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

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