Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Chicken or Turkey Divan

James Villas, Crazy for Casseroles, The Harvard Common Press, 2003

Chicken Divan, created and served with great flourish in the Divan Parisienne Restaurant in New York's Chatham Hotel in the early twentieth century, remains one of America's most classic and delicious casseroles, a dish as appropriate to an elegant buffet as on the family supper table. In my own lifetime, the casserole was a specialty at the renowned Locke-Ober restaurant in Boston, and it was there I learned to enhance the dish by adding a few slivered almonds.

1 (2-pound) head broccoli, stems removed 
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup chicken broth 
1 cup milk 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan 
3 tablespoons dry sherry 
12 slices cooked chicken or turkey 
1 cup slivered almonds 
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place a collapsible steamer in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, pour in enough water to just reach the bottom of the steamer, and bring to a boil. 

Break the broccoli into florets and place them in the saucepan. Steam until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes and drain.
Preheat to oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a shallow 2-quart casserole and set side.
In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat, then add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Gradually add the broth and milk and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper; add the nutmeg, 1/4 cup of the cheese, and the sherry. Stir until the cheese melts, and remove from the heat.
Arrange the broccoli in the prepared casserole in a single layer, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese over the top, arrange the chicken slices evenly over the broccoli, and sprinkle the almonds over the top.
In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, fold into the cheese sauce, pour evenly over the chicken and almonds, and bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Roasted Cauliflower

From Cook's Illustrated January/February 2007

Serves 4 to 6

1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Trim outer leaves of cauliflower and cut stem flush with bottom. Cut head into 8 equal wedges so that core and florets remain intact. Place wedges cut side down on foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (use the parchment paper because the cauliflower tends to stick to the foil--Pamela). Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; gently rub to evenly distribute oil and seasonings. Gently flip cauliflower and season other cut side with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper.

2. Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast until bottoms of cauliflower pieces are golden, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, and, using spatula, carefully flip wedges. Return sheet to oven and continue to roast until cauliflower is golden all over, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with oil (or sauce), and serve immediately. (Be care not to overcook--Pamela.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Quick Green Bean Casserole (Christmas 2006)

from Cook's Illustrated November/December 2003

Heidi made this Christmas 2004 and it was great; this is the best recipe to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Christmas 2006: This is a great recipe but demands a lot of attention to get it right. First off I would skip the sauted shallots. They are almost over the top and just add a layer of complication. Second, be careful not to overcook/overheat the cream-chicken both sauce; it should be whitish rather than brown. The sauce needs gentle simmering not hard boiling. Third, it works fine with just ordinary white button mushrooms.

3 large shallots , sliced thin (about 1 cup)
table salt
ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems discarded, caps wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion , minced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves of medium-large garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 pounds green beans , stem ends trimmed
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Toss shallots with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons flour in small bowl; set aside. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonsick skillet over medium-high heat until smoking; add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer shallots with oil to baking sheet lined with triple layer of paper towels.

Wipe out skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, mushrooms, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate and set aside.

Wipe out skillet. Heat butter in skillet over medium heat; when foaming subsides, add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon flour; toss in green beans, thyme, and bay. Add cream and chicken broth, increase heat to medium-high, cover, and cook until beans are partly tender but still crisp at center, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to cook, uncovered, until green beans are tender and sauce has thickened slightly, about 4 minutes. Off heat, discard bay and thyme; adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle evenly with shallots, and serve.

Serves 8

Sichuan Green Beans

From Cook's Illustrated January/February 2007

Excellent, spicy, and messy (but worth it)! This is one of the recipes I tested for CI last summer. --Pamela

Serves 4

To make this dish vegetarian, substitute 4 ounces of shitake mushrooms, which have been stemmed and minced, for the pork. If using mushrooms, you will need to add a teaspoon of oil to the pan in step 3 before adding the mushrooms. The cooking of this dish goes very quickly, so be sure to have all of the ingredients prepped before you start. Serve this dish with steamed white rice.

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound green beans, stemmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 pound ground pork
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced thinly on bias
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. In small bowl, stir together soy sauce, sherry, sugar, cornstarch, white pepper, pepper flakes, mustard, and water until sugar dissolves; set aside.

2. Heat oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add beans and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender and skins are shriveled and charred, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer beans to large plate.

3. Reduce heat to medium-high and add pork to now empty skillet. Cook, breaking pork into small pieces with heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, until no pink remains, about 2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Return beans to pan along with sauce. Toss to combine and cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened and beans are coated, 5 to 10 seconds. Remove pan from heat and stir in scallions and sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Classic Pound Cake

From Cook's Illustrated January/February 2007

As directed in the recipe, the butter and eggs should be the first ingredients prepared so they have a chance to stand at room temperature and lose their chill while the oven heats, the loaf pan is greased and floured, and the other ingredients are measured. Leftover cake will keep reasonably well for up to 3 days if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature.

Makes one 9 by 5-inch loaf
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cold, plus extra for greasing pan
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces), plus extra for dusting pan
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 cups sugar (8 3/4 ounces)

1. Cut butter into 1-tablespoon pieces and place in bowl of standing mixer; let stand at room temperature 20 to 30 minutes to soften slightly (butter should reach no more than 60 degrees). Using dinner fork, beat eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla in liquid measuring cup until combined. Let egg mixture stand at room temperature until ready to use.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust pan liberally with flour and knock out excess.

3. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and salt at medium-high speed until shiny, smooth, and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to medium; with mixer running, gradually pour in sugar (this should take about 60 seconds). Once all sugar is added, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is fluffy and almost white in color, 5 to 8 minutes, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once. With mixer running at medium speed, gradually add egg mixture in slow, steady stream; this should take 60 to 90 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl; beat mixture at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes (mixture may look slightly broken). Remove bowl from mixer; scrape bottom and sides.

4. In 3 additions, sift flour over butter/egg mixture; after each addition, fold gently with rubber spatula until combined. Scrape along bottom of bowl to ensure that batter is homogenous.

5. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until golden brown and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 70 to 80 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes; invert cake onto wire rack, then turn cake right side up. Cool cake on rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Slice and serve.

Thai-Style Chicken Soup

From Cook's Illustrated January/February 2007

Doesn't taste anything like coconut, so don't let that put you off. --Pamela

If you want a soup with less fat, it is possible to substitute light coconut milk for one or both cans of regular coconut milk. Fresh lemon grass can be omitted, but the soup will lack some complexity. Don't be tempted to use jarred or dried lemon grass-their flavor is characterless. If you want a spicier soup, add more red curry paste to taste. For a more substantial meal, serve the soup over 2 to 3 cups of cooked jasmine rice. The soup can be prepared through step 1 up to one day ahead of time and refrigerated, but it should be completed immediately before serving, as the chicken and mushrooms can easily overcook.

6-8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 stalks lemon grass , tough outer leaves removed, bottom 5 inches halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise
3 large shallots , chopped
8 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves , chopped coarse
3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk , well-shaken
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 pound white mushrooms , cleaned, stems trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts , halved lengthwise and sliced on bias into 1/8-inch-thick pieces (see illustration below)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 teaspoons red curry paste (Thai)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 serrano chiles , sliced thin
2 scallions , sliced thin on bias
1 lime , cut into wedges

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until just shimmering. Add lemon grass, shallots, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon fish sauce; cook, stirring frequently, until just softened, 2 to 5 minutes (vegetables should not brown). Stir in chicken broth and 1 can coconut milk; bring to simmer over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until flavors have blended, 10 minutes. Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer and discard solids in strainer. Rinse saucepan and return broth mixture to pan.

2. Return pan to medium-high heat. Stir remaining can coconut milk and sugar into broth mixture and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium, add mushrooms, and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until no longer pink, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove soup from heat.

3. Combine lime juice, curry paste, and remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce in small bowl; stir into soup. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro, chiles, and scallions. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Herb-Crusted Pork Roast

From Cook's Illustrated January/February 2007

If only "enhanced" pork is available (the label will state that the pork was injected with a water-salt solution), do not brine the roast. Instead, simply season the stuffed and tied roast with salt before browning. Note that you should not trim the pork of its layer of fat. While it is possible to substitute dried rosemary for fresh, do not substitute dried thyme for fresh or the herb crust will be dry and dusty tasting. The roasting time will vary widely depending on the thickness of the meat. The roast can be brined, stuffed, and tied a day ahead, but don't prepare the bread crumb topping until you are ready to cook.

Serves 4 - 6
2 1/2 - 3 pound boneless center-cut pork loin roast (see note above)
Table salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 large slice hearty white sandwich bread , torn into pieces
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese , or pecorino cheese, (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium shallot , minced (about 3 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons olive oil , plus an additional 2 teaspoons
Ground black pepper
1/3 cup packed fresh parsley or basil leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 large clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

1. Following illustration 1 below, lightly score fat cap on pork, making 1/4-inch crosshatch pattern. Following illustrations 2 and 3, cut pocket in roast. Dissolve 1/2 cup salt and sugar in 2 quarts water in large container; submerge roast, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Rinse roast under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about sixteen 1-second pulses (you should have 1 cup crumbs). Transfer crumbs to medium bowl (do not wash food processor workbowl) and add 2 tablespoons Parmesan, shallot, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Using fork, toss mixture until crumbs are evenly coated with oil.

3. Add parsley or basil, thyme, rosemary, garlic, remaining 6 tablespoons Parmesan, 3 tablespoons oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to now-empty food processor workbowl and process until smooth, about twelve 1-second pulses. Transfer herb paste to small bowl.

4. Following illustrations 4 and 5, spread 1/4 cup herb paste inside roast and tie. Season roast with pepper (and salt, if using enhanced pork).

5. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add roast, fat side down, and brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes, lowering heat if fat begins to smoke. Transfer roast to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

6. Using scissors, snip and remove twine from roast; discard twine. Following photos below, spread remaining herb paste over roast and top with bread crumb mixture. Transfer baking sheet with roast to oven and cook until thickest part of roast registers 145 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 50 to 75 minutes. Remove roast from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Internal temperature should rise to 150 degrees. Using spatula and meat fork, transfer roast to carving board, taking care not to squeeze juices out of pocket in roast. Cut roast into 1/2-inch slices and serve immediately.

White Chicken Chili

From Cook's Illustrated January/February 2007

Adjust the heat in this dish by adding the minced ribs and seeds from the jalapeño as directed in step 6. If Anaheim chiles cannot be found, add an additional poblano and jalapeño to the chili. This dish can also be successfully made by substituting chicken thighs for the chicken breasts. If using thighs, increase the cooking time in step 4 to about 40 minutes. Serve chili with sour cream, tortilla chips, and lime wedges.

Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves , trimmed of excess fat and skin
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeño chiles
3 poblano chiles (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chile peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
2 medium onions , cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans , drained and rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions , white and light green parts sliced thin

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños; mince flesh. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeños, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs) on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (see note above), and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

Mashed Potatoes (Thanksgiving 2006)

From Cook's Illustrated November/December 1993

I used Russet potatoes, but found the quanity of liquid to great for the amount of potatoes. I think you need closer to 4 pounds of potatoes. It produces great mashed potatoes. I melt the butter and half and half in my crock pot and rice the potatoes directly into the crock. They stay hot and fresh for at least an hour in the crock pot, and this eliminates a lot of the last minute frenzy of Thanksgiving dinner. --Pamela

Yukon Gold, red, russet, or white potatoes can be used--each turns out a different texture. For smooth mashed potatoes, a food mill or potato ricer fitted with the finest disk is the best choice. For chunky mashed potatoes, use a potato masher and decrease the half-and-half to 3/4 cup.

Serves 4
2 pounds potatoes , scrubbed
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 cup half-and-half , warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
Ground black pepper

1. Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with 1 inch water. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender (a paring knife can be slipped into and out of center of potatoes with very little resistance), 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.

2. Set food mill or ricer over now empty but still warm saucepan. Spear potato with dinner fork, then peel back skin with paring knife. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Working in batches, cut peeled potatoes into rough chunks and drop into hopper of food mill or ricer. Process or rice potatoes into saucepan.

3. Stir in butter with wooden spoon until incorporated; gently whisk in half-and-half, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Green Bean Casserole (Thanksgiving 2006)

From Tyler Florence, Food 911

This recipe makes a lot; cut it in half or thirds for a regular meal. It has a great thyme flavor and it works as a vegetable and starch dish.

NB 2006: I brought this to the Calanchini's, and it was great for a crowd. I assembled it at home up to the croutons and then added them before baking it at their house. I don't think I will include it next year. It was good, but not exactly what I was looking for. The recipe I was looking for is called "Quick Green Bean Casserole".

NB 2005: this is a great casserole, but requires a lot of attention to pull off. I can't do it justice when trying to manage the gravy & other last minute dishes. Next time I won't make it unless there is someone else in the kitchen who can give it the loving care it demands. --Pamela

3 pounds green beans
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 loaf crusty Italian bread
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds mixed mushrooms (such as button, cremini, shiitake), sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 cup heavy cream

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a big pinch of salt and the green beans. Cook for about 5 minutes, the beans should still be crisp, they will be cooked more in the oven. Drain them and set aside. Butter a baking dish large enough to hold the green beans with 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Tear the bread into 2-inch pieces, put them into a bowl, and add 1 tablespoon chives, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Stir well to coat and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake just until the bread just starts to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid, about 10 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream, add the remaining thyme and chives, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the green beans and stir well. Put the green bean mixture into the prepared baking dish, top with the croutons, and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan. Bake until everything is hot and bubbling, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serves 8

Oven-Baked Bread Stuffing with Sage and Thyme (Thanksgiving 2006)

from Cook's Illustrated November/December 1998

NB 2008: I used my own sprouted wheat bread this year; I added a bit more liquid than the recipe call for. The result was very tasty. My only criticism was that I cooked it about 10 minutes too long. I'll stick with this recipe for next year.

NB 2006: This year I used two bagettes of Bennet Valley French bread (not sour-dough) and I didn't like the dressing; it had a kind of spongy taste and texture. Next year I'm going to try Challah bread with a possible addition of a little Italian bread at the end.

NB 2005: Add more Sage to the stuffing, and don't cook it in too big a glass dish (13 x 9 is too big).

NB 2004: After it was prepared I thought it was a bit too wet, so I added about half a loaf of stale Italian bread and some more rubbed sage. Note that I used thin-sliced white bread for the basic recipe. I thought the end product was excellent and I would definitely make it again. --Pamela

Dry whichever bread you choose by cutting 1/2-inch slices, laying them in a single layer on baking sheets or cooling racks, and leaving them out overnight. The next day, cut the slices into 1/2-inch cubes and allow them to dry for another night. If you are in a hurry, rush the process by drying the slices in a 225-degree oven until brittle but not brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Then cut them into cubes and proceed. Any of the stuffings can be cooked inside the holiday bird if you prefer; just reduce stock to 1 cup. Stuff a 12- to 15-pound turkey with 6 cups of stuffing. Then add an additional 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the remaining stuffing and bake it separately in an 8-inch pan.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for baking dish
1 large onion , chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 medium ribs of celery , diced medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 cups dried 1/2-inch cubes from one 1-pound loaf French bread or potato, or challah bread
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
3 large eggs , beaten lightly
1 teaspoon table salt

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 400 degrees (350 degrees if using challah). Heat butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until fully melted; pour off 2 tablespoons butter and reserve. Return skillet to heat; add onion and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley, and black pepper and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Turn onion mixture into large mixing bowl. Add bread cubes, stock, eggs, and salt and toss gently to distribute dry and wet ingredients evenly. Turn mixture into buttered 13-x 9-inch baking dish, drizzle with reserved melted butter, cover tightly with foil, and bake until fragrant, about 25 minutes (30 minutes for challah). Remove foil and bake until golden brown crust forms on top, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish

Simple Cranberry Sauce (Thanksgiving 2006)

from Cook's Illustrated November/December 1999

A simple, great tasting recipe that's not too sweet. It is great on roast pork too. --Pamela

The cooking time in this recipe is intended for fresh berries. If you’ve got frozen cranberries, do not defrost them before use; just pick through them and add about 2 minutes to the simmering time.

3/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 ounces), picked through

Bring water, sugar, and salt to boil in medium nonreactive saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir in cranberries; return to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until saucy, slightly thickened, and about two-thirds of berries have popped open, about 5 minutes. Transfer to nonreactive bowl, cool to room temperature, and serve. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 7 days; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)

Makes 2 1/4 cups

Best Pumpkin Pie (Thanksgiving 2006)

From Cook's Illustrated November/December 1993

Outstanding crust and great pie! Really the best pumpkin pie I've ever eaten. The only thing I would change is the way they baked the piece crust with the foil; next time I would line the foil with pie weights. --Pamela

If you do not have a food processor, the pumpkin may be put through a food mill or forced through a fine sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. Alternatively, you can cook the pumpkin, sugar, and spices together before pureeing, then whir the mixture in a blender, adding enough of the cream called for in the recipe to permit the pumpkin to flow easily over the blades. In either case, heat the pumpkin with the (remaining) cream and milk, as indicated, then slowly whisk the mixture into the beaten eggs. The pie may be served slightly warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

Serves 8

Flaky Pastry Shell
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , measured by dip-and-sweep
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pats
3 - 3 1/2 tablespoons ice water

Pumpkin Filling
2 cups plain pumpkin puree (16 ounces), canned or fresh
1 cup packed dark brown sugar (I only use 3/4 cup --PKS)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs

Brandied Whipped Cream
1 1/3 cups heavy cream (cold)
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon brandy

1. For pastry shell: Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter over dry ingredients; process until mixture resembles cornmeal, 7 to 12 seconds. Turn mixture into a medium-sized bowl.

2. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of water over flour mixture. With blade side of a rubber spatula, cut mixture into little balls. Then press down on mixture with broad side of spatula so balls stick together in large clumps. If dough resists gathering, sprinkle remaining water over dry, crumbly patches and press a few more times. Form dough into a ball with your hands; wrap in plastic, then flatten into a 4-inch disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Can be refrigerated for 2 days or, if sealed airtight in a plastic bag, or frozen for up to 6 months.)

3. Generously sprinkle a 2-foot square work area with flour. Remove dough from wrapping and place disk in center; dust top with flour. (If it has been chilled for more than 1 hour, let dough stand until it gives slightly when pressed, 5 to 10 minutes.) Roll dough in all directions, from center to edges, rotating a quarter turn and strewing flour underneath as necessary after each stroke. Flip disk over when it is 9 inches in diameter and continue to roll (but don’t rotate) in all directions, until it is 13 to 14 inches in diameter and just under 1/8 inch thick.

4. Fold dough in quarters and place the corner in the center of a Pyrex pie plate measuring 9- to 9 1/2-inches across top. Carefully unfold dough to cover pan completely, with excess dough draped over pan lip. With one hand, pick up edges of dough; use index finger of other hand to press dough around pan bottom. Use your fingertips to press dough against pan walls. Trim dough overhanging the pan to an even 1/2 inch all around.

5. Tuck overhanging dough back under itself so folded edge is flush with edge of pan lip. Press double layer of dough with your fingers to seal, then bend up at a 90-degree angle and flute by pressing thumb and index finger about 1/2-inch apart against outside edge of dough, then using index finger (or knuckle) of other hand to poke a dent through the space. Repeat procedure all the way around.

6. Refrigerate for 20 minutes (or freeze for 5 minutes) to firm dough shell. Using table fork, prick bottom and sides — including where they meet — at 1/2-inch intervals. Flatten a 12-inch square of aluminum foil inside shell, pressing it flush against corners, sides, and over rim. Prick foil bottom in about a dozen places with a fork. Chill shell for at least 30 minutes (preferably an hour or more), to allow dough to relax.

7. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. (Start preparing filling when you put shell into oven.) Bake 15 minutes, pressing down on foil with mitt-protected hands to flatten any puffs. Remove foil and bake shell for 8 to 10 minutes longer, or until interior just begins to color.

8. For filling: Process pumpkin, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a food processor fitted with steel blade for 1 minute. Transfer pumpkin mixture to a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring it to a sputtering simmer over medium-high heat. Cook pumpkin, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes. As soon as pie shell comes out of oven, whisk heavy cream and milk into pumpkin and bring to a bare simmer. Process eggs in food processor until whites and yolks are mixed, about 5 seconds. With motor running, slowly pour about half of hot pumpkin mixture through feed tube. Stop machine and scrape in remaining pumpkin. Process 30 seconds longer.

9. Immediately pour warm filling into hot pie shell. (Ladle any excess filling into pie after it has baked for 5 minutes or so — by this time filling will have settled.) Bake until filling is puffed, dry-looking, and lightly cracked around edges, and center wiggles like gelatin when pie is gently shaken, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.

10. For whipped cream: Beat cream at medium speed to soft peaks; gradually add confectioners’ sugar then brandy. Beat to stiff peaks. Accompany each wedge of pie with a dollop of whipped cream.

Roast Stuffed Crisped-Skin Turkey (Thanksgiving 2006)

From Cook's Illustrated November/December 2000

Jim prefers that I use a Kosher bird, so I don't brine it. I air-dried it for an hour with a house-hold fan in the bathroom before I stuffed it. I used a 13 1/2 pound (a frozen Empire Kosher turkey, but someone recently told me that Trader Joe's has these fresh at Thanksgiving time). --Pamela

We prefer to roast small turkeys, no more than 14 pounds gross weight, because they cook more evenly than large birds. If you prefer, halve the amount of salt in the brine and brine 12 hours or overnight. When you remove the turkey from the oven to rotate it, be sure to close the oven door to prevent heat loss. Preheating in a microwave gives the stuffing a head start on cooking so that the turkey does not overcook as it waits for the stuffing to reach the proper internal temperature. A cheesecloth stuffing bag makes easy work of removing the stuffing when it’s time to carve the bird.

Serves 10 to 12
4 cups kosher salt or 2 cups table salt
1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds gross weight), rinsed thoroughly, giblets, neck, and tailpiece removed and reserved for gravy
2 medium onions , chopped coarse
1 medium carrot , chopped coarse
1 rib celery , chopped coarse
4 sprigs fresh thyme
12 cups prepared stuffing
4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted, plus extra to grease baking dish

1. Dissolve salt in 2 gallons cold water in large stockpot or clean bucket. Add turkey and refrigerate or set in very cool spot (about 40 degrees) for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Remove turkey from salt water and rinse well under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey breast-side up on flat wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Scatter vegetables and thyme in shallow roasting pan; pour 1 cup water over vegetables. Prepare V-rack according to illustration 4 below.

4. Place about 6 cups stuffing in medium microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap; microwave stuffing on high until stuffing registers 120 to 130 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes. Spoon hot stuffing into cavity of turkey; secure opening with turkey lacers or with skewers and kitchen twine. Tuck wings behind back; following illustrations 1 to 3 below, truss turkey. Brush breast with butter, then set turkey breast-side down on foil-lined V-rack; brush back with butter. Roast 1 hour, then reduce temperature to 250 degrees and roast 2 hours longer, adding more water to roasting pan if necessary. Meanwhile, place remaining stuffing in buttered 11- by 7-inch or 9-inch-square baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

5. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey breast-side up and brush with remaining butter. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees; continue roasting until thickest part of breast registers about 165 degrees, thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees, and stuffing registers 165 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer. Remove turkey from oven and let rest until ready to carve.

6. While turkey is resting, unwrap baking dish with stuffing and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

7. Carve turkey; serve with stuffing and gravy, if desired.

Turkey Giblet Gravy (Thanksgiving 2006)

From Cook's Illustrated November/December 2002

Jim thought this was the best gravy he'd ever eaten. It was a lot of steps, but mostly done way in advance of the Turkey. I used homemade chicken stock and chopped the cooked neck meat up as well (Nadine always picked and chopped the neck meat and I always thought it had a great taste). NB: the onion is unpeeled; the peel gives a nice brown color to the stock. --Pamela

To eliminate the rush to make gravy once the turkey emerges from the oven, this gravy is brought close to completion while the turkey roasts. (If you prefer, prepare the gravy through step 2 one day in advance, refrigerate the gravy, and then bring it back to a simmer as the turkey nears completion.) Once the bird is out of the oven, the gravy is enriched with defatted turkey drippings and heated through.

Makes about 2 quarts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
reserved turkey neck , heart, and gizzard
1 onion , unpeeled and chopped medium
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 parsley stems
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
Table salt and ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking; add turkey neck, heart, and gizzard and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until turkey parts and onion release their juices, about 20 minutes. Add chicken broth, water, and herbs; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, skimming any scum that rises to surface, until broth is rich and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Strain broth (you should have about 8 cups), reserving heart and gizzard; discard neck. When cool enough to handle, remove gristle from gizzard; dice heart and gizzard and set aside.

2. Heat butter in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat; when foam subsides, whisk in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until nutty brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes; gradually and vigorously whisk in giblet broth and wine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and flavorful, about 30 minutes; set aside until turkey is done.

3. While turkey is resting on carving board, spoon out and discard as much fat as possible from roasting pan, then strain drippings into saucepan with gravy, pressing on solids in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in reserved giblets; return to simmer to heat through. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper; serve with turkey.

Creamy Corn Pudding (Thanksgiving 2006)

From Cook's Illustrated July/August 2000

Excellent! When you bite into this silky smooth custard, there is a hidden layer of crunchy corn, and the flavor just explodes in your mouth. I would say this recipe serves at least 12 portions, especially at a time like Thanksgiving when there is so much on your plate. It is very rich. --Pamela

Serves 6 as a side dish
6 ears corn (medium, fresh), husks and silk removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter plus extra for greasing baking dish
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/3 cups whole milk
4 large eggs , beaten lightly
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Cut kernels from 5 ears of corn into medium bowl, then scrape cobs to collect milk in same bowl (you should have about 2½ cups kernels and milk). Grate remaining ear corn on coarse side of box grater (you should have about ½ cup grated kernels). Add grated kernels to bowl with cut kernels.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place roasting pan or large baking dish on rack, and heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter 8-inch square baking dish. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in kettle or saucepan.

3. Heat large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add butter; when foaming subsides, add corn kernels and grated corn. Cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is bright yellow and liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add cream, salt, sugar, and cayenne; cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spoon leaves a trail when pan bottom is scraped, about 5 minutes. Transfer corn mixture to medium bowl. Stir in milk, then whisk in eggs and cornstarch. Pour mixture into buttered baking dish.

4. Set dish in roasting pan or large baking dish on oven rack; fill outer pan with boiling water to reach halfway up inner pan. Bake until center jiggles slightly when shaken and pudding has browned lightly in spots, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove baking dish with pudding from water bath; cool 10 minutes and serve.

Best American Dinner Rolls (Thanksgiving 2006)

From Cook's Illustrated September/October 2006

Excellent recipe! NB: it takes a lot longer to rise at 68 degrees than the recipe specifies, so start early. Also, to shape the rolls I just pinched off 2 oz. pieces and rolled them into balls. They could also be formed into a Parkerhouse shape, like Jim's mother makes. She tucks a little piece of butter inside each pocket. --Pamela

For this recipe, the dough is made and the rolls are shaped and refrigerated a day or two before being baked and served. Be sure to plan accordingly, as the refrigerated rolls require about six hours to rise before they're ready for baking. For the best flavor, let the rolls rise at cool room temperature, about 68 degrees. Depending on the brand, instant yeast is marketed as "rapid rise," "quick rise," or "perfect rise" yeast, or sometimes as bread machine yeast; if it's necessary to use active dry yeast in its place, see page 30 for more information. If your cake pans have a dark nonstick finish, bake the rolls in a 375-degree oven to moderate the browning. This dough should be moister than most; resist the urge to add more flour than is needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Made on a humid day, the dough may require more flour than if made on a dry day.

Makes Sixteen 3-inch Rolls
3/4 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted, (reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing on rolls before baking)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 large eggs , room temperature
1 package rapid-rise yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons), may also labeled "instant"
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional flour as needed (see note above)

1. TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Bring milk to boil in small saucepan over medium heat; let stand off heat until skin forms on surface, 3 to 5 minutes. Using soup spoon, skim skin off surface and discard. Transfer milk to bowl of standing mixer and add 6 tablespoons melted butter, sugar, and salt; whisk to combine and let mixture cool. When mixture is just warm to the touch (90 to 100 degrees), whisk in eggs and yeast until combined.

2. Add flour to bowl; using dough hook, mix on low speed on standing mixer until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and knead about 3 minutes more; when pressed with finger, dough should feel tacky and moist but should not stick to finger. (If dough is sticky, add another 1 to 3 tablespoons flour.) Continue to knead on medium-low until cohesive, elastic dough has formed (it should clear sides of bowl but stick to bottom), 4 to 5 minutes longer.

3. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Knead dough by hand 1 to 2 minutes to ensure that it is well kneaded. Dough should be very soft and moist but not overly sticky. (If dough sticks excessively to hands and work surface, knead in flour a tablespoon at a time until dough is workable.) Lightly spray medium bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl; lightly coat surface of dough with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm, draft-free location until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.

4. TO SHAPE THE ROLLS: Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray; set aside. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Pat dough into rough 12 by 10-inch rectangle (see illustration 1, below), gently pressing out air; starting from edge farthest from you, roll dough into cylinder (illustration 2). Using palms, roll dough back and forth until cylinder is about 18 inches long and of even thickness. Using bench scraper or chef's knife, cut cylinder in half crosswise, then cut each half into 8 evenly sized pieces (illustration 3).

5. Working with one piece at a time and keeping remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap or kitchen towel, form dough pieces into smooth, taut rounds (illustration 4). Set piece of dough on unfloured area of work surface. Loosely cup hand around dough (not directly over it); without applying pressure to dough, move hand in small circular motions. (Tackiness of dough against work surface and circular motion should work dough into smooth, even ball.) Arrange shaped rolls in prepared cake pans (one in center and seven spaced evenly around edges) (illustration 5); cover cake pans with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray, then cover pans securely with foil. Refrigerate at least 24 or up to 48 hours.

6. TO BAKE THE ROLLS: Remove foil (but not plastic wrap) from cake pans; let rolls rise in draft-free cool room-temperature location until doubled in volume (rolls should press against each other), 6 to 7 hours. When rolls are nearly doubled in volume, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove plastic wrap. Brush rolls with 2 tablespoons melted butter; bake until deep golden brown, 14 to 18 minutes. Cool rolls in pans on wire rack about 3 minutes, then invert onto rack; re-invert rolls and cool 10 to 15 minutes longer. Break rolls apart and serve warm.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Meat Identification Site

Have you ever read a recipe and wondered what cut of meat they were
talking about? As you may know, names for meat cuts vary depending
upon where you live and/or shop, e.g., a "market" steak is also known
as a "rib-eye", a "strip" steak also goes under the names "shell" and
"New York", etc.

This site has great pictures of beef, pork, etc., enabling you to
accurately select the cut you desire.

Creamed Spinach

A couple of days ago I noticed that fresh spinach had returned to the
markets. I purchased a container of it and made a great creamed
spinach dish. I've tried a lot of different recipes, but find this
very simple one to be the best. It is very fast to whip up and and
elegant looking.

Adapted from Julia & Jacque's book

12 to 16 ounces fresh, washed baby spinach
1/3 to 1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon butter
big pinch Kosher salt
1/2 cup Ian's Panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Drop the spinach in boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes. (NB:
I don't blanch the spinach but actually cook it; the cooking not only
rids it of any bacteria, but also removes a kind of dry-papery taste
that I dislike. Cooking it in the microwave doesn't seem to do it

Drain the spinach and press out the water. Cut it up a bit--I cut in
in the strainer with my Fiskar scissors--and place it in a10 inch
saute pan with the butter, salt, and cream. Cook the mixture over
medium heat--it should be boiling pretty good with the cream forming
big bubbles--until the cream has reduced slightly.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and cheese on the top and place the saute
pan under the broiler and broil until lightly brown--I place it on
the second rung down.

You can make it a little ahead of time; just leave it on the stove--
burner turned off, of course--and place it under the broiler at the
last moment.

2 servings

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Asian Pork Chops

from Cook's Illustrated

This is a great, and quick, way to cook boneless pork chops. Be very careful not to overcook them; I would definitely err on the side of having them underdone, because as they rest, they continue to cook. --Pamela

If your chops are on the thinner side, check their internal temperature after the initial sear. If they are already at the 140-degree mark, remove them from the skillet and allow them to rest, tented with foil, for 5 minutes, then add the platter juices and glaze ingredients to the skillet and proceed with step 3. If your chops are closer to 1 inch thick, you may need to increase the simmering time in step 2.

Serves 4
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1/2 cup rice vinegar , plus an additional 2 teaspoons
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

4 boneless, center-cut pork loin chops , 5 to 7 ounces each, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Toast sesame seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes, set aside in small bowl. Combine all glaze ingredients except 2 teaspoons rice vinegar in medium bowl; mix thoroughly and set aside. Following illustrations below, trim chops and slash through fat and silver skin with sharp knife, making 2 cuts about 2 inches apart in each chop (do not cut into meat of chops). Pat chops dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Add pork to skillet and cook until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chops and cook 1 minute longer; transfer chops to plate and pour off any oil in skillet. (Check internal temperature of thinner chops; see note above.) Return chops to skillet, browned side up, and add glaze mixture; cook over medium heat until center of chops registers 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; transfer chops to clean platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.

3. When chops have rested, add any accumulated juices to skillet and set over medium heat. Simmer, whisking constantly, until glaze is thick and color of dark caramel (heatproof spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 2 to 6 minutes. Add remaining rice vinegar and return chops to skillet; turn to coat both sides with glaze. Transfer chops back to platter, browned side up, and spread remaining glaze over chops. Garnish chops with reserved sesame seeds and sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Best Caesar Salad

from Cook's Ilustrated

This really produces a great salad. I used anchovy fillets instead of paste. The best anchovy fillets are the ones packed in oil by Ortiz. After you open a tin of them, store the remainder, including the oil, in the freezer. --Pamela

If you don't own a garlic press, chop the garlic for both the croutons and dressing by hand; sprinkle it with the salt and then continue mincing it until it is almost pureed. The garlic and anchovies in the dressing are optional but strongly recommended. Without them, the salad is a bit bland. For Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, add two grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced crosswise into half-inch strips, to the salad along with the cheese.

Serves 4 to 6 as a first course

Garlic Croutons
2 large cloves garlic , peeled and pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups 1/2-inch white bread cubes (from a baguette or country loaf)

Caesar Salad
1 large egg
3 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 grindings ground black pepper
1 small clove garlic , pressed (1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste (or 4 flat anchovy fillets, minced)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium heads romaine lettuce (large outer leaves removed) or 2 large romaine hearts; washed, dried, and torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 10 cups, lightly packed)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. For the croutons: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix garlic, salt, and oil in small bowl; set aside for 20 minutes. Spread bread cubes out over small baking sheet. Drizzle oil through fine-mesh strainer evenly onto bread; toss to coat. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet to room temperature. (Croutons can be stored in airtight container for up to 1 day.)

2. For the dressing: Bring water to boil in small saucepan over high heat. Carefully lower whole egg into water; cook 45 seconds.* (See my note at the bottom of the page. --Pamela) Remove with slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, crack egg into small bowl with all other dressing ingredients except oil; whisk until smooth. Add oil in slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Adjust seasonings. (Dressing may refrigerate in airtight container for 1 day; shake before using.)

3. Place lettuce in large bowl; drizzle with half of dressing, then toss to coat lightly. Sprinkle with cheese, remaining dressing, and croutons; toss to coat well. Divide among individual plates; serve immediately.

*I've never been totally sure what the desired outcome for the coddled egg is supposed to be. Partially cooked egg white, totally cooked egg white, etc. For this recipe I think I would cook the egg about 90 seconds so that most of the white gets cooked otherwise I think there is too much liquid in the dressing. --Pamela

Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon

from Cook's Illustrated

It's often difficult to cook thick filets, but this method makes it easy to cook 2 inch fillets that weigh about 8 ounces each to medium rare. It would also be great even if you don't use the peppercorns. --Pamela

While heating the peppercorns in oil tempers much of their pungent heat, this recipe is still pretty spicy. If you prefer a very mild pepper flavor, drain the cooled peppercorns in a fine-mesh strainer in step 1, toss them with 5 tablespoons of fresh oil, add the salt, and proceed.

Serves 4
5 tablespoons black peppercorns , cracked*
5 tablespoons olive oil , plus 2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 center-cut filets mignons , 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, 7 to 8 ounces each, trimmed of fat and silver skin

1. Heat peppercorns and 5 tablespoons oil in small saucepan over low heat until faint bubbles appear. Continue to cook at bare simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until pepper is fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When mixture is room temperature, add salt and stir to combine. Rub steaks with oil and pepper mixture, thoroughly coating top and bottom of each steak with peppercorns. Cover steaks with plastic wrap and press gently to make sure peppercorns adhere; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until faint smoke appears. Place steaks in skillet and cook, without moving steaks, until dark brown crust has formed, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn steaks and cook until well browned on second side, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer steaks to hot baking sheet. Roast 3 to 5 minutes for rare, 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Transfer steaks to wire cooling rack and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 minutes before serving.

*I cracked them in a heavy-duty baggie with a hammer; it worked great and didn't make a mess.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chicken Enchiladas a la Nadine

From Cook's Illustrated, May 2003

If you prefer, Monterey Jack can be used instead of cheddar, or, use a mixture of the two. This recipe produces enchilades that are similar to Nadine's. They are easy to make and delicious.

Sauce and Filling
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 4 thighs), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
2 cans tomato sauce (8 ounces each)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 can (4 ounces) pickled jalapeños , drained and chopped (about 1/4 cup)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , grated (2 cups)--reserve about 1/2 cup for the topping

Tortillas and Toppings
10 corn tortillas (six-inch)
Vegetable cooking spray
3 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (3/4 cup)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 avocado , diced medium
5 leaves romaine lettuce washed, dried, and shredded
2 limes , quartered

1. FOR THE SAUCE AND FILLING: Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, salt, and sugar; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with spices, about 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce and 1/4 cup water; stir to separate chicken pieces. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and flavors have melded, about 8 minutes. Pour mixture through medium-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on chicken and onions to extract as much sauce as possible; set sauce aside. Transfer chicken mixture to large plate; freeze for 10 minutes to cool, then combine with cilantro, jalapenos, and cheese in medium bowl and set aside.

2. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees.

3. Place the tortillas on two jelly roll pans (5 on each pan); spray both sides of each tortilla with Pam and place in oven for about 4 mins. until soft and pilable.

4. Raise the oven to 400 degrees. Place 3/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish. Fill each of the enchilades with about 1/3 cup of the filling, roll and place in baking dish. Spoon remaining sauce over enchiladas and sprinkle with reserved cheese. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake enchiladas on lower-middle rack until heated through and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and serve immediately, passing sour cream, avocado, lettuce, and lime wedges separately.

Makes 10 enchiladas, serving 4 or 5

Chicken Teriyaki

From Cook's Illustrated, January 2005

Serve with steamed rice, preferably short grain.

Serves 4 to 6

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 5 ounces each), trimmed, boned, and skin slashed (see illustrations below)
Table salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1. Position oven rack about 8 inches from heat source; heat broiler. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set thighs skin side up on broiler pan (or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet fitted with flat wire rack), tucking exposed meat under skin and lightly flattening thighs to be of relatively even thickness (see illustration 6). Broil until skin is crisp and golden brown and thickest parts of thighs register 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 8 to 14 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking time for even browning.

2. While chicken cooks, combine soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic in small saucepan; stir together mirin and cornstarch in small bowl until no lumps remain, then stir mirin mixture into saucepan. Bring sauce to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to 3/4 cup and forms syrupy glaze, about 4 minutes. Cover to keep warm.

3. Transfer chicken to cutting board; let rest 2 to 3 minutes. Cut meat crosswise into 1/2-inch- wide strips. Transfer chicken to serving platter; stir teriyaki sauce to recombine, then drizzle to taste over chicken. Serve immediately, passing remaining sauce separately.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nadine Kelley's Scalloped Potatoes and Pork Chops

6 boneless pork chops
6 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2-1/2 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 2-quart casserole.

In a large skillet over medium-high, brown the pork chops, about 5 minutes per side. Place chops in the bottom of prepared casserole. Arrange potatoes in layers on top of the chops, sprinkling each of the first 3 layers with 1 tbsp of the chopped onion, 1 tbsp of flour, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the top with the remaining onion, salt and pepper. Dot with the butter.

Heat the milk just to scalding; pour over the casserole. Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Kelley's Perfect Margarita on the Rocks

1 Morgantown Crinkle Old Fashion Tumbler
1 shot fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 shot Patron Silver Tequila
1 shot Grand Marnier
1 shot Cointreau
1 shot water
1 TBS superfine sugar (if you don't have superfine sugar, process regular granulated sugar in the food processor for 30 seconds)

Fill your old fashion tumbler to the brim with ice (if the pieces of ice are large, crush them). Pour the lemon juice, tequila, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and water over the ice. Stir in the sugar, and immediately serve!

This is an absolutely delicious cocktail that can be served with just about anything! Enjoy!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sesame Tahini Sauce

from Amy Weitzman

3/4 cup tahini (sesame paste) (Marantha Roasted Sesame Tahini is a good brand)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt, more if needed
1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice, , or more to taste
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 can of chick-peas, drained and rinsed

Place the tahini sauce, olive oil, and water in the food processor and process until blended.

Add the salt, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne and cumin, and process until smooth.

Add the chick-peas and blend again to incorporate them.

Taste and add more salt, lemon juice and cayenne if you like.

If the sauce is too thick, stir in more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Serve cool or at room temperature.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fettucine Alfredo a la Lydia

1 pound fresh egg pasta (fettuccine)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3-cup heavy cream
½ cup Chicken Stock or canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
Finely ground black pepper
2 egg yolks
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black peppercorns

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Drop the butter into a large skillet and place over medium heat. Before the butter has a chance to melt fully and separate, pour in the heavy cream and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and season lightly with salt and finely ground pepper.
Shake the fettuccine in a colander to remove as much of the flour as possible. Stir the pasta into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 2 minutes or less after the water returns to a boil. (When the pasta rises to the surface, it is done.)

If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and add it directly to the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Cook until the sauce is reduced enough to form a creamy, gliding sauce, then drop in the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring well after each. (If the sauce becomes too dense, thin it a little with more chicken stock or a little of the pasta cooking water.) Remove from the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese and coarse black pepper over the pasta, toss well and serve immediately in warm bowls.

Serves 4-6

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kelley's Grilled Lemon Herb Chicken

1/8 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup white vermouth or white wine
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
1 Tbs kosher salt
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs herbs de provence or summer savory
2 tsp mustard powder
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients in a zip lock bag and add 2-4 pieces of chicken. Seal the bag, removing the excess air, and squish contents to mix. Marinate overnight (or for a minimum of six hours). Grill chicken to desired doneness over medium heat until golden brown. Sometimes, I save the marinade, and halfway through the grilling process, I will re-coat the chicken with additional marinade, and put it back on the grill to finish; it gives the chicken an extra zingy sour flavor.

Tip: I sometimes purchase large packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts...and will divide the chicken into 5-6 bags, add the marinade, seal them (removing the excess air), and immediately place them in the freezer. Then, when I ready to grill on the weeknights, I take the chicken out of the freezer the night before...and allow it to de-frost and marinate at the same time...and, I hardly have to do more than chop and grill some vegetables for a quick and easy, no fuss weeknight dinner.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Classic Pesto

from Lydia's Italian-American Kitchen

4 cups loosely packed Basil leaves
pinch of sea salt
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted*
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

*Spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake in a 325º oven for 6
minutes (shake the pan a few times white their baking).

Combine basil, salt, and garlic in work bowl of food processor. Add 2
tablespoons of the oil, and pulse, stopping frequently to press bail
down around the blades until basil forms a coarse paste. Toss in pine
nuts and remaining oil. Blend until pine nuts are ground fine. Stir
in grated cheese and enough additional olive oil to form a creamy paste.

Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta.

To keep pesto in your refrigerator for several days, just cover with
a little olive oil. You can also freeze pesto.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Skillet Gratinate of Zucchini and Chicken

from Lidia's Family Table

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders*
3 small or 2 medium zucchini (1 pound, or slightly more)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or more if needed
1 cup or more flour, for dredging
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

For the Sauce

3 tablespoons soft butter
1 cup marinara sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
12 small fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup vegetable stock, if needed

*3 small whole chicken breasts, or 6 breast halves, weighing 2 pounds. If you have only larger breasts halves (some are 8 to 10 ounces), you can slice each in 2, on the bias, to make 2 portions.

Recommended equipment: A 14-inch heavy-bottomed, ovenproof skillet or sauté pan for 6 portions; or a 12-inch pan for 4 portions.

Preparing the Chicken and Zucchini

Place rack in the center or upper third of the oven and preheat to 425º.

If the chicken breasts are whole, cut them in half. Trim off any bits of fat, skin, or tendon. Flatten each breast half with a mallet (or the flat bottom of a heavy pan) to an even thickness, about 3/4 inch.

Trim the stem and blossom ends of the zucchini and wash well. Slice across the squash on a sharp angle, creating long ovals, 1/4 inch thick. You should have about twenty pieces at least 3 inches long, and a few shorter pieces from the ends.

Place 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in the skillet, tilt to coat the bottom, and set it over medium heat.

Toss about half the zucchini pieces in flour to coat well (set flour aside to use for chicken), pat off any excess, and lay them in the pan. Keep the heat moderate, and let the pieces caramelize slowly for about 4 minutes. Turn when the edges are nicely browned on the underside; fry for about 2 minutes on the second side. With a slotted spatual, lift the pieces to a plate or tray (no paper towels are needed here) and salt lightly. Fry the remaining zucchini ovals in the same way and salt them. While frying, monitor the heat, keeping it high enough to brown the zucchini but not let them burn.

When the zucchini are done, turn off the heat but leave all the oil in the skillet.

Starting on the Stovetop

Have all of your gratinate and sauce ingredients handy to the stove.

You should have at least 2 tablespoons of live oil in the skillet (add a bit if needed). Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and set the pan over medium-low heat.

Salt the chicken pieces lightly, flop them in the dredging flour to coast on both sides, and pat off excess. When the butter is just beginning to sizzle, arrange all six cutlets in the pan. Cook them gently for 1 1/2 minutes, then turn them over; they should be very lightly colored, with no browning.

Maintain the gentle cooking whiles you assemble the gratinate.

Sprinkle the chicken again with salt (using 1/2 teaspoon total for the dish).

Spread a heaping tablespoon of tomato sauce on top of each cutlet.

Arrange the zucchini slices on top of the sauced chicken, overlapping the ovals so each portion is neatly covered. Use all the zuchinni.

Now raise the heat a bit and begin to develop the sauce:

Sprinkle the red pepper flakes on an open "hot spot" in the skillet where it will sizzle and toast briefly.

Drop the remaining butter, in small pieces, in between the layered cutlets.

After a few seconds, pour in 2/3 cup of the wine around the cutlets and let it heat briefly, 10-20 seconds.

Spoon the rest of the cup of tomato sauce into the pan (not on the chicken).

Bring to a simmer, then drop the mint into the sauce all around the pan.

Give the pan a gentle shake or two, to mix and emulsify the sauce ingredients.

Finally, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of grated cheese evenly over each zucchini-topped mount.

At this point, the sauce should be about 1/3 inch deep in your pan or even higher, coming well up the sides of the chicken cutlet. If not, pour in the rest of the wine and as much hot vegetable broth or stock as necessary. Raise the heat again to bring the pan sauce to an active simmer.

Finishing in the Oven

When the sauce is simmering, place the skillet in the oven. (Put the handle in front and the food in the back.)

Bake for about 10 minutes--and have thick pot holders or dry towels in hand before you touch the handle or the skillet!--then open the oven and check the pan.

Right on the rack, give the skillet another gentle shake. There should still be plenty of sauce, and the cheese should be lightly colored. If the sauce appears syrupy, or close to evaporating, add more vegetable broth, stock, tomato sauce, or wine to raise the level.

Bake for another 8 to 10 mintues, until the chicken is fully cooked and tender and the gratinate top is deeply and evenly browned. If the cheese layer still appears too light, raise the heat in the oven as high as possible (turn on the broiler if it is top-mounted) and bake briefly until it is as dark and crispy as you like.

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, handling it with plenty of thick cloths. I carry it right to the dining table, where it makes a beautiful presentation. While it is on the table, leave the cloths overing the hot handle. With a large, angled spatula, lift one portion of chicken-and-zucchini gratinate onto a dinner plate, then spoon over it some of the sauce.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Pasta Salad with Pesto

From Cook's Illustrated

This salad is best served the day it is made; if it's been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before serving. The pesto can be made a day ahead--just cook the garlic cloves in a small saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute. Garnish with additional shaved or grated Parmesan.

Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish
3/4 cup pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic , unpeeled
Table salt
1 pound farfalle (bow ties) pasta*
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 1 additional tablespoon
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves (about 4 ounces)
1 cup baby spinach (packed), about 1 ounce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 pint cherry tomatoes , quartered, or grape tomatoes, halved (optional)

*My preference is just plain old linguine or maybe bucatini!

1. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in large pot. Toast pine nuts in small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally, until just golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. When water is boiling, add garlic and let cook 1 minute. Remove garlic with slotted spoon and rinse under cold water to stop cooking; set aside to cool. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to water, stir to separate, and cook until tender (just past al dente). Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, drain pasta, toss with 1 tablespoon oil, spread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3. When garlic is cool, peel and mince or press through garlic press. Place 1/4 cup nuts, garlic, basil, spinach, pepper, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 cup oil, and 1 teaspoon salt in bowl of food processor and process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Add cheese and mayonnaise and process until thoroughly combined. Transfer mixture to large serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.

4. When pasta is cool, toss with pesto, adding reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until pesto evenly coats pasta. Fold in remaining 1/2 cup nuts and tomatoes (if using); serve.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pizza Margherita at Home

Excellent! Dad said it was the best he'd ever had.

Authentic recipes for this Neapolitan pizza call for an 800-degree oven, two days of proofing, and a dough expert's hands. We wanted real Margherita--hold the hassle.
The Problem: Classic pizza Margherita is characterized by a crispy crust garnished with nothing more than a thin veil of tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, and fresh basil. The problem? Most of these recipes depend on the stratospheric temperatures of a commercial oven to deliver a sufficiently thin and crispy crust.

The Goal: We wanted to refit this classic pizza recipe for the home oven. And we didn't want our recipe to take too much time (no multiple rising sessions) or effort.

The Solution: Our tests proved that a great pizza crust depends more on tenderness and crispness than crumb structure, so we didn't need to spend much time kneading the dough to develop gluten (which gives bread chew). In fact, we found that a food processor made quick work of our dough, mixing it in just two minutes. We also found we could shape the dough right out of the food processor, eliminating one of the two rises most bread recipes require. After one only hour, we were ready to roll--but the wet, sticky dough was tricky to roll as thinly as we wanted. Our solution was to use 1 part cake flour to 2 parts all-purpose flour, a combination that made the dough more tender. Our pizza also stayed light and tender after baking for 10 minutes in a 500 degree home oven (pizza in a commercial 800-degree oven cooks in less than 4 minutes, not enough time to turn tough and chewy). Developing the topping was easy. We pulsed canned diced tomatoes in a food processor, drained them to avoid a soggy crust, and added just a little sugar, salt, fresh basil, and garlic. Adding the fresh mozzarella halfway through the baking time preserved its fresh creamy texture and milky flavor.

Pizza Margherita Add to Favorites Shopping List
This recipe requires a pizza stone and a peel. Convection ovens will produce a lighter, crispier pizza, and you will need to reduce the overall cooking time by a minute or two. You can shape the second dough round while the first pizza bakes, but don't add toppings until just before baking. You can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator if you like; place the dough balls on a floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray. If using mozzarella packed in brine, pat the cheese cubes dry before placing them on the pizza.
Makes two 12-inch pizzas

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup water (8 ounces), room temperature
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces), plus extra for dusting work surface and peel
1 cup cake flour (4 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons sugar

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
table salt
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (see note above), cut into 1-inch chunks
2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, set pizza stone on oven rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. In liquid measuring cup, whisk yeast into water to dissolve. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process flours, salt, and sugar until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (If after 1 minute dough is sticky and clings to blade, add 1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and continue processing. If dough appears dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water and process until dough forms ball.) Divide dough in half and shape into smooth, tight balls (see photo 1, above). Place on floured counter or baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

2. FOR THE TOPPING: In clean bowl of food processor, process tomatoes until crushed, two or three 1-second pulses. Transfer tomatoes to fine-mesh strainer set over bowl and let drain at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to release liquids. Just before shaping pizza rounds, combine drained tomatoes, sugar, garlic (if using), 1 tablespoon basil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in bowl.

3. TO SHAPE AND COOK THE PIZZAS: When dough balls have doubled in size, dust dough liberally with flour and transfer balls to well-floured work surface. Press one ball into 8-inch disk (photo 2). Using flattened palms, gently stretch disk into 12-inch circle, working along outer edge and giving disk quarter turns (photos 3 and 4). Lightly flour pizza peel; lift edges of dough round to brush off any excess flour, then transfer dough to peel. Spread thin layer of tomato topping (about 1/2 cup) over dough with rubber spatula, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Slide onto stone and bake until crust begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove pizza from oven with peel, close oven door, and top pizza with half of cheese chunks, spaced evenly apart. Return pizza to stone and continue cooking until cheese is just melted, 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to cutting board; sprinkle with half of remaining basil, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and pinch salt. Slice and serve immediately. Repeat step 3 to shape, top, and bake second pizza.

Monday, June 19, 2006

White Birthday Cake

If you have forgotten to bring the milk and egg white mixture to room temperature, set the bottom of the glass measure containing it in a sink of hot water and stir until the mixture feels cool rather than cold, around 65 degrees. Cake layers can be wrapped and stored for one day; frosting can be covered with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for several hours. Once assembled, the cake should be covered with an inverted bowl or cake cover and refrigerated. Under its coat of frosting, it will remain fresh for up to three days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. There is enough frosting to pipe a border around the base and top of the cake. If you want to decorate the cake more elaborately, you should make one and a half times the frosting recipe. You may also substitute lemon curd for the raspberry jam in the filling. If desired, finish the sides of the cake with 1 cup of sliced almonds.

Serves 12

Classic White Cake
Nonstick cooking spray
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk , at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract (Dad doesn't like me to add this, so I omit it)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool

Butter Frosting
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still cool
4 cups confectioners' sugar (1 pound)--try reducing the sugar to 3/4 pound
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I use 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon whole milk
Pinch table salt

Raspberry-Almond Filling
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds (2 1/2 ounces), toasted and chopped coarse (they get soggy, so I omit them)
1/3 cup raspberry jam (seedless) (or you can use lemon curd--home-made is best)

1. For the Cake: Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.

2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

4. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.

6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

7. For the Frosting: Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed until sugar is moistened. Increase speed to medium-high (high if using handheld mixer); beat, stopping twice to scrape down bowl, until creamy and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. Avoid overbeating, or frosting will be too soft to pipe.

8. For the Filling: Before assembling cake, set aside 3/4 cup of the frosting for decoration. Spread small dab of frosting in center of cake plate to anchor cake, and set down one cake layer. Combine 1/2 cup of remaining frosting with almonds in small bowl and spread over first layer. Carefully spread jam on top, then cover with second cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of assembled cake. Pipe reserved frosting around perimeter of cake at the base and the top. Cut the cake into slices and serve.

Beef Tacos a la Nadine Kelley

Remember when I used to make taco salad? I got that recipe from my mother who always made it with Catalina Salad dressing. This recipe from Cook's Illustrated makes tacos tastes a lot like my mother's only better. Of course, you could make either taco salad or tacos. Better yet, you could double it, and make tacos one day and taco salad the next.

Tomato sauce is sold in cans in the same aisle that carries canned whole tomatoes. Do not use jarred pasta sauce in its place. We prefer to let diners top their own tacos with whatever fillings they prefer. There’s no need to prepare all of the toppings listed below, but cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes are, in our opinion, essential.

Makes 8 tacos, serving 4

Beef Filling
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
1 small onion , chopped small (about 2/3 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
table salt
1 pound 90% lean ground beef (or leaner)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
Ground black pepper

Shells and Toppings
8 taco shells (warmed according to package instructions), or Home-Fried Taco Shells (see related recipe)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces), or Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
2 small tomatoes , chopped small
1/2 cup sour cream
1 avocado , diced medium
1 small onion , chopped small
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
hot pepper sauce , such as Tabasco

1. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking meat up so that no chunks remain, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

2. Using wide, shallow spoon, divide filling evenly among taco shells; place two tacos on individual plates. Serve immediately, passing toppings separately.

Home-Fried Taco Shells

The taco shells can be fried before you make the filling and rewarmed in a 200-degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 taco shells, serving 4
3/4 cup vegetable oil , corn oil, or canola oil
8 corn tortillas (6-inch)

1. Heat oil in 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees, about 5 minutes (oil should bubble when small piece of tortilla is dropped in; tortilla piece should rise to surface in 2 seconds and be light golden brown in about 1 1/2 minutes). Meanwhile, line rimmed baking sheet with double thickness of paper towels.

2. Following illustrations below, using tongs to hold tortilla, slip half of tortilla into hot oil. With metal spatula in other hand, keep half of tortilla submerged in oil. Fry until just set, but not brown, about 30 seconds.

3. Flip tortilla; hold tortilla open about 2 inches while keeping bottom submerged in oil. Fry until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip again and fry other side until golden brown, about 30 seconds.

4. Transfer shell upside down to prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adjusting heat as necessary to keep oil between 350 and 375 degrees.

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