Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rapide Coq Au Vin

Although I have more time than I'd like currently, Sunday was one of the only days in this past week that I got to spend some time with the fiance. It's been a busy couple weeks and most of our time has been spent at work (opposite schedules, always, ugh!). He did have two gigs, one his usual Sunday morning gig, and another benefit this afternoon, but I finally get to spend time with him this evening. I did NOT want to spend a majority of that time stuck in front of the stove, so I found a recipe for Coq Au Vin that cheats a bit. I'm totally fine with this, having sworn to myself that I will make the real thing ASAP.

Again, I've been thinking about wanting to make this for quite a while. There's a scene in the movie "The Namesake" (fantastic movie, by the way, and an even better book by Jhumpa Lahiri) where one of the characters tries to make this. Ever since I saw that, I've really wanted to make this myself. Also, the wine. Any dish that is just a vehicle for a good wine is fine by me. I picked up a Burgundy I love (cheap, but trustworthy) to use in this recipe.

The end result was me saying "I'm going to be dreaming of this food tonight!" and it being marked as a definite "make again" recipe. The chicken was melt in your mouth tender, the vegetables were flavorful, and the whole thing just was a symphony of yum! The next time I have a craving for this, I do plan on making the full out traditional recipe, but in a situation with less time, this is definitely an amazing dish on its own!

Rapide Coq Au Vin
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 (4 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups quartered cremini mushrooms
2 cups (1/4 inch thick) slices carrot
1/3 cup (1/4 inch thick) slices canadian bacon
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1. Combine flour, thyme and salt in a ziploc plastic bag; add chicken. Seal and shake to coat. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 9 minutes or until browned, turning frequently. Remove chicken from pan.

3. Add mushrooms, carrot and bacon to pan; saute 2 minutes. Stir in wine, broth and tomato paste. Cook for 9 minutes. Return chicken to pan; cook 8 minutes or until chicken is done.

Monday, October 25, 2010

White Sweet Potato Fries

Today has been a rainy, gloomy cold day. Luckily, I love weather like this (in moderation, of course) and had the day off to enjoy said weather from inside the house. I would almost say that Fall is my favorite season, but then I start thinking about the beginning of winter when snow is still something I love rather than something I dread shuffling through and shoveling. I think I just love the fact that there are four distinct seasons here and each one has its own charm.

We've had white sweet potatoes sitting around since my dad came to visit. He brought some up from home where they are called "New Jersey sweet potatoes" at the store (can someone explain that one? I can't figure out why they'd be called this.) I had already bought some sweet potatoes to bake with the chicken, so these have gone untouched for a while. It's about time to find something do with them!  These are not quite as sweet as regular sweet potatoes, but have a lighter texture.

The final verdict? I loved these! They won a "we have to do this again" vote from the fiance. Luckily I still have two more white sweet potatoes! I think an interesting twist may be trying different spice combinations- these would be great with a little bit more of a kick to them too! I think the sweet would balance out the spice really nicely.

White Sweet Potato Fries (can also be made with regular sweet potatoes)
1-1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into  1/2 inch wide strips.
3. Place sweet potatoes into a plastic bag. Add oil, salt, paprika and cinnamon. Seal the bag and shake well to coat fries. Spread the potatoes onto a single layer on baking sheet .
4. Cook for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until slightly browned and crispy. Transfer immediately to a paper towel lined plate and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Apple Chips

Okay, one more apple recipe. Last one, I promise!! (I can say that for sure because I used the last of the orchard apples in this recipe)

I was at work at 6am this morning. Yes, you read that right, 6 am. Which means that my alarm was set for 4:50 (since I also had to look as though I could be selling expensive clothes at 6am while changing around the whole store set- new holiday clothes though, YAY), and I spent the whole night terrified I wouldn't wake up on time to go to work, so I woke up every few minutes. Anyway, I'm exhausted. So my rule for the day was: stay out of the kitchen unless it doesn't involve sharp knives (oops, broke that rule), or won't take longer than 5 minutes to prep.

We had these last few apples lying around still and I was trying to figure out how to put them to good use before they got all shriveled and no good for anything but compost. On the way to work yesterday I had a sudden yearning for these apple chips I used to snack on in college. I figured it would be easy enough to slice up some apples, dust them with cinnamon and sugar, and bake until they're chips! Even though my tiredness level is pretty high, I managed to wield the knife without any mishaps. Eating apple chips while sitting on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea on a fall day is my idea of relaxing!

Apple Chips
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 apples sliced crosswise into 1/8 inch thick rounds

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Arrange apple slices on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 1 hour; peel apples parchment and return to paper. Continue baking until apples are golden and crisp (about 30 minutes more).

These will store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (if they last that long that is!) My biggest tip for these is make sure you slice 'em thin. Too thick and they'll bake, but be chewy instead of crispy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tarte Tatin

I'm absolutely loving the apple harvest this fall! We went to an orchard last weekend, and then while my dad was visiting he and I went to another. I made an apple crisp to go with our mushroom stuffed beef roast dinner, and an apple pie for this weekend when we are going on a hike in a state park. I decided that it was far too cruel (to myself as well as to the fiance) to bake a pie and have to wait to break into it, so the idea came up for a tarte tatin.

I've been lusting after this tart for quite a while, the page in my french cookbook has been marked for at least a year, if not longer. Anything carmelized is sure to be delicious, and french pastries are unmatched in my book. This is not for those worried about calories, fat, or cholesterol, but you only live once afterall!

Tarte Tatin
1 1/2 pounds (5-6) apples (preferably pippins, Granny Smiths or Jonathans)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus butter for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon removed with lemon zester or grater
1/2 cup water
whipped cream, sweetened lightly (optional)

Pate Brisee
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut in 8 pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Core apples and cut each into 6 slices.

2. In a large skillet over moderate heat, melt butter. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add apple slices and stir to coat with butter. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine remaining sugar and the water. Cook over medium heat without stirring, until sugar turns golden brown. Immediately pour caramel into a greased 9 inch cake pan. Swirl cake pan quickly to coat bottom with caramel.

4. Arrange apple slices in neat concentric circles on top of caramel. Any remaining apple slices can be piled randomly on top. Reduce liquid remaining in skillet to 1/4 cup and spoon over apples. On a lightly floured surface, roll Pate Brisee into a circle large enough to cover pie plate and about 1/8 inch thick. Cover apples with pastry. Bake until crust is golden brown (about 25 minutes). Cool pie on a rack 15 minutes. Unmold onto a serving dish. Serve in wedges with cream (if desired).

Pate Brisee
1. To make in food processor: Combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in work bowl. Process 2 seconds. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. In a separate bowl combine egg yolk and the water. With motor running, add egg mixture through feed tube and process until dough almost forms a ball. Remove from work bowl and gather into a ball with lightly floured hands.
To make by hand: Stir together flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine egg yolk and the water. Add to mixture, tossing gently with a fork to blend. With lightly floured hands, knead mixture just until it forms a ball.

2. Pat dough into a 5 inch disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Remove from refrigerator 10 minutes before rolling.

Roast Chicken

My father was visiting last week. He loves to cook. No, wait, let me clarify. He loves to try new outlandish recipes with  surprising ingredients. I think I inherited a bit of this, minus the penchant for every dish to include salmon or lamb and always cranberries. In light of his visit, I wanted to find something that I could make that would serve as a tip of the hat to my father's adventurousness in the kitchen, as well as serve as a great meal.

We actually didn't end up having this while he was here- time just got away from us & we ended up going out instead. It worked out well anyway because  Friday night is one of the only nights the fiance and I get to eat dinner together, so this was a good one for him to come home to!

Everything went pretty smoothly in the making, it's a lovely recipe for putting it in the oven, setting the timer for the glazings, and picking up a good book. Overall, a success! It's definitely going in the "try again" file.

I'm caught! No, I didn't tie the legs or twist the wings, oops!
Roast Chicken with Maple Pepper Glaze
2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 3) peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 chicken (3- 3 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1. Heat the oven to 425. In a large roasting pan, toss the sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Push them to the edges of the pan, leaving room in the middle of the pan for the chicken.

2. Rub the cavity of the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Twist the wings behind the back and tie the legs together. Put the chicken, breast side up, in the center of the roasting pan. coat the chicken with the remaining tablespoon of oil, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and dot with the butter. Roast for 30 minutes. 

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the maple syrup and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and stir potatoes. Brush the chicken with about 2 tablespoons of the glaze. Return the pan to the oven and cook, stirring the potatoes and brushing the chicken with the remaining glaze 2 more times, until chicken and potatoes are just done, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and keep warm for 10 minutes. 

4. Meanwhile, pour off the fat from the roasting pan. Add any accumulated juices from the chicken to the liquid in the pan. Serve chicken with pan juices and sweet potatoes. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mushroom Stuffed Beef Roast

While preparing the grocery list for this coming week, I noticed a theme, ROAST. Upcoming dishes include roast chicken, a pork roast in the crockpot for pulled-pork sandwiches, and this fantastic beef roast. It may be the weather turning cooler, it may be the ease of putting a bunch of ingredients in a dish and forgetting it in the oven for an hour or more, whatever the reason, we're giving the oven a work out this coming week. 

The roast before cooking
This roast is my go-to non-traditional roast. I've served it to quite a few visiting friends and it's always gotten great reviews. Neither I nor the fiance enjoy gravies, so while the original recipe to this roast includes a sauce, I don't think it needs it. The roast has always come out juicy and flavorful even without the sauce. 

2 pound beef eye of round roast
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, finely chopped (3 cups)
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon dillweed, crushed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1. Trim excess fat from roast. Then, cut 8 evenly spaced crosswise slits in roast, making each 3 inches deep. Place roast in a plastic bag set in a deep bowl. Pour wine over roast and seal bag. Marinate in the fridge for 6-24 hours, turning bag occasionally. 

2. For filling, in medium saucepan combine mushrooms, water, dillweed, and salt. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 15 minutes or till liquid is evaporated. Let cool. Stir in onion and mayonnaise. 

3. Remove roast from bag, discarding marinade. Spoon filling into pockets in roast. Place roast in a shallow roasting pan. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or till meat thermometer reads 140. 

To serve, slice meat between filled pockets.

(If you really want to try the sauce, I'll include the recipe, but like I said, I have never made this!)
For sauce, in a small saucepan  stir together 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup beef broth. Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly. Then cook and stir for 1 minute more. Serve with roast. 

Viennese Cake

You KNOW if these are the ingredients, it's going to be a good one! 
We've been going to various cake tastings lately, trying to choose our bakery for the wedding. At our second tasting, we had this cake that I knew my fiance wouldn't like, but I LOVED.  The description alone left me in a haze of chocolate overdose amazingness- "Four layers of dark chocolate cake with red raspberry preserves, belgian dark chocolate ganache, delicate chocolate mousse, chocolate buttercream and finally enrobed in belgian dark chocolate ganache".  The actual cake was even better than you can imagine, I actually couldn't finish the thin slice on my plate at the tasting (keep in mind, we were also trying a cake with two chocolate cake layers with a layer of raspberry preserves and CHEESECAKE between). 

Ever since then I've been looking for a similar recipe to try to recreate it at home. This is my tweaked version of a Viennese chocolate cake recipe (for a 6 inch cake pan because, two people do not need a whole cake to tempt them all week). We had this as a dessert after the manicotti. It was a perfect ending to the meal, although we were all stuffed and this cake is quite decadent, so small slices were plenty. We had enough left over for a few more days of enjoyment.

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 large eggs, separated plus 1 large white, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 6 inch cake pan. 

2. Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl. Whisk the egg yolks with 1/3 cup of the sugar until they are light and frothy. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, adding the rest of the sugar halfway through the process. 

3. Melt the butter and cool slightly. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites to the beaten egg mixture with a rubber spatula. Then add the melted butter and the flour mixture. Finally, fold in the rest of the egg whites. 

4. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack. 

5. When cool, slice the cake horizontally into 3 layers of equal thickness.

Chocolate Ganache
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and softened

1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (the bowl must not touch the water). 

2. Bring the cream to a boil, and pour the cream onto the melted chocolate. Whisk until smooth, then add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking well until smooth.

3. Refrigerate until the ganache is as thick as pudding.

To assemble the cake:
- Spread each of the three cake layers with a thin layer of warmed raspberry jam. Spread a third of the chocolate ganache over the jam on each layer, up to the edges, but not over. 
- Stack the layers into a single cake. Cut a strip of parchment paper to the depth of the cake by the circumference of the cake, plus an inch or two. Wrap the strip around the cake, fastening the overlap with a piece of tape to hold the layers firmly in place while chilling. 
- Chill in the refrigerator at least 5 hours. 

Chocolate Icing
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons glycerine
3/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, as needed

1. Melt the chocolate with the water, beat in the glycerine and sufficient sugar to achieve a coating consistency. 

2. Cool until pourable, but not too runny, or it will not adhere well to the sides of the cake.

3. Remove the paper strip on the cake. Place on serving plate. Smooth the icing over the top and sides of the cake with a metal spatula, and return to the refrigerator to set. Before serving, allow to come to room temperature for best flavor. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stuffed Manicotti

We recently had friends over for dinner at our new place (finally)! We've lived here a month or so now, and we finally have things set up enough to do some entertaining.

You've got to love this wine, just from the label!
This meal started with the wine.  We discovered Da Vinci Chianti last year by accident and it has quickly become one of our favorites. It's a reasonably priced wine that has some wonderfully fruity notes but isn't too sweet. So, the idea was to find a dish to go with a great Italian wine. Where else to look but the wonderful world of Italian food?

We decided on a manicotti, so then the search was on for something that wouldn't totally over-do it calorically. (you have to save room for the wine and salad and garlic bread- plus the surprise coming for dessert!)

10 uncooked manicotti
cooking spray
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (I used turkey sausage to help make this healthier)
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cup (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups tomato-basil pasta sauce
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
A little bit of "Il tricolore" (would be more so with red meat, I know)
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove casings from sausage. Add to pan, cook for 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add onion and bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes or until tender.
3. Melt butter in medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in flour, cook 2 minutes stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat, gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Return pan to heat, bring to a boil. Cook 6 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat, stir in black pepper. Add 1/2 cup of milk mixture to sausage mixture; stir well.
4. Preheat oven to 350.
Note the "tears" in the pasta- ugh!! stuffed pastas!
5. Spoon about 1/3 cup sausage mixture into each manicotti; arrange manicotti in a single layer in a 13x9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle mozzarella over manicotti; spread remaining milk mixture evenly over mozzarella. Top milk mixture with pasta sauce, spreading to cover. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until bubbly.

I did this recipe in stages, and it can even be frozen after it is put together then baked at a later time. My very Italian fiance has asked that next time we do a "traditional" manicotti- no sausage, no onion, no green pepper, just lots of cheese. He must like me in pants with elastic waistbands. He said he liked this recipe, but next time we must do it "right".

Friday, October 1, 2010


Aaaand... I'm back!

I'm looking forward to doing a lot of cooking now that the weather is starting to get cooler.. there is just something about fall that makes you want to begin the hibernation with a homemade soup or stomach-warming dish and a tasty dessert of the season like apple crisp. I was talking to a friend today and she brought up apple crisp and I swear I started salivating from just hearing the words "apple crisp"!

Tonight I'm easing myself back into the kitchen with a simple but tasty stir-fry and my first crack at egg drop soup. I've been wanting to try making my own egg drop soup for a long time, so I'm pretty excited about tonight's dinner. When we went grocery shopping today I was also on the look out for the little crispy "noodles" that you'll often get as a topping in a Chinese restaurant when you order the egg drop soup. I'm not talking about the chow mein noodles that come in a can that my grandpa always used to tell me were worms that he was putting on his salad. These are sort of like the Chinese restaurant version of tortilla strips. If anyone knows what you call them, let me know.

I started thinking about the noodles, and I vaguely remember them being similar to the part of crab rangoon that doesn't have the crab in it. HMMM.... I'm trying out frying little rectangles of wonton dough tonight to see if I can replicate the restaurant soup even further.

Egg Drop Soup with the crunchy noodles!
Egg Drop Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons chopped chives (I omitted these because the chives at the store looked a little wilty and old- spring project: herb garden!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs
1 egg yolk

1. Reserve 3/4 cup chicken broth, pour the rest into a large sauce pan. Stir the salt, ginger and chives into saucepan, bring to a rolling boil. In a cup or small bowl stir together remaining broth and cornstarch until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture gradually until soup is at the desired consistency (careful here, or as a friend warned me, you'll end up with "Egg Drop Gravy")

2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and yolk using a fork. Drizzle egg a little at a time from fork into boiling broth mixture. The egg should cook immediately. Stir in clockwise motion to mix soup together.

This soup can be frozen and reheated if you want to make a big batch and just have some on reserve for an easy meal later!

I find that the best stir-frys (stir-fries?)really come down to the sauce. You can use any vegetables you like- we're big fans of red peppers and mushrooms- and any meat you like, but the sauce makes the dish. Tonight I'm using one of my favorites that works well with shrimp or chicken stir-frys.

Dinner tonight!
Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Cut desired meat up into bite sized chunks. In a small bowl combine water, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch and sugar; set aside.

2. Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. (Add more oil as necessary during cooking.) Cook and stir the garlic in the hot oil for 15 seconds. Add vegetables of your choosing; cook and stir for 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. (Add firmer vegetables first, if using mushrooms add after about 3 minutes.) Remove vegetables from wok with a slotted spoon. Add meat to wok; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until no longer pink. Push meat from the center of the wok. Stir soy sauce mixture; add to center of wok. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

3. Return cooked vegetables to wok. Cook and stir about 1 minute more, or until heated through. Serve with hot cooked rice.