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Archive for January, 2012


So back in December (uh huh), OXO, one of my favorite brands of kitchen stuff, sent me two really cute Cookies for Kids cookie spatulas – one for me, and one to give away for holiday baking.  Now, the cool thing here is OXO’s Cookies for Kids Cancer program.  They ran a national bake sale campaign to raise money to help support research for new therapies for kids cancer – and I thought it was great, because cookies, bake sales and kids – they all go together!   And now it is January, and while I’ve already confessed to them that I missed their Dec. 31 deadline for holding bake sales, they said I could still give away the spatula and you can still buy it at Bed, Bath & Beyond, too (although I think you have to go a store; I didn’t see it online).  Hurray!

And then I saw my friend Ellise’s recipe for Flat & Bumpy Chocolate Chip Cookies on her blog, Cowgirl Chef, and I finally found time to make cookies, et voila,  the Oxo “Be a Good Cookie” spatula give-away is finally happening!  Hurray again!

So instead of sharing my own recipe, I’m sharing my friend Ellise’s from Cowgirl Chef  from Jan. 15.  Look how yummy they look!

These cookies are easy to make.  Ellise (who has a cookbook coming out in May chronicling her adventures of moving from Dallas to Paris and cooking her head off, adding a Texas twist to French recipes – more on that as May approaches) uses  chopped chocolate; I used chocolate chips (I did hack a knife through them just a bit to chop them, but not too much – I went a bit lazy on that).  And I used walnut chips (who knew you could buy so damn many sizes and types of walnuts?), and I liked them.   The cookies come out flat, bumpy, crispy, chewy and delicious.  I might have one for breakfast, since I got up at 5:45 this morning to write this (when inspiration strikes…).

And here’s a tip: if you don’t need or want to make the entire batch, you can freeze the dough.  I just put cookie-size blobs of raw dough into zip-top freezer bags, and then whenever you want or need fresh, warm chocolate chip cookies – voila! – you can pop them into the oven, straight from the freezer.  Just add a couple of minutes to the bake time.  It’s like money in the bank, especially next time you have friends over.

To win this super cute (and functional) cookie spatula, comment on this post by Feb. 1 and I’ll pick a random winner and send them their spatula.  And Ellise’s Flat & Bumpy Chocolate Chip Cookies are a great recipe to give your spatula a test drive!

Let me know how your Flat & Bumpies come out.  And thanks to OXO for sharing Good Cookies spatulas and helping fund kids cancer research!

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So I was devouring the February issue of Food & Wine magazine and I came across a recipe from Rick Bayless, one of my favorite Chicago chefs.  Having spent more than a dozen years living in Texas, I regularly have huge cravings for Mexican food – the spicier, the better!  So I said to myself, “Self, let’s make that!”  Off I marched to pick up a pork shoulder and assorted other ingredients and I got to work.  I have to share this with you because it’s just so damn good!  And it makes a lot, so if you have a small household, like me, you can share it with your neighbors and you can also eat it for a week, because it’s so versatile, and you can also freeze some of it for later enjoyment.  It’s basically a spicy, Mexican-style pork stew that you can eat in or on tortillas.   Look how yummy!

Ready?  Ondole!

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 pound of pork shoulder, cut into stew-sized cubes (about an inch or two in size)

1/4 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 tsp dried thyme

3 bay leaves

3/4 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used russets; it’s what I had, and they worked fine)

2 Tbl vegetable oil

1 fresh chorizo sausage (the Mexican kind; not the Spanish kind. Mexican chorizo is like a bratwurst or Italian-style sausage; Spanish is the hard, cured kind you can eat sliced up)

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced up

One 28-ounce can of peeled Italian tomatoes, smushed up and drained

2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, minced, and 2-4 tsp of the adobo sauce, depending how spicy you want it

Salt and sugar, to season (yes, a pinch of sugar!)

WHAT YOU DO

1) First you ask yourself why you didn’t buy pork shoulder already cut up (sheesh!) and you get your sharpest knife out, along with a big box of caution, and butcher that pork shoulder!

Yes, I plowed through this 3 1/2 pound bad boy and wound up with a little more than 1 1/4 pound of chunks.  Hurray!

2) In a large saucepan, simmer (uh huh) the pork, marjoram, thyme and bay leaves in 4 cups of salted water (I put in 2 Tbl of salt), partially covered, about 45 minutes (the meat should be tender).  I tossed the bone in, too, because Ifigured it would add flavor (I chucked it after I fished the meat out).  Now, the meat is going to look all gray and not that pretty (hence no photo),and that is ok.  After 45 minutes, use a slotted spoon to put the meat onto a dinner plate. RESERVE 2 CUPS OF THE PORK BROTH!!  Do not chuck it!  Let the meat cool for about 10 minutes, and then cut it or tear with your hands if you’re feeling primal, into smaller bits (the size that would work in a taco or burrito type of situation). 

3) Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling, salted water, for about 8 or minutes (drop the spuds in once the water comes to a boil).  Drain the potatoes and just let ’em sit for a bit in the colander.  (Chuck the potato water.)

4) Now: get a large, high-sided skillet out.  Heat the veg oil over medium heat.  Take the casing off the chorizo (yes, it’s a yucky job, but you just gotta do it), and crumble it into the pan.  Cook the chorizo until it’s really well-browned — about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Put that on a plate (you can put it on same plate the pork is living on).

5) Keep the yummy chorizo fat that is in the skillet and add the pork and onions to it.  Cook about 10 minutes and stir it about, browning it as much as you can (given the size of the skillet and amount of meat and onions).  Now add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes (I just smush ’em up with my hands, from the can, and leave the sauce; you can freeze that tomato sauce, tho, and use it for something else down the road.)  Add the chorizo.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add the spuds, the chopped-up chipotle and the adobo sauce.  I used 2-3 tsps and that was plenty hot for me.  TASTE AS YOU GO, so you get the right amount of heat.  Add 1 1/2 cups or a little more pork broth.

6) Let the whole lot simmer uncovered (or sans sombrero, as I like to say!) for at least 10 minutes.  Taste it.  Add some salt.  And a pinch of sugar!  Maybe a 1/4 tsp , max.  This is Rick Bayless brilliance, as it lets everything really sing, flavor-wise. 

EAT!  You can pile this into a flour tortilla (I found low-carb ones, just to experiment, because my ass does not need any more carbs, and you know what?  They’re good.)  But you can also use corn tortillas.  Or you could eat this with rice.  Or beans.   It’s so versatile!  Rick suggests some very thinly sliced red onion, sliced avocado and crumbled queso fresco (a Mexican-style farmer’s cheese – a cow’s milk cheese that’s kind of the texture of feta; salty and delicious). 

And for your beverage enjoyment, may I suggest a nice, fruity rich shiraz — or a nice, cold beer would do as well!  Enjoy!  And many thanks to Chef Rick Bayless for the delicious inspiration!

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You know how when you watch “Next Food Network Star” or “Master Chef,” they throw some crazy task at the contestants, like, “Make a souffle: your time starts NOW!”?   Well, to kick off the new year, I’ve decided to learn how to make all the elusive dishes that I know I’ll be faced with when I make it onto one of those shows.  That’s right: I’m going to apply.  On my list of “never made this:” fried chicken, lobster (kill & cook), duck, meringue, ribs, a fancy potato dish, a roast.  And souffle.

So yesterday, I dropped $20 on a pound of fancy cave-aged Gruyere.  Yep, a pound.  And I came home and promptly turned to page 151 of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table – hands-down my favorite cookbook for all things French.  Yes, I read the recipe TWICE before I dove in.  But somehow I had programmed “a pound of cheese” into my brain – when it is really a half pound.  Sigh.  So – my first attempt was just that – a first attempt.  It wasn’t a disaster, per se.  But it wasn’t a howling success either.  So now I know – and you can bet I won’t make that mistake again (I’ll make some other mistake, probably!) 

I’m going to share some pictures with you – notably of the finished thing – so we can all compare it with my next attempt, alright?  Here she is:

It’s maybe is a little too brown, and it didn’t really rise enough – because of the weight of all that damn cheese.  And here was my other mistake: I set the timer for 40 minutes … and then FORGOT TO PRESS START!  Argh!  So I had to guess when 25 – 30 minutes had elapsed because Dorie says, “do not even think of opening that oven door for at least 25 minutes!”  Jeez. Really? Yes, really.  So when I took it out – at what I thought was 40 minutes — it wasn’t cooked through.  All that stupid cheese had really mucked up the works.  So I popped her back into the oven for another 10 minutes, with a sheet of foil on her head to keep her from getting even more brown, and she cooked through.  She was just too cheesy, though.  I ate some of it.  And it was … good.  But not great.

Alright, if you want to try this yourself, let me know how yours comes out.  And by all means, go to Amazon and get Dorie’s book if you love to cook French food.  Her recipes and directions (when you pay attention to them!) are the best.  Here’s what you need:

INGREDIENTS

fine dry bread crumbs

2 1/2 cups whole milk

3 Tbl unsalted butter

6 Tbl all-purpose flour

salt and freshly ground white pepper (couldn’t find mine; used black pepper; same flavor, but more visible)

freshly grated nutmeg (I’m not a nutmeg fan; I used a pinch of Turkish Alleppo pepper)

6 large eggs, separated

8 ounces of grated cheese (I used Gruyere, but Dorie says you can use Swiss or Emmenthal, too)

DIRECTIONS

1) Position a rack in the lower 1/3 of your oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.  Get a 6-7 cup souffle dish and coat it thickly with butter, and then dump in some bread crumbs and shake / roll the pan to get the crumbs to stick to the butter all over, like this:

2) Time to make the bechamel sauce! Get two medium  sauce pans out.  In one, boil the milk, and set that aside.  In the other, melt the 3 Tbls of butter and add the flour and cook, stirring, for at least two minutes, over medium heat, to make a roux (a thickening thing).  Slowly pour the hot milk into your roux and whisk, whisk, whisk over medium heat, for about 8 or 10 minutes, until it’s really thick (as Dorie says, “the whisk should leave tracks”).  It might be a little lumpy (mine was) – and that’s okay.  Because then Dorie has you pour the thick bechamel through a fine-mesh sieve, into a big bowl, to get rid of the lumps – brilliant!  Before you sieve it, season it with salt, pepper and nutmeg (or Alleppo pepper).  Taste it to make sure it tastes like something besides just plain cream sauce.

3) Egg time!  Okay – let that bechamel cool off a bit (10 minutes) while you separate your eggs.  Put yolks in one bowl; whites in another (clean, dry glass bowls are best here).

You can also grate your cheese now – the 8 ounces.  I used the Cuisinart, for this (so easy).  When the bechamel’s cooled off a bit, whisk the egg yolks into it, one at a time.  Then stir in the grated cheese.  Let that sit while you attend to your egg whites.

4) Put the egg whites into a clean mixing bowl (I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer, with the whisk attachment).  Beat those suckers at pretty high speed for maybe 3-4 minutes til they hold beautiful, shiny peaks, like this:

5) The Home Stretch!  Take 1/4th of the egg whites and gently fold, using a rubber spatula, into your cheesy bechamel.  Then gently fold in the rest — do not manhandle your batter here — be gentle.  Dorie says it’s better to have a few streaks of unincorporated egg white than to over-stir here.  You want this whole situation to be light and airy. 

6) Now – gently pour the batter into your prepared souffle dish.  Put the dish on a parchment- or silicone mat-covered  baking sheet and slide ‘er into the oven.  SET A TIMER AND PRESS START!  40 to 50 minutes.  You can peak in the oven window, but don’t you dare open that oven door for at least 25 minutes.  If it’s browning too quickly, you can open the door at 25 minutes or later, and slide a sheet of foil onto the top.

7) Remove when it’s golden brown, and still a little jiggly in the center.  Ooh and ahh over it a bit.  Soak up the praise from your guests.  Take photos.  And then serve immediately!   If mine had turned out better, I would’ve eaten it for dinner, with a side salad of arugula, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice – and a nice glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  Next time!

Bon chance, and merci to Dorie for the constant inspiration!

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