Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kitchen Cuttings

I have saved a whole bunch of recipes this week. Too many for me to ever cook. But so goes the internet. I have got to find a better way to organize all the recipes that I come across. I have folders and sub-folders, and some recipes go in more than one place...but that's my own little addiction.

Mrs Micah's Greek Chicken with Indian Rice - two recipes for the price of one, both of which I know The Professor will love. I may have to move this to the top of my rotation soon, since chicken's on sale this week.

The Leftover Queen's Mozzarella Stuffed Portabellas and Tomatoes au Gratin will be on the list for The Bestest Friend. Putting the word "stuffed" into the title of the dish makes her immediately begin salivating. One of the many reasons I love her.

This isn't a recipe, but for the wine snobs out there: First you had to deal with screw top wine bottles. Now it's boxed wine that might actually beat the quality of the old cork-topped standbys. Breathe deeply before following that link.

Remember the French Silk Pie I posted earlier this week? This recipe for Chocolate Custards was the runner-up in the menu decisions. Warning: Nicole's pictures can cause weight gain in and of themselves.

And if you've ever gone to PF Chang's, had their lettuce wraps and wondered how hard it is to come up with something: Wonder no more. It's astoundingly easy.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Frittata, or: How To Empty Out Your Fridge

My parents came over for breakfast last Sunday morning. That's a rare treat - they live a few states away, and I don't get to cook breakfast nearly enough (hint to friends and family: I love cooking breakfast. And Pies. Maybe even Pies for Breakfast?).

Where was I?

So, my parents were coming over. I had some some red bell pepper strips, some yellow bell pepper strips, a half a yellow onion, a half dozen eggs, a pound of sausage. A cabinet full of herbs.

I debated between making this and Baked French Toast. But I would have had to thaw the French bread for the French toast.

So that's how I made my decision.

The Frittata was awesome. I'm totally going to brag on myself here. It was awesome. Served with a salad, it was the perfect brunch. Well, I didn't serve Mimosas, so maybe it wasn't the perfect brunch. But that's ok with me - it gives me something to strive for.

This isn't really a recipe - it's more like mixing odds and ends with some beaten eggs and cooking it. But here's my basic process. I use one skillet - my iron skillet - for everything.

Cook up about 1/2 pound of whatever meat you have - diced ham, sausage, bacon, etc ( I had sausage). Drain sausage in a colander, bacon on paper towels. Do NOT, please for the love of holy grease, do NOT wipe out the skillet. While the meat's draining:

Saute about 1-2 cups of vegetables in the iron skillet. I used about a cup of mixed red and yellow bell peppers and a half cup of onion. While that's cooking:

Whisk six eggs in a medium bowl with a little milk. Add in some dried basil (or dill, if you're a dill fan). I don't measure here, so just flow with me. Then I grabbed some garlic powder, a few twists of fresh ground black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Whisk it all in. Then dump in about a half cup of shredded cheese - I used Colby Jack.

Put the sausage back in the skillet with the peppers and stir around. Pour the egg/cheese mixture over the top and stir around to make sure egg is surrounding everything. Now, put your spoon aside and let it cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes - you want the eggs to be done on the bottom. In the meantime, heat your broiler.

When you're ready, put the entire skillet under the broiler until the eggs are done all the way through (About 4 or 5 minutes). Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese over the top and pop back under the broiler for about a minute.

Cut into wedges and serve.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

French Silk Pie

My first experience with a French Silk Pie was a Shoney's special as a kid. The chocolate curls on top were always my favorite part, with the whipped cream underneath of them being a close second. The chocolate pie part was ok, too - But I was really in love with the chocolate and whipped cream. And now that I've made the real thing, I know why: the pie was little more than a heavy pudding with whipped cream on top. Good, but totally missing the point.

After trying out Nicole's recipe for French Silk Pie, I've decided that whipped cream and chocolate curls are optional. This filling is what French Silk Pie is supposed to be - light, silky, chocolately.

I've made two of these so far - the first one didn't have as much height as I liked, so the second time I added a couple of whipped egg whites to make it even fluffier. I also used a graham cracker crust - there's just something about graham crackers and chocolate. I wish someone would write a diet book that had nothing but chocolate and graham crackers. And Diet Mt Dew.

I used a combination of milk chocolate and 80% cacao chocolate because that's what I had in the house. I have enough chocolate for one more pie. I think I should make one soon so I don't get out of practice, don't you?

The leftover piece of the first attempt:

French Silk Pie

9" graham cracker crust
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 oz milk chocolate
3/4 oz 80% cacao chocolate
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs, room temperature (that's very important!)
2 large egg whites, room temp (ditto!)

Make your pie crust: There's a good basic one here. Make sure it is completely cool before pouring the filling in later.

Melt your chocolate: I did this in a glass bowl over a small pot of boiling water. Set aside and let cool.

Cream butter and sugar until light yellow and fluffy. Keeping the beaters...beating...drizzle in the chocolate and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add one egg and beat for a couple of minutes before adding the second and beating for another 2-3 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold gently into the chocolate mixture.

Pour filling into pie shell. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto surface. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Immediately before serving, spread whipped cream on top, along with chocolate curls if you have 'em.

Notes: This does have raw eggs, which doesn't bother me in the least. I made the first one with pasteurized eggs, and the second with regular ones. The first pie wasn't as fluffy - but it didn't have the egg white either. And I haven't died yet from raw eggs. Yay me!

I was blown away by how simple this recipe was - the hardest thing was melting the chocolate. If you buy a pre-made crust, the filling can easily be done in under 30 minutes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Squash Casserole: Work In Progress

Thing the First: I am unworthy. I cooked a meal with no fewer than four dishes to blog about - and I was so excited to be with my parents that I forgot to take any pictures!

Thing the Second: I love squash casserole made with cream of mushroom soup. But in my new found quest to use fewer processed foods (I just started reading this book), I decided to experiment with the recipe.

Thing the Third: This recipe needs work. It was too...tangy? Herby? It tasted pretty good, but it's not there yet. Wherever "there" is.

Thing the Fourth: Your assignment: Suggest improvements. I'll be trying this again soon since it's squash season.

Squash Casserole

2 yellow squash, cut in 1" chunks
1/2 yellow onion
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375F.

Saute squash and onion over medium heat for 6-7 minutes, until the squash begins to soften.

In a bowl, mix sour cream, Colby-Jack cheese, basil and garlic powder.

Stir in squash and onions.

Pour into 2 quart casserole.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Mix Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Spread over the top of the casserole. Put in the oven for another 10 minutes - OR turn on the broiler and let the top slightly brown.

Monday, August 11, 2008

That Cookbook Thing II: Julia's Rapee Morvandelle

That's "Gratin of Shredded Potatoes with Ham and Eggs and Onions". Don't ask me how those two little words mean all that - it's one of the idiosyncrasies of the French Language.

It's time for another recipe from Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking!
The participants, as always, are: Mike of Mel's Diner, Ruth of Once Upon A Feast, Sara of I Like to Cook, Breadchick Marye, Kittie of Kittens in the Kitchen, Mary of Cooking for Five, Elle of New England Kitchen, and Shaun of Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow.

This time, we have the most labor-intensive recipe (for me) so far. I shredded those potatoes by hand with my little box grater, since I don't have a food processor with a grating blade (Don't I sound so...deprived? Aren't you thinking "poor little ole me"? NO? Oh. Ok).

And here's my biggest insight: It's messy. Potatoes have a lot more water in them than I ever dreamed. And, since I've never shredded them before, I got a little freaked out when they started turning this pinkish color as I worked on the next potato. After I ate a few bites of the finished product and didn't die, I looked it up online and discovered what scores of people already know: It's natural, dummy.


My thoughts on this dish:

This recipe didn't wow me like the sauce au curi did. It didn't taste bad, it just didn't have a lot of flavor. I would definitely up the amount and variety of herbs if I ever make this again - basil, chives, or whatever is within reach would give more flavor than parsley.

I substituted Gruyere for Swiss cheese. Why? Because I can. And "Gruyere" sounds cooler than "Swiss". So there.

I wasn't that enthusiastic about the ham (please don't take away my carnivore credentials!). Kittie used chestnut and porcini mushrooms, and I think that would taste way better.

Ok, enough talking already. On to the recipe:

Julia's Rapee Morvandelle (Gratin of Shredded Potatoes with Ham and Eggs and Onions)
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onions
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) finely diced cooked ham (Note: I used about 6 ounces)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 clove crushed garlic (I used a whole clove - and wanted more)
  • 2 Tbsp minced parsley and/or chives and chervil
  • 2/3 cup grated Swiss cheese (I used Gruyere)
  • 4 Tbsp whipping cream, light cream, or milk (I used 1/2 & 1/2)
  • pinch of peper
  • 1/4 tsp sat
  • 3 medium sized potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter cut into pea-sized dots
Preheat oven to 375F.

Cook the onions slowly in the oil and butter for 5 minutes or so, until tender but not browned.

Raise heat slightly, stir in ham, and cook a moment more.

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs, cheese, cream or milk, and seasonings. Then blend in the ham and onions.

Peel the potatoes and grate them, using large holes of grater. A handful at a time, squeeze out their water. Stir potatoes into egg mixture. (May be prepared ahead to this point).

Heat 2 Tbsp butter in an 11-12 inch baking dish or skillet about 2inches deep. When foaming, pour in the potato and egg mixture. Dot with butter.

Set in upper third of preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until top is nicely browned. Serve directly from the dish or skillet.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pancakes. So Light and Fluffy.

There was a time when The Professor cooked me pancakes on the weekends. This was when we first moved in together. Before I kicked him out of the kitchen.

I jest. Kind of.

The Professor is a huge fan of Bisquick. A bowl, a spoon and a dirty skillet later, we'd be eating pancakes.

Then came the inevitable weekend that we ran out of mix. And he didn't realize it until Saturday morning. The sweet, sweet man was actually going to go to the grocery store so he could make me pancakes. See why I married him?

But then I opened my big mouth and said "But honey, watch THIS! You don't really need a box, I have everything in my baking supplies."

He hasn't cooked a pancake since. Talk about my ability to ruin a good thing.

I've always used Betty Crocker's Recipe. My mom used the one in her cookbook, then I used the one in her cookbook, and when I finally got my own Betty Crocker cookbook, that's the one I started using. I don't know if this recipe - like many others - has changed over the different Betty Crocker incarnations. But this is a great, simple recipe.

And if you want extra-fluffy ones, read the notes.

Betty Crocker's Pancakes (This is the 1996 edition)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder (I've never understood why they didn't say 1 Tbsp)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Margarine or shortening (butter works, too)
BC tells you to use a hand-mixer. I don't have one, and I'm not pulling out the stand mixer for pancakes, so I use a whisk.

Whisk the egg until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients, except margarine, and beat until smooth.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Grease with margarine. To test griddle, sprinkle with a few drops of water. If bubbles jump around, heat is just right).

For each pancake, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle. Cook until puffed and dry around the edges. Turn and cook other side until golden brown. (The first time I made pancakes, I was impatient and turned them too early. My mom gave me hint: Don't even think about flipping them until you see the big bubbles on top starting to pop. I still watch for the bubbles).

Makes nine 4-inch pancakes.

A whisk is better than a spoon or a fork for mixing. A whisk gets more air into the batter, which makes the pancakes lighter and fluffier.

This past weekend, I grabbed my self-rising flour accidentally, and didn't notice until after I had added the baking powder and salt (which would be cut out if you use self-rising). That was an awesome oops - these were the fluffiest pancakes I've ever made.

In my book, fluffy=good. Fluffier=better. Fluffiest=HEAVEN. The lighter and airier the pancake, the more butter and syrup they hold. And really, it's all about the butter.

Then The Professor told me he - get ready for this - actually prefers his pancakes not fluffy. He likes them flat. It's a good thing I love the man.

I've typed pancakes enough times now that the word just looks strange.