Saturday, September 27, 2008

Simple French Vinaigrette

Not too in-your face, not too overbearing, not too bad, either, and certainly not too hard. This simple, ready-in-an-instant dressing is great for a simple salad on the side of a very loud-tasting entree or as a cleanser between courses.

I like it with a simple mix of field greens, mandarin orange segments, carrot shavings, and radish slices. Just throw in a bowl, toss around, and serve.

French Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 scant teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/3 shallot, finely minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Whisk all the ingredients together.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Autumn Risotto with Carmelized Apples

This ones comes courtesy of the Gilded Fork, althought I've altered their ratios quite a bit.

I've always been a little scared of risotto: it called for this fancy type of rice, you had to follow pretty precise instructions of adding the liquid a little bit at a time, waiting for the perfect moment when it was soft and creamy, carefully adding the vegetables and cheese, etc. It just seemed like a whole lotta' work for a side dish.

It's worth it. Boy howdy is it worth it. This particular one is has the perfect touch of sweetness and autumn flavor from the cinnamon, allspice, and apples, but also the harvest, Thanksgivingness of the vegetables, chicken broth, and herbs. It's really a great balance. Enjoy.

Autumn Risotto with Caramelized Apples

  • 1-2 whole carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped (be sure to clean the leeks very well: dirt is almost always trapped in between the dark green layers)
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • butter, to coat pans
  • olive oil, to coat pans
  • 2-3 gala apples, peels left on, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 medium vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups arborio rice (yes, it has to be arborio)
  • 1 teaspoon sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more to garnish
  • asiago cheese shavings, to garnish
Step 1: Blanch the vegetables

Bring the chicken broth to a boil, and then, one vegetable at a time, blanch the carrots, peas, and leeks for about 3-4 minutes each. Place the vegetables in ice water to stop the cooking process and keep the color very vibrant. Set aside.

Step 2: caramelize the apples

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a flat-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and brown sugar plus a pinch of salt. Stir for 4-5 minutes, until the apples are golden brown. Set aside.

Step 3: make the rice

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and add the diced vidalia onion. Saute until the onion has a golden color. Add the garlic, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger and continue to cook a few more minutes.

Add the dry rice, and stir until coated. Add the sage, then stir for a few minutes until the mixture becomes somewhat milky. Add the apple juice, and stir until it is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the broth, stir until absorbed, then add 1 more cup, continuing until it is soft and creamy.

Stir in the butter, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, then add the vegetables and apples. Serve with asiago cheese shavings and parsely on top.

Herb-braised Chicken Breast

This is heavily adapted from Sara Foster's tarragon chicken recipe. I didn't really realize how licoricey tarragon really was, and I'm not gonna' lie, black licorice is one of the few things around that I'm not really terribly fond of. So, a few quick substitutions, a few alterations, and whammo, here we have what is turning out to be among my favorite dishes to make for a party.

The original recipe called for a whole chicken, cut up, which I agree gives you a very "homey" feeling, but it sure is difficult to eat. I usually use boneless, skinless chicken breasts then cut them in half, because they're just easier to eat.

Herb-braised Chicken Breast

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or other chicken parts)
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 4 shallots
  • 2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the chicken with some salt, pepper, and half of the thyme and rosemary. Heat the oil and butter in an oven-proof skillet to med-high heat, and sear the chicken on both sides until brown, about 3 minutes a side.

Pile all the chicken on one side of the pan, then in the drippings and oil, saute the shallots until brown. Then add the apple juice, mustard, and broth, and whisk together. Redistribute the chicken in the pan, spoon the sauce over the chicken, and transfer to the oven.

Cook for about 30-35 minutes, stopping every 10 minutes to spoon more sauce over the chicken pieces. When the chicken is done, remove from the pan, and whisk the cornstarch into the liquid (I usually mix the cornstarch into about a tablespoon of cold water before adding directly to the hot liquids). Whisk a few seconds until the gravy thickens, and then serve with the chicken.

Black Bean Soup

So, I like soup. Like a whole lot I like soup. I have done some crazy scrounging the last few weeks for a killer soup recipe for a crowd, and ladies and gentlemen, I think I found it. Care of Smittenkitchen (where I find many good things which I copy, experiment upon, and end up posting here), to you, with love.

This is also one of those recipes, for those of you who thrive on "secret ingredients," where no one will ever figure out the secret ingredient. I mean, come on, who puts pumpkins in black bean soup? The flavor is so mellow, no one will tease it out, but boy howdy, does it work in this mix.

Now, be aware, this makes a lot of soup, but it's just because the ratios work out better in these quantities. You can half it if you want, but then you've got to store a lot of halves of cans of beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin.

Black Bean Soup

  • 2-3 tablespoons butter (enough to melt and coat the bottom of a pan)
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 4 shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 scant tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cans black beans, drained
  • 1 can plain tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sour cream, to garnish
Peel and coarsely chop the onions and shallots. Melt the butter in a pan over medium-high heat, and throw in the onion, shallots, garlic cloves, cumin, and cinnamon, and stir until golden brown and slightly caramelized (this is my favorite part).

Add the black beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, beef broth, and apple cider. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender (being very careful not to splash oneself completely, because that is embarrassing when it comes time to face your guests).

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 - 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Just before serving, add the vinegar, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls, topping with a dollop of sour cream.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hawaiian Haystacks

It's entirely possible that those of you who have never lived in Utah have never heard of these before. I'm not gonna' lie, either, most of the ones (even the native Utah variety), while being "yummy" and filling, have left a lot of room for improvement. Typically they consist of cream of chicken soup with boiled chicken over rice, cheese, and some toppings. Well, some Thai-inspired tweaks and we had ourselves a party going on.

Hawaiian Haystacks

for the chicken
  • 1.5 pounds boneless chicken pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 can's worth of pineapple juice (save the pineapple)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons yellow curry powder
for the toppings
  • 1 can pineapple tidbits
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut up
  • 1 large can mandarin orange segments
  • flaked coconut
  • 1 cup blanched peas
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • salted cashews
  • White rice
Put the garlic, onion, chicken, salt, pepper, and pineapple juice in a crockpot on low for several hours (do it in the morning and forget about it until you come home). About an hour before serving, shred the chicken, then add the soup, coconut milk, and curry powder. Switch the heat to high, and let sit until ready to serve. Stir well, and add additional curry powder as needed for the desired level of kick.

Serve the gravy over a bowlful of white rice, then top with the toppings.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

This is a great, homey-tasting soup (I don't really know exactly what that means, but it kind of invokes the correct idea about it). Usually it is made from beef broth and wine, but when challenged to feed some vegetarian Mormons, we had to make some adjustments. I was pretty happy with the result. It certainly is not the flavor of a typical French onion soup, but it's one that I like. I think the onion flavor is much more prominent in this version, but it ends up feeling a little lighter overall.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek or bunch green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
  • A few tablespoons honey
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (click here for a recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a splash of apple juice
  • slices of french bread
  • Swiss or provolone cheese slices
  • grated Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a very large saucepan. Saute the garlic, then add the onions and leek. Drizzle some honey over the onions. Slowly cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, allowing them to caramelize until a nice golden color and translucent. Add the broth, herbs, and apple juice, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.

In the meanwhile, broil the bread with the cheese until melted and golden. Serve the soup in bowls with the toast on top, then sprinkle with the grated Parmesan.

Vegetable Stock

I used to think that "stock" and "broth" just meant those kind of scary yellowish granules reconstituted. Then I learned that you could buy it in a can or box, which was a definite improvement. However, only recently have I discovered the joy of making it yourself.

Vegetable Stock

  • 2-3 celery stocks (leaves and all), coarsely chopped
  • 2 large leeks, well cleaned, and sectioned (cut off the roots, but leave the dark green parts)
  • 2-3 large unpeeled carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, quartered and layers separated
  • 2 large red potatoes, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and smashed (place under the flat part of a large knife, and strike the knife with your fist to break it open)
  • several springs of fresh thyme
  • several sprigs of fresh parsley
  • a sprig or two of fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • other miscellaneous vegetables (sometimes I add peas or broccoli, which gives it a distinctive flavor)
Place all the vegetables and herbs in a large pot. Add water until not quite covered (probably no more than 10-12 cups). Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 2 hours or so, until the vegetables are very soft. Stir frequently to break apart the vegetables, if you can.

Run the soup through a strainer or fine colander, retaining as much of the liquid as you can. Press on the vegetables to force any more through the strainer. Use as a base for soups, rice, sauce, etc.

Baked Chocolate Tart

This recipe came from a good friend and old roommate who was kind of well-known for this chocolaty baby. I have kind of stolen it from him and proceeded to make it a bagillion times since I moved, and I love it.

I believe the recipes originally come from Jamie Oliver, the young, hip, British punk-star chef. You'll notice that he gives some of the measurements in weights rather than in cups. This made me a little angry at first, and I tried to do all sorts of weird conversions to figure out how much flour they were actually asking for. After a time or two, I just sucked it up and got a scale. It really is easier, and you get much better results when you use a precise amount. Don't be intimidated, and if you don't have a kitchen scale, just call me and you can borrow mine (I have two).

for the crust (makes 2 crusts)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • just over 1 pound of flour (about 3 3/4 - 4 cups)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup very cold milk
for the chocolate tart
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter
  • 5 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 8 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 7 ounces white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 heaping tablespoons sour cream
for the shell (must be done in advance)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I do this in a food processor, but you can do it with hand beaters or a pastry cutter if you want, although I can't imagine why you would want to). Cream together the butter, sugar, and salt. Then pulse in the flour and egg yolks, but be careful to not overbeat, lest you run the risk of tough dough. The mixture should look like big breadcrumbs. Add the milk, and gently work it into the dough. It should be kind of a big ball at this point.

Break it in half and form two long log shapes. Wrap them separately in plastic wrap. Place one in your freezer for the next time you want to make a tart, and place one in the fridge for at least an hour to solidify and firm up. Cut the dough into thin slices (around 1/8" to 1/4''), and arrange them on a greased tart pan with a removable bottom. Pinch the borders between the slices to fill in any cracks. Bake for up to 15 minutes, until the crust has colored barely (you'll bake it again with the tart, so don't go overboard).

for the tart
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Melt the butter, chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt together in a pan placed over another pan of boiling water. Stir constantly, making sure it doesn't get too hot. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar, then beat in the syrup and sour cream. Stir in the chocolate, mixing well.

Pour the chocolate into the tart pan, then bake it for 40 to 45 minutes. It will puff up quite a bit, which is kind of normal, so don't panic. It will crack and settle when it cools.

I like to serve with a sauce made of raspberries and a little sugar with fresh whipped cream.