Saturday, April 30, 2011

White Bean Chicken Chili

If you google "white bean chicken chili" you will find so many recipes.  They all sound delicious, but I dare you to find a chicken chili recipe easier than this one.   With only 4 ingredients in the chili itself, you are sure to always have what you need on hand.

When my friend Josie first posted this on her blog back in 2009, everyone we knew went nuts over it.  All I ever heard was how great it was, how simple it was, how delicious it was.  But something did not draw me in.  Chicken chili?  I don't know.  I had a beef chili recipe that I liked very much.  My husband is not a big chicken fan so I wasn't in a hurry to try it.   I actually never even looked at the recipe.

Then for Christmas I bought my mother in law a crock pot and I wanted to give her a collection of simple recipes to go with it.  I pulled this one out because I knew everyone said it was easy.  As I wrote it down for her, I was struck by how simple it was and how all of the ingredients were things I liked.  I made it the next week.

The first time I made it, I halved the recipe.  In the event we didn't love it, I didn't want a bunch of leftovers hanging around.   Then we ate it.  And I was so mad at myself!  WHY had I waited so long to make this!  WHY didn't I make more!  Even my daughter loved it.   Nico and I ate dinner and the next day we pretty much fought over who got to have the leftovers for lunch.

The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity.   Eat it as a stand alone or top it with your favorite things.  I like sour cream, chopped tomato, avocado, and tortilla chips. (This week I had some left over guacamole, so I used that instead of diced avocado.)  Its versatile, too.  Don't have white beans?  Use black or red beans.  Want to add some corn?  Go ahead!  Change the cheese up, if you like!

With four cans of beans in the recipe, it does make a lot.  I've made this for casual suppers with friends on game night and I've made it for play dates.  But I usually keep what I need on hand for those crazy days when our errands have us out of the house all day.   Throw this in the crock pot before we leave and I don't have to fuss with dinner at the end of a long day.

White Bean Chicken Chili
recipe courtesy of Pink Parsley Catering

4 cans cannelini beans (white beans), drained and rinsed
8 ounces pepperjack cheese, cut into 2 inch cubes
2 cups salsa
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts*

Combine the beans, cheese and salsa in the crock pot.  Nestle the chicken breasts into the bean mixture, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the crock pot and shred or chop.  Return to the chili mixture and stir to combine.  Serve with desired garnishes.

*I've used frozen chicken in a pinch.  Cook on high for an hour and half to two hours, then turn down to low for the remainder of the time.  While its on high, be sure to stir the chili every so half hour so it doesn't burn onto the sides of the crockpot.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pulled Pork

In the northeast, if you say BBQ, it means putting anything onto a grill and cooking it.   Hamburgers, hot dogs, you name it.  In the South, if you say BBQ, you better mean pork.

My husband loves pulled pork, but when we first met I was still in my "I don't eat any pork" phase.  It was the kind of thing he'd order in a restaurant and I'd scrunch up my nose if he offered me a bite.  When we first moved to Atlanta, he was working Monday-Fridays in Chicago and one week I decided to surprise him with pulled pork when he got home from the airport.  Since we didn't have a grill at that time, this crock pot recipe seemed like my only option.  I don't recall the original source of the recipe, but I think it may have been allrecipes.  A quick google search shows that most crock pot pulled pork recipes are similar, some just utilizing more extras.   The beauty of this recipe is that it only calls for 4 key ingredients.  And less is more, in my opinion.

It has become our only pulled pork recipe.  I will admit that when friends make it in a smoker or on a grill, the flavor is much nicer.  But when you don't have a smoker or just looking for an easy pulled pork this is the way to go.   Even easier, use a bottled barbeque sauce.  I have yet to find a home made barbeque sauce that I like, so I just use the bottle for now.  Because of my love of barbeque sauce, it's goal of mine to find a great home made sauce.  

I love having this recipe in my arsenal because its great for large groups and I can just start it early in the morning.  By the time the party rolls around, its done and all I have to do is enjoy the party.  It can also be made a day in advance and reheated in the crock pot.  Leftovers freeze perfectly.

Someday I'll make "real" barbecue, on the grill.  But I've served this on a few occasions to real southerners and I haven't had any complaints yet.

Crockpot Pulled Pork
adapted from allrecipes

4 lbs Boston butt
2 onions, sliced into rings
5 or 6 whole cloves
water, enough to cover pork
1 onion, diced
2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
salt and pepper

Line the bottom of your crock pot with one of the sliced onions.   Stud the pork with the cloves and place on top of the sliced onions.  Cover the pork with the second sliced onion, then pour water in just to cover the meat.  

Cover and cook on low for 8-12 hours.

Remove pork from the crock pot and discard the water, cloves and sliced onions.   Shred (or chop) the pork and return to the crock pot.  Mix in the diced onion and BBQ sauce.  Cook on high heat for one hour, until the onions are soft.

Serve on hamburger buns with extra BBQ sauce on the side.   I always serve this with cole slaw and baked beans.  Occasionally, I'll finely slice some red onion for the sandwiches.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lolly Pop Seeds

I am not a crafty person.  (You probably guessed that from my uneven lettering on the flower pot.)  I got this idea from my mom's best friend, Sue.  I teamed up with my friend to be my "crafting coach".

Regardless of my lack of crafting skills, I think this is a really neat idea and I've been waiting for my daughter to be old enough to partake in this.    I am so excited to be able to finally share this with her.   Since it involves jelly beans and lollypops, which are food, I thought I'd share here too.

I started with some basic supplies.   A flower pot, a foam florists block, Easter grass, potting soil and don't forget the jelly beans and lolly pops.  For the "seed" envelopes, I took a regular seed envelope and opened it up and traced it onto cardstock.   Then printed the cardstock with a simple design and cut it out.  After I fill the envelopes with the jelly beans, I will seal the tops.  
*It is perfectly ok to skip the first 4 items and just have the kids bury the "seeds" in your yard.  Since I am rocking the townhouse life right now, I don't really have a yard to bury seeds in.  Also, the idea of my little princess digging in the yard in her Easter finest was more than I could take.

When my daughter wakes up, she'll find the lolly pop seeds the Easter bunny delivered with the flower pot.  She can plant her lolly pop seeds, water them and then wait.  When we get back from church and brunch, she'll find her lolly pops that have grown in place of the jelly beans.  Just in case your seeds don't grow, have an adult in your house place the lolly pop sticks into the soil while the kids are being loaded into the car.   The foam block will help hold the lolly pops in place.

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate Beet Cake

The other day I was reading an article about Starbucks new red velvet whoopie pies.  I started to think about natural food colors and beets came to mind.  I thought it would be kind of neat to make a red velvet cake with beets instead of with all that un-natural red food coloring.   Google is my friend.  I found this awesome recipe for chocolate beet cake.  Not only was I inspired by the recipe, but I was inspired by the blog.

Since I started food blogging, I have been beating myself up about my photographs.   This blogger had the most beautiful photo of her beet cake.  But also a link to an early post where she made the same thing.  To say her photography has improved as she has built her blog would be an understatement.  What her old photo told me was, just keep doing what I'm doing.  I've got recipes I stand behind.  The photos may or may not continually get rejected by the food blog galleries, but I won't get better unless I keep doing what I do.

Ok, back to my life.  When she was a baby, my daughter loved vegetables.   Ever since she has discovered chocolate cake, vegetables have gotten the big thumbs down.  But she loves to help me cook, standing there next to me at the counter watching my every move and "helping" me.   I'm starting to learn that when she helps me, she's a lot more willing to eat what I make.  So while I really wanted to hide the beets in this cake and let her think she was eating straight up chocolate cake, I decided to let her help me and see exactly what I was up to.

I got everything prepped out (because I'm an uptight cook) and then I got her up to the counter.  She really loved helping put the ingredients into the stand mixer and help turn it on.   When it came time to add in the beets, she said, "I don't want those in there".  I fibbed and told her that without them, it wouldn't taste chocolatey.  So in they went.  And she loved the cake.  And I felt good about letting her have cake.

I realize that I have now professed my love two previous chocolate cakes.  But I really love this cake.  I expected it to be heavy due to the two cups of pureed beets.  But it was light and airy.  It was also moist, rich and chocolatey.  The kind of cake that does not need icing.  I lightly dusted it with some confectioners sugar and whipped up some cream to go on the side.

Chocolate Beet Cake

1 cup of butter, softened, divided
11/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
2-3 ounces dark chocolate
6 medium beets (2 cups pureed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
confectioners' sugar for dusting

To make the beet puree, trim the stems and roots off the beets and quarter them.  Place in a heavy sauce pan filled with water.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer until the beets are tender.  (The original recipe said about 50 minutes.  My beets took nearly two hours.)  Drain off remaining liquid and rinse beets in cold water.   (I reserved my beet liquids to dye Easter eggs later this week.  Fingers crossed that this works!)   Slide the skins off cooled beets and place in a blender.  Process until a smooth puree forms.   Let cool before using in the cake.   This can be made a few days in advance.  

In a stand mixer, cream 3/4 cup butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.   Melt chocolate with remaining 1/4 cup of butter in the microwave on high in 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval until smooth.   Cool slightly.   Blend chocolate mixture, beet puree and vanilla into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  The batter will appear seperated, but that is ok. 

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to the creamed mixture and mix well.  Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch spring form pan.  Bake at 375∘ for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Cool completely before dusting with confectioner's sugar.  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Eggs Benedict on Homemade English Muffins

English muffins are by far my favorite breakfast bread.  I love them with eggs, or even better as a vehicle for taking my eggs on the go with me.  But I also love them alone, hot out of the toaster with some butter and a little jam.    It's perfect for breakfast or a snack. 

My husband always says he doesn't care for English muffins.   He also says he doesn't like eggs.   I tease him that these are little fibs he likes to tell.  Because when we go out for breakfast, Eggs Benedict is one of his two go-to choices.  (That or a smoked salmon plate.)  The truth is that he doesn't dislike these things, they just aren't his first choice.  He's not a breakfast kind of guy.  

Ironically, as much as I love English muffins, eggs and bacon, I never eat Eggs Benedict. But today being National Eggs Benedict Day, I decided I was going to make this classic dish.   But if I was going to do it, I was determined to make my own English muffins.   (I figured I'd cross the Hollandaise-is-tricky-to-make bridge when I got to it.)

Making home made English muffins was so easy!  I don't know why I haven't done it before.  Probably because I'm afraid of dough that needs to proof.  It was so simple it has inspired me to try new doughs.   It was only about 30-45 minutes of work, with a 2 hour rest period in the middle so the dough could rise.  

The hollandaise was tricky.  I put a lot of effort and energy into the English muffin making process and when it came time to make the Benedicts, I rushed through a few recipes and instructional guides.  And unfortunately I didn't time my Eggs Benedict making very well, so I think that my sauce may have started to break.  I did as I was told and whisked in a bit of water and it came back together, but it still didn't look perfectly smooth.  It was delicious though.  And I'm not giving up on hollandaise.  This was an opportunity for me to learn from my mistakes and my next attempt will be that much better.   

Eggs Benedict on Homemade English Muffins

For the muffins: 
from the Culinary Institute of America

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup water, warmed to 110∘F
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornmeal
vegetable or cooking spray, as needed

Place the yeast and warm water in the bowl of a mixer and stir to completely dissolve.  Let the yeast proof until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Add the flour, butter, sugar and salt to the yeast mixture.  Mix ingredients together on low speed using the dough hook until all ingredients are blended, about 2 minutes.

Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is smooth, another 5 minutes.

Cover the stand mixer bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.  Fold the dough gently over on itself and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.  (CIA says 12.  I was only able to get 8.)  Shape into rounds and place on a sheet pan that has been heavily dusted with cornmeal.  turn each muffin over to coat both sides with cornmeal.  Cover and let rise another 30 minutes.  (In my eagerness for fresh muffins, I may have forgotten this second rise.  They came out fine.)

Preheat a griddle over medium heat and brush lightly with oil or spray with cooking spray.  Cook the English muffins until lightly brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes.   Turn the muffins over and cook until golden brown, another 5 minutes.

Split the English muffins with a fork and pull them apart.  Toast them just before serving.

For the Hollandaise
adapted from The Curvy Carrot

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch pepper
pinch of sea salt

In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water set on medium heat, whisk the butter and egg yolks together until smooth.

Very, very slowly add the boiling water to the mixture, whisking constantly.   Continuing to whisk constantly, heat the mixture until it is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Off heat, gently whisk in the lemon juice, peppers and salt.

For the Eggs Benedict

2 English Muffins

4 sliced Canadian bacon, cooked until heated through
handful of spinach, sauteed until wilted (optional)

4 eggs, poached
Hollandaise sauce

Toast the English muffins and butter generously.   Top with Canadian Bacon, spinach, poached egg (Ugh.  I didn't poach my eggs.  I used my Williams Sonoma egg cheating poaching pan.) and a light drizzle of Hollandaise sauce.   Serve immediately.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sauteed Chicken & Radishes with Mustard & Tarragon Sauce

Another recipe from this month's Bon Appétit, this one called out to me.   I have never been a big fan of radishes, but I had only ever had them raw in crudites and such.    One night my best friend made braised radishes and I was amazed at how different they were when cooked.  Soft and tender with a delicate flavor, similar to a rutabaga.   All of the aggressive pepperiness was gone.  I loved it.

When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  It wasn't quite the same as the braised radishes, which I think I will do next time for this dish, instead of sauteed, but delicious nonetheless.  My husband immediately declared this a keeper.  I know he likes something when he brings it to work the next day for lunch, in lieu of going out to lunch with his colleagues.

Sauteed Chicken and Radishes with Mustard and Tarragon
adapted from Bon Appétit, April 2011

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
coarse kosher salt
2.5 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 bunch radishes, trimmed of all but 1/2 inch of green tops, radishes halved lengthwise (you can any variety.  My farmers market only had loose red radishes this week, so no green tops.  Since they were rather large, I quartered them.)

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.   Add chicken to skillet and cool until browned and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes per side, depending on thickness.   Transfer chicken to plate, cover to keep warm.   Add shallot to the same skillet, stir over medium high heat 1 minutes.  Add wine, then broth to skillet; bring to a boil. Whisk in mustard and chopped tarragon; boil until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon lightly and is reduced to scant 1/2 cup, 5 to 6 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 tablespoon butter, set aside.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add radishes; sprinkled with coarse salt and pepper; cook without stirring until radishes begin to brown, about 4 minutes.  Continue to cook until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, 6 to 7 minutes longer.

Cut chicken breasts crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices; arrange on a platter with radishes.  Garnish with extra tarragon and serve.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Classic Lasagna

There are people in this world who don't like cheese.   Even as I type those words, I know what the words each mean - individually.  But put those words together and I just don't understand.  My brain gets an error message.   Does.not.compute.  You don't like cheese?  You may as well tell me you don't breathe air.

I digress.  I love cheese.   Looooooooove cheese.   I also love pasta.  And sauce.  And garlic and onions.  (I swear if Yankee Candle made a "Sauteed garlic and onions" candle, I'd buy it.)  All of these things make lasagna my favorite food.   You know when you get those emails with 25 questions to get to know you better?  Invariably one of the questions is What is your favorite food.  I used to never know how to answer that and one day I was sitting down to dinner and realized that this was it.  Lasagna.

Well, except that my favorite food is MY lasagna.  I would never order it in a restaurant.  I get nervous when people make it for dinner at their house.   I like my lasagna, my way.  I have no idea where I got this preparation from.   My family is northern Italian and the northerners like their lasagna with a bechemel.  As a matter of fact, I never remember having lasagna at my grandmothers house. Mine is more southern in preparation, in that I just use a ragout.

Because I am one of those cooks who often does not use a recipe, things like this that I make often I don't really have measurements on.   I just throw in a little of this and a little of that and somehow it turns out the same, consistent.  When I made it last night, I tried to make note of how much of each ingredient I use.  I'm putting down the quantities I had on hand, bearing in mind that I use a smaller pan for 4 people and that I end up having left over of some ingredients, such as the lasagna noodles and the sometimes extra ricotta filling.  Sometimes I put the extra ricotta filling in the freezer to make a quick lazy man lasagna when my husband travels and I only have to cook for myself.

Classic Lasagna
1 box lasagna noodles (works well with no boil or traditional)
ricotta filling
16 ounces of your favorite sauce (I am planning to post my favorite pasta sauce soon)
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bags pre-shredded mozzarella
handful of grated parmesan

For the ricotta filling
16 ounces ricotta
handful shredded mozzarella
handful shredded parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 egg
salt and pepper

Whisk the egg until foamy with the salt and pepper.  In a small bowl combine the cheeses, herbs and whisked egg and stir until combined thoroughly.  Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and cook over medium heat until just barely soft.  Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.  Add the ground beef, and cook until no pink remains.  Season with salt and pepper  Drain and set aside.

Spoon a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your pan.  Cover the bottom with your lasagna noodles.  (If you're using no boil noodles, leave a little bit of space on each side, they'll grow as they absorb the liquid in the sauce.) Add 1/4 cup ricotta mixture then smooth over the noodles with a spatula.  Top with a layer of half the ground beef, a thin layer of shredded mozzarella and a layer of sauce.   Repeat all layers until you have reached the top of your lasagna pan.  On your last layer, put just lasagna noodles, sauce, then a thin layer of mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmesan.  I added some basil leaves to the top of mine as well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lobster Roll

I was born and raised in Massachusetts.  Western Mass, not anywhere near the shore.  So I say "lobster" not "lahbstah".    My mom loved the beach and every summer we'd go camp somewhere near a beach.  For a few years it was Ocean City, NJ.  For a while it was York Beach, ME.  I have a brother who lives on Cape Cod and we'd visit him.  But one thing that stands out to me no matter where we went is a visit to a clam shack and the one thing that means is (no, not clams)... a lobster roll.

It's been years since I've had a true New England lobster roll.  In fact, I haven't even thought about them.  When I was pregnant with my son, for about two weeks I was craving a clam boat, but it passed without fulfillment.  When I got this month's issue of Bon Appétit and saw their page on lobster rolls, my mind raced back to the salty smell in the air, the hot sand and the sound of crashing waves.   But more importantly to the taste of cold lobster cradled by a hot buttered hot dog bun.   I wanted it.  Now.

As I gathered all of my mis en place, it occurred to me that I'd never made one.  And how simple they are.  Until I hit a snag.  A true lobster roll is served in a New England style hot dog bun.  It never dawned on me that we don't have them down here in the South until I ran to Kroger to just "pick them up".  Just like that.  I'd peruse the bread aisle and get my J.J. Nissen's.  I panicked when I could only find regulation picnic style hot dog buns.  A lobster roll is not a lobster roll without the grilled buttered bun!

Well, it IS a lobster roll, so that's what I did.  I rolled with the punches.   I very carefully cut the sides off my hot dog buns to grill them.   Bon Appétit says you don't have to do this and you can open up your rolls and carefully grill the insides, but that's not the same to me.

Next time, I'll plan ahead a little more and maybe someone who loves me in the northeast will take pity on my poor transplanted palate and mail me some hot dog buns!    Otherwise, on my next trip I'll have to bring a few packages home for my freezer.

Lobster Roll
adapted from Bon Appétit, April 2011

Bon Appétit suggested making your own mayonnaise with a combo of egg yolks, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and dijon mustard.  I did not do this and instead made a mixture of mayo, lemon juice and dijon to dress the lobster rolls.

1 large onion, halved
2 celery stalks
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons course sea salt
2 two-pound live lobsters

4 New England style hot dog buns (top split) or regular hot dog buns
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup bib lettuce
1 thinly sliced scallion

Fill a very large pot with 12 quarts of water.  Add the onion, celery and thyme.  Bring to a boil over high heat.   Mix in sea salt.  Add lobster head first*, cover and boil, checking occasionally 8-9 minutes.  Uncover and continue to cook about 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Using tongs, transfer lobsters to a large rimmed baking sheet  Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes.

Twist tails off lobster bodies.  Using kitchen shears , cut along each side of the ridged membrane on underside of tail meat.  Cut tails in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 3/4 to 1 inch chunks.  Place tail meat in a medium bowl.

Twist claws and knuckles off lobster bodies.  Using a hammer or mallet (or in my case, a very heavy rolling pin!), crack the claws; pull out the meat in 1 chunk.  Using kitchen shears, cut shell of knuckles lengthwise in half; remove meat.  Dice and add to bowl with tail and claw meat.

Toss lobster lightly with mayonnaise (about 1/4 cup), stir to coat.  Season lobster salad with salt and pepper.  Brush sides of hot dog buns with some butter.  Heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook buns on buttered sides until golden brown and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Arrange buns on plates; gently press open.  Line each with some lettuce.  Top each with 1/4 of the lobster salad, sprinkle with green onions and a dash of paprika.   Drizzle with melted butter.  Serve immediately.

*Contrary to popular belief, lobsters do not scream when they hit the water.  The sound you hear are gasses escaping the shells.  

ETA: Trader Joe's carries a top split hot dog bun! I'm so happy I've found them in time for summer.  Lobster roll lovers rejoice!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Blueberry Scones

Scones used to be one of those things that I loved to order at a coffee shop.  I was totally intimidated to make them so I would just let others make them for me.  Truthfully, I'm intimidated by all pastry.  Cutting the butter into the flour.  Rolling the dough.  And being as rigid about cleanliness as I am, flouring my work surface goes against all my uptight sensibilities.

Then last year, I happened upon a YouTube video from America's Test Kitchen that made scones seem like a breeze!  The trick was grating frozen butter on a cheese grater and incorporating that into the flour, instead of cutting it in with a pastry cutter.   I can do that!

In the past when I've tried to make scones, I had trouble making the cute little triangle shapes.  I had tried rolling the dough in a circle and cutting it like a pie.  Once I even gave up and used a cookie cutter to make rounds, which is fine too.  But this method has you fold a log out of the dough.   The log gives you extra flaky layers and the log allows you to cut the scones into perfect triangles.

It's very important to work with a very cold dough.  Before I put these in the oven, I pop them back into the fridge for about 5 minutes.  As a matter of fact, you can make the log the night before, then slice and bake the scones in the morning.

The recipe seems like a lot of steps, but they really come together quickly.  And when the dough takes its final rest in the freezer for 5 minutes, I take that opportunity to clean the dishes I'd made up to that point.   And in my new house, the sink is inset into the counter so now cleaning up my floured work surface is SO EASY!

Blueberry Scones
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
makes 8 scones

8 Tablespoons cold butter, plus more for brushing
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, frozen
    Grate the butter on the large holes of a box grater, and freeze.

    Preheat oven to 425, and combine the dry ingredients.  Stir in frozen butter.  Whisk together the sour cream and whole milk, and stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until just combined.  The dough will be crumbly, but that's okay.

    Turn out onto a well-floured surface, and knead a few times.  Roll out into a 12x12 inch square.  Using a bench scraper, fold the dough into thirds, then fold into thirds again in the opposite direction to form a square.  Roll the dough out into a 12x12 inch square again, and refold.  Place on a well-floured plate, and freeze for 5 minutes.

    Roll out to a 12x12 inch square for a final time, and press the blueberries into the dough in a single layer.  Carefully roll up, as you would cinnamon rolls.  Press the roll into a 4-inch wide rectangle.  Using the bench scraper, cut into 4 rectangles.  Then cut each rectangle diagonally to make 2 triangles.

    Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  At this point the scones can be baked or refrigerated overnight.  Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 18-25 minutes, or until golden-brown.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Kӓsespӓtzle (Cheese Egg Noodles)

    The first time I skied, I was 30.  I had moved to Austria a few weeks prior and my sister-in-law invited us to come along on their annual family ski jag.  I had never skied and wanted us to stay home, but part of me also just wanted to go and check it out.   And not ski.

    Well I did ski some (and it turns out, I love it!), but every day at lunch I snuck away.   Lunch was probably my favorite part of the day.  I was enjoying trying all these Austrian specialties.  My favorite by far was kӓsespӓtzle.  Spӓtzle is an egg noodle of sorts.  There are many different ways to make the noodles, so they come in all shapes and sizes.  But I love my hopper and love the shape it produces.  Small, rounded drops of dough fall into the boiling water and cook up very quickly.  Most likely, I prefer my spӓtzle  shape because that was the shape I'd first had them in.   I've never had long, spaghetti-like spӓtzle, so I don't imagine it that way.

    Here I am, tired and hungry and my brother in law takes us to Haus Nr. 8 for lunch.  "You must have the kӓsespӓtzle", he says.  Every time I try something new, I am nervous.  But he sells it to me as German macaroni and cheese.   Enough said.   It came simply prepared, with just a mixed green salad.  It was love.  I could eat my weight in kӓsespӓtzle. Where had this been all my life?

    But now, I'm back in the US of A and there aren't many places you can go and get a plate of kӓsespӓtzle and a krügel of beer.  The first time I made spӓtzle here, I bought a pre-made package from the pasta aisle at the store.  It was fine, but at over $4 a box, I wasn't willing to keep paying that, especially considering that its really just eggs, flour and milk.  All I'd been told was how simple it is to make, just make the dough and push it through a colander with a wooden spoon.   I opted to buy the hopper.  I am still not so sure about the colander idea.   Truthfully, the hopper has turned out to be the most used $15 piece of equipment in my kitchen.  Well worth the investment if you're planning on making your own spӓtzle more than once.

    Typically, when I make spӓtzle for dinner, I make a full batch.  My recipe calls for 3 cups of flour, and to feed my family, I can easily third the recipe.  But I make the full batch, freeze the remaining 2/3 of the recipe and save it for kӓsespӓtzle.  As a simple side dish, I just take the plain spӓtzle and brown it in some butter in a skillet.   There are so many other varieties of spӓtzle I want to try...kirschspӓtzleapfelspӓtzle to name a few sweet varieties.  

    This is definitely a comforting dish for a cold day, or apres-ski.  We had a cold spell come through Atlanta after being spoiled with summery temps.  I jumped at the chance to make this one last time.
    For the spӓtzle
    3 cups flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    1 cup milk
    3 eggs

    Combine the flour, salt and nutmeg in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy, then add the milk.   Combine with the dry ingredients.  It should be very thick.

    Over a pot of boiling water, push the batter through the hopper.  When the dumplings rise to the top, skim them off the top and place them onto a sheet pan lined with a towel.

    For the kӓsespӓtzle:
    1/3 batch of spӓtzle
    1 cup of grated Swiss cheese (Emmentaler is best)
    1/2 onion, sliced and fried in oil until crispy
    1 tablespoon minced chives

    Turn your oven on to broil.  Place the spaetzle in an oven safe skillet.  Top with grated cheese and broil until cheese is melted and browned.   Top with fried onions and chives.  Serve immediately.

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Grilled Pork with Habanero Apple Cider Reduction

    For about 10 years, I would not touch pork.  Any pork.  Not even bacon.  Looking back, I have no idea how I lived so long without bacon.   I think growing up with bad ham dinners on Easter, burnt pork chops and the dreaded ham steak left me feeling like all pork was fatty, stringy and bland.  (To say my step-mother was a bad cook is an understatement.)

    Slowly over a few years I started to try different things.  Since my husband likes to grill, we have found that pork tenderloin is a favorite for keeping on hand.   It is so versatile in its preparation options, but this is by far is one of our favorite ways to have it.   A play on the old pork-chops-and-applesauce, this has its place on any week night dinner table.   Simple in preparation but big in flavors, it comes together quickly.  We've served this when having big groups over for dinner or when its just the two of us.  The sweetness of the apple cider hits you first then finishes with the slight punch of habanero.

    I almost always serve this with braised red cabbage and spӓtzle.  (I'll post my spӓtzle recipe tomorrow.)  But you could serve this with any classic pork sides or even sliced and over a salad.

    Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Habanero Apple Cider Reduction

    1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and membrane, sliced into 8 large pieces
    olive oil
    salt and pepper

    1 habanero pepper, diced fine
    1/2 - 3/4 cup apple cider
    1/2 tablespoon butter, optional

    Toss the tenderloin in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper.   Prepare the grill and grill on medium-high for 4 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and allow to rest.

    In a medium sautee pan, heat the habanero until it becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the apple cider and allow it to reduce by half, about 10 minutes.  Swirl in a pat of butter, if desired to give the sauce some body and shine.   Serve over the grilled pork.