Monday, January 28, 2013

Molasses Spice Cookies

One of my favorite cookies ever (and an honored pantry standby!) is the Brown Sugar Cookie. The rich butter-sugar-caramel is addictive.

However, for something just as comforting, just as easy, but a little fancier for the holidays or a winter weekend, I love these. (I might even like them better.)

One thing to remember with the amount of molasses in these cookies--they will burn if left alone. Don't walk too far from the oven while they are baking. I also highly recommend baking a "test cookie" first to check how quickly and evenly your oven bakes. (Mine kept burning on the bottom, for instance, so I slipped a silicone mat underneath the parchment paper to insulate them.)

Credit where it's due: this recipe is adapted from one I obtained from Tracy Dieselman.

Recipe after the jump...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Apple Pie with All-Butter Crust

I've been less and less satisfied with the pie crusts I've been producing. They've been getting more and more complicated to put together. Do I have Crisco? (I never have Crisco, since I only ever buy it once a year.) Wet the flour with vodka...no, not vodka, calvados! With a spray bottle! With ice cubes in it! Dig out the food processor. Pulse process--is the butter pea-sized yet? (You can look back at my original post for apple pie to see all the steps I'm talking about.) And it would take me forever to roll out the dough, and it was cracking, and it never seemed flaky. Maybe I just suck at pastry, I thought.

So, I was looking for something else to try. I found Smitten Kitchen's recipe for all butter, really flaky pie dough. She [Deb Perelman] had been using the same Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen recipe that I had been working with. One by one, she enumerated all the problems she had with what she'd been doing. And she proposed ditching the shortening, the vodka, the food processor...all the things that had made pie crust such a pain. That left just five ingredients--flour, butter, sugar, salt, and water--and minimal equipment. Could it be that easy?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Guinness Beef Stew

I adapted this recipe from a few sources (Miliken and Feniger's recipe at FoodNetwork.com, Kathy Maister's recipe at Startcooking.com) and love it enough that I've revived my food blog to bring it to you!

Guinness Beef Stew with bread
I really wanted a single-pot dish with a long, slow cooking process, so my neglected Dutch oven can get its much-needed autumn workout. Accordingly, I went for beef chuck (a tasty, not too fatty option that can stand up to long cooking), and decided to buy a full roast and trim it down into stew pieces myself. If you go that route, be prepared to buy at least a three-pound roast, since you'll lose some fat or connective tissue when you trim. Pre-packaged stew meat would be absolutely fine.

Serve this stew with a nice hearty bread--a soda bread would be great! (The bread in the photo is actually a sweet sourdough bread with a great chewy texture.) If you prefer to serve with mashed or cooked potatoes, feel free to leave the potatoes out of the stew itself.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Triple Chocolate Espresso Brownies


Brownies should taste like chocolate. This should not be a revolutionary concept, and yet, some 50-odd years since they created the boxed brownie mix, chocolate flavor can be missing from the one dessert where it should be highlighted.

Supermarket brownie mixes are not necessarily bad (Epicurious' brownie mix taste test came up with an interesting winner), but when I do make boxed brownies, they are kinda...blah. I feel like I'm in back in school preparing for the drama club bakesale. I usually end up gussying up the final product with mint icing and/or chocolate ganache (here is a ganache recipe from Allrecipes.com that I use).

Let me digress a bit. My aversion to the boxed brownie made me think of one of the marketing legends of post-war America. The story goes that manufacturers of cake mixes were puzzled by the stagnant sales of their just-add-water mixes--why were so many women who could save time by using their product refusing to buy them? The answer, said their research, was that women felt they weren't "really" baking the cakes; the very simplicity of the just-add-water mix made them feel guilty, as if they weren't contributing to the process and couldn't take pride in the results. The marketer's solution? Remove the dried eggs from the mix. If a housewife cracks an egg, she feels as if she's "really" cooking. Sales of cake mixes soared. (There's some truth to this, although the real story is a bit more complicated than that...Snopes.com has a good narrative of the add-an-egg legend, with citations.)

So, to come back to the present, am I simply falling prey to residual guilt over the ease of the boxed brownie? Maybe, but for scratch brownies like these, I will bust through the reverse snobbery. The recipe below is from the May 2000 issue of Cook's Illustrated. If you want a brownie that's actually fairly sophisticated, and packs in the chocolate, this recipe is an excellent option that is not very difficult to make. These are dense and rich, rich, rich with chocolate--so rich, that I recommend that you cut these brownies small (1½ in. x 1½ in.). CI recommends cutting the brownies to an inch wide, but that is far too small--1½ inch square makes this a nice "two-bite brownie".

The espresso adds a real depth of flavor to the chocolate, and somehow makes it taste more chocolatey. If you are going to add ganache to these, I also highly recommend adding rum or liqueur, such as Irish Mist.

Ingredients
  • 5 oz. semisweet chocolate (about 60% cacao), chopped
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, in 4 chunks
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour
Hardware
  • 2 pieces aluminum foil, 12" wide
  • 1 8" x 8" square baking pan, preferably straight-sided
  • vegetable cooking spray 
  • heat-proof bowl (stainless steel works really well, but Pyrex or something similar will work as long as it's of the right size to fit the chocolate and the pot of water)
  • pot (to fill with water to gently melt the chocolate)
  • toothpick (for testing doneness)

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking pan with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Fold the two 12-inch pieces of foil lengthwise so that each measures 7 inches wide. Fit one sheet in bottom of greased pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; overhang will help in removal of baked brownies. Fit second sheet in pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. (You're creating a sling that will help you remove the brownies from the pan after baking.) Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost-simmering water, melt chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture; then stir in flour with wooden spoon until just combined.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread into corners, and level surface with rubber spatula; bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes. (Start checking the brownies at 25 minutes to avoid dry, overbaked brownies.)
  5. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan using foil sling. Cut into 1½-inch squares and serve. (Do not cut brownies until ready to serve; brownies can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated up to 5 days.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saté-Spiced Roast Chicken

Honestly, I'm slightly embarrassed to post this one. I hadn't planned to--hence no photos, since I don't have my camera available--but this is the second or third time that I've posted a menu of what I'm cooking in a Facebook status update and gotten some reminder that I haven't blogged about it yet. (One of the main barriers to me posting more frequently is that I really want these posts to be illustrated, and that requires that I plan ahead a bit more than I sometimes do. It's no coincidence that I post more often around the holidays, when I have planned dishes days or weeks in advance!)


The other reason I'm slightly embarrassed to post this one is that it is ridiculously simple. Simple can be really good, though, and it certainly is more manageable on a weeknight. I can easily see adding this recipe to the rotation. It's an easy, cheap(ish) cut of meat to buy, and you do practically nothing except sprinkle seasoning on the meat and throw it in the oven for 30 minutes. Keeping the skin and bones on the meat adds flavor and juiciness to the final product, plus you get a delicious crispy skin which you can gobble down guiltily.


A word about the saté [sah-TAY] seasoning. This is usually used on chicken satay, those marinated chicken pieces skewered, grilled, and served with spicy peanut sauce as an appetizer at innumerable restaurants and parties (see right), so it's more familiar than you think. The seasoning blend is Indonesian in origin, and the version I use came from Penzeys, and is made up of salt, brown sugar, garlic, white onion, coriander, purple shallots, ginger, turmeric, sweet paprika, Ancho pepper, galangal, cayenne red pepper, and lemongrass. I added a bit more ground coriander, because, well, I like coriander. How traditional this blend is I don't know, but it is yummy. The chicken tastes even more chickeny--nutty, spicy, with a little bit of heat, even some slightly sweet herbal notes. (Image courtesy Jaakko from Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike License 3.0.)


So, now the recipe, which is based on one from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Here is a similar recipe from the Cook's Illustrated website.


Ingredients
  • 2 split chicken breasts, skin-on, bone in
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and (slightly) cooled
  • 3-6 tablespoons saté seasoning
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground 
Hardware
  • oven safe dish at least 10" wide 
(ATK/Cook's Illustrated recommends cooking the chicken on a broiler rack over a broiler pan covered in aluminum foil. I see their point--fat drips away from the meat, better heat circulation, etc.--but I was cooking just one split chicken breast, and that seemed like a lot of work for half a chicken breast. I used a 9" Pyrex pie dish, the chicken came out really well. Whatever you choose to use, make sure that the chicken you are cooking has plenty of room around it so it cooks evenly and the skin crisps, and you'll be fine.)


Directions
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 450 degrees. 
  2. Sprinkle underside of chicken breasts liberally with salt, pepper, and saté seasoning.
  3. Loosen the skin covering each 1/2 breast with your finger, and pull away from the meat. Season meat liberally with salt, pepper, and saté seasoning. Replace skin and rub in the butter, then sprinkle skin liberally with pepper. 
  4. Place split breasts in cooking dish, bone side down and skin side up. Move dish to the oven, and roast until thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 25 to 35 minutes.
  5. Transfer chicken to cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Carve and serve immediately.
Serves 2-3.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wild Sockeye Salmon with Brown Sugar Citrus Glaze

This is the gateway drug for cooking fish. This is the easiest, least scary recipe I have ever come across, and the results are delicious. (As in, use-your-finger-to-scoop-leftover-glaze-from-the-pan delicious. I use no names, to protect the guilty. But these are the same people who ate ALL of my Molasses Spice cookies on New Year's Eve before I could take a picture for the blog--hence the delay in my posting that entry, which is still on tap.)

There are literally three steps, unless you count zesting a lemon, which would make four. All credit to Mr. Alton Brown (or his test kitchen?) for this recipe.

Does it matter whether you use wild sockeye salmon instead of farm-raised Atlantic salmon? On a taste comparison, I can't be sure; I haven't tried this recipe with farm-raised salmon, though I have my suspicions. On a health comparison, the evidence is pretty clear; wild has it all over farm-raised. Wild has a better ratio of omega-3 fatty acids, fewer chemicals/toxins, and less fat than farm-raised. On a visual inspection, it's pretty easy to tell the difference (this blog has a good run-down of the health info, and is the source for the photo at right. The fish on the right is wild, the fish on the left is farm-raised.) Trader Joe's sells frozen skin-on fillets of wild sockeye salmon for $7.99/lb, which is a pretty reasonable price, I think.

Try this recipe. Get hooked (pun intended). You won't regret it.


Ingredients

  • 1 side, skin-on, sockeye salmon, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, pin bones removed
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Directions

  1. Position a rack in the oven 3 inches from the broiler. Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and place the salmon on the pan.
  2. Place the sugar, zest, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a small food processor and process for 1 minute or until well combined. Evenly spread the mixture onto the salmon and allow to sit for 45 minutes, at room temperature.
  3. Turn the oven on to the high broiler setting for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, place the salmon into the oven and broil for 6 to 8 minutes or until the thickest part of the fish reaches an internal temperature of 131 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the salmon from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Posh Nosh

If you've never seen the genius that is Posh Nosh, I highly recommend you seek it out. It's a fantastic comedy miniseries of short (~9 minutes apiece) cooking segments featuring the Honorable Simon Marchmont (Richard E. Grant) and his wife, Minty (Arabella Weir), owners of the posh restaurant, "The Quill and Tassel".

I love it because of its exaggerated, yet somehow pitch-perfect mockery of foodie snobbery (Minty tells us she'll show us "extraordinary food for ordinary people") and foodie jargon ("interrogate the root vegetables until they are embarrassed"). It doesn't just depend on making fun of foodies for the humor; there's plenty of British class tension between social-climbing Minty and aristocratic Simon.

So sad they only made eight of these.