January 31, 2014

I Sing the Baker Imperfect...

(Cream Scones with Brown Sugar Icing)

Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze

Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze

Sadly but predictably, the inspiration for this post title comes not from the Walt Whitman poem but from the song from the movie, Fame. What was I doing during the poetry units in numerous English classes in high school and college that I missed the opportunity to understand and appreciate poetry? What boy was I thinking about or hangover was I nursing or amusement was I planning for the night? I'm not proud, but there you have it. So many missed intellectual opportunities in the pursuit of love and fun. Sigh.

I was thinking about poetry today because the recipe for these scones comes from a local woman who is a baker, takes the most beautiful pictures and writes a soulful blog, vanillabeanblog.com. Her recipe is a good one and although my scones are a bit irregularly shaped, they are delicious and I think perhaps more homey and lovable for their slightly wonky appearance. The jagged angles get nice and crunchy and are a pleasant contrast to the soft buttery cake inside. Sweet, but not too. Imperfect - like me, but still striving.

January 27, 2014

Get Your Frico On...

(Parmesan Frico Cups with Kale Caesar)

Parmesan Frico Cups with Caesar Kale Salad

Parmesan Frico Cups with Caesar Kale Salad

I make these frico cups when I want to serve salad you can eat without a fork, i.e., at a cocktail party. I fill them with kale salad because kale is a bit sturdier than lettuce and can hold up to an hours-long buffet that's laid out for the night (or the game). People love them and they're easy - you can make the cups a few hours ahead of time and fill with salad right before serving. Some recipes say you can make these the night before, but I find they get tough and these are really glorious when they're crispy. Delicious with this kale caesar.

And here's a link to the song that inspired the name of this post which I can't get out of my head today. Such a good groove.

Get Your Frico On (Parmesan Frico Cups)
Makes about 12 frico cups

3/4 lb. Parmesan Reggiano cheese, freshly grated*

January 22, 2014

Chicken Sofrito

Chicken Sofrito

I tested this recipe for "Best One-Pot Meal" for Food52 and it's pretty great. My husband was swooning that I made him a casserole and this one has rich flavor like a paella or long cooked stew. You just brown some chicken thighs, saute lots of aromatics* (onion, fennel, leeks) and spices, deglaze with white wine and chicken stock, add any vegetables you have on hand along with some orzo pasta and bake for about 25 minutes.  The only change I made to the recipe was to add a bit more salt and a splash of sherry vinegar at the end to make it a little brighter. A fine winter dish. 

*Sofrito is to Latin cooking what a mirepoix is to French, the holy trinity is to Cajun and soffritto is to Italian - a blend of diced and sauteed aromatic vegetables like onions, garlic, peppers, celery, etc. that provide the base for many savory dishes. 

Find the recipe here:

January 15, 2014

Fried Chicken Sliders with Pimenton Aioli

Fried Chicken Slider with Pimenton Aioli

Fried chicken and I have history - troubled history. A few years ago I fried huge quantities of it to take to a dinner party at my mom's house. It looked great and I was already basking in the compliments and appreciation I would receive until they cut into it and it was...pink. Not "do you think that's a little pink" pink but rather translucent fleshy pink that made me recall that plane crash in the alps movie where they have to eat their teammates. Of course, once it's at that point there isn't much you can do to save it. Stick it in the oven, but then your crust is gone. And no one will trust your food for a very long time. Or should they. 

The only frying I've done since then is shallow pan frying which is delightful and creates a nice crust, but different from fried chicken, which is to say deep-fried chicken, which produces a bumpy, bubbly all-over crunchy crust. Why don't more restaurants in Minneapolis make a perfect fried chicken or am I just too busy driving my kids around in my grimy car wearing my grubby winter boots to notice? Maybe because good fried chicken is REALLY DIFFICULT to make (I'm vindicated!)? Or maybe because it's so stinking why-waste-my-culinary-skills-on-it easy, that no one wants to bother? Yep, that's probably the one.

January 10, 2014

Rice Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

Rice Noodle Salad, leftover chicken

Thai Rice Noodle Salad

Anytime I've ever tried to diet, I've failed. The problem is my brain is wired to fixate on anything I tell myself I can't have. Try and go vegetarian and crusted, salty, griddle fried burgers on a soft white buns with pickles and onions haunt my quiet moments. Ban sugar or white flour and I simply must have a donut quickly or be cruel to my family. Even when I eat healthy it needs to have a naughty element so I feel satisfied. That's why this pretty salad contains white rice noodles instead of brown, a creamy dressing and as many chopped peanuts as I want. That way it tastes delicious, doesn't feel like I'm giving anything up and and will have me craving it again and again instead of saying "well that was OK, now when does the bakery close today...?" 

This is so easy, especially if you have some leftover chicken in the fridge. Make the dressing, cook the noodles and cut up your vegetables and chicken. You can assemble it in easy-to-identify-fussy-eater-piles, as I have, or toss it all together. 

Rice Noodle Salad

January 6, 2014

Thick and Soft Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thick and Soft Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are a bit of an improvisation due to low supplies. Though we had a wide assortment of chocolate chips (semi sweet, dark, milk, butterscotch, etc) it wasn't a deep supply. I dumped out the bags that were there, open and nearly empty from teenage hands dipping in for a quick chocolate hit, and got about a cup. I was also short on flour. Enter oatmeal. Butter? Check. Eggs? Check. Walnuts? Enough. Good to go.

I like a thick cookie that's soft on the inside and crisp on the outside and I've read some recipes out there that call for a little corn starch to achieve this, so I tried it. I wish I knew what that does to the dough but I can say it seems to keep these little buggers from spreading out when they hit the heat of the oven (which makes them thin - and thin is not what I want). Keeping the butter chilled helps too. I think it keeps small slivers of butter intact after mixing allowing them to release a little puff steam during baking making the cookies light instead of dense, even though they're thick. At least that's my theory. To be able to discuss this with more certainty would require research and there's no time for that since my kids are in need of attention and rides with school being cancelled due to cold (this on top of a 2 week break). And we just heard it's cancelled tomorrow too. So we're going to need these cookies.

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