Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Laura and I actually cooked on Sunday since that's when we have time but it was definitely in honor of today!

What could be more Irish than corned beef braised in Guinness? Probably one of the simplest recipes I've done in a long time and it turned out just delicious. In fact, I made it again ON St. Patrick's Day. Oh my... That means I've eaten two corned beefs in the last week. No wonder the scale was so mad at me this morning!

For me the roasted cabbage with lemon was just ok. I am huge fan of roasting things and the roasting itself was fine, but I'm not sure I loved the lemon here. It was fine but I don't think I'll do it again. I love cabbage and think I just prefer it traditionally done.

Finally, I baked my first loaf of soda bread. It was amazing! Just a little sweet with a wonderful texture, it was the PERFECT vehicle for butter.

Mmmmmm, corned beef. Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, right? I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about making corned beef. The recipe really couldn't have been any simpler. Three ingredients. One of them is beer. How do you NOT make this recipe? It came out great. I liked it so much that I used the broth that was left to make a beef stew. I don't know if it's authentic or not but it's how I'll be making corned beef for now on.

I loved the lemon in the cabbage. My issue was that I didn't slice the cabbage into even slices. Or, maybe I should have cut it into thinner wedges. At any rate, the outside of the cabbage was perfectly roasted and seasoned but the inside leaves of the bigger wedges could have used more oven time. Next time, I'll try smaller wedges when I roast the cabbage. I really liked the flavor.

Oh, right .... Irish Soda Bread. I used Splenda instead of sugar and whole wheat flour instead of white. I also didn't add any raisins. The verdict: Don't mess with a classic. It was denser than other Irish Soda Breads that I've tasted. It was still good but I think next year, I'll let someone else be in charge of the bread.

All in all, a very tasty meal. I'm certainly planning on making it again. I just hope it's not so far away as a year from now.

Guinness® Corned Beef
4 pounds corned beef brisket
1 cup brown sugar   
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle Irish stout
beer (e.g. Guinness®)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Rinse the beef completely and pat dry.
Place the brisket on rack in a roasting pan or Dutch oven. Rub the brown sugar on the corned beef to coat entire beef, including the bottom. Pour the bottle of stout beer around, and gently over the beef to wet the sugar.
Cover, and place in preheated oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours. Allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Roasted Cabbage with Lemon
1 medium-sized head of green cabbage
2 T olive oil
2-3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
generous amount of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
lemon slices, for serving cabbage (optional)

Preheat oven to 450F/232C. Spray a roasting pan with non-stick spray or olive oil.

Cut the head of cabbage into 8 same-size wedges, cutting through the core and stem end. Then carefully trim the core strip and stem from each wedge and arrange wedges in a single layer on the roasting pan (leave some space around them as much as you can.)

Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice (use the larger amount of lemon juice if you like a lot of lemon like I do.) Then use a pastry brush to brush the top sides of each cabbage wedge with the mixture and season generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Turn cabbage wedges carefully, then brush the second side with the olive oil/lemon juice mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Roast cabbage for about 15 minutes, or until the side touching the pan is nicely browned. Then turn each wedge carefully and roast 10-15 minutes more, until the cabbage is nicely browned and cooked through with a bit of chewiness remaining. Serve hot, with additional lemon slices to squeeze lemon juice on at the table if desired.

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch-diameter cake pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make well in center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gradually stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Mix in raisins.

Using floured hands, shape dough into ball. Transfer to prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to edges of pan). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake bread until brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Quinoa Pilaf and “Middle Eastern” Chicken

This “Middle Eastern” Chicken recipe from Gourmet Magazine was just ok. It wasn't anything special and honestly tasted like a quick go-to marinade I might typically do before grilling. The thyme, oregano and curry were simply lost in the soy. The whole thing was just muddled and boring. I wouldn't bother with it again.

The quinoa pilaf on the other hand was really good! I had issues with getting the water to all absorb - it took longer than the 15 minutes - but that was my fault I'm sure. I also over salted. When the recipe called for a teaspoon and a half of kosher salt, my gut told me that seemed crazy. I know better than to trust a Food Network recipe 100%! Regardless of all of this, the quinoa was still really good. I always love the combo of shallots, mushrooms and thyme. It reminds me of my chicken marsala and that was one of the first fancy dishes I ever made. I'd make it again.

*Pardon my photo this week. I'm not sure why my camera insisted on making things so yellow! This was the only pic I took that wasn't horrible and you can’t even see the quinoa!

I didn't enjoy the chicken. I'm already looking for something to do with the leftovers. Middle Eastern Chicken Salad? Eh... I wouldn't bother with that chicken recipe again.

But the quinoa... wow... I loved it. So delicious. Have I mentioned how much I love mushrooms? I would say that I used about a cup of mushrooms instead of the 1/2 cup that the recipe called for. I'm glad I did. Half a cup just didn't seem to be enough. Make this recipe! Just pair it with something other than the chicken.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat mushroom quinoa, then figure out what to do with leftover Middle Eastern chicken.

Middle Eastern Chicken
1/4 cup low-salt soy sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons dry Sherry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh gingerroot
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 skinless boneless whole chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds), halved
vegetable-oil cooking spray
1 small onion, sliced thin

In a ceramic or glass container stir together soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, lime juice, Sherry, garlic, gingerroot, curry powder, thyme, and oregano and add chicken. Marinate chicken, covered and chilled, turning occasionally, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Reserve marinade.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray Heat skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook chicken 1 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer chicken to a plate. To skillet add 2 tablespoons water and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon and scraping up brown bits, 30 seconds. Add onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add chicken, reserved marinade and remaining 1/4 cup water and simmer, covered basting chicken frequently, 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken over couscous if desired.

Quinoa Pilaf with Crimini Mushrooms
1 tablespoon kosher for Passover olive oil
1 small shallot, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup crimini mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves removed from their stems
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups vegetable stock, or water

Place a saucepan on high heat and get it hot. Add the olive oil and swirl it around to make sure the entire surface is covered with oil. Add the shallot and sweat (cook until translucent but not brown). Add the crimini mushrooms and cook until brown. Add the quinoa, thyme leaves, bay leaf, kosher salt and black pepper to the pan and stir. Let the ingredients heat up and roast a little to bring out all their fullest flavors. The steam coming up should be very aromatic.

Slowly and carefully add the vegetable stock (it will spatter because the pan and ingredients are hot). When it comes to full boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and allow to steam for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn off the heat, remove lid and fluff the quinoa and then replace the lid and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary. Serve.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Mushrooms and Rosemary

Sometimes in life, you just want to stuff a chicken. This was one of those times. My idea was to stuff chicken breast and Meredith wanted to use mushrooms and goat cheese. The final product was to take a Big Thick Pork Chops Stuffed with Rosemary, Mushrooms and Goat Cheese recipe and use chicken instead.

Goat cheese is yummy and gooey and delicious. Pair it with mushrooms and you can't go wrong. This meal was South Beach friendly, which was nice, too. I used a little Panko bread crumbs to top off the chicken and the rest is delicious history. (I'm just sad that the picture doesn't do this dish any justice.)

What more can I say? The combo of melty goat cheese with mushrooms is really delicious. I could have done without the rosemary to be honest, but I really enjoyed this chicken. I paired it with a Tyler Florence recipe: Caramelized Onion and Potato Tart and sauteed squash. My photo doesn't do the dish any justice either. It's really very sad. But at least it doesn't look like an alien! Also- when did Laura start making gravies??

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Enchilada Lentil Soup (nee Chicken Tortilla Soup with Lentils)

The appeal of this soup, I think, is in it's recipe instructions: add all ingredients to crockpot and cook for 6 hours. How can anything that easy taste anything but good? But apart from that I actually enjoyed the soup itself. Loaded with protein and fiber, it fits the heathy bill while being comfort-foodie at the same time. Ideally I'd dump the taco packet for some real spices but for it's simplicity, I still give it a thumbs up. Bonus: it freezes really well.

This recipe was originally called Chicken Tortilla Soup with Lentils but Meredith was kind enough to rename it since the original name "didn't make any damn sense". I can't say that I blame her, I mean... if something is going to have "tortilla" in the name, they should be in the recipe.

I enjoyed cooking with the lentils. It was my first lentil adventure. (I'm looking for something to do with the rest of the bag so if you have a great lentil recipe, let me know!)

This was a very cozy tasting dish. It was warm and perfect for a chilly day. I wound up freezing some of it, which makes me happy. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that yummy food is just a few microwave minutes away.

The verdict: Make the dish on a night when you want to eat on the couch, under a throw blanket while watching reality television. You won't be disappointed!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

I originally stumbled upon this recipe for Hot Chocolate on a Stick and shot Laura an email saying I might make these as gifts this year for the office folks. She took it a step further and found a blogger (Foodie with Family) who’d made the recipe AND added homemade marshmallows. AND then convinced me to blog the whole thing. So here goes!

The fudge making itself- VERY easy. And very tasty. I snuck in a teaspoon of coffee extract at the very last stage, but to be honest I didn’t notice it in the end product. The marshmallow making - I definitely had my doubts. I’d never worked with plain old Knox gelatin before nor had I even used the whisk attachment on my stand mixer. Turns out that whisk attachment made the marshmallows for me! Once I poured the mixture into my pan to set, I swirled in some red and green food coloring to make the marshmallows a little festive.

Fast forward to the next night and the assembly of these things. Step one went just fine and I cut the fudge into 36 cubes (using a ruler of course) and arranged on top of little squares of Christmas cards I’d cut. The marshmallow cutting went just fine too – I’m still finding powdered sugar in random places in my kitchen though. Then I stuck the lollipop stick in, yadda yadda yadda...

All in all the assembly and packing wasn’t a huge deal. It’s just that there were 36 of them. To be stuck, packaged and tagged. And ribboned. And I started the whole process at 8pm- which means because I’m slightly particular about presentation, I was finally done around midnight. The fun part was handing them out the next few days and hearing the oohs and ahhs.

It wasn’t until late Sunday night after Christmas when I was all snowed in and cozy that I got to actually TASTE the Hot Chocolate on a Stick. So good. Just really really good. Now why didn’t I save myself more than one??

Don’t let Meredith fool you! She still has some left over. Moving right along...

These treats were easy to make and so much fun to give away. I really loved the idea of giving away a little something to people that I might not have normally given a gift to. I didn’t swirl any food coloring in my marshmallows. The hot chocolate was really easy to make... easy like fudge. The marshmallows were surprisingly a non-issue. I was scared of the gelatin. So much so that I had decided that I might just buy marshmallows for this recipe instead. Ever the boss, Meredith put the kabosh on that quickly. Don’t tell her, but I'm glad she did.

Lots of people asked for the recipe. That’s always a nice compliment. And honestly, it felt good giving away something so unique that I made. It was different enough to set itself apart from all the cookies, etc that go around this time of year.