a work in progress, I’ll keep you updated on my adjustments but overall this recipe delivered a very satisfying dinner.  I should also mention this is not a weeknight dinner.  It takes a bit of time so I recommend making it over the weekend, or if you decide to do it during the week, split it up into two nights and make the stock the first night and the dumplings the second.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 1 whole chicken (remove giblets)
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, roughly chopped (or 2 handfuls of baby carrots if you have them around)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Water (enough to thoroughly cover the chicken and have room for all the flavorings)

Dumplings

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (add more if mixture is too dry and won’t hold together)
  • 2 eggs (This was my first attempt with the eggs, it resulted in fluffier dumplings so if you like them more dense remove the eggs and add a little more milk)
  • 3/4 cup Crisco
  • Extra flour for dusting

Soup

  • Homemade stock (from above)
  • Shredded chicken, remove skin (from above)
  • 1 tbsp, freshly ground pepper
  • Strips of dumplings (from above)
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Method

Part 1

  1.  Get a large soup pot and fill half way with cold water
  2. Add chicken (whole chicken but no giblets), carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary salt, and peppercorns
  3. Top up with water if needed, the chicken should be completely covered and the vegetables should have enough room to float around
  4. Place on stove top on high and bring to a boil
  5. Once it begins boiling, lower heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  6. Enjoy your time off, and leave the stove to do all the work.  You don’t need to do a thing!

Part 2

  1. Remove pot from stove and remove chicken carefully
  2. Place chicken in a bowl and let cool for 20 minutes before shredding (or you’ll burn your fingers)
  3. While the chicken cools, take the stock and run it through a strainer.  Hopefully you have another large pot big enough to hold the stock, if not line up a few bowls
  4. I usually transfer the stock into a Dutch oven pot so I have more room to drop the dumplings later. I have one from target and I use it ALL THE TIME!  I highly recommend purchasing one of these, you won’t regret it. Kitchen Essentials® from Calphalon® Hard Anodized Nonstick 5-qt. Covered Dutch Oven.
  5. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off and discard the skin and bones.  Shred it with your hands and leave it on the side until the dumplings are ready.
  6. Return stock to the stove and bring to a low simmer.  I usually reserve some of the stock on the side, I don’t use it all and then I can make another soup later that week.
  7. Skim some of the oil off the top before you drop the dumplings, it helps your soup stay creamy and not oily.

Part 3 – It’s dumpling time!

  1. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl
  2. Cut in shortening using a pastry knife or a large fork.  Pastry makers mix in the shortening using their hands, this is my preferred method too – dip your hands in ice-cold water for a minute, then dry your hands; it helps to not melt the Crisco and the dough doesn’t stick to your hands as much.
  3. Add cold milk and beaten eggs, a few spoons at a time, mixing the dough from the outside in with fork until a soft dough forms (do not over mix – about 2 minutes total). You may need to add a small amount of milk or flour at the end to adjust the consistency of the dough.  Add milk if the dough is very dry and crumbly after it’s been mixed; add flour if the dough is very sticky.
  4. Sprinkle your work surface with flour to prevent the dough from sticking.
  5. Roll dough out thinly, about 1/8″ thick, then slice into strips, each about 2 inches in length.
  6. Lightly dust with flour and then gently drop the dumplings into the simmering chicken broth.
  7. Stir them gently to prevent sticking
  8. Add chicken and 1-2 tbsp of pepper and stir gently.  (Add more or less pepper depending on your taste)
  9. Let cook for 15 minutes
  10. Check consistency and then add 1-2 tbsp. corn starch to thicken the broth.  You want it to be nice and creamy!
  11. Let simmer another 30 minutes until dumplings are cooked through
  12. Add salt/pepper to taste
  13. Serve in a big bowl so you get plenty of tasty dumplings!
October 21, 2011

Jalapeño Corn Spoon Bread

I discovered corn spoon bread at a family Thanksgiving my junior year of high school.  How I could go 16 years of my life without knowing about this delicacy is beyond me.  My family was invited over to a friend’s house, and Meghan made her special recipe.  I didn’t even know what it was until it came out of the oven warm and steaming.  Similar to a thick pudding texture, this sweet, creamy dish is a welcomed partner to steak, chili, pork chops, ribs… ok, pretty much anything.

This corn bread meets corn chowder under the alias of spoon bread, is something that I happily mound on my plate knowing it’s both healthy and sweetly delicious.  This is a great substitute to your traditional mashed potatoes, yams, parsnips, root vegetables and other purees that serve as the piles to sop up everything delectable that runs off our main courses before our forks can catch it.  To offset the sweetness of the corn, I add onions and jalapenos to give a mild spice.  I’ve modified the original recipe, but the staples are still there.  Thanks Meghan, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 can whole can corn undrained (no salt added)
  • 1 can creamed corn (no salt added)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 jalapeños, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. jalapeño powder
  • 1 package corn bread (jiffy)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Combine sour cream, butter and egg in a medium size bowl and whisk until smooth
  • Add the remaining ingredients, corm, onion, jalapeno, jalapeño power and corn bread and mix with a wooden spoon
  • Spray a 9” pan with cooking spray
  • Place on center rack in oven and cook for 1 hour
  • Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving, it will be very very hot!

THANK YOU MEGHAN!  This one’s for you!

October 18, 2011

Yellow Chicken Curry with Vegetables

You might be interested to know that curry is not a spice. In fact, there are several definitions out there designed to describe curry’s various combinations of piquant flavors, with many of these relying on origin just as much as how it’s used in the kitchen.  The important thing to remember is that it’s a blend of spices that can be selected and mixed by hand or purchased as curry powder to get the exact level of heat, spice or mellow warmth you’re looking for.  In my quest for the perfectly mild, yet also spicy curry, I began working on my own concoction.

My yellow curry can be altered to suit a spicy palette or toned down for those who prefer a mild heat, either way it’s depth of flavor and fragrant bouquet of spices will have you craving Indian more often.  I prefer a rich, velvety sauce with lots of meat and vegetables that offers up a variety of textures and flavors.  I use big chunks of carrots and cauliflower that soften as they simmer and absorb all the flavors of the cooked spices.  The rich flavor and velvety quality of the curry is perfectly paired with freshly steamed jasmine rice; you can’t help but go back for seconds.  Just adjust the amount of cumin and red pepper flakes to change the level of heat, either way you’ll get a traditional Indian curry worthy of being  part of your menu.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 2 lbs. skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dehydrated jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. cumin

Sauce

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dehydrated jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 jalapeno, finely chopped (include seeds if you want more heat)
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 2 10 oz. cans light coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Raita

  • 1 pint plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (1/2 medium lime)

Method

You’ll start this recipe by cooking the chicken in a mixture of spices, similar to the ones that you will use in the sauce.  This gives the chicken way more flavor than if you just dropped it in at the end

  • Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy bottom skillet at medium heat
  • Add paprika, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dehydrated jalapeño peppers and cumin to the hot oil and slowly cook the spices.  This will bring out all the deep flavors and give you a great base for the chicken.  Use the spice amounts listed in the top part of the ingredients under “chicken”
  • Let the spices cook for about 1-2 mins until aromatic
  • Drop chicken in the pan and let cook for about 6 mins. You don’t need to worry about cooking the chicken through, you just want to coat all sides with the spices and oil and slightly brown the pieces.  Carefully toss until everything is coated and the outside is golden
  • Remove from pan and leave in bowl for later
  • No need to wipe out or rinse the pan, just add in the oil and continue cooking on medium heat
  • Add oil and spices: paprika, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dehydrated jalapeño peppers, cumin and salt and cook for 2 minutes until aromatic
  • Add onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeño and bay leaves stir to evenly coat the onions.  Cook on medium for 10 minutes, you don’t want the onions to turn brown, you want them translucent (it’s called “sweating”)
  • Once the vegetables cook down, add tomato paste, coconut milk, and carrots.  Stir in new ingredients, cover and bring to a simmer on low heat.  Leave for 20 minutes to let all the flavors meld.
  • While the curry flavors develop, it’s time to make the raita.
  • In a medium bowl, add yogurt, mint, cumin, salt, pepper, lime juice and bell pepper.  Mix well, cover with saran wrap and leave in the fridge until dinner
  • Add chicken and cauliflower continue to simmer for another 20-30 mins.
  •  Serve over rice with a side of Puppodums and raita.

Puppodums are wafer thin Indian “crackers” made with lentil flour and sometimes spices usually served at the beginning of a meal, or alongside the main dish with chutney and raita for dipping.  I LOVE THEM!  I usually eat a whole box when I make curry, I break them up and use them like a spoons.  I just can’t have curry without them, and the ones from the store are easier than making them from scratch.  I buy the Tiger brand Spicy Puppodums, spray a little oil on them, and them pop them in the microwave for 40 seconds.  Puppodum perfection!

October 8, 2011

British Bread and Butter Pudding

I’ve tried many bread and butter puddings in fancy restaurants, but I always go back to the simple homemade version I learned from my mom.  It doesn’t have fancy ingredients, or liquor, or vanilla spice, it’s just traditional pudding just like Nanny used to make.

I love the smell of the warm custard baking in the oven; it makes the whole house smell like home.  When it’s ready to take out, the crispy brown coating on the top makes me giddy, and as I spoon it out the warm steam escaping from the pudding is intoxicating.  The raisins plump up in the oven and get nice and juicy and sweet, while the bread is soft and creamy.  I like the slight crust on the top from the sugar; it’s a nice change of texture from the soft, velvety filling.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf day old bread
  • 2 cups whole milk (don’t use 2%, 1% or skim)
  • 1 3/4 cup light or heavy whipping cream (I’ve used both and I can’t tell any difference)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/8 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp. for sprinkling
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 stick salted butter

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F, and place rack in center of oven
  • Combine milk and whipping cream in large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and 1/8 cup sugar in large bowl.
  • Once the milk starts to foam, remove from heat.  Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture, to create a custard.  Add the hot milk slowly while whisking so the eggs don’t scramble, it’s called “tempering” the eggs. Set custard aside.
  • Butter a 9x9x2-inch glass-baking dish
  • Spread a thin layer of butter on both sides of each bread slice
  • Line the bottom of the baking dish with a single layer of bread.  Feel free to break up the slices or cut them to make to make it fit.  You don’t want them overlapping.
  • Sprinkle with raisins and a dusting of sugar.
  • Continue to layer bread, raisins and sugar until you fill the dish.  I don’t put a layer of raisins on the top, as they tend to dry out in the oven.  I only put a sprinkling of sugar and use all the raisins in the pudding.  Don’t worry about filing the dish, the custard will fit!
  • Slowly spoon out the custard over the bread and let it set in as you go.  Make sure you do this gradually, so the custard has time to sink in.  You should be able to use most of the custard; you may be left with about 1/4 cup, nothing to worry about.  Just fill it to the very top.
  • Let stand until some custard is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
  • Place in over and bake pudding until custard thickens and begins to set, about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat broiler. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over pudding. Broil until sugar browns, rotating baking dish for even browning and watching closely, about 2 minutes.
  • Let pudding cool slightly. Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

%d bloggers like this: