Saturday, April 19, 2014

DESSERT: Homemade Strawberry Shortcakes


Strawberry shortcakes are the quintessential dessert of summer. I decided to make mine in late spring...because I'm in California, and our spring might as well be summer (I'm not rubbing it in cold-weather folks, I promise).  This recipe is perfect - no modifications needed. I'm not bragging, because it's not my recipe, it's from chefinyou.com.

The only modifications I made to the recipe are the following:
  • I didn't have whole milk for the shortcakes (really, they're sweet biscuits), so I used half evaporated milk and half low-fat milk
  • For the half of the strawberries that need to be mushed, I used frozen berries, and put them over the stovetop (with 3 tbsp of brown sugar).  I cooked them down until they were mostly dry and used this mix as the first layer of strawberry on top of the shortcake.
  • I used a mason jar ring as my biscuit cutter

Sunday, April 6, 2014

DINNER: Chicken, Potato & Vegetable Tagine

What is a tagine? Technically, it's a type of dish that is cooked in earthenware with a coned lid.  In
actuality, most folks refer to any Moroccan slow-cooked stew as a tagine.  These can be sweet & spice or just savory, and can be made with chicken, meat, or fish.  They typically include vegetables of fruit and use spices like ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and saffron.  The tajine (the earthenware this time, not the entree) pot traps steam, which allows the condensed liquid to return to the dish.  Basically, the tagine is a slow cooker...

I recently bought a large tagine at Sur La Table (only $29.99 mind you), and decided to use it right away.  I found that the tagine made for incredibly easy cooking...you literally toss everything into the bottom part of the tagine, and let it cook.

Serving Size: 3-4

Ingredients:
  • 1 chicken, cut into large pieces (soak in vinegar before preparing recipe)
  • 1/2 pound of baby carrots
  • 1/2 pack of frozen, organic peas
  • 4-5 medium sized potatoes cut into medium chunks
  • 2 onions, chopped (roughly)
  • 2 tbsp of crushed garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup of barley or farrow
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Spice mix
    • 1 tbsp of sea salt
    • 1 tbsp of black pepper
    • 1 tsp of paprika
    • 1 tsp of cumin
    • 1 tsp of cinnamon
    • 1 tsp turmeric
 Instructions:
  • Spread a bit of olive oil around the bottom of the tagine  (just a quick swirl)
  • Line the bottom of the tagine with the barley, onions, potatoes, and carrots
  • Pour in the water
  • Layer chicken on top of your base
  • Pour olive oil on top of the chicken
  • Layer on spices, garlic, and lemon
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 2.5-3 hours - check in on your tagine 2 hours in
  • Garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

DINNER: The Ultimate Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is a dinner classic.  How could I continue experimenting with other recipes until I
mastered this very basic, and very elegant main dish? I couldn't.  I set my sights on perfecting my roast chicken; I pored over all kinds of recipes, including Thomas Keller's.  I learned that the key to making an amazing roast chicken was keeping the bird dry - apparently a moist bird creates steam in the oven, which results in a dry chicken.

Here's what I came up with...hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Serving Size: 3-4

Ingredients:
  • One whole chicken - skin on, guts removed
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Crushed garlic (bottled is fine)
  • Vinegar
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 420 degrees
  • Defrost your chicken naturally (i.e. don't use the microwave)
  • Soak the chicken in vinegar (I use full strength white vinegar, and simply soak the chicken in a bowl of it - turn the chicken in the vinegar bath until all sides have soaked for at least 5 minutes) - this gets rid of the foul chicken smell, which is incredibly strong when you reheat chicken
  • Remove the chicken from the vinegar bath - dry the chicken inside and out with a paper towel
  • Lift the skin and apply crushed garlic directly onto the chicken (underneath the skin)
  • Generously coat the chicken in sea salt - a tablespoon should do the job
  • Sprinkle black pepper all over the chicken
  • Put the chicken on a rack (or slotted plate) over a tray. I didn't have a rack so I used chopsticks to prop my chicken above a pie plate (and placed chopped potatoes underneath the bird - these cooked in the released chicken juices)
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes - try to avoid opening the oven until at least 45 minutes into the baking process




Thursday, April 3, 2014

DESSERT: Classic Apple Pie with Butter Crust (and Lattice Top)

Apple pie is the ultimate feel good dessert.  Though I love chocolate, I'd take a good slice of apple pie over a chocolate cake any day (well, maybe not a flourless molten cake, but I digress).  The absolute key to a good apple pie is a well made crust.  I typically make low fat, and low calorie graham or even plain-cracker crusts constructed with just enough butter to bind the crumbs, but I went with a classic butter crust and pie top for this beauty.

Ingredients:
  • Crust (from the must-have book How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition) by  
    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
    • 1 teaspoon sugar 
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces
    • 3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary 
    • Egg wash
      • One egg beat with a tbsp of milk mixed in
  • Apple Pie Filling
    • 8 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into small squares 
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
    • 3/4 cup light brown sugar 
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
    • Add nutmeg to taste
Instruction:
  • Crust (From How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition) by  
    • Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.
    • Put the mixture in a bowl and add the ice water; mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or two of ice water if necessary (if you overdo it and the mixture becomes sodden, add a little more flour). Form into two balls, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate the dough for up to a couple of days or freeze, tightly wrapped, for up to a couple of weeks.)
    • For the pie plate: sprinkle a clean counter-top with flour, put the dough on it, and sprinkle the top with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll with light pressure from the center out. If the dough is hard, let it rest for a few minutes. If the dough is sticky, add a little flour (if it continues to become sticky, and it's taking you more than a few minutes to roll it out, refrigerate or freeze again). Roll, adding flour and rotating and turning the dough as needed; use ragged edges of dough to repair any tears, adding a drop of water while you press the patch into place. 
      • When the diameter of the dough is about 2 inches greater than that of your pie plate, drape the dough over the rolling pin to transfer it into the pie plate. Press the dough firmly into the plate all over. Refrigerate for about an hour before filling (if you're in a hurry, freeze for a half hour or so).
      • Trim the excess dough to about 1/2 inch all around, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers.
      • When you're ready to bake, either fill it or prick it all over with a fork for prebaking.