Archive | August, 2012

Chicken, Sausage, and Potato Roast

28 Aug

Three things you need to know about this recipe going in:

  1. It dirties several bowls and a roasting pan.
  2. It takes a little chopping and a little more hands-on time than many of my recipes.
  3. My husband walked in the door last night and said, “What is that smell,” in a very good kind of way, and later said, “This is the best thing you’ve ever cooked.” And everyone in my house cleaned their plates without my having to say “eat your dinner” a single time. Which negates the slight negatives posted above.

This dish is comfort food at its finest: warm and a little crunchy and a little creamy and absolutely perfect for fall (or late summer when we’re craving a little fall). It reheats just beautifully, which makes it a wonderful do-ahead meal on days when the dinner hour is chaotic. It would be fantastic football food or take-to-a-friend food, and is guaranteed to make repeat appearances on your at-home-dinner menu plan. It started as a recipe in Food Network magazine, but I added a few things here and took away a couple of things there (and then ran out of stuff so had to substitute), and this is pretty different than their version.

Our family has a disparity in the way we like chicken. My son likes drumsticks. I like whole split breasts on the bone. And my husband and my daughter prefer boneless chicken breasts that are chunked up into bites. This recipe accommodates all of them: because it roasts in the oven at a high temperature, I can put the whole chicken pieces in first, wait about 10 minutes, and then add the cut-up breasts to the pan, and everything is done at the same time.

One other note: this calls for smoked paprika. You should get some, even if you have regular paprika around. The taste difference is significant, and you’ll want the smokiness.

I hope you’ll try this–it really is wonderful. You need:

1 1/2 pounds gold Yukon potatoes, cut into quarters or halves so they’re all about the same size

3 tbsp garlic oil, divided (or 3 tbsp olive oil and 3 cloves of minced garlic)

1 1/2 pounds chicken: on the bone, off the bone, chunked, or a combination

1 14-oz package Polish-style sausage (I use the light turkey variety–this is the kind that comes shrink-wrapped in a U shape near the hotdogs in the grocery store)

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

Put a large roasting pan in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees.

In a bowl, combine your cut-up potatoes, 2 tbsp of the garlic oil (or oil/garlic mixture), a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of water. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and use a fork to poke a few holes in the top. Microwave it on high for 8 minutes.

Put your chicken in a bowl (or two bowls if you’re combining whole pieces with bite-sized pieces). Sprinkle it with the paprika, drizzle it with the remaining tablespoon of oil, give it a stir, and let it sit for a few minutes (you won’t be poisoned. I promise.). Slice your sausage and set it aside too.

When your potatoes are done in the microwave, very carefully pull your hot roasting pan out of the oven and spray it with oil or nonstick spray. Carefully–it’s going to splatter a bit) pour the potatoes and oil into the pan and stir in the onions. Put that back in the oven for 12 minutes.

At the end of the 12 minutes, pull the dish out of the oven and give the potatoes and onions a stir. Sprinkle those with the sausage, top that with the artichoke hearts, and lay the chicken on top (whole pieces only if you’re using a combination of whole and cut up). Back into the oven, and roast the whole thing for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is 165 degrees inside (if you’re combining pieces, roast the whole ones 10 minutes and then add in the bite-size for the last five minutes). Remove from the oven, let sit for five minutes, and enjoy.

 

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Baking Beauty: Tips and Tricks

24 Aug

I made a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread yesterday and realized I hadn’t shared my favorite baking tips with y’all yet. Which is not good, because a few simple hints can make baking so much more fun for everyone.

Baking is zen, and I know a lot of people who feel that way–it’s about the process more than the result. Measuring and mixing and sifting becomes meditation. You can’t think about anything else and get baking right, so it’s a great way to give your brain a break, and a fantastic de-stresser. And at the end, you have something yummy to share, which is just as much fun. Having a few tricks up your sleeve boosts that fun even more.

Floating Mix-Ins

Let’s start talking about those chocolate chips up there. How many times have you stirred chips or berries or nuts into batter, only to have them sink to the bottom of the pan by the time the treat comes out of the oven? It’s a bummer, but there’s a really easy way to keep that from happening and getting baked goods like the one up there, where the mix-ins are mixed throughout. Here’s the trick: reserve a quarter-cup of flour from the recipe (so if you’re adding 2 cups of flour, only add in 1 3/4, and save the other 1/4). At the very end of the recipe, when you’re ready to stir in your chips, candy, berries, nuts, or whatever, gently toss them with that last quarter-cup of flour in a bowl, and then stir the flour and the treats into your batter. The flour on the outside of the mix-ins grabs onto the batter and holds tight, keeping them from sinking down to the bottom. Yum.

Room-Temperature Eggs

So you know you’re best off baking with room-temperature butter and eggs, right? The room-temp butter spreads better through your dough, and the room-temp eggs help keep the butter from getting cold in the bowl. Butter’s easy–a second in the microwave and voila. But you can’t nuke eggs, and (I, at least) rarely think to take them out of the fridge a few hours before I bake.

Easy solution: Put your eggs (whole–not out of the shell) in a bowl and cover them with hot tap water. After 10 minutes or so, you’ll have perfectly room-temperature, but not scrambled, eggs. Perfect for baking.

Trash Towel

I’ve never understood the garbage bowl that’s not ubiquitous on Food Network shows. Yes, it collects the trash, but it also gives you another bowl to wash! No thanks. Instead, spread two layers of paper towel on your counter near where you’re baking. Put your butter wrappers, banana peels, apple cores, egg shells, and other food trash on the towel, and use one end of it to rest spatulas, measuring cups and spoons, and other tools that might have food on them but aren’t finished being used yet. When you’re done, fold the whole towel into itself, put the dirty tools in the dishwasher, and chuck the trash in a compact bundle. Your counters are clean, and there’s nothing extra to wash. Awesome.

Tools

You’ve heard me go on and on about my KitchenAid mixer before–I really can’t live without it. Best baking tool ever. But there are other tools you should consider if you’re going to be baking: a sturdy set of metal measuring cups, a sturdy set of metal measuring spoons (don’t use your flatware–it’s not accurate and you’ll be disappointed). The new love of my life is that spatula you see up in the trash towel photo. It’s silicone from the bottom to the top, and it’s one solid piece. It’s dishwasher-safe, never gets hot, and won’t fall apart (I have a collection of silicone tops and wood or metal handles that have fallen apart–ugh!). I got mine at Target, but am seeing them all over the place, and I adore them. The right tools make such a difference.

Give these tricks a shot and let me know if you have more to share! Happy baking!

Sweet Broccoli Magic

17 Aug

I saw you wrinkle up your nose at that title up there. Give me five minutes–I’m gonna change your mind about this vegetable, even if you think it’s bitter or limp or boring. Nothing could be farther from the truth when you use a really easy, hands-off technique to cook it.

We had dinner at a friend’s house this summer; she always makes something that’s simple and amazing, and this time was no exception. Steak and a really good salad (I need to ask her if I can share her salad trick with y’all, come to think of it), and broccoli. But this broccoli was sweet and crunchy and unlike any I’d had before, and I went back for a big second helping of just that. It was that good.

Her secret? Roasting. You know how if you cook a chicken or Brussels sprouts with a little oil and salt in a scorching hot oven, magic happens? The outside of the goodies caramelizes while the inside stays nummy and juicy and amazing? Same thing with broccoli. And why it didn’t occur to me before now to try it is a mystery. Doing it with my new favorite ingredient–garlic oil–makes it just about the perfect vegetable (Confession: The first time I made this, I left the pan on the counter for about 10 minutes while the rest of dinner came together. And at the end of that 10 minutes, the broccoli was almost gone. I picked at it the whole time. Seriously good stuff, and it’s a vegetable! Sweet!). It’s crunchy and sweet and perfect.

Even if you think you don’t like broccoli…even if you’re used to that frozen stuff or boiled stems that flop over on your fork like a wet washcloth…try this. You’ll be a believer, I promise. It could not be simpler or more delicious. You need:

Broccoli florets (I use about two cups)

A tablespoon or two of garlic oil (use regular olive oil if you don’t have this)

About a quarter-teaspoon of salt or No-Salt substitute

(That’s it. See?)

Heat your oven to 425 degrees and spray a rimmed baking sheet with oil or your nonstick goodness of choice.

Lay your broccoli on the pan and drizzle it with the oil. Toss with your hands to get every bite a little bit of oil (the broccoli will not be coated). Sprinkle with salt, pop in the oven, and cook it about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven, until the tops of the florets are brown and crunchified. Tell me that’s not the easiest, most delicious veggie you’ve ever had.

Party Idea: DIY Brownies

14 Aug

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My daughter wanted a cooking party for her birthday this year, bless her heart. And the dessert she chose was so much fun and such a hit that I had to share it with you.

We thought about a cupcake bar, but that’s not really cooking (baking their own cupcakes wouldn’t have left enough time for them to cool to the point that frosting would have worked well), and we thought about making cookies, but that’s not very birthday-ish. We settled on make-your-own brownies, which were super simple and really fun for the girls.

We had a small handful of close friends for this party–trying to cook with more than four or five children at once sounded stressful. Each girl received a red apron and a white chef’s hat to wear during the festivities and take home later (check Amazon.com–they’re inexpensive). Together, we made individual pizza crusts and topped them with sauce, cheese, pepperoni, bacon, and veggies and baked them up for dinner.

After dinner, we all worked together to make a big batch of brownie batter–any one you like will work. I then ladled the batter into ramekin dishes. Each girl got a ramekin of batter and a spoon, and made her way to our stir-ins bar, with bowls of M&Ms, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, mini-marshmallows, and crushed Oreos, to customize her brownie. The candy and cookie pieces were stirred in, the ramekins went onto a baking sheet (I put parchment on it and wrote each girl’s initials next to her ramekin), and the brownies were baked up. They cooled, we topped them further with whipped cream and sprinkles, popped a candle in one, and sang Happy Birthday.

The girls had a wonderful time, the party was super easy to put together, they all ate every scrap of the dinner they’d made, and everybody learned a bit about playing in the kitchen. Happy birthday indeed!

 

 

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14 Aug

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OMG Flank Steak (And Turning Your Oven into a Grill)

9 Aug

The kids and I visited our local warehouse club earlier this week and scored a big, heavy package of flank steak for less than half what it costs per-pound at the grocery store. Sweet, right? So after we came home, I carefully wrapped most of it up in single-pound portions, labeled it, and laid it in the freezer. The last pound, though, I kept out.

I have this file of recipes torn out of magazines that lives in a rack on my desk with my work files–do y’all keep one of these? The poor thing is bursting at the seams with all sorts of yummy potential, but there was a flank steak recipe in there I knew I wanted to try. So I flipped through the file and pulled it out and glanced it over, and sighed mightily. I didn’t have all the ingredients.

Now, there are two possible things to do in that situation: haul the kids and me back out to the grocery store for another meander through the aisles and wait in the checkout line, or make do with what I have and wing it. I went with Door #2. Rummaged through my fridge and pantry, mixed some stuff together in a plastic bag, baptized Mr. Steak in there, and let him swim in the mixture overnight (in the refrigerator, of course) and all the next day.

About an hour before dinnertime, I yanked that steak out of the fridge and let it rest on my countertop, because room-temperature steak cooks better than cold. And about a half-hour before chow time, I heated up my broiler to high, wrapped a rimmed baking sheet in foil, laid a cookie cooling rack on there, and sprayed the whole concoction with olive oil.

You know this trick, yes? You know that a broiler is just an upside-down grill, and that cooking food on a cooling rack over a baking sheet underneath said broiler is just about as good as grilling? (And that if the person who used to own your house was a regular genius like the person who owned my house and installed a hardwired smoke detector six feet from the stove, you should crank that exhaust fan as high as it will go during this process?)

Of course you do.

The steak went on the cooling rack and into that oven, and in about five minutes was looking caramelized and gorgeous. I flipped him over, gave him another five under the flame, pulled him out, covered him with fresh foil, and let him sit for 15 minutes. And then we sliced him up, doled him out, crossed fingers, and waited for the reaction.

OMG.

That was my reaction, anyway. My son–the one who exists on air most of the time–got big wide eyes at first bite and ate two heaping plates of this meat. This is the very best flank steak I’ve ever had, and I am very happy that I didn’t have the ingredients to that other recipe (which I’m sure is very tasty, but seriously, this is amazing steak). It’s savory and just a little sweet and tender and I loved it.

Yet another reason to just follow your gut in the kitchen sometimes. Disaster befalls us sometimes, but then very good things happen too. This is one of those, and I really hope you’ll try it. You need:

1 pound flank steak

1/3 cup soy sauce (I use reduced-sodium Tamari, but use whatever you have)

1 large shallot, diced (shallot = onion + garlic. Substitute with those if you can’t find one in your market.)

2 tbsp garlic oil (or olive oil, and then chuck in a clove of minced garlic too)

1 heaping tbsp brown sugar

3 good shakes of Sriracha or other hot sauce

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

The juice of a lime

Dump all the ingredients but the steak into a  large zip-top bag, and use your fingers on the outside of the bag to mush it all together. Lay your steak in there, give him a little massage to get him good and friendly with the marinate, press the air out of the bag and seal it, and put it on a plate or in a bowl in your fridge overnight. Flip it every few hours.

Take the steak out of the fridge an hour before dinnertime. Heat your broiler to high. Cover a baking sheet with foil, lay a cooling rack on top of that, and spray it with olive oil or your nonstick goodness of choice. Carefully put the steak on that and broil for about five minutes per side (this is going to fluctuate with your oven) until the top sides get all crunchy brown and the inside is medium-rare.

Take it out of the oven, tent with foil, and let it rest 15 minutes before slicing.

 

Hey gang–I get a lot of questions about sharing and printing posts (LOVE that!!). If you look below each post, there’s a bank of buttons you can push to print, post to Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, and do all sorts of other fun things. Easy and fun! 😉

The Definitive Summer Grilled Cheese Sandwich

7 Aug

BOO!

Sorry for the quiet, gang. I really had no intention of taking the summer off like that. School ended and there were two business trips and the weather got hot and there were days at the pool and days out of town and playdates and work work work, and now here we are. August. I have ignored you for far too long, and I apologize and hope you’re still with me here.

I have a treat for you today, to try and make up for my inexcusable lack of yumminess lately. The first is my new obsession: garlic oil.

My kids and I wandered into World Market recently for some hazelnut coffee syrup, and this little bottle whispered to me from the shelf, next to a nearly identical big bottle. “I’m taaaaaaasty,” it said. “You’ll liiiiiiiike me.” I turned it over in my hand a few times, shrugged, and took it home to give it a whirl in my kitchen.

To say I’m addicted is a leetle understatement. This stuff is amazing. I roasted potatoes with it–brilliant. I dipped pita in it–delicious. And today, I made a grilled tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwich with it. Which rocked my world in ways that may not be legal. It was crispy and crunchy and garlicky and fresh and I am in love, my friends.

You can make your own garlic oil by simmering garlic in olive oil, but there’s a pretty good risk of contaminating it and sickening yourself. I have seen it in the grocery store with the olive oil. This bottle from World Market is divine, and I’m going back for his big brother in the next couple of weeks. Consider it endorsed.

More to come in the next few days, my loves. Thank you for reading–I’ve missed you all.

To make the world’s best sandwich, you need:

Bread. Anything you like–I used a honey wheat sandwich bread because that’s what we had.

Mozzarella cheese. I used shredded. Two half-handfuls.

Two slices of summer tomatoes.

A wee bit of basil, fresh or dried.

A sprinkle of salt or No Salt.

About a tablespoon of garlic oil.

 

Heat a small skillet over medium-low. Brush one side of each slice of bread with the oil. When the pan is hot, gently lay the first slice in, oil side down. Quickly top it with half the cheese, the tomato, the basil, the salt, the rest of the cheese, and the other slide of bread, this time oil side up.

Cook your beautiful lunch or dinner (or breakfast, really) until the bottom slice of bread is golden brown and delicious. Carefully flip, toast, remove to a plate. let cool for a few minutes, cut, and devour. But slowly–you’ll want to savor this one.

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