Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chicken and Pancetta Pasta

I was a hausfrau in Vienna.  My only job was caring for the apartment, doing the shopping and doing the cooking.  Nico was on his way home from work one night and I had not planned anything for dinner.  At the last minute, I went through my cabinets and fridge to see what I had and threw it together at the last minute.  This is a "use it up" dish.

It incorporates a lot of ingredients that we love.   Pasta, pancetta, mushrooms, white wine to name a few. Nico is not a big fan of chicken (well, unless its buffalo'd) but he is a good sport about chicken as long as its not a plain broiled chicken breast on a plate.   I probably would have been happy to do this with no protein, but I had it, so I put it in here.   For the pancetta, I've used sliced or cubed.  You could even substitute it for bacon if you are just trying to use

The sauce is more of a broth.  It lightly coats the pasta and the remainder falls to the bottom of the bowl and is really nice to sop up with some bread if you have it.   Its full of flavor, but very light.  This dish has become a go to in our home.   When I was prepping our freezer for the birth of our first baby, I made this and froze it.  

Chicken and Pancetta Pasta

8 slices pancetta (or 6 slices good quality bacon)
2 shallots, diced fine
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 breast of chicken, diced into bite size pieces
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, fry the pancetta or bacon until crispy.  Remove from pan and set aside to chop.  Do not clean the pan.   Using the fat from the pancetta, cook the chicken.   Once the chicken has browned, add the shallots, and turn down to medium, about 2 minutes.   Add the mushroom and sautee until they've released their liquid and are soft.

Add the chicken broth and wine.  Reduce by half while the pasta cooks.

Remove the sauce from heat and add a small pat of butter and a half cup of parmesan cheese to the sauce.   Then toss with the pasta.  Top with the chopped pancetta and a sprinkle of extra parmesan cheese.   Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Banana Nutella Waffles

I've wanted a waffle iron for as long as I can remember. I don't know what I waited for, but I finally got one in November.   My first batch was lame.  They didn't rise and had no flavor.  But my friend Josie alerted me to the "Waffle of Insane Greatness".   Since I got my waffle iron right around the holidays, I was making mostly egg nog waffles.   Since egg nog season is over (and egg nog only adds to the calorie overload), I've been looking for a different way to infuse extra flavor into my waffles.

The "Waffle of Insane Greatness" is a very good recipe.  I like that it uses cornstarch in it, making a very light and spongy waffle inside that absorbs the syrup so nicely, and a perfectly crunchy outside.   It employs buttermilk in the liquids, which I really like.   But I felt like it was missing something so this past weekend, I started experimenting (which I rarely do).

First I ran out of buttermilk.  I only had a half a cup.  It is perfectly ok to use a half cup of buttermilk and a half cup of regular milk.   But I was thinking of how I'd been using egg nog instead of milk and decided to find something else to make up for that half cup I was missing that would bring big flavor.  That's when I decided to put the syrup in the waffles.

I am also a fan of fruit in my waffles and at the last minute threw in some mashed bananas.  I made my husbands first before I added bananas and they were very tasty with or without bananas.

And finally, because I put syrup in the waffles, I decided to make a nutella sauce to put on the waffles.   Bananas and nutella are as perfect as peanut butter and jelly (only better).  I was very happy this adaptation and will definitely make the syrup infused waffles again.  I am eager to experiment with different fruits and compotes as the summer fruits come into season.

Banana Nutella Waffles
Adapted from "The Waffle Of Insane Greatness"

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or whole milk)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 banana, mashed (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix well.  Add the milk, syrup, vegetable oil, egg, sugar and vanilla and mix well.   Gently stir in mashed bananas if you are using them. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat a waffle iron.  Do not use non-stick spray on the iron; the oil in the batter will allow the waffle to release easily.  Follow the directions on your waffle iron to cook the waffle.  Serve immediately.

I heated some nutella until it was smooth enough to stir and pour and topped the the hot waffles with it just before serving.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mixed Berry Tart

A few nights ago, we had some friends of ours over for dinner.  Since Elizabeth is expecting, I asked her if she had any food aversions of cravings.  She said she's really just craving lots of fruits and vegetables.   (Why couldn't I have craved fresh fruits and vegetables instead of pretty much anything that had no nutritional value?)  I decided to scrap my plans to make a six layer malted and toasted marshmallow cake and make a mixed berry tart.   Although its not quite berry season, all this warm weather in Atlanta has had me thinking spring and summer.   We were also have a pretty heavy meal of braised short ribs with mascarpone polenta, so I thought a lighter dessert was in order.

I've been wanting to make a tart for some time, but didn't have a good tart pan.   This was a good excuse to make a trip to Williams Sonoma.   I had put it off because pastry makes me so nervous, specifically anything that has to be rolled.  But this crust is so easy to come together and requires no rolling.    The perfect place to start for me!   A no fuss dessert that looks impressive and tastes delicious.  Who doesn't need more of that?

The pastry cream was delicious. I love pastry cream and had never realized how easy it was to make.  A little too easy, I fear.  And the different ways you can mix it up it are endless.   You can swap out the vanilla extract for any variety of flavors.   The recipe I used called for chambord for  a raspberry pastry cream, but I didn't want to give my dear pregnant friend a boozy dessert.   I think I would love this with lemon extract and some fresh lemon zest.

Mixed Berry Tart
adapted from
Pastry Cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstartch
3 tablespoon flour
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large sauce pan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt.  Whisk in milk then add the egg and egg yolks.  Whisk until smooth .  Place over high heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture boils and becomes quite thick, about 4-6 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in extract and butter.  Pour mixture through a strainer into a medium bowl; set the bowl in an ice bath and stir often until the cream is cooled, about 12 minutes.   Keep chilled.

Butter Crust
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
1 large egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 300∘.  In a food processor or bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the butter.  Pulse (or rub with your fingers) until fine crumbs form.  Add the egg yolk, pulse (or mix) until dough holds together.    Firmly press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 10 inch tart pan with a removable rim.   Bake until golden, 25-30 minutes.  Let cool completely.

For final assembly, pour the pastry cream into the baked shell and smooth it out.  Top with 3 cups of mixed berries.   Once the tart is assembled, remove the rim of the tart pan carefully.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

guinness cake, baileys buttercream
I'm forcing my husband to have corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight.   While he may be 100% Austrian, my family has a very mixed heritage.  My grandmother on my father's side is Irish from the Blasket Islands and I remember her making corned beef and cabbage a few times a year.   And I remember that I loved it.  I know it can be done very, very badly and it gets a bad rap for that.   As a trade off, for dessert I've made these lovelies: Irish Car Bomb cupcakes.  
bailey's buttercream, guinness chocolate cake
I've never had an Irish Car Bomb, as in the drink.   It just seems like more than I can handle.    But an Irish Car Bomb cupcake is right up my alley.    Irish stout chocolate cake filled with Irish whiskey ganache then topped with Irish Cream buttercream... what's not to love?  If a cupcake could be badass, this is it.
guinness chocolate cake, bailey's buttercream

The cake is so smooth.  As I was coring the cupcakes last night to fill with ganache, I may or may not have sampled a few bites of cake.  This could be come my favorite chocolate cake.   It's got a very rich and velvet-y texture and a hint of nuttiness from the stout.   I think I'm going to remake this next month and see how it is without filling and buttercream.  It's the kind of cake that is well suited for just a sprinkling of powdered sugar.     The ganache has just a slight hint of whiskey to it, while the Irish cream in the buttercream adds just a subtle extra sweetness.  

I think my husband is going to love our dinner tonight.  But if he doesn't, he'll forgive me after dessert. 

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
recipe from smitten kitchen

For the stout cake:
  • 1 cup Irish stout (such as Guinness)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
Preheat the overn to 350∘.  Line two cupcake pans with liners.  Bring the stout and butter to simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.  Allow to cool. 

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and sour cream together.  Whisk the cooled stout/cocoa mixture into the egg mixture.   Turn on the stand mixer and slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry on low speed at first, then speeding up to completely combine.  

Divide the batter among the cupcake liners, filling them 3/4 full.  Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.   Cool cupcakes on a rack completely. 

For the whiskey ganache filling:
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (such as Jameson's) - optional
Chop the chocolate and put in a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate.  Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth.   Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.    Let it cool until it is thick but soft enough to be piped. 

To fill the cupcakes:  Using an apple corer, a small knife or cookie cutter, cut the centers out of the cupcakes.  (I used an apple corer and it worked effortlessly.  I went about 2/3 of the way down to the bottom, then scooped out what didn't slide out of the cake with a demi-tasse spoon.)  Pipe the ganache into the cupcakes to the top. 

For the Irish cream frosting:
  • 3 to four cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Irish cream (such as bailey's)
Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time.  (I found three cups to be more than sufficient.)  Once you get your buttercream to your desired sweetness, add the Irish cream and beat to combine.   If it thins out, you can add more powdered sugar to tighten it.  

Frost the cupcakes using your favorite method.  I prefer to pipe my frosting since I am terrible at frosting cakes.   

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Cream

Back when my husband used to work for the company that imports and distributes Bailey's and Guinness,  St. Patricks Day was like a holy day of obligation.  Every year, they'd leave work at noon and begin the celebration.  I would work a full day then take the train from New York City to meet up with him and his colleagues in South Norwalk, CT.   I'm not a beer drinker so Bailey's is my drink.  On the rocks, neat, in coffee, poured over ice cream... really if there is use for Bailey's, you can bet I will love it.  (Stay tuned for Bailey's buttercream tomorrow.)

Last night I was setting myself up to make Irish Car Bomb cupcakes and realized I had very little Bailey's left.  I remembered seeing recipes for home made Irish cream last year and it seemed pretty easy.  After a search or two, I found a recipe that seemed quick and simple enough. 

I made a few modifications.  Specifically, I thought the finished product was too thick, so I added a full cup of milk the next day.  I would say, start with the original recipe and thin it out with extra milk to your desired consistency, up to one cup. 

The taste is very smooth.   I used one cup of Irish whiskey, because I ran out.  I wish I'd used slightly more.  Though, one cup does give it sufficient bite.  If I were making, let's say an Irish Car Bomb, I think it would be just the right amount of whiskey given all the other alcohol that goes in there.   

I had enough from this recipe that I was able to bottle up some for friends.  The recipe yielded three bottles plus enough for me to pour in a glass for the picture.   As for the bottles, I used empty frappucino bottles.  Thank you to One Charming Party for the idea.   I was prepared to spend my morning shopping around for cute bottles.   If I were the crafty type, I probably would have made cute little labels for the bottles.   I'm certain the Irish cream tastes just as good in a plain glass bottle. 

Irish Cream 
adapted from 6 Bittersweets
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 3/4 cup milk, plus extra as needed up to 1 cup
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Irish whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small bowl or cup, mix together instant coffee, cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream until smooth.  Using a blender, combine the coffee/cocoa mixture, remaining heavy cream, milk, condensed milk, honey, whiskey, and vanilla extract.   Blend on high for 20 to 30 seconds.  Transfer to a container, seal tightly and store in the refrigerator.  For the best flavor, let chill overnight to allow the flavors to come together.  Shake well before using.  If you find it to be too thick, add extra milk.  Can be stored for up to 2 months.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lightened up Buffalo Chicken

We arrived in Vienna a week before Nico's 35th birthday.  I decided to throw a small party for him  as a way to celebrate him and welcome his friends and family that lived there to our new home.   I asked him what he wanted me to serve and just asked that I not be required to make anything uniquely Austrian for a room full of Austrians.  I was not surprised when he said he wanted standard American pub food.  My husband is such a die hard fan of buffalo chicken wings that at one point in his life "salad" and "vegetables" for him meant eating the lettuce and carrots that garnished his wings.     Wings are probably his favorite pub food of all time.  

For a week I looked everywhere for just wings to buy and couldn't find any.  I would have had to buy whole chickens and de-wing them myself and I just didn't need that many whole chickens in my life.   Finally I decided to use chicken breast and cut it up into cubes to make boneless buffalo "wings".   I also could not find Frank's Red Hot, so I ended up using a red chili pepper sauce I found at Julius Meinl.  A few weeks later, I was delighted by a package from the States with three bottles of Franks from a good friend. She said she wanted me back in the U.S. before they were gone.   She won.

Blue cheese dressing was another problem.  I was actually pretty excited to make that, since I have never had a blue cheese dressing that I liked.   I found a recipe on Spark People that I liked the sound of and made adjustments to suit our tastes.  (I will admit, that my version may not be as Spark People friendly as it originated.)  But it was very tasty and it's the only thing we use now when something calls for blue cheese dressing or dip.

On the menu were mini-bite sized tacos, nachos and quesadillas.  I also made cupcakes and a cheesecake.  The chicken was the biggest hit at the party.   Nico loved it so much that later that week he asked me to make it again.  This time I made it into a meal.  I made some brown rice and subbed out the boring carrots and celery with some steamed broccoli.  

Because the chicken is boneless and skinless, its has a healthy advantage over traditional wings.  And ditching the fryer for a quick sauté on the stovetop makes them win in the fat department.  While I don't use light or low fat ingredients in my cooking, you could substitute the mayo and sour cream in the dressing for its lighter counterparts.  But overall, this is a dish that takes greasy pub food and brings it to the dinner table.  

Lighter Buffalo Chicken 
adapted from Franks Red Hot recipe

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • salt and pepper
  • half bottle of Franks Red Hot, about half a cup
  • half tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 scallions, chopped, white and green parts
Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Lightly coat them in the flour and lay flat on a plate.  Spray a large sauté pan with cooking spray.  When the pan is hot, add the chicken and cook on medium until the chicken is cooked all the way through.   Meanwhile, combine the hot sauce and butter.   Remove the chicken from the heat and pour the sauce over it, stirring to combine.  Sprinkle with chopped scallions

Blue Cheese dressing
adapted from
  • half cup mayonnaise
  • half cup sour cream
  • tablespoon of vinegar
  • teaspoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • as much blue cheese as you like (I happen to like a LOT!)
Combine first five ingredients in a bowl, stirring until smooth.  Add the blue cheese.   I like to make this ahead so the flavors have time to come together in the fridge, usually about an hour before.   But I have made this up to a day in advance. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Banana muffins

The other day, I noticed my daughter is on another banana strike.   Fortunately, my son is starting to eat solids and likes to have some bananas, but he can only eat so much.   Often, when Evelyn gets wishy-washy with bananas, I will peel them and pop them in the freezer to make smoothies for her later.  But the other day I had an entire bunch of bananas well past the turn.  It was rainy and we needed a craft project, so she and I rolled up our sleeves and made some banana muffins.

I love this recipe.  The muffins are super moist and it makes a good amount of muffins, but not so many we are eating them forever.  It calls for a crumb topping too, which I will post below, but I didn't use it this time.   Only because we were getting very close to naptime and I wanted to get the kitchen cleaned up quickly.  But I have always made them with the topping in the past and its a great complement.  The batter comes together very quickly and clean up is a cinch while they bake.  My husband enjoys them as a grab and go breakfast, but they are a great snack too.  Perfect for a little girl who pretends she doesn't like bananas any longer.

Banana Muffins
adapted from Taste of Home
For the muffins:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
For the topping:
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.  Meanwhile, find the cutest 3 year old around to mash 2 bananas with a fork (or in our case, we used a pastry cutter).    In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the bananas and vanilla, mix well.   Add the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternately, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Prepare crumb topping by combining the flour, brown sugar and oats.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Set aside.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two thirds full.   Bake at 400∘ for 16-20 minutes.  During the last 5 minutes of baking, add the crumb topping.   Cool for 5 minutes in muffin tins before removing them to a wire rack.