Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Potato Chip Shortbread Cookies

This is either the Black Sheep or the Fun One on the Shortbread family tree. Smitten Kitchen posted it by way of Emeril Lagsasse – but, what we can see from the topography of the Internet, this is a recipe that has developed over a while.

Its bone structure is Shortbread, there is a bit of the genteel Pecan Sandie trying to assert itself, but the ground-up potato chips? Whoever made that leap is the person you want to know. Ground-Up Potato Chip Lady is the one who catches your eye at that horrible party who points to the door and mouths “cigarette?” It doesn’t matter if you don't smoke: JOIN HER. She’ll close the door, cup her hand over the cigarette while she lights it, inhale, then arch her neck and exhale before turning to you, her confidant for the evening (if you can supply the light, all the better). She will tell you stories about everyone there.

Just look at the name of this cookie: if you’re not drooling, then good on you. But if you’re thinking dirty, dirty thoughts? You might as well start smoking with the kids outside.

We deviated from the recipe by adding an ounce of Sharffen Berger baking pieces to the batter (from the same bag we used to enhance our cranberry oat bars).

Most recipes will have you do this annoyingly twee step of forming the dough into a ball, rolling said ball into a pan of sugar, placing the sugar’d ball on a baking sheet, and then flattening it with the bottom of a glass. Okay: this dough is only butter, flour, and sugar: it’s pretty crumbly. Scoop it out with a cookie scoop (or tablespoon) into your hand and squoosh it together. Since it’s already in your hands, go ahead and flatten it into a small disk. The heat of your hands will have melted enough butter so you can press it into the sugar, then place it on the cookie sheet (ours was lined with a Silpat-style baking sheet, but there is so much butter in these, it is not necessary – neither is parchment paper).

Consider these cookies a secret handshake (or shibboleth): those who eat them may enter.

- ½ Cup sugar
- 1 Cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ Cup toasted pecans, chopped
- ½ Cup finely-crushed potato chips (we used about a half of an 8-ounce bag of Tim’s Cascade potato chips, ground up in the Cuisinart)
- 2 Cups flour
- ½ Cup semi-sweet chocolate bits

Preheat oven to 350F

- Cream butter and sugar. Add salt and vanilla
- Mix in pecans and crushed potato chips
- Add flour, mix until combined (the dough will be crumbly)
- Scoop out a tablespoon-sized knob of dough, flatten into a disk in your hands, press both sides into a dish filled with ½ Cup of sugar to coat, place on baking sheet
- Bake for about 15-17 minutes, until the edges get golden.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – Slow-Poached Chicken Breast

Remove rock-hard chicken breast (boneless, skinless) from freezer. Sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning on both sides. Place in small saucepan. Dissolve remaining cubes of chicken bullion from pantry in hot water. Pour this over chicken and cover, slightly, with water. Cover and put over low heat. Poach softly until internal temperature reaches 160 F. Rinse (the liquid in the saucepan will look disturbing – this is coagulated protein that has been expelled from the chicken breast while it cooks). Cool and cover. It can be added to the salads that single people eat.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – Chili

At some time before you have the hankering for this, you will have soaked ½ Cup of dry beans (we used black and white spotted orca beans) in a cup of water with a teaspoon of salt overnight.

In a small saucepan sauté ½ onion, sliced, and a chopped slice of bacon in about a teaspoon of olive oil. To that add about a teaspoon of chili powder and a dash of cumin. When everything seems sufficiently cooked, add a Tablespoon of tomato paste and cook a little more. Deglaze the pot with a healthy glug of dark rum. Add ½ can of smooshed tomatoes (remove the stem end and any stray peel). Dice up your leftover pot roast and get rid of any fat. Cover and cook. If it looks a little dry in there, add some water or beef broth. Taste at the end and add hot sauce.

We served this over rice.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

- 2 Cups sugar
- 1 Cup shortening
- 1 egg
- 1 cup light sour cream
- 3 ½ Cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 package semisweet chocolate chips
In a mixer with a paddle attachment: cream together sugar and shortening. Add the egg, then the sour cream. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl then mix with the wet ingredients until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake in a 375 F oven for 12-15 minutes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012: Pigs in Blankets, an appetizer

Adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2011

And yes, technically they ought to be called Moo-Cows in Blankets.

These are a cinch to make and the recipe was designed to be frozen (from the freezer, they bake in about 25 minutes). We had to overcome our initial horror working with such a soft dough – after wrestling with bread and crackers, this feels like you’re squishing a baby’s head between your coarse paws. Fear not. We’re still wondering if we should have a backup supply of these in the freezer in case we feel an urgent need for something nasty. Really: they’re so good they’re filthy.

The basic dough called for 1 ½ Cups of cream. If you don’t want the mustard or the horseradish in there, adjust as necessary. The cheese is also optional, but if it’s left out, no other changes need to me made to the recipe. But really: if you’re making a dough with a cup of cream, don’t be a pussy. Add the cheese.

- 2 Cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 tablespoons chilled shortening, cubed
- 1 Cup cream (see above)
- ¼ Cup Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup horseradish sauce
- 1 Cup shredded sharp cheddar

- 6 hot dogs (we used the amusingly-named Hempler’s Bun Busters – hee!)
- ¼ cup flour

- 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

In a food processor:
- Combine all dry ingredients.
- Add shortening and whiz together “until mixture resembles a coarse meal”.
- Decant into a bowl. Stir in cheese.
- Mix in cream/mustard/horseradish and form into a dough
- Turn out onto a slightly floured counter…or…a counter that has been lined with a slab of freezer paper (on the back of it just go ahead and trace out a 15”x10” rectangle with a marker), plastic side up and dusted with flour.
- Knead dough until smooth – about 8-10 turns.
- Roll dough into a rectangle (15”x10”). Brush with egg wash.
- In a shallow bowl, toss hot dogs with ¼ Cup flour. Brush off extra flour.

- Arrange hot dogs on the dough. Stare at this arrangement: imagine wrapping each hot dog with dough. Rearrange as necessary. Marvel at your spacial reasoning skills!

- Cut dough into rectangles around the hot dogs.
- Roll dough around each dog and pinch to seal.
- At this point the dough – soft as a baby’s skull, yes: that soft – was getting a little too soft. We transferred everything to a baking sheet and stuck it in the fridge while we enjoyed a gin and tonic and a cigarette. It is perfectly okay to use this time to engage in some aerobic exercise or light housekeeping.
- Cut the pigs (moo-cows), in their blankets, into quarters. Put these on a small baking sheet (time to use our belov’d quarter-sheet pan again!) and stick in the freezer. If these are just going to chillax overnight, cover with plastic wrap. If you’re saving for later (weekend bender of self-abuse and liquor), transfer them to a freezer bag when they’re firm.

Bake in a 450F oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden. Serve warm. When they’re cool? You will remember what it is to be a fallen creature, avulsed from the bosom of God. EAT THEM WARM.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake! When we were young, so very long ago, we loved this because of its name. Wacky! If you’re so inclined, you can mix it in its 8”x8” Pyrex baking dish (this must be made in an 8”x8” Pyrex baking dish). We are, unto the end, sausage-finger’d beasts that can’t be trusted not to over-mix things, so we make the batter in a bowl and scrape it into the baking dish.

Why wacky? Probably because it doesn’t have eggs (the recipe is supposed to have come from World War II victory kitchens: eggs were sent to the troops). It is the only instant cake one will ever need, and is a revelation that comes from a handful shelf-stable pantry staples. Feeling blue, li’l punkin? Have a hankerin’ for something sweet? It’s only 30 minutes away.

Sift the following together:
- 1 ½ Cups flour
- 1 Cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ Cup cocoa powder
(we also added some instant coffee, but this isn’t necessary)

- 6 Tablespoons oil or melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vinegar (we’ve used everything from white to red wine to basalmic)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour over that:
- 1 Cup cold water

Mix everything up and scrape into an 8”x8” Pyrex baking dish. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. If you wait a bit – like, 30 more minutes, for it to cool, it will be easier to slice.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kitchen Diary – Leftovers: Pot Roast with Vegetables

Slice up a potato and put in a frying pan, cover with beef broth, cover, and let cook over low heat until potatoes are pretty much done. Over the potatoes, add sliced vegetables (if using carrots, cut them very thin) and thinly-sliced pot roast. Add some more beef broth and cover: everything will cook in about 10-15 minutes over low heat.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – Beef Pot Roast

Take a 2-pound chuck roast (or smaller, if you can find it). Slice out any massive pieces of fat. Salt on all sides, and let sit on a small rack over a plate – uncovered – in the fridge overnight.

Early the next afternoon:
- Slice 1 onion in thick rings, lay on the bottom of a small Dutch oven.
- Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a frying pan and get it hot. Plop in the chuck. Let sit until it browns nicely. Flip.
- Place the browned hunk of meat on the bed of onions.
- Pour oil out of pan, reduce heat on burner and add 2 Tablespoons of brandy and a Tablespoon of tomato paste, swirl everything around.
- At this point we added about a half cup of beef broth that had been sitting in the freezer. If you don’t have this in your freezer, fret not. You will have some when this is done to help out with the next pot roast you make.
- Add about a cup of beer (an unassuming lager – you don’t want something with interesting, aggressive flavors because those will turn on you after they sit with a roast for a few hours) and wait for the fizz to subside. Pour all this over the pot roast.
- Break 2 bay leaves in half. Place them between the meat and the wall of the Dutch oven at the 4 points of the compass.
- Pour in some more beer – or water – so that it comes about halfway up the beef.
- Put the lid on the Dutch oven and put on a low, low burner.
- At this point, it’s okay to take a nap or whatever. It will take 3-4 hours to cook.

Now: we know, we know! You’re supposed to brown the meat in the Dutch oven! After several attempts of doing this and struggling with tongs and screaming, it just seemed easier to do it in a separate frying pan. Feel free to do this and write about it in your own amusingly-illustrated and much better written food blog.

What about the fixins?
- When the roast is in its final stages, add a quartered potato (if cooking for one – two potatoes if, you know, you’re blessed with an adoring audience), submerge in the heady beef broth, pop the lid back on, and let cook for another 10-15 minutes.
- To cook the rest of the veg: we ladle out a bit of the beef broth into a frying pan, add some sliced vegetables (carrots, broccoli) and cover to let them steam. It seems like an exasperatingly fussy move, but if you’re making small servings, it’s nice to have just enough vegetables - we're not fond of leftover cooked veg.
- When you’re done: put the meat in one container and put the strained broth in another. The next day, the beef broth can be defatted by peeling off the raft of fat from the top.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – Seeded Crackers, or Hardass Flatbreads

- 1 ½ cups graham flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons maple sugar
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Cup warm water (120-130 degrees F)
- 2 Tablespoons flax meal
- 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

- Raw pepitas, toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 F
- Put the flours, sugar, salt, and yeast in the mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook. Mix everything to combine.
- With the mixer running, pour in the water. Knead until the dough is smooth.
- Knead in the flax meal and sesame seeds. (We’re still disturbed that we actually had flax meal handy)
- Transfer into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, set aside until doubled, about 90 minutes.
- You have some freezer paper, don’t you? You should. Because at this point, you tear off a hunk and, on the paper side, trace out a 14”x9” rectangle with a marker. Then you flip the paper over and roll out half of the dough into a 14”x9” rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick.
- Stab dough repeatedly and evenly with a fork, transfer to a baking sheet.
- Roll out the remaining half of dough on another piece of freezer paper, stab with fork, transfer to a second baking sheet.
- Turn your attention to the first slab of dough: move it back to the counter and spray evenly with water. Strew the topping mixture over it, and run a rolling pin over it to press the seeds and salt down into the dough. Flip the dough, spray with water, strew, and roll.
- At this point, we cut the dough into squares, then – mostly successfully – transferred the squares onto the baking sheet.
- Repeat with the other slab of rolled-out dough.
- Time for a drink! Let the crackers rise for about 30-45 minutes.
- Bake in a 350 F oven for 20-35 minutes, until golden (we rotated the baking sheets halfway through because our oven is shitty).
- Now: turn the oven off, wait 15 minutes, then slightly open the oven door and let them cool completely.

The first time we took these out at the 20-minute mark they were alarmingly raw in the middle. We baked ‘em for another 15 minutes, and let them cool.

Transcript of notes from the actual Kitchen Diary:
They taste good with just a bit of butter, but these guys are hard as fuck. Not “break your tooth and shred your gums” hard, but they’ve not only left the City of Light and Crunchy they’ve shaken the dust off their sandals.

Update: Monday night. After 48 hours they are delightful. Magic? Or am I drunk?

And they do keep well: the sesame flavor comes out more and they chill out with being so tough.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Black Beans with Andouille

- 1 Cup Black Beans soaked in 2 Cups water and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, overnight

- ¼ Cup diced onion
- About a teaspoon of olive oil
- 1 piece bacon, sliced
- Dashes of red pepper flakes, Spanish paprika
- About 1 Cup water
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 cup smashed, canned tomatoes
- A couple of smashed garlic cloves
- 2 links of Andouille sausage

Salt and hot sauce

Sauté the onion in the olive oil. Add the bacon, pepper flakes, and Spanish paprika – cook until the bacon is cooked, but not crisp. Add the beans, garlic, bay leaf, tomatoes, and garlic. Add water so that it covers everything to a half inch or so. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for a couple of hours. Toss in sliced Andouille sausage and cook until the sausage is done – if things seem too dry, add some more water. Give it a taste: add salt or hot sauce to taste.

Serve over rice.

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Chicken Breast Strips Poached in Butter

We were listening to Splendid Table a few months ago and there was this dude who was talking about how butter is an awesome poaching medium, and he suggested poaching shrimp in it. Oh god, that’s dirty. And yes, we will try it…but not quite yet. The host – the dreamy and honey-voiced Lynne Rosetto Kasper – said, “oh, could you do that with strips of chicken breast…?” And this has stuck in our minds. So we thought, why not?

Because of emulsifiers in butter, additional water can be added to it without it breaking. We didn’t want to use the whole cube for this because it’s a one-time deal, so we thought we’d extend it with some milk. Probably an okay idea, as long as you’re not using mustard. The vinegar in the mustard will cause the milk to curdle. Not dangerous, but it looks kind of nasty. We kept the pale, silky strips of butter-poached chicken in the fridge and snacked on them occasionally before adding them to a salad.

The way we made it:

Take a partially frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast and slice it very, very thinly. In a small saucepan, melt 3 Tablespoons of butter and add 3 Tablespoons of water, a splootch of Dijon mustard, a smashed garlic clove and some milk. Warm until hot but not simmering. Poach strips of chicken in batches.

: skip the milk part. Just go for more butter.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Cod baked in a cheesy sauce with roasted veg

First: the veg.

- Chop some flowerets of cauliflower and broccoli.
- Slice up ½ red bell pepper
- Slice off a few rings of an onion and chop those in half
- Put the peppers and cauliflower in a hot pan, sprinkle over some salt, cover and cook until they start to soften.
- Add onions, broccoli, and some red pepper flakes: cook a little more.
- Line a baking sheet (we’re partial to our ¼-sheet pan) with nonstick foil. Drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom, toss in the veg, and pass a thin stream of olive oil over the top. Roast, in a 450F oven, until done.
- When vegetables are finished roasting, take out of the oven and toss with a crushed clove of garlic.

Next: cheesy sauce*

- Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a small saucepan, when it’s hot, add 2 Tablespoons flour.
- Stir flour around with a whisk so that it cooks and starts to turn blonde.
- Add salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne; lower heat to medium and slowly whisk in a cup of milk (1% is the default around these parts).
- While the sauce is cooking and getting thick, add a smashed clove of garlic and a bay leaf.
- When the sauce has thickened, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning. Fish out the garlic and bay leaf.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in ½ Cup of grated sharp cheddar.

- In an oven-save bowl or dish, add the roasted veg. Slice up a cod fillet into healthy chunks and arrange over the roasted vegetables. Pour over the sauce, making sure everyone is covered. Bake for 15 minutes or so.
- If you’re so inclined, raise the oven rack at the end of the baking and turn the broiler on for a minute to brown the top.

*Next time we make this, we’ll probably skip adding the cheese to the sauce and just sprinkle it over the top before broiling. Also: since the broccoli seems to cook so quickly, we’ll just add it raw to the roasted vegetables before adding the fish and sauce.

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Cranberry Oat Bars

Step one: think you’re going to be clever and make an apricot filling with some apricot nectar (oh…we didn’t learn our lesson, did we?) and…

There aren’t any dried apricots in the pantry. That’s awesome! Because we, like, were going to put those in some simmering apricot nectar – which is already in the saucepan – and. Fuck. There are cranberries in the freezer, and their skins are packed with pectin (that thing which puts the "jell" in jelly). Put two cups of those in with that simmering apricot nectar, about a half-cup of sugar and simmer it until it’s a thick jam.

Preheat the oven to 350F and spray an 8x8-inch pan with cooking spray.

In a mixer, combine the following:

- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 ¾ sticks softened butter

Add 1 ½ cups rolled oats

In a bowl, combine the following and add to the butter/sugar mixture:
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt

Press half of the mixture into the pan. Press in about a dozen pieces of chopped semisweet chocolate (we happened to have a bag of fancy Sharffen Berger baking pieces around). Spread the jam on top of this (the above accident makes about a cup). Press the remaining mixture over top – firmly and evenly. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. These must cool completely before you can tuck in, or they’ll crumble all to hell and you can only scoop it out with a spoon.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – Anadama Bread

A fisherman, angry with his wife, Anna, for serving him nothing but cornmeal and molasses, one day adds flour and yeast to his porridge and eats the resultant bread, while cursing, "Anna, damn her."

Hee! The story has a swear in it!

We’ve lifted this recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated website: it makes one loaf, which keeps well for up to a week and we’re sure to make it again to see if it can be used for sandwiches. So far we’ve only had it toasted, with butter.

- 1/2cup water
- 1/4cup cornmeal
- 3 1/4cups bread flour , plus extra for work surface
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 3/4 cup milk , warm (110 degrees)
- 1/3cup water , warm (110 degrees)
- 2tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
- 3tablespoons molasses
- 1package rapid-rise yeast (also called instant yeast)

- Pour ½ cup of boiling water over the cornmeal – stir until the cornmeal has absorbed the water. Set aside.

- Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain heat 10 minutes, and turn off the oven.

- In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook: add cornmeal mixture, flour,

- Mix milk, warm water, butter, molasses, and yeast in 1-quart Pyrex liquid measuring cup.

- Turn machine to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium (setting number 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes.

- Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

- Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

- Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press gently so dough touches all four sides of pan.

- Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees, placing empty loaf pan on bottom rack.

- Bring 2 cups water to boil.

- Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into empty loaf pan; close oven door.

- Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature.

The part that hurts the most is this: you must wait until the loaf has cooled before slicing into it.

Addendum: According to another story, the Anna in question had the following on her tombstone: "Anna was a lovely bride, but Anna, damn 'er, up and died."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – Pizza Time!

First: the pizza dough.
- 1 ¾ cup flour
- 1 package dry active yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar (we used maple sugar)
- ¾ Cup hot water (130 F)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook: add all the dry imgredients and mix together. Turn on the mixer and pour in the water. Mix, mix, mix. Scrape down the sides if the flour isnt’ falling into the dough (this is a tiny recipe, so the dough hook is going to flap around a lot).

Add the buter and drizzle in some olive oil.

This fucker is wet and sloppy: don’t add more flour: just turn off the mixer, remove the dough hook, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for a couple of hours.

Heat the oven to 450 F.

Grease a pan, spread out the dough. Bake until blonde.

Flip the dough, strew toppings and sauce artfully over the dough. Bake until done.

We made pizza with bacon, caramelized onions, and jalapeños.*

Remember that half can of crushed tomatoes hangin’ out in the fridge? Take a pan, heat some olive oil with some red peppers (red pepper flakes, Aleppo), smoosh in a garlic clove, then add the crushed tomatoes with some Italian herbs. Salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper, to taste. Cook over medium/medium-high heat until it starts to thicken.

*You know the deal: spread sauce on crust, sprinkle with cheese, caramelized onions, crispy bacon, and diced jarred

Kitchen Diary 2012: Plum Brandy Jello Shots – not our finest hour

1 Cup plum brandy

1 ½ Cups apricot nectar
2 packets unflavored gelatin
3 Tablespoons vanilla sugar
Dash of almond extract

Put ¾ cup apricot nectar in bowl, sprinkle over gelatin and stand, amazed, marveling over how the gelatin absorbs the liquid. Combine with the rest of the juice, sugar, and almond extract in a pan set over low heat. Stir until the gelatin and sugar are dissolved. Take off heat, stir in liquor, put in a shallow dish, cover and chill.

Imagine fire-water in gelatin form. This is it. Not recommended.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012: Salad

A salad? Yes. A salad. With lots of chopped black olives and lowfat ranch dressing out of a bottle.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012: cocktail hour – The Orchard

Those cherries (see January 10) will probably do time in a Manhattan, but until then:
Fill Tumbler with ice.
- Add a healthy dose of applejack
- Add a dash of juice from applejack-soaked dried cherries
- Dash of orange bitters
- Glug of Williams Pear brandy
- Top with soda water

Kitchen Diary 2012: Roasted Broccoli

Slice broccoli at an acute angle to get lots of flat surface area.
- On a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle a little olive oil. Slide the broccoli around to make sure their slice sides get oiled.
- Anoint with red pepper flakes and a bit more olive oil.
- Roast in a 350-450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
- Toss a few sliced Kalamata olives and a thinly-sliced (or mashed through a press) garlic clove.
- Let the heat of the broccoli and the pan warm the garlic.
- Serve.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – supplement: rice

Sometimes, when the rice has finished cooking, some browned (not burned) bits will stick to the bottom of the pot. Do not despair. Turn off the heat, put the lid back on, and let the rice sit for another 10-15 minutes. The steam and heat left over will loosen things up.

For brown rice, the usual ratio is one part rice to two parts water – it will take about 40 minutes to cook.

Really fresh brown rice tends to need less water, so we lowball it.

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Riso con Spinaci

1/3 cup brown rice
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup frozen, chopped spinach
A smashed and peeled garlic clove

- In a small saucepan: toast brown rice and pepper over medium-high heat.
- Pour frozen, chopped spinach into a Pyrex measuring cup. Top with boiling water so that the water comes to the 2/3 cup mark.
- Pour water and spinach over the rice. Give a quick stir. Lower the heat – as low as it will go. Throw in the smashed garlic clove, sprinkle with salt.
- Cover and cook for 40 minutes, or until rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid.

(Obviously, the rice must be prepared before starting the puttanesca sauce.)

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Cod Puttanesca

Cod Puttanesca

Before any recipe for puttanesca, there is a coy note about the origin of the sauce and its name. It merely means “in the style of your mom.”

Make puttanesca sauce:
½ can tomatoes (whole)
Pepper flakes (Aleppo, red)
A couple of canned anchovies (or a dollop of anchovy paste)
Several Kalamata olives, seeded and chopped
A couple of garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
A half-dozen capers, rinsed, and chopped if you have the patience

- Put a colander over a bowl and plop in the canned tomatoes. Trim off the stem end and get rid of any tomato skin that may still be hangin’ around. Squish the tomatoes in your hands to break ‘em down a bit. Put half in the fridge for later.
- Put olive oil in a pan, toss in the pepper flakes and heat. When the oil is hot, it will start to bring out the heat of the chilies.
- Add the anchovies (or paste – much easier) and sauté until they melt down.
- Crush the garlic and toss it in. We give it a quick stir (so it won’t burn – like 2 seconds) and add the tomatoes, capers, and olives.
- The whole thing can be anointed with some Italian herbs, if one is so possessed.
- Simmer until the sauce reduces a bit.

Add the Cod:
- We had a fillet of ling cod that we sliced into 3 pieces. The idea was to get all the pieces to cook at the same speed.
- Nestle the cod in the sauce. Cover, and cook for a few minutes (aim for the 5-10 minute range).
- Serve over whatever. We made brown rice with spinach.

Kitchen Diary 2012 – An Idea, Later Put on Hold.

There are no sour cherries around. But there are dried sour cherries in the pantry. The idea is to reconstitute these and use them in a puff pastry with almond paste and cream cheese. How about soaking them in applejack, the American version of Calvados?

In a teacup: heat dried cherries that have been doused in applejack in the microwave. Let sit overnight.

Now one has boozy soft cherries that taste like rum-soaked raisins. We don’t see these working well with our pastry idea. They sit, in a puddle of booze, in a plastic container.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kitchen Diary - 2012: Apple Tart

If we’re going to go through the trouble of making homemade PUFF PASTRY, why focus on the savory tart?

Prepare the puff pastry and pre-bake the same way one would for the savory tart. Mix about a cup of fresh ricotta (we used Bel Gioioso’s Rocotta con Latte which is – as it claims – sweet and milky) with some vanilla sugar and a dash of almond extract. Spread this over the pastry shell and fan a thinly-sliced apple over the ricotta. Sprinkle some cinnamon sugar over everything. Bake until the pastry is golden brown on the bottom.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 – Caramelized Onions, and a Savory Tart

Caramelized Onions

The reason we made caramelized onions was because we wanted to try our homemade PUFF PASTRY in a savory tart. Our friend said “caramelized onions and gruyere”. After making the caramelized onions we wondered why we don’t make them all the time. They are cheap, easy, and insanely delicious: slice up an onion, toss it in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle over some salt and a pinch of sugar, turn the heat to medium-low, and let heat and time work their wonder. A splash of cognac at the end is acceptable, as are dashes of cayenne pepper and ground black pepper.

This, of course, leads us to our next recipe.

Savory Tart with Caramelized Onions, Bacon, and Gruyere.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out PUFF PASTRY (homemade, obvs) into an even rectangle, about ¼-inch thick. Then: bring out the knife. Make those edges square. Now, go in about a quarter inch and run the knife along the inside border – making a windowpane. Don’t cut all the way through. Pound a fork all over the inside. Bake until golden, about 10-15 minutes. Take out of the oven and gently press down on the raised inside part. Strew caramelized onions, a few chopped Kalamata olives, some crisp bacon, and grated gruyere. Pop the business back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Check the bottom crust to make sure it’s golden. Cool slightly. Enjoy
Any leftover onions can be kept in the fridge for about a week.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kitchen Diary 2012 - Hoppin' John

Hoppin’ John.

Traditionally served on New Year’s Day for good luck.

Flash back to last year at 9:30 in the evening.

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 cup black eye’d peas

2 cups water.

Put everything into a bowl or Pyrex measuring cup. Soak until soft (you’ll have to bite into one). Drain.

½ cup (or so) of a finely-chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 small bay leaves

A 1-inch slice of ham hock

- Cook the onion in olive oil enhanced with red pepper and Aleppo pepper flakes, until soft.

- Add beans, hock of ham, bay leaves

- Cover with water until covered by a half inch

- Bring to a low simmer, toss in a few glugs of hot sauce, cover

- Cook until soft and velvety

Serve with rice:

In a small saucepan: take one andouille sausage, chopped, and sauté in some olive oil with some Aleppo pepper. Add ½ cup Basmati rice and continue to sauté until the rice gets a little toasty. Add a cup of water, along with a smashed and peeled garlic clove.

Let the water come to a boil. Give a quick stir. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes.

Will there be good luck in the following year? And if so, for whom? Do not ponder this while enjoying the Hoppin’ John. This year, it turned out perfect. We’ll remember this lovely moment as the year progresses.