June 25, 2011 § 2 Comments
I really do love fish and I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it. I prefer salmon, grouper, and of course, sea bass, but sometimes you just need an economical alternative. Enter, tilapia. I’ve never really been a big fan of tilapia – I’ll eat it and I don’t mind it but I’ve never craved it. My husband has developed a strong liking for it so I’ve been looking for new ways to prepare it. So far, simply grilled with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of lemon has been a good way to go. Another option is sauteed with a light flour coating and finished in a parsley butter sauce. I recently saw a recipe by Giada de Laurentis for a potato crusted tilapia that looked amazing. I’m in for any recipe that involves a potato! Giada’s version called for purple potatoes and a chive basil oil. I was making this for a nice little Sunday lunch at home so I had to deal with what I had on hand – no purple potatoes or chives, but I did have new potatoes and some fresh basil.
This dish is surprisingly easy and produces a really elegant meal that takes fish to a whole new level. Giada’s recipe calls for a mandolin for super thin potato slices – I don’t have a mandolin so I just sliced the potato as thinly as I could manage. This worked fine but I think a mandolin would have helped produce a bit crispier potato which would have been delicious. However, if you don’t have a mandolin, don’t fret – just slice thinly and you’ll still be enjoying deliciously sauteed potatoes.
Once the potato slices are done, assembly is very easy. Season the tilapia with salt and pepper and then top with the potato slices. A little more salt, pepper, and some rosemary and the fish is ready to go. In an oven-proof skillet heat equal parts butter and olive oil over medium high heat. You want the skillet to be pretty hot so it gives a nice sizzle to the potatoes. I thought getting the fish potato side down into the skillet was going to be tricky but it actually turned out to be pretty easy. I found that placing my spatula over the fish and then flipping it potato side down and sliding out the spatula worked best. Once the fish is in, you pop it into a a 375 degree oven for about 15 to 17 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
While the fish cooks, make the basil oil. Simply mix chopped basil and olive oil together and a little salt and pepper and set aside. I added some more rosemary to the oil and happened to have some roasted garlic on hand which I mashed into the oil as well for a little extra flavor.
Once you remove the fish from the oven, flipping over to serve potato side up is quite tricky. After a few tries, a food scraper proved to be the best way to accomplish the task – carefully slide it under the potato while holding the top of the fish with a spatula and flip. The potato doesn’t actually stick to the fish so if it’s not held together it will fall apart. Top the fish with some basil oil and serve. I found a generous squeeze of lemon finished the fish nicely, but you could try it first without and see what you think.
As I’m coming to find – I like my own cooking a lot more than what I find in restaurants. I can assure you, you’ll like this dish and it will be very different than anything you’ll see in a restaurant – at least from what I’ve seen. Enjoy!
Rosemary Potato Crusted Tilapia with Basil Oil
Adapted from Giada de Laurentis
- 4 (4- to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets
- 4 new potatoes
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary leaves or half dried
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- roasted garlic – optional
- Lemon wedges to serve
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Season fish with salt and pepper and top each of the fillets with potato slices until completely covered. Season with more salt and pepper and rosemary.
Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the butter and heat until hot. Add the fish, potato side down and place skillet in oven. Bake until fish is cooked through, about 15 to 17 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. If desired, add roasted garlic.
Place fish potato side up on a plate and top with the basil oil and serve with a wedge of lemon.
Click here for original recipe.
Update: Serve with lemon meringue pie for a truly decadent summer dinner.
June 2, 2011 § 3 Comments
This weekend was a hot one in Orlando – the temperatures have been steadily creeping up into the 90’s for several weeks now and I’ve been in denial trying to keep our doors open for fresh air with no luck. With the heat intensifying, I’d thought for two weeks of what to do for the approaching Memorial Day weekend and to properly welcome the start of summer. We could have taken a mini-vaca but hubby had no vacation days. Could have enjoyed a pool at a local hotel but prices were insane. Last idea was to drive to the beach but in the end with the threat of traffic and our sweet dog’s puppy eyes, we decided against it. So, it was a weekend at home, which in the end turned out to be very sweet (pun intended).
My husband recently bought me a nook for my birthday. Each night he’d look at it hopeful that I’ve purchased something to verify I liked the gift. I had yet to purchase anything in a month, so with the three-day weekend as I lay on the couch I figured I might as well indulge my brain in a book rather than endless hours of television. I’ve wanted to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver ever since it came out. So, I did just that – I downloaded the “nook book” and have had my nose stuck in it every night this week. The book is just plain awesome – enlightening and inspiring with every page turn. I’m only about one third of the way through it but she already has me hooked with her tales of blossoming veggies and tender fruits. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the tastes she describes and weaves through her stories. It makes me utterly depressed at the thought of having to frequent my local supermarket and roam through its lifeless aisles. She almost makes me want to uproot my life and take up a farm – almost.
But back to reality, it was Memorial Day weekend and armed with the desire to eat local, fresh, ingredients, I found myself with an overflowing basket at the local market I visit. Now, to be sincere, I didn’t end up buying everything local. I was surprised and a little disturbed to learn that my favorite local store isn’t so local. Don’t get me wrong, it’s got some great finds but doesn’t carry quite as much local produce as I’d deluded myself to believe. But, I bought some good stock to make great meals for the weekend – and let me say it’s pretty much been one good thing after another – lentil salad, hummus and veggie sandwiches, sweet grilled corn, scrambled eggs with roasted asparagus and peppers, fresh garlicky mayonnaise, and finally last night a summer squash stir fry with jasmine rice. At the last grab in the store I threw in some fresh limes and lemons to have on hand.
My mom invited us over for a Memorial Day BBQ and I made the – at the time what I thought to be a good idea – offer to bring Lemon Meringue Pie as I’d just purchased several huge lemons. I have a tendency to do this in all aspects of my life and especially in the kitchen – signing up for things that I don’t fully understand their scale and potential. This venture was one of those. But once I’d mentioned Lemon Meringue to my mom, there was no turning back. I had to show up to the BBQ with that pie in my hands. I’ve never made a lemon custard or curd. I’ve never made meringue. I don’t like pie shells so I had already decided I’d use the graham cracker crust in Ina Garten’s Frozen Key Lime Pie recipe I recently made. With one out of three down, how hard could it be?
Well, not hard, but interesting. It was hours before the party and we were standing in line at Hollywood Studios to see American Idol Scotty (I know, corny, and yes I’m a bit of a dork). There I was thinking of the pie I had to serve in mere hours and I hadn’t even picked out a recipe. As I stood in line I scanned different recipes to see which one to go with. I settled on a recipe from Gourmet as I was pretty sure I had all the ingredients it called for. Once back at home and needing to leave in, yes…1 hour!, I sprang into action.
You start with the crust. I loved the graham cracker crust with this but you could easily do a pie shell, pastry crust, or even no crust and serve in bowls with a side of cookies as I saw here which is a great idea. While the crust cooks you melt the sugar, salt, water, milk, and cornstarch in a saucepan. This at first appears to do nothing and I was thinking, surely I’ve left out a major ingredient. But all of a sudden it will start to solidify and get gooey. At that point, you mix in a small amount of this mixture into the eggs yolks, and then the egg mixture back into this saucepan. As you continue to stir it, the mixture solidifies into a sturdy custard-like consistency.
Then you add in the lemon and lemon zest. This recipe calls for half a cup of lemon juice but my four huge lemons actually only yielded a fourth a cup. I was worried it might not be tart enough so I compensated with a little extra zest and the resulting flavor was spot-on. Finally you fold in a few tablespoons of butter into the filling. The resulting lemon filling is glossy and looks like its bursting with sunshine. Pour this mixture into the pie shell and set aside.
Next comes the meringue. As I said, I’ve never made meringue and it’s really not so easy. You diligently whip the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until they get firm and then slowly add in the sugar. Again, silly me, I was short on ingredients and only had one third of the sugar it called for. So I did the rest with powdered sugar. The meringue didn’t get as sturdy as I would have liked and it didn’t taste particularly great at first– but it’s all I had. So, I plopped it on top of the pie (the most fun part by the way as it oozes out of the bowl and builds layer upon layer on your pie) and into the oven it went to brown.
By this point we were to be at my parents’ house in 15 minutes so the pie came straight out of the oven and into a lasagna pan for transport – held in place by two oven mitts. I sat in the car looking at my beautiful pie, full of hope, but the meringue wobbled from side to side as the car turned. I snapped a few pics to ensure I had evidence should this by chance turn out to be a success – although at that moment it seemed highly unlikely – or in case I just wanted to prove to myself I’d made it. Once at the house, the pie got to chill out in the fridge for a few hours before we indulged. And indulge we did – it was delicious. The lemon filling had just enough tang and bite accompanied by the sweet graham cracker crust and light fluffy meringue. In fact, the meringue tasted quite perfect despite the rocky start. This pie was a winner all around and everyone agreed – a nice cool accompaniment to the hot summer days to come. I can’t wait to make it again…the only danger is now that I know how easy it really is, I may make it too often!
Lemon Meringue Pie
Adapted from Gourmet
For the crust
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (I used ¼ cup and more zest)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
For the meringue
- 5 large egg whites, at room temperature 30 minutes
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 superfine granulated sugar
For the crust, pre-heat the oven to 350. Melt the butter. Mix with crushed graham crackers and sugar and press into pie shell. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden. Remove pie shell and increase heat to 375 to bake the finished pie.
For the filling, whisk together egg yolks and set aside. In a saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually add water and milk, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently as mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and gradually whisk about 1 cup milk mixture into yolks, then whisk yolk mixture into remaining milk mixture. Add lemon zest and juice and simmer, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until incorporated. Pour into pie shell.
For the meringue beat the reserved egg whites with cream of tartar and salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to high and add superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until meringue just holds stiff, glossy peaks. Pour the meringue over the top of the pie and put back in the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool several hours before serving.
Update: Serve with Heirloom Tomato Pasta for a great summer lunch or supper.
May 31, 2011 § 1 Comment
There’s something about freshly made waffles and pancakes that transports you right back to childhood. I always loved weekend mornings growing up. My family liked to make a big deal out of breakfast – whipping up fresh pancakes, French toast, or eggs and bacon to start the day off right. We’d all be in the kitchen working together and then sit at the table lingering long after the last piece was eaten. Now off and married, I realize these weekends were very much the result of my mom. She was the one who would get this ritual started most times.
Now I’m off and married and similar to my mom, it’s me carrying on this ritual in my home. I haven’t made waffles often – partly due to effort and partly due to calories. Yes, we grow up and have to pay attention to calories and making waffles suddenly isn’t such a good idea anymore. But once in a while doesn’t hurt. My husband hasn’t ever really developed a taste for sweet breakfasts so when I make them, I’m cooking for one. So I mostly reserve my waffle cooking for special occasions when I can feed many like recently on Mother’s Day. However, some mornings you just wake up and have an itching for something delicious. That was me Sunday morning. As I sat having my morning coffee, I decided I deserved a little indulgence of happiness, even if it was just for me. Plus I had the last few cups of buttermilk in the fridge and figured I might as well put it to good work. Buttermilk waffles it was!
As I was cooking for one, I cut the recipe in half. To be fair, I would have made even less but dividing the recipe by anything other than 2 was too complicated for a Sunday morning. (I have a handy dandy recipe divider magnet at Crate and Barrel which is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. It helps do the math for you and is a big help.) Recipes with an odd number of eggs as this one are always tricky. What I find best is just mix the eggs separately as the recipe calls for and divide it after. Trying to “cut” an egg yolk in half is challenging. You could always make the full recipe and put the remaining in the freezer for another day. Just make sure you freeze them or pack separately and don’t put them straight into a bag or they will freeze together.
The star of this recipe is the buttermilk which makes these waffles rich and decadent. Egg whites are beaten and folded in to create a light and fluffy batter which balances out the rich, buttery flavor. These would also be great with any fruit you choose or chocolate chips if you want to really have a treat. Equally a little orange zest would be delicious in the batter and lighten it up for Summer. Today I topped my waffles with fresh strawberries and just a small drizzle of syrup – the syrup was preference. These waffles are equally delicious on their own. If you’re up to it you can whip up some fresh whipped cream with a little sugar and vanilla to top them off with – that’s what I did for Mother’s Day and they were simply divine.
I should warn you – if you don’t want to eat more than 2, quickly put them away after you serve yourself. If you make the mistake I did of leaving them on the counter, one or two more may just disappear at the result of your fingers, no fork needed.
If you like waffles and don’t have a waffle maker, you should definitely look at All-Clad’s waffle maker. It makes the perfect waffle each and every time. This recipe actually comes from All-Clad as well. It calls for you to sift the dry ingredients but honestly, I’ve never done this and never missed it. The egg whites ensure a light batter so unless you’re a perfectionist, save yourself the trouble and just enjoy Sunday morning by throwing it all together in a bowl and call it a day.
Recipe from All-Clad
Makes twelve 4-inch waffles
3 eggs, separated
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
8 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
Maple syrup and fresh fruit for serving
- Preheat waffle maker on medium-high heat. Preheat oven to 200°F. (the oven is to keep the waffles warm and crisp them slightly. If you like them softer and plan to serve right away you can skip this and just keep them warm on a plate with a paper towel and some foil).
- In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar until smooth (sift if desired).
- In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into batter.
- Pour about 1/3 cup batter into each well of waffle maker. Cook until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to baking sheet and oven if desired to keep warm.
- Serve with fruit and syrup.
Update: See the vegan pancakes I’m whipping up on weekends these days.
May 16, 2011 § 2 Comments
I’m not a pie girl. The fact that pies are “making a comeback” as many have put it, even appearing in weddings in replacement of a traditional wedding cake, really bothers me. I just don’t think a pastry crust with fruit filling and a little cream can even remotely compare to a decadent chocolate cake with sweet buttercream frosting. However, there are some pies I’ve grown fond of over the years. French silk and lemon meringue were my favorite pies as a kid – assuming the chocolate cake wasn’t an option of course. I recall eating them after our dinners in a Marie Calendar’s style restaurant as a little girl. I’m not a fan of the pastry so id carefully scoop the filling, scraping the bottom ever so slightly to just “peel” off the custard, leaving behind just the crust. The resulting naked crust, stripped of its creaminess, made my family laugh every time.
The one pie I can say I wholeheartedly enjoy – crust and all – is the one and only key lime pie. I can’t recall the first time I tried the key lime pie but I believe I may have been around 12. We had moved to Florida and since my dad worked for a cruise line, we got to cruise all the time. I am pretty sure it was on one of these cruises – probably at a midnight buffet! – that I first tried what would battle the classic chocolate cake as my favorite dessert. One bite today of that creamy, tart goodness and I’m transported to that cruise ship, thousands of miles away, with the ocean breeze close by.
I’ve made Ina Garten’s Frozen Key Lime Pie several times now. I love the fact that it is a no-bake pie and uses fresh limes instead of tiny, impossible to juice, key limes. Believe me, just juicing the limes for this pie is plenty of work. I honestly can’t even imagine using real key limes. The resulting pie, even without the key limes, is full of flavor, creamy, and tart enough to make your lips pucker!
The recipe calls for 4-5 limes but I’d buy extras when you are shopping for this. The limes I used this last time weren’t ripe enough so I ended up using close to 9 just to get enough juice. I’m glad I had bought extra for my husband’s cocktails – too bad for him there weren’t any leftover. Honestly juicing the limes is the only hassle in this recipe. Other than that it’s really quite easy.
First you make the crust by breaking up the graham crackers. The easiest thing to do is to put them in a plastic bag and hit them with a rolling pin or back of a large spoon. Mix the crumbs with sugar and melted butter and press into the pie plate and bake. I recall the last time I made this pie I had the same problem that the crust didn’t quite stick together. This isn’t really a problem but if you’re looking for a more sturdy crust, add some additional butter to help bind the crackers together.
While the crust is baking make the filling by mixing the lime juice, zest, egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk. As I said, the resulting pie is very tart. If you’re not such a fan, you can omit the zest to cut back on the tartness.
Allow the crust to cool before pouring the filling in. Freeze for a few hours until set and then top with whipped cream. Please whatever you do, DO NOT, used canned whipped cream. This is a sin in my book. If you have never made your own whipped cream, give it a try and you’ll understand why I’m adamant about this. Homemade whipped cream is deliciously rich and tastes like grandma’s house. To make the whipped cream just whip together the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Decorate the pie either by piping the cream with a plastic bag or just spoon over the top, cover, and put back in the freezer. The recipe says the pie only needs to sit several hours but I’ve found it needs at the least 8 hours, especially if you are transporting it to a party. You want the pie to really freeze all the way. The whipped cream ends up very sturdy this way – if you prefer to top the pie with the cream just before serving, that would be delicious too. This pie is the perfect start to summer!
Ina Garten’s Frozen Key Lime Pie
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
- 6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tablespoons grated lime zest – omit if you don’t want the pie as tart
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (recipe calls for 4 to 5 limes but may be closer to 8-9)
For the decoration:
- 1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Thin lime wedges
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, ensuring equal thickness. Bake for 10 minutes and set aside to cool completely.
- Beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick.
- Reduce to medium speed and add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice.
- Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze for a few hours.
- For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Freeze for several hours or preferably, overnight.
For the original recipe, click here.
April 8, 2011 § 6 Comments
When I started this blog at the end of last year, I became somewhat ravenous not only for my new culinary adventures but also writing about them. The project quickly sucked me in and I literally had to stop myself from going overboard – boring what few readers I probably have with multiple posts per week and adding unnecessary inches to my waistline. So the fact that I’ve not written in over a month (a month!) is beyond me. Granted, I’ve been quite busy. A new addition to our family, Chloe, a beautiful bassett/beagle has taken over what precious free time I had and used to devote to cooking and writing. She’s learning to dig and eat magazines and her latest adventure was eating a black ink pen on my beige couch which has been fun to deal with. Add on business trips every week followed by a nasty bout of the flu and voila – over a month has passed.
I’ve been dying to write this post since making this dinner Oscar night. I hadn’t planned on making this recipe for the Oscars, but I had truffle butter on hand that only had a few days left before going bad so I figured it was as good a night as any. It was just supposed to be my husband and me that night but at the last minute my whole family joined us so we went from 2 to 6. I’m glad too because the meal was so delicious and made plenty for the 6 of us with a little leftover to savor the following night.
Now, I’m not really a mushroom fan so the fact that I made this with a truffle sauce may be surprising – there are certain traditional dishes with mushrooms like Chicken Marsala that I love, I don’t like the mushroom itself. I think it has to do with the mushroom’s spongey texture. While I avoid most mushrooms, a few years ago I had pasta with truffle sauce. I was actually in Ljubljana, Slovenia, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I’d spent the week going through Slovenia and Croatia (a logistical nightmare but that’s another story) and saw more meat than I cared for – the traditionals and the unusuals (horse and buffalo, no thanks). Needless to say, given that I’m not a big meat lover, I saw lots of pizza – cheese pizza to be exact. We were nearing the end of the trip and we were at a little pub that had a menu full of items I didn’t eat – the only thing that even remotely caught my eye was the pasta with truffle sauce. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but it was my only option. The plate arrived, and not only was it beautiful, it was delicious. I really enjoyed it but hadn’t had it again since it’s not something you see much in the states. Sure, you see plenty of fries with truffle oil which I’ll always order if a restaurant has them to remind me of that afternoon in Ljubljana.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve this year, and we were in Whole Foods looking for something special to make for dinner. We rarely go to Whole Foods so when we do its like a mini-adventure. I picked up little splurges like Mascapone cheese, fresh roasted garlic, and a Truffle Butter. I hesitated with the Truffle Butter at a whopping $9 for a 2 ounce tub but I’d recently seen Ina Garten prepare it with Tagliatelle which looked so good, so I figured, might as well start the New Year with a little indulgence! January and February seemed to fly by and every day I’d open my fridge to see my precious $9 delicacy just waiting to be eaten. So, when it was Oscar Sunday, I figured I’d waited long enough. It was time to give this pasta a shot. I decided to add the asparagus for some veggies but the shrimp was a total last minute decision after my husband requested some protein for dinner – man was it good though. The delicate pasta with the sweet shrimp and earthy, creamy sauce was divine.
I used homemade pasta for this but store-bought pasta would work nicely here as well. The delicacy of the pasta complimented the sauce very nicely so look for a thin flat pasta. I followed a different pasta recipe than I’ve made before – this time I used Giada’s recipe which calls for more egg than usual, plus olive oil and salt. The resulting pasta was golden and silky with tons of flavor. After rolling out the pasta into the thinnest sheets on my pasta roller, I hand sliced it to make the pappardelle. The easiest way to do this is to fold the sheet a few times and then cut – make sure you flour the sheet before doing so to prevent the dough from sticking together.
Once the pasta was ready to cook, the recipe was actually really easy. If you choose to use bought pasta this cooks in just about 10 minutes after getting the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, salt it and add the trimmed asparagus in just for a few minutes until tender. Remove the asparagus and add the pasta. Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium heat with some olive oil and garlic. Let the garlic infuse the oil for a minute and then add the shrimp with salt and pepper. While the shrimp cooks, cut the asparagus into one-inch bites and add to the shrimp. Increase the heat, add 1 cup heavy whipping cream (or the amount you prefer), and let boil slightly. Add in the entire tub of truffle butter – I know it sounds like a lot, but remember this is a treat! – and it will melt quickly. Turn the heat off and transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce. Top with fresh chives, parsley, and parmesan.
January 27, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’ve been thinking of posting this recipe since I started this blog and I can’t think of a better time than the days leading up to the super bowl. I have to admit I’m not a football fan – like, at all. Plus, I’m really not a fan of traditional gameday cuisine – chili, hamburgers, and wings don’t call my attention. So the fact I’ve actually found a wing recipe that even I crave, means it has to be really good. I really wish the pictures did these wings more justice – you’ll just have to take my word that they are really good!
We recently bought our first home, and I made these delicious wings for our housewarming party. I have one of those moms that is an extreme “over-cooker”. Whether it be dinner or even worse, a party, my mom goes all out and there’s sure to be leftovers for days on end. So, when I told her what I was preparing for this particular party, she was a bit skeptical about the amount of food I was going to be serving. In the hours leading up to the party and I was prepping these wings, I started to share her concerns, worried if they didn’t turn out I’d be in trouble. Oh well, plenty of pizza shops close by I reassured myself.
But in the end there was no need for reassurance – as everyone dove in they couldn’t stop raving about the wings. The men were literally standing at the crock pot and couldn’t stop eating them – I took this to mean it was a success. The party ended the way I like it too – virtually no leftovers – to me that’s the way to end a party.
These wings have a nice sweet but not too sweet flavor that is complimented by a little spice. I’ve made these multiple times and every time I like to cook them a bit longer so the meat is nice and tender, falling off the bone. So, I’ve never actually stopped at the designated cooking time but sure it produces an equally delicious but maybe more “sturdy” wing.
Now, a word on the actual wings – all I’ve been able to find at grocery stores is either the wing that is attached to the drumette or separate drumettes. I don’t know if I’m missing something but I cannot find wings themselves. This particular recipe calls for the wings that are attached to the drumette and for you to cut them at the joint. I did this for my housewarming party and let me tell you it was pretty brutal – I would definitely not recommend this. What I’ve done since is just cook the wings without cutting them and they are fine. They might not look perfect like at a wing joint, but they taste just the same! If you’d rather not do this, you could buy the drumettes but actually drumsticks cost the same and give you a lot more meat and taste equally as good with this recipe so I’d recommend that over the little drumettes.
I promise you, you won’t have any of these wings for leftovers! Definitely give them a try for your superbowl party!
To make the wings, line them in an oven safe dish and season with salt and pepper. Broil for about 10 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Meanwhile, chop the onion and garlic. I sometimes just use the whole onion even though this calls for ¼ cup. In a bowl, mix together the honey, soy sauce, ketchup, red chili pepper, onion, garlic, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.
Once the wings are done – put them in a slow cooker and pour the sauce over them. Mix to ensure they are well coated. The directions call to cook them up to 2½ hours but I always cook them about 3 or up to 3½ hours. You can sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve but I’ve never even added it – they are delicious on their own.
Honey-Sauced Chicken Wings
Adapted from “Rival Crock-Pot Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes”
3 lbs. Chicken wings
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup honey
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup chopped onion (I use the whole onion)
¼ cup ketchup
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
sesame seeds to serve, optional (I never need to add this!)
1. Preheat broiler. Assemble wings on broiler pan and season with salt and pepper. Broil 10 minutes per side or until chicken wings are browned. Remove and transfer to slow cooker.
2. For sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix, and pour over wings. Ensure wings are well coated.
3. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours or high 2-2½ hours.
January 16, 2011 § 8 Comments
A perfect roast chicken starts with a delicate, crispy skin and ends with moist, juicy meat inside and this recipe achieves both. The skin is beautifully golden in color and flavor by brushing the chicken with a little melted butter before roasting and the pan juices from the chicken, sweet carrots, fennel, and onion keep the meat moist upon serving.
This recipe is from Ina Garten, whom I just love. Almost any recipe I make of hers is a sure win – and what’s better, she eats mostly chicken so she always has some inspiring recipe for me. I’ve now made her Perfect Roast Chicken several times and I can say, it is actually quite perfect. In fact, I recently hosted a holiday party for my girlfriends and when I pulled out my two beautiful roast chickens from the oven, one of them even called me “Martha” – as in the infamous Martha Stewart.
What makes this chicken so perfect is not only the tender, juicy meat it yields, but the simplicity in making it. Aside from chopping up some vegetables and applying easy seasonings, it requires very little effort. I think my favorite part of this dish is the fact that you stuff the chicken cavity with lemon and garlic without even a need to chop, peel, or squeeze! A simple cut in half and if it fits, it works. This chicken calls for a lot of fresh thyme, which adds a very perfumed flavor to the vegetables and sauce. If you’re not a fan of thyme you could easily substitute with rosemary or a combination of herbs of your choice.
Now, I will say – one area where Ina let me down: directions on cooking time. I am one of those “is the chicken really done?” fanatics. You’d think with as much chicken as I eat and cook I’d pretty much know when a chicken is done, but sadly I do not and I end up having to cut my chicken breasts in half when cooking to ensure they are really cooked through. So, when I watched Ina make this on TV, she made it sound so simple to determine if the chicken was done – just cut between the leg and the breast and if the juices run clear – voila, its done.
Or not… In Ina’s fairness, her recipe calls for a larger chicken so I had assumed using a smaller chicken would significantly cut down on cooking time. Thus, when I made this the first time for my family, they arrived hungry and eager, I pulled these impressive looking chickens out and they all “oohed” and “awed”. I made the cut as Ina instructed and once I saw that it was only clear juices running out, I happily covered it and let it rest for 20 minutes while waiting anxiously to try it. When I went back to carve what I was sure would be my new masterpiece, I was devastated to find nearly raw chicken at the bone. Back in the oven it had to go and my family was left waiting for another 40 minutes for dinner. In the end though, it was a delicious chicken worth the wait.
I’ve made this chicken multiple times now so I’ve pretty much got the cooking time down but the lesson learned is: Stab your chicken! No, not really. But I do like to make several cuts around the chicken just to be sure – better safe than sorry, especially when entertaining. The reason this is so important is because you really want the chicken to rest 20 minutes, so you’ve got to know its finished cooking. Once you do have the cooking time down on this chicken though, it’s indeed worth it. As I said, it takes minimal effort and yields a very elegant meal perfect for a quiet dinner at home for 2 or for entertaining for several friends. If you’re feeling really motivated, you could serve with crispy roasted potatoes or garlicky mashed potatoes, which would be a nice accompaniment.
For this recipe I have found a 3 pound chicken to work best. If I’m cooking it just for me and my husband I’ll do one chicken but if I want leftovers or cooking for several, I’ll buy two chickens. This is a great recipe to do with 2 chickens (double the veggies) and have extra leftover for a chicken noodle soup or enchiladas the next night. What’s even better is I’ve found a little market near my home where I can buy all my ingredients for about $10 – that’s for 2 chickens and all the veggies – you can’t beat that!
Preheat the oven to 425. Rinse the inside and outside of the chicken and pat dry. Cut any excess fat. Sprinkle the cavity with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cut a lemon and head of garlic in half and insert in the cavity with a good bunch of fresh thyme. Once the cavity is stuffed, tie the legs together with twine. Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of butter. Once melted, brush the outside of the chicken with the butter making sure to reach the sides and legs. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with more salt and pepper.
Peel and chop 4 carrots, 1 yellow onion, and 1 bulb of fennel. If you’ve never worked with fennel before, it’s got almost a licorice-like smell and adds a nice flavor to the sauce. Cut the top of the bulb so that you’re left with something that resembles an onion. I like to remove the outermost layer then just cut as you would an onion.
In your roasting pan mix all the chopped veggies with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Note: If you don’t have a roasting pan, you could put this in anything that will hold it, such as a large casserole dish or lasagna pan. Now, a word on the thyme – if you don’t mind it being really rustic, you could just throw a handful of thyme in whole with the veggies. My husband isn’t such a fan of this method so I skim the leaves off the stems and chop it up. Finally, add the chicken on top of the veggies.
That is it! Your chicken is done and ready to go into the oven for about an hour and a half. Keep an eye on it that the skin doesn’t burn – if the skin is getting too brown you can cover with aluminum foil. Baste a few times while it’s cooking to add flavor to the skin.
When you’re sure the chicken is done, remove from the oven and cover the pan with foil to let it rest for 20 minutes. After resting, carefully remove the chicken and lift vertically to let all the juices inside the cavity come out and into the pan. If you love lemon, you can pull out the lemon from the cavity and give it a squeeze into the sauce – be careful as it will be exremely hot.
To carve the chicken, start with the legs and wings and remove. Then cut at the center near the bone and follow your knife down the bone to remove the breast. Slice the breast as desired. Make sure you pour the sauce from the pan over the chicken as that is the key to keeping it moist and giving it unbelievable flavor. Serve hot and enjoy!
1 3Ib. fryer chicken
1 yellow onion
1 fennel bulb
20 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 425. Rinse inside and outside of the chicken and pat dry. Cut any excess fat. Sprinkle the cavity with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cut a lemon and head of garlic in half and insert in the cavity with half the fresh thyme. Tie the legs together with twine.
- Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush outside of the chicken with the butter making sure to reach the sides and legs. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with more salt and pepper.
- Peel and chop 4 carrots into bite size pieces, about 1 inch long. Cut 1 yellow onion and 1 bulb of fennel in slices. Add vegetables to roasting pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and remaining thyme.
- Place chicken on top of vegetable mixture in pan and roast in oven for an hour and a half or until done.
- Remove and cover chicken with aluminum foil for 20 minutes. Carve and serve with pan sauce over the chicken.
For the original recipe from Ina Garten, click here.
January 2, 2011 § 4 Comments
Yesterday was the first day of 2011 which I welcomed with a mixture of emotions – mostly excitement of what’s to come. I’m very much looking forward to see what this New Year has in store for me and my husband, though honestly, I can’t imagine it being better than 2010. Let me rephrase – I can’t imagine it being better than the second half of 2010. The first half of the year was a tough one. My mom was living indefinitely in Kansas City taking care of my dying grandfather who sadly passed despite our hopefulness. This sad beginning of the year led to months of organizing the closing of my grandparents home and my grandmother moving to Florida. By mid-year, our family was reunited and things started looking up. My husband and I enjoyed a fantastic two week vacation to Spain in May which unbeknownst to us at the time, started a magical trend of good things to come for the second half of the year. We both have gone through more than our fair share of trials and tribulations so to have things suddenly click in place was a beautiful thing. Among other things, we both got unbelievable job opportunities, and after almost two years of searching, we finally purchased our first home. In all this too, it was a year of taking risks – risks that are paying off beautifully.
Thus why I say it will be hard for 2011 to top all that. But I’m remaining optimistic. And most importantly, I am remembering that the life we live is the one we choose. My dad has some pretty good advice he’s drilled into my head – just two words – “Choose Wisely”. I realize now more than ever that this goes beyond what I took it to mean – its not just about choosing the right path, the right job, the right friends, etc. Rather, its about choosing to be happy each and every day, choosing to live with integrity, to define the life you want and not be afraid to go and get it. As Marianne Williamson said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” For me, 2011 is about going for “it”, giving it all I’ve got, not settling, not giving up, and definitely not doubting myself (both in the kitchen and out )
To start off the year with this great energy, I wanted a little celebration and decided to make French Toast for breakfast. I don’t know when I got out of the habit of making French Toast – I rarely make it anymore but it used to be a regular weekend event in my house growing up. I think French Toast was the first dish I really learned to make (and make well) on my own. The best was when my dad would eat it – he’s not a “sweet” breakfast guy, he’s more of a practical low-carb egg-white omelet guy, so days he’d go so far as to request my French Toast were a pretty big deal.
I was at Whole Foods the night before shopping for our New Years Eve dinner and had seen mascapone cheese. I remembered a special French Toast I had a few years ago with mascapone and blueberry and decided I’d make that as our jumpstart to the New Year and it turned out really fantastic. The French Toast had a nice crunch from the sugar coating. The mascapone adds an unexpected twist against the tart berries and eggy bread. At the last minute I added some lemon zest to the mascapone which lightened the entire dish and gave a fresh flavor. Don’t even think of adding syrup to this before tasting – its so good on its own it doesn’t require anything further. It certainly felt like a celebratory breakfast and a promising start to the New Year – Cheers!
I used a hearty French country bread from Whole Foods which I sliced fairly thick (a bit too thick in fact as the egg didn’t get all the way through the slice). I made us a generous portion – two big slices each which I soaked in the egg mixture.
I use vegetable oil for my French Toast and I like to add cinnamon both to the egg mixture as well as a sprinkle while its frying in the pan. Once the slices were done on the bottom I flipped them over to fry on the other side. At the end, I add a small sprinkle of sugar to each slice and flip for just a minute to get a nice caramelized finish. Don’t add the sugar until the very end as it will burn if left in pan too long.
Meanwhile mix some mascapone cheese with a little bit of sugar, blueberries, and fresh lemon zest. The amount of mascapone depends on how much you like – I like just a hint of it so a thin layer is enough for me. Also, the sugar is optional as I like my mascapone sweet.
Once the toasts are done cooking, remove to a paper towel to remove any excess oil and spread the mascapone blueberry mixture to one side. Top with the other slice (be sure to put it sugar side up) and add more berries such as blueberries and raspberries.
French Toast with Mascapone and Fresh Berries
Yields 2 stuffed slices
4 thick slices French or Challah bread
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp mascapone cheese
lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
- Beat eggs, milk, and cinnamon until well combined. Dip bread in egg mixture ensuring both sides are well coated.
- Coat large pan with vegetable oil and warm over medium heat and add egg-dipped slices. Cook until golden on the bottom.
- Sprinkle more cinnamon if desired on un-cooked side before flipping and cook until golden.
- Sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over slices, flip, and cook for just a minute until carmelized. Remove to paper towel to drain.
- Mix mascapone cheese, 1 tsp sugar, 1 cup blueberries and spread mixture on two slices. Top with other slice ensuring sugar coated side is on outside.
- Top with fresh berries and serve.
December 26, 2010 § 4 Comments
This was my third Christmas with my husband and our second year ever hosting a holiday meal. We hosted Christmas Eve dinner the first year we were married in 2008. Last year, Christmas just wasn’t the same as my mom was in Kansas City taking care of her very ill father who since passed away. Thus, hosting Christmas Eve this year with my mom back home and my grandma now living here was very special to me. To make it even more special, my husband and I have been in our very first house just two months so this was our first Christmas here.
My mom always prepares a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes, etc. so I really wanted to find unique recipes to try. I knew I wanted to incorporate this Sweet Potato Ravioli my friend’s mom had made years ago that I still remembered. The protein is usually difficult for me at times like this – since I don’t like much other than chicken there aren’t that many options. I perused the usual Epicurious and Food Network for inspiration as well as flipping through probably 10 cookbooks. In the end I decided to try a Cornish hen recipe with cranberry and thyme sauce that looked different and festive. I love cornish hens and my mom has made them for me since I was younger so I was excited to try this recipe. It probably wasn’t the brightest idea to do my shopping the day of Christmas Eve, but that’s what I ended up doing. Luckily, I didn’t have any problems with finding everything for my menu with the exception of the cornish hens. Alas, there were none and as tempting as it was to go on a city-wide search, I opted for a traditional fryer chicken and asked the butcher to cut in half as the recipe called for the cornish hen. In the end, I landed on the following festive menu:
- Sweet Potato Ravioli with Brown Butter
- Cornish Game Hen with Double Cranberry and Thyme Sauce
- Brussel Sprouts and Green Beans
- Roasted Acorn Squash
- Orange Scented Bittersweet Chocolate Cake
- Pumpkin Flan
We started our evening with the Sweet Potato Ravioli with Brown Butter and they were a huge success! Using the wonton wrappers the recipe calls for is so simple and much easier than making your own pasta sheets on such a time crunched day. The filling was very basic, just mashed sweet potato with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg – but coupled with the delicate wonton wrapping and rich brown butter sauce it was divine. I actually ran out of balsamic vinegar so I was only able to add a splash but I didn’t miss anything. I definitely want to try these again and see what they taste like topped with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper for a lighter version. For a holiday though – this was decadent and everyone enjoyed them. I did have some leftover and thought perhaps I could freeze them to make at later date – this didn’t work for me though. I’m not too big on freezing things but when I make empanadas, I freeze them in a single layer on plates and then put them in a plastic bag once they are frozen so they don’t freeze to each other. I thought I could do this with these ravioli but the delicate wontons froze to the plate and when I tried to pull off they all broke apart. Next time I’ll just make less as two ravioli per person were plenty as a nice appetizer.
The other favorite of the night were the brussel sprouts and green beans. Green beans are one of my favorite foods but I actually hate brussel sprouts. I bought them at the market though because everyone else in my family loves them. I started looking for recipes and saw many with bacon that I thought would work nice. I cooked the bacon until crisp and removed with a slotted spoon. To the bacon grease I sauteed several chopped shallots, one chopped onion, and a few minced garlic cloves. After a few minutes I added the brussel sprouts (cut in half to cook quicker) and green beans (I had blanched these earlier to speed up the cooking process), some chicken stock, and let that simmer for about 20 minutes. In the haste of cooking everything I forgot to add salt and pepper but these veggies were so good they didn’t even need it! As I said, I don’t eat brussel sprouts but I tried these and they were fantastic. I really enjoyed them and look forward to making them like this again.
As for the rest of the meal – the chicken turned out pretty nicely. It obviously needed to cook substantially longer than the hens would have needed but it still worked out fine. I didn’t follow the sauce to the “T” but used the recipe as a guideline. I only added a very small bit of flour and the sauce actually thickened very nicely. As it turned out, I guess I don’t care of acorn squash. I’d bought them because they looked so interesting at the market, but turned out I don’t care for their texture. (Surprised me as I’m a butternut squash fan). Everyone else enjoyed it though.
Now for the best part – or so I’d hoped – dessert! I love a rich chocolate cake so this recipe sounded amazing – Orange Scented Bittersweet Chocolate Cake. I’d made the cake the evening before and with each ingredient I added, my confidence rose. However, as I made the batter it continued to grow and I couldn’t imagine how it would all fit in the cake pan. It fit “perfectly” though – almost to the top which I now realize I should have just poured half the mixture. The batter was absolutely delicious – I couldn’t stop licking the bowl! I had high hopes for my chocolate cake. At the end of its cooking time though the center was still completely wet and it needed to have “moist crumbs” so I continued cooking it. Another 15 minutes in the oven and it still had not cooked all the way in the center but I hated to risk overcooking it. In the end, it was a dense chocolate cake and a bit overdone. Although everyone assured me it was quite tasty, I was disappointed with the texture. Oh well, I’ll try another chocolate cake recipe sometime – or I’ll just make the batter again and lick the bowl because it was so good
After my cake looked like it might not be a success I decided to make the pumpkin flan - I’d made it a few times before and it was a hit so I figured it would be a good backup. This recipe is really easy and quick to make.
In the end, it was a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner – a happy first in our new home with hopefully many more wonderful Christmas Dinners (and cooking experiments) to come!
December 22, 2010 § 1 Comment
I have now made these incredible Honey Seared Chicken Wings several times in my slow cooker – they are relatively easy and very delicious so when my husband called me one day and asked if I’d make them for his work potluck party I said, “Sure, why not?” Fast forward to Sunday evening and we’re in Target after a full day of trying to find Christmas gifts in the overcrowded mall. It was late and I just wanted to go home. We were looking for the chicken wings and to my disappointment, they didn’t have the drumettes, only the attached wing and drumette. While I don’t mind feeding this to my family, I was leery of sending my husband into his relatively new job with these wings. As we went up and down the aisles thinking of what else I could make him, I thought of pumpkin flan – of course, a natural substitute for chicken wings!
I have never even tried pumpkin flan but I make flan regularly so I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. What was better, I knew I had the pumpkin, eggs, and milk in my fridge which meant this Target trip could be cut short and I could go home. Once home, I turned to my new favortie app of all, the Epicurious app, and looked for Pumpkin Flan. This recipe was short and sweet – it had to be a winner.
I followed the recipe for the most part. I don’t keep allspice so instead I added a pinch of each: cloves, nutmeg, ginger. I never buy whole milk unless its for a recipe and all I had was skim – I’ve made flan from skim milk before and know it doesn’t produce a very nice custard. However, I did have some heavy cream so I did 3/4 skim and 1/4 heavy cream.
As I pulled the flan out of the oven, I was so tempted to take a bite and see how it did. But since I wasn’t “flipping” it as you should and instead was sending my husband with my pyrex pie dish, there was no way to sneak a taste! I had to cross my fingers and hope for the best. Luckily my husband promptly texted me that the dessert was a success. Later that week it was my dad’s birthday and I decided to make this dessert for him – which I got to taste – and I can say it’s really delicious!