Friday, September 14, 2007

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These are my current favorite cookies to make and also the first item with which I christened my Kitchen Aid mixer!

Chocolate-Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries
1 1/4 c AP flour
1/4 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn baking soda1
1/4 c old fashioned rolled oats
1 c pecans, toasted and chopped (I also like hazelnuts)
1 c dried sour cherries, chopped coarse
4 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped into chunks about the size of choc chips
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 large egg
1 tspn vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions; preheat oven to 350. Line 2 large baking sheets w/parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, bp, bs, and salt in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, stir together oats, pecans, cherries and chocolate.

3. In stand mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture; mix until just incorporated. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

4. Divide dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup, then roll between palms into balls about 2" in diameter; stagger 8 balls on each sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using hands, gently press each dough ball to 1" thickness.Bake both baking sheets 12 minutes, rotate them front to back and top to bottom, then continue to bakeuntil cookes are medium brown and edges have begun to set, but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone and will appear raw, wet and shiny in cracks), 8-10 minutes longer. Do not overbake.

5. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temp.Cook's Note: I make smaller cookes and bake 7 minutes and then 5 min after the rotation.

Cooks Illustrated May & June 2005

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chicken Noodle Soup & Biscuits

What better to do with leftover roast chicken than soup?

I kind of wing this, so forgive me if measurements aren't exact.
That's the great thing about soup, it's very forgiving! :)

2-3 Qts chicken broth
Leftover Roast chicken (approx 1 1/2 - 2 cups)
2 small carrots, cut on diagonal, 1/4 inch
1 whole stick celery
1 cup fresh cut broccoli florets (I cut bite size)
1 cup+ (according to preference) whole grain egg noodles
Handful fresh chopped, flat-leaf parsley
Season to taste

You can make this in 10 minutes by throwing everything in the pot and letting it simmer together. However, I put in the broth, chicken, carrots and celery stick (which I pull out before serving b/c my husband HATES celery :) ) in an hour or two ahead on super-low with the lid on.
Then, 10 minutes before serving, I take off the lid, bring up to a simmer and throw in the noodles and broccoli. (Please leave broccoli 'til last as it will get mushy, and they will be a little mushy if you eat leftovers. But, if gives this soup great flavor!)

The biscuits, I tweaked from a Sarah Moulton recipe:

Cracked Pepper & Cheese Drop Biscuits
(Original Scallion & Cheddar Biscuit recipe may be found on

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 ounces cheese, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups) -- I used colby jack I had leftover from a BBQ :)
1 Tbsp cracked pepper
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk (I used 1 Tbsp lemon juice and added enough milk to it to make one cup, let it sit for 5 minutes)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, cracked pepper and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in Cheese until lightly coated. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 18 to 20 minutes. (My oven took approx 16 minutes)

Cooking Nite Update

Well, I'm glad I took a few pics before the event, b/c I took even less during the event! This is all I saw fit to photograph of my roasted chicken. It was plump, glorious and a crispy golden brown at it's finish. I used a standard Julia Child recipe that I really recommend if you want a succulent bird that will make your home smell heavenly!

This particular recipe also came with instructions to make a sort of au jus w/the leftover pans juices from roasting. I think that's what really takes it over the edge. I served up the au jus in a little gravy boat alongside the platter of meat.

Folks brought mushroom pie, french onion soup, champagne/brie/emmenthaler fondue, a strawberry brulee dessert and a fabulous Cotes du Rhone.

I really can not recommend this wine enough! My friend did a great job in picking it out. Although these online tasting notes made me giggle a little:

* Eye : Deep and dark red. Shiny.
* Nose : Fresh fruits with red berries and spices.
* Palate : Full, round and racy. Rounded and smooth tannins. A full-bodied, rich and intensly aromatic wine.
* Overall : Full with a long finish and plenty of elegance and finesse due to the well balanced tannins and fruit

"Full, round and racy"- really? Racy? I don't know about all of that, my bottom line is that it has a gorgeous color and nice mellow finish w/plenty of punch in the middle. How's that for an amateur sommelier?
Surprisingly, the dish I got the most positive feedback was the potatos! I was thinking nothing of them really, b/c I make roasted potatos all of the time. I will admit these were a little out of the ordinary as they were tri-colored fingerling potatos (sliced in half if they were small, quartered lengthwise if they were larger). I simply roasted them at 400 for half an hour (ish) with a little olive oil, a pinch of herbes de provence and tons of kosher salt.

Sadly, we were all struggling by the time dessert rolled around. The creme brulee was a good thought, but a bit too much after the main feasting. The good news is, I have 4 leftover!

Here's the roast chicken recipe, bon apetit!

Roast Chicken
Recipe courtesy Julia Child, Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery leaves
Salt and black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Wash the chicken in hot water and dry thoroughly. Season the cavity with salt and black pepper and stuff with the onion, lemon, and celery leaves. Rub the chicken lightly with softened butter and season all over with salt and pepper. Tie the drumsticks ends together and set the chicken, breast side up, in an oiled v-shaped rack or on an oiled roasting pan in the oven.

Roast for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees, baste the chicken, and roast for 15 minutes. Add the chopped onion and carrot to the pan, basting them and the chicken. Continue roasting the chicken until the juices run clear, for a total of 45 minutes plus an additional 7 minutes for each pound. (In other words, a 3 1/2 pound chicken would take a basic 45 minutes plus an additional 25 minutes, for a total 70 minutes or 1 hour and 10 minutes of cooking time.)

Remove the chicken and spoon the fat out of the roasting pan. Into the pan, stir in the herbs and blend in the broth and, stirring constantly, boil for several minutes on the stovetop to concentrate the flavor. Correct the seasoning and strain the sauce into a warm sauceboat. Carve the chicken and serve with the warm sauce.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cooking Nite Prep

Recently I've fallen into a great group of foodies and have offered to host "Cooking Nite" at my home. The theme I chose was French-- not out of pretension or food snobbery, merely b/c I wanted an excuse to make creme brulee!

I also love any excuse to buy fresh flowers! I loaded up on buds at Fresh Market yesterday. I'm particularly pleased with these hydrangea-
I know! I know! I get a little carried away, but you would've too had you seen these hydrangea in the store! :)

I've also chosen what I think to be a decent Pinot Noir/Burgundy for the evening, I'll certainly give an update once it's consumed.

Speaking of carried away, does anyone else do this before a party? Lay out all of your dishes the nite before? Or is it just me......I'm sure it's just me ;)

I'll be sure to share my chicken roasting adventure with you all as well.
Stay tuned! :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ooo la! la! Creme Brulee

Somehow, recently I have found myself amidst a new group of folks that love food probably as much as I do! We foodies always manage to find each other!

So, it's my turn to host "Cooking Nite" at my house. My style/ethnic choice will be, French. I've already picked up the Edith Piaf (since my tapes from the 80's are well-worn and long lost in my attic), a little burgundy as well as chicken and potatos for the roasting. So far, one other person is bringing a brie fondue- how good does that sound? What happened to my new, nutritious, leafy green, fibrous filled diet you may be asking yourself? In my defense, cooking nite was planned long before my southern saddlebag enhancing expedition ;) LOL! Ok, on to the creme brulee.....

Crème brûlée (French for "burnt cream") is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a layer of hard caramel, created by burning sugar under a grill or other intense heat source. It is usually served cold in individual ramekins. The custard base is normally flavoured with just vanilla, but it can be flavoured in a number of ways: with chocolate, a liqueur, fruit, etc.
I have a very simple recipe under my belt that I've used for so long, I have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it works, and that's all I need to know! If you've never made it before, you will be amazed at how insanely simple this rich, decadent and impressive dessert is.

My recipe (some would call this a stirred method):
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups cream
1 tspn vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Stir egg yolks and sugar together until sugar is dissolved and mixture is light yellow. Add cream and vanilla, stir until combined.

Pour through strainer (I use paper towels placed in a hand seive) over pitcher/bowl to remove bubbles.

Place towel in bottom of large baking dish/roasting pan. Pour cream mixture into 4-5 ramekins (depending on size) and place in baking dish on towel.

Place dish holding ramekins onto oven shelf. Pour hot water in to baking dish (I turn up a corner of the towel and pour the hot water under the towel so I don't splash the creme brulees) halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 40-50 minutes, depending on size of ramekins. Take out oven and let cool in water bath.

Chill thoroughly for at least 2 hours, up to 2 days.

If you don't have a hand torch, you can use your broiler-- just keep an eye on it! :)

I use turbinadao sugar for the caramelized tops, but I also like demerara(they are practically the same thing) when I can get my hands on it!

Bon Apetit!

I was going to post a finished product pic, but alas, this is all I have to offer. I blinked and it was gone! LOL!

Potato Soup

Returning home after my week of southern, deep-fried feasting, thoughts turn to eating more vegetables and fiber ;) I'm always game for a new potato soup recipe (served with a side of salad of course!) So, here's Cooking Light's latest potato soup recipe:

Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Applewood-Smoked Bacon.

As the name implies, fingerling potatoes have a narrow shape, similar to a finger. These baby white potatoes contain less starch than russet potatoes; waxy small red potatoes make a good stand-in.(which is what I used and they looked pretty in the soup)

2 slices applewood-smoked bacon (I used 4)
1 3/4 cups diced onion
3 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 7 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk (I used skim b/c it was what I had on hand)
1/2 cup half-and-half
8 ounces (1/4-inch-thick) rounds fingerling potato slices (I used red pot's)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used a tspn and a half)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I used a tspn)
Thyme sprigs (optional)

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp(any excuse to use your Le Creuset is a good one, dontcha think?). Remove bacon from pan; crumble.

Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add corn, chopped thyme, and garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Stir in broth, milk, half-and-half, and potatoes; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer 2 cups potato mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth; return pureed mixture to pan.

Stir in salt and black pepper; sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired. Yield: 5 servings

(serving size: about 1 cup)CALORIES 186 (27% from fat); FAT 5.5g (sat 2.7g,mono 1.2g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 7.6g; CHOLESTEROL 18mg; CALCIUM 84mg; SODIUM 398mg; FIBER 3.4g; IRON 1.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 27.8g Cooking Light, AUGUST 2007

Back from the land o'cotton.....

...and sweet, sweet Mennonite corn......

It had been a long time since I had been in touch with my true southern roots.
So, last week I journeyed to the land of my forefathers, Arkansas. Suffice to say, all I did was eat!

Our list of vittles last week included:

Fried Chicken
Venison, smoked in pepper bacon
Porterhouse Steaks
Homemade Lasagna (not exactly southern, but kickass just the same)
Macaroni & Cheese
Fried Potatos
Mennonite Sweet Corn
Biscuits & Gravy
Sweet Tea
Salad w/grape tomatos & peppers from my grandmother's garden

I ask you-- does life get any better than that?

My contribution to the potluck was fried potatos-- made in my grandmother's very own, well-seasoned cast iron skillet! Mmmmmm.....mmmmmmm.

There really is something to the thought that food binds folks together. I spent alot of time around the table this last visit, soaking up all the old stories, surrounded by my people and busily stuffing my face. I also have in hand a cookbook that my grandmother wrote upon retirement from her bakeshop. I'll have to keep y'all posted as I go through the recipes.